Turbo Start Shipping FAQ

Thank you for purchasing Turbo Start from us!

We get a lot of questions and concerns about how Turbo Start can survive shipping, and how it works. We have provided this FAQ here to help you best understand and get the best results.


The bacteria smell really bad!  Are they dead or rotten?

This is normal, and a good thing.  It is a concentrated culture of bacteria.


My package arrived hot!  Are the bacteria all dead?

No!  They are still OK!  While fragile compared to some types of bacteria that can stay as spores for years, are not so delicate as to die during transit.  They don't have to stay cold every minute (just like when they're in your tank).  In 99% of cases, the temperature on arrival will have not any impact on the product as to indicated time or amount needed to cycle the aquarium. The acceptable safe temperature range, per Fritz is 33F to 110F, away from direct sunlight, at which point the higher the temperature and the longer exposure, some portion will start to die off slowly. It is not immediate 100% death of the bacteria the moment it reaches 110F.  Like cooking food, very high temperatures are required to kill 99.9% of bacteria in a few seconds (e.g, 165F in chicken).  It may take several hours at 140F, or even days at 120F for it to be destroyed.  You would not expect food left outside on a hot day, even at 110F, to be safe to eat, as there will be way too much bacteria that could make you sick.  The same is true for these bacteria.

Why does the bottle say "Keep Refrigerated" then?

It should be kept cold, if possible, as this will slow down the bacterial metabolism to keep the largest number alive for the longest period of time.  From manufacturing to the end of its shelf life, and beyond, the potency is slowly reduced as it ages.  The lower the temperature, the slower that occurs, which will keep it more potent with more bacteria.  While freezing will destroy it, accordingly, as temperatures increase, the opposite occurs.  The product will continue to work as indicated through until the expiration date.  At that point, it is still safe to use and will never harm an aquarium, but more will be needed to get the rapid cycling expected from Turbo Start.

What does "potent" mean?

The bacteria in TurboStart are highly concentrated and act as a starter to get the nitrogen cycle going in a new aquarium, and to reduce ammonia and nitrite in existing aquariums that are not cycled.  No two batches, or even bottles, have the exact same number of bacteria, as the exact conditions, temperature variability, and number of days since bottled will vary greatly.  It is still nevertheless a very concentrated culture with a massive amount of starting bacteria.

How does it work to remove ammonia and nitrite?

There are two types of bacteria in Turbo Start.  They both require oxygen to grow and survive, so they are known as aerobic bacteria.  One species will use ammonia (NH3/NH4) as its source of nitrogen (needed to make protein) and to grow, which convert it into nitrite (NO2), the other bacteria will use nitrite and turn it into nitrate (NO3), which is the final compound in the nitrogen cycle.  Ammonia is very toxic to fish, and nitrite somewhat less so, but nitrate is far less toxic until it reaches very high levels, which takes a long time.  The nitrate is then removed by regular water changes, or acts as a fertilizer for plants and algae. 

How do the bacterial grow and does temperature matter?

The bacteria reproduce themselves by splitting into two.  They use the ammonia and the nitrite to do so, which is what keeps an aquarium with fish in it safe from these two toxic compounds.  In a new tank, without a bacterial filter, those toxic compounds will quickly reach toxic levels.  In your tank, once you put the bacteria in, the higher the temperature, the faster they grow, and the faster the tank will be "cycled".  As they split into two, that is considered exponential growth each day, and they double.  It takes between 18 and 24 hours for the bacteria to double at 80F.  So on Day #2, that 1oz bottle is the same concentration as 2oz; on Day #3, it's 4 times more, and so on.  In a few days, there is a lot of bacteria!   When there is enough to handle all the fish waste immediately, the tank is considered "cycled".  These bacteria actually grow and reproduce fastest in the mid to high 90s! But that temperature would kill most fish. 

Why does exponential growth matter?

These bacteria reproduce so quickly, that within in a day or so, there will be double the amount.  Therefore, some slight differences in the starting concentration do not matter very much once the bacteria get into the water and get going and up to speed. Older bottles of Turbo Start, or Turbo Start that was kept warm for months won't have as much bacteria, so could be considered less potent. But, remember, these are the seeding bacteria - not the entire bacterial filter - any minor loss of potency won't make as they very quickly grow out.  In the normal FritzZyme (non-Turbo), it is diluted down 15 times.  That product has a shelf life in the years, because there is so much less bacteria to start with than Turbo Start, it is just expected to take a bit longer.  But they will still grow the same way.

What's the best way to use it for a new aquarium?

