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FAQs on Establishing Nutrient/Biological Cycling in Marine Systems 6

Related FAQs: Establishing Cycling 1, Establishing Cycling 2, Establishing Cycling 3, Establishing Cycling 4, Establishing Cycling 5, Establishing Cycling 7, Marine Cycling 8, Marine Cycling 9, Marine Cycling 10, & FAQs on Biological Cycling: Science/Rationale, Techniques/Methods: Seeding Filter Media, Live Rock/Sand, Using Livestock, Cycling Products: By Manufacturers/Names: Bio-Spira, Cycle...  Chemical Feeding, Anomalies/Fixing 1, Trouble/Fixing 2, & Fluidized Beds, Undergravel Filters/FiltrationDenitrification/Denitrifiers, Ammonia, Nitrites, Nitrates, Phosphates, & Nutrient Export,

Related Articles: Establishing Cycling, Biofiltration

Colpophyllia natans... alive, bleached, and dead. In Bonaire.

Upgrading to a bigger tank 12/1/04 Hi, I have been using your site as an extremely useful tool for information ever since I setup a saltwater aquarium 8 months ago. <Good to hear!  Glad you have benefited.> I currently have a small 10 g aquarium with 1 yellow tailed damsel fish and 2 percula clowns. The aquarium is cycled and all 3 fish get along well. The blue damsel sometimes attempts to pick on the percula clown, but she takes care of herself and the smaller clown fish.  We recently upgraded to a 55 gallon aquarium, and are planning on adding these 3 fish and some more fish to it. We plan on keeping a fish only tank. <55 gallons is much more appropriate for the fishes you listed.  Kudos on the upgrade!> - Could you suggest 2 fish we could use to cycle this new aquarium, keeping in mind we will be adding the yellow tailed damsel and 2 clown fish we have already eventually to that tank? <I don't recommend any fish for cycling.  When you add newly acquired live rock, the die off on the rock will produce more than enough ammonia to accomplish the cycle.  Please spare any fishes the stress of this process!> - We were thinking of getting the 3 stripe zebra damsel and one green Chromis. Will they get along with our existing fish? <Single green Chromis rarely thrive and will certainly be bullied by the other damsels you plan on keeping.  Most damsels (other than Chromis) are exceedingly aggressive and mixing more than a couple can be quite volatile.> - Keeping in mind there will be 6 fish eventually (our existing 3 fish, 2 new damsels which we plan on using for cycling and maybe 1 yellow tang), will the aquarium be adequately stocked? Thanks in advance, Seema <Certainly the question should be "will the tank NOT be overstocked.  I would say no, but a 55 is tight quarters for any tang.  If you are looking for an appropriate yellow fish, there are several gobies and blennies that fit the bill and will be much less cramped in your tank.  Best Regards.  AdamC.> Marine Tank Cycling Greetings, <Hi David, MacL here with you tonight.> I have a 55 gallon fish only marine aquarium that was set up 3 weeks ago.  The aquarium store gave me BioSpira and 2 Damsels were placed in 24 to 36 hours later.  They all died within 24 hours. <Such a shame.> The tank is stable at 78 degrees.  The pH was a little low at 7.8.  I then added a buffer and it raised to 8.3.  Salinity is between 1.021 and 1.023.  All other reading were at zero. I then tried adding a raw cocktail shrimp to help with the cycling.  When it started to smell (about 2 days later) I took it out.  The ammonia level is now at 1.0 and the nitrite level is .50 and both have not changed now in 4 days. <let me suggest you take a look at the wonderful article on site about cycling tanks, please look here. . . http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm.> I also noticed the pH is dropping down a little to between 7.8 and 8.0 and I don't want to constantly add a 8.2 buffer everyday. Of course I want both the ammonia and nitrite to be zero before I kill any more fish but it seems that nothing is changing.  I'm going on 4 weeks now and it seems that the bacteria are not doing their thing. <There are multiple things to do here and that's why I suggested the articles and FAQs. As I am sure you will discover many many other people are having similar problems and it will explain why to you as well.> What can I do to alter these events because it seems that something is wrong. Thanks very much for your time and patience.  <NOOOOO worries, if you don't get the help you need from the article please let me know and we will work out a plan to get you inline. Thanks MacL>

Bypassing new tank cycling Hi Bob <Hello John> I have a 3 foot tank that I am setting up as a quarantine tank. I need to put a fish (clown trigger) that I purchased into immediate quarantine as I don't want to place it in the display tank. If I take some media (ceramic balls) from the trickle filter, some media (ceramic balls) from the sump and water from my display tank (Running for 10 Months) and place it in the quarantine tank canister filter, will I still need to cycle the tank? <Likely you won't have to do more to aid nitrification... but do move a good amount of material ( a couple of cups), keep it moist in the process, move a good part of the current system water with the media... to the filter AND tank, and be careful re feeding the trigger (hope it's not very large)... and do monitor for ammonia> Will this idea work to bypass the nitrogen cycle completely and avoid ammonia and nitrite spikes? Will the fish be fine? Thanks John <Should be fine, but do test for ammonia as stated, keep an eye on the specimen for signs of deteriorating water quality and have water pre-made for switch-out. Bob Fenner> Ammonia and biological problems Hi there, I'm new to marine aquarium and I have many queries to ask for your expert advice... Last week I bought a pack of frozen brine shrimps for my marine fishes, the shop assistant ask me to feed them twice a day with the brine shrimp. but I only feed them once a day with the brine shrimp and I also ensure that they finish everything that I drop in. But few days later, the water starts to turn brownish in color, so I return to the shop assistant and ask him why the color change. He told me that  it is the producing of ammonia in my marine water that's why it changes color, he then recommended me to buy a bottle of NUTRAFIN Biological Aquarium Supplement. << I'm not familiar with that product but I think a protein skimmer or deep sand bed would be a good option here. >> On the bottle states it will provide beneficial bacteria to consume ammonia and nitrite to prevent fish loss, quickly creates a safe and healthy environment, one small dose contains enough beneficial bacteria to rapidly consume ammonia and nitrite, safe for both plants and animals and it is impossible to overdose your aquarium. The next day, my cleaner shrimp died. I'm shocked and afraid that my other fishes will follow suit, so I changes the water immediately. << I would also think that this bacteria could be obtained in a much better way.  I would buy a good amount of live rock (at least 10 kg) and some live sand. >> What was the real cause why my color change? Could the water color change due to protein in my water? Or was it really ammonia in it? << I would think protein and dinoflagellates, but not ammonia. >> What causes ammonia and nitrite in my water? Is it harmful to the fishes and aquarium? << very harmful. It comes from fish waste and excess food.  You can't prevent it, so you need to get rid of it with a protein skimmer or deep sand bed, or buy growing macro algae. >> Was it really the NUTRAFIN killed my cleaner shrimp? << I don't think so. >> Is it safe to carry on putting the NUTRAFIN Biological Aquarium Supplement? << Probably safe, but I wouldn't use it. >> Is NUTRAFIN Biological Aquarium Supplement safe with shrimps and snails? << Probably safe. >> Is it really necessary to wash my filter with marine salt water only? << No. >> Is it alright to change portion of the marine water once a month? << Yes, a good idea. >> Can you also recommend to me what else do I need other than hydrometer and protein skimmer? << Hydrometer is very important for a new tank to make sure you are where you need to be.  Also consider live rock to be the most important item you put in a reef tank. >> Many Thanks, Dan <<  Blundell  >>

Saltwater Cycling Question Dear Crew, <Hi Steve, MacL here with you> This is for a 150 gallon new tank set up. Is it alright to place the substrate (DSB) in the tank, do the aquascaping with uncured LR, let the LR cure and have the tank cycle? <That's how I did mine.>  Or do not place any substrate in the tank, cure the LR in the tank, once cured remove the LR add then add the substrate then do the aquascaping. <You can do it without the substrate but then you have a second cycle when you add the substrate.> If I purchased cured LR could I do scenario #1 all at one time? <Yes, you'll still have some cycle even with cured live rock simply because you've moved it and added the sand, same as in step two but you'll already have the cured live rock and therefore the good bacteria to give it a kick start.>  I really appreciate your website. <Thanks Steve you are very kind. MacL> Thanks Steve  

Ammonia/ammonium so VERY VERY confused... Hi! <Hello there> I am very confused about ammonia and ammonium..   <Let's see if we can unconfuse you> I have a 55gal Fish Only Salt Water tank that has been running for about 3 months..  Last complete test results were: nh3/nh4 - .15ppm (.018 toxic), no2 - 0 , no3 - 5, Alk - "high", sg - 1.023, ph - 7.4   Temp 78. <Stop! Your pH is too low... should be at least 7.8... if not in the low 8's... Do you use natural seawater?... and you have detectable ammonia? After three months running? Something is awry here... perhaps your test kit/s are bunk... perhaps you have inadequate filtration, dying live rock, some dead animal....?> This was with 2 damsel fishes, and two hermit crabs. The test was done 4 days ago.  That day added a med. Yellow Tang, a small Clown, and a small Blenny (probably too much at one time, right?). <... you should not add anything while your water chemistry is this far out of whack> I figured this was safe because "toxic ammonia - nh3" was so low.   <Mmm, should be zip, nada, zilch> I tested total ammonia last night and came up with about .3ppm total ammonia.  All the fish seem to be very happy, and I am not feeding them very much.   <... I'd have your water tested elsewhere, or try another test kit> Now, my confusion.  I know that ammonia is harmful to fish and ammonium is not harmful. <Well, not nearly as toxic let's say> I have read in some places to do a water change if ammonia reaches 1ppm..  Is this nh3/nh4  above 1ppm or just nh3?   <Actually either... the state of ammonia is largely pH dependent... at higher pH, most exists as ammonia... more toxic, at lower pH, as ammonium, less toxic> Now then, I have also read that over .1ppm ammonia is toxic to fish. <Can be...> Does this mean just nh3 or is this nh3/nh4? <Ammonia, not ammonium... all else being equal (pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen concentration... other co-factors>   If I do the calculation, my total "toxic" (NH3 I am assuming) is .037ppm (.3 x .122)(ph 7.4). Am I doing this correctly or??  Also, should I lower the temp of my tank so that ammonia is not as toxic?  (Ahhhhhh!!  So many variables!!) :-) <None of them important. Now, what IS important is to have none of either ammonia OR ammonium, as in making sure your system is completely cycled and has a sustainable biological filtration function per the bioload and feeding of the tank.> I guess really what I need to know is, at what point (biased on ammonia tests) do I really need to worry? And at what point biased on the ammonia test do I need to do water changes?   And is it nh3/nh4 I need to worry about or just the ammonia calculation? <You need to worry at the point of ANY detectable ammonia... whether it is NH3 or NH4OH... it IS trouble> One other quick question.  Last night, I also started to notice Cyanobacteria growing..  A quick Google search returned all the ways to treat it,  It is not necessarily a bad thing is it?  All the descriptions I have read about it sounds like it is a good thing (oxygenates the water, removes nitrates...) but everybody wants to get rid of it..  Why? <Blue Green Algae are indicative of less desirable circumstances in a system... not toxic of by themselves in moderation... think of your system as a system... this is what you need to address, correct. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bluegralgae.htm> And last quick question related to Cyanobacteria,  is it really important to test for po4?  Would a high level be dangerous to the fish? <Not especially important to measure soluble phosphate... but useful as a tool for detection of whether this is a source of water quality troubles... Put another way, do you want, need to test for things that are of no particular consequence... unless they become possibly important?> As you may can tell, I am very new at this (marine life that is) and have always wanted to try.  Your site has answered many many of my questions and I would not have been able to keep my first two fish (the Damsels) alive with out it! Thanks! Jared <You obviously have a good (curious, systematic, open) mind... Keep studying here, cut way back on feeding, look for sources, reasons why your system has not cycled completely... Do NOT add any more life till you've corrected the ammonia source issue. Bob Fenner> New Tank Cycle Query Hi I have had my marine tank for all of 2 weeks now.  Spent 4 years looking in wonder then decided I need a go. I have bought a Juwel Rio 400 tank (400l)  added lots of coral gravely stuff extra load of Tufa rock water etc.  Am using normal Juwel filter and a Fluval 404.  I also have a Vecton 25w U.V filter and have just burnt a Prizm skimmer as it was noisy enough to wake the dead and bought a Deltec MCE 600. I think this setup should be good for a fish only marine tank what do you reckon.  I have put in normal marine tubes and two air blocks under the rock work giving pleasing display of fine bubbles. My problem comes with the fact that I filled with water mixed with salt starting adding Biomature.  Not much happened to start then up went the nitrites.  After a week the nitrite levels where very high.  So I stopped adding Biomature and borrowed some mollies of a mate which are doing well. Now just two weeks after starting my nitrites read zero.  Ammonia zero, ph is just over 8.0 and nitrates are quite high.  I think 25mg/l last night.  I was told it would take 28 days plus for nitrates to reach zero.  I am worried I have done something wrong but asking local shops I get anything from its ok to stock now to you need to start adding Biomature again.  Any ideas?? Matt >>>Hello Matt, First of all, stay away from bottled products that promise to help cycle your tank. They are not worth the plastic they come in. Every tank is different, some take longer to cycle than others. Nitrates will come down, hang in there and be patient. Cheers Jim<<< New Marine Aquarium Cycling Hi I have had my marine tank for all of 2 weeks now.  Spent 4 years looking in wonder then decided I need a go. I have bought a Juwel Rio 400 tank (400l)  added lots of coral gravely stuff extra load of Tufa rock water etc.  Am using normal Juwel filter and a Fluval 404.  I also have a Vecton 25w UV filter and have just burnt a Prizm skimmer as it was noisy enough to wake the dead and bought a Deltec MCE 600. I think this setup should be good for a fish only marine tank what do you reckon.  I have put in normal marine tubes and two air blocks under the rock work giving pleasing display of fine bubbles. My problem comes with the fact that I filled with water mixed with salt starting adding Biomature.  Not much happened to start then up went the nitrites.  After a week the nitrite levels where very high.  So I stopped adding Biomature and borrowed some mollies of a mate which are doing well. Now just two weeks after starting my nitrites read zero.  Ammonia zero, ph is just over 8.0 and nitrates are quite high.  I think 25mg/l last night.  I was told it would take 28 days plus for nitrites to reach zero.  I am worried I have done something wrong but asking local shops I get anything from its ok to stock now to you need to start adding Biomature again.  Any ideas?? <I'm not familiar with the product Biomature, but it's completely unnecessary to cycle your tank.  It just takes time for the bacterial populations to build up.  What you're seeing is completely normal.  Add livestock SLOWLY once your nitrates hit zero.> Matt Establishing cycling in a marine system Hi Just a quick question. I want to start up a FOWLR system, but how do I get the cycle going . I did a lot of reading and found that your site has the best answers. Most websites recommend adding a couple of hardy fish like damsels . I have done this before and this worked fine ,but is this the best way ? Thanks David <Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm Bob Fenner>

