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FAQs on Establishing Nutrient/Biological Cycling in Marine Systems 8

Related FAQs: Establishing Cycling 1, Establishing Cycling 2, Establishing Cycling 3, Establishing Cycling 4, Establishing Cycling 5, Establishing Cycling 6, Marine Cycling 7, 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

Why We Cycle Fishless - 03/09/2006 Hello, <Hi there Nicole.> I started a 15 gallon saltwater tank about a week ago and put in two damsels yesterday to help cycle the tank. <But why? They/you don't need this.> Both of the fish looked perfectly healthy yesterday and were swimming and eating... now tonight one of them looks like its about to die. <And probably will. Another unfortunate end to a beautiful animal.> It is swimming at the top of the aquarium and looks to be breathing really hard/fast. <Choking on its own waste.> It wont eat and is swimming strangely, also it has brown spots on it. The other damsel seems to be just fine. <Stronger...until?> What is wrong and will this affect the other fish? <Your tank is cycling. Many harsh realities that these fish are demonstrating. There is a chain of establishment that should be followed before ever adding livestock...as you have now witnessed. You need to read up on the establishment of biofiltration here. Very simple and you don't need fish for it.> Thank you! <Nanu Nanu. Whoops! I mean you're welcome (I just love that show).> Nicole A. Norins University of Colorado at Boulder <Josh, missing his friend Mork from Ork.> Cycle complete 3/7/06 Hey all, thanks for the great website.  I'm just beginning this and have found the site and the book by Mr Fenner of immense help.  I'm hoping you might be able to spare some time answering a couple of questions. First the set-up and stats: 55 gallon tank Fluval 404 About 2" of live sand AquaC Remora Pro with Mag Drive 3, 350 gph Maxijet 900 Powerhead Maxijet 1200 Powerhead 70 lbs. Fiji Live Rock Two heaters Lighting that came with the new tank. Stats are: Ammonia, Nitrites 0 Nitrates about 20 Temp 79 Ph 8.2-8.4 I'm doing 10% water changes every week.  My change water is kept at 80 degrees and is continuously circulated in a 25 gallon plastic tub with a Mag Drive 3. <<All sounds good!>> The tank has been set up this way for four weeks now.  I've been testing every 2-3 days.  At one point I had an ammonia reading of .25.  But never any nitrites and never any spike above that.  Is this tank cycled? <<Sounds like it is.  This is a very common cycling experience with the way rock is currently supplied (nearly sandblasted!).  "Harsher" cycles were the norm when rock came with more stuff on it.>> I want to add a pair of tank bred false percula clownfish, and a royal Gramma and possibly a damsel or so.  My plan was to start with the clowns.  Should I be looking to add cleaner crews, snails, and a detritivore kit first and then wait a few weeks for the clowns, or just add the clowns first?  Am I ready to add anything yet?  It looks like my next big investment will have to be the RO/DI unit. Any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks for your time. Ken <<You can add your first fish and cleaning crew now and at the same time.  Beware of online vendor's cleaning crew recommendations!!  They are generally way too big.  A few snails (no more than four Turbos or Trochus OR 8-10 Astreas or a mix), a sea cucumber and one or two serpent stars is plenty.  Your fish choices are OK, but beware that many damsels can become holy terrors.  Good luck! AdamC.>>

The Nitrogen Cascade - 2/28/2006 I am sending this only because I thought it was instructive. <Okay> In a marine tank the nitrogen cycle has to be established in a rather nutrient sparse environment, just enough to keep things going without overwhelming a closed system like an aquarium, or the entire thing turns in to an algae sludge pond, and the residual nitrites can cause fish suffocation. An example of this problem can be seen outside the small scale of an aquarium. On a global scale the nitrogen cycle that had been established unchanged since the beginning of life, has now turned in to a nitrogen cascade with the addition of fossil fuels <... don't contain Nitrogen> and fertilizers into the equation over the last 100 years. Here is an excerpt from the 21 January 2006 edition of New Scientist Magazine I thought would be of some interest, as well as instructive. It gives a clear example of why some tanks don't work, and it's not just about the fish. "With excess nitrogen there is a clear link with human health. For example excess nitrates from farm run offs get caught in the drinking water, and this has been linked to methaemaglobinaemia, or blue baby syndrome, in which the nitrates are converted to nitrites in the body disrupting the ability of the blood to carry oxygen, causing headaches, fatigue, diarrhea and in extreme cases loss of consciousness. The syndrome has become a major problem in parts of the US and the Netherlands, which has the highest levels of nitrogen deposits in the world. Excess nitrogen compounds are also bad for the ecosystem. Livestock farms discharge considerable quantities of nitrates and ammonia into rivers, lakes and seas and wreck havoc with biodiversity, and commercial fisheries. The Gulf of Mexico is the worst example where nitrates from the Mississippi river create a "dead zone," one of 146 world wide, causing a bloom of plankton and algae. When these organisms die, bacteria that feed on them go into overdrive, using up all the available oxygen and suffocating anything that can not escape into the sea. Last years dead zone covered 15,000 square kilometers." All the Best... Mike Lomb <Thank you for sending this along. Will post. Bob Fenner> Nitrifying Bacteria, FW not SW not FW  2/23/06 Hello Friends at WWM! <Hi Scott! My name is Tim -- I will be answering your question today.> I have an emergency, so I don't have time to browse through the archives.  I'm just going to hope it's not somewhere really obvious!  I am setting up a marine quarantine system <Excellent!>, that I at this very second have fish bagged/boxed waiting to go into.  The quarantine system that I bought came from a local freshwater breeder who is moving and came with established sponge filters.  I need to know if the bacteria that is in those sponges will live in saltwater and provide me with filtration - or if they're going to die off and wipe out my new system <The bacteria are unfortunately not the same - your quarantine tank will cycle when converted to saltwater. My suggestion is to clean the filters thoroughly with water as you suggest below, although new filters would undoubtedly be the preferred option if possible! Afterwards keep a close eye on the ammonia and nitrite levels in your QT and be prepared to make frequent water changes to keep these as low as possible. Note that you can help the cycling process by using water from your display tank in the QT as this will contain beneficial bacteria. Otherwise the addition of a biological starter such as Stress Zyme will encourage the cycle>.  I was hoping I could just rinse them out with RODI water and be ready to roll.  Could I be that lucky? <Sorry.> Preemptive thanks! Scott Ammonia spike from live rock rearrangement?   2/14/06 Dear WWM Crew, <Jill> I am most grateful for your web site. I am very new (2.5 months) at maintaining a saltwater tank. I have been able to find answers to almost all of my questions on your site along with  Robert Fenner's book and have not had any major problems  until now. <Let's see if we can help you fix...> My 55 gallon hex tank was set up on Dec. 6th. with live rock, live sand,  and 4 striped damsels. I have a trickle filter with sump/bioballs. underneath.  The tank cycled by mid January.  My current stock is 5 Chromis, 2 clowns, one brittle star, one red serpent star, one coral banded shrimp and a dozen hermit crabs, (I returned the damsels to LFS as they were very aggressive). All of my "numbers" until today have been good.  S. G. 1.024, ammonia, nitrates zero, pH 8.0 - 8.23. Tank temperature maintained at 79 degrees. 4 days ago, I rearranged my live rock, during the process, I shook the rock so the crabs would fall off. A huge amount of debris from the rocks clouded the water. I am embarrassed to say I had not turned off the pump while doing this. I turned off the pump and did my usual weekly 10% water change.  Water cleared fairly well and things seemed ok. The next morning  the return water jets were very slow. I cleaned the filter on the pump, it was full of debris. It solved the problem: water return was fine. Yesterday I did another !0% water change.   <Good> This morning I had a small increase in ammonia, not quite to 0.5.  Went to LFS  and asked my contact there, who has seemed fairly knowledgeable,  if the debris would have "damaged" the good bacteria on the bioballs. <Assuredly yes> He said no, that the debris wouldn't hurt anything, and  sold me Kent ammonia Detox. <I would not use this> By the time I returned home in one hour,  the ammonia was in the danger zone on the test strip. I added the ammonia Detox slowly per instructions on the bottle, to the sump until the strip showed a bare trace. My question:  would the debris and resultant clogging of the water jets have upset the balance and the tank is recycling? <Yes... a lack of flow, oxygen, the release of organics...> I am not sure what to do next and would greatly appreciate any advice. Fish seem fine, active, and eating well. <Just "keep on keeping on" really... these sorts of issues, problems are "self-regulating" for the most part. Happily you have good discipline in setting up, stocking, maintaining... All will be fine> Thank  you very much for taking the time to read this lengthy email. Again, I think your site is one of the best I have seen and appreciate your efforts. Sincerely, Jill Phillips <Certainly welcome. Bob Fenner>  

