Best Aquarium Bacteria Starter 2020 — Reviews & Top Picks

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Small Clear AquariumStarting a new aquarium is much like making a whole new environment. It is not as simple as “add water and then add fish.” Everything needs to be well-balanced, including those things that go unseen to keep up a healthy aquarium.

Aquarium bacteria starters help speed up the cycle for a new aquarium because it quickly builds up a positive bacterial colony that is ready to take on harmful amounts of ammonia and nitrites.

The most common type of aquarium bacteria starter is liquid because it quickly dissolves into its new environment and begins to build up the colony. Keep in mind with all these products that they contain live bacteria and thus have a shelf life. Some are longer than others, though. Shake a product well to mix it up after the bacteria has rested on the bottom of the bottle, and if it smells bad, the bacteria might be dead.


A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Best Overall Dr. Tim’s Aquatics Dr. Tim’s Aquatics
  • Removes toxins naturally
  • No offensive odors
  • Can use with both fresh and saltwater tanks
  • Best Value Fluval Hagen Fluval Hagen
  • Allows for easy tank cycling
  • Best value price
  • Can add fish immediately
  • Premium Choice MarineLand Bio-Spira MarineLand Bio-Spira
  • Marineland’s packaging prolongs bacterial “shelf life”
  • Good for cycling emergencies
  • Quickly creates a better bacterial balance
  • API Quick Start API Quick Start
  • Adds in helpful bacteria
  • Works to salvage emergency problems with bacterial colonies
  • Works quickly when used routinely
  • Tetra SafeStart Plus Tetra SafeStart Plus
  • Works on up to 100 gallons of water
  • Helps to convert harmful toxins into nitrates
  • All- natural
  • The 8 Best Aquarium Bacteria Starter — Reviews 2020

    1. Dr. Tim’s Aquatics One & Only Nitrifying Bacteria — Best Overall

    Dr. Tim’s Aquatics

    Dr. Tim’s Aquatics serves to remove ammonia and nitrite. It works instantly to prevent toxic buildup, commonly referred to as New Tank Syndrome. Apply One & Only with a new tank, after conducting a disease treatment, or during monthly water changes. There are no sulfur odors or anything else offensive with use.

    Dr. Tim’s product works by controlling the levels of ammonia and nitrite and removes toxic substances naturally. It does this in either a freshwater or saltwater aquarium. Fish can go right back into the tank immediately after using the compound. Make sure you receive a new bottle from the company, as bacteria die in older bottles and are therefore no longer functional.

    Pros
    • Can add fish immediately afterward
    • Removes toxins naturally
    • No offensive odors
    • Can use with both fresh and saltwater tanks
    Cons
    • Older bottles are not as functional

    2. Fluval Hagen Fluval Biological Enhancer — Best Value

    Fluval Hagen

    Fluval Hagen works efficiently to balance unwanted amounts of nitrites and ammonia, bringing them down to zero quickly. You can get rid of buildup problems found in new tanks or with water cycles by using Fluval Hagen. For some, the product worked instantly or within days to cycle in a new tank. For others, it took longer, and they recommended getting an API test kit to measure nitrite and ammonia levels in the water before placing the fish inside.

    Make sure that you shake this bottle when using it since the live bacteria settle out on the bottom of the container. Fluval is the best aquarium bacteria starter for the money. It helps create a speedier buildup of positive and necessary bacteria around the tank to eat the harmful nitrates and ammonia.

    Pros
    • Can add fish immediately
    • Allows for easy tank cycling
    • Best value price
    Cons
    • Bacteria in older bottles not as functional

    3. MarineLand Bio-Spira Freshwater Bacteria — Premium Choice

    MarineLand Bio-Spira

    If someone decides that they want to start a new aquarium, they don’t want to have to wait days or weeks to get it going. Preventing new tank syndrome is essential when looking for products to use in the development of the tank. Although Bio-Spira is more expensive than some of the other options on our list, you can be assured that it is for good reason.

    Bio-Spira allows aquarium owners to start their new aquarium sooner than most. It removes any harmful toxins with advanced nitrifiers and even reduces sludge through the inclusion of heterotrophic cleaner bacteria. The packaging used by Marineland helps promote a longer shelf life for bacteria, ensuring that your pouch is vigorous.

    Pros
    • Marineland’s packaging prolongs bacterial “shelf life”
    • Quickly creates a better bacterial balance
    • Good for cycling emergencies
    Cons
    • Slightly more expensive than other products

    4. API Quick Start Nitrifying Bacteria

    API Quick Start

    Sold in a 16-ounce bottle, you get more for your money with the API Quick Start. It markets itself as a cleaner that allows the instant addition of fish; however, be careful if you are going through a cycle for a brand-new tank.

    With routine use, this all-natural cleaner helps reduce the number of harmful compounds for fish. This reduction serves to prevent the loss of fish in both freshwater and saltwater aquariums. It is recommended to use it when starting a new aquarium, adding fresh fish to join the community already thriving in an aquarium, or changing water or filters.

    Take care when using this product because it does not function exactly how it makes it sound on the bottle’s instructions. API Quick Start does not contain ammonia, which means that it doesn’t give the bacteria anything to work with and get the process started. Make sure to add ammonia before putting the bacteria in, and the cycle for a new tank should begin after that.

    Pros
    • Adds in helpful bacteria
    • Works quickly when used routinely
    • Works to salvage emergency problems with bacterial colonies
    Cons
    • API contains no ammonia to help jumpstart cycle for new tanks

    5. Tetra SafeStart Plus

    Tetra SafeStart

    Tetra SafeStart comes highly recommended by many fish lovers because it actively prevents new tank syndrome by speeding up the establishment of healthy bacteria. This product helps remove any dangerous levels of ammonia and nitrite, cleanly converting them into helpful nitrates.

