Beneficial bacteria prevent the build up of highly toxic ammonia which comes from the waste excreted by fish by furthering decomposition of the waste. Seeding a new fish tank with beneficial bacteria is therefore necessary to keep your pet fish healthy. Aquatic plants are instrumental in this process as they also consume or derive nutrition from fish waste and provide more surface area for the beneficial bacteria to grow on.
1. Ready the new fish tank for growing aquatic plants.
Aquatic plants need proper substrate and lighting. A substrate is the 'soil' on which the aquatic plants will take root and obtain nutrients. These can be pea gravel, aquarium gravel or sand. Prepared nutrient-rich substrates are also commercially available and are useful to jumpstart the cultivation of aquatic plants. Just like regular plants, aquatic plants need light for photosynthesis. Since most aquariums are situated indoors proper artificial lighting must be set up. This is usually just fluorescent bulbs installed on the top of the aquarium.
2. Put in the aquatic plants.
Fast growing aquatic plants would do well to hasten the over-all process of seeding your new fish tank. Examples of such types of aquatic plants are Java moss and Wisteria. They are easily obtainable from most pet fish stores. Because these plants grew in a tank that already has a well-established colony of beneficial bacteria, you already have a good starting population of the bacteria in your new tank.
3. Boost the bacteria population.
Bacteria feed on ammonia and break it down to less harmful substances. So the quickest way to increase bacteria reproduction is to gradually add small amounts of pure ammonia into the new tank. Put only a tablespoon of ammonia after you've planted the aquatic plants and immediately test for the level of ammonia. Do the same thing next day and if you find the level of ammonia to be lesser then that indicates that the aquatic plants and bacteria are thriving and using up the ammonia. Repeat this procedure until such time that the ammonia level reaches zero 12 to 24 hours after you put in the ammonia. This means a good amount of beneficial bacteria is already present and the new tank is ready to accommodate pet fish. Take note that you should stop putting pure ammonia at this point and wait for another 24 hours to pass before putting in the fish.
This way of seeding a new tank with beneficial bacteria is called silent cycling. It is so far the quickest method of preparing a new tank as it combines both the action of aquatic plants and the beneficial bacteria.