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How to grow Copepods at home

tisbe copepod

What are Copepods?

Copepods are a type of small crustacean found in marine and freshwater environments around the world. They are among the most abundant animals on the planet and play an important role in aquatic ecosystems. There are approximately 12,000 identified species of copepods. The most common copepod species that are cultured in the reef tank aquarium hobby are tisbe biminiensis, tigriopus californicus, apocyclops panamensis, parvocalanus crassirostris.

Copepods are typically less than 1 millimeter in length and have a distinct segmented body with a head, thorax, and abdomen. They feed on plankton such as phytoplankton, detritus, and other organic matter and, in turn, are eaten by larger aquatic organisms such as fish larvae and even corals. Copepods are important indicators of water quality and play an important role in nutrient cycling in aquatic environments.

Breeding supplies

To culture copepods, you will need the following supplies:

Copepod starter kit

You want to make sure you have a trustworthy and reliable source for non-contaminated copepod starter cultures. Otherwise, in due time you will be culturing more than what you originally thought you were buying.

Phytoplankton starter kit

tetraselmis isochrysis combo kit

Phytoplankton is the food that copepods eat. This will be one of the main diets for your copepods. Copepods will eat almost anything. Afterall, they are scavengers near the bottom of the food chain. You should keep the water slightly tinted green with phytoplankton. Check your cultures daily and don’t over feed, because this will lead to a culture crash. Copepods will also graze on film algae that grows on the walls of your container as well as the mulm and detritus that collects on the bottom of the container.

It is also very important to buy a clean source of phytoplankton. Some vendors will use old techniques and use Miracle-Gro fertilizer to grow their phytoplankton and this is not something you want in your aquarium. You want to make sure it has been grown with Gaillard’s formula f/2. If you can find phytoplankton that is non-contaminated, that is a bonus. Typically, these are very expensive starter cultures that can be found at college labs such as UTEX.

Copepods for Sale

These are the most common copepods use to start breeding:

Culturing vessel

Glass is preferred but lab grade plastic or food grade plastic such as those containers found at a brewing store will work fine as well. I typically like to start my new cultures in 1-gallon containers to let the copepods find each other and reproduce quicker. I will then split this culture into two more 1-gallon cultures so I have a backup in case one crashes. After that I will slowly move a copepod culture up in size to a 2- or 3-gallon container, then eventually into a 10-gallon aquarium.


Start off with freshly made RODI or Reverse Osmosis Deionized water. I mix my salt to a specific gravity of 1.023 – 1.026 depending on the species of copepods I’m culturing. You do not want to use tank water because other unknown microorganisms can and will outcompete pods in due time.


Mars Hydro TS1000W Led Light Panel

Copepods do not require a light, but a light will speed up the film algae growth on the surface of your culture vessel. All of the detritus and mulm on the bottom of your aquarium will only fuel faster reproduction ion your copepods as this is their natural diet. The brighter the light, the faster film algae can grow on the walls of your culture container. I personally use these Mars Hydro TS1000W led lights on my copepod and phytoplankton cultures and they work very well.


Depending on the temperature of the room you are culturing copepods in, you may need a heater. It would also be wise to use a heater in the winter. As temperatures drop, so does the reproduction rate of copepods. Generally, anywhere from 75-80 is a preferred range for copepods to thrive in, depending on species.

Air pump

This is the main lifeline for copepods. It does not have to be an industrial sized air pump. A small, reliable and quiet air pump will do the job.

Aquarium Air hose

Stock up on plenty of aquarium air hose as you will go through a lot more of it than you think you need. It is best to but the thicker premium air line hose as it will fit into all of the fittings easier that the cheaper thinned walled airline.

Air stone

Nothing too special to mention here. Just make sure you get the air stones that are made of fine grit or stones. You do not need wooden air stones. Although they are nice and will work, the wooden ones will gunk up quicker and are a wasted expense. Pick up at least 8-12 air stones.

