Has anyone talked to you about the Nitrogen Cycle??
Have you ever started up an aquarium or a pond and put a bunch of fish in it, only to have some of the fish die? It could be that the pond or aquarium has not gone through the nitrogen cycle yet and the fish are suffering from burns to their gills from ammonia or nitrite in the water.
Both ammonia and nitrite are components of the nitrogen cycle, Fish resperate ammonia from their gills when they breath and they also urinate and defecate in the water, This produces ammonia which is very toxic to fish. When you start the nitrogen cycle the ammonia will be consumed by bacteria called Nitrosomonas bacteria, the bi-product of this is Nitrite which is also harmful to fish. The Nitrite is then consumed by another bacteria called Nitrobacter bacteria. The bi-product of this is Nitrogen which is like fertilizer for your yard, and will feed algae in the aquarium or the pond.
When a pond or aquarium has gone through the nitrogen cycle the surfaces in the filter and the aquarium or pond have established beneficial bacteria that consume both ammonia and nitrite. Both of these substances are very toxic to fish if they are exposed to them for an extended period of time.
The usual time frame for an aquarium or pond to go through the nitrogen cycle is approximately 4-6 weeks. This process can be accelerated by adding KI-Nitrifiers which are the nitrosomonas and nitrobacter bacteria that are packaged in bottle that can be added to the water. Microbe-Lift has a product called Nite-Out that has been very effective for ponds. The aquarium market has a product called Stability. Both of these products have been proven to help kick the Nitrogen cycle and make it faster to be able to support life in the pond or aquarium.
One of the biggest problems that we see is folks wanting to add to many fish right away to a new tank or pond. When you start an aquarium or a pond you need to start off very slowly when adding the new fish to the system. Even an aquarium or pond that has gone through the initial nitrogen cycle is very delicate and if you overload the system you can cause fish losses because the system cannot support the extra load that it has put on it.
Another issue that we see is when an aquarium or pond is totally drained for cleaning. The biggest problem with this is that when you expose any of the surfaces in the aquarium or pond that were under the water surface to air, the air will kill the bacteria that were helping with the nitrogen cycle! One way to avid this is to only drain 1/2 of the water out of the aquarium or pond, that way at least 1/2 of the bacteria is still left undisturbed.
Sometimes especially with a pond that has a large amount of debris in it the only option is to drain and clean the whole pond out. A lot of people have a total pond clean done twice a year once in the spring and in the fall. This can be done, but remember that when you do this you destroy the beneficial bacteria that you have been working so hard to establish in the water feature. This can cause fish losses and algae blooms later in the season. Your best bet is to add beneficial bacteria after you clean the pond to re-establish the bacteria in the pond. The same problem can happen when you drain an aquarium to clean it. The best thing that you can do with an aquarium is to do a hydo-clean on the bottom of the tank. This will remove any detrides from the gravel and help to have a healthy system. Also make sure that you do not drain more than 50% of the water out of the aquarium.
These are a few important things to know if you are installing a new aquarium or pond at your home. Please make sure that the water in the system is able to support your new pets, they and you will both be a lot happier and you will be able to enjoy your new wet pets!!