Setting up however does not merely mean just dumping the substrate and water and plugging in your filter. It also includes the whole process of cycling, ensuring quality bacterial growth in your tank to help tackle any wastes, and waste by-products before your shrimp go into your tank. Basically when we talk about cycling we are talking about setting up your tanks to start the Nitrogen Cycle so that it creates a stable environment for fish and shrimp to live in.
Setting up to Cycle can take about an hour however you might be waiting up to 3 months for your tank to properly cycle the water so that it is stable enough to add your shrimp and fish. This time varies depending on the substrate you use, and the additives, bacteria and minerals you add into the tank. If you want a smooth and quick cycle process you will need to head to the local fish store one more time to get these things that will help you speed up the stabilization of your water. I will explain as I go through the set up process what these things are and what they do.
The process is the same with live substrate and inert substrate. Firstly you will start with a thin layer of substrate on the bottom of your tank. Then spread a thin layer of bacterial cultures and trace minerals. Then complete with filling the rest of the substrate. Adding the bacterial cultures will help jump started your substrate and help it mature faster than it normally would on its own without adding any bacteria into it.
Now we would add a light touch of bacteria culture on the top layer of the soil also and fill the water. Once the tank is filled and filters are plugged in we add another bacterial culture into the water column and filtration to take and start culturing bacteria inside of it. We also add some additives such as, almond leaves, humic acids, tannic acids, and enzymes to further speed up and help the cycling process along.
We need to add all these in to help the bacteria flourish, and quickly cycle the tank. Even bacteria need a food source, vitamins and minerals to fully function at optimal peak. Now, when we talk about bacteria during cycling we are mainly discussing two types of bacteria; nitrification bacteria and denitrifying bacteria.
Nitrification: The First half of the Nitrogen Cycle
There is two types of specific bacteria that takes care of the nitrification process. “nitrosomona” bacteria is the first step coverting ammonia and ammonium into Nitrite (no2).Second step is the “nitrobacter” will take the nitrite (no2) and covert it to nitrate (no3)
This type of bacteria known as “nitrifers” are aerobic bacteria requiring optimal oxygen levels to be able to perform their job, and while the bacteria nitrify they also produce acid that can lower the ph.Nitrosomona bacteria have a reddish color while nitrobacter is brownish.
This sounds like a great deal – low ph and low pollutants in our tanks thanks to this bacteria! However, it is not easy as it sounds because it only functions at 100% between the ph of 7.5-8.5 and will completely stop nitrifying any wastes once ph drops below 6.0.This why it takes so much longer to cycle shrimp tanks then regular aquariums and why we must add in nitrifying bacteria every so often to ensure a healthy population of these bacteria’s to do their job effectively. Besides from pH, the temperature of the tank will also affect the effectiveness of these bacteria. Between 10C – 20C nitrification will still occur but at a slower rate, while it reaches maximum effectiveness between 30-35C and will stop nitrifying at 40C+. Just like our shrimp, nitrifying bacteria is susceptible to cyanide, thiourea, phenol and heavy metals such as silver, mercury, nickel, chromium, copper and zinc.
Denitrification: The Last Half of the Nitrogen Cycle
Now for the final step of cycling comes the Denitrification by heterotrophic bacteria. Basically this bacteria will take the nitrates and covert then to nitrogen gas that will escape the aquarium safely. The ideal environment for denitrification is a ph between 7 – 8.5 and temperatures of 5 – 30C while unlike nitrifying bacteria that need oxygenated waters, this type of bacteria needs low oxygen conditions in order to break down nitrates (no3).
Now that we went over a bit of how these bacteria cycle your water, now it all just takes time. Check twice a week to see where your cycling point is at. Check Ammonia, No2, and no3. This will help you chart which date to get ready for livestock! Also, having a small plant population is a key part from cycling your tank from the very first day. While you are cycling your tank the levels of these three things can spike and dart all over the place, once you see that the levels are lower and more consistent that is a sign that your water is becoming mature and you will soon be ready for your shrimp!
This is to avoid the dreaded “New Tank Syndrome” which is could be described as high levels of ammonia and nitrite in your tank when you first set up. It could be from the substrate, decomposing fish food, fish waste, dead plant matter, and debris. This high level of ammonia can cause damage to tissue especially in the gills, impaired growth and contribute to high disease and death rates. Nitrites inhibit the taking in of oxygen by not letting the blood properly carry oxygen around to vital areas of the body thus literally suffocating your livestock to death slowly. Both of these things can be avoided by properly cycling your tank and promoting beneficial bacterial growth in your tanks with proper additives and supplements.
Here is the list of Products we use, why we use them and how we use them when setting up our tank.
– Benibachi Black Control – vitamins, tannic and humic acids
– Almond leaves – to grow beneficial bacteria, acids, and hiding places
– Benibachi Bee 3 – Culture bacteria powder for healthy positive bacteria in your tank
– Lowkeys Black Master – Long term stability of soil and water parameter with this product and lots more acids and minerals then almond leaves can provide.
– Lowkeys Speed Sand – bacteria for your substrate when starting new tanks
–Biocultre SWM – this is to provide vital minerals and trace minerals for every living thing in your tank
– Lowkeys gH balance/Great mineral supply – Just to establish your proper levels of gH for your shrimps
– Prodibio Biodigest – Nitrifying and denitrifying bacteria in one vial (this is our favorite LIVE bacterial culture)
– Benibachi Ammo and No2 remover, and No3 remover – To remove toxins from tanks during setup or maintenance.
For the other parts in this series:
Part 1: Things to Plan before heading to the Aquarium Shrimp Store
Part 2: Access to Water
Part 3: Shopping and Equipment
Part 4: Substrate