It is 30 days before your trout arrive, do you know where your bacteria are? (Just to clarify, it is not actually 30 days before your eggs are arriving… but you should read this now and then re-read this again at the beginning of December).
Seriously though, where are your bacteria and how do you get them?
Before we can even start getting ready for the eggs, we need to talk about tank cycling. When I say cycling, I’m referring to the nitrogen cycle (excess fish food/waste= ammonia= nitrites= nitrates) in your aquariums. Once your tank has gone through the nitrogen cycle (4-8 weeks is ideal), it will have the necessary bacterial community to handle trout being introduced without erratic water quality. Last year, we had some troubles with crowding and water quality, so this year we will be provided just a few less fish and we’re hoping to help you build up that bacterial community prior to receiving fish.
Here’s how you should go about cycling your tank:
Preparing your equipment:
It’s time to get your equipment out and dusted off! That includes brand new equipment straight from those dusty and dirty factories.
First things first… give your tank a quick rinse with warm water to get the dust off. Next up is to clean your gravel. We’ve discovered that the culprit behind the cloudy water is… (most likely)dirty gravel. The gravel comes pre-dirty for you. So be sure to clean it.
To CLEAN your gravel, put all of your gravel substrate in a bucket and spray it with a high powered hose (read: regular hose with your thumb over it). Wash the gravel around with your hand and pour the water out. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat as many times as necessary until your water is running clear. Give your filter media a rinse in the bucket too, though you do not need to hose them off; you can simply fill the bucket and give them a few dunks and rinses.
Cycling your tank:
Now it’s time to cycle your tank! What’s cycling you ask? Well, cycling is the most important part of establishing a healthy water chemistry and bacterial community before introducing fish. Pilot and 2014-2015 teachers were asked to get their tanks up and running about 30 days before the arrival of eggs in order to let the aquarium settle in. We’ve learned that this is not enough when it comes to rainbow trout! Simply adding Special Blend, the bacterial booster that we provide, is not sufficient. You need to provide the bacteria with food (i.e. ammonia)! Here’s how you’ll cycle your tank…
Fill your tank! You can fill your tank with tap water to start. Once your tank is full, you will add two things to the water. First, you’ll add the appropriate amount of water conditioner, NovAqua Plus Water Conditioner, as per the manufacturer instructions. Second, you’ll add the Special Blend, bacteria as per the manufacturer instructions.
If you add the other chemicals at this point, you will only hinder the cycling process by killing off any potential food sources for your bacteria. The bacteria will be present everywhere in your tank, but they will be especially established in the filter because of the added surface area your filter media provide.
Now that you’ve dechlorinated your water and added your Special Blend, you need to feed your bacteria. Said bacteria will digest ammonia (toxic to fish) and produce nitrites (also toxic to fish).
How does an aquarium produce ammonia without pesky trout pooping constantly, you say? Food! Fish food will decay and produce ammonia for the bacteria to eat. Simply adding a pinch or two of food everyday will add ammonia into the system. Once the ammonia is digested, it is turned into nitrites which is also toxic to fish but will be digested by a different set of bacteria.
Once you’ve begun your cycling process, you will want to test for the ammonia and nitrite levels regularly. They will be elevated for some time, which is why you need to have your aquarium begin the cycling process at least 4 weeks (preferably 6 weeks) before receiving eggs. If your ammonia and nitrite levels start to get above 5 ppm, simply stop adding the food and continue to test the water quality.
During the cycling period, you do not want to change your water or add any of the chemicals. The bacteria will do their jobs if you let them! After 2-4 weeks you should see your levels start returning to zero and you’ll know that your bacteria has had a chance to fully establish and will function as they should!
Establishing a healthy bacterial community should make for an easier time for the rest of your trout rearing season. I highly encourage you to read up on this yourself as well and ask any questions that you might have. This year, I would like to see you all setting up your tanks and beginning to cycle them around the beginning of December.