Adjustable Air Valve

This is used to precisely control how much air is going into the water in your culturing vessel. Any aquarium types will do, but the more premium ones seem to be made out of better quality plastic, the seal lasts longer and they are overall easier to fine tune and adjust.


Check Valves

A check valve will only let air flow in one direction. If you have one connected to your air pump and the power goes out, water cannot back flow into your air pump. If the electricity were to suddenly turn back on while water was in your air pump, that could cause an electrical short and a fire. Check valves are really only meant to help prevent a siphon so if your air pump was kept above any water source you will be fine. I like to play it safe and install them on every air pump I use. You never know when you may need to rearrange your culturing setup and you move your air pump below a water source. Don’t skimp on this. They are cheap and will prevent a fire.

Gang valve

A gang valve is used to route the air from a single air pump to multiple external sources. If you plan to culture multiple species of copepods, it may best to buy a more powerfully air pump and hook it up to a gang valve. Then connect all the outlets to each culture container.



Sieves are a tool used to catch and filter out copepods from the water. They are typically made using 4” PVC tubing and a fine nylon mesh material in different sizes. The main sizes you will need are 52 µm and 120 µm. 53 µm is a finer mesh size, so less matter will go through it. 120 µm is a larger mesh size and it typically used to only collect the adult copepods and allow the nauplii and larve to pass through. For size reference, there are 1000 µm (micro meter) in 1 mm.

Beneficial bacteria

Although beneficial bacteria are not actually necessary. I prefer to add some to my cultures a week or two before I add copepods so the cycle is not as stressful on the pods. They can do fine without a typical cycle but I would rather have the beneficial bacteria there to help speed up the initial ammonia phase.

Contrary to popular belief you do not need to add live sand, live rock or macro algae into your cultures. If you add any of these you could contaminate your copepod culture with other unknown microorganisms that could outcompete your copepods.


Video on How to grow Copepods at home


Growth, reproduction and life cycle

Copepod Size reference (approximate)

Name Size (um) Lifespan Egg to breeding age

Tisbe 50-850 30 days 7-10 days

Tigger 250-1500 30 days 20-30 days

Apex 100-700 7 days 2-3 days

Copepod growth stages

Nauplius Stage:

This is the earliest stage of a copepod’s life cycle. The nauplius has a simple body structure consisting of only three parts: a head, thorax, and abdomen. At this stage, the copepod has no stomach and is only capable of swimming.

Copepodid Stage

This is the second stage of a copepod’s life cycle. Copepodids have a more complex body structure than nauplii, including a pair of antennae, a pair of eyes, and several pairs of swimming legs. Copepodids are capable of both swimming and feeding.

Adult Stage

This is the final stage of a copepod’s life cycle. Adults are similar in body structure to copepodids, but have a larger body size and are capable of reproducing. Adults are also capable of more complex behaviors, such as seeking out prey, avoiding predators, and navigating their environment.

Copepod reproduction cycle

Copepods have a complex reproductive cycle that involves alternation between asexual and sexual reproduction, depending on the species and environmental conditions.

Asexual Reproduction: In the asexual stage, the female produces eggs that develop into nauplii, which are the first larval stage. Nauplii molt several times and eventually become juvenile copepods. As adults, copepods are able to reproduce asexually through parthenogenesis, where unfertilized eggs develop into viable offspring.

Sexual Reproduction: During the sexual stage, copepods mate and the female produces eggs that develop into advanced larvae. The larvae may molt several times before becoming juvenile adults, which will eventually mate and produce more eggs.

The reproductive cycle of copepods is typically influenced by environmental conditions, such as temperature, food availability, and photoperiod. These environmental factors can cause changes in the number of eggs produced by a female and the length of time required for the eggs to develop into adults.

Copepod life cycle

Copepods have a complex life cycle that typically involves several stages of metamorphosis. Generally, the life cycle begins with an egg stage, which hatches into a nauplius larva. The nauplius larva goes through several stages of development before becoming a juvenile copepod. As adults, copepods may reproduce either sexually or asexually. Most species produce between one and three generations of offspring per year. When conditions are favorable, some species may produce up to seven generations per year.

