What is a bacterial cycle? It sounds gross.
Gross as it may be a bacterial cycle is extremely beneficial to your fish! Your filter as I’ve mentioned before acts as housing for this bacteria! In the tank fish secrete ammonia as a form of waste and it builds up over time. To keep things from getting toxic you need a bacterial cycle! There are two kinds of beneficial bacteria in your tank.
The first bacteria eats ammonia and converts it into nitrite. Nitrite is just as harmful for your fish as ammonia. Although nitrite wont burn your fish it will affect the efficiency of your goldfish’s gills to absorb oxygen into it’s body causing breathing to be difficult. Cue in the second type of bacteria! This next bacteria eats nitrite and turns it into nitrate.
Although nitrate isn’t going to harm your fish in small concentrations the only way to keep the water fresh from this stage is to do a water change when the level of this chemical rises in your tank.
Now all these chemicals are measured in parts per million. You are going to need for this some freshwater aquarium tests. I recommend API’s fresh water drops test kit. The reason why I dont like strips is because firstly when you buy a package of them you are likely to only get 30 tests. The second reason I don’t like strips is because they are not very accurate. Drops kits are not only more accurate but one kit will last you for 100+ tests so it is definitely worth the extra money.
Now you’re probably asking me how can you get your hands on this super bacteria team? Simple. You can do a fishless cycle. Assuming you do not have a fish in your aquarium yet my recommendation is to do a fishless cycle as the cycling process can become very harmful and stressful for your goldfish. (if you have a fish, keep calm and I will explain how to do a fish-in cycle as well this way these high levels of chemicals wont harm your fish)
(the best method)
The idea is to get a source of ammonia. What you’ll need is either a bottle of pure ammonia with no additives (the colour of the liquid should be clear and it should not froth when shaken) a brand I recommend if you live in Canada would be Goldex. It is sold at Walmart. If you cannot find a bottle of ammonia with no additives you can use a raw prawn or some goldfish food.
Essentially what you will want to do is feed your tank until your tests measure your ammonia to 4ppm. Try not to get your reading over this amount. From here on out you will need to test your water parameters every day. When you notice your ammonia is slowly disappearing and your test your water parameters you should find traces nitrites in your water. This is good news. It means the first type of bacteria has arrived in your tank.
When your ammonia reaches as low as 0-1ppm (parts per million) you will want to feed your tank every day. You will want to add daily 1ppm to feed your bacteria. You will see in the following weeks your nitrites spike as high as 5 ppm before it eventually will go down to 0ppm as well. During this nitrite spike you will notice nitrates appear in your tank. When your ammonia and nitrite readings are at 0 you have a cycled tank. From here you will need to do a 90% waterchange before you are ready for fish.
(if you already have fish in your uncycled tank)
The idea for this is to basically keep your fish as comfortable as possible. Now your tank will naturally cycle with your fish in it but here is what I recommend you do. Test your water every day. What you want to aim for is to keep your ammonia and nitrites down under 1 ppm. Preferably 0-0.25ppm and no more than that. This will prevent illness, stress and injury to your fish during the cycling process.
You are going to need to change your water as often as you can possibly swing it. Frequent water changes will ensure that the levels stay low. A great investment you can make during this time is a water conditioner called prime. It’s produced by a company called seachem and it’s the best on the market at the moment. What sets Prime apart from other water conditioners is that it actually will neutralize ammonia in the water. Dose your tank after every water change with this conditioner and be patient as your tank cycles out. It will take your tank a while before it balances out. Cycling can take anywhere from 1-2 months to completely cycle and every cycle is different.