Why is the Nitrogen Cycle Important for Your Aquarium?

Here’s Why the Nitrogen Cycle is Important for the Health and Well-Being of Your Fish!

Fish are just like any other living creatures in that they create waste and bacteria. This debris can be harmful to fish. And while other creatures have the luxury of not living in their waste and bacteria, fish do not.

The nitrogen cycle is important because it protects fish from harmful waste. The cycle breaks down the waste and bacteria into nonharmful substances, and it could be the key to keeping your fish alive.

When you’ve had an aquarium for a while, or you’re just starting out, it’s crucial that you understand the nitrogen cycle. So, for all of you fish-owners, here’s a nitrogen cycle explanation to get you started!

What is the Nitrogen Cycle?

The nitrogen cycle is a biological chain reaction that produces chemical results. When fish produce waste, that waste creates bacteria. And that bacteria, if not put through the nitrogen cycle, becomes toxic to the fish.

So, basically, the nitrogen cycle breaks down the harmful bacteria into something less harmful.

Nitrogen cycles usually occur organically as animals produce waste, and nature cleans up the harmful bacteria. However, since an aquarium locks the fish into one place, the nitrogen cycle in the tank needs to happen differently.

What is the Nitrogen Cycle Process?

Here’s how the nitrogen cycle works in an aquarium to keep the fish safe:

First, the fish produce waste. The waste then turns into ammonia. Ammonia is toxic to fish and can burn their gills if exposed to it.

But there are also other bacteria in a fish tank. These are nitrifying bacteria called Nitrosomonas. Nitrosomonas consume the ammonia and convert it into nitrites. This chemical reaction is the first of the cycle.

The next chemical reaction happens with another nitrifying bacteria called Nitrobacter and the nitrites. Nitrobacter consumes the nitrites and converts them into nitrates.

Nitrates need oxygen or an oxygen-rich environment. In that environment, they turn into nitrogen gas, which is harmless. Because oxygen is not present in an aquarium, it needs to be filtered out.

Finally, the nitrates are consumed by underwater plant life or algae. Thus, keeping plants in your aquarium can greatly reduce the nitrate levels since they can produce oxygen.

However, your plants might not consume all the nitrates. Another good defense against nitrate buildup is regularly filtering and changing the water. Therefore, you need to filter your water and change it regularly.

An infographic showing the nitrogen cycle process and why the nitrogen cycle is important.

How Does the Nitrogen Cycle Work in a New Fish Tank?

The nitrogen cycle takes time to build up the nitrifying bacteria. Therefore, a good nitrogen cycle aquarium timeline is about six to seven weeks.

Because the nitrogen cycle takes time, you need to introduce fish gradually. Stock your aquarium slowly with younger and smaller fish to help the nitrifying bacteria grow.

Freshwater tropical fish are very tolerant of lots of nitrates. Therefore, those types of fish can be especially beneficial in the early stages of the nitrogen cycle.

And don’t forget to include plenty of underwater plant life in your aquarium to help with the filtration of nitrates.

Why is the Nitrogen Cycle Important?

The nitrogen is important because it allows fish to live in a clean environment since the good bacteria take out the bad bacteria. However, you also need to carefully monitor your ammonia levels to make sure they are not at a dangerous level.

If your ammonia levels are too high, or you need help with the nitrogen cycle, contact us! We’ll be more than happy to help. Living Art Aquatics knows the key to helping your fish live fuller, better lives.

An image showing a fish swimming through plant life and coral in an aquarium.

Plants help filter out harmful nitrates, but you should change your water regularly to get rid of any excess bacteria.

Do You Need Help with Your Aquarium?

Keeping fish healthy and happy can be a demanding process that could require a professional touch. We offer consultations and will provide training on how to care for your fish in the Crystal Lake, IL and McHenry County area! If you need help or have questions, stop by our design center or send us a message on Facebook!

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