Cycling/Algae   2/14/06 Good Afternoon, I am a little confused on my cycling process.  I have a 75 gallon saltwater tank that I set up a little over 3 weeks ago with 95 lbs of live rock, 80 lb dry sand and 40 lb of live sand.  I have yet to see an ammonia spike, however I did get a small increase to .50 ppm after about 4 days. My nitrites have remained at 0 and for the last few days I have a nitrate reading of 10-20ppm.  From what I have read and was told at my LFS, I should have a definite jump in the ammonia reading. <Mmm, not always, no> Am I just being to impatient or is it possible the LR cut down on the symptoms of cycling? <Aquarists impatient? Is this possible? Are you breathing? Yes... Heeee! Yes to your speculation, for sure> If ok, I now plan to do a 50% water change and introduce several snails and a few red legged hermits, I also have 2 yellow tail blue damsels in my established 30 gallon tank that I would like to move over. <I would do so> After this initial introduction, how long should I wait until adding other livestock? <A week or more> Ultimately, I want a mixed reef/fish tank. Sorry for so many questions, I do have one more for now.  I have attached a couple of pictures of what I assume is algae that I have not been able to identify on WetWebFotos or any other source. Please advise to what this is and how I should control it, as there is a good amount that is starting to sprout up. Thank you for your wonderful website, Eric. <Can't make out from the small pix, but is almost assuredly a Green/Chlorophyte... and no trouble. Will cycle out and be eaten... Useful. Bob Fenner>

Adding dry sand ... cycling... marine, fresh?  1/30/06 Good afternoon! <And to you.> If I added dry sand and seeded it with some live sand from my other tank, how long would I have to wait before adding fish? <What other filtration means are you using...live rock, sump etc.  James (Salty Dog)>

Re: Adding dry sand   1/30/06 An Emperor 400 power filter and 45 pounds of LR. It's a 46 gallon tank. <I'd feel comfortable adding the fish now.  Wouldn't add more than two right now, give the system time to adjust.  James (Salty Dog)>

Cycling Process/Quarantine - 01/21/06 ... not reading... suffering for it Dear Eric, <<Hello Akila>> I have done everything to start the aquarium again from scratch.  I have some questions I need your view on. <<Ok...shoot.>> After the cycling process should the first 2 or 3 fish you add to the aquarium be quarantine before adding? <<ALL the fish should go through quarantine my friend.>> If so, how do you do this easily? <<???...I think we've been here before...do please do some reading here:   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/quaranti.htm >> Many articles say that when there is a healthy community in the tank the new fish should be quarantine but is there any importance in quarantining the first fish to the tank as there is no animal present in the aquarium and so no one will be harmed? <<Not true...adding an infected/infested fish to the new tank will ensure all subsequent fish also become afflicted.>> What is the easiest way to do the quarantine procedure? <<Please read at the link I have provided my friend...>> Is freshwater dipping a quarantine method that is easy and quicker to use? <<Dipping is not quarantine...but rather an adjunct to quarantine...useful for treating parasitic infections/or used as a prophylactic treatment re.>> When you establish a quarantine tank, do you use the water from the main tank or do you add new water? <<Can be a mixture of both for the benefit of adding nitrifying bacteria...unless your display tank is already infested of course.>> Also when there is a disease in the main tank what water do you use for the hospital/quarantine tank. <<Make new water.>> Like for example when you have white spot disease in the main tank do you use the same water in the hospital tank? <<Think about this Akila......no, you would not add infested water to the quarantine tank.  Please read up on quarantine procedures on our site...much good info to absorb my friend.  EricR>> Appreciate your response Thanks Best regards Akila Tank Cycling/Livestock Additions - 01/20/06 Hi Crew, <<Hi Tanya>> Just thought I'd ask your opinion on my new 29g soon-to-be reef tank. <<Okey dokey>> It used to be a saltwater FO, but I returned the fish to the store and replaced the substrate with ~35lbs of CaribSea aragonite - is there an easy way to vacuum this without siphoning it out?   <<Mmm, if this is "sugar-fine" aragonite, and you have good flow, you shouldn't need to vacuum the substrate. I then added ~45lbs of "cured" premium Fiji LR from Live Aquaria.   I let it sit in the tank for a week with my Bak-Pak 2 skimmer, heater, small power filter (for mechanical filtration and to house carbon), <<Clean filter pads/change carbon weekly please.>> and powerhead.  Do I need another powerhead or is the one enough (Maxi-Jet 400)? <<I would add more flow...aim for a minimum of 10x the tank's volume.  Add two (or three) more of the MJ 400s and arrange them to produce a random, turbulent flow.>> I know the rock is "alive" since I'm getting a cup of skimmate a day, <<Yes...and likely not fully "cured" when you received it.>> but I can't wait to actually see some life on it. <<Excited anticipation indeed!>> Readings are as follows: temp: 78F, SG 1.025, pH 8.2, ammonia 0, nitrite 0, nitrate 25ppm.  The scarlet leg hermit and few snails (Nerite, Cerith, and Nassarius) I had left over from my FO tank have survived so far, so water changes must have kept ammonia levels low enough.  Or they are just super hardy? <<Likely a result of the water changes/partially cured rock.>> Anyhow, I'm thinking of turning the lights on starting tomorrow - 1 65W 10,000K PC and 1 65W 50/50 and then waiting another week to make sure readings stay low. <<Sounds fine>> Is the next step to add a cleanup crew i.e.. shrimp and another hermit? <<Can do, yes.>> Is it preferred to add corals or fish first? <<Actually, if you have the patience/foresight, let the tank go without either for the next six months and watch/see what develops on the live rock (though even the presence of shrimp/crabs/snails means some life on the rock will be preyed upon)...your tank will be all the better for it in the end.  If you just can't wait, my vote would be to add the corals/inverts, then the fish.>> I'm hoping to eventually have 2 false Perculas, 1 midas blenny, and 1 orchid Dottyback plus various corals.  Also, (warning, dumb question here) when storing water "in the dark", is a dark colored sealed plastic container enough, or does this literally need to be in a closet?  I live in La Jolla and get water from Scripps on occasion. <<Just a dark-colored and covered container is fine.>> Thanks in advance, and also for all the information I've found on your website (and of course from TCMA)! Tanya <<You're welcome.  EricR>> Damsel Starting Cycle, And Not Happy About It - 01/15/2006 First off I wanted to thank everyone at WWM for contributing to such an awesome resource for the hobby. <We're all happy/thankful to be here.> There is no way I would have attempted a saltwater tank without your site. <Hmm...Damsels for cycle regardless?> My question is about the behavior of my two yellow-tail blue damsels. I put one in my 3 week old 20 gallon tank to start cycling it about 2 weeks ago. A few days later I added a second. <And now they're not on "speaking terms" with you, huh?> I know that this breed of damsel can be aggressive towards its own kind, but they haven't had any problems with each other aside from an occasional running-off of the smaller one by the larger. <Can get worse here unless they both have suitable cover.> After about a week of having both of them in the tank I noticed the larger damsel began making a habit of spending all his time in a hole in the live rock. If he wasn't there, he was digging around and under the rock. <Not feeling well/happy.> The smaller damsel did not follow his behavior, but rather swam about his territory as usual. I've noticed that the smaller damsel is much more vibrant from being in the light unlike the larger who is a very dark blue as he only comes out of his hole to feed it seems. <Not missing a tan, but suffering from poor environmental conditions.> Is this an extremely abnormal behavior? <Not during cycling.> <<Or crowding... RMF>> Or should I just wait out until he adjusts to his surroundings? <I would adjust his surroundings to his needs. A 50% water change and some Bio-Spira should help. Perhaps Amquel.> Also, I've noticed the smaller damsel is now spending more of his time digging as well. Is this behavior a result of the changing water parameters or simply just something that bored damsels do? <I'd say looking for food.