The process of cycling a new setup is one of the easiest steps in starting an aquarium.
Unfortunately, it is also one of the most poorly understood. Over the years, the concept has
been mystified companies and hobbyists alike. Some companies market products that claim
to eliminate the need to cycle while others tout things that will dramatically shorten the
cycle so that livestock can be added sooner.
Let me clear up any confusion regarding the topic of cycling a new aquarium. It MUST be
done. NOTHING will speed up the process beyond the physiological capabilities of the
organisms that actually make the cycle happen. There is really no mystery here!
So, what is the key to a good cycle? That is a valid question and one that is easily
answered. To properly cycle a new system only two things are needed. First, of course, you
need the system to be cycled. Once it is completely assembled then you can move on to
step two. Step two is simply introducing the organisms that will cycle the system into the
tank. After that it is just a waiting game. Sit back and let the little bugs do their tricks.
Just what are these little "bugs" and where do they come from? Well again, no mystery
here. Let's follow the logic and steps backward to figure out their origin. If you need the
bugs to cycle your system, then they must be present in any system that has been cycled.
Of course, originally that system was the ocean! They are present in every single aquarium
you have ever seen with anything alive in it. You probably didn't see them (most are
microscopic) but they were there. They mainly live in the substrate and within the live rock
(hence the name "live" rock). Acquiring either or these sources is a great way to "seed"
your system, but both can be costly. On the other hand, a superior source that many
hobbyists overlook is the used filter pad from an established system. Yep, that's right! That
dirty, clogged pad that most people just toss in the garbage is actually teeming with life.
You would be hard pressed to find a better source of the bacteria that is needed to cycle a
new system than an old filter pad. Simply place the pad in any part of the tank or filter
system and let the bacteria populate your system. It really is just that easy! No secret, you
just need the patience to wait for the bugs to do their work.
I regularly have used pad available. I use the pad in my system for between 1-3 months
before moving it to help populate new systems. If you are interested in getting some of this
pad to help cycle your system, contact me. Don't fall for the marketing scams. There is only
one way to cycle a new system properly. Take time, do it right and make your system a
success...the first time! Happy Reefing!
Tank Cycling 101