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Salinity map showing areas of high salinity (36 o/oo) in green,
medium salinity in blue (35 o/oo), and low salinity (34 o/oo) in
purple. Salinity is rather stable but areas in the North Atlantic,
South Atlantic, South Pacific, Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, Red Sea,
and Mediterranean Sea tend to be a little high (green). Areas near
Antarctica, the Arctic Ocean, Southeast Asia, and the West Coast
of North and Central America tend to be a little low (purple).
The Nitrogen Cycle
Freshwater and Saltwater
Aquariums
Aquarium Types
Aquariums
Freshwater
Coldwater
Saltwater
Tropical
Aggressive
Reef Tank
Brackish
Fish Only
Community
The specific aquarium setup will depend upon the requirements of the
species you choose.
Basic Needs




Appropriate
enclosure/housing
Nutrition
Hygiene
Enrichment
Reef Aquarium
Plants
Why?
 Oxygenation
 Waste
removal
 Protection
The Nitrogen Cycle
The Nitrogen Cycle
Call it cycling, nitrification, biological cycle, startup cycle,
break-in cycle, or the nitrogen cycle. No matter what name
you use, every newly set up aquarium goes through a
process of establishing beneficial bacterial colonies.
The Waste Problem
Unlike nature, an aquarium is a closed environment. All the
wastes excreted from the fish and uneaten food stay inside
the tank. If nothing eliminated those wastes, your beautiful
tank would turn into a box of poison.
Nitrogen Cycle Stages Summary

Stage 1: Ammonia (toxic to fish)
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Stage 2: Nitrites (toxic to fish)
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Created by fish waste and/or dead fish
Remaining uneaten food
Bacteria (Nitrosomonas) oxidizes the ammonia
Stage 3: Nitrates (not as harmful)
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Bacteria (Nitrobacter) convert Nitrites to Nitrates
Nitrates removed with gravel cleaning and water
changes
The Nitrogen Cycle – Stage 1
The cycle begins when your fish start producing waste.
Their waste is quickly broken down into either ionized or
unionized ammonia.
The ionized form, Ammonium (NH4), is present if the pH
is below 7, and is not toxic to fish. The unionized form,
Ammonia (NH3), is present if the pH is 7 or above, and is
highly toxic to fish. Any amount of unionized Ammonia
(NH3) is dangerous. Your tank should be at 8.3 pH.
Your tank needs the beneficial bacteria to break it down.
Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter bacteria can be added to the
tank through an additive– or fish.
When testing for Ammonia the result should always be 0,
and the color yellow.
The Nitrogen Cycle – Stage 2
During this stage Nitrosomonas bacteria
will oxidize the ammonia, thus eliminating it.
However, the by-product of ammonia
oxidation is nitrite, which is also highly toxic
to fish. Nitrites levels as low as low as 1mg/l
can be lethal to some fish.
When testing Nitrites they should always be
0, and the test result should be light blue.
The Nitrogen Cycle – Stage 3
In the last stage of the cycle, Nitrobacter
bacteria convert the nitrites into nitrates. Nitrates
are not highly toxic to fish in low to moderate
levels. When testing your tank they should not be
above
and should be orange with no red hues.
Routine water changes (10% to 20% a week)
will keep the nitrate levels within the safe range.
.
The Beneficial Bacterial
Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter bacteria are slow
growing surface dwelling bacterial. You can’t see
them, but they live on the bio filter and the coral
rock.
The number of bacteria in the tank is dependent
on the amount of ammonia being produced by
your fish. Once stabilized, the colony size will
continue to expand if more ammonia is present.
But because they are slow growing, it takes time
for your tank to reach the third stage of the
Nitrogen cycle.
Water Quality: Nitrogen Cycle
www.cichlid-forum.com
Unexplained Death
o
o
o
Dead fish and uneaten food
are not always noticeable.
They could drift down and
be hidden in the coral or
sucked up into the filter.
Make it a point to not
overfeed your fish, and
keep the tank, and filter
clean.
A rise in your Ammonia
level will be your only clue
before your fish start
dying.
Water Composition: Water
Testing
Water Composition: Testing
Fresh Water: Salt Water:
• Salinity
 pH
 Ammonia
 Nitrite
 Nitrate
Other:
• Phosphate
• Calcium
• Strontium
Water Changes
Why?
 Dilutes waste products
 Corrects pH imbalances
 Can reduce algae
growth
Nutrition
Dry:
Flakes
Pellets
Sticks
Floating
Sinking
Wafers
Seaweed
Live/Frozen:
Blood Worms
Daphnia
Brine Shrimp
Feeder fish
Plants