Nitrogen Cycle

Some information on the Nitrogen Cycle in shrimp aquaria…

I believe an understanding of the Nitrogen Cycle is essential before attempting to keep shrimp. Ammonia (NH3) is toxic to shrimp, and so it is therefore important to understand how this compound is formed and removed from aquaria to keep the levels low.

The Nitrogen Cycle of Shrimp Aquaria


  1. Nitrogen enters the nitrogen cycle of shrimp aquaria by the food we add for the shrimp. This is consumed by the shrimp and assimilated into their biomasses or excreted as nitrogenous waste.
  2. The proteins of the nitrogenous waste are decomposed by bacteria to amino acids, which are in turn are ammonified by decomposer bacteria to ammonia and ammonium.
  3. Nitrifying bacteria exists in the filter of the aquarium, which nitrify ammonia/ammonium to nitrite and nitrite to nitrate. Nitrogen leaves the cycle in these forms during water changes.
  4. Nitrates are absorbed and assimilated by algae, plants and biofilm. Shrimp consume these and assimilate the nitrogen, or these die and are decomposed.
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