Copepods are a type of aquatic invertebrate that has a complex life cycle. They are able to reproduce asexually by mitosis, but are most commonly reproduced sexually. In both cases, the copepods undergo a process of fertilization and then give birth to offspring.

Copepods undergo a process of fertilization where the male copepod uses a specialized organ to transfer sperm to the female copepod. The sperm then enters the female copepod’s body and fertilizes her eggs. The eggs then hatch into planthoppers and the planthoppers undergo another process of growth and development before they become copepods themselves.

What are the benefits of growing copepods?

Copepods are a major part of the aquatic food chain, providing an important food source for fish such as Mandarin Gobies, Ruby Red Dragonets, Scooter Blennies, Leopard Wrasse, Pipefish, Copperband Butterfly fish and many other fish. These fish need to eat multiple times throughout the day. Most reef fish will eat pods if they have the opportunity to do so, However the fish mentioned above eat pods as their main diet.

Copepods are also used in raising fry when breeding fish. Most fish will start out eating rotifers, then graduate to copepods and shortly thereafter start eating pellets, flakes or frozen food. The most common fish that is bred in this hobby and their fry needs copepods is the Clownfish. In addition to feeding fry and fish, corals will also eat copepods.

  • They are efficient natural filters, removing excess nutrients and organic matter from the water.
  • Copepods can be used as a natural biological control for reducing algae blooms and other pests in aquatic systems.
  • They are a source of valuable proteins and fats for fish, corals and other aquatic species.
  • They are a natural source of carotenoids, which can enhance the color of fish.
  • Copepods are relatively easy to culture, making them an ideal food source for aquaculture operations.

Copepods have a number of unique benefits that can be useful in various industries. They are a valuable source of food for many marine organisms. Copepods are a very important part of the marine ecosystem and play a vital role in the aquarium food chain.

Why you should breed copepods

  • Copepods provide a natural source of food for many fish, juvenile and adult, which can help to improve their health and growth cycles exponentially.
  • Copepods can help to reduce the amount of film algae on the glass of an aquarium as they feed on it.
  • Copepods are a great source of protein for fish and corals, which can help to promote growth and coloration.
  • Copepods are an important part of the tank’s biological filtration as they consume detritus and help to keep the water cleaner.
  • Copepods provide a natural “clean up crew” which can help to keep the tank free of some microscopic pest organisms.

How can copepod cultures be improved?

  • Increase water temperature and quality: Copepods thrive in warm water with good salinity, pH and oxygen concentrations.
  • Feed them regularly: Feeding them regularly with a variety of food sources will ensure they are getting the nutrients they need to grow and reproduce.
  • Increase oxygen levels: Providing adequate oxygen levels to the culture will ensure the copepods can breathe properly.
  • Reduce light levels: Reducing the light levels in the culture will help reduce stress and encourage the copepods to breed.
  • Utilize live cultures: Live cultures of copepods are more likely to reproduce and thrive in a culture than a single species culture.
  • Reduce stress: Reducing stress levels in the culture will help the copepods to remain healthy and reproduce.
  • Monitor water parameters: Monitoring the water parameters such as pH, temperature, oxygen levels and salinity levels on a regular basis will help maintain a healthy culture.
  • Utilize filtration: Utilizing filtration in the culture will help remove debris and uneaten food, as well as reduce the risk of bacterial and fungal growth.

Copepods are a type of crustacean that inhabit the oceans and can be found in a variety of environments. They are important in the food chain and are used as a food source for a variety of organisms. Copepods can be cultured in a number of ways and can be used to study various aspects of their biology.

One way to improve copepod cultures is to increase the diversity of the cultures. This can be done by adding different types of microorganisms or culturing different types of copepods. Another way to improve copepod cultures is to increase the number of cultures. This

Benefits and drawbacks of growing copepods.


