If you have ever kept a fish tank, either saltwater or freshwater, you probably already know the basics of “cycling” a tank. This term refers to the nitrogen cycle in an aquarium, the process through which chemicals and toxins including ammonia and nitrite are converted into less harmful substances called nitrates. This cycle is essential for the health of an aquarium or pond and it is not something you can rush. Before you can add fish to your pond you need to let it cycle completely – if you do not, you may end up losing all of your fish and having to start over.
Basics of the Nitrogen Cycle
As has already been mentioned, the nitrogen cycle involves converting ammonia into nitrite and then into nitrate. This process depends on beneficial bacteria in the water which break down waste products, releasing ammonia into the water, and then converting that ammonia into less harmful substances. There are different kinds of bacteria in a pond or aquarium – those that convert ammonia into nitrite and those that convert nitrite into nitrate. Both of these types of bacteria are necessary for the nitrogen cycle to become established and keep the pond running properly. The nitrogen cycle can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months to become established, depending on the water volume of the tank or pond. If you try to add fish to the pond before it has cycled, the fish may be overwhelmed by ammonia levels and could die as a result.
Cycling a Pond
Before you attempt to cycle your pond, make sure you have plenty of aquarium water test strips on hand. Throughout the cycling period you will need to test the water to check the ammonia levels – once you start to get 0 ppm readings for ammonia and nitrite (and once nitrates begin to show up on the test strips) it is safe to say that your pond has cycled. After filling your pond and treating it with a dechlorinating solution you should test the water to get a baseline for pH and other water parameters
Start your pond filter and let it run for about a week. At this point you can think about adding a few goldfish to the pond – as you feed the fish, they will produce waste for the beneficial bacteria in your pond to break down. If you plan to keep koi in your pond eventually, do not start out with them immediately – koi can be sensitive to changes in water parameters and you do not want to lose expensive fish due to a mistake on your part. Continue to feed the goldfish as needed and test the water every few days. Once the ammonia and nitrite levels reach 0 and nitrates begin to show up you can start to think about adding more fish.
Tips for Water Quality
Having a high quality filter installed in your pond is essential for maintaining proper water quality. You should be sure to change your filter media as needed and check the filter often to make sure it is running properly. In addition to having a filter in place, you might also want to consider installing an EcoBio-Block Wave in your pond. EcoBio-Block Waves are infused with beneficial bacteria to help maintain the nitrogen cycle in your pond. In addition to cycling the pond, an EcoBio-Block Wave will help to keep the water clean and clear so your fish have a healthier environment in which to live. A single EcoBio-Block Wave can accommodate 300 to 1000 gallons of water and it can last for 3 years or longer.