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Cycling a tank naturally can take anywhere from 3-6 weeks to complete. It takes a long time for fish to be in a container while waiting for the cycle to complete. However, it can be done manually by following a few simple steps.
Tank cycling in 24 hours is a doable job; however, it requires being very thorough with the process. When cycling is done right with all the necessary items, it can be a healthy and viable living environment for the fish.
Therefore, if you are new and want to figure out how to cycle a tank in 24 hours, then read till the very end and ensure the well-being of your fish.
What is Tank Cycling?
Tank cycling is the process of preparing a tank before you add the fish to it. It is a naturally occurring process that takes roughly 4-6 weeks. Preparing the tank is crucial to ensure a healthy living environment for the fish.
Tank cycling involves adding healthy living bacteria and other natural and beneficial substances for the bacteria to feed off. The process involves introducing a good, natural, biological cycle to the tank.
And the build-up of bacteria in the filter allows the neutralization of the fish’s waste products, allowing a healthy living environment.
It is important to cycle through the tank to ensure it is free from pollutants. Increased contaminants will risk the lives of the fish as it builds up to toxic levels.
How to Cycle a Tank in 24 Hours? A Complete Step-By-Step Process!
Tank cycling is not the most straightforward job if you are new to it. Some specific procedures and measures require prior knowledge to provide a safe and healthy environment for the fish in the tank.
To complete the process of cycling, go through the following steps thoroughly for proper tank cycling as mentioned down below –
Step 1: Setting up The Tank and Processing the Water
Before you begin the process of cycling, prepare all the necessary elements to add to the tank.
All the items to add, including gravels, stones, decoration pieces, and stones, must be appropriately placed inside the tank before adding the water.
Tap water is treated with chlorine to remove bacteria and make it safe for humans. Removing the chlorine from the treated water will promote the healthy growth of bacteria in the tank.
To remove the chlorine, it is vital to use a good quality water conditioner. This will ensure chlorine removal while preserving other healthy and good bacteria-keeping elements.
Step 2: Heating the Water
Maintaining the perfect water temperature for bacteria growth is crucial and needs to be monitored carefully. A warm temperature is preferable to promote adequate and healthy bacteria growth.
Roughly around 68 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal water temperature to encourage bacteria growth.
If the water is hotter than the required temperature, the water will be starved of oxygen which helps the bacteria survive.
However, if the water is colder than the necessary temperature, the growth of bacteria will be significantly lower and delay the cycling process substantially.
Step 3: Establishing PH Levels
Both fish and bacteria require a specific pH balance to live off. The ideal pH level for the fish and the bacteria to grow is about 7-8.
This is the optimum pH level and neutral point on the pH scale that promotes their biological activities healthily and properly.
Too much acidity in water will cause the water to become highly concentrated in acidity, making it an inappropriate environment for fish and bacteria to live in.
Moreover, too much acidity will promote more mucus growth on the gills to thicken, restrict oxygen, and, over time, die.
However, too much alkalinity in the water will cause non-ammonia water to become toxic, making it harder for the fish to breathe.
Sep 4: Adding Substances to Promote Growth of Bacteria
To promote the growth of good bacteria, you need to add certain things, such as commercially bought bacteria in bottles as a starter. Increasing the temperature in the tank helps significantly improve the bacteria growth in your tank.
You will also need to up the oxygen level by adding an air pump inside the tank that will stabilize the pH balance.
Adding live store-bought nitrifying bacteria to the tank will also help inoculate and initiate the process of bacteria growth.
That’s not all; adding aquatic plants and small gravels can also promote the growth of bacteria in a tank. Any waste such as rotten fish food or fish poop will also help develop the same bacteria you are trying to grow through the process.
The manual addition of the bacteria is a kick-starting way of initiating the process.
Step 5: Add Living Plants
Plants play a significant role in cycling a tank by absorbing nitrite, nitrate, and ammonia from the tank. These elements act as fertilizers to speed up the nitrogen cycling process.
Although each of these substances is important for the cycling process, the amount that plants absorb is insignificant while being important.