Culturing copepods has numerous benefits. Firstly, it is a great way to produce a large amount of food for other aquatic species. For example, cultured copepods are often used as food for fish, corals, and other invertebrates. Secondly, culturing copepods can help to maintain a stable and healthy population of copepods that can be used as an important part of the food web in an aquatic ecosystem. Thirdly, copepods can be used as a natural form of biological filtration, as they help to break down waste and keep the water clean. Finally, culturing copepods can provide additional income for aquaculture farms, as they can be sold as a live food source for other species.


There are a few drawbacks to culturing copepods. For one, copepods are very small and can be difficult to keep in culture. Additionally, culturing copepods can be time-consuming, and it can be difficult to determine the success or failure of a culture. Lastly, copepods are not particularly nutritious, and culturing them can be expensive.

Difficulty in culturing

Culturing copepods is difficult and can be very time consuming. Due to their small size, they can be difficult to handle and require special equipment for their successful maintenance. Additionally, culturing copepods can be difficult because the species vary so much in their nutritional requirements.


The cost of maintaining copepods in a lab setting can be quite expensive, as there is a need for specialized equipment, food and housing materials.


Copepods are highly susceptible to contamination, and it is difficult to maintain a clean environment. This can lead to the spread of disease and can have a detrimental effect on the health of the copepods.

Lack of genetic diversity

Copepods are a limited resource, and it can be difficult to obtain new specimens with a different genetic makeup. This can lead to a lack of genetic diversity in the population, which can reduce the overall health of the ecosystem.

Additional tips for culturing copepods.

Throughout the past several years as I have been growing copepods and culturing phytoplankton as a hobby, I have made several discoveries that really helped me to become successful in culturing copepods. It did not happen overnight, by reading articles or watching YouTube. Though this helped for inspiration, you have to put in the time, work and really be dedicated to wanting to be successful. These are some of the lessons I’ve learned over the past 7 years.

Grow several strains of phytoplankton.

The more different types of food you can feed to copepods, the happier and healthier they will be. I currently grow Nannochloropsis Oculata, Tetraselmis Chui, Isochrysis Galbana, Dunaliella, Porphyridium Cruentum, Chlorella Vulgaris and Arthrospira plantensis and have experimented with feeding each of these to my copepod cultures.

Natural Food for Copepods

Copepods will do very well in an environment void of phytoplankton as long as it is abundant in film algae, detritus or mulm and fish waste. Copepods do not get hand fed phytoplankton in the ocean like we feed them in out homes. We forget that copepods have been around for a long time and they have done well without us. Copepods will eat just about anything they can find, and they will survive. Do not overfeed with phytoplankton and let nature run its course and clean up.

Grow copepods in larger systems to allow parameter fluctuations to not disturb copepods

In the beginning I used to struggle with culturing copepods because I would use small water bottles. Once I invested a small amount of money and started using larger containers such as 10-gallon aquariums I saw an explosion in growth in every system very rapidly. To the point that it was a must to harvest constantly because there was very little room left on the glass for more pods to populate.

Stick with 1 species of copepods and culture it until you understand them inside and out

The longer you study and culture one single species of copepods the quicker you will understand their needs and how to help them thrive in an artificial environment. Don’t focus on culturing several strains at once in the beginning because although these “aquarium hobby” copepods have all very similar needs, they each thrive in a slightly different environment separately.

Educate yourself on the science behind these amazing creatures

Read books, articles, research papers and watch YouTube videos on copepods and other zooplankton. You will be amazed at how much information is out there. Its overwhelming to a point at times. You don’t have to know everything about every specific detail but the knowledge is there.

Document what you learn

Take all the notes you can even though you don’t think it is important at first. You can learn so much from the successes and failures of each culture your try. I have notebooks filled with somewhat organized notes on each culture I attempted. Each time I started a new culture I referenced my notes to replicate it and change one thing to see if that change made an impact or not. Once I found a “recipe” that worked I set it aside and set it as a SOP and followed it each time I wanted to start a new culture.

Share the knowledge.

