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FAQs on Establishing Nutrient/Biological Cycling in Marine Systems 9

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 8, 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

A whole lot of Jellies, pic by Jen SaFranko

New Tank, Old Rock 7/11/07 I am about to set up a new FOWLR (which I want to slowly convert to a reef). I have a 46 gallon bowfront with 2 emperor 400's and an AC 75 gallon rated protein skimmer. I am buying 60 lbs of premium Fiji from a friend of mine who has a beautiful 300 gallon reef in his office (Ah, the life of a doctor!) and the rock has been in that tank for 18 months with no problems. <Nice> His office is relocating and cannot fit a tank that size so I am going to capitalize on that opportunity! I am also going to buy 20 lbs of live sand and also take sand from my friends tank as well. <Could probably skip buying the sand and just let normal "dead" sand colonize.> My question is regarding the cycling of my tank. I have cycled tanks the traditional way (4-6 weeks of watching the water quality) I am wondering if I will have to do that again? <They cycle will probably go faster.> The rock will be placed in 5 gallon buckets with the water from his tank so die off should be nearly non existent. <More than you would think.> He said my tank probably won't even spike and I could add live stock right away. <I would not.> I'm leery but it seems to make sense. What do you think? Thanks so much for your help! Keep up the fantastic work! Brian <I think that I would cycle it as normal, if nothing else the 4 weeks fallow will help prevent any disease transmission. Better slow and steady here.> <Chris>

Re: was... Micro Bubbles, now... new ozone reactor reaction to cycling   7/10/07 Hi! <Howzit?> Ok, I think I found the leak. The side in question gets a little wet if the pipe is bumped. It is coming from the bulkhead somewhere. Also, when the pipe is bumped the bubbles increase in spurts. <Oops! Ah ha!> So I have a new bulkhead on the way to take care of that. If you don't mind, I have another problem. My tank is about 6 months old and water was staying pretty good (ammonia 0, nitrites 0, nitrates under 5ppm) Ph is a consistent 8, Alk 8 dKH and calcium at 380 to 400. I added a sander ozonizer about 2 weeks ago. <Good units> I have a 100mg unit hooked to an ORP controller. ORP has never gone above 350. Now I am getting ammonia 0, nitrites at .75ppm and nitrate at 20ppm. <Mmm, likely the microbes that do that voodoo that they do so well with nitrogenous cycling are taking a hit from the higher O3 effects...> I have a 125 gallon tank, a 50 gallon refugium and a 25 gallon sump. AquaC EV120 skimmer, 2 GENX PCX70 pumps. Korallin C1502 calcium reactor. 120 pounds of live rock, 4 to 5 inches of sugar sized aragonite in refugium and tank. Stock is 1 Naso tang 5 inches, 2 1 inch ocellaris clowns, 4 Chromis (1 inch or less) 1 lawnmower blenny 4 inches, 1 Kole tang 4 inches, 1 coral beauty angel 3 inches. Would the addition of the ozonizer make it go through another cycle? <Mmm, yes, could...> Is there anything you would recommend doing? <Being careful re feeding till all re-settles> Thank you very much for your time, David Matza <Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Cycling/skimmer and retail   7/8/07 Hi Bob& Co, Its me again with some more silly questions as I am just getting started. <Heeee! I'm full of them still!> 1. Bob, from your book I note that you live in San Diego as well. <Yes> Can you recommend any/some retailers in SD that are "Conscientious Aquarist"? <Oh, yes... Pat Hurley's stores, the Aquatic Warehouse, and Ron Elander's Octopus's Garden are faves (both out in Kearny Mesa)... and there are some good folks down at Fountain's in La Mesa. There are some other purportedly good stores in town, but I don't know them well enough to "plug" here> 2. I got water from Scripps and am letting it sit in the dark for two weeks. <Mmmm... I would NOT use this water by and large... see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/index.htm scroll down... the dull blue line/tray> I am about to cycle the tank. You say in your book not to run the skimmer for the first month while it cycles. <Usually the case, yes> Is that because the skimmer would keep it too clean that the cycling wouldn't even occur if I run it? <Mostly, yes... Forestalls> 3. Any recommendations for master test kit? <Mmm, Hach, LaMotte...> Do those 5 in 1 strips work well? <No... neither accurate, nor precise...> Couldn't find any here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/martstkituse.htm Cheers, Ganz <And you. Bob Fenner>