> One last question: What type of cleaning crew would you recommend for a 20 gallon fish only tank? As of now I have 8 Trochus snails and plan to add at least 12 more buy the end of next week. <Be careful not to starve them. Could add a couple of cleaner shrimp to the 8 snails (when all cycling is done). What would you recommend in addition? Thanks for all your help! Joel Flowers <Concentrate on improving the water quality and all should get back to normal. - Josh> Waiting For The Tank To Cycle!   1/13/06 Hi! <Hi there! Scott F. here today!> I love your website and these FAQ's have been a real help so far but I have a question that I can't seem to find an answer to and was wondering if you might be able to help? <That's why we're here!> I am cycling a new 90 gal tank... It has about half live rock and half Tufa.  Carib Sea aragonite for sand.  It has been up and running for 7 days.  Temp is at 78, SG is 1.025 and ph is at 8.2.  I used Seachem's pH marine buffer to raise it from 7.9. On the first full day the tank was up and running, I added Bacter Vital to start the cycle.  I was told this is one of the better ones to use and I had followed the directions. <Good. always follow directions with any additive> My question is this... On day one my ammonia was 0.25, nitrite and nitrate were at 0.  Then on day three my ammonia and nitrite was 0 but my nitrate was 5.0. The last four days the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate are all reading 0. Did I miss something?  I am waiting for my Nitrate to go up but it hasn't moved.  I talked to an employee of the aquatic store I deal with and she said that I should be able to add some Chromis-which is what I would like to start with in about a week.  Is this a good idea yet? <Every tank cycles at a different rate. If you added a "bacteria in a bottle" product, you really need to add something to feed the bacteria. I'd throw some frozen food into the tank to break down and provide a source. I personally do not cycle tanks with fishes- I prefer to "feed" the tank to get the cycle going. This might be why you have yet to see a meaningful ammonia or nitrite reading in the tank...Nothing is really going on yet. Keep feeding and give it some time. Test every two or three days.> You will have to forgive me as I am very new at this...but after everything I have read, I was under the assumption that my ammonia would rise, then nitrite, and then they would fall as my nitrate raises. <Yes- but you need a source of ammonia, hence my recommendation to use some frozen food, and the store employee's recommendation to try some fish.> Also, I have been keeping a close eye on my sand and live rock for changes. It appears as though the red coralline is more prominent and much of my live rock has turned almost a yellow/orange color. <Nice to hear. You will notice changes in the flora and fauna in your tank over time; it's constantly changing and fascinating to watch.> What's my tank doing????? Has it cycled and I missed it or is it taking its time? Thanks so much! Theresa <Well, Theresa, it's hard to say, but I'd hazard a guess that it hasn't really cycled yet. If you stay at it, and provide an ammonia source, you'll see ammonia and nitrite rise and peak in a relatively short time. be patient! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.> Re: Cycling A New Tank   1/17/06 Thanks so much Scott! <You're very welcome!> I will try adding the frozen food to see if that will get it going.  One quick question though, if I do that, should I also turn off the skimmer until the tank has cycled? Cheers, Theresa <Good thought about the skimmer, Theresa- but I'd leave it on. I've always done this and never had any problems! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.> LS and white sand mix 01-11-06 Hi WWM, <AngeloM3> Just about to start the cycling for my 55gal tank.  I have 40lbs of LS and 20lbs of white sand, with about 30lbs of dead LR going in for the cycling. After its done the cycle I will add about 20lbs of Cured LR.   <Do not wait for the cycle to end to add your live rock or your will start another cycle.> I do plan on getting 2 Lawnmower Blennies and various inverts (plus about 4 fish and 1 anemone). Couple of questions about cycling and the sand layers........... Since I'll have the blennies and inverts that will be sifting the sand, how should I layer the sand?  White sand on the bottom with LS on top? Or visa versa?   <It doesn't matter as it will not stay in layers.> Also a grate was included with my tank that covers the entire bottom of my tank (but is removable) what is this for and do I need it?   <Get rid of it. It will hinder your deep sandbed critter from doing their job.> During the cycling period.... how often and what percentage of water should I be changing? <<Depends on measured water quality... RMF>> <None. Good luck and make sure to use this cycling time to research your future animals. Travis> Thanks for your help -AngeloM3 Re: Poor Husbandry'¦. but not a Poor Aquarist, learning and improving  1/8/06 Adam, <Hi again Jen!> Thanks for your reply and I didn't intend to upset you that much! <You didn't, that was more for effect than my true emotion, just wanted to make sure 'the point' got across. No worries.> I spent a lot of time reading your site the day I sent my note and am now getting up to speed on quarantine, fresh water dips, etc. <That's good to hear.> I have always had a protein skimmer, power head and had recently added a UV sterilizer (didn't mention all the equip previously). <No worries, glad to hear you do in fact utilize a skimmer.> Previous to WetWebMedia, I had read in several books and had it confirmed at my LFS that new setups should be cycled with a fish, <Yes unfortunately many LFS' still recommend this, and some outdated books, alas not to be redundant this method is'¦outdated.> and possibly a few if the tank was larger than 30 gallon. <No much more efficient easier methods to cycle a tank than livestock, see them in the link of that last email I sent yah.> 4 years ago when I got into a marine tank, I cycled a 30 gallon with one yellow tang on the advice of my LFS (juvenile tang) and again when I moved the livestock to the 70 gallon. <Now cycling a tank with livestock is not good but when I see it, it's with damsels, as sensitive and disease prone as tangs are I can't imagine why they would recommend that other than for a larger profit margin.> The LFS also informed me of an acclimation cycle but neither them nor the books I've read ever suggested quarantine first... <You're reading the wrong books.> makes sense in retrospect but please understand I have read quite a bit prior and was given different information. <I understand.> I didn't know to check for a different method as for 3 cycles now the tangs have been without issue. <Have to say I'm quite surprised at that.> I do leave the tank with live rock only for 15 days, then as long as the nitrogen, ammonia cycle hasn't happened/is finished, add the token cycle fish. <You don't need the fish, the live rock is fine on it's own.> Now I hear different so I'll do different next time. <Cool.> (Again, I'm the last one who'd want to hurt the fish but since I'd heard this method from several sources and it appeared to work, I hadn't even thought to change it). I was back at the LFS today and talked to their 'marine expert'. I asked him if they fresh water dipped the marine fish when they got a shipment in (understand in Canada, there is limited access to marine fish providers and the LFS I do go to is the best option available). <Thank goodness for the net, eh?> He said they didn't. That the fish were stressed enough when they came in and didn't want to chance the dip. He said in his experience the FW dip only removed flukes and wouldn't do much for ich. <This is true, FW dip will not do much for embedded cysts.> I gave him the rundown and he confirmed it was likely the clown tang may have had the ich and suggested quarantine. He did echo your sentiments of better diet and quarantine as opposed to medicines in the water, etc. <That's encouraging.> He did mention an antibiotic you can add to the frozen food should you see ich and have a quarantined fish.. What do you think about this? <I would prefer to know the exact brand/antibiotic dose before commenting on that. Though in general I utilize a nutritional supplement called Selcon.> I will certainly do more reading going forward. <Awesome.> Thank you for your help. <Anytime, don't be shy on writing in if you need clarification.> I'll set up a quarantine tank, and leave the tank in a fallow state with daily water changes for the next month and a half. <Great.> As mentioned, I've had a number of those fish for almost 4 years without incident so I'm shocked and saddened by this all, a number of those fish were long time pals. <It never gets easy.> However, the good news is I know better for next time. Thank you. <You are welcome and thank you for the response, good luck with your future acquisitions. > Jen <Adam Jackson.>

