Last edited - December 8, 2018
You begin your betta fish keeping adventure by going to your local fish store and buying all the supplies you need for a betta. You spend what seems like an eternity trying to decide what betta food you should get, what decorations would match with each color of betta, and finally which betta to choose. (Dont forget the HEATER!!!). You leave the store excited and quickly go home to prepare the betta's new home. You set everything up, make sure the plants stay put, and then put in the betta. You then sit mesmerized for about an hour or so in front of your aquarium. Everything seems fine, but then in the next few days disaster will strike with the name of New Tank Syndrome.
Although it may seem like a conveniently made up name, New Tank Syndrome is real and is a major cause of death in new tank set-ups not only for bettas, but also for all types of aquariums. New Tank Syndrome occurs when a newly established tank has not completed the nitrogen cycle, which means that it is going to go through a cycle of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate spikes until all the chemicals become balanced. Putting your betta, or any other fish, through this cycle will stress them out and may possibly kill them.
Steps of the nitrogen cycle in an established tank
In a new tank, however, the nitrogen cycle is not yet established. Because there aren't any beneficial bacteria in a new tank, the chemicals from the fish waste cannot be converted into less harmful chemicals. The tank will go through a few chemical spikes as it tries to achieve a perfect balance. Any fish in the tank at this time will suffer the effects of chemical poisoning. First, ammonium will continue to build up until Nitrosomas bacteria become established. The ammonium levels will then decrease to safe levels. However, because there aren't Nitrospira bacteria yet, the nitrites will also build up until the Nitrospira bacteria colonize the tank. When nitrates appear, the tank has finished cycling and you have nothing more to worry about New Tank Syndrome.
In order to measure the amount of chemicals present in the aquarium, you need to buy a test kit online or from your local fish store that can test for pH, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. Although some local fish stores do offer free water tests, it may be more convenient to get a test kit for yourself since you will need to test the water at least every few days to properly monitor the cycling process.
There are two ways - Cycling with fish or without fish, both methods can take 2-4 weeks
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