There are a lot of people wanting to grow copepods for profit. There’s nothing wrong with that. I feel like there are those out there who seem arrogant to the point that in my eyes they think they have learned a secret in life that no one else must ever know or find out or they may lose out on a $20 sale of bugs in a bottle. There are great groups and websites out there that people will help you help grow copepods and phytoplankton. Don’t forget that we once knew nothing and don’t forget to share your knowledge with those who just want to learn. Regardless if they want to grow copepods for their own tank or “strike it rich” by being the next Reef Nutrition or Algae Barn.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I feed my culture?

To feed copepods you can simply pour phytoplankton into your culturing vessel until it is lightly tinted green. If the water becomes clear between feedings, do not worry. As long as there is phyto-mulm, detritus or algae on the floor/walls of your culture, the copepods will have plenty of food to eat for a short time. However, you will need to begin to increase the amount of phytoplankton you are feeding to keep up with the demand of the increasing population.

How to do a water change, and how often?

Do WC every 3-4 weeks or more often if water parameters say so. Copepods do not need pristine water. As long as they fall within the acceptable water parameters, copepods will survive just fine. To change the water, it is best to use ½” tubing and siphoning the water out. You will need to use a sieve so your copepods do not go down the drain.

Also, mark a line on your culture vessel at the water line when you first fill it up so you know what level to fill your vessel back up to when topping off with RODI water. Don’t forget to top off regularly with RODI water!

How long does it take before I see new pods in my culture?

Typically, you will see new copepod larvae after 30 days.

How to harvest copepods?

To only collect adult copepods, use a 120 um sieve. If you want to catch adult and nauplii copepods use a 53 um sieve. After collecting pods in either sieve you can then put this sieve into a new vessel to start a new culture, put them back in the original vessel or put it in your aquarium to feed the tank.

Copepods in reef tank

If you just purchased some copepods you will want to put the bottle or bag in your reef tank to let it temp acclimate to your aquariums temperature in order to not shock the copepods. It is recommended to add your copepods in the refugium chamber of your sump while the lights are off. Also, turn the skimmer off for at least 2 hours before and after adding copepods to your sump to avoid having them pulled out.

Summary and conclusion

Copepods are a very beneficial food source for your reef aquarium. Fish and corals will eat copepods and thrive as it’s a natural food source for them in the wild. With just a small investment in supplies you can grow your own copepods at home and have an unlimited natural food source to feed your aquarium’s inhabitants.

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Acclimating Saltwater Fish

Clownfish in Anemone

Acclimating saltwater fish to your aquarium is sometimes overlooked as a beginner. You get the fish home from the LFS or local fish store. You assume since the fish is saltwater and you have a saltwater tank that all you need to do is add the fish and water to your tank. Most of the time the water chemistry is never the same between two tanks. Fish need proper acclimation for a comfortable welcome to their new home.

What is Acclimation?

Acclimation is the gradual process of introducing a fish from one tank to another. Its all about the water chemistry. Temperature is mostly always lower at a fish store so they can save money on salt. Certain health issues are reduced for fish that are kept in lower salinity or even hyposalinity. The fish store’s temperature may be pretty close to your tank at home but the temperature drops in the bag that the fish is in drastically. You want to slowly acclimate your new fish to your tanks temperature and salinity.

Why you should acclimate?

If you choose to not acclimate your fish, they may appear fine and healthy at first but in the near distant future they may die a sudden death. Issues like organ failure, rapid salinity change or temperatur change can really be detrimental to a fish’s health in the short term and long term. You should acclimate your fish to make sure they receive the best care possible during the transistion from their old home to their new home.

When to acclimate your fish

Aytime you buy a fish and bring it home you need to acclimate it. You may also need to drip acclimate fish if you are moving them out of a quarentine tank or just between tanks. It just depends on how close each tank’s salinity and temperature is. Ideally you want them to be the exact same.

Beware of bad fish tank water

Never add water from one fish tank to another. You really do not know what is in the water. There could be copper, which is used to treat sick fish or prevent fish from becoming sick. If you happen to add water that has copper in it to your fish tank your corals, invertabrates or other fish could die if the levels are too high. There could also be microscopic pests or pest eggs that can haunt your tank months down the road and you will never realize how they got in there. You want to play it safe and never add a single drop of water from any fish tank to your tank.