Confused About Cycling, So Are The Fish - 01/04/2006 I would like to know how high the ammonia and nitrite will go during cycling before it starts to drop. <Will likely appear "off the charts" for most tests, but there's not a real definite number. What you'll see is a constant high and then quick drop.> I began cycling with 5 damsels in a 55 gallon tank. <Was this an advised method!? We are huge proponents of the fishless cycle here! You've just walked into the cannibals den and asked "What's for dinner?". Seriously though, please return these fish before they are forced to die miserably. You don't need them for this.> When ammonia levels rose to 1.0 they didn't last very long. <According to you or the fish!? This is a process in which, one feeds the other, feeds the other. Fluctuations in concentration are normal at the start.> Then I inserted 2 raw shrimp in the tank. How long should I keep the shrimp in there before I take them out? <See, this would have been a more fair place to start. You can remove now if you like (along with the fish). Once things are started, they will work themselves out.> I began cycling on 12/13/05 and today the test results are. Ammonia 2.0 ppm, ph 8.2, nitrite 0.50, nitrate 10 <Needs more time. This can take an average of 4-6 weeks, but that's not set in stone. These conditions will be detrimental to your damsels. If they don't die, you may just finish cycling to treat disease. I would return them or if you can't maybe the store will baby-sit for you while your cycle completes.> Thanks for you help..................Lou. <You're welcome, hope it's cleared some stuff up . - Josh> Cycling A SW Tank With Dead "Live Rock" - 01/04/2006 Hey Hey, <Hello Angelo.> First off, your site is the BEST on the web for saltwater help and tips! <Thanks for the kind words.> I'm new to saltwater tanks. I bought a whole setup from a friend, 55gal, rock, lights, heater, protein skimmer, 2-powerheads and sump. <1-2 more powerheads will be a good future purchase.> Thing is that the "live rock" had been sitting in a big bucket for about a year in his basement so it's safe to say it is now dead.  Now I've read that you can cycle a tank with just rock (no sand, no inverts, no fish etc.) without any light (because using light would grow unwanted algae). <In this situation you're rock won't import the bacteria to jump start the cycle so I would fill (substrate, rock, Etc.) and run the tank. The cycle will happen regardless so just give it time. Can toss in some food to start things or if your friends tank is in good shape (matured, disease/medication free) perhaps he will allow you a scoop of sand (or a few gallons of "used" from his next water change perhaps). > Is this true, that I can cycle a tank with just rock? <Can cycle a tank with just water.> I've been told to rinse, rinse and rinse the rock because it's been sitting out for a long time and scrap off anything that looked biological on the outside of the rock. <I wouldn't bother. This stuff can get you started also.> Now once my tank gets a stable temp of 78, stable SG of 1.020-1.025 <You realize this fluctuation can't be considered stable, right?> and stable pH of 8.1-8.4, <Nor can this one.> can I add the dead "live rock" to start the cycle process? <Yep, and you don't even have to torture any fish. Good stuff!> Will the dead rock give off enough ammonia to start the cycle? <If it does in fact have old life crusted on, it should.> And at the end of the cycle, what should the Nitrate level be? <What you're looking for is when the ammonia and nitrite become zero (after they've peaked).> Please help. <Hope I have.> Any other tips or advice you feel like sharing would be greatly appreciated <Just the above.> Angelo <Josh.> Yeah I know... instant SW cycling  01-03-05 I got my wife a 75 gallon aquarium for Christmas (I'm new to this stuff). <Great present.> Read about the cycling process and stuff on the net. <Good start.> I purchased the recommended amount of reef sand that said no waiting, only have about 25 lbs of live rock so far put in a couple damsels to help the cycling along, put in a yellow tang and a purple lobster( free with the setup). <Wow, you should immediately find a new fish store as that is the most irresponsible thing I have heard a local fish store sell and suggest in a long time. You would be wise to immediately return the fish and the invert. There is no such thing as an "instant" cycle and fish should never suffer through the ammonia spikes involved with a cycle.> Problem is I read somewhere I could start putting in the cleaners like crabs, and shrimp, snails, etc after only 1 week, ordered them along with a couple starfish, I can handle losing some of the others <That is a very poor way to look at the life of your pets. Sure they are less attractive and cost less than a starfish, but you ripped them from the ocean and should do your best to care for them.> but really don't want to lose anything especially the star fish, well the stuff that said no waiting is causing me concern cause the livestock will be here tomorrow and my tank is still cycling, I do water quality tests daily while its getting started and I'm getting fluctuations, <That is a cycle fighting to happen.> all my toxins are right now at the highest I've seen them and not sure if they won't keep rising. <They will, until they peak and the cycle happens. Expect 4-6 weeks.> I now realize patients would have been the smartest thing <You are correct.> but I'm down to do whatever to make it through this successfully any help would be great, have a separate tank with low levels but its only 10 gallons of just saltwater, never cycled either just a water change tank with heater and simple filter. I have about 75, 1 per gallon, critters coming. <You should never force that large of a bioload in an established tank, let alone an uncycled tank.> My parameters are as follows, ammonia (1 ppm), NO2 (.75 ppm), NO3 (5-10 ppm), ALK (2.7milli eq/liter), and a pH of 7.8(wish it was higher but don't want to raise toxic ammonia), 1.023 Sal, with a temp of 77. Understand if ya laugh at me but please help. Have BioZyme, StressZyme, StressCoat, AmQuel. Trying not to use it cause I don't want to screw up anything. Have added portions of each within instruction reason. <You are in a situation that too many individuals find themselves in. Your best bet is to find a friend or to hold your items until your tank is ready. Even better call the company that is shipping them and have them hold your order. As you already know your tank is going through a cycle and that will kill your new pets. You will want to get all parameters up to par before adding anything to your tank. Ammonia, Nitrates and Nitrites need to be ZERO. Your pH needs to be between 8.3-8.4 with as little fluctuation as possible. If you are using a quality salt your water parameters should level off well once the salinity is correct. Your salinity needs to be 1.025-1.026. Your temp should be between 78 and 80 degrees with no fluctuation. Again, you need to take your time and let your tank stabilize. Only failure happens quickly in this hobby. Use the next 6 weeks while your tank cycles to read up on the proper care for a reef aquarium and it's inhabitants. Travis> Biological Filtration - 12/29/05 Hello, <<Howdy>> I have been reading your great site for a short while in my pursuit of converting my freshwater tank to saltwater.  I have been reading so much that I think I have confused myself.  My question is in regards to biological filtration and wet/dry filters. <<Okey Dokey>> I have a 90g tank and intend to start out with fish only. <<Cool!>> I want to eventually go with some live rock but right now my inexperience and budget are telling me to go slow.  Would it be possible to get a deep live sand bed going instead of using a wet/dry with bioballs? <<Not recommended here in my opinion.  The DSB would be fine, but you still need the wet/dry (or a fluidized bed filter) for this tank.>> Can the sand bed take me through all the steps through and after ammonia, nitrite and nitrate removal. <<Not solely on its own...specially in a FO tank that is likely to be overstocked with messy feeders.>> If so how deep or is there a good mix between live sand and wet/dry filters. <<Both would be fine.  A DSB of 4-6 inches is my preference.>> I guess I need some hand holding right now because I want to make the right move from the start. <<No worries mate...but do spend some more time researching/reading our site.>> I also intend to add a protein skimmer <<Highly recommended>> and a canister filter for mechanical filtration and circulation. <<Do service this weekly.>> Thanks in advance, Craig <<Regards, EricR>> Re: New Tank Setup (Substrate/Filtration) - 01/01/06 Oh, I forgot to mention I also have an Emperor 400 Bio-Wheel filter, will this provide enough extra Bio-Filtration? Thanks <<Is possible...time will tell.  EricR>>