Re: QT, Biological filtration Gone? I just e-mailed you earlier about the Clown Trigger scenario. I also asked about the QT. I took my Maroon Clown out. My NO2 is now above 1.6 and my NO3 is above 50. <Way too high! I would dilute the nitrite immediately with a fifty percent water change, or move the livestock from this system> But NH3/4 is still 0.0. I re-vacuumed the inside of the whole tank and a 20% water change. <Not enough. You need to get and keep the nitrite below 1.0 ppm> I also have a spare skimmer that I have on my 55 for helping to get my 125 going when the time comes. I put it on to see if it could help. Did the Formalite kill my Bio? <Yes, very likely> was it the days it ran without anything in it prior to starting the treatments? <Possibly a contributing cause> Why is the NH staying at 0.0? <Perhaps some of those initial nitrifying microbe populations are intact> The Formalite's box and web site said it was not harmful to your Bio system? <Not so> Like I said earlier the tank was a 10gal with water from my 55, a spare filter with one of my bio-wheels from my 55, and bare bottom. After running a few days all parameters were a mirror of the 55. How can it go so bad so fast? <Formalin/Formalite is a general biocide... it kills all life... on contact. Bob Fenner> Cycling live rock Hello WWM crew,   I have a few questions. I just started my first saltwater tank this week. I got 150 lbs of live rock Friday and cleaned off all the dead stuff and raised it well put it in my tank and the past few days the ammonia has been off the charts. I did 1 30% water changes each day. still ammonia is off the charts. I used "Cycle" to help speed up the cycling process as per the LFS. I also have my Protein skimmer AquaC remora Pro running and I've been pulling a watery\slime of yellow skimmate off about every 8-9 hrs. With the high ammonia readings did I kill off my LR. << No. I think it will still be all okay.  Not sure how much sand you have but that makes a difference.  I think the main thing you are seeing here is why adding 150 pounds of rock at one time may not be the best way to go.  I will take a while to cycle all that when you didn't have biofiltration already established. >> Would it be safe to add Ammo Lock 2 to detoxify the Ammonia so I can try to save my LR. << I think you would be better to add a couple cups of sand and 5 gallons of water from a friends tank.  I would recommend you do this a week before adding your live rock, but it is better late than never in this case. >> Please Help. You guys are the best, Joe <<  Blundell  >> Pond liner in tank Situation: Excellent site with good FAQs but mine is a bit specific... Built a plywood tank and used pond liner (instead of epoxy), and sealed it up with GE 1200 Silicone.  (I got it from a tank builder so I assume its aquaria safe).   <Is, but doesn't adhere well to liners> I just poured RO water and after 2 days the water started clouding a bit.  Is this a result of the silicone? <Nope> Is this normal and will running the water through carbon clear it up? <Is normal, carbon will help... but really the "system" needs to cycle... this takes a few weeks... can be sped up... a "break-in" biological period.> Right now the water is just standing with no movement. <Better to recirculate it> Or, is the EPDM pond liner giving something off.... I assume the liner is safe to use for fish seeing as they use it for ponds....  Do I need to prepare it before use? Please help! Thanks Lee <EPDM is very safe... Please read on WetWebMedia.com re cycling of aquariums... the same series of events occur in all aquatic environments. Bob Fenner>

Re: pond liner in tank http://wetwebmedia.com/PondSubWebIndex/pdmaintwint.htm Just to clarify Given my situation, RO going cloudy is normal after a couple of days even if there is no substrate? <Yes, normal. Very likely the opacity is due to biological goings on, not simple physical or chemical reactions... microbes are populating the water to such an extent that they're making the water cloudy> (just water and the tank).  If this is normal this I'll begin cycling the tank. Again Thanks for the help! <A pleasure to serve. Bob Fenner>

Dinoflagellates--Part of the Cycle (10/6/04) Hi, about 2 weeks ago I set up a 45 gallon salt water aquarium with live rock. I've been letting it cycle but recently I noticed a rust colored dust covering the live rock, gravel, and getting on the glass. It seems to be getting worse, covering more of the rock and gravel. I was wondering what this was, if I need to be worried about it (will it kill my live rock), and what I can do to get rid of it. Any help you can give me would be great. Thanks! Lisa <Sounds like you are experiencing a bloom of diatoms, which most new tanks do. It will usually go away after a couple of weeks with patience and proper care. Do read up on these on the site to learn more. Hope this helps, Steve Allen.>

Cycling In A Quarantine Tank! Hi Crew <Hi there! Scott F. with you today!> I have a 20 gal qt tank that has been set up for 6 weeks (took a while between hurricanes here in FL to finally get) awaiting the arrival of some fairy wrasses I ordered online. <First off- hope that you and your family are okay...> I have a 170 BioWheel and a h/o protein skimmer. I keep a spare BioWheel in the sump of my 90 gal reef tank for the q/t. <Good procedure> The fish arrived just fine and gorgeous and I put the long cycling BioWheel on the Penguin. I took 10 gal from the main tank and 10 gal fresh saltwater for the qt. since I added the fish I have had detectable ammonia. The fish seem fine even with the ammonia and I have been doing 10% changes daily from the main 90 to the qt. Why is the ammonia detectable with the water changes? <Hard to say, but the tank should ultimately cycle...> Will the BioWheel do its job??  What else can I do?    <If it were me, I'd use one of the "bacteria in a bottle" preparations, to help "kick start" things. Given time, the BioWheel should do a fine job. I'd probably make smaller water changes at this stage, to give the biological filtration a chance to establish itself. Use some chemical filtration media, such as Poly Filter, to help pull out some ammonia. You're doing it all right, just be patient, and go with your instincts here. Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Bio-Spira 9/15/04 Hi again. my friends. <cheers> Two quick questions. You guys suggested to put Bio-Spira for the seeding of  sterile sand. <hmmm... some crew members might care for it... some do not. I'm of the latter opinion> What is it? <an attempt to inoculate the bio-filters with nitrifying bacteria> I put sand in the aquarium and then what? <a handful of live sand from another mature tank is all that is needed here instead> What would you recommend for a reliable test kit? <I like aquarium systems brand test kits> What are the most important parameters to test for and what are a waste of time? <do buy a good beginners book and read it for these guidelines my friend... let me suggest Paletta's "New Marine Aquarium" for starters> Are electronic controllers of any value? <generally a good long term investment> What are the pros and cons? <better accuracy, more expensive> Thank you gentlemen. Stephan <best regards, Anthony>

-Where's that ammonia spike?!- Dear Crew, <Kevin here today> It's so nice to have a resource like this to turn to when we go through our panic stages with our reefs! <We're always glad to be of service> I'm not quite at the panic stage, but I am befuddled.  I'm on day 25 of cycling my 16 gal.  Have 19.5 lbs. live rock, and 20 lbs. live sand.  Hitchhikers are few, a couple tube worms, a couple of known bristleworms (I don't think they're real bad), lotsa pods, micro and little tufts of macroalgae starting.  I, on three occasions threw in some goldfish flake food to get things going.  Parameters are good: pH 8.2-8.4, Alk normal (per Red Sea kit), Ca 450, T 78-80, SG 1.024.  Anyway, here's the question.  My ammonia with the Red Sea test kit was showing 0.25 for three weeks - ever since I started testing. <Did you check this test against a sample of known purity, like newly mixed seawater or water from a friends tank to make sure that this isn't a false-positive?>  NO2 & NO3 were 0.  I switched to Aquarium Systems test kit and am now reading Ammonia 0, NO2 & 3-0.  Even the low range Nitrate test is 0.  What do you think. <Well, I think that experience has shown that Red Sea makes some pretty bad test kits, so I'd trust the Aquarium Systems kits over that (assuming Fastest brand?). Again, I'd re-check your Red Sea kit on saltwater with definitely 0 ammonia.> Did I miss a spike or is this tank cycling reeeeaaaallly slow.  What, if anything, should I do? <It's very unlikely that you'll see an ammonia spike in this tank since you have effectively installed a fully functional biological filter in this tank already (i.e. the live rock and sand). In tanks set up in this manner, you will likely never see any detectable ammonia or nitrite. Your tank is moving along nicely, now it's time to start adding something cool, maybe the beginnings of a clean up crew or whatever you have planned out. I'd consider yourself 'cycled' as far as the nitrogen cycle goes, but it's always a good idea to let it just sit there and mature w/out the addition of predators/grazers for a while. -Kevin> Thanks is advance... You guys rock! SS