The cup method vs The drip method

The cup method

There are two main methods in which you can acclimate your fish. The first one being the cup method involves adding the bag the fish is in to your tank to let the water heat up to match your tanks water. You then open the bag and use a clamp to attach it to your tank. Take half of the water out of the bag and dispose of it, making sure not to let one drop get in your tank. Then, take a cup of your tank water and slowly pour a little bit of it into the bag with the fish at a time.

Add about the equivelent of 2 shot glasses every 5 minutes. Once the bag is to its original volume, discard of half of the water and repeat the process over again until the temperature and salinity in the bag match your tank. This could take several hours so you will need tp practice patience and take your time. If you are impatient or just do not have the time, the drip method may be more suitable for you.

The drip method.

The drip method involves additional items and additional setup than just a cup and a clamp. You will need a smalll bucket such as these 2 1/2 quart paint mixing buckets from Home Depot of Lowes, a small heater, aquarium airline tubing, adjustable airline valves, two clamps and a cup.

Put the fish and the water from the bag in the bucket below the water level of your aquarium. Add the heater and make sure its plugged in. The heater I linked to above works very well for temperature acclimating small amounts of water. Take out as much water as you can from the bucket and discard of it. Make sure to leave enough that the fish can still swim normally and keeping the heater fully submerged as well.

Cut a piece of aquarium airline tubing. This will go from your tank to the bucket. Add the adjustable airline valve to one end and put the other end in your aquarium so you can start a siphon. Clamp the airline tubing to your tank so it does not fall out, create a siphon on the other end of the tube by sucking on it. Once water goes over the edge of your aquarium, quickly put the other end of the tubing with the adjustable valve on the inside side of your bucket. Use a clamp to keep it in place.

Now you can adjust the flow coming from your aquarium to be about a drip or two a second. The longer you the fish drip acclimate the better it will be. Check on the bucket periodically to make sure it has not overflowed. You may also have to use your cup to pull out water, lowering it in the bucket so more water from your aquarium can drop in. Once the bucket’s temperature and salinity match the aquarium the fish is going into, you can take the fish out and put it into your aquarium. Remember do not add any water from the bucket to your aquarium.

pajama cardinalfish

Ammonia Spikes

When you order fish online, ammonia builds up in the water during transit due to the fish using the bathroom in the bag. Once your fish arrive you open the bag and the fresh air mixes with the water and the ammonia quickly becomes toxic to the fish. You cant drip acclimate these fish, you cant use the cup method to acclimate them. What do you do?

Prior to ordering the fish you need to find out what salinity the fish will be in from the vendor. Hopefully your tank matches perfectly. If not you need to setup a temporary holding tank or bucket that matches the vendors salinity level. Also make sure this temporary tank or bucket is heater to match your main aquarium. Once the fish arrives flot the bag in the temp tank or bucket for 20 minutes. Open the bag and immediately check the salinity of the water. If it matches, take the fish out and put it directly in the holding tank. Let the fish settle for an hour to get his bearing straight. Then you can add it directly to your main tank.

If the salinity in the bag does not match what the vendor tells you then you will need to quickly adjust the salinity of the holding tank so it matches. You can lower the salinity by adding rodi water to the holding tank or raise the salinity by adding premixed saltwater to the holding tank. Most of the time fish purchased online will come in lower salinity water. Once the bag water and the holding tank salinity matches, add the fish in the temp tank/bucket. Let it rest for an hour, then add it to your main aquarium.

If you fail to do the above to fish purchased online or fish that have been in a bag several hours your fish could die very soon up to a few days. Ammonia causes a fish gills to burn and not be able to breath oxygen. Ammonia also causes organ damage to your fish. Your fish may die a few days later due to this and you will wonder why it died suddenly.

Monitor your fish

Closely monitor your new fish for the next several days to ensure it is swimming correctly, doesent have any signs of stress or illness and is eating. It is normal for a fish to not eat a day or two after you get it. Its most likely scared and trying to find a safe spot to hide from the other fish in your tank for safety reasons. Once it gets adjusted and feels safe again it will come out to eat.


