The determination of the neutrino mass is one of the major challenges in astroparticle physics today. Direct neutrino mass experiments, based solely on the kinematics of beta-decay, provide a largely model-independent probe to the neutrino mass scale. The Karlsruhe Tritium Neutrino (KATRIN) experiment is designed to directly measure the effective electron antineutrino mass with a sensitivity of 0.2 eV 90% CL. In this work we report on the first operation of KATRIN with tritium which took place in 2018. During this commissioning phase of the tritium circulation system, excellent agreement of the theoretical prediction with the recorded spectra was found and stable conditions over a time period of 13 days could be established. These results are an essential prerequisite for the subsequent neutrino mass measurements with KATRIN in 2019.