Cycling an aquarium – where’s the nitrite!

DrTim's One & Only Live Nitrifying Bacteria
DrTim’s One & Only Live Nitrifying Bacteria

A fairly common email to our customer service center is that our One & Only Live Nitrifying Bacteria is not working. The customer knows this because there is no nitrite in their aquarium. The thinking is that since they are cycling the tank there has to be nitrite in the water. They know ammonia is in the water because they added fish or are doing a fishless cycle adding our ammonium chloride. But when they measure the water quality ammonia, nitrite and, sometimes even, nitrate are all 0 ppm or super low. Now the customer feels the One & Only Live Nitrifying bacteria is not working because they can’t measure any nitrite or nitrate.

There is a very simple explanation for this – the One & Only is WORKING! The sole purpose of our One & Only Live Nitrifying bacteria is to eliminate ammonia and nitrite during start-up or cycling. One & Only is a highly concentrated mixture of the right species of ammonia- and nitrite-oxidizing bacteria (called nitrifying bacteria) and in many cases, after only one dose, will quickly remove ammonia and convert it to nitrate without the hobbyist ever measuring nitrite.

Think about it – if you were going to design the perfect starter culture of nitrifying bacteria what would be the features? I think the top three features would be:

1) add just one time,
2) start working immediately,
3) keep ammonia and nitrite low, preferably 0, during the cycling period.

This is exactly what our One & Only Live Nitrifying bacteria does in the majority of cases. If you start with One & Only (versus waiting until ammonia and/or nitrite are already high) it will keep the ammonia and nitrite low; usually at or close to 0. We make it easy to cycle your tank either with fish or by doing a fishless cycle.

So to answer the question: Where’s the nitrite – it’s been converted to nitrate by the One & Only Nitrifying bacteria. Yes, in many cases One & Only can work this fast and you won’t see any nitrite during the cycling period.

Ok, if the nitrite is being converted to nitrate how come my test says nitrate is 0 or really low? The answer to this question is that all most all nitrate test kits have a very difficult time reading nitrate below 20 ppm. When the cycle is just starting nitrate is very low. Even if you are doing a fishless cycle nitrate is below 10 ppm for a first week or two so it does not register using most test kits. To measure nitrate this early in your tank’s history you need to get a low range nitrate test and you need to shake the vial after adding the first powder really hard for several minutes.