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A Simplified Guide on the Nitrogen Cycle for Aquariums Leave a comment

If you’re getting started on your new fish tank, you might have heard of the nitrogen cycle, so here’s a quick guide to help you better understand about the micro-organisms living in your fish tank!

WHAT IS THE NITROGEN CYCLE?

The nitrogen cycle is basically how waste(from fish) is created and how micro-organisms break down the waste which in turns become food again(for plants).

photo taken from aquariumcoop.com.

First we have to understand that fish waste and its by-products are made up of 3 parts: Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate. These nitrogen compounds are toxic in high levels unless there are sufficient beneficial bacteria and plants to feed on the fish waste. Let’s use 3 colours to represent the 3 components found in fish waste and its by-products.

Red: Ammonia (highly toxic and burns fishes gills which limits their oxygen intake)

Yellow: Nitrite (toxic but not as toxic as ammonia)

Green: Nitrate (least toxic)

When fish produces waste, ammonia is produced. Beneficial bacterial eats the ammonia hence producing nitrite. Another type of beneficial bacterial then eats the nitrite producing nitrate.

SO HOW DO I REMOVE NITRATES IN MY AQUARIUM?

At the end of the nitrogen cycle, nitrate is formed which can still be toxic to your fishes in high amounts. Frequent water changes and fast growing aquatic plants such as Rotala, Ludwigia and Water Wisteria can help bring down nitrate levels and provide a safe and clean environment for your fishes!

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