New tank issues, or not? you helped me so much with my GSP I want to ask you about another tank its my old 30 gallon and has completely clean for two years collecting dust bunnies but after all that him dusting it off and making a reef talk ( I want Pom Pom crabs and my wolf eel likes his dinner on ten legs !) so anyway if had this tank acclimating with a Penguin 170 filter and a lager whisper air pump for 2 weeks and just for kicks I test the ammonia. knowing there's no waste in the tank I'm doing this to test the kit and not the water but it comes out with a 5.0mg/l reading! I put stress zyme in regularly (as directed) and even as a last resort purchased the refrigerated Bio Spira "fish safe in a day" stuff . the levels did not change . the filter is brand new along with the sand , what should I do , and what's happening , I really want some cute Pom Pom crabs ! ***Hi, Tanks don't acclimate, they cycle. Why are you adding Stress Zyme to an empty tank? You really don't have any issues. Let your filters run, put a bit of fish food or a dead shrimp in your tank and let the cycle happen. Forget bottled cycle products, they're not worth the plastic they're sold in. Cheers Jim*** Cycling A QT Tank Hello all, <Hi! Scott F. here today!> I have been reading your site for about a month and have found everything very informative.  I wish I found it sooner.  I have a 29 gal tank that has been fallow for 10 days, waiting for velvet to die off. I have purchased a QT set-up and would like to get it up and running (no seed from the main tank, don't want to introduce disease).  If I set it up and let it cycle with a shrimp (from Publix not LFS) will it maintain the biological filter until I get a fish to QT in mid to late Sept? I will have nothing in the tank except an Aquatec power filter, small bubble rock, and heater. Thanks very much Beth <Well, Beth, I think that if you "feed" the tank and provide the nitrifying bacteria an ammonia source, you should be in pretty good shape. Good luck! Regards, Scott F.> New Fish Tank Fast <Hi Cheryl, MacL here> I have a 75 gal. tank and was sad to hear that you said I needed a lot bigger tank for my fish. I have a hippo tang (2 1/2 years old), a Koran angel I've had 6-7 months), and a blue girdled angel(4-5 months), those are the big fish. <Very big fish actually which is why you need a larger tank.> I have five smaller fish.  The tang and Koran angel are starting to pick on the blue girdled angel. <Big fish small quarters.> I know I have to get rid of the Koran angel, but I would like to keep him until he changes color... <Understandable they are wonderful fish. But why until the change of color?> I would like to put the blue girdled angel in my old 40 gal. breeder tank, with a shrimp, a blue green Chromis, and maybe another small fish until I get rid of the Koran angel. <Okay this is a very tricky question.> How much water can I safely take out of the old tank to put in the new 40 gal. tank? <You could probably take about half. The big thing is to make sure your salinity remains the same and that you keep the ph stable. You didn't mention if you have corals and if you do that makes this a whole lot more complicated.> I would have to replace the old water with new RO water for the 75 gal, and fill up the rest of the 40 gal. with RO water......can I just fill the 40 gal. 3/4 full? <You can fill it to any height as long as your filtration system will work.> I have a canister filter. Would the new 40 gal. have to go through a cycle if a use old water and some of my live rock from the old tank? <All tanks go through cycles and sometimes even mini cycles as you add fish. I understand what you are trying to do here and this is my suggestion. I would take half of the water from the old tank, and add half the rest in ro/di fixed to the same levels as first tank. Then I would add as much "cured" live rock as I could to the new tank (Not taking it all from the first tank because you don't want to mess up the old tank, You could possibly get away with taking up to a third of the live rock. Remember you don't want to mess with the original tank too much or you'll have problems in both tanks. Then you'll need to get a test kit and check for ammonia and nitrites. If you are lucky the ammonia and nitrites will be okay. It would be best to continue checking this for a couple of days. If you have a rise in ammonia you'll know you are going through a mini cycle, on the good side you will have cured live rock there to help. If you become desperate during this time you could move your ONE fish into the tank and be prepared to do water changes as necessary to protect the fish, should you get an ammonia rise or nitrite rise. Personally I believe that the tank will settle pretty quickly because you are seeding it with live bacteria and live rock. In the canister you probably would want to leave the bioballs and carbon out because that will hinder the tank building up its natural bacteria. Using the canister basically for circulation just as you would a powerhead.> Could this be answered ASAP..?.I don't want anything to happen to my blue girdled angelfish . <Answered it as soon as I got it. Hope this helps, MacL> Thanks,      Cheryl Saltwater cycling?  6/07/04 <Hi, Pufferpunk here.> I am VERY concerned about the current water parameters in my newly set up fish only 90 gallon marine tank!! The tank has been up and running for just over 3 weeks. I was ill advised by the LFS to add 5 Blue Damsels for cycling purposes (I know better now!!) When the tank was set up, all parameters were perfect!! Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate all 0, Ph=8.3, temp=79 deg. SG.=1.022. <That's because you had no fish pooping in the water to begin with.> My levels have been hovering at the following for several days, Ammonia=0.3 Nitrite=1.0 Nitrate=20 PH=7.9 SG.=1.022 Temp=79 deg. I am running 2 Emperor 400's with regular Marineland charcoal cartridges and an Eheim 2217 can. I have not changed anything since the tank was set-up. The ammonia seems high as does the nitrite? why did my ph drop? <Please read this, to better understand the cycling process: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm> I also installed the bioslabs from Dr. Foster&Smith in each of the secondary filter slots on the emperors. <Bioslabs are great for more surface area for good bacteria to grow!> What am I doing wrong? <Nothing, your tank is cycling.  Although I don't recommend cycling with fish.  The 1st bi-product is ammonia--toxic ammonia burns fish's gills, eyes, fins, skin, etc. (ammonia burns). Then comes the nitrItes--nitrites are toxic to fish as well (it decreases oxygen levels in the fish's blood, causing the fish to suffocate).  Fishless cycling is the way to go.  See:  http://www.tropicalfishcentre.co.uk/Fishlesscycle.htm, or if you can afford it, I highly recommend SW Bio-Spira.  It works great!  "Instant cycles" your tank.  Just add fish as soon as you put it into your tank, or there will no waste for the bacteria to "eat".> I am thinking of getting some saltwater bio-Spira overnighted for the tank, is that a good idea? <Definitely!> Should I do a water change to get the levels down? <I would do a large water change before adding the B-S & then you should be fine.> Once the tank settles down, there is an adorable little (2") Porcupine Puffer I have my eye on, would this tank support him as the only fish as an adult? <They have been known to grow as large as 18" in the wild, but should only get around 12" in captivity, so a 90g would be the minimum.> Any suggestions or changes? <Make sure you research the special needs of puffers.  Come over to www.thepufferforum.com.> Thanks so much for all the help!! I can't believe how much BAD advice the LFS people give, it's just awful!! <You got it, but at least you found us!  ~PP>

Cycling Hi guys thanks for all the help so far. Not a question, just wanted to say I'm horrified people use fish to cycle their tank, I think its absolutely disgusting when there are other perfectly reasonable means of doing so outside of stressing, at best, to killing a fish or two! You can buy stuff in a bottle to put in over a week then cycle for up to 6 weeks or so and your ready to get started. I'm not a patient person but I managed to wait that long rather than kill fish to have it done earlier. I don't care if they are silly little cheap fish they didn't ask to be caught, taken away from their little lives on the reef and used for animal testing which is basically what it is. Disgraceful. You should push more humane methods of cycling tanks guys. Unless there is a very good reason for using fish that I am not aware of course. <Umm, we do. Please read here on our root web: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm and on to the many FAQs re (at top, links in blue). Glad to see there are patient, conscientious folks as yourself. Bob Fenner>

BASIC TANK SETUP QUESTIONS (CYCLING, TANK INHABITANTS) Hello WWM crew! Your website is the best resource hands down.  << Thanks, we work hard at it, so I'm glad someone likes it. >> I have 10 years experience w/ freshwater, and finally decided to give saltwater a try.  Your site has been tremendously helpful in getting me started in my endeavor.  I recently purchased a Via Aqua 620 aquarium system (28-gallon, glass, curved edges, about 16" tall, fully enclosed top w/ light+ filtration system with bio media and filter pads built in) very similar to the Eclipse II systems.  The lights are pretty standard - 2 fluorescent bulbs, 20 watts each..  I have included a powerhead, 1.5 inches of "live" sand from day one, and about 16-18 lbs of live rock a couple of days later.  I also had 2 damsels which were suggested by my LFS as good cycling fish.  Unfortunately, they died, and I regret using them to cycle the tank.  Won't make that mistake again!    Question 1 (Cycling):  I've only had the tank running for 8 days now.  I started testing the water around day 3.  Ammonia was around .5 at first, then eventually dropped to .25, now for the past 2/3 days ammonia has been zero.  Same w/ my nitrites, they are also currently zero.  My nitrates are around 5-10.  SG is 1.023.  Is it possible for my tank to have already cycled? << Yes, kind of.  The real key is to slowly add new things.  A tank never really "cycles" and finishes.  Basically it matures, so you just want to slowly add livestock, because a heavy load will overload the filtration ability. >>  Or should I expect to see another ammonia spike or re-cycling soon.  << Unless you add something, I wouldn't expect another spike. >> The hitchhikers on my live rock are really thriving recently.  The mushrooms look fuller and larger now, the tiny brown anemone stuck on the live rock now looks fully inflated and active, copepods swimming about, and tiny fan/feather worms and bristle worms GALORE!  I've even seen a tiny white starfish climbing up the rocks at a pretty fast pace.  When do you think I can add 1 fish to the tank? << I would say wait a few days, then add a small fish.  If you are planning to keep coral as well, then add them first. >> Question 2 (Skimmers):  After reading your site, I definitely plan to get a skimmer.  But I can't imagine being able to hang one onto my system because it is fully enclosed.  And unlike what I've read about the eclipse systems on your FAQ, the way the filter is arranged in my Via Aqua makes it seem impossible to cut a piece of plastic out to fit one.  Do you know of any fully submersible in-tank protein skimmers? << I don't, sorry. >> I've seen the AquaC Urchin w/ Rio 800 in-sump skimmer for a reasonable price, do you have any input about this model for my 28 gallon?  Any other suggestions (my tentative list of livestock is below if that factors into your assessment)? It may be easier to have a hang on filter, but instead of hanging it on, have it off to the side. >> Question 3 (Temperature):  When I first installed my heater, I set it to 82 degrees.  The temperature in my tank was at 84, however.  I even bought another submersible thermometer to confirm.  At one point, the temperature even increased to 86 degrees!  I think that contributed to killing my damsels since they died soon after the temp increase.  So I tried lowering the setting to 76.  The temp stayed the same at around 86.  I even took the heater out of the tank and left the feeding lid open for ventilation.  That helped to reduce it to 84.  I then turned off the lights for a day, and the tank is now back to 82.  Do you think it could be my lights? << Oh most certainly.  I think lighting is a huge tank heater.  In fact I haven't used heaters in my tanks for years.  I have a difficult time keeping the tanks cool.  I would shoot for 76 degrees, and you may need a fan to keep it that cool (or cool down your house). >> I just have 40 watts total, but the hood is fully enclosed and there's no ventilation space for the top of the tank. << This is not good.  I would look for ways to cut open the back of the lid, or some way to ventilate the tank. >> But my LFS said this is highly unlikely.  My room ambient temperature stays around 72-74 degrees, and it never gets hot in my apt.  I am scared to turn the lights back on or keep the lid closed (which I prefer! ), but I know I will need 12 hours of the lights on.  Any ideas? << An opening of any type will really help, also a fan would help. >> Question 4 (So sorry for the length of this email): Your site convinced me that keeping anemones would be too impossible and inhumane in my small tank.  So I've convinced myself not to keep them even though I initially wanted a bubble tip.  So now, I've decided to only have corals for my inverts...Can you suggest any hardy corals that my lighting and tank could sustain? << Mushroom rocks, Gorgonia (filter feeding types), button polyps. >> I like the mushroom anemones, button polyps, and xenia. << Oh yes, and xenia, thanks for mentioning that one.  Don't know how I forgot it. >> Could I keep those together safely in my tank?  Any other compatible, low lighting, hardy inverts would be appreciated. << They would all do well together, stay with that first. >> Question 5 (I promise this is the last one!): Here's my list of non-coral livestock: 1 ocellaris clown, 1 Firefish goby (2 if possible) OR 1 Pseudochromis fridmani (orchid), banded shrimp OR cleaner shrimp.  What would be the best combo of the above livestock list factoring in maybe having corals in the tank w/ them? << They would all do fine together. No worries. >> Could I keep 1 ocellaris clown and 2 Firefish gobies?  or what about 1 ocellaris clown, 1 Firefish, and 1 orchid (I heard these are the most peaceful of the Pseudochromis)?  Can ocellaris clowns be kept in pairs? << Yes to all those questions, no worries. >> Can sand-sifting gobies be kept w/ banded shrimp?  Which of these species is best introduced first to minimize territorial aggression? << I would add the Pseudochromis last. >> Okay, I cheated, I said this would be my last question, but it's more like 5 mini-questions.  Sorry!   Thanks for the help!  I really appreciate your patience and dedication to helping us newbies get started! << Hope it all works out. >> -Dennis << Adam B. >>

- Odd Unexpected Test Results - Hello! I am doing a fishless cycle on a 10 gallon tank - running a Penguin 125, heated to mid 80's to speed it up. I have ammonia going down to 0 every night now after adding ammonia in the morning, nitrites are seemingly going down slowly - they are about 3ppm (hard to tell- color chart)- but the odd thing is my nitrates are also going down, and this morning had a huge drop down to 7ppm from around 80 ish? I tested twice to check myself, and they are indeed way down. I have no algae, no plants, just a healthy grey build-up of bacteria in my filter wheel and pad. <Hmm... this may be something else - some other reaction, even in large amounts these bacteria aren't visible to the naked eye.> Should I be happy - or worried? <At the very least stop putting raw ammonia in the tank.> And what could be converting the nitrates? <Could be some other reaction - again, stop adding the ammonia to your tank, give the tank a couple of days and then test again.> I have a gravel bed with 1/3-1/2" sized rock about an inch deep at the most. Thanks again for your information, you are a great resource! <Cheers, J -- >

