When starting a new aquarium you probably direct most of your attention to the necessary tank equipment, decorations, and the tank itself. But what about the water? In a fully established aquarium, the tank water (as well as the substrate and other tank surfaces) is home to a colony of beneficial bacteria that helps to establish and maintain the nitrogen cycle. Without this bacteria, your tank could go through what is called “new tank syndrome” and it could prove deadly for your fish. In this article you will learn the basics about new tank syndrome and receive some tips for starting your aquarium off correctly with live beneficial bacteria.
What is New Tank Syndrome?
New tank syndrome refers to the cycling of a new aquarium (or an existing aquarium) during which the ammonia levels in the tank spike to dangerous levels. If you already have fish in your tank, this could be incredibly harmful – even fatal to your fish. Ammonia is a natural byproduct of the nitrogen cycle – the cycle through which beneficial bacteria help to break down waste, converting toxic ammonia and nitrites into less harmful nitrates. If the colony of beneficial bacteria in your tank hasn’t grown to sufficient levels by the time you add your fish, the biological load of the tank could be too great for the existing beneficial bacteria to handle. As a result, the tank will “re-cycle” and go through new tank syndrome.
Using Live Beneficial Bacteria
There are many ways to safely cycle your tank before adding any fish but one of the easiest (and quickest) methods is to add live beneficial bacteria directly to the tank. If you visit the aquarium aisle at your local pet store or visit an online aquarium supply website, you will find a number of live beneficial bacteria products. Though dosage instructions will vary from one product to another, many only require you to add 1 teaspoon per 10 gallons of the product to your tank when you first set it up and then again 7 days later. By adding live beneficial bacteria to your tank you can take the guesswork out of starting a new aquarium and make it fit and ready for fish sooner than ever.
Other Ways to Jump-Start Your Tank
There are other methods for cycling your aquarium to avoid new tank syndrome, but none of them are as easy as adding live beneficial bacteria. One option is to “feed” the tank with small amounts of flake food daily over the course of two weeks to encourage the growth and reproduction of bacteria. Some aquarium hobbyists even cycle their tanks by adding one or two hardy species of fish. The waste produced by these fish, and the leftover food they do not eat, helps to jumpstart the nitrogen cycle in the tank. This process in particular can be dangerous for fish, however, and it is generally not recommended by experienced aquarium hobbyists.
You could also consider installing an EcoBio-Stone in your tank to grow your colony of beneficial bacteria quickly and keep consistently high levels in your tank to help keep the water crystal clear. EcoBio-Stones are made from natural volcanic rock, infused with live beneficial bacteria and the nutrients they need to thrive. Once you install the stone in your tank the bacteria will get to work, multiplying to establish and maintain the nitrogen cycle in your tank. After two weeks, test your tank water and if the ammonia and nitrite levels are at zero, it is safe to assume that your tank has cycled and that it is ready for fish.