Is My Aquarium Cycled? How To Be 100% Sure (Without Chemicals)

You might be wondering how to tell if your aquarium has been cycled properly. In this article, we will tell you everything there is to know about how to cycle your aquarium properly.

How To Tell If Aquarium Is Cycled?

You need to test the water for ammonia (NH3), nitrites (NO3), nitrate (NO2) in order to know if the aquarium is cycled. We don’t want to see ammonia and nitrite in the water and we do want to see some level or nitrate. Now we know the aquarium has been cycled properly.

Let’s take a look at the process in more detail.

There are some important things we need to know in order to create a healthy environment for the fish.

How To Know Whether The Aquarium Is Cycling

The best way to test this is by testing the amount of nitrate and ammonium in the water.

These two chemicals are invisible to the I see you cannot tell from looking at it or is smelling etc. You will need to test the water with a nitrate test kit.

We need to test results to show that we have zero amount of ammonia (NH3) and zero amount of nitrites (NO3). Instead, we want to find the nitrates (NO3) present in the water.

If all of these chemicals and numbers sound confusing you should just read on because we are explaining this cycle in the next part below.

It’s really easy to test your aquarium for these toxins. Did just buy the test kit and you get a little strip of paper which you insert into the water for a few seconds. So you will know immediately whether the levels are too high, in the danger zone, or just perfect.

The test could look something like this:

Nitrate test kit

The test kit costs around 10 bucks and you can get it in every pet store or online. It’s really easy to do, as I mentioned above, and it only takes a few seconds.

When deposed without the water there will be some color indicators which you can compare to the colors on the chart inside the box. Now you will know exactly how much ammonia, nitrites, and nitrate you have in the water.


How else can I know if the aquarium is cycled?

Does not really any other way you can know for sure other than testing the water with the test kit.

You will have to get the test kit in order to know how the levels are in your aquarium.

How long time does the cycle take?

In a small aquarium, it will sometimes be done after 2 weeks but you should expect 3 to 4 weeks before the full cycle has been completed.

This is something that varies from tank to tank. We have heard about some tanks taking up to 9 full weeks before it was cycled with the fish inside.

This largely depends on how fast the fish will process the food and how the bacteria react to the excrete.

It simply takes time before all the stages we have we’ll explain below has been completed.

And the only way to tell distilled by using the nitrate test we talked about above.

How To Cycle The Water Properly

Here’s exactly how you cycle the water in your aquarium while keeping the fish inside.

The fish are wonderful creatures that will do most of the process for us. Most of the chemical processes will take place inside the fist themselves when they eat the fish food containing nitrogen.

There are five stages to cycling an aquarium:

  1. You introduce nitrogen to the aquarium through the fish food.
  2. The food is eaten by the fish and ammonia is excreted
  3. The bacteria turn the ammonia into nitrite
  4. The nitrite is converted into nitrate
  5. The plants use the nitrate and ammonium as fertilizer.

So you start this process by getting fish food that contains nitrogen. You can get this in most pet stores and it’s totally harmless for the fish.

The fish now eat this nitrogen compound and they turn it into ammonia by pooping the food out in the water. This part is probably the most complicated part of the process and the fish will take care of this.

Now that the ammonia levels in the water go up the Nitrosomonas bacteria will start converting this ammonia into nitrite. Now the Nitrobacter bacteria will turn the nitrite into nitrate. The nitrate is good for the plants.

This is part of why we always want life plans in the aquarium and not only plastic or other artificial items.

The plants will take care of the nitrate in the water and also some of that ammonium.

How Often Should You Test The Water?

It’s a good idea to test the water every week because you need to watch the levels of nitrite, nitrate, and ammonia.

Would don’t want to find any levels of ammonia In the water tank because it is toxic to the fish. So in order to monitor this, we will do weekly testing at least until we know we have a stable environment.

After a while, you will get to know your fish tank and you might not need to test the water every week. But you should still test it regularly in order to keep track of the levels.

Otherwise, your fish might suffer and eventually die.

When you find the levels to be too high you need to change the water. You can either do it 50% water change or you can set up the whole environment from scratch. Either way, it will take some work and this is what should be expected from keeping an aquarium.

The reason why we want to start with a 50% water change this because we can often cut the levels of toxins in half. This way we won’t have to empty the tank completely which is a lot more work than just replacing half of the water.

We also want to keep half of the water because we are already running cycles and we don’t want to start from scratch if we can avoid it.

Fish bowl

How Often Should You Cycle The Aquarium?

This is normally an ongoing event that will run all by itself.

You just need to introduce fish food containing nitrogen in order to initiate the process and it will run automatically from here.

So this is not something you should do every week or every month. It’s an ongoing process that runs all the time.

Is It Enough To Just Let The Filter Run?

You cannot keep a healthy environment for the fish just by leading the filter run.

Even though the filter will get rid of the excretes from the fish and remove some of the ammonia and water. Other than that, it will help clean the water regularly.

How Often Should You Change The Water?

If the test results come back with a good result you only need to change around 25% of the water once a twice a month. You cannot let it run all by itself because the bacteria will build up even though the test might tell you otherwise.

Before you do any water change you can clean the glass on the inside in order to get rid of algae. That’s will release some of the algae into the water which you can try to catch doing the water change.

This is a great way to get rid of the algae in the water and to keep that aquarium clean and healthy.

Remember to always turn off the filter and the heater inside the aquarium before you do the water change. Otherwise, the filter might run dry and this is not good for the system. It might damage the pump and it might damage your system.

Whenever you have taken out the water from the fish tank you can use this water for your house plants. This water will be great fertilizer for the plants because of the whole cycle system inside your aquarium.
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