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Mini Course TOP RATED TOP RATED Recommended Reading View Content the Nitrogen Cycle

   Discus Fish Types

Understanding Different Discus Fish Types Buying discus for the first time can be confusing, because there are now hundreds of phenotypic strains being sold around the world. Discus fish are bred not only in the United States, but also in places such as Hong Kong and Malaysia. Many people ask me about the “original” discus fish. If you are looking for “the mother of all discus fish”, then you are talking about....  Read more....

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       The Nitrogen Conundrum The nitrogen cycle occurs naturally in fish habitats around the world. It is Mother Nature’s way of ensuring that waterways don’t become toxic from fish waste and other naturally occurring debris found in nature (e.g. animal waste, fallen leaves, rotting logs, etc.)    In a captive tank, things are a bit more complicated, because we don’t have all of Mother Nature’s tools at our disposal. All you really have is a volume of water and a glass container. When setting up an aquarium , one of the most important pieces of equipment is the  filtration system which will keep and maintain a healthy environment for your Discus. The nitrogen cycle is the single most important process all aquariums must undergo in order for them to become established. During this process, aquariums cultivate beneficial bacterial colonies and begin to maintain a stable state, where the rate at which toxic compounds are introduced into the aquarium equals the rate at which they are converted into less harmful compounds.   But what exactly is the nitrogen cycle? The  nitrogen cycle is also known as the nitrification cycle and is the process that breaks down toxic nitrogen into less harmful components. Fish produce waste throughout the day and as they consume food, some of the leftover food also becomes part of the build-up of organic debris inside the tank. If you have a brand new tank there will be an absence of the beneficial bacteria needed to start and maintain the cyle (see new tank syndrome)   Fish produce ammonia as a natural byproduct. They do this every day, and if you allow your fish to swim in water with unabated waste levels, your fish are going to get sick very quickly.   To understand the impact of the nitrogen cycle on your fish, I have prepared some vital points so you will become aware of what actually happens when fish excrete waste in the water: 1. Nitrogen is a natural component of animal waste. Even humans produce nitrogenous waste, in the form of urea. It is a natural byproduct and, eventually, if there is too much nitrogen waste in the water, the water becomes toxic to the fish.  In a fish’s natural environment, nitrogen waste is taken care of by nitrifying bacteria. Nitrifying bacteria consume the waste and transform the ammonia to a form that is less harmful (almost neutral, in fact) – nitrate. Nitrate is actually a beneficial compound because it is a natural fertilizer and it helps aquatic vegetation to flourish.  2. The Ammonia (NH3) that is released through fish waste actually goes through two distinct processes in order to become harmless in the water. Water-soluble ammonia is first transformed into nitrite (NO2) by nitrifying bacteria. (called Nitrosomonas )   Nitrite (NO2) is less toxic than gaseous ammonia, but that doesn’t make it completely safe yet .   NO2    is   transformed   once   again   to   the   final,   safest   form   of   ammonia,   which   is   nitrate   or NO3.    Naturally   occurring   nitrates   in   an   aquarium   can   be   used   by   tank   plant   life .   If   you   do it   right,   everyone   wins!   (Remember   that   the   bacteria   release   more   hydrogen   cations   during this process which lowers the pH ) 3. In order to encourage the growth of nitrite-busting bacteria, the water in your tank should be well oxygenated. More available oxygen in the water means faster transformation of ammonia and nitrites.    Take note however that nitrifying bacteria and aquarium plants are often insufficient when it comes to completely cleaning the system of ammonia. You will need additional filters to aid in order to achieve a balanced tank,   You will still need to perform partial water changes every now and then. However, if the nitrogen cycle in your tank is efficient, frequent partial water changes will not be necessary. Ammonia monitoring should be considered an integral part of your regular inspection of your tanks, as too much ammonia in the water can cause physical damage to your discus fish.
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The Nitrogen Cycle
Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle by Eliasch via Wikimedia Commons
Do not allow the water hardness to exceed 10 dH, as this can become fatal to discus fish. If you wish to experiment with breeding adult discus fish, you have to adjust the acidity of the water so that a 5.5 pH level is attained.
In addition you will have to consider the hardness of the water as it has to be taken in to account for the Discus . The three most important parameters to measure are : temperature, pH, and dH.