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New Tank Syndrome – 10 Things You Should Know

New Tank Syndrome is the term used when your aquarium produces a high level of toxic compounds. Generally, the new tank syndrome occurs when our new filter is maturing. 

What Causes The New Tank Syndrome?

The aquarium must be filled with the right amount of friendly bacteria. In the new tank with new filtration equipment, the friendly bacteria would take two months to develop. Friendly bacteria help the water stay clean as they eat all waste products from fish and decorative plants.

The new tank syndrome is a common phenomenon in the aquarium setup. Many experts suggest you run your filtration and other equipment for a few days before putting the fish into the new tank. Let water become normal for the fish to stay healthy. The freshwater bacteria may be harmful to the fish.

The new filtration would also produce chemicals, that may cause health issues in the fish. As a result, most fish die when they contact with toxic chemicals. Understanding the new tank syndrome would help you prevent the issue and prepare the right condition for fish.

What is Nitrogen Cycle?

It is a natural process in the aquarium, where the food is a breakdown using micro-organisms and plants. The fish eats the food that develops naturally in the tank and produces the waste product. Later, nature breaks down the fish waste and provides nutrition to the plants.

The process is called the Nitrogen cycle. It is important to know how the nitrogen cycle works, to prove the tank syndrome. It generally occurs when a biological process happens in the filter, to maintain the healthy environment in the fish tank.

How to Avoid New Tank Syndrome?

The following guide will help you to prevent the new tank syndrome.

Filter Capacity

Run the filter at its maximum capacity to filter a large amount of water in a short period. It gives your filter sufficient time to mature and produce friendly bacteria suitable for the fish.

Introducing The Fish

Place the fish gradually, starting from the strong species that can face the high ammonia or nitrite-rich water. It will give the filter time to mature and reduce the amount of Ammonia and nitrite content.

Also, adding fish gradually helps the fish produce a limited amount of the waste product, and filtration would consume and keep the water clean. The sudden increase of ammonia in the water due to the large number of fish in the aquarium would make the water contaminated. Give the water to develop the friendly bacteria and match the waste being produced by the fish.

Once the friendly bacteria take place in the tank, they will eat all the waste products and keep the water clean.

Correct Feeding Time

Control feeding time for the first few weeks. Keep the waste of food to a limited amount. Remove uneaten food after 5 minutes.  Do not overfeed the fish as more waste would make the aquarium unhealthy for the fish. More fish would die of overfeeding, especially when uneaten food produces the waste product in large quantities.

Check Ammonia and Nitrite Levels

Monitoring the water quality is an essential step to knowing what is happening underwater. Starting from a temperature check, see if the amount of ammonia has increased in the water.

Most of the water problems are invisible to the eye. The water might look clean, but it may have several problems that may cause health issues in the fish. You can find many types of devices that help to track the water condition. Use this equipment to test the water quality once a week.  Make a note of the results and control the water quality.

Frequent Water Change

Changing some portion of the water once a week would keep the aquarium water clean and oxygen-rich. It also helps in controlling the toxic waste that compounds ammonia and nitrite. Change around 25% water once a month.

Read more on How to lower pH in Freshwater aquarium

How Does The New Tank Syndrome Kill The Fish?

The toxic compound produced by fish is highly poisonous. The high amount of the waste product in the tank gets converted into toxic chemicals during the bacterias’ chemical process. In the initial stage of the aquarium, the fish tank would have a build-up of caustic ammonia.

The ammonia gets mixed up in the water, causing the water to feel intoxicated. The contamination reaches the point where it is harmful to the fish. Several other factors contribute to this phenomenon on a large scale, making the water lethal for the fish. The water temperature also becomes a problem for the health of the fish.

Ammonia content increases along with the water temperature, making it difficult for the fish to survive. It burns the fish skin and develops various skin-related problems. You will notice the fish move the surface to get fresh oxygen from the top layer of the tank.