Marine Nitrogen Cycle Process   12/28/05 Hello, Crew! <Hi Brent.> A few more questions for you about cycling an aquarium. <Sure.> I've had my 46 gallon aquarium set up since November 15, 2005. <Cool, new tank.>   About a week and a half ago, the ammonia level had reached zero, but the nitrites are still fairly high.  How long does it usually take to get the nitrites down to zero after your ammonia reaches zero? <Maybe another week or two, really 'depends' on the die off and level of nitrifying bacteria in your tank. For more on this read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm .> Also, is it ok to do partial water changes at this time, or wait until the tank finishes cycling? <Small changes are okay if you want to preserve (worried about) any 'neat' life on your live rock, though if you haven't added any inverts. Yet it's not really necessary at this time.> How about running the protein skimmer at this time? <Yes go ahead and start running it, it needs a break in time.> I'm using a Fluval 304 with pre-filter in the 1st chamber, 3 chambers of carbon, followed by 2 chambers of bio-media.  Any help or advice would be appreciated. <Be sure to clean the canister out weekly, they are notorious nutrient traps'¦and if you have live rock I prefer not use plastic bio-media.> Thanks, guys and gals! <No problem.> Brent <Adam J.>

Tank cycled   12/28/05 Hi guys. I just did a Nitrite test and it amazingly it showed 0 mg/l. It is hard to believe because I have only started the tank a little over week ago. Could this be true? <Yes> My only answer would be the dilution/pollution theory. The tank is a 175 gal. with a 5" sugar size aragonite (sand was put in at the same time) with 185lbs of live rocks. Sump is  60 gal. with a Remora  and a Berlin skimmers that have been producing copiously. I have an upstream 40 gal. refugium (bare bottom) with a day old addition of Chaeto <With cheese that goes crunch? Oh, likely Chaeto> run with a reverse daylight regime. The other refugium, 50gal. (downstream) houses 4-5" of coarser reef floor aragonite and live rocks. This will harbor pods and other cryptic life that will grow. <Sounds good> Since I don't want to rush into things, I want to play the patience game, <A good one> like 3-6 months before adding any corals. I would like the pods in all the tanks to flourish to give the coral and fish a head start. I was wondering when I should start seeing  pods multiplying? <Look closely... they're there> At this time I am not seeing any or maybe the are too small for the naked eye. Are there any in my tanks or they just all died in the transport and transfer? <Some are undoubtedly there... will multiply as your system changes, matures> Should I add a culture of them from IPSF? <Could if you wanted to> Can I add an invertebrate Algae pack and detritivore kits at this time. <Yes> How much do I need. While I wait for things to sprout out of the live rocks do I need to feed all the tanks in any way? <Some folks advise this... I for one> Also I've been using filter socks in the sump while cycling and I was wondering if I still need them. <I would continue to use these...> Without them I think it will give detritivores something to munch on. <Plenty there otherwise, nonetheless. Bob Fenner> No Sugar Coating on this one: Just Plain'ole Poor Husbandry  12/24/05 <Adam J's disclaimer: Reader Discretion advised.> Hello <Hi'¦..> I recently moved so to prep for moving my 70 gallon tank, I moved the regal blue tang, Lopez tang, clown and 4 stripe damsel, carpet anemone, corals, to a smaller tank. <Okay... I moved the 70 gallon, and reset it up with a new wet/dry filter (old one wasn't powerful enough and water quality was suffering), a uv filter and new aragonite sand. <No protein skimmer for such a HEAVY stocking load.> I dipped all the live rock before the transfer. <Dipped in what?> I cycled the tank with 3 small yellow tangs and everything went well. <Huh?! Please tell me you're kidding... no seriously'¦.I have to know where you got such a horrendous idea. It's just wrong on so many levels I don't even know how to say it in a constructive manor: 1.) NEVER start a nitrogen cycle with live animals, cruel and unnecessary 2.) Tangs are quite sensitive to water quality, and during the cycle, that's about as bad as water quality can get. So even if cycling with live animals was a good idea (which it isn't) I would not do it with tangs. 3.) Quarantine all livestock before introduction into display'¦tangs especially are notorious for brining Cryptocaryon into a system. 4.) This tank is too small for 1 adult tang of any species let alone 3 to start. 5.) I doubt three tangs would get along in a 70-gallon tank'¦and that's IF they survive the ammonia, and that's a big IF. '¦..Yet you seem to think everything went well'¦.I apologize, this is the first time I have seen something like this, I'm normally quite calm. My friend please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm In particular please read the paragraph titled: About Damsels & Torturing Other Wildlife.> About 45 days later, chem permitted, I moved everyone in. <So now we have added a H. Paracanthurus (Regal Tang) and another tang to a 70 gallon tank and other fish and invertebrates as well to an already inappropriately, overstocked tank.> Everyone got along well <Really?> and the improved water quality had my anemone and corals flourishing. A week later, I brought home a clown tang (love those guys!) <'¦This tang is one of the hardest to keep, not to mention one of the largest and meanest surgeons out there. This specimen alone needs a 180 gallon tank (minimum) and that's with no other tangs in the tank.> and a starfish from the LFS. Everyone was doing well but 4 days after, my blue tang (who has HLLE but have had him for 3+ years and never had any other issues) had white and black ich. <Honestly'¦'¦I'm not surprised at all.> I didn't have a quarantine tank prepped and didn't know to dip (would have dipped and then quarantined him in retrospect, correct? what treatment?) <In retrospect most of these animals should not have been in your care to begin with, Quarantine should occur before addition to the display. Please read here: http://www.reefkeeping.com/issues/2004-10/sp/feature/index.php .> but I did add MelaFix to the water. <Generally speaking; never treat the display tank.> Next day the Lopez and the clown tang had white ich, the following day everyone was doing better and the clown tang had no visible ich at all. <Oh no it was there, simply in a different lifecycle, read here: http://www.reefkeeping.com/issues/2003-08/sp/index.php .> This morning, all tangs were dead (6! Argh!) but my perc.clown and damsel are fine and the corals, anemone and starfish all seem to be fine. <Your clowns and damsels are still afflicted with Cryptocaryon.> So my question is...what now? <Time to move the remaining fish to quarantine, see the above articles for more detail.> It's a new tank and everything appeared to be fine, could it be the clown tang from the LFS introduced the ich/parasite? <Or any one of the other unquarantined animals in there as well.> Is it likely just the ich or something else I should look into? is there anything I can do to treat the tank or do I have to empty/start again? <LOTS of LARGE water changes and a protein skimmer to start with.  Time to slow down, gain some patience and begin reading and researching proper methods and responsible aquarium keeping. Start here www.wetwebmedia.com .> concerned obviously for the remaining fish and want to neutralize the problem. I was shocked about the yellow tangs who'd never had any visible ich whatsoever so I'm uncertain as to that being the cause. <In such a small tank there was likely a domino affect, first off if one fish had crypt/ich they all did, its as simple as that. Since this tank was overstocked and new I'm sure the nutrients were/are quite high, one fish dies, then the ammonia spikes and causes another to die and so on.> Please advise, and thanks (so sad to lose those guys after the 3+ years when they seemed so happy initially in the new tank!) <See the above and research and read vigorously'¦..I need some aspirin'¦..Adam J.> Tank Cycling/Equipment - 12/23/05 Hi crew, <<Hello>>   I just want to reaffirm the info I've taken in from your web site. <<ok>> I have a saltwater tank that is currently in the "cycling" process.  From what I gather it is okay to turn on the skimmer (even though it is oversized for the tank, I have a habit of over filtrating my tanks, I don't a down fall in it except the money  factor) during the cycling process? <<More than "okay", I highly recommend it.>> What about the UV sterilizer? <<Mmm...a maintenance nightmare at the best of times...I would hold off on these until you begin stocking.>> Water changes, I'm not to do any until the nitrates peak and then some what fall or should I start water changes as soon as I have nitrates (pending everything else is 0)? <<I would wait until EVERYTHING reads zero, perform a large water change, wait a day, and retest all.>> Lastly, on my wet/dry sump there is a water line.  Is this max or min water line (I had the tank set up years ago and can't really  remember)? <<Hmm, don't really know...likely it is the "optimum" water level.>> The reason for asking is because when I filled my tank and sump, the sump was at the water line but the tank wasn't completely  full.  I added water to the tank and the sump filled up to about 4" above the line, thus about a quarter of my bio balls were  submerged. <<Not what the filter manufacturer intended, probably.>> I figured this wasn't the best thing, so I evened things the best I could. <<Do make sure that when the pump is off you have enough "empty" space to handle the transient water volume from the tank.>> I know the pump is large enough but would it help to add a valve under the over flow box for better control? <<Can do...though I don't recommend it.  To easy to catch an errant snail/bit of debris and become clogged/flood.  Better to adjust the height of the overflow if possible.>> Hopefully all that makes some sense! <<It did.>>   I appreciate all your time and help.  Great website!!! Thanks, Scott <<Regards, EricR>> Marine: Tank Upgrade  12/17/05 Hi, thanks in advance for your time! <Hi Chris, and no problem.>     I have what's left of a 46 gallon reef tank, set up for a year, that is filled with 50 pounds of live rock, and 50 pounds of live sand.  Everything died when we lost power for 12 days. <Oh, I'm sorry to hear that.> Now all I have left is the live rock, sand, water, and algae.  My question relates to the fact that I purchased a 110 gallon tank that is going to be a predator tank, and If I put the rock, sand, and water into the new tank, could it be considered cycled but with about a 60 % water change. <Still likely to go through a small nitrogen (mini) cycle from the moving of the sand bed and disturbing of the rock.  Since you have no livestock I see no reason to rush the process, especially since the items are coming from a traumatized system. I would wait at least a few weeks before adding any critters, make sure the system has stabilized. Be sure to test the water during this time.> I will be adding a new wet dry with Aqua-C EV 180 protein skimmer. <Good product.> Also if this could be considered cycled, could I add a small fish say in a week or 2 after it is up or running.   <I prefer to wait at least 30 days (~4 weeks) before adding livestock , furthermore you need to quarantine the specimens before adding them.> thanks, <Quite welcome.>        Chris <Adam J.>

Concerns, discussion re bacteria whereabouts, cycling, WWM confluence 12/13/05 Hi Sabrina,  I'm happy to hear you're getting in all this great diving! <Hey, good to hear from you!!> How was the diving in HI? <Absolutely wonderful....  I can't wait for another chance to go back!> Going back to the Red Sea huh?  I won't be back until both of us can afford to go--just isn't fair for me to go w/o Hubby!  Have fun. <I shall - and I'll think of you with every puffer that I see :)  You're lucky; my husband has no interest whatsoever in diving.  I guess the plus side is that I get to go cool places without having to pay for two of us, but it'd sure be nice to have him along.  Sigh!  Say, how was the Bahamas?!?!> <<Yes>> Anyway, the reason I'm writing is I read your request & started scanning the FW Qs. <Many thanks.> I came across one previously answered by a woman named Catherine. Here's where my complaint comes in.  She is telling someone about the good bacteria in a tank: "bacteria are in the air and will colonize the tank. " Absolutely not true. <<Mmm, actually, yes, tis so>>   It lies in media, gravel, on surfaces inside the tank but not in the water column & definitely not in the air! <Mm, a good thing to think about here is that a clean bucket of water with some household ammonia will over time still develop nitrifying bacteria.... they get there somehow.  Nitrifying bacteria are everywhere. They certainly don't colonize the water column or air, as they don't have "food" available, but they populate bodies of water and other places where there is available "food" somehow.  I think it was what's-his-name....  Ah!  Dr. Tim Hovanec, of Marineland, the dude who developed Bio-Spira, that actually did say in a talk I attended that nitrifying bacteria *can* find their way to water via air, and then colonize a tank.  He gave the analogy of a bare saltwater tank in Kansas still developing bacteria colonies, if I recall correctly.> <<Yes>> Also, she recommends the awful product called Cycle, to this person.  Everyone who knows lots about aquarium keeping knows this product is bunk & can actually be detrimental to the cycling & health of a tank, since it only contains dead bacteria (waste). <I don't disagree that the stuff is virtually useless.> <<"Sometimes works"... better than nothing... but can't hold the proverbial candle to the Marineland products>>   That it's harmful or detrimental is arguable, though....  I tend never to recommend these sorts of products at all.> I'm not sure what her qualifications were that she got onto WWM but she needs to be watched closely.  We can't be giving out false info at WWM. <If you'd like, you can contact her, let her know your feelings - it's definitely a good idea to keep open communication and help others learn - otherwise there's not much reason for us to exist as a crew.... that's why we're here; to teach, to learn, to grow together....  Let me know if you'd like her email addy, if you haven't already got it.> <<Will cc her here>> I'm not sure if you're the right person to tell all this to <Bob's the best, actually; he's the "head dude" in all things WWM-ish....  I've CC'd him here so he can see these concerns as well, and address them if necessary.> but you seem to be taking the "bull by the horns" at WWM lately. <Hah!  Sure feels that way, some times!  I merely tried to "save the pieces" in Bob's absence.> Thanks for listening, <And thank you, very much, for sharing, voicing your concerns - and (of course) for helping out!  I do hope all is well with you, and hope you had a wonderful, relaxing, fishwatching trip.> Jeni <Happy Holidays to ya, and thank you again,  -Sabrina> <<Cheers, life to all. BobF>>

