Preventing New Tank Syndrome in Aquariums

Use this guide to learn how to prevent or treat new tank syndrome which can be a very disheartening problem to come across with your fish tank often leading to people giving up.

Created by David Coton on Wednesday, 31st of July, 2013.
Updated on Monday, 24th of June, 2019.


Malawi Cichlids in a Tropical Aquarium

New Tank Syndrome is something which many beginner and experienced aquarium owners go through and it can be really frustrating, preventing you from adding fish or causing loss of fish which are already in the aquarium and seem quite happy.

The phrase New Tank Syndrome doesn’t refer to a brand new tank physically but more that it’s a brand new set up. Whether you’ve just bought a new tank from an aquatics store or completely stripped down your old set up and started again, both are equally susceptable to New Tank Syndrome.

Why does New Tank Syndrome happen?

What happens with New Tank Syndrome is that nitrites in the water spike and will usually go to a very high reading. This is poisonous to your fish and other aquatic life, either stopping you from adding livestock or killing livestock which are already in the tank. This happens because there is no bacteria in the water to break the nitrites down in the water.

New Tank Syndrome will usually occur in the first two weeks of setting up but this is just an average, we’ve seen tanks experience it after one week and others after a month. It can also last a substantial amount of time or just a couple of weeks and then nitrite levels drop back down to a safe amount of mg per litre.

Please remember that you should never stock your aquarium too quickly even if using a bacteria starter, you want to try to obtain a balance. If you put too many fish into the tank too soon then the waste from these fish may outweigh the amount of bacteria in the filter.

Stop New Tank Syndrome

You can wait for New Tank Syndrome to clear but of course there is no way to tell how long it will go on for, and, if you have kids, then you know they aren't going to be happy with a tank without fish. 

There is a way to combat and even prevent New Tank Syndrome and this comes in the form of bacteria starter, the most famous being Tetra SafeStart. This is a bottle of bacteria that will quickly colonise your filter and begin to break down the nitrites right away. This not only makes it easier, it also makes it more enjoyable, as you can add fish to your aquarium instantly without having to wait for New Tank Syndrome to pass.

SafeStart doesn’t just have to be used when you’re setting up, you can also use it for ongoing maintenance to boost bacteria levels in the filter when you are adding livestock or changing the filter sponge.

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