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Rail City Garden Center

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Nitrogen Cycle


  • The ideal is to create a natural system that allows cycles to function.
  • All cycles in nature (Water, Carbon, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Phosphorous) work in conjunction with each other, not independently.
  • Why do we focus on the Nitrogen Cycle in particular?  Because the actions (or inactions!) of that cycle can have the most common and important effects on our artificial system (that we are trying to get to act natural).


  • There are Organic Nutrients (which contain C-C bonds) and Inorganic Nutrients (which do not contain C-C bonds).  Fish (like us) get their nutrition through the consumption of Organic Nutrients.  Most plants (referred to as Producers) “consume” Inorganic Nutrients from the soil or from the water in which they exist to form the basis of the food chain that supports organisms that need Organic Nutrients in order to live.
  • The Nitrogen Cycle is a critical part of the process by which plants “consume” Inorganic Nutrients that contain Nitrogen.


  • Plants and Animals are made up of Protein to a great extent.  Protein
  • contains Nitrogen which is released as Ammonia via animal waste (Fish Pee in technical terms) and decomposition of plants and animals.
  • Ammonia is very toxic to fish and other organisms in the pond.
  • The Nitrogen Cycle is nature’s way of converting Ammonia to other forms that are Inorganic Nutrients for plants to “consume.”

Nitrogen Cycle

The following is an outline of some major events in the Nitrogen Cycle:

Please see Information Sheets on Water Quality and on Treatment of Water Quality Problems for practical applications of this cycle.


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