Finner, Fenner, To-may-to, To-mah-to, and Getty Lee? - 12/11/2005 Q. for Finner <Thought my surnames sake was for draining swamps/fens... but maybe...> Hi Mr. Finner. I several questions about what is going on with the cycling tank of Sea In The City. Marcye said you had been helping her while I was away on vacation. I have the "I gotta know why attitude" when it comes to aquariums. To get to the point Macye said the tanks started to drop Nitrite a couple of days after she added the old carbon you suggested. I suggested a 100% water change <... such large scale changes should be avoided in almost all situations> and adding about 50 lbs of seeded live rock. She did the 100% water change and added about 10lbs of uncured live rock. Since she added uncured live rock I would expect it would take some time to fully cycle and the old carbon seeded the bacteria to help bring down the nitrite. Does this sound correct? <Mmm, a possibility. The wholesale water change could kill most all microbial life...> I also thought that she was in a cycle freeze just like a former aquarist had problems that came up in Julian Sprung's Reef notes Volume 1 page 58. I had seen this once before when an aquarist put 7 damsels in a 35 hex with a Millennium 1000 filter and feed like there was no tomorrow. They went 2 months with high nitrite and high nitrate. After doing 100% water change and cleaning the gravel it broke through with the cycle. Then placed 3 damsels in 3 days later and cut back the feeding. After that everything went like clock work. Have you ever heard or seen this before? <Yes> As I said before I got to know more about this. Thank you for your time and tell Anthony Getty Lee said "Hi". Russell <Will do... BobF, quizzical> <<Uhh, does Anthony know Getty Lee??  -Sabrina, wishing she were working on these FAQs in HI and listening to some Rush....>>

Re: Q. for Finner  12/13/05 Looks like I crapped out on the time frame. Sorry. <No worries> The reason for the big water change that I understood was to get rid of all the nitrite ions that could not be converted from the lack of water volume. <Mmm, but... these are easily "replaced"...> Since nitrate had show up in such high amounts would that not show the second bacteria (after Tim Hovanec research I'm not sure what to label it) was present? <Should, yes> I agree 100% water change or any water change is the worst advice normally for a cycling a tank. From what I have seen and read a high level of nitrite and nitrate would be the only case for it. Is this the right thought? <IMO/E, yes> What have you seen to correct this? <Sequential large (25 percent or so) water changes are often best> Thank you again for your time. I forgot to give you congrats on Aquarist of the year! My friend Eric R. always talked about getting a chance to dive with you. Until his last dive at 240 ft. Russell <Ahh! Bob Fenner>

Re: Q. for Finner  12/13/05 Why do you think the 25% or larger water change works? Thanks again Russell <... please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner> ... Ongoing Rambling re Mar. Cycling  12/16/05 A frozen cycle is when you are starting a new tank and get stuck with high nitrite and high nitrate. <Oh...> Even waiting (over 2 months) does not seem to bring the levels down. I must not have made this clear before. I thought we had been talking about it the whole time. I understand you have many questions asked everyday and I do tend to ramble with so many questions. <Am not quite "with it", having just returned from a long trip and traveling. Ten hour days trying to catch up are adding to my lack of competent ongoing comprehension> Here is a quick recap. "I also thought that she was in a cycle freeze just like a former aquarist had problems that came up in Julian Sprung's Reef notes Volume 1 page 58. I had seen this once before when an aquarist put 7 damsels in a 35 hex with a Millennium 1000 filter and fed like there was no tomorrow. They went 2 months with high nitrite and high nitrate. After doing 100% water change and cleaning the gravel it broke through with the cycle. Then placed 3 damsels in 3 days later and cut back the feeding. After that everything went like clock work. Have you ever heard or seen this before?" >>>><Yes> Thanks Russell <There are a few sets of circumstances that will "freeze" the establishment of bio-geo-nutrient cycling in a captive aquatic system... One is simple poisoning by too much chemical substrate (ammonia, nitrite...). Bob Fenner>

Overcoming a lock in the establishment of cycling  12/17/05 There are a few sets of circumstances that will "freeze" the establishment of bio-geo-nutrient cycling in a captive aquatic system... One is simple poisoning by too much chemical substrate (ammonia, nitrite...). Bob Fenner> What have you found to help break this frozen cycle? Your persistent aquarist Russell <Large serial water changes as mentioned, use of chemical filtrants, addition of new cured live rock and sand, altering water chemistry back toward the "middle", massive addition of bacteria cultures. Gotcha. Thank you again for all your help. I don't see how you have time to get to everyone. Russell <I key quickly. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

LR question - Is it needed right away?  12/9/05 In searching through your website, I have come across discussions about FO aquariums. I have two tanks a 72 & 46 gallon. I am in the process of turning the 72 gallon into a saltwater. Now, I'm leaning towards turning the 46 into a saltwater as well. Doing them both at the same time will be expensive. So, I was wondering if I could turn the 46 into a fish only tank (w/o the LR) until I am done stocking the 72 gallon.  <Yes you can but some type of biological filtration will be required regardless of how hardy the fish are. Live rock is not necessary for success but is attractive and an efficient means of biological filtration.> If so, what fish are hardy enough to handle a fish only setup, until I can purchase LR for the 42 gallon.  <I don't recommend putting any fish into a tank without biological filtration. You didn't mention the type of filtration you will be using so I'm just assuming it's a power filter of some kind.> Thanks in advance for your assistance.  <You're welcome and Happy Holidays to you. James (Salty Dog)> 

Re: LR question - Is it needed right away? II   12/10/05 Actually I have a Emperor power filter with BioWheels that have saltwater bacteria on them. They have been floating in a 16 gallon saltwater tank that I have. They came from a previous saltwater tank that I had to break down.  <That should be fine. Any of the damsels or clownfish would do well in the tank. I'd provide some security for them in the form of PVC pipe until you get your rockwork. James (Salty Dog)>

Re: Tank won't support more than 2 fish  11/30/05 Thank you for the quick response. I confess I have not checked ammonia hours after introductions. You are correct in assuming I'm trying to add larger fish. I'm really trying for a Naso tang. I would like to add one other tang (Kole or hippo) for a total of two. Then fill out the tank with Anthias, Chromis, and other smaller fish. I plan to add my emperor last as I've grown rather attached and want everything to be perfect when he goes in.  Can you give me suggestions to supplement my biological filtration to make adding fish easier? If you think adding bio balls to this tank would help I am open to anything.  <Brian, one other question...Have you ever used copper in the 265? If you have, you may have enough residual copper there to cause problems with the denitrifying bacteria.  <<Do you mean nitrifying bacteria, mayhaps?  Marina>> If proper acclimation procedures aren't followed, this will add to the problem. Getting to the question at hand...If it were me, I'd buy some instant denitrifying bacteria and add it to the tank a couple hours before your next introduction. I'm looking at the original query here and I don't see my responses present in the text. By chance did you copy/paste your original query into the body of this text? James (Salty Dog)> Thanks  <You're welcome> 

Help - Relocated 75 Gallon Tank, nitrogenous troubles  11/24/05 Hi - <Hello there> Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.  I just purchased ( Sunday night) a 75 gallon oceanic reef-ready tank through the classified ads.  It contained base rock, a purple tang and a clown fish.  When I arrived the person I bought it from appeared to have been in the process of breaking the tank down to sell it to a pet store so the trickle filter wasn't running.  I got it home (fish in a 5 gallon bucket) and set the tank up as quickly as possible, made 75 gallons of new salt water, <A shame a good deal of the old water wasn't salvaged, used> got the system going and acclimated the fish back into the tank.  They both survived, but last night I checked the ammonia level and discovered it was 5 (I forgot what the scale was, maybe ppm, but about the highest it registered). <Yeeikes!> I'm assuming that the wet/dry was turned off for longer than the original owner told me and the bacteria are dead. <A distinct possibility... though they could have undergone a physiological "check" with the massive water change as likely>   I dumped in a bottle of "Cycle" I had hoping that would help and will test again when I get home from work but I don't know how effective it is. <BioSpira is much better...> I've seen in the past ammonia locking products that supposedly detoxify the water, would these help? <Mmm, not really, no>   Any other suggestions? <Yes, do not feed till the water reads less than 1.0 ppm for both ammonia, nitrite. Bob Fenner> Thanks! Matt