The absorption amount depends on the plant type and the number of plants in the tank. Adding living plants in a tank increases the oxygen level, thus promoting better growth of bacteria and a healthier environment for fish.
While adding live plants is essential to the tank, there are a few steps to complete before adding it.
Thoroughly and profoundly cleaning the plant with fresh water is extremely significant to ensure it is free from bugs and pests. Any presence of such bugs could hinder the cycling process instead of promoting it.
Step 6: Checking Ammonia Levels
Once you have added all the essential elements and additions to the tank, you must check the ammonia levels in the tank. You can find ammonia testers locally available at any pharmacy or drugstore to check the levels.
Stabilizing the ammonia levels is vital to ensure your fish can survive easily in the tank. Increased levels of ammonia presence will cause the fish to swim to the surface and gasp hard very frequently.
Ammonia and or nitrate presence must not exceed 0.0ppm. Any amount exceeding this level will cause the fish to struggle to breathe.
Exceeding 1.0ppm ammonia and nitrate is enough even to kill the fish before you even notice anything is wrong in the tank.
Some evident symptoms of ammonia and nitrite levels increasing in the tank include –
- Swollen gills
- Loss of appetite
- Surfacing the top
- Gasping frequently
- Loss of energy
- Longer resting period
Step 7: Introducing the Fish to The Tanks
Once you have gone through the steps mentioned above and checked them to ensure the levels are habitable, you can finally introduce the fish to the tank.
The introduction to the tank water must be a slow process and needs to be done little at a time. Scoop enough water from the tank and add it to the container of the fish that they were in while the cycling process took place.
Add an adequate amount of cycled and processed water from the tank to the existing water the fish were in.
Leave the fish in the mixture of the new and the previous water for roughly an hour or more, based on the number of fish you have.
After the fish have been in this water for a while and got used to the change, slowly and very gently dump everything from the container with the fish and the water into the tank.
It may take a while for the fish to adjust and seem to be swimming frantically all over the place. However, it is a prevalent response to the change and the environment for the fish.
Read Also: How Do You Know If Your Fish Is Happy In Your Aquarium?
Although it does take quite a bit of experience and knowledge of fish and their environment to complete a cycle, it can be done with proper guidance.
The following questions are some of the most asked from people new to the cycling process such as –
How Often Should a Tank’s PH and Ammonia Levels be Monitored and Changed?
Maintaining a tank’s pH and ammonia levels is a healthy habit. This ensures the environment for the fishes are habitable, and they are not struggling with anything.
Increased levels of either of these could prove to be fatal to the fish and lead to death if unmonitored. Therefore, the aquarist needs to check the water PH and Ammonia level at least once a week.
How Frequently Should the Water in The Tank Be Cycled?
Cycling the tank should be done before adding in any new fish. The cycling process ensures the fish does not get in shock from the water change and can adapt to the change.
In general, the cycling process should also be done at least once a month to remove toxins and waste build-ups and provide a healthy environment for them to live in.
How to Know if The Cycling Process Has Been Completed?
When the cycling process has been completed, there is little visual difference. However, to ensure the completion of the process, you must test for ammonia and nitrate levels.
These tests should result in 0 for both, which will signify the completion of the process. You can add the fish to the tank when you are particular about completing the process.
Adding the fish earlier could cause detrimental health issues and possibly even kill them.
Caring for fish in a tank seems a huge responsibility if you don’t have prior experience with fish and their well-being.
This article was intended to serve as a guide on “how to cycle a tank in 24 hours” properly with a step-by-step process. Therefore, if you are new to being in charge of fish and their health, follow the steps mentioned above to allow them a healthy life.
Hi, this is your friend Clifton Ervin, the founder and chief editor of this site, Aquariumwolf. I completed my graduation in marine biology and became an Ichthyologist. One of my favorite hobbies is aquarium keeping; therefore, I love to talk about fish keeping, breeding, food behavior, etc., and much more relevant to aquarium maintenance. I have created this site Aquariumwolf, to share my 20 years+ of experience and knowledge with all new to this journey.More Posts