Last updated: November 18, 2021

What Does Cycling Mean?

In water culture, cycling is the act of establishing a balanced aquatic or aquaponics system where colonies of bacteria grow and flourish to keep the ecosystem healthy and thriving.

A newly established pond naturally develops beneficial bacteria over time. The bacteria work to keep the water clean and clear. It helps to balance the system so that fish and aquatic plants can live in harmony. One of the key steps to maintaining the aquatic or aquaponics system is through the use of cycling to grow bacteria that aid in maintaining the levels of ammonia and nitrates in the pond’s water supply.

Without colonies of beneficial bacteria, the aquaponics system will break down. A system that has cycled successfully each month and has a healthy colony of thriving bacteria will have a pH of between 6.8 and 7.4. The ammonia level should be zero to one part million. The pond’s nitrate level needs to be fewer than 5 ppm.


Maximum Yield Explains Cycling

The decomposition of plant material and fish debris produces ammonia in the water. However, colonies of bacteria break down the ammonia and turn it into nitrates. Plants absorb nitrates but too much nitrates in the water causes massive algae blooms.

A small amount of algae cleans the water but a large amount is harmful. An aeration device in an aquatic pond adds oxygen to the water and helps form a balanced colony of bacteria by cycling the oxygen rich water. The oxygen is then absorbed by the plants which further absorb nitrates to control the algae growth in the pond.

Oxygenated cycling water also benefits any fish that reside in the pond. Controlling the ammonia levels by using a commercial tester also keeps the colony of bacteria alive and flourishing in the pond. If the ammonia level spikes, a binder can be added to the water.

All of the above tips are useful to keep in mind when you're about to start cycling a system for the first time. All these components are elements of the aquaponics system cycling process.


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