Q: Will adding bacteria solutions, such as those available at pet shops, eliminate the break-in cycle?
No, due to lack of an ongoing supply of ammonia and oxygen, the nitrification bacteria cannot survive in a bottle for a prolonged period of time. There are manufacturers making special preparations of the nitrogen fixing bacteria. However, what you see on the shelf at the store is simply the bacteria needed for the first stage of the cycle, not nitritfying bacteria. Since the bacteria needed for the first stage of the cycle is already present in the tank once it is set up, there is no need to purchase more of what you already have.
Q: Will changing the water lengthen the time of the cycle?
It is true that partial water changes
decrease the level of ammonia and nitrites, which in turn triggers less growth of the bacteria that feed on them. That doesn't mean you shouldn't perform water changes. If the ammonia or nitrite levels become too high, the fish will die. That means that partial water changes should be done whenever toxins reach dangerous levels, even if it means if it slows down the completion of the cycle.
Q: Won't filling the tank and letting it run for several days before adding the fish get the nitrogen cycle going?
No, the cycle doesn't start the instant the tank is set up. An ongoing supply of ammonia must be present for the process to begin. That only happens if fish are in the tank, or ammonia is added regularly, as is done in "fishless cycling". However, leaving the tank running for a day before adding fish will allow the pH and water temperature to stabilize, which is a wise step tp take. Just be aware that the nitrogen cycle will not start until the fish are added.
Q: A friend started a new aquarium and didn't test the water or do water changes. In spite of all that, he didn't lose a single fish. If he can get away with that, why can't I?
Your friend probably had the magic combination of several of these key factors; relatively few fish, very hardy fish
, a large aquarium, minimal feeding, live plants, and water with a low pH. While it is possible to get through the start-up cycle without doing anything, it is not wise to leave it to chance. The only way to be sure you don't lose fish is to test your water to monitor what’s happening, and take steps if ammonia or nitrite levels soar too high.
Q: What if nothing works to bring the levels down?
Keep performing water changes and don't give up. If ammonia or nitrite levels still remain elevated, feel free to e-mail me for help. Be sure to mark your e-mail URGENT, include all the testing values in your e-mail, as well as the size of your tank, number of fish in the tank, and how long your tank has been running. If you wish to have me call you, include a phone number where you may be reached.