Tank set-up and cycling question   6/25/07 Hi <HI Nicholas, Marie here today> One more before I go and teach some younglings. I've had my tank set up for about a week and a half now, and I've have LR, LS, and one damsel. <Poor damsel! > I also added a pouch of that bacteria in a bag. I don't remember the brand name, however it seems like it has one heck of an effect. <What type of an effect? > I have not seen spikes of ammonia nor nitrites. However, I am seeing levels of 10 ppm of nitrates. <10ppm of nitrates does not seem too high for a FO system; generally fish can tolerate nitrate levels up to approximately 40ppm> If you already have sufficient bacteria from the live sand, live rock, and bacterial product you added you may actually be able to handle the bioload of one fish. I know that the instructions for adding these bio-products include adding fish immediately in conjunction with the product, however there are much more humane ways to add ammonia to the tank like adding just a pinch or flake food each day> Do I have a normal cycle going, or is the cycle complete since I am seeing the nitrates? Should I just let everything spike, <Again, no livestock should have to go through the punishment of ammonia spike when this is totally avoidable. > or will it even do that considering I already have nitrates? <The tank is usually considered fully cycled once your ammonia and nitrite levels have come back down to zero. I would recommend reading the following article on the Nitrogen cycle: www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm, and this article on nitrates: www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm, these articles should answer most of your questions. > Thank you once again! Nicholas Wilhelm <Your welcome Nicholas, Marie>

"The Mystery of The Missing Nitrogen Cycle" (Marine Aquarium Cycling Query)   6/24/07 Hi, thanks for taking the time to read this! <Always fun for us! Scott F. here this afternoon...> I am a little bit confused as of right now. <That's me on any given day- don't sweat it!> I've had my tank set up for about 3 and a half weeks now. I have a 30g, 20 pounds of LR, LS as the substrate, and added Bio-Spira(?) about a week ago. I am not reading anything with my liquid tests. I have two sets, thinking maybe one of the tests were off. Both tests show that I have ZERO ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. <Were you ever getting detectible ammonia or nitrite during this period? If the tank is "cycled", there should have been some detectible ammonia and nitrite spike. With some live rock in their, you certainly introduced a potential ammonia source. I would cautiously operate under the assumption that the system has cycled over that period of time...Note the word "cautiously". I hate to "assume", but if you didn't test the water throughout the period and there was a potential source of ammonia in there from the get go, it's a slightly safer one, IMO. On the other hand, if you have a conservative streak in you like I do, you'll start throwing in some frozen food and seeing what your water tests like in several days...> I am getting brown algae, or diatoms, but my levels show that nothing is happening. Is it safe to assume that the cycle may be complete? <As above. Proceed with extreme caution. There's obviously sufficient nutrient in your system to feed the algae, of course!> Are the nitrates, if the cycle is complete, being sucked up by the diatoms? <Diatoms are large consumers of silicates. Other algaes certainly do utilize nitrate, as well as phosphate, but I think that it would be reaching to assume that ALL nitrate is being consumed by the algae.> I had a hermit crab hitchhiker on a piece of LR that I put in a week ago, and he seems to be doing fine, so I'm not really sure where I'm at. Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!! <Again, I recommend proceeding with caution. It's important to test for ammonia and nitrite from the minute you set up your system, so that you know exactly what's going on and where you are in the cycling process. Keep testing as you add your first few animals (after quarantine, of course!) and keep careful records. Best of luck on your new adventure! Regards, Scott F.>

