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Thread: Cycling A Pond, The Cycle, Biofilters etc.

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    Squidhead's Avatar
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    Cycling A Pond, The Cycle, Biofilters etc.

    THE POND CYCLE
    THE SIMPLE EXPLANATION
    ALSO, EXPLANATION OF THE TERMS
    BIO-FILTER, CYCLING, THE NITROGEN CYCLE AND
    BENIFICIAL BACTERIA.
    by Squidhead July 2010


    This is just a brief non-technical version of the nitrification cycle. When you first set up your pond it is very clean , no bacteria, just clear clean water you could drink. Then you add fish, feed them and like all other creatures they use what nutrients they need from the food and dispose of the rest. So to even make it a more simple, they eat, then they poop and pee! My 7 year old just looked over my shoulder and is laughing hysterically. When we “go” we just flush the toilet and away it goes. With the exception of my 6 year old boy. The flushing is left to the next person. When our fish “go” it falls to the bottom of the pond or dilutes into the water. As the waste decays most of it turns into ammonia. Ammonia at any level is toxic to fish. So what can we do about it? What needs to be done is done naturally. The ammonia is food for certain bacteria, also called the “good” or “beneficial” bacteria, or at least one of them. The bacteria form, multiply and consume the ammonia. This is great news, but it’s not over yet. The “good” bacteria also have “eaten” and give off a “waste” product. The product is nitrite. Now the bad news is Nitrite is toxic to fish also. So if you haven’t guessed by now this nitrite becomes a food source for another “good” bacteria. This bacteria starts off slowly and multiplies enough to consume all the nitrite. Again it’s not over yet.! The “waste” given off by these bacteria from consuming the nitrite is nitrate. çLook at those 2 words closely niTRITE and niTRATE. They are spelled differently on purpose because they are different. While nitrite is toxic to fish, nitrate is not at low levels. Now once all this takes place you have a “cycle” or the Nitrification Cycle. If the pond has not established this cycle yet it can be a very dangerous place for fish. Now, to add to this the “good” bacteria’s are what is your bio-filter. Bacteria being a biological substance filters the harmful toxins of ammonia and nitrite out of the ponds water.

    In Summary:

    Fish are added to the pond, they eat and digest the food and excrete the waste.
    The fish waste rots and produces Ammonia
    Bacteria grows that consume the Ammonia and “excrete” Nitrite. Nitrite is now in the ponds water.
    Bacteria grows that consume the Nitrites. The Nitrites “excrete” Nitrate which at low levels is harmless to fish.

    Now, the question may rise “As the harmless nitrate accumulates, how do I get rid of it before it gets to a toxic level?”. The answer is your maintenance routine. This is when you remove a minimum of 25% of your ponds water at a bare minimum of every 2 weeks. Among other water parameters your Nitrate level will help determine how much and how often to do these Partial Water Changes (PWC). To keep your pond at a safe level and reduce the threat of Green Water Algae, keep the Nitrate level below 50 ppm. To find out what your levels are you will need a reliable test kit. Now there are many dangers to establishing the nitrification cycle. I will discuss in the next topic of how to deal with these situations. Any questions, please ask away.

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    koikeepr's Avatar
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    Can you talk about how to cycle a new pond with fish and without. I confess I've never cycled a pond without fish in it. I know that many folks prefer the non-fish cycle as they feel it's more humane.
    This is my opinion. It is worth exactly what you paid for it.

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    WeWilly's Avatar
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    I cycle my qt with non sudsing ammonia.

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    WeWilly's Avatar
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    I'm also going to cycle my K1 media in the qt using the same thing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by koikeepr View Post
    Can you talk about how to cycle a new pond with fish and without. I confess I've never cycled a pond without fish in it. I know that many folks prefer the non-fish cycle as they feel it's more humane.
    I will, I am going to work on that right now. The "Fishless Cycle" will be another post by itself but I will mention it as an option. I prefer it not only for the humane aspect, but if a fish does get sick you don't have to deal with euthanizing it or trying to save it while doing the cycle. Also, the cycle takes less time to establish with the fishless way because you control the ammonia and can spike it up high and leave it there. OK off to the drawing board. Be Back Soon. Oh yeah Harris Teeter Ammonia is perfect.

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    Squidhead's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WeWilly View Post
    I cycle my qt with non sudsing ammonia.
    Yeah that's the stuff Willy, For anyone following this, the ammonia has to be free and clear of soaps, scents and cleating agents. Usually the cheap, no-frills brand is what you want. It will say ammonia and water as contents. If you want to verify, make sure it's a clear liquid, not any color, and shake it real good right in the store. If sudsy bubbles appear, then it has soap in it.

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    i do a 15 percent water change every week. the guy at the pet store tested my pond water
    its perfect. plus i have about 20 floating plants which help the nitrification cycle.

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    Squidhead's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chris View Post
    i do a 15 percent water change every week. the guy at the pet store tested my pond water
    its perfect. plus i have about 20 floating plants which help the nitrification cycle.
    That's true, if you have a good amount of true aquatic plants, or marginals that float or are partially submerged, they will most likelyuse the ammonia as Nitrogen. They "cycle" it themselves. In aquaria this is called "the silent cycle" and I will get to that eventually. Since my experience is mostly with aquariums, I am not sure what pond plants use ammonia in this way, yet. I would guess most floating plants and water lily's do. If you have plants that utilize ammonia in this way, your bio-media in your filter will have much less bacteria then someone who doesn't have any plants at all. I read in your intro that you have 20 goldfish. How long have you had the pond set up for? What size is it?

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    i have about 20 Hyacinth's floating around. back in the spring i started off with 7.
    they grew like wild fire. and my pond is 1000 gallons with a home made bio filter
    and a uv light i have 2 pumps in my pond one for the skippy and one for the uv light
    i have had the pond for about 15 years...Squidhead u know me lol..

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    I believe i am getting mine cycled now, The water has cleared up considerably i can see the bottom of the pond now. It is either that or from all the rain we had today but my fish are loving it. Its amazing to watch them fly around the pond chasing each other. All i did was add fish slowly and keep draining my filter through the bottom drain (not all the way drained just like 4 gallons each time) and i do that 3 times a day. It is clearing up nicely now
    2 PONDER 450 gallon in front with 2 SHUB'S. 1 FANCY TAIL GOLDIE. 1 COMET Tetra pond pump and filter combo.
    1200 gallon in back with 2 BUTTERFLY KOI, 2 SHUB'S, 2 KOI DIY 55 gallon drum with cut irrigation tubing. 4300 gph pump feeding filter and fountain.

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