What we recommend here at Bay Bridge Aquarium is to put Turbo Start into a new aquarium immediately at the same time as you add fish in, int brand new dechlorinated water.  This water, since it is clean and new, would have 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and 0 nitrates, which is perfect.  Without a cycled bacterial filter, however, ammonia and nitrite will start to rise as it is excreted from the fish, and it will soon reach toxic levels. 

How does TurboStart help?

The ammonia that comes out of the fish (continuously), needs to be consumed by the bacterial colony at the same rate.  The larger the amount of bacteria, the more ammonia that can be removed.   The more fish, the more ammonia.  The larger the tank, the more diluted it will be.  Imagine a human excreting into a bath tub compared to a swimming pool.  The ammonia is not toxic until it reaches a certain concentration, so the bigger the tank, the longer it will take to reach a toxic level.  Likewise, if fewer fish are put in all at once.

When you put fish into the new aquarium, there is no ammonia to start with (or nitrite). If the starting colony (the TurboStart) is large enough, it can handle the excreted ammonia as it is released from the fish, and thus ammonia levels will not rise very high in the first place, or even be detectable. The more Turbo Start, the faster this occurs.  Because the bacteria reproduce exponentially, they will be able to handle double the amount of ammonia on the second day compared to the first day.  

That keeps the ammonia from reaching reach toxic levels. It is suggested and recommended to safely overdose 5X more Turbo Start to get more bacteria in on Day #1, which will let you put more fish on Day #1. 

How can I keep the fish safe if the bacterial colony/filter is not large enough on Day #1?

While Turbo Start is an incredible product, that we recommend and trust to all our customers purchasing new tanks with new fish at the same time, it still has some limitations to understand.

Using the best water conditioners, like Fritz Complete, Seachem Prime, or Amquel PLUS, they will neutralize chlorine and chloramine from tap water (which will kill TurboStart!), but also ammonia and nitrite into harmless forms that are not toxic.  They should be re-dosed every 24 hours for the first few days, or if any ammonia or nitrite is detectable.  The less expensive water conditioners do not neutralize both ammonia and nitrite.  The bacteria can still use these neutralized forms to grow!  So while the tank continues to cycle (bacteria is growing and doubling everyday), in the situation the colony is not large enough to keep up with the ammonia concentration, those compounds are neutralized to keep the fish safe.  It can take up to a week for the bacterial colony to get large enough, but by using more Turbo Start in the beginning, you will have a massive amount of bacteria a few days earlier as they grow and duplicate, and that will make it possible to add fish and Turbo Start together immediately and have successl

Any loss of potency from shipping is thus negligible on the overall time it takes to cycle. By using those ammonia and nitrite neutralizers together, each day, you will keep your fish safe.

How can I make sure the bacteria grow?

There needs to be enough place for them to live. Bioceramic substrates hold the most bacteria by far, more than rock or sand can, and you can put them into a sump or a hang on back filter, where they gets aeration for the oxygen they need.  But rock and sand can still keep plenty.  It is more difficult for the bacteria to colonize a bare bottom tank without any substrate (unless there is a ceramic in a filter).  A large enough load of bacteria needs correspondingly large amounts of oxygen, so airflow is important. These bacteria also need small amounts of phosphate to grow out, which comes from fish waste.  While the bacteria are added, before they attach to the substrate, which could tkae a few days, they could be killed by a UV filter, ozone, or chlorine/chlorine from tap water.

How do I know the TurboStart is working?

When testing the water, the first stage of cycling is when ammonia either stays at 0, or begins to go down.  There needs to be ammonia first for the nitrite-consuming bacteria, so nitrite usually lags behind ammonia, and nitrite may still be elevated while ammonia is 0. 

If you detect nitrite, it means bacteria converted it from ammonia, as it cannot come from anywhere else.

If you detect nitrate, this is the final stage of the nitrogen cycle.  The nitrate only comes from bacteria that consumed nitrite and converted it into nitrate.

Turbo Start bacteria do not remove nitrate.  Nitrate needs to be removed by performing regular water changes.  Well established planted aquariums and large amounts of algae will use nitrate as a fertilizer.


It has been days or even a week and I still can't detect any ammonia or nitrite or nitrate.

If you have fish in the tank, that is an excellent sign!  With enough Turbo Start dosed all at once, and a reasonable number of fish compared to their water volume, we often never see any ammonia or nitrite at all.  Nitrate may take some time to build up if there is a good amount of water to keep it very diluted.


Please contact us if you have any additional questions.  Thank you!

You may purchase more Turbo Start here: 
Turbo Start 900 Saltwater
Turbo Start 700 Freshwater