Turbo Start from Bay Bridge Aquarium

We are the #1 Seller of TurboStart!  Order for same-day shipping.

Turbo Start 900 Saltwater
Turbo Start 700 Freshwater

Thank you for purchasing Turbo Start directly from us!

We get a lot of questions and concerns about shipping Turbo Start, how it can survive shipping, and how it works. We have provided this FAQ here to help you best understand and get the best results.  Any questions, please call or email us, and we can give you advice and suggestions for your specific use case.  


It smells really bad!  Are they dead or rotten?

This is normal, and a good thing.  It is a concentrated culture of bacteria.  Decaying things smell rotten because of break down of organic matter by bacteria, so this means it's alive.

My package arrived hot!  Are the bacteria all dead and non-viable?

No!  They are still OK!  While fragile compared to some types of bacteria that can stay as spores for ,many years, nitrifying bacteria are not super 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 or amount needed to cycle the aquarium. The acceptable safe temperature range, per Fritz is 33F to 95F, 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. 

We have done our own scientific experiments with TurboStart brought to 120F for 12 hours, and it has not shown any statistically significant variations in ammonia reduction times from the same batch, under identical conditions.

Like cooking food, very high temperatures are required to kill 99.9% of bacteria in a few seconds (e.g, 165F in chicken).  At lower temperatures, it may take hours to kill enough to be safe at 140F, or even days at 120-130F for it to be safe all bacteria killed.  The same is true for these bacteria.  While there may be a reduction in colony count, it is not significant enough to affect the overall efficacy of the product.  The bacteria will reproduce and recover.

Why does the bottle say "Keep Refrigerated" then?

It should be kept cold, if possible, to slow down the bacterial metabolism to keep more bacteria alive for longer.  From manufacturing to the end of its shelf life, and beyond, the potency (quantity of bacteria in the bottle) gets slowly reduced as it ages.  The indication standard baseline is at the expiration date.  Newer bottles (that we get frequently!) have much more bacteria than older ones.  The lower the temperature, the slower that metabolism goes.  The bacteria are very happy at 95F if they have enough nutrients and will grow fastest in those conditions.  While freezing will actually cause much harm.  The product will continue to work, however, as indicated through until the expiration date.  At that point, it is still safe to use, will never harm an aquarium, and may still work fine if kept cold for that entire duration, but you may need to use more of it to get the rapid cycling expected from Turbo Start, or it may take another day or two to cycle.

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, to reduce ammonia and nitrite, or replenish bacteria in already set up aquariums.  No two batches, or even individual bottles have the exact same quantity of bacteria, as the exact conditions, temperature variability, and number of days since produced will vary greatly.  It is still a very concentrated culture with a massive amount of starting bacteria, and we always have near 99% success with it with our customers.

How does it work to remove ammonia and nitrite?

There are two types of bacteria in Turbo Start, and quite a few different species in this exact blend.  They both require oxygen to grow and survive, so they are known as aerobic bacteria.  One type 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 les, but nitrate is far less toxic until it reaches very high levels 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 82F.  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 two, there will be double the amount of bacteria compared to what was in the bottle.  Therefore, some slight differences in the starting concentration do not matter very much once the bacteria get into the water and get going. Older bottles of Turbo Start, or Turbo Start that was kept warm for months won't have as much bacteria, and could be considered less potent. But, remember, these are the seeding bacteria - not the entire bacterial filter that will stay put - so any minor loss of potency won't make a large difference as they quickly expand.  In the Non-Turbo ,(non-Turbo), it is diluted down 15 times andhas a shelf life in the years, because there is much less bacteria in it, so they don't use all the nutrients in the bottle as quickly, so they can stay viable for years even at room temperature.  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 a 5X dose of Turbo Start into a new aquarium immediately at the same time as you add fish in, into 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 increase as it is excreted from the fish, and it will soon reach toxic levels, unless you have bacteria to remove it.  If you have enough bacteria to start with (a lot of Turbo), then it will start to remove ammonia immediately as it's still super dilute in the water, and you will have them grow at the same time the ammonia volume increases, effectively making the tank cycle immediately and making them non-detectable.  It's pretty amazing!

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!