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Aquarium maturation is a natural process that happens in every new tank. If you handle it right, you can avoid many serious problems. So, if you want to build your first aquarium, what should you do?

What happens after you set up an aquarium?

A brand-new aquarium with clean substrate, water from the tap, and a filter with clean filter media is not a good place for fish to live. For it to be a safe place for them to live, it needs to be taken over by bacteria and other tiny living things. Aquarium maturation is the time when the tank is filled with good bacteria, including nitrifying bacteria, which are thought to be the most important ones.

Nitrification (nitrogen cycle in the aquarium)

Because a new aquarium doesn’t have any bacteria yet, putting fish in it at this point usually ends in tragedy for them. Why? Fish, like all other living things, have waste that ends up in the water. Because bacteria break down things, they become a source of compounds that contain nitrogen. There are NH4+ ions in the aquarium. The more alkaline the water is, the more ammonium ions (NH4+) are turned into highly toxic ammonia (NH3).

In a mature aquarium, nitrifying bacteria from the Nitrosomonas group will quickly break these compounds down into nitrite (NO2-). Which, by the way, are also very bad for fish. But in a mature aquarium, another group of bacteria called nitrifying bacteria will turn them into nitrates, which aren’t as dangerous (NO3-). The new aquarium doesn’t have any bacteria that get rid of nitrogen, which is too bad. They haven’t put anything in the filter or substrate yet. This takes a long time because these bacteria are very picky. They can’t grow very fast and need the right conditions. So, experts think that the aquarium needs about 4 weeks to mature.


When can the fish be put in a new aquarium?

This is one of the questions that new aquarists ask most often. Many people want to buy an aquarium, fill it with water, hook up the equipment, and put fish in it. Don’t ever do that again. This will cause a lot of trouble and often kill fish.


As I’ve said before, the nitrifying bacteria in the aquarium grow slowly. So, if you put fish in the aquarium in the first few weeks, you will see high levels of ammonium/ammonia ions (NH4+/NH3) and nitrite (NO2–), which are toxic to fish as you already know. So, the new people who move into your tank will be in great danger. Because fish are the main source of nitrogenous compounds, an aquarium that is getting older should never have all the fish that were planned for. The more fish there are in the aquarium, the more things there are that make nitrogen compounds that are dangerous.

Here are some ways to help a fish tank grow up.

Fish and products in an aquarium grow up with the help of bacteria

After putting water in the tank and turning on the technical equipment, it’s a good idea to use water conditioners like Antichlor + Esklarin with aloe vera or Supreme. They’ll get rid of chlorine and hold on to heavy metals. Also, they will make the freshwater in the aquarium better for the animals that will live there in the future. After 24 hours, you can add Nitri-Active with nitrifying bacteria or a mix of different strains of bacteria to the aquarium to help the nitrifying bacteria colonize the aquarium (Bacto Active).


After another one to two days, you can add the first two or three fish from the planned stock. Many aquarists choose guppies as the first fish to “colonize” the tank because they are hardy and can adapt to changes in the water. If you have aquarium tests, keep track of how the concentrations of nitrite (NO2-) and ammonium ion (NH4+) change as the aquarium grows older. Also, pay close attention to how fish act. Don’t forget to change 20–25% of the water. Even twice a week. Every time you change the water, treat it, and then 24 hours later, put the bacteria product in. If the fish act normally and the tests don’t show any ammonia or nitrite, you can let the next group of fish in. Remember, take your time. Keeping an aquarium is a hobby that requires a lot of patience. Don’t forget to learn everything you can about how to care for new fish.

A mature tank can help an aquarium grow.

Another way to get good results is to put bacteria from an old aquarium into a new one. There is, however, one catch. The fish in an old tank must be in good health. What to do? Rinse the filter cartridges, collect the water, and pour it into a new tank. You can also put a filter in a working tank to mature first. Then you’ll move the filter to the new aquarium. But I’m guessing that if you’re reading this, you’re setting up your first tank, and this method won’t help you at this point.


Growing up an aquarium with an active substrate

Tanks that were used to grow plants in an active medium are especially hard to clean. When flooded, these types of substrates let small and large elements into the water. This makes a lot of algae grow and makes the water in the aquarium get worse. An aquarist who hasn’t done this before might want to give up at this point. Because of this, it’s important to start out by planting as many plants as possible. After all, that’s what the active substrate is for. They don’t have to be immediate targets right away. Also, make sure they have enough intense lighting and CO2 fertilization. At the same time, change 30–50% of the water every day in large amounts. This kind of substrate is often used in shrimp tanks, which usually don’t have a lot of plants. Here, when the aquarium is ready, you can fill it up with RO filter water to get rid of any extra nutrients. But this is already the subject of a different article.

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