So exactly what does this mean, and how do you go about doing it? Well, for a start you're going to need a source to obtain biological media that contains live bacteria. It's going to have to come from a filter that is still running on a fish tank. You cannot take media from a filter that has been switched off for a few hours because the bacteria will all be dead. Alternatively, ask a friend if they can spare a little bit of media from their filter. You can use sponge biological media to seed your new aquarium, or you can use ceramic type media that is often found in canister filters.
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The simple answer is yes, an aquarium must be cycled properly before you can safely add your fish. It doesn't matter whether the tank is 15 gallons or 500 gallons, it's still got to be cycled. If you were to simply fill your tank with water and then add all your fish at once then there would be such a massive buildup of ammonia, the chances are your fish would be dead within a few days.
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Traditionally, there are two ways to cycle a fish tank. Both methods will involve introducing ammonia into the tank which will be the food the bacteria need to survive. The most common method of cycling an aquarium is to use small community fish that produce the ammonia themselves. A kinder, more acceptable way to cycle a fish tank is to use a method called the "fishless" cycle. This also involves adding ammonia to the aquarium, but as a name suggests you do not use live fish. In this article, we are going to use fish as it's probably easier for a beginner to undertake, and we wouldn't be happy with youngsters handling pure ammonia as it can be dangerous. If you would prefer not to use live fish then read this article on how to carry out a fishless cycle.
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