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Maturing the tank

The nitrogen cycle explainedOnce your aquarium is set up you may be tempted to go straight out and buy your first fish. STOP! Your new aquarium needs time to mature. All new set ups go through a process known as the nitrogen cycle. This natural chemical process is the way that dead and decaying products (e.g. fish bodily wastes and decaying plant matter) which contain nitrogen are converted by bacteria from toxic compounds, such as ammonia, into less harmful substances, such as nitrates, which are in turn taken up by the plants. This process begins as soon as your aquarium is filled with water. Your filter helps in the process, beneficial bacteria start to colonise the filter media and as they multiply the filter becomes more efficient. The bacteria will multiply until there is enough of them to deal with the amount of nitrogen in the aquarium BUT every time you add fish the amount of waste products to be processed increases and this 'overloads' the system. It takes a few days for the bacteria to build back up to sufficient quantities to deal with the increase. This is why it's always a good idea to add the fish only a few at a time and not all at once. One way of helping speed up this process is to add bottled bacteria such as Cycle or Stress Zyme. 

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