In some conditions, when things are worst in the water, the fish try to escape from the aquarium by jumping out of the aquarium. Nitrite is another chemical that is naturally produced in the aquarium by waste products. In the initial state of the aquarium, there is a high amount of nitrite in the water. Your filter would take time to reduce the nitrite level and make the water safe for the fish. Nitrite kills the fish by altering the blood of the fish.

Both the chemicals are naturally found in the aquarium. If both are present in the water more than the normal condition, it kills the fish. It eliminates the fish’s immune system, leaving them exposed to diseases and infections to take over it.

Read more Why Do Fish Go To The Top Of The Tank? 4 Main Reasons

Why The New Tank Syndrome Last So Long?

The friendly bacteria take time to convert the toxic chemicals into a toxic form. Also, the friendly bacteria need some time to multiple and build their strong community. The small number of friendly bacteria would not be able to clean the water quickly.

The time it takes will be depending on the size of the aquarium and the number of bacteria available in the tank. If you already have fish in the aquarium, they regularly produced waste products and it also needs to filter out. It may add more time on top of the natural biological process.

When friendly bacteria are growing in the water, it requires a high oxygen level in the water. Mostly, bacteria grow in the filter, and if you do not follow the instruction correctly while cleaning the water, you may restrict the bacteria from finding their place in the filter. It is vital to know how to clean the filter to provide a natural habitat for friendly bacteria.

What Do The Bacteria Need To Grow?

Bacteria have only one job to do when they are in the water, eat and consume as much waste product they find around them. Therefore, mostly the bacteria are formed in the filter where most of the waste product reaches during the filtration process. Some bacteria will survive at the bottom of the aquarium, as waste products and non-eaten food reach the bottom of the tank.

Two ingredients make the bacteria thrive quickly; one is the food, and another is the high amount of oxygen. If both the elements are available in the right amount, the water condition would be perfect for bacteria.

If the food or the oxygen level drops, the water quality also goes down significantly, making it lethal for fish. It will be hard for the aquarium fish to breathe in toxic water conditions.

Why Only My Aquariums Go Affected With New Tank Syndrome?

You are not alone in this. Everyone who sets up their new aquarium goes through these challenges. For beginners, experiencing their fish die in the tank would be very frustrating. any aquarium experts suggest you first buy the aquarium and fill it with water and aquarium plants to clean the water.

Also, keep the tank without fish for two to three days and run the filter at the maximum capacity to allow the bacteria to form in the water. The friendly bacteria will convert the toxic chemicals into a breathable environment, a better condition for the aquarium fish.

The new tank syndrome is a normal condition experienced by a large group of people. It would be best if you learned how to prepare the fish tank before you start placing the fish in it. Gain some knowledge on how to test the water condition.

You may have to take the equipment that checks the water condition and shows the data, which will help identify what is happening in the tank. Follow the above-given instruction carefully when you are setting up your new aquarium. Ultimately you want your fish to find the right place to live. Your perfectly optimized content goes here!

How long does new tank syndrome last?

New tank syndrome lasts from 6 weeks to 12 weeks until the initial tank build. Water quality monitoring is a must during this period. Ammonia and nitrite test kits are important and if you can’t afford to afford others, make sure at least these two are in place. It’s not great, but it’s going to help.

How long until the tank is fully mature?

Technically, it never ever does! Only ample bacteria can ever develop in the tank to cope with the waste of the fish inside it. If you have ten trout, you have the equivalent of ten bacterial fish. Add another ten and suddenly the tank needs more time to mature to deal with the extra waste levels.

This way, in their population, bacteria can be seen to be fluid, not static. Sudden overfeeds that cause a spike in pollution can affect their numbers and they can not cope with sudden waste onslaughts in extreme cases.

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About Dr.Chamika

Hello, I'm Dr. Chamika. I am a Researcher in Water quality, Aquatic organisms, and Environmental chemistry. I am a passionate fish keeper, with10 years of experience. My mission is to help other aquarists experience the joy of fish keeping.