Cycling Question  11/22/05 Hello! I have looked over various FAQs and articles on your site, the forum posts as well, and have not been able to find an answer to my question. I will provide all of the information so that you will be able to give me the best possible answer. (Apologies if it is a bit lengthy!) <No problem> After reading for a year now and making preparations, I was finally ready to set up my 110g tank. I went into a LFS that was having a moving sale to purchase a stand. While there I inquired about their LR. The owner offered to sell me any LR I wanted for $4 a pound. (I know you must have patience in the SW hobby, but I had a plan...) Since the store would be closing the next day I asked him to finish filling up the 5g bucket of rock with water from one of his tanks. There were two larger pieces of LR as well, and we wrapped them in newspaper and placed in a Styrofoam cooler and then poured more tank water over them. I drove straight home and boiled a (stainless steel) pot of water (tap, well water) and put the salt mix in to speed the dissolving process. <No need...> I mixed up the SW in a large plastic container. I put in a pH, a heater and thermometer. When the temp was the same as the temp of the bucket of LR and water, I placed all of the LR and in the container.  <... better to let the water mix a day or two... let the rock just sit, moist...> In the meantime I prepared more (boiled) SW mix and mixed it in with more tap water in the 110g. I put in 120# of Old Castle sand and then topped that with 60# of LS.  <... not a good idea to expose life to just-mixed synthetic... it takes a few days to "settle" chemically, physically. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/seawater.htm> I poured in the remaining LFS water into the 110g. Another pH, heater and thermometer in the tank as well. By the next day the water had cleared up and the temp was matching the bucket temp. (79*) I waited two more days and then placed my 110# of BR (base rock) in the tank and the 40# of LR I now had.  I poured in the water from the bucket that the LR had been sitting in for the previous 3 days. I allowed the tank another 4-5 days to sit while I monitored the pH and temp.s. Then I put in 3 raw shrimp to cycle the tank.  <Unnecessary... and stinky!> In the meantime I got my sump plumbed and started it up. It is about 20g, with some BR rubble and two huge clumps of Chaeto in the center of the sump.   <I would wait on the algae...> I did run the protein skimmer for 2 days to make sure I had everything plumbed properly. <Good> Then I turned it back off. So now the water just flows from the overflow into the sump, then is returned back to the display tank. At this point, the shrimp have all but rotted away (barely two little clumps of rotted shrimp left) <Not rotted so much as eaten...> by now, the 10th day since the shrimp were added. However, even with testing the water every other day or so, the nitrite, ammonia, and nitrate levels have remained at 0!  <Yes...> The pH is 8.2-8.3 and the salinity is 1.022-1.023 (checked with refractometer) constantly. I am using a Saltwater Master Liquid Test Kit by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals. I have not heard of any problems with  this test kit before (unlike the Red Sea test kits) so I am baffled. Do you think my test kit is faulty? <Mmm, nope> (I have read and am following the directions...) or do you think my tank will still cycle, and is just starting off slowly? <It is cycled> or could it have already cycled? <Yes... why not?> (maybe a mini-cycle?) I do apologize for taking up so much of your time, but I would very much like to have accurate information, and I know I can trust you. Thank you! Jere <Again, no worries. You inoculated the system with existing LR, sand... the microorganisms and quite a few macro... that are an established system... Do take your time... but all appears fine as of now. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

'The Conscientious Marine Aquarist'  11/11/05 Hi Bob, <Rick> Great Book. I picked it up about a month ago and have already read and re-read most of it. <Glad you are finding it of use> I appreciate the piece on cyanide poisoning. It brought to light with clear explanation a problem that I knew existed, but was really ignorant of in respect to the details of the practice and extent of the damage. <Ongoing...> I have one critique, which I would like to put forth. And please understand that I have the greatest of respect for your work. <Okay> The subject of using live damsels for new tank cycling. Should this really be recommended as a conscientious practice? Adding a pinch of flake food every day will do the same thing. <Not a good practice... as stated on our site... are you familiar with WetWebMedia (.com)?> Yes it's true that damsels don't usually die during the process, but they have definitely been shown to exhibit signs of stress at high ammonia and nitrite levels. <Yes... and pardon my ignorance of my own work, but don't recall endorsing, encouraging this practice> Darting around, gasping. The usual signs of ammonia poisoning.  So that's it. Anyway, Please keep up the insightful contributions to the field. Your work is appreciated. Rick Ohlund Midwest Aquatic Research, Inc. http://www.midwestaquatic.com <Thank you for your input. Do see WWM re my/our "current" stance re establishing nutrient cycling: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm.  Am not a fan of using fish livestock for this purpose. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Tank cycling, so easy it does it for you - 11/09/2005 I have been cycling an 85-gallon aquarium for 3 days with no fish in it except for 30 lbs of live rock and a sump. <Good, you don't need fish.>  After cycling the aquarium, it will house my brown banded bamboo <I don't recommend this.>  shark and I know that Protozoans and flukes in sharks are dangerous and certainly a big deal to me because I have overcome many parasite problems and found it to be difficult. <Can be quite.>  This is my reason for not wanting to introduce other fish into the aquarium. <With the shark, you can take other fish out of the equation anyway.>  So I am stumped: Is it good or bad to cycle a tank without fish in it and then introduce a large bioload? <Fishless cycling is always good; drastically increasing bioload (throwing all in at once) is always bad.>  Or is it a must to have some other fish providing ammonias to the system to maintain a working biological filter? <No, let the live rock work its Mojo.>  Could I, instead of adding fish, leave a piece of frozen food in the tank and keep on adding some every so often until the tank is cycled as to not introduce parasites or other threats? <Could. Proper QT is the best way to avoid introduction of parasites. Cycling the tank is simple, just give it time. The banded bamboo shark is not a good choice for this tank. Even if you got one small (if you haven't purchased one already), it will eventually reach three feet in length. Please read the shark systems FAQs located here, http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/fishes/index.htm before making a final decision.>  Thank you for your help.  Michael Bensing  <Quite welcome. - Josh> 

Cycling without Live rock: You still don't need livestock  10/31/05 Hi, <Hello Patrick.> I will be cycling 135 gallon saltwater tank using the damsel method.  <O' boy.> I chose this method because I am unable to acquire live rock due to lack of money, and would like to have the damsels anyways. I am planning on using green chromis (Chromis viridis) to cycle the tank, so I can have a nice school of them later.  <Live rock and using fish are not the only ways to cycle a tank. You simply need a waste source, anything form a sample of substrate from a friends tank to some fish food will work. While live rock is the preferred media you can use other porous surfaces for bacteria to cultivate such as base rock and bio-media.>  <<LR provides an inoculation of bacteria, housed within its pores (this may or may not include the anaerobic bacteria necessary to further break down nitrate into its individual components).  It does not provide the bacteria with food sources sufficient to maintain the colonies in situ, or to bring these colonies up in numbers sufficiently in order to add fish and avoid the rise in nitrogenous wastes.  A sample of substrata would again be used to inoculate, but does not provide food sufficient to maintain or bring up the size of these colonies.  Food that will decompose is what is necessary.  MH>> How many of these fish would you recommend using?  <None.>  If I don't only use the green chromis, I am considering doing a combination of both green chromis and blue reef chromis (Chromis cyaneus).  <May run into problems with that mix.>  If I do the combo how many of each fish would you recommend?  <To cycle? None.>  And would they school separately?  <Have not personally observed this mixture in captivity but generally schooling fish tend to 'just-hang-out' in captivity, excluding very large tanks.> Thanks, Patrick <Research WWM Re: Marine cycling. You're welcome, Adam J.>  

Marine Nitrogen Cycle or Non-Cycle that is. 10/28/05 Hello gang, <Hola Fred!> You guys are the absolute best resource that I have found anywhere. Thank you to the whole gang for the time you put in to help us along.  <Thank you for the kind words.> I have an odd problem, I have a 55 gallon FOWLR that has been setup for 3 weeks. It has 45 lbs of live rock from Fosters & Smith and 10 lbs of live rock from my LFS above 1/2inch of sugar sized sand. I turn over about 1200 gallons per hour and have an Aqua C Remora (Maxijet) that gives me a 1/4 inch of coffee every 3-4 days.  <All sounds very good.>  I have 2 damsels and 2 Pajama Cardinals (bought before I found your site).  <I understand, consider removing the damsels as they could become problems eventually. Also in the future be sure to quarantine all new individuals for a minimum of 30 days before addition to the display.>  Since this tank was setup I have only changed 10% of the water.  <Now that you have animals I would start going with ten to fifteen percent weekly.>  My question is this, I test my water every other day for PH, Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate. Three times I have seen the Ammonia go from 0 to .25 however to my surprise it has never gone higher then .25 (not such a big deal right)  <Well zero is the best, I'm quite surprised the tank is so stable already, usually LiveAquaria rock is very 'uncured' upon arrival.>  the kicker is that I have no Nitrates, in fact I have never had any Nitrates! So WHERE is the Ammonia going?  <Sounds like your live rock has colonized an ample amount of bacteria already to deal with the nutrients, quite common with pre-cured live rock.>  My pH is always about 8.3-8.5,  <You don't want it swinging like this all the time, try to keep it stable.> Ammonia is 0-.25 Nitrites: 0 and Nitrates: 0. I don't want to start adding to this tank until it is cycled and I don't think it is cycled until I see Nitrates. I tried feeding the fish more then they can eat figuring this will pollute the tank and kick start a cycle.  <With fish in the tank I wouldn't want to induce a traditional cycle, I would go ahead with regular maintenance (the water changes) but still watch the levels and allow the tank to stabilize (at least another 6 weeks) before adding more livestock.>  It hasn't. For one week I have added more frozen brine shrimp then I should Ammonia=0, Nitrites=0, Nitrates=0!?? Is the Aqua C Remora that good or could it be that algae is eating up my Nitrates?  <Probably a mixture of these.>  I have a slight brown diatom outbreak but only on a 4x4inch section of glass and two rocks.  <Normal in new tank but if it is isolated there may not be enough water flow in these areas.>  I have lots of what appears to be small red macro algae starting to pop up on my rocks. Could these be the culprits?  <Along with the rock and skimmer.>  Where are my Nitrates? I'm not sure what I am missing I'm adding pollutants but they aren't polluting! Every one should be so lucky I guess, <As mentioned above this is quite common with pre-cured rock for tanks to stabilize very quickly and show little to no die-off. Normally I would say wait 6 weeks until everything has stabilized before adding livestock but since you have livestock already stop trying to induce the cycle and begin with weekly water changes.> Thanks, <You are welcome.> Fred <Adam J.> 