Drip acclimating a fish can be time consuming but its very easy compared to other things we do in the hobby that do not involve a life. Once you learn the simple ins and outs of acclimating fish its not very hard or time consuming at all and becomes second nature. Take the time so you can enjoy your fish and see them swimming happily in your tank for many years to come. Your fish will thank you!







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Cycling a Saltwater Aquarium

clownfish in anemone

Cycling a saltwater aquarium requires patience and is the very first test to a successful reef tank. After you have meticulously designed your rock aquascape, added your sand and filled your tank with saltwater you will need to let nature take its course and wait for the biological process to commence. You will hear this often as a beginner, “A saltwater aquarium is all about patience. Nothing good happens fast in reefing.”

What is the “Nitrogen Cycle”

The Nitrogen Cycle is the process of a bacteria breaking down and converting ammonia into nitrite, and then nitrite into nitrate. Ammonia is created by fish waste, fish food, dead livestock and more.

The Nitrogen Cycle
Users Eliashc, Ilmari Karonen on en.wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Getting the cycle jump started

In order to start the cycle you will need a bacteria source and an ammonia source. It used to be common practice not too long ago to just toss a cheap disposable fish in a newly setup aquarium and let that fish eat and produce ammonia to start the cycle. Today there are newer methods that do not involve giving a fish a creul and slow death sentence. Ammonia will burn the gills of a fish and cause it to have a hard time breathing, drinking water and eating. We now bottled bacteria such as Microbacter7 and ammonium chloride to add ammonia to the aquarium in low concentrations to get the cycle jump started.

How long does the cycle take?

Generally, the cycle can take anywhere from hours to a month depending on which bacteria you use and how you help the cycle along. You can either use Fritz TurboStart live bacteria and add a fish immediately (which is not creul with this specific bacteria) to basically instantly cycle your tank on day one. Or you can go the more traditional route which is to add Microbacter7 or Dr Tims One and Only bacteria and keep your ammonia elevated by dosing ammonium chloride to around 2-3 ppm. This method normally takes a few weeks to a month to complete the cycle.

Live bacteria vs dormant bacteria

Live Bacteria

Fritz TurboStart is a relitively new bacteria to the market in recent years and it has brought a new way to cycle to the saltwater hobby. Many people have had success with just adding TurboStart to their tank and adding a fish immediately. This bacteria is very alive and works by instantly converting ammonia to nitrite, then nitrate. It must be kept refridegrated and has a shorter shelf life. It is also pretty expensive compared to other dormant bacterias.

Dormant bacteria

There are several dormant bacteria brands on the market that will cycle your aquarium, just not as fast as TurboStart. Some of the more popular dormant bacteria are Microbacter7 and Dr. Tims One and Only. These bacteria take longer to cycle the aquarium due to them being in a dormant state and needing time to reproduce and colonize your rock, sand and filtratrion. To feed these types of bacteria you will need to add ammonium chloride to your tank. After a few weeks or months the cycle will be complete and you can add your first fish.

Tracking the cycle with test kits

If you choose to take the long route by using dormant bacteria you can track the progress of when the cycle is complete by testing regularly for Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate. API Saltware test kit has each test you need for a great price. This test is not the most reliable or accurate but it will get the job done. After the cycle is complete you will likely never use this test kit again before it expires, so you really do not need to buy a more expensive test kit. Test every 2-3 days to track the cycle’s progress to know once you can add your first fish.


Cycling a saltwater tank is detrimental to the aquariums overall success. It is the building blocks of the tanks micro biome. It is what keeps fish and other inhabitants alive. Dont rush this process. Throughout these crucial days, weeks and months your tanks bacteria biodiversity will change, grow and shrink. Dont rush it. You cant force nature to go any faster than it wants to. Its can seem like a long process but taking your time is worth it in the end. Afterall, our pets depend on us to get it right for their sake.