How to Cycle Your Biofilter For a Healthy Koi Pond

We all want to have successful koi fish ponds with healthy, happy fish. Any passionate koi fish hobbyist understands the importance of maintaining safe water quality in their pond. Knowing how to set up and cycle your biofilter is a crucial component. Unfortunately, as many koi owners know, it seems that just when our koi fish need an excellent biofilter the most is when our biofilters aren't up to speed. A well-functioning biofilter is essential when starting a new koi fish pond or putting new or sick koi into a quarantine tank.

Today, Koi Fish USA will explain how to cycle your biofilter, as well as how to ensure that it's functioning before introducing new koi fish into your pond. With this information, you'll be able to keep your pond healthy, allowing you to enjoy your fish day after day. Keep reading to learn about this critical koi fish pond component and become a more knowledgeable koi fish pond owner today!

What is a Biofilter?

The purpose of a biofilter is to take care of chemical waste produced by your koi fish. The biofilter houses the nitrifying bacteria and is the primary location where biological nitrification occurs. The main product of waste from a koi fish is ammonia which is toxic and needs to be eliminated from the water to ensure ammonia levels don't get too high.

Ammonia has been shown to have several detrimental effects on koi fish. Koi suffering from high ammonia levels will exhibit many symptoms ranging from burns on the gills or fins, isolation, lying at the pond's bottom, or clamped fins. Additionally, high levels of ammonia can also result in your koi secreting slime or mucus. Prolonged exposure to high ammonia levels can be fatal to koi fish, all while creating the perfect environment for parasites to flourish.

The key to keeping ammonia levels at bay in your koi fish pond is a biofilter. A biofilter cleans your water naturally. Because the development of ammonia is the first stage in the nitrogen cycle (which converts ammonia into nitrites and nitrites into nitrates), keeping ammonia out of your pond is essential. The exact severity and duration of your pond's ammonia and nitrite cycles depend on various factors. In the best-case scenario, your koi fish will survive each cycle with little harm. In the worst-case scenario, your koi will die due to unacceptably high levels of ammonia or nitrite or other problems with inadequate water quality.

A biofilter is necessary to avoid the worst-case scenario. It can save your koi from the hardships associated with these cycles. Cycling your biofilter before adding koi fish to your pond is critical. In the next section, we'll walk you through the best method of cycling your biofilter to ensure that your pond's ammonia levels can be kept to a minimum.

Cycling Your Biofilter

You can cycle your pond's biofilter by feeding it ammonia chemically. Still, it is critical to note that you should never use this process with koi (or animals of any kind) in your pond. To provide an ammonia source, use household ammonia cleaners or ammonia chloride. If using an ammonia cleaner, however, do not use it with anything other than water and ammonia. Additives like scents and surfactants can be highly toxic to your koi fish once they're added to the pond. Additionally, you'll also want to experiment to figure out exactly how much to use when using an ammonia cleaner. Due to these special notes surrounding the use of ammonia cleaners, most koi fish owners prefer to use ammonia chloride in the cycling process so that they don't have to worry about unknown contents or doses.

Prepare Your Pond For Cycling

You must get your pond entirely ready for the cycling process before you begin. All water and air pumps should be running, and all filter media should be in place. Additionally, ensure that your water is dechlorinated. It is recommended to keep your pond's carbonate hardness at roughly 200 ppm during the cycling process. If your carbonate hardness is low, add baking soda until it is as close to 200 ppm as possible.

Determine How Much Ammonia Chloride to Use and Add It To Your Pond

To figure out exactly how much ammonia chloride to use in the cycling process, you can use a straightforward formula: ounces NH4Cl = gallons of water / 500. Once you have made this determination, mix the ammonia chloride (or whichever ammonia source you're using) with a bucket of water. Slowly add this mixture to your pond near your waterfall, stream, or another water source. Be careful not to add this mixture directly to your biofilter, as this can kill it.

Test Your Pond for Ammonia and Nitrite Levels

Next, you'll want to test and wait. We recommend testing the ammonia and carbonate hardness levels in your pond daily. To get the most accurate reading, you may have to dilute your pond's water with distilled water. When doing so, dilute your pond sample 50:50 with distilled water directly before testing and then multiply the result by 2. This will offer the actual ammonia level of your pond. Once you have noticed that the ammonia level in your pond is starting to drop, it's time to test for the nitrite level. Upon detecting nitrite in your pond, keep testing until the number drops to 0.

Seeding Your Biofilter With Good Bacteria

To speed up the cycling process, you can seed your biofilter with good bacteria. For this, we recommend the use of bio-media from a seasoned pond filter, the best source of bio-filtering bacteria. Even a tiny amount of active bio-media will get your filter seeded enough to get it working up to speed in just a few short days.

Add Your Koi Fish

Once ammonia and nitrite levels in your koi fish pond have both peaked and then dropped back to 0, your biofilter has been properly cycled. At this point, your pond is ready for koi fish. Your cycled biofilter should be good for a load of fish of 1 pound of koi per 150 to 300 gallons of water.

Suppose you want to prepare your biofilter for a heavier load of koi fish. In that case, we recommend feeding ammonia into your pond in 1 ppm doses. For this, you'll want to use a separate formula: ounces NH4Cl = gallons of water / 2500. To keep carbonate hardness levels stable, add baking soda along with the ammonia source. To determine how much baking soda to add, use this formula: ounces baking soda = gallons of water / 800.

After adding the 1 ppm ammonia dose, test for ammonia, nitrite, and carbonate hardness. Once the ammonia and nitrite return to 0, another dose can be fed to your biofilter. Use this process to grow your bacteria colony until it can consume harmful bacteria at a rate that matches the load of koi fish you want to introduce. Using these recommendations, you can ensure that your biofilter is cycled correctly no matter the load of koi fish you want to add to your pond!

Healthy Koi Fish For Your Healthy Pond at Koi Fish USA

Now that you know each of the steps involved in cycling your biofilter correctly, it's time to select koi fish for your pond! While there are many online koi fish and goldfish sellers in the industry, you should only trust the best of the best with your business. At Koi Fish USA, we pride ourselves on supplying koi fish lovers with the healthiest, most beautiful koi fish so that they can create the pond of their dreams.

Best of all, our koi fish are priced to suit any budget. Whether you're a koi fish expert looking to add exceptional fish to your collection or an amateur enthusiast that's just starting, we have the standard koi, butterfly koi, and goldfish you're looking for! Now that you know how to cycle your pond's biofilter properly, you have the perfect conditions to give your new koi fish the best life possible.  Shop our selection today, and feel free to contact us with any questions. We'll be happy to help!