- Odd Unexpected Test Results, Follow-up - Hi- Thanks for the response- <My pleasure.> Previous to getting you answer- right before a three day holiday- I dosed the tank to get the Ammonia up higher, and went away. Came back and the ammonia was 0, nitrites were  2-3ppm, and the Nitrate was at 80+.  I am wondering if stirring up and removing some gravel released some small amount of anaerobic bacteria that had developed in the overly deep gravel bed dropping the Nitrates temporarily.. <Hard to say.> Since the values are again on track for a fishless cycle- I am bringing the ammonia back to 1.5 ppm in the mornings to continue the cycle- I am assuming when you advised to stop adding the raw ammonia to the tank- you meant for the short term as this is one of the ways to do a fishless cycle, and the info is on the site as well advising how to do this. <No, just stop... don't add any more ammonia, ever.> I don't want to stall the cycle in the middle by not keeping the ammonia converting bacteria alive. <Then toss in a dead food-shrimp or something - the amount and type of ammonia you are adding is potentially so toxic that you are starting over every time.> Jo <Cheers, J -- >

The Endless Cycle? (Nitrite Cycle Problems) Hey how's it going? <Doin' great! Scott F. here tonight!> I have a question for you. I set up a 46 gallon tank with about 50 lbs of live rock. It seemed to cycle right away (2-3 days I had a nitrite jump then drop off). <That's unusually fast...Keep monitoring, just to be on the safe side.> I decided to remove the water and sand after a week to put some PVC under the rock then put the sand and water back in. Since then, the ammonia has stayed at .25 while the nitrites and nitrates are at 0. <Ammonia has to peak and return to zero first, with nitrite beginning to peak shortly before the ammonia declines.> After about three weeks, I had the water tested at a LFS and he said it was acceptable, so I took home two clowns. Two weeks later, same readings. Is this out of the ordinary? <Well, it seems to me that the tank did not finish cycling. It's hard to say for certain, though, unless you monitored the tank every few days during the process to see "where you were" in the process.> My system is Emperor 400 filter (should I remove the bio wheels) CPR Bak Pak 2R protein skimmer      2 RIO 900 PUMPS THANKS JEREMY <Well, Jeremy, I'd be sure to monitor the ammonia and nitrite on a very regular basis during the process. Be sure to avoid interrupting the process with water changes, substrate replacement, etc., as these things can wreak havoc with the cycle...Be patient, and hang in there! Regards, Scott F.>

He'll Leave A Light On For Ya' (Lighting During Cycling) Thanks for the advice, Scott. <Anything to help out!> Just to be sure I understood correctly, it sounds like you're advocating leaving the lights on while the tank is cycling.  Should I leave them on the full 12 hours?  Thanks. <You got it!  I do favor leaving lights on.  I would use a normal photoperiod, like 10-12 hours, dependant on your preference.  I would crank the protein skimmer and add herbivores (i.e. snails, etc.) as soon as chemical levels have stabilized in your tank.  Again, there are many approaches to this, and mine is certainly not the only way, but this is my take on this subject.  Have fun!  Regards, Scott F.>

Lighting after cycle Hello.. excellent website.. Ok I started cycling my 55 gallon reef tank on May 10 and on the third day the ammonia peaked and then started to drop down.. then on the sixth day the nitrite peaked to 5 ppm and then dropped to .50 ppm the next day (what up with the sudden drop?) >>It means you've got bacteria establishing VERY quickly. >I'm cycling with LR and live sand >>Well, THAT would explain the sudden drops! >CPR protein skimmer r2, and I have a built in wet dry filtration.. it seems my tank is almost done cycling. >>Yep. Once ammonia and nitrite are zero, and nitrate begins coming up, I'd call it cycled, too. >Now my question is how long can I go w/out light or can I because I ordered my pc lighting system through the internet and it still hasn't arrived.. (it should have been delivered already) and now I'm starting to get worried! >>Unless you have photosynthetic specimens (and at this stage you better not!), there is absolutely no need for lighting. >What should I do in this situation? >>Call the company you bought your lights from, and call the shipper, and be a squeaky wheel. (They've probably arrived by now.) >One more question.. my substrate is 1 1/2 inches and I want to add like an inch more.. can I add live sand during or after the cycle and will it mess with the cycle or the wet dry filter, or should I wait till all the sand reach the bottom before I get the filter starting again? >>Won't do a thing to the w/d, I'd add it to the live sand now, in bits, over sections of the sand, say, 1/3 every few days. Test to see if it's causing any spikes (though I doubt it will). You can seed it a little faster by using Bio-Spira then adding some fish food or raw shrimp to the tank to cause another nitrogenous spike. >I'm planning to add 20 more lbs... thanks your guys opinion means a lot to me.. thanks again.. James >>And there you have it. All should be going well at this point. Marina 

Water & Live Rock Questions - Still abound >Thanks Marina, >>Most welcome, Devin. >My understanding was that I could cure live rock in a new tank as that would help with the initial cycling process, is this not the case. >>Well, this is partly why I sent you to search our site.  You see, cycling and curing are two *different* processes.  The rock must cure, that is to say, you must get it through the consequent die-off of all creatures in situ upon shipping.  That is all the icky stuff you're seeing.  In order to prevent *further* die-off, I recommend water changes, as I'm a very frugal (read: CHEAP) woman, and want every bit of what I paid for. >I thought curing live rock in the tank would help the cycling process? >>The live rock already has nitrifying bacteria.  The "cycling process" is the culturing of nitrifying bacteria.  So, in the presence of CURED live rock, what you are in fact doing is growing LARGER cultures of nitrifying (and deep within the rock, denitrifying) bacteria.  High ammonia will kill off a good deal of these colonies, another reason to keep a lid on it. >Based on your comments, I will progress with a water change in the next couple of days.   >>At least, depending on your test results.  If your ammonia is high, I suggest aggressive water changes and skimming, along with scrubbing that dead crud off you'd mentioned. >I also plan on adding some more rock this weekend, I just wanted to add it slowly.  Should I scrub the rock in the tank, or take it out and scrub the white spots off?  You mentioned to try to avoid killing the bacteria on the rock, how do I avoid killing it, I assume by doing frequent water changes? >>Um, cure all at once, I really prefer doing this in large trash cans (actually hate using tanks for this - I have scratched more glass and created more messes than I can count by curing in the tank).  Scrub off the white and black and STINKY areas.  Really use your nose to determine these areas.  Don't rinse in fresh water, use salt water, though.  And then, (this will become your new mantra, my friend), when in doubt, DO A WATER CHANGE!  Rare are the occasions when I will tell you not to do a water change, or when performing one *won't* help. >What about my sand bed, do I need to vacuum it in small portions as well, I'm afraid I will just suck up all the sand. >>Ah yes.  In order to safely vacuum a sand bed you will need an extra long vacuum tube, as well as a means by which to restrict the flow coming out of it.  These are a real pain in the patootie to maneuver, but will go a long way towards keeping more sand IN the tank than sucking it out.  I'm talking about 3' long or so. >Thanks again for your input.  Devin >>Again, glad to be of help, and please do search the site!  You'll really be amazed I think.  Marina

Check, check, testing! >Thanks Marina, for all your responses.   >>You're welcome, Devin.  Our goal is to help folks succeed. >I'm sure with your help and the crew I wont make as many mistakes as I would have normally made:) >>Let's hope that's the rule. >I have been testing my water, and recently about 15 days after the tank was set up, ammonia and nitrite is down to 0, and nitrate is around 10-20.   >>Well then, if you know that you already had spikes in ammonia and nitrite, then I would say.. YOU'RE CYCLED!  You now have sufficient colonies of nitrifying bacteria to handle the current waste load.  Remember, as this is important, there will only be colonies sufficient to process what's available.  Think: lemmings. >I will plan on doing my first water change this week as I am now also starting to get some brown algae (I will try to find a source of RO/DI water so I don't continue to encourage the brown algae). >>This is VERY common, so much so that it's normal.  At this point, you may prefer to let it starve itself out.  If it's a "dusting" all over upper surfaces, you've likely got a diatom bloom.  Sometimes water changes can make the situation worse, and at those times I advise no w/c's, and reduce or eliminate lighting for a little while.  Just remember, this is *very* common with new tanks.  As for your water source, if it tests clean of phosphate, nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia in the form of NH3+, then it should be fairly clean. >Thanks again, hope you have a great weekend. Devin >>I hope so too!  I should be getting my Kiehl's Creme Hair Groom with Silk today!  Marina

Damsels in Distress!  >HI there,  >>Hi there yourself.  >We have just set up a 55 gal. saltwater tank in our office, and had it running no fish for a few days, the salinity was 1.025, pH 8.4, nit. 0 & ammonia 0. Temperature is 75.  >>There *should* be no ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate in an empty tank. You need to add something to start culturing nitrifying bacteria in order to get those readings to do their thang.  >Well we then added 5 damsels. 1 large 4 stripe, 1 tiny domino, 2 yellow tail and one blue.  >>Oh, crap. Well, that'll do it! For future reference, it's now the accepted method to cycle fishless. Do search our site for "nitrogen cycle" and "cycling" to understand both how and why it works. Methods used are via food of some sort, raw shrimp, frozen, et al, placed into the tank and allowed to decompose - test for subsequent spikes first in ammonia, then nitrite. When those FALL, and nitrate comes up, you know you've established colonies of nitrifying bacteria.  >The domino didn't look well on the trip home and when we put them in the tank, he stayed near the bottom and didn't swim around much.  >>This doesn't sound too good. If it was a short trip, the shop should give you credit on this animal, as it clearly wasn't healthy to begin with.  >The other damsels appeared to be healthy and swam around and ate a few marine flakes.  >>Right, but maybe not for long, eh?  >Being fairly new to the hobby, we did not set up a quarantine tank but that is definitely on the next to do list before any more fish are added.  >>Ok, I'd like you to know it doesn't have to be an "aquarium". Rubbermaid makes great stackable containers that are about 30 gallons and perfect for "q/t on the fly". A filter and a heater and you are set to go!  >Anyway, we lost the domino the next morning, and that same day the lighter yellow tail what appeared to be a white mustache. No other spots but he seemed to not want to swim and stayed near the bottom of the tank and wasn't swimming very well. Well, he died the same night.  >>Too much too fast, my friend. The domino wasn't well, as I mentioned, but the next damsel likely succumbed to high ammonia/nitrite. All too common in this size system without water changes.  >When we removed him from the tank he was completely white.  >>Fish decompose VERY quickly once dead, as in FAST BAM!  >I looked up on your site to see what possibly was going on. I don't think it's ich, possibly velvet?  >>You would definitely be seeing other signs in my opinion, but their presence absolutely cannot be ruled out.  >I don't know though the domino had no lesions or white spots or any signs of disease other than his behavior. Could the yellow tail have had a fungus?  >>Much less likely, though I would be interested in seeing how that whole batch of fish is currently doing (what remains at the shop)!  >It came on quite rapidly. Anyway, while I was at home my boss said that the 4 stripe had also died. He had shown no other signs of disease, no white spots lesions etc, but had suddenly started staying near the bottom and hiding. He wasn't white either when he died. Now the other yellow tail is hiding and acting like the others did but is also scratching himself on the rock. I decided after reading about parasites/disease to try a fresh water bath for the remaining 2 damsels, and also performed a water change of 5 gal. didn't add any salt to the new water because I wanted the gravity/salinity to lower a bit, which it did to 1.024. Ph was also high before the water change @ 8.6 and nit. were <0.3 and ammonia was 1.5  >>Yeeouwch! That is a very high ammonia level, definitely high enough to kill quickly. High pH (and yours was borderline) makes its effects even worse. However, be VERY CAREFUL messing about with pH! I'd like you to search on acclimation procedures on our site, as well as the quarantine stuff.  >So I wanted those #'s to come down a bit. Anyway, I dipped each fish in a freshwater bath (same temp/ph as the tank water) for 5 minutes and then returned them to the tank.  >>Good job, but it's not going to be enough, as they've gone right back into the water with the high ammonia, yes?  >For a while they seemed to be doing better, but now they are hiding again and don't seem to want to come out. They aren't looking too good, and I don't know what else to do for them.  >>A very large water change - as in 40 gallons or more. Do NOT vacuum or mess around with the tank walls or anything. You *may* be able to boost nitrifier colonies with a product I am unfamiliar with personally, but hear great things about - Bio-Spira.  >The yellow tail doesn't swim much, just stays in the same spot sort of hovering. They don't appear to have any spots on them though. ????? any suggestions what might be going on with these fish and what we should do?  >>As above, and double check on the source of those fish, I am currently suspect as they *should* have all made it home.  >Thanks so much for your time, and have a great day! Sirina from California  >>You're very welcome, Sirina. Cover those bases, and you should be able to get this tank going well, although I cannot say how well the fish you currently have will do in the long run. Marina