    Although it is not instant, it does help speed up the water cycle so their environment is healthy when you introduce them. The product does contain live bacteria that may settle out on the bottom and should be shaken well to promote a thorough spread. The amount that is in the bottle is enough to treat up to 100 gallons of freshwater.

    Pros
    • Works on up to 100 gallons of water
    • Helps to convert harmful toxins into nitrates
    • All-natural
    Cons
    • Slower acting than other products
    • Only meant for freshwater tanks

    6. Brightwell Aquatics MicroBacter7

    Brightwell Aquatics

    Brightwell Aquatics has created its method for developing a complete bio-culture for new tanks and improvement of their water quality. Their product functions to establish biological filtration by reducing the number of harmful compounds like nitrate and phosphate. It works as a water conditioner both in marine and freshwater aquariums.

    The product is not only backed by the company but has been veterinarian pathologist tested and approved for use. The product is multifunctional. It not only helps filter out toxins by creating healthy bio-cultures but also provides essential nutrients needed by the fish and bacteria.

    Pros
    • Works wonders on more demanding reef aquariums
    • Slow working to prevent harmful changes for livestock
    • Gets rid of more harmful toxins than other products
    Cons
    • Slow-acting

    7. Microbe-Lift NiteOutII

    Microbe-Lift

    Nite Out markets itself as a product that works quickly to get rid of any harmful toxins, suitable for emergencies to save fish. It helps keep the fish healthy by converting the nitrite to nitrate. It contains nitrosamines, nitrospira, and nitrobacter strains in liquid form.

    Once this chemical-free product has been put into a tank, it works to remove organic waste, balance out the levels of ammonia and nitrate, and create a non-toxic aquarium environment. The evidence of this is evident when the water in the aquarium becomes crystal clear.

    This product works well to instantly cycle a new tank when it is paired with the Microbe-Lift Special Blend.

    Pros
    • Works quickly
    • Establishes bacteria efficiently
    • Chemical-free
    • Makes a crystal-clear tank
    Cons
    • Works slower on saltwater tanks

    8. Fritz Aquatics FritzZyme 7 Nitrifying Bacteria

    Fritz Aquatics

    Fritz knows that positive, nitrifying bacteria can take weeks to establish in a new aquarium. It has also realized that ammonia and nitrate levels can spike to be lethal within days or even hours. This is why they have included several strains of bacteria to put in a new tank that allows for the quick establishment of positive colonies.

    With FritzZyme, you should be able to add in new livestock to an aquarium right away, giving them a balanced environment to build upon. The product can be used for best results and maintenance after water changes, when adding new fish, after an aggressive cleaning, or when medicating and changing filter media.

    Upon receiving the product, note if it smells distinctly like sulfur or rotten eggs. This product has been said to have a short shelf life. When the smell is present, it means that the bacteria within are probably dead. When storing the product, put it in a cool, dark place to keep it from expiring quickly.

    Pros
    • Contains several strains of bacteria
    • Quick results
    Cons
    • Short shelf life
    • Specific storage requirements

    Buyer’s Guide

    If you have invested in the fish and other materials held inside your tank, you want to make sure that they survive and thrive for as long as possible. Bacteria starters are one of the best ways to promote this, not only if it is a new tank but also when something changes in the tank’s environment.

    An aquarium bacteria starter should function to create a natural biofilter, acting as a protector against harmful bacteria and toxins. There are still differences between specific products and what they mean to accomplish. It is helpful to be aware of these, as they aid in choosing the best product for your fishy friends.

    Product Shelf Life

    Shelf life has been talked about in almost every one of the products covered above. This lifespan is because these starters contain live bacteria and are useless if they have “expired,” or died.

    For some products, they may need to be refrigerated to prolong their shelf life. Others have specific storage instructions to keep their internal colonies happy and healthy. Make sure to research this before buying a product and choose based on your storage capabilities and preferences.

    Tank Size

    Different aquarium starters are developed for different sizes of tanks. The size of the tank matters because certain amounts and ratios in the formula of the starter will be different if they are smaller or larger.

    They may need different-sized doses depending on the size as well, requiring more or less from the product to be effective. Each starter is different, so make sure that you read the instructions.

    Type of Starter

    There are three different types of aquarium bacteria starters. They come in the form of liquid bacteria in a bottle, dried-out bags or containers of bacteria, or bacterial supplements.

    Each of these three types of starters accomplishes something slightly different and are the most beneficial in different kinds of tanks. The choice depends somewhat on your personal preference, as well as what you need it to do.

    Clean Aquarium Tank

    When buying any form of aquarium starter, make sure it contains genuine nitrifying bacteria that are consistently reported to arrive alive. Check the ingredients list and do your research to ensure that it is non-toxic.

    Price

    Lastly, consider the price of the product compared to the quantity you receive. There are many well-priced products on the market that are still highly effective. Decide on the price range that you feel comfortable with and research from there.

    divider-fishbowlConclusion

    It is essential for the health of all the creatures and matter living in your tank that their environment is kept clean and well-balanced. Even after getting a new tank established, regular maintenance is a must. Bacteria starters are natural products to use and should create effective biofilters soon after using them.

    Comparing choices for any product can be difficult if you don’t know what you need. Do research on how each product works. Although there are many different products on the market, we hope that this list has made it easier to find the one that matches the needs of your aquarium.


    Featured Image Credit By: Dũng Nguyễn Việt, flickr