Will an Aquarium Cycle on Its Own?

Fish are considered one of the easiest pets to take care of. However, getting your fish tank to cycle correctly may not be as simple as you think. For starters, can an aquarium cycle on its own?

An aquarium can cycle on its own, but it takes some time. You need to get the tank to cycle before adding too many fish — otherwise, the process can become needlessly complicated. Still, cycling should not be too hard as long as you change the water often enough.

This article will discuss everything you need to know about getting your aquarium to cycle independently, including essential steps and what to expect. Let’s begin!

Should an Aquarium Cycle on Its Own?

An aquarium should cycle mostly on its own once you have established the ammonia cycle. You need to give it a little help at first, then perform regular water changes. The cycling process happens whether you have input or not, so you cannot prevent it.

That said, it’s much better for your fish when you have more control over the cycling process. Letting it go on its own could easily cause a disaster that you could’ve prevented.

Before adding more fishes (and other forms of life) to your aquarium, you need to closely watch the cycle for consistent levels. If the cycle is too unpredictable, your fish might not survive.

How To Make an Aquarium Cycle on Its Own

You can make an aquarium cycle independently, but you must start the process with a few fish in the tank at first. Adding the bulk of your fish colony later ensures that you’ve established a healthy cycle so your fish won’t get sick later.

It can take six weeks for your aquarium to cycle. You’ll know it’s cycled if you use a test kit and find a good amount of nitrate and ammonia. This API Water Test Kit (available on Amazon.com) is an excellent option. It accurately monitors multiple water parameters such as pH, ammonia, and nitrate.

Once you have a testing kit, you can work on cycling the tank. Here’s how to make it cycle on its own:

  1. Choose one hardy, small fish for every 10 gallons (37.84 liters) of water in the tank.
  2. Feed your fish lightly, increasing their food intake over six weeks.
  3. If you have another established tank, transfer small amounts of substrate to your new tank.
  4. Check the water quality using ammonia test strips each day.
  5. Complete a partial water change whenever you find more than 0.2 ppm of ammonia or nitrate.
  6. You’ll know the ammonia cycle is complete when you feed your fish a normal amount of food without having to raise ammonia and nitrate levels. Nitrate levels should be above 0 ppm.
  7. Now, you can add more fish to the tank — but remember to do it slowly.”

After you’re done, continue to use test kits on the tank to ensure the aquarium is correctly cycling on its own. If the levels dive into unhealthy territory, repeat the above steps as necessary.

Consider Adding Plants

If you want your aquarium to cycle efficiently, you may want to add plants. Greenery in the tank helps a lot in cycling since the plants can absorb excess ammonia and nitrate. The plants release oxygen back into the water, which is helpful for the bacteria that cycle the tank.

Benefits of Fish Tank Cycling on Its Own

Many fish keepers want their tanks to cycle without their help. If your aquarium does this naturally, there’s a good, healthy balance of bacteria in the tank. In this case, your fish are likely to thrive — as long as the balance is maintained, of course.”

Cycling ensures that your filter contains beneficial bacteria that process ammonia and nitrates. Otherwise, these chemicals can easily overpower the water in the tank, making your fish sick. Essentially, getting your tank to cycle on its own keeps it clean and prevents harmful levels of ammonia and nitrates from building up waste.

When your tank cycles on its own, you don’t have to worry as much about taking care of the aquarium. As I mentioned earlier, monitoring the tank is essential in case the cycle goes out of whack.

Final Thoughts

An aquarium can cycle on its own. You can start the process with just a few small fish before adding more later. Plants can also help the process.

Once you fully establish your tank, it should mostly cycle on its own. You’ll still need to perform water changes, but your fish will likely become much healthier than they were before.


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