An aquarium is a delicately balanced ecosystem that relies on “good” bacteria to consume and convert the toxic chemicals produced by aquatic animals into less toxic chemicals that are safer and can be removed through regular aquarium maintenance.
When you first set up your aquarium, you’ll need to encourage the growth of these good bacteria. The process, called cycling, can take 3 to 7 weeks. Using bacteria starters can reduce the cycling time to 1 to 3 weeks. Here’s how to start:
Set up and fill the aquarium with water. Do not add fish. Run the aquarium filter for at least 24 hours to ensure that all equipment is functioning properly and that the ideal temperature is reached.
Introduce a few small, hardy fish such as danios or livebearers. The number of fish will depend on the size of the aquarium; ask a PetSmart associate for advice.
Over time, the beneficial bacteria should kick in and balance the chemistry in the aquarium. Once the water is ready, you can slowly introduce new fish.