Damsels in Distress Getting over it  >Thanks for your help Marina.  >>My pleasure, Sirina.  >We went to the pet store to purchase more salt for a large water change and looked for some Bio-Spira. We found it, but the people at the store said it's only made for freshwater =/ bummer.  >>Hm.. odd, our very own Steve Allen recommends it for salt, but of course we're talking two different sets of bacteria here. Maybe they only have it for fresh.  >So they suggested Cycle.  >>If it requires refrigeration, then it may be of help. The only product I've heard the good things about is the Bio-Spira.  >Anyway, we bought that stuff, and prepared some water, made it same temp, pH as the tank and performed the water change as you recommended. The pH is now 8.0-8.2 salinity/grav. 1.023 and amm. is 0.25.  >>Ok, that's still a bit high, so do watch it and have freshly made up water on hand (at temperature). At this point, try not to mess about with the pH too much, as this kills VERY quickly.  >We added 20 caps of Cycle.  >>Haven't looked at a bottle of this stuff in years, so I'm assuming this is per instructions.  >The fish are looking much better and are swimming around the tank again.  >>Ah! Excellent to hear!  >Thanks again for your help~! Sirina  >>Absolutely my pleasure, I'm very happy to read this. You may want to look into purchasing a small amount of "live rock" to put into the tank, as this also has the bacteria you want. Search our site for more information regarding live rock, it's good stuff. Marina

Look What the Damsel Dragged In! Damsels in Distress Follow up >Just thought I would drop a note to say that I did a little looking online and the people at the LFS store were wrong (big surprise lol) about Bio-Spira only being made for freshwater. >>I thought so, but not having worked in trade for some years, I know that my finger isn't exactly 'on the pulse' of the current state of technology. >I found a retailer online and ordered some right away (the saltwater version). So I'll let you all know how it works. >>Very good, we'd like to know, and more reports regarding efficacy help the knowledge base. >I've read some reviews and they are pretty impressive if true. Keeping my fingers crossed. By the way, at the LFS store where we bought the damsels, not many were left in the tank, and I don't think they were purchased all that fast. >>I do hope you let them know how quickly that one died.  >I think there was an unhealthy batch of them. >>Or, they were purchased from an unscrupulous collector. Many, MANY fish are lost because of collection procedures (just look up cyanide collection, you'll find that too significant a percentage of Indo-Pacific fishes are collected in this manner) and/or handling once collected. I see by your email that you're in the Sierra Nevada region, and the fish have made QUITE a trip to make it to your LFS. >The remaining ones didn't look too great and there was at least one dead in the tank that I saw. >>Does NO ONE know what dead run is anymore?? Argh. >Anyway, Thanks for the help so far. We have learned so much. Sirina >>Very welcome, and I'm happy to have helped you towards success. Marina

Damsels in Distress Getting over it Very Well  >Just a quick update on the damsels in distress, and Bio-Spira.  >>Excellent, lay it on us!  >We received the Marine Bio-Spira on Thursday, and I added it to the tank immediately. (readings at time were: ammonia was back up to 1.5 with nitrite lingering at .3 Ph 8.2 ) Monday day four after adding Bio-Spira readings are: ammonia 0. (used two different brands of test kits just to make sure), Nitrite .8, and nitrate 20ppm. Ph 8.2.  >>Wow, what a difference!  >Fish actually look brighter colored now and seem to swim about the tank more.  >>That is awesome, Sirina, I am so glad to read this.  >I think the Bio-Spira is really working from the looks of things. Hope this keeps up! Added some new carbon to the extra media filter holders in the Emperor 400 filter this morning after taking the readings. Sirina C.  >>Great, sounds like you are on your way to a happy, healthy, beautiful marine display. Marina

Dam-Clown? Two weeks ago I got a 20 gallon tank, with one small (3/4 inch) Yellow Tail Blue Damsel. She was doing well, eating and very active. Yesterday introduced one Clown (Ocellaris, 1 1/2 inch), there is no aggression between them, but the Damsel is not eating well and is not moving as much as before, she is hiding and only swims at bottom of the tank. In the other hand the clown is swimming actively, but only near the surface, and never goes down. Are they doing OK?, are they compatible?. <They are compatible, but if you have only had the tank two weeks you should not have introduced more livestock until the system cycled (takes about a month). For more information, see our FAQs, and read our 'intro to marine' articles> One more question, the ammonia level is never 0, it hasn't reached a bad level either but I only had one small fish on the tank, since I have two now, I am concern that it will increase. <It will, until bacteria multiply to sufficient numbers to reduce it to 0, then the nitrite will spike, then finally the nitrate. See above> I change 5% of the water twice a week <Ack don't change the water during a cycle! It removes nutrients thus interrupting bacterial multiplication>, and have a power filter <What type?>, no plants no live rock, but I can't get to lower the ammonia to 0, the other measures like, temperature, PH, salinity, nitrate, nitrite are perfect. Please answer, it is a new hobby and I don't want to lose my damsel and clown. Thanks. <Please read all you can about starting a new marine aquarium, and the cycling process of a new aquarium. If you have any other questions let me know - M. Maddox>

Is This Love or is it Confusion? Curing vs. Cycling  >Hi Crew,  >>Hello Matt.  >I'm totally confused about this rock curing and tank cycling business.  >>Ah, this explains why I found you here.  >I hope you can explain it to me and how they differ.  >>I'm your gal!  >I currently have about 135 lbs of live rock (Marshall and Kaelini) curing in a 70g Rubbermaid tank.  >>Hey.. I thought you said you were confused.  >After the rock has cured, I will be putting it into a new 90g tank. I'm trying to determine how frequent to make water changes. Mr. live rock himself, Walt Smith indicates http://www.waltsmith.com/media/pdfs/ROCK_curing.PDF  that you should NOT do any water changes until Ammonia and Nitrites tests both read zero.  >>Mm hmm.. this would be what one does when cycling, but if you're curing, and likely paid some good money (as opposed to bad?) for quality live rock, I'm sure that it would make sense to try to save as much of what came along with said rock as possible, yes? That being said, don't go letting it be killed by high ammonia and nitrite! Do those water changes, my friend. Copiously, frequently.  >On reefcentral, one vendor (expert?) recommended that if you are putting fresh rock in a new tank that you are trying to stimulate the cycle in, you would NOT do a water change during the cycle.  >>Well, I suppose that if your purpose adding the rock *were* to stimulate the cycle you would do that.. but.. there really are MUCH cheaper ways to stimulate the cycle excluding the live rock entirely (though it has starter cultures to begin with).  >Letting it go its course is supposed to help get your tank on a stable road in a shorter time.  >>Um.. a shorter time? I don't know about that, these creatures take as much time as they take, no matter the means. However, presence of live rock means that you already have beginner cultures of nitrifiers (and denitrifying bacteria deep within), which kind of by default means that once you have CURED live rock in situ you'll be shortening the process.  >Otherwise he recommends that you should do frequent water changes if the rock is being cured in a separate vessel.  >>I agree with that, but feel that should be the method used always. And always cure in a separate vessel anyway.  >Is cycling different from curing?  >>Quite!  >If you are getting uncured rock and you need to cure it why would it matter whether you put in the new tank or in a separate curing tank?  >>Stink, ease of performing water changes and other maintenance, avoiding divorce. Do this with "cured" rock anyway, because it all ships the same way, and will always experience loss of life.  >As I understand it the frequent water changes are to lessen the concentration of the ammonia and other noxious stuff in order to save as much life as possible on the rock.  >>You understand quite correctly.  >Why would this be any different in a new tank?  >>I have no idea, honestly, as I don't agree with that philosophy. I consider it wasteful.  >What do you recommend for water changes?  >>Not sure what you mean here. Freshly made up water, however much it takes to keep ammonia and nitrite to zero (may be 100% changes darn near daily).  >And what do recommend regarding lighting during the 3-4 week curing period?  >>Not necessary in my opinion.  >The Kaelini rock in particular is beautiful in its coralline coloration, oranges, pinks, reds. I understand that once cured a lot of this coloration is lost with shades of purple being the primary coloration remaining. Can't it be preserved by lighting during the curing period?  >>Well, you could certainly try, but lighting has a tendency to encourage nuisance growths more than anything, I say leave it till the curing process is done.  >Please help me understand!! Thanks Matt  >>Alright, it seems that you do understand that curing is the process by which you get the live rock (read: the stuff that makes it "live") through the shock/stress of shipping and subsequent die-off of organisms. Cleaning the rock itself is important, and smelly (wear gloves if you'll be having contact with other human beings, or if you have many dogs loose in your neighborhood). Water changes, and heavy skimming are equally important. Now, part of the picture that is not being explained to you is that the bacteria that oxidize nitrogenous wastes can be killed off by excess nitrogenous wastes (!). The rock comes with starter colonies, they're just not as "big" as you want them.  With me so far? The "proper" order of things, in my opinion, is to get the rock through the curing process keeping intact as much life as possible. THEN! And only then, do you address cycling. Cycling is establishing and culturing larger populations of nitrifying bacteria, and this is too easily done with a bit of fish food, raw shrimp, and the like, dropped into the system and allowed to decompose. Testing for peaks and drops lets you know where this process stands, with zero ammonia and nitrite, with a rise in nitrate being your indicator that you have (and this next bit is KEY) cultured as much bacteria as will exist with available food. You must keep it fed if there's to be much lag (say, a week or more) between growing the culture and addition of life that will help to feed said cultures. Make sense? So, to summarize - cure the rock by keeping the water as clean as possible and SAVE YOUR INVESTMENT. Cycle the SYSTEM by feeding it, test, and use test results to determine where you are in the cycle. Consider these bacteria as lemmings (only as many exist as available nutrients will support), and you've wrapped your mind around the whole process. Marina

Tank cycling Hello, <Michael here>  I am starting my fourth week cycling my new tank. I have a 29 gallon tank with 4 pounds of live rock and I started with 1 three stripe damsel and 2 yellowtail damsels. In the beginning of week three one of the yellowtail damsels died (the ph was way off). We have treated the water with a buffer and yesterday we cleaned the crushed coral and it kicked up some of the dust that did not get completely washed off. This morning the other two fish were dead. The water was tested and was fine. My first question is what might have killed the fish and my second question is can I/should I get some more damsels to replace the dead ones? <Likely the stress of the cycle, plus the incorrect pH, plus the swing in pH after adding the buffer killed off your damsels. I would fishless cycle the tank with ammonia and bio Spira if possible (more about that in our FAQs) or cycle with just live rock and some clean up crew. M. Maddox>

Welcome to the hobby! Change ups in System  >After your advice  >>Note: Kevin first answered this query. You've got Marina today.  >I decided to nix the Emperor power filter and use that money to buy a better protein skimmer ( the Remora Pro), and add maybe 45lbs of live rock to cycle.  >>Sounds like a plan. Although, I want you to know that there's a difference between cycling and curing. The live rock will have to be cured, depending on the amount of life held within it may go very quickly, or may take a few weeks. I, personally, prefer to start with completely "raw" or uncured live rock, the closer to point of origin the better. Why? Because, the amount of life kept is incredible! It's a stinky process, with LOTS of water changes, LOTS of protein skimming (because what you *don't* want is to allow the ammonia/nitrogenous peaks associated with cycling), but it's well worth the effort. Cycling is the process of establishing and culturing nitrifying bacteria. When going with live rock you can count on having starter colonies of nitrifiers, what you don't want to do is kill them, and what you *do* want to do prior to adding fish/bioload is culture larger colonies. This is best done post cure fishless (with a bit of raw shrimp), testing for peaks in ammonia, then nitrite, and when those get to zero levels you know you're cycled.  >Also I have decided to go with the live sand at about five inches deep, and change up my fish list:  3 Blue Chromis (Chromis cyaneus )  A pair of percula clownfish (Amphiprion percula) instead of the tomatoes  (Amphiprion frenatus) they are smaller and less aggressive right?  >>Yes, MUCH less aggressive.  >and a Royal Gramma (Gramma loreto)  and a Cherub Angel (Centropyge argi)  >>I like the C. argi, but note - they're among the more pugnacious characters of the genus. Establish this fish after the clowns and Gramma.  >Thanks again for all your help!!!  >>I think Kevin would say, "You're welcome, and glad I could help." I say, "This sure was easy!" Marina  -Nick

