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Understanding the Life Cycle and How it Affects Your Aquarium

Understanding how the organisms in your aquarium function will give you a better handle on maintaining a healthy environment. Of all the processes to be familiar with, the nitrogen cycle is among the most important. The nitrogen cycle, sometimes called "nature's waste management system," provides biological filtration in aquatic ecosystems, as well as in household aquariums. Because the aquarium is artificial and a representation of an environment where certain occurrences happen naturally, it is the responsibility of the hobbyist to ensure that the correct conditions are always present for the nitrogen cycle to stay in balance. Let's start with the basics of the nitrogen cycle. Essentially, it is a 4- step process that involves bacteria converting harmful waste. . Step 1 - Objects in the tank decay. This includes waste products of fish, plants and invertebrates, as well as dead organisms or uneaten food. When object decay, ammonia is produced; even at low levels it can be caustic to the gills and restrict fish of their oxygen supply. . Step 2 - The ammonia is then consumed by a bacterium called Nitrosomonas; this process creates another chemical byproduct called nitrite. Even though the nitrate is toxic, preventing the blood from carrying oxygen, fish can withstand almost twice the amount of nitrate than ammonia in their water supply. . Step 3 - The nitrite is that consumed by other bacteria called Nitrobacter. It, in turn, releases a less toxic chemical called nitrate. . Step 4 - To become a harmless nitrogen gas, nitrate depends on anaerobic conditions. The requirements needed are not present in most aquariums, so water changes are necessary to dilute nitrate. Cycling the tank will be necessary to keep everything running smoothly. Cycling refers to the process of establishing and maturing the biological filtration. Typically, new aquariums can be cycled in 2 to 6 weeks, but the actual length depends on different factors. These factors include the amount of ammonia produced during the cycling period, the efficiency of biological filtration, whether live rock or live plants are used, and whether you boost bacteria colonies with additives.

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