Marine Nitrogen Cycle  10/21/05 I'm stumped on my tank and its cycling process. <Lets see if I can help you out.>  I have a 46 bowfront with 7   Fish <You should not have fish in the tank until the cycle is complete. Fish are not needed to cycle a tank the live rock is more than sufficient.> and 40 lb. of LR  , 30 hermit crabs various kinds 2 big ones (1 1/2 inch and  the others are less than a 1/2 inch),10 turbo snails.<Far to many, 1 per 25 gallons is plenty.> My LFS said it would take  3-4 weeks for it to cycle and for the ammonia, nitrite an nitrate to rapidly  drop after the cycle is done. <Not with fish fuelling them and no water changes.> Well, for it dropping there's less than 0.25 ppm of  ammonia and 20 ppm nitrateNO3 and 0.5 mg/l of nitrateNO2, well it hasn't gone up  or down but the LFS store said not to do water changes until the cycle is done. <I would agree normally, but with the fish already in there go ahead and start doing at least 20% a week until the tank stabilizes maybe more as any ammonia or nitrite at all is toxic to fish.> The thing is that there is this neon green algae growing on everything <Normal for a new tank.>  glass, empty shells, liverock (some parts), but I have read to get rid of it I  would have to do a water change. <Yes the nutrients are fuelling the algae, go ahead and start doing water changes.> I'll clean it one day an the next its back.  also when does the coralline algae start to grow? <May take many months to start growing rapidly, definitely not during your cycle, certain water conditions are necessary too, proper calcium, pH, Alk and lighting levels.>  I'm just confused on what  I read and what people tell me to do for my tank. <Begin reading for yourself my friend, form your own methods, reading the responses and articles here at WWM, the net in general a good start.> If you can help I would really appreciate it, thank you. -Josh <No problem and be sure to search through WWM for more detail, try this first http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm, Adam J.> Saltwater Cycling - 10/9/05 Hey Crew, <<Hello>> I have a question, ok a lot of questions about my 75 gallon tank cycling, the thing is that it isn't. I bought 79 lbs of LR from FFE, 45 lbs of premium Fiji, and 24 lbs of Tonga branch. The rock has been in there for 2 weeks and nothing has happened, also I have been aggressively skimming with my SeaWorld Systems skimmer, but throughout the two weeks haven't even produced one full cup of skimmate. <<That must have been some good live rock and sand. You will not see skimmate unless there is something to skim. With no bioload you would expect no skimmate.>> The water is crystal clear and here are my parameters: pH: 8.2  Nitrate: 20 Nitrite 0 Ammonia 0 Alkalinity 11 dKH Calcium 400  What do you guys think is going on? I also have a 1' live sand bed, no affects either, I have double checked with other test kits, and wouldn't it be strange if all of the tests were funky? Lastly, the water in my tank is evaporating at the speed of light! Every day I put in about half a gallon of freshwater, because the water is low, and the salinity is high 1.026 (refractometer measured) I like to keep the salinity at 1.024. I have 3 chromis and a twin spot goby in my QT (Eclipse 12 good qt?) I was wondering if I could put them into the main tank yet? <<That would be up to you. You could try forcing another cycle, but the fact that there are nitrates present shows that a cycle has occurred. To check the balance of your system you just need to feed the tank for a few days or throw a cocktail shrimp into the tank. Any decaying organic matter will cause an ammonia spike which should be followed by nitrites that are quickly converted to nitrates. In our closed systems the cycle usually ends with nitrates which need to be removed through water changes or a refugium/deep sandbed. I would not be afraid to add the fish to your tank, but to be 100% sure you may want to run a test cycle as I mentioned above.>> Thanks for all of your hard work and dedication, Clare  <<TravisM>> 

Marine cycling question, SeaClone improvement,  9/28/05 Hello Bob Fenner. I have a question for you guys maybe you can help me figure it out. 55g saltwater tank 30 pd.s of base rock 7 - 10 pd.s of live rock (give or take a few) 1 damsel 1 fire shrimp 1 cleaner shrimp 1 emerald crab I run a SeaClone 100 on this tank. I have figured out the problem with this device. I have replaced the air controller that came with the device and instead put in a check valve from an air pump instead on it. For some reason this makes the SeaClone work a hell of a lot better. I get 1/2 cup of brown goo every 3 days. I would suggest people that have a SeaClone to do this if their SeaClones are not producing any gunk. Results will vary of course!! ammonia is .25 <Should be zip> nitrite is 0 nitrate is 0 calcium is 350 Alk is in the normal part. I use a Red Sea test kit. Ph is 8.0 - 8.2. It depends on which test kit I use. <Fine> Fluval 304. Since this one has 6 chambers I use polyester filter fiber on the 2 bottom ones. On the middle 2 I have one side for activated carbon and the other side some more filter fiber. On the top I have BioMax in each chamber. Any suggestions to the best way to achieve the best filtration from a Fluval 304? <You (obviously from your readings) have it> 265 watts from a 48" USA orbit PC lighting. Blue lights on from 9am till 9pm and the white lights on from 1pm till 5pm. Is this lighting schedule decent? <I'd extend the whites in both directions> 1 Aquaclear powerhead 402. It is rated at 270gph. I know the tank needs about 10x - 20x the tank volume turnover. Im still working on that. I use 2 part B-Ionic calcium buffer system. 7.5 ml of Alk in the morning and 7.5 ml of calcium at night. Does this schedule seem ok? <Yes> Now to the past. I had a bad outbreak of BGA awhile ago and removed everything from the tank. I just let the Fluval move the water around only. I also turn the lights off during all this. I didn't feed the tank. This lasted for about 2 months. Eventually all the BGA died including the bacteria. I then returned everything back into the tank and put it back on its normal schedule that I have it on today. I figured it would go through the New Tank Syndrome. I cant figure out why the nitrate isn't showing up on the test. <Anaerobiosis... not to worry> Nitrite is also not showing up on the test kit. I have not changed any water as of yet to the tank because I figured it is still cycling. <Chemical, biological...> What it boils down to is I wanna know if what I'm doing is correct. The diatoms is not getting better. I use tap water with StressCoat in it in stored bottles underneath the tank for top offs and I dose the tank with 25 ml.s of stress Zyme a week. FYI, it has been 3 months since I have placed everything back into the tank. Wouldn't the tank have cycled by then? <Is cycled... and "just balanced" in favor of the diatoms... following the BGA...> I have attached a pic to show you what I have so far. I know it isn't the best looking tank but I would like to hear some suggestions into making it a better looking tank. Also I don't siphon the bottom of the tank cause I have aragonite sand and it just sucks it all up. <Mmm, stir it first... with a wood or plastic dowel... let settle for a few minutes> I also don't clean the back glass also. For some reason I just don't. The water is clear though. Thanks for taking the time to read this. The reason I'm sending you this is because I couldn't get a response at WWM.         Teddy <... there may well be something wrong twixt our email systems... We get a few "blank" messages per week, and some with no "tray" to respond to with the general note from our server that there is/are "errors on page"... If all would include their email addresses in the text... we could at least respond to them. Your system is still "settling in"... with time, the improved operation of your skimmer, you should see improvement in lessened algal growth... however, if you want "real help", it would behoove you to read re marine filtration on WWM, consider switching some gear, adding a live sump/refugium... Bob Fenner> Cycling and ph and Alkalinity Levels Hi Crew, I'm in the process of cycling a new 12 gallon nano tank.  This is my third tank but I never tested alkalinity until after the cycling was finished on the other two.  Anyway, with the new tank, water went in on 9/1, live rock in on 9/3.  I'm cycling with the live rock and some food scraps (flake food and a little krill).<Add a few hermits to eat this stuff and let them produce the waste.>  The pH has been at 7.8 since the beginning but Alk is 5.6 mEq/l.  When cycling, should a person attempt to adjust either of these parameters or just leave it alone until the cycling has stopped? <I would not worry about these parameters until the tank is fully established.  Do 10% water changes weekly.> Ammonia, nitrite, nitrate are elevated, which I expected.  I have the proper stuff to raise the pH but I'm not sure how to lower the alkalinity.  Advice on lowering the Alk, please. <Leave the Alk where it is, the lower ph during cycling will gradually lower the Alk.  Don't worry about these parameters right now.  James (Salty Dog)> Richard

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