Well first of all congratulations on your first aquarium setup, you can now reached the final setup, rather final step of patience. Before you can add the fishes to our aquarium you aquariums needs to cycle and establish itself for your fishes to be happy and safe.
Planted Aquarium: The Proven Method !
If you are starting a Planted aquarium then I would highly recommend the dark start method, I always recommend this for a planted aquarium over anything else as this would not only cycle your aquarium but save you a lot of hassle such as sudden algae issues, sensitive carpet plants melting and many water changes. This is also an ideal option for the advanced or a beginner as it gives you the best start. Do not risk the use old filter media or old filter water.
Complete the hardscape with substrate, driftwood or rocks. Fill water after adding water conditioner.
Add a bacteria kick starter product as per the instructions on the bottle and cover the aquarium completely with a cloth/newspaper or sheet for at least 21 days. Keep adding bacteria products in between as mentioned on the bottle. Do not let any light pass through or even open once to see inside. (No matter how much you want to !)
Do a 90% water change and again add the bacteria and keep the aquarium covered for another 7 days and take the ammonia reading will come to <0.5 ppm.
Remove 100% water, add plants, fill the aquarium again and add bacterial product and you are good to go.
The above dark start method is tried and tested in my 15 years of experience and work the best. Now let us understand the cycling process.
Understanding the Process: The Simple way !
The Fish produce the waste which makes ammonia, the ammonia is converted to nitrite by a bacteria in your (biological) filter, the nitrite gets converted to nitrate by another type of bacteria in our (biological) filter which is a nutrient which plants need to grow. They consume some nitrate , or the nitrate or remaining nitrate is removed by water change. Hence the importance of water change.
- Kshitij Gupta