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The Nitrogen Cycle. What Fish Keepers NEED to know!

The Nitrogen Cycle

Establishing a healthy environment for our fish can be a daunting task. That is of course if you don’t know what you are doing! The first thing that a fish keeper must understand is the nitrogen cycle. This process includes the vital steps that we need to understand in order to fully grasp the idea of having a biological filtration cycle in keeping fish. As fish keeping enthusiasts we design, decorate, and make the environment of which our fish live in, and we are also responsible for their wellbeing.

What is a nitrogen cycle?

The nitrogen cycle is a biological process of reaching the equilibrium between harmful fish waste and beneficial bacteria’s in your system.

First step
Fish waste, dead organisms, uneaten food, and dead plants are all things that decay with time, and produce ammonia. Ammonia, even at low levels is very dangerous to our fish. Ammonia will burn the gills of our fish and make it difficult or even impossible for our fish to breathe, and often times lead to death.

Second step
Nitrosomonas is a bacteria in our system that aides with the breakdown of ammonia in our water. With the breakdown of ammonia nitrosomonas creates a byproduct called nitrite. Nitrite is still harmful to our fish, not allowing oxygen to flow through their blood, but fish can handle twice the amount of nitrites as opposed to ammonia.

Third step
Nitrobacter, the bacteria consumes the nitrites in our system, and converts it into a much less harmful byproduct known as nitrate.

Fourth step
Flourishing anaerobic conditions in our systems allow for the nitrates to safely be converted into nitrogen. Water parameters for this transition to occur are not always possible for our environments, therefore we need to periodically do water changes in order to maintain a healthy place for our fish to thrive.

The beginning stages of the nitrogen cycle can be a troublesome time. The water system will not have the colonies of beneficial bacteria’s to process the waste being produced by fish. A process referred to as the cycling process, is a process of which the pond is given time to develop itself biologically to handle the loads of waste decaying in the water. In order for us to avoid the loss of fish we need to be patient and not feed frequently during the initial cycling period of the pond. Waste production at the beginning cycling period cannot be handled biologically. Hobbyist need to frequently monitor water parameters and stay on top of regular water changes until a strong presence of biological mass has developed in their systems to deal with bigger fish loads and feeding.

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