How to Cycle an Aquarium Fast in 7 Steps?

Keeping fish as pets can be fun and fulfilling, so long as they are alive. In any case, they are soothing to watch and fun to feed.

Moreover, if you have kids, they can learn a lot about various types of fish and how to be responsible pet owners.

Nevertheless, the survival of confined fish largely depends on the quality and health of the water in the aquarium.

Fish and other aquatic animals need clean, uncontaminated water in order to survive.

If your aquarium fish die frequently for unknown reasons, then it could be that the water in the tank is contaminated.

For this reason, you should cycle your aquarium to ensure that the water remains conducive for the survival of the fish.

How to Cycle an Aquarium Fast in 7 Steps?

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How to Cycle an Aquarium Fast in 7 Steps?

Why You Need to Cycle Your Aquarium?

Cycling an aquarium, or simply nitrogen cycling, is the process of filtering toxins from the water in an aquarium. It essentially involves creating colonies of bacteria in the tank’s biological filter to destroy ammonia particles produced by the fish.

The entire process helps in the breaking down of ammonia into nitrite and then the conversion of the resultant nitrates into nitrates.

As with any other animal, fish also pee and excrete. The excretion of fish largely consists of ammonia, which over time build up in the tank subsequently contaminating the water.

The high concentrations of ammonia in water may damage the gills and internal organs of the fish eventually leading to death. To avoid all these repercussions, you are advised to cycle your aquarium every few weeks.

The cycling process entails setting up the bio-filter in the aquarium tank to release a substrate that facilitates the growth of nitrifying bacteria.

These nitrifying bacteria will consume ammonia produced by the fish, in turn releasing nitrite into the water.

However, nitrite is also harmful to aquarium fish. Nevertheless, with the rise of a second type of bacteria, the nitrite levels will go down as the new bacteria produce nitrate. The rise in nitrate levels signifies the final phase of the cycling process.

How to Speed Up Fish Tank Cycling Process?

Whether you want to add fish to a new tank or you want to filter the water in an old tank, cycling an aquarium is inevitable if you want your fish to survive.

Unfortunately, the cycling process involves three stages, which can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 8 weeks to complete.

Notably, the duration depends on a number of factors, including the number of fish in the tank, the type of fish, the level of ammonia, and the presence of bacteria in the tank, among other factors.

The slowness of the process can be painstaking, especially if you already have new fish that you want to add to the tank.

If the tank has some fish in it, some of them might die from the high concentrations of ammonia. With this in mind, it is imperative that you find ways to speed up the process. Here are some tips on how to cycle an aquarium fast!

1. Increase Water Dissolved Oxygen Level

The speed of the cycling process depends on the amount of ammonia and nitrite-eating bacteria in the water.

Increasing the level of dissolved oxygen in the water will trigger the mass production of ammonia-consuming bacteria. These bacteria require plenty of dissolved oxygen to multiply and develop thriving colonies.

Apparently, you have two options as far as increasing dissolved oxygen levels in the tank are concerned. You may add an air stone or an air pump to you aquarium, and let it run around the clock until the nitrogen cycle is complete. This will ensure sufficient supply of oxygen throughout the entire process.

Alternatively, you may increase water flow into the aquarium using a power head or a wave maker. As you might be aware, water, particularly fresh water, contains high levels of dissolved oxygen.

Increasing water flow guarantees adequate supply of dissolved oxygen to your aquarium.

2. Increase Water Temperature

Another way to speed up the cycling process is to increase water temperature. The essence of increasing the temperature is to encourage the production of bacteria colonies.

Bacteria typically thrive in warm environments thus increasing the temperature will activate the faster reproduction of ammonia-consuming organisms.

Ideally, the water temperature in the aquarium should be anywhere between 80 °F and 82 °F. Importantly, you must find the right balance for anything more than the recommended range could be harmful to your fish or even mess up the entire cycling process. Preferably, you should use this method when you do not have any fish in the tank.

To increase the temperature, simply add warm water into the tank, gradually. Moreover, the water should not surpass the recommended temperatures as advised.

You may use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the water and continuing adding water until you find the ideal conditions.

3. Use Filter Media from an Established Tank

Adding filter media, including rocks, plants and substrate from an established tank is another great way of stimulating the quick reproduction of ammonia-eating bacteria.

Notably, when setting up your aquarium from scratch, you have to create the ideal environment for bacteria to thrive by adding suitable stones, rocks, plants and bio-filter.

However, this might take quite a long time for the bacteria to form. For this reason, it is advisable that you use filter media from another tank to hasten the cycling process.

The filter media from an established tank already has sufficient populations of bacteria. This means that you do not have to wait long for these organisms to reproduce.

However, you must make sure that the filter media is coming from a healthy tank. Moreover, the fish in the established tank must be disease-free to avoid risking the overall health of your aquarium.

4. Use Beneficial Bacteria

Beneficial bacteria play a huge role in consuming ammonia and nitrite before converting these compounds into nitrates. However, for beneficial bacteria to form, the water must have sufficient amount of ammonia.

If the tank does not have any fish, you may consider adding a dose of ammonia to the water daily to trigger the production of ammonia. This will ensure that the beneficial bacteria do not starve, subsequently speeding up the cycling process.

Apart from the natural-occurring, ammonia-eating bacteria, you may purchase commercial beneficial bacteria from your local pet store to help increase their population in your aquarium.

However, you have to add these organisms gradually to your tank not to lower the pH level below the recommended requirements.

Popular options for commercial beneficial bacteria include Bio-spiral, Fritz Aquatics Turbostart and Tetra SafeStart. These bacteria are ideal for use when you are setting up your tank for the first time or when you are adding new fish to a tank.

5. Use Water from Established Tank

Another sure way of jumpstarting the nitrogen cycle process is to use water from an established aquarium. The water from an established tank certainly has sufficient supply of beneficial bacteria.

In some instances, the water from the alternative tank could have already gone through the nitrogen cycle, making it ideal for your new tank.

However, it is imperative that you check the status of the water before adding it to your tank. Adding water from a tank consisting of unhealthy fish may just but spread diseases and infections to your fish.

With this in mind, consider acquiring bacteria-filled water from a reliable source such as a vet or a pet shop, to prevent the spread of disease-causing organisms.

6. Use a Good Aquarium Filter

Using a good aquarium filter can also speed up the cycling process. This is particularly true if the filter is coming from an established tank. In any case, a good filter will also have a good amount of nitrifying bacteria.

Nevertheless, you must take extra precaution when using a filter to obtain optimum results. Firstly, you must never rinse the filter with tap water or sink water as the chlorine will destroy the beneficial bacteria. If you want to rinse the filter, always use the water in the tank.

7. Cut out the Lights

You might not know this, but the ideal habitat for bacteria to thrive is a darkly lit environment. To achieve this, consider moving your tank away from the windows and any other sources of light until the cycling process is complete.

This is because light, especially from the sun, might inhibit the growth of bacteria and instead stimulate the production of algae.

Once the cycle is complete, you may relocate your tank to a lit space and add your fish to the aquarium.


The key to keeping your fish happy and healthy is to cycle your aquarium. This will ensure that the water in the tank remains fit for your fish to swim, feed, reproduce and bond.

However, cycling an aquarium is a continuous process, meaning that you have to monitor the levels of ammonia, nitrites and nitrates consistently to establish when to initiate another cycling process.

For this, you need to invest in an aquarium test kit to measure the pH levels. Doing so will make sure that your pet fish have the highest possible chance of survival.

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