Question regarding Bob's book (Cycling a marine system w, sans fish) I have read "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist" now about 3 times through, always referring to it if setting up a new tank or at different stages with my reef setup.  I was curious, a lot of FAQ's on your site regarding using damsels to cycle a tank are told this is not a very conscientious thing to do, yet Bob's book advocates this practice.  I have told friends who are setting up tanks not to use live fish to cycle, and they have also pointed this out to me after buying the book.  Is this just a preference thing?  I loved the book, though, and encourage anyone else to buy it and enjoy. Richard <Is more a preference thing... presently there are more and better bacteria-based cycling products (e.g. Marineland's BioSpira) than when CMA was penned... and there is some concern that with damsels there may be disease introduction issues. My "crossover" point in advocating their use comes when the damsels are intended as permanent residents. Put another way, the scale of whether to use damsels or not is tilted in their favor when one intends to leave them in the tank. Thank you for writing, Bob Fenner> Where Did The (Ammonia) Cycle Go?  Can someone please respond to this?  <Sure! Scott F. here today>  It has now been 13 days and still no ammonia, nitrite or nitrate. I know the test kit is not bad because I added a drop of Windex to the ammonia test tube and it turned green. I recently setup my 90 gallon fish only tank with a wet/dry filter, protein skimmer and UV sterilizer. I filled the tank with tap water and treated it with Kent Ammonia Detox to remove the ammonia, chlorine and chloramine. The pH, temp and salinity all stabilized, and I added 8 damsels after a few days. They have been in the tank for 8 days now and my test kit registers 0 ammonia and 0 nitrites. All the fish are eating and show no effects of bad water quality. Some brown algae has started to form on the glass, which I have read is a good sign.  <Certainly a routine occurrence!>  I read that the Ammonia Detox "neutralizes" the ammonia but does not remove it. Does this mean that it also will not show up on my test kit?  <Possibly...>  Some things I have read say that these types of products actually cause your test kit to show falsely high readings.  <Yes- this does occur now and then. However, if it's been a while since you've added the product, it may not influence results at this point>  Will it be impossible to know the status of my cycling? What is going on in my tank? There MUST be some ammonia in the water after 8 days right? Thanks, Shawn  <Well, one would think. However, every tank seems to have it's own "cycling profile", and the times required for ammonia and nitrite to peak and return to zero are not set in stone. You might want to check nitrite, as the ammonia might very well have peaked at a rather low level, perhaps undetectable on your test kit. Unusual, but certainly a possibility. I'd continue checking ammonia and nitrite for the next week or so before considering the tank "cycled", just to be sure. Keep a close eye on things, hang in there- and be patient! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Cycling Problems 4/2/04 I just took my water readings. My PH is 8.0; Nitrite is still off the chart high; Ammonia is between .25ppm and .50ppm; Nitrate is 80ppm; water temp is 80 degrees; and the gravity is 1.004. -- Karen <Karen, I want you to write out the whole story of this tank from beginning to end & send it here to our new guy, Michael.  He says he is well versed in cycling knowledge.  I just can't figure it out.  Sorry. Any other puffer Qs I'll be happy to help you with.  ~PP>  

Cycling a New Tank Hello,<Howdy!> Love your site.   I have a question about cycling my new tank. My set-up 55 Gallon Glass tank Aqua C remora Pro HOT Millennium 3000 Filter 2 802 Powerheads   400 GPH 2 150W Titanium Heaters 150 lbs of Southdown sand DSB 5-6" 60 Lbs of Pre-cured Live rock From LFS I added the rock about a week ago and the tank does not seem to be cycling. The water tests as follows Ph  8.3     Alk    120 meg/l Ca     380     temp  78F SG      1.023     ammonia 0 Nitrite 0 Nitrate 0 Do I want an ammonia spike to allow the "good" bacteria to grow? And should I add 1 or 2 raw shrimp to the tank to get it to start the cycle? Or because the rock was pre-cured does the tank not have to cycle?<You may not have had enough die off to get much ammonia.  I'd just give it a couple weeks or so but I would not put in any of the raw shrimp as it is unnecessary.> Also on a side note.   The skimmer is not yet pulling any skimmate, Is this because there is nothing to skim?<Hmm, is it adjusted right?  I would put the collection cup ring at the top of the CC and see if you start getting anything.  I also may just take some time.  Cody> Thank you for your time Jason

Returning Healthy Fish To The Display Tank Scott F.,   Thank you so much for your invaluable advice and time you take to answer these questions. <You're very welcome> I was wondering.. is my display tank's bio filter going to be affected with the absence of fish?  I am concerned that after having the fish out of there for 6 weeks, when I put them back in it is going to be a shock to the system & overload the bio filter.  Maybe I'm worrying about nothing, but I just want to be prepared if this is the case. <Good question. Typically, if you continue some feeding of small quantities of frozen foods (which can help benefit the fauna remaining in the system and rock), you'll be able to keep the system running just fine during the absence of fish. If it makes you feel better, when you are ready to repatriate the fish, you can always use a "bacteria in a bottle" product to help "kick start" things.> Also, how do I acclimate the fish back to the display tank without getting any copper in there? <Well, if you are treating the fish in water from your display tank (which is the recommended procedure), then it's really a matter of just netting the fish and placing them back in the tank. If the water in the hospital tank is different than your display tank, you can gradually add water from your display tank to the hospital tank when you're ready to return the fish, so that they will be "pre-acclimated" to the tank water.> Thanks again for your answers, time & great website.  I stayed up until wee hours of the morning informing myself, and will continue to do so.  -  Roger <Glad to be of service! The WWM site is very addictive, and we love bringing it to you as much as you enjoy visiting it! Regards, Scott F.>

New saltwater tank cycling - 3/15/04 Hello again! First of all, thank you for all of your information it is very helpful. <Thank you for being part of it all> I am in the process of curing my live rock in my 55g display tank. <OK> I placed the rock in the tank on 3/4/04 and programmed my lights to come on for 8 hours a day to promote growth of anything still alive. <OK.> It is now 3/10/04 and my test readings are as follows( ph 8.2/ amm 8.0/ ntri 5.0/ ntra 10) According to my test kit( Aquarium Pharmaceuticals) my ammonia and nitrite are sky high. <Normal> My nitrate is two steps from being 0ppm. Should I be concerned with the water quality or is my water just spiking? <Just spiking> I did one 15% water change already, should I do another? <Many more to come. I would wait and do one every three days or so during the spike. Do understand though, for the bacteria to build up it may be necessary to hold off on doing too many water changes> I read as much as I can on your site and everyone talks about things taking life on their new rock. Should I be concerned that I don't see anything? <Not at all> Was also thinking of increasing light time. <Not necessary. I don't even cycle with lights on at all> I am currently running a Fluval 304, <Empty or with carbon? No need for sponges (lots of stuff gets trapped and becomes a nitrate trap) or the biological filtration either> and remora pro skimmer w/ mag3 pump. <Excellent choice, my friend> is this enough circulation, and oxygen for fish to survive, or should I add an additional water pump? <Only fish? I would add more flow. Should turnover tank volume 4-20 times> Should I be concerned that my tank remains at 80 degrees no matter how I try to bring it down? <Fine. No need to be concerned unless it gets above 82-84> Also, when can I add a cleaner crew to help out around the tank? <After the cycle. Remember that patience is the key. Keep reading through the many FAQs on live rock curing and the basic nitrification cycle for more information> Your information is always so helpful, thank you. <Thanks for waiting. ~Paul>

Cycle Time Hi,     Over the weekend I upgraded my saltwater tank from a 33 gallon to a 65 gallon. I started on Friday night by filling the new aquarium 2/3 with new water. Over the next 24 hrs I adjusted the temp and salinity until I got it where I needed it. Next I transferred most of the water from the 33 gallon, along with some of the old substrate and the 50Lbs of liverock and all the livestock into the new tank. I moved the filters over off the old tank and started them up on the new tank with the same inserts etc.. 24 hours later I tested the water and nitrites were at 0.1 with ammonia undetectable. I tested again 48 hours after the transfer and both nitrites and ammonia were undetectable. At this point is it safe for me to assume that I am out of the woods and have made the switch without destroying the established nitrogen cycle? <Hello, Ryan with you today.  Nope, you're not quite out of the woods yet.  I would certainly wait 2-4 weeks to be safe, and allow natural processes to run their course.  If you experience the same success two weeks from today, I'd say you're golden.  Cheers, Ryan> Thank you.

Summing it up - 3/3/04 Paul, Thanks for all your advice. I think I stocked the tank too fast. <Agreed> After I wrote to you I took a water sample in to my pet store and they checked my water and told me everything was in the ok zones and that the salinity was 1.022. <So no ammonia??> They told me I must have read the tests wrong (ammonia, nitrite and nitrate) <Hmmm> I returned the Skilter and got a regular protein skimmer and everything looks good and my fish look a lot happier. <Great to hear> Thanks. <No worries> I have read several books and can not figure out why my true clown attacks my false clown? <How about: aggressive tank mates fighting over territory? Very likely the issue here. They look enough alike.> And why my the smallest pajama cardinal it attacking the other two? <Setting the pecking order. Male trying to get a female to mate...possibly> But I am going to take some advice and slow down with the tank and let it cycle and then worry about stocking the tank with the other fish I would like to get. <Give it a few months> Thanks so much for helping and the sites for me to read. <Hope it helps ~Paul> Monica

New tank issues - 3/3/04 Paul, They said there was a small trace of ammonia but it was nothing to worry about. <Always worry about ammonia and nitrite. Keep an eye on water chemistry all times. If the tank is truly cycled, then there may be an issue with over feeding or failing filtration amongst other issues> And the false clown bit the dust I didn't get him out of the tank fast enough and the true clown has taken a chunk out of his side and his tail fin was completely gone. <Not a good idea except in the largest tank to mix fish with aggressive tendencies> If the fish a supposed to make there own territory why in the world are all of them at one end of the tank instead of scattered throughout the tank? <Stress. Ammonia is part of that stress. Work towards eradicating this issue. Otherwise you are well on your way. ~Paul> Cycling vs. Curing >Hi crew!!  How do you do?   >>Hello querior, I do well, thank you. >I am curious about something.  Please allow me to explain/ask.  I am about to set up a 75 gallon RR glass tank for frag grow out.  I traded 9 coral frags for it.  I have been in salt up to my elbows for about 18 years and have inquired of you more than a few times and you have been most helpful.  The problem is I haven't cycled anything for about 18 years except my 20 gallon QT but that was done with a Fluval 404 and water from my main tank so that was a no brainer.  I would like to cycle the 75 and am wondering if putting 85 lbs. of Kaelini live rock in would do the trick.   >>Whether cured or not, the live rock will most certainly harbor nitrifying bacteria.  What I believe you want to do, again, assuming the rock is already gone through the cure process, is culture larger numbers of nitrifiers, in which case I suggest cycling with a bit of raw shrimp.  Simply put it in a bit of pantyhose, drop it in their, let it rot, monitor your parameters, and you'll know when the cycle's finished when ammonia and nitrite hit zero. >I don't want to use water from my main tank as I have hair algae in there right now and don't want to risk the hair in the 75 right off the bat.   >>Indeed, plus, the water wouldn't harbor much in the way of those benthic nitrifiers.   >I will be using a Euro Reef ES5-2 that will be plumbed outside the tank as I have no sump.  I will also be using a calcium reactor to maintain Alk/calcium.  Lighting will be 2-4 110 watt VHOs as I already have ballasts and end caps for them.  Can I use the liverock or will all the "stuff" die that's already on it?   >>Again, there's a difference between curing and cycling.  If the rock is UNcured, perform the curing process with that outrageous skimmer you have (don't think you could have done better than the Euro-Reef), and LOTS of large water changes to keep ammonia and nitrite levels DOWN.  This will practically guarantee that you'll preserve the most life possible. >Should I mix the salt/water and bring the pH, Alk, calcium, etc.. levels up to par and let sit for 4-6 weeks and then add the live rock?   >>Well aged salt water is always a good thing, I don't think you need to let the water itself sit that long.  A few days would be quite suitable I think.   >I don't really know what will bring the ammonia, nitrite, nitrate spikes about but would like some guidance.  Do I use damsels or green Chromis to cycle the tank before the live rock?   >>No no, folks don't cycle with fish anymore.  Use the shrimp. >Would prefer to use the green Chromis of the two.  I would like to get the live rock ordered and just use that to cycle the tank if possible.   >>Again, cycling and curing are two very different things.  Cycling is culturing two species of "nitrifying" bacteria, one oxidizes ammonia into nitrite, the other oxidizes nitrite into nitrate.  Curing is simply the process of getting as much life in situ with the live rock THROUGH the die-off of that which does not survive shipping.  Want more life?  Prevent the high ammonia and nitrite with outrageous skimming and humongous water changes.   Cure the rock as I told you (keep those two levels DOWN, or you will experience a great deal of die-off), THEN cycle as outlined.  You'll see, in this order: Peak in ammonia; peak in nitrite; drop in ammonia with rise in nitrate and/or rise in nitrite; ammonia drops to zero; nitrite begins to drop as nitrate rises; then zero ammonia and nitrite; concurrent peak in nitrate. >If not possible I will follow your recommendations as to how to proceed.  Thanks a million, Jeff >>Quite welcome, Jeff.  Do as outlined above, search our site as well as general Google for cycling (if my explanation didn't cover all questions).  In the meantime, get that water mixed and l/r ordered.  Cure the l/r, THEN worry about cycling for the grow out.  Though, honestly, I don't think you'll actually *need* to worry about fully cycling for a frag grow out, assuming all frags are healthy there should be little in terms of bioload demands placed on the system that the live rock, once fully cured, can't handle.  Marina Filter Media & Bacteria Hey: <Hey Yourself.  Ryan with you> Will changing my filter effect the status of my tank cycling and cause a spike?? <yes, but the bacteria re-bound very quickly in a well-established tank.> I thought this might occur since replacing the filter could remove beneficial bacteria, or is it in the sand. <Not sure what sort of aquarium you keep...Nonetheless, in any aquarium setup, beneficial bacteria inhabit both the filtration media and the substrate.  The removal of your biological media is considered a routine maintenance issue, and will not induce a re-cycling period if well established.> I have some replacement cartridges, but should I wait until my skimmer starts overflowing before I change it. <In a skimmer?  What kind of media is this?  If it's a bio-bale type media, you shouldn't need to change it at all, just rinse infrequently to keep water flow nice and brisk.> I just want to make sure if I change it that I won't get rid of all my beneficial bacteria... <Will re-establish populations quickly enough from other sources.  If you're truly worried, you can seed new filter media for a few days in your sump.> Thanks <Surely! I suggest you log these routine procedures on your calendar in an effort to be regular- It will help in the long run.  Good luck! Ryan> Roger

