No matter how posh or basic your aquarium, all conventional filtration is powered by bacteria. This has always been the case and although the identity of the organisms responsible has been debated, their importance is beyond any argument.
The maturation process has always been a frustrating time for the hobbyist and a potentially lethal phase for aquarium fish. It’s even been dubbed ‘New Tank Syndrome’ and is the reason why many people lose heart and give up before the fun part begins. In recent times the practice of ‘Fishless Cycling’ has risen in popularity and is by far the best way to mature a new system prior to adding the first fish.
In the early days of ‘bacteria in a bottle’ it could be argued that available products were as effective as a chocolate hair-dryer and many were reluctant to embrace these new methods. The story today is very different and advances in the storage potential of bacteria make them a very efficient way to hasten maturation. Whether you use them together with a bottled ammonia source as part of a Fishless Cycle, or take the manufacturers at their word and add them before your first fish, they can take the suffering out of the equation for your new pets.
For more established systems they can be useful when adding new livestock, after cleaning or replacing filter media, or after using aquarium medications that may damage existing filter bacteria.
As we can see, good bacterial inoculants are a useful addition to most aquaria at one time or another and like test kits, should become a standard fixture in the tool kit of anyone serious about the welfare of their aquatic pets.