- New Tank Cycled? - Hello All, I am a new saltwater tank owner and I have a question. (surprise)  I searched your archives and couldn't find a question similar to mine although I'm sure mine is a fairly common situation. I started with a 20 gallon (which I regret) with live rock and live sand.  I have a wheel filter on the tank that is rated for 35 gallons.  No protein skimmer or powerhead.  Fish guy said not necessary. ?? <Don't agree with this.> I started this tank about two weeks ago and I waited one week to put in the damsels.  My fish store told me to use them for the cycle.  I now understand I didn't have to do that.  Anyway, I have been checking my levels regularly and my pH is stable at @8.2 but I have observed no readings on the ammonia, nitrate or nitrite.  (Specific grav has stayed at 1.023.  I am using a kit called FasTest Master Kit (from the makers of Instant Ocean) My live rock seems to be thriving and I have one regular starfish and two or three brittles that emerged on about day 3.  Also have a small feather duster that popped out etc etc.  Have also noticed other tiny critters that are yet to be identified (too small) My question is could my tank already be stable? <Yes - most likely the live rock and sand were in good shape and cycled the tank.> Shouldn't I have seen some ammonia, nitrate etc? <Perhaps you weren't testing on the day that it was present.> I didn't test while the fish were not in the tank. <There you go then.> My ignorance. For this starter tank, all I want to add are a couple of clowns and some inverts (maybe some soft corral...)  Could it be ready? <Yes, but don't go crazy - don't add anything more than one 'item' a month.> I don't want to rush it but if it is ready I'll start adding livestock. Thanks for your site and for taking the time to read my question. Keith <Cheers, J -- >

Prolonged Nitrite Cycle? Hi, <Hi there! Scott F. with you today!> I have a 90 gallon tank. An Emperor 400 bio-wheel filter and a Fluval 404 canister filter. A 165 gph power head  for aeration. 220 watt power compact lighting (I leave on for 10 hours a day). A 400 watt heater. And crushed coral for substrate I have setup this tank in early December with help from my LFS. I used 9 damsels to cycle my tank. Everything seemed to be going well. By early January my ammonia levels were at 0ppm and my nitrites were high (2-5ppm hard to tell with my test kit) nitrates 0 ppm. My damsels at this time were very active and eating well.  Shortly after I had a good amount of green algae in my tank and thought it was a good sign that my cycle may be complete. When I tested again my ammonia was 0 ppm, nitrite 2-5 ppm, and nitrates 40ppm. I brought a sample of water to the LFS and the confirmed my readings and said my tank was still cycling and the nitrites must be on there way down.  They did not recommend me to do a water change. <I agree I would wait until the nitrite readings are undetectable before executing a water change> So I waited. In early February I lost 3 fish (heavy breathing, possible white spots). Once again, I brought a water sample to the LFS and I still had the high nitrites (they measured it at 4ppm) no ammonia and my nitrates were 40ppm. They said the cause of death of the fish was stress due to the high nitrites and I should not worry about treating the tank for parasites. <Well, I'd tend to agree...Unless you see signs of a parasitic illness, there is no need to treat for such a malady> This morning I lost another 3 damsels.  I noticed that they lost most of their color and their gills were red.  The other fish are sluggish and color is fading.  I did a 25% water change today.  My readings were 0 ammonia, 2-5ppm nitrites ( I need a more accurate kit) and nitrates between still at 40ppm. I have not read another article pertaining to my current problem. It seams to me with all the articles I read that my nitrites should be dropping (almost 2 months since its peak) especially that I have a considerable amount of nitrates (the tank did start out with no nitrates so I am ruling out my tap water).  My water temp is consistently 78?, SG 1.021. Any help will be appreciated. Thanks, Jeff <Well, Jeff- hard for me to be 100% certain what is causing this cycle to take so long to complete. Lingering nitrite levels are a sign of an immature biological "filter". Sounds like something is interrupting the maturation of the system. Are you doing anything which could be killing the beneficial bacteria in the system? Any medications, household chemicals, etc? The symptoms you describe sound like poisoning of some sort- either metabolite (i.e.; chronic ammonia/nitrite) or a toxin, such as a chemical of some sort. Do re-visit your husbandry techniques, equipment function, etc. There is a logical answer for this anomaly. Do some more digging and you will find it! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Tank failure, quick cycle needed Good morning guys, well have had my 55 up and running with great success {due in large to great advice from you}. Then it happened. I noticed that my top cover on my acrylic was separating went to the LFS and bought a 100 gal Sea clear tank and live rock and sand. I set this tank up to get it cycled with a 404 2 powerheads and  a CPR dual Bak Pak. That was about a week and a half ago. then just when you thought it could get no worse, I went to visit some family when I got the call that the 55 had a massive failure and emptied on the floor.  My mother in law put all the sand she could get out of the tank as well as the live rock and put it in the new tank. Now here is the scary part. I had a lemon peel, long fin banner and tomato clown as well as my clean up crew that she put in the tank as well. What should I do? ammonia is going down ( almost 0} nitrites are at  1 and coming down as the nitrates are starting to show activity. what do you think. I put another 404 on the tank and the CPR is pulling brownish foam the fish seem ok ( but I'm not swimming in the water so I'm not a good judge.) any advise will be greatly appreciated. <I'm sorry to hear about all of this. Unfortunately, there's not very much that you can do (unless you plan on transferring all of your livestock to your pet store to hold). I would recommend doing 25% water changes every 3-5 days which will help with some of the elevating levels of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. You may also want to add an airstone to the aquarium which will aid in adding oxygen to the aquarium. Overall, water changes will help the most in this situation. Make sure to monitor all of your livestock closely and make sure none of them show any signs of stress. Good luck! Graham.>

New Tank- Old Water? Hi Crew, <Hey there! Scott F. your Crew member tonight!> We are in the process of setting up a new 210 gal. saltwater.  We currently have a 75 gal.  The local manager of the marine supply suggested that I do a water change (I do this bi-weekly) of the 75 gal. keeping the water each time to use in the new tank and add new mixed saltwater to make up the difference.  The reason is to eliminate the regular cycle time of completely new water, live sand (crushed coral) and live rock. <Not a bad thought at all...It won't eliminate the cycle, but it will certainly reduce the time required...> I have approx. 140-150 lbs. of live rock in the 75 which will also be using and the live sand (crushed coral) from the 75 and adding new live sand as well. I will be adding additional live rock.  Is this a reasonable thing to do?   <If the other tank was healthy, this is certainly a good idea!> My husband and I were planning on doing it just as a completely new setup from start to finish the same way we did when we first set up the 75. We want to do it right again, our 75 has been a very healthy tank, and want to keep things that way. You have been very helpful several times in the past and we really appreciate it.  Looking forward to hearing your advice once again on an especially big project for us. Regards, Ceil Swagman <Sounds like your new tank will be off to a great start! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Cycling question Dear Mr. Fenner, <Renee> I have your book, The Conscientious Marine Aquarist, and have found it really helpful in setting up my first saltwater tank and planning its future inhabitants. I do, however, have a question about cycling my new (2 week old) tank... <Okay> I purchased my live rock from a local fish store; it came out of their display tanks. I did not scrub it off, and I have noticed very little die-off. I have been testing my water parameters about every other day, and have noticed no real ammonia spike. Here are some of my readings: January 26 (day 3) - Ammonia: .5-1.0 ppm / Nitrites: 0 ppm / Nitrates: 5 ppm January 30 (one week) - Ammonia: .25 ppm / Nitrites: 0 ppm / Nitrates: 40 ppm February 6 (two weeks) - Ammonia: .25 ppm / Nitrites: 0 ppm / Nitrates: 10 ppm So... does .5-1.0 ppm of ammonia constitute an ammonia spike? Why won't this last .25 of ammonia go away? And why were there never any nitrites? <Yes to the spike, the last bit of ammonia will go... likely in a week or two... and the other nitrifiers are likely present in sufficient numbers/metabolism to process nitrite to nitrate> Also, I have found several Aiptasia on my live rock, and would prefer to stay away from chemical methods of removing them. I have a tiny blue-legged hermit crab (he came with the rock) but he is too little to eat them. Would it be safe to get a peppermint shrimp yet, or would it cause an ammonia spike and kill the shrimp and/or hermit crab? <Do wait till the ammonia is at zero, undetectable... and enjoy the process> Your advice is sincerely appreciated, Renee Snyder <Thank you for writing, sharing. Bob Fenner>

Cycle questions - 2/4/04 Well thanks you certainly have answered most of my questions. <well, most of your questions have been answered before, my friend> The reason I had the tank set up for so long before introducing live rock was purely financial. <Oh, I understand> As for my Eheim canister, I should take everything out but the carbon is what you're saying? <Unless you are going to keep frequent maintenance on it. Otherwise, yes, that is what I am saying> Should I also remove the filter packs in the penguin 330 and just use carbon in the baskets? <I would use the 330 as a my mechanical and carbon filter for sure> I have 45 lbs of live rock and probably will add more later, but I don't want to start the cycle over by adding it now, so I'm sure I don't have enough natural biological filtration....or do I with the sand bed? <You are fine for now, but I would go ahead and add more now before you add animals. It is easier to set up before the inhabitants enter the tank, trust me. No hurries, no worries> I did purchase a new test kit as you recommended. I picked up the Red Sea Marine Lab kit and my results are as follows: Ammonia = .2ppm <not good> Nitrate = 50ppm <High> Nitrite = 1ppm <not good at all> pH = 8.5 <a tad high> Alkalinity = High <huh?> Specific Gravity = 1.022 <Shoot for 1.025 35ppm> They are pretty much similar to the test strip readings I was getting but I can see how they can be far less accurate. These readings are still pretty normal though for the 10 day mark? <Absolutely. Please read the links I sent to you in the previous email> If not what would you recommend as far as filtration to keep things healthy in my tank. <I think you have plenty. Here is a bit of advice though.....very valuable.......ready for it?.........patience. Simple as that> I will be harboring inverts as well as a few fish but the inverts are the priority. <then here is a second piece of advice.....more patience> Thanks again for your help <Keep on keepin on ~Paul> A. Edwin Jeffords, Jr. 

System Under Siege?  Hello  <Hi there! Scott F. with you today!>  I've been flippin' through TCMA like crazy and I thought I would just ask the question to you guys.  <Sure>  Well, I started up my 55g again bout a year after moving.  Had 50 pounds of what used to be LR then I ordered a 45lb.  box from the Drs. It was pretty decent rock. I had the major die off then the tank cycled super fast. I skimmed a little while cycling. After checking water specs everyday finally all systems go. It took maybe 2 1/2 weeks to cycle. Couple days after I added a coral beauty (lots of green algae survived the rock and tank glass or wouldn't have gotten him). He was great- loving the 4-5 inch sandbed and all the rock work. Oh, I also run the Prizm skimmer and it works pretty good in IMO, but it's the only one I've had, so I'm no expert. But I took out the clogged filters (activated carbon) to replace when I realized I was out, so I left one in and replaced with filter floss. Problems began. The water is cloudy- looks like smoke rolling around.  <yuck!>  I do a water change 1 week. My CB has the beginning signs of stress and maybe I'm paranoid, but I thought I spotted a little ich on his fins, and I can't seem to keep the ammonia away around 10ppm.  <Yikes! HAS this tank fully cycled? Detectable ammonia in any system at any stage is indicative of either an immature biofilter, or serious problems in the husbandry department! You must get a handle on what's causing the ammonia immediately!>  SIGH. He eats all day long from the rocks and the glass and he eats all that I feed him.  <Well, at least he's eating at 10ppm ammonia!>  So you see the bottom of my tank looks like it is being taken over by black worms. I siphon his waste out as much as I can get, but that is a lot of rock and I can't get behind it. Anyway, I thought that amount of rock and skimmer would be enough filtration. So what is the problem, and how can I fix it? Hope you can sort through my panicked scribblings and help me.  thx Mike  <Well, Mike, it sounds like there is something seriously wrong with the biological filtration in this tank! Ammonia will be undetectable in a system in which the tank has fully cycled, and will generally not manifest itself unless some major disruption has occurred. My advice is to utilize aggressive chemical filtration (activated carbon/Poly Filter), work the skimmer hard, and possibly utilize one of the commercially-available "bacteria in a bottle" products to help "kick start" things again. This is a very serious situation, and you need to get a handle on things right away. Keep testing the water as you go. You may also need to modify your system a bit, providing more circulation (fish waste should never accumulate like you're describing), and serious review of your husbandry habits (like feeding, etc.). React quickly, don't panic- but mind the basics, and all should work out! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

New reefer with bad advice - 2/3/04 I set up my 55 gal. aquarium about a month ago, and used all of the advice from my LFS. <Could be good and could be bad> Here's the specs: 2-3" live sand w/ plenum <Plenum not really necessary but won't harm the animals> Appx. 35 lbs. live rock (cured when purchased) 2 large powerheads Heater Penguin 300 filter w/ Biowheels and bio balls in baskets <Bio balls are not likely necessary either. See here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bioballfaqs.htm> Remora pro AquaC skimmer JBJ retrofit lighting w/ 50/50 lighting, (4) 65w bulbs     I cycled my tank with 4 Damsels (advice from the LFS). <Not a good idea in my opinion> After finding your site and buying a couple books (Bob Fenner's Conscientious Marine Aquarist and The New Marine Aquarium) I have learned that this is not only the best way to cycle my tank, but it is cruel to the fish. <Exactly>  After just 2 weeks (and before I found your site and bought my books), I told my LFS my Ammonia was at .50 and my nitrates and nitrites were one color bar above 0 according to my tester.  The LFS told me the tank was close enough to cycled and sold me a finger leather coral, a feather duster, a green star polyp (? I think this is the name, the base is purple with green "grass" coming out of it) and a false percula. <Oh yeah. Sounds typical of bad LFS advice.>     Well not surprisingly, the coral opened up for about the first 3 days, and hasn't since. <Finger leather will likely recover give it time.>  The "grass" only came out of the polyp once. <A typically very hardy coral. Also give it time to adjust, my friend.>  The feather duster still opens, believe it or not.  The percula doesn't eat well, and the damsels were starting to pick on it. <Oh yeah. That many damsels and a clown fish is what I like to refer to as "hate soup".> So then I decided to educate myself and stop listening so much to the LFS. This was one of those situations where I just took it for granted that they knew what they were talking about, but when the tank started going haywire, I bought the books and found your site. <Very good>  The LFS will not take back any of the corals or fish except for the damsels, which I did. <Excellent>  I fear I am torturing and killing the remaining creatures when this could have been avoided. <Yes indeed, but all is not lost. You are making things right.> I have nowhere to put my pets that is safe! Is there anything I can do at this point? <Frequent water changes using good salt mixed RO/DI water. I'd say at least 10% every few days for a little while.>   I have done a 15% water change weekly, but it is not helping. <More frequent water changes might be a bit more ideal. Keep the animals from being exposed to ammonia and nitrite over a prolonged period of time> I look back now and think "how could I have been so stupid?"! <Just think of as inexperienced to the hobby. You are learning quite quickly, if you ask me. You are on your way. So, don't touch the corals (move them around) Keep the water changes coming, test the water frequently and feed lightly. All will turn around in time. Keep reading and continue to look into various sites for info as well as possibly becoming a member at a local reef club. Invaluable in my experience!!! ~Paul> (Enter well deserved lecture here.) - Richard Liverock during cycling - 2/1/04 Hi crew. <Buenos dias?> I'm the guy from Honduras. <Si> Question: Can live rock be placed in the tank right away when starting to cycle a new tank or should one wait till the tank has cycled, like with fish? <Depends to some degree. I say it should be put in the tank during cycle regardless of whether it is established live rock or not. Lights on or off is up to you. Keep the temp around 78 and one should do water changes every three to four days or so. Please don't use fish to help cycle your tank and be patient. Read this great little article (more specifically Myth 15): http://www.reefkeeping.com/issues/2004-01/eb/index.htm> Thank You, Bernd <Thank you for being a part of it all ~Pablo>

Adding fish while cycling - 1/29/04 Hello, <Hey>            I just found your site and it is just wonderful. It is nice to know there is a place I can go for any questions I might have. <Comforting indeed.> I just set up my tank about 2 weeks ago,( I'm a newbie at this)<welcome to the hobby> and things seem to be just fine. <great to hear> it's a 55 gallon tank, w/ LR. <no better way to start> All water conditions seem to be fine. <Seem??> The man at the store sold me 5 blue damsels and 3 dominos to start my tank up. <I don't ever condone the use of fish to cycle a tank. It's a poor excuse for impatience and a ploy for most fish stores to sell you just one more thing.>  They have been in their new home for over 48 hours and all are doing fine and eating well. <Likely will be fine, but still doesn't make it right.> My question is, when would I be able to add a pair of clowns? <depends but it safe to say maybe three weeks to a month. Some will say it is safe to add now but I like to wait for everything seen and unseen to level off. Be sure to buy captive bred clowns. Support the effort and the ocean!>and the 8 damsels I have in the tank now, are there too many? <Depending on the damsels in question changes my answer. Some of the Chrysiptera damsels do fine in small aggregations in large tanks. The dominoes are no goes, though. They will likely only grow in their aggression. I think this is too many damsels for 55 gallon tank to answer your question. ( I think 8 might be over kill, <I agree> but the man that sold them to me said no) <of course he did!> is there too many or not? <I think so. Maybe take out the three dominoes?? ~Paulo> Any help with this would be wonderful. Thank you. Tinydove

Smell my Finger?  No.. Smell my Tank! >Hi, I'm got a big problem, and I'm hoping you can help. I've asked everyone else in my city, and gotten so many different answers. >>I'll give it my best, Susan. >After years of running a 30 gallon long marine aquarium with an undergravel filter, power head, Fluval canister, protein skimmer, I decided to buy a 36 gallon corner aquarium for a certain spot in my living room. >>Ok. >I transferred all my existing items into the new tank, including the existing crushed coral substrate and some of the water from the old tank, as well as about 20 gallons of freshly mixed Instant Ocean. The ammonia/nitrite spiked a bit the first day then dropped. >>Ok, this indicates that there was loss of nitrifying bacteria. >The nitrate then spiked really high. >>Alright, this would indicate the end result of this spike.  Unless you have a good amount of live rock or other means of denitrification, this is to be expected.  Your foam fractionation helps by pulling organics that would otherwise decompose, but right now you're trying to find a balance. >Within two days of the change, however, the aquarium has become really, really cloudy and smells like eggs. >>Ok, Susan, there are two "egg smells", and one of them is rotten eggs.  If THIS is the smell you smell, you released anaerobic pockets with the move is my guess.  At this point, LARGE (as in complete, 100%, total, ENTIRE) water change(s) are necessary.  I would be surprised if anything that requires oxygen for its life processes has survived this. >I've never seen anything like this.  Four days after setting up the aquarium, all of the nitrite, ammonia, nitrate levels are within safe ranges, but the cloudiness and smell remains. >>The cloudiness (could we call it milkiness?) is free-floating bacteria.  They've clearly got plenty of nutrients to use (thus the "safe range" readings), or they wouldn't be there.  We really like to know a few things, though, specific to water tests; those are test kit brand, tests performed, and specific readings.  If the kit is a year old or more, then I would suspect veracity of readings.  If it is a cheap kit, then again, I suspect veracity.  If it has been stored in humid, or non-temperature controlled environs, again, suspect veracity.  If you smell rotten eggs, I would suspect you have anaerobic conditions.  You don't mention maintenance regimen, nor whether or not you've changed/cleaned the media in the canister.  Begin a regimen, but do not change out everything at once.  Do a complete water change, then wait a week.  Then clean part of the canister, wait.   >Also I had only two damsel fish, two star fish and a hermit crab in the tank, and everything has since died except the hermit crab. >>Ah, a shame.. I didn't think much would survive. >I've asked every fish store in town, and gotten a variety of different answers. One guy told me to just leave it alone and it would eventually clear itself, but that's driving me crazy. >>That smell cannot be ignored as a sign.  What he's thinking of is "new tank syndrome", not at ALL uncommon in situations as yours, but it never demonstrates the stink.  Without the smell, I would agree with him. >I can't stand to look at it, and it breaks my heart to kill fish. >>Indeed. >What can I do? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Susan >>As above.  Now, specific instructions regarding substrate, at this point, do NOT vacuum it when you do the w/c.  I would remove the crab to a bucket or some such with fresh water (matched for temperature, pH - pH is VERY important - and salinity).  Then get to work on the tank.  I'll suggest SeaChem tests, they're here in the U.S. and most tests have good availability.  Make sure the skimmer is working properly (I would think you'd know whether or not it is since you've had it all this time).  Then, once you get the situation squared away, begin a fishless cycle.  This is done with a small bit of raw shrimp or similar seafood, placed in a bit of old pantyhose and left to decompose.  Test as usual, watching for the progression of spikes and drops, and once you're at zero ammonia and nitrite, you're cycled and ready for fish.  Marina

Smell my Finger?  No.. Smell my Tank! Follow-up > Thank you soooo much for your response. >>You're welcome, Susan. >Since I couldn't stand to look at it that way, I decided to take the whole tank down and start over, do a thorough cleaning and replace the undergravel filter with live sand and live rock, etc. I will let you know what happens. >>Please do, I hope this does the trick.  Marina

- Lights During Cycling - I searched quite a bit and couldn't find an answer to this question; Is it necessary to have the lights on a marine tank with wet/dry filtration being cycled with BioZyme vs. sacrificial fish? <Not essential, but would perhaps have them on for a little while for the fish.> IE... Why waste bulb hrs. and electric $? <Understood... perhaps if there is good daylight in the room, that would be enough to keep the fish from over stressing. Cheers, J -- >

Question re: Query 1/19/04 Just have a brief question  concerning an answer I read on today's question re CYCLE.  The response was that cycle contains no bacteria in it.  The bottle clearly states that the product releases a multitude of beneficial bacteria and can be used repeatedly.  Thank you.  Jim/ Long Island <Took a quick look... can you tell me who was responding? I don't see the item right off. Thank you... and do agree w/ your input re this Hagen product. Bob Fenner>

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