Re: new to marines 6/9/07 Hi <Greetings, GrahamT with you today!> I have had a look around your site, it's sometimes difficult to find what you want because there's so much there. <I'll take that as a compliment. ;) > I did find this, but I'm not sure what it means: Introduce the beneficial microbes in a culture, established gravel, or "used" filter media, plus a source of nutrient (appropriate damsels, blennies, food, nitrogenous compounds). Monitor and record the nitrogen cycle for whatever time it takes (generally no more than 6-8 weeks) until there is no detectable ammonia or nitrite. Fire over your skimmer and begin adding other livestock. <This means that the "beneficial microbes" (the ones responsible for reducing/converting toxic byproducts of the animals in a closed system) can be introduced via a culture (read: grown for retail sale/distribution in a vial or other form), established gravel (read: gravel from a friend's established system), or filter media from that same friend's system. The nitrifying bacteria take time to grow in populations sufficient to maintain a balance in a system without toxic results.> For Invertebrate and Reef Systems For Invertebrate and Reef Systems: Wait a week after set-up and either go through the bacterial introduction and monitoring the water for cycling as above or initiate same with live-rock and/or live-sand. <Good practice in any case.> - will live rock & sand be sufficient to start the bacteria growing, or do I need to add anything else? <It will be sufficient as long as the rock and/or sand are moved in a timely manner and the bacteria stay alive. This is not overly difficult, and is a common practice in the hobby. Good luck! and here is some reading for you to brush up on. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marcyclefaqs.htm Read below and all the links in blue. You get lost in the sea of info, but it's worth it! -GrahamT> Regards Len

Going Natural (Yanking Biological Filter Media) 6/9/07 Hello guys! <Hey there! Scott F. with you today!> What a great site you guys have put together! Thanks for that by the way! :) <We appreciate the kind words!> Ok- my 55g FOWLR setup is this: 55lbs of live Sand, 56lbs of Live Rock, a ZooMed Power Sweep and Maxijet 900 for water movement, an Aqua C Remora skimmer w/ Maxijet 1200. I also have a Eheim Classic canister running too with just bio-media in it. My question is can my tank handle a bioload if I remove my canister. My livestock so far is one Black Ocellaris Clown, 2 Peppermint Shrimps, 1 Cleaner Shrimp, 1 Emerald Crab, 5 Blue Leg Hermit Crabs, 4 Turbo snails. I want to get more livestock down the road this is why I am asking. I eventually want a pygmy Rusty Angel and a Yellow Tang. <As an aside, I'd go for a smaller Centropyge Angelfish species, like the C. flavicaudus or C. argi, which stay small (generally 3 inches or less). The Rusty tends to get a bit larger (towards 5") and may not be a good long-term resident in a system of this size. Ditto for the Tang. This sized aquarium just does not offer enough "physical space" for this species to be happy for its full life span.> Can my LS/LR handle this or should I look into curing more LR for my bioload?? <In my experience, you certainly could dump the bio media if you are good with your husbandry practices, such as regular, small water changes, good skimming (yielding daily skimmate), and perhaps the use and replacement of chemical filtration media, such as activated carbon or Poly Filter. Also, resist the temptation to overstock your tank; understand its limits, and add new inhabitants slowly. The bacteria in your rock and sand can certainly do the job if you follow the simple concepts outlined above.> Thanks in advance! Once again, thank you for wetwebmedia.com!!!! Brad <Glad to be of service, Brad! Best of luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Changing Canister Filters...How Long To Establish Bio-Filtration? -- 05/29/07 Hello, <<Howdy>> I bought a new, larger canister filter for my well-established tank (5 years running minus two moves). I have both canisters running to get the new one started. <<I see...is used for biological filtration then>> How long do you think I should run the new one before safely removing the old one? <<Seven days should be sufficient>> Thanks...I tried to search for this but it's a difficult one to word in a search engine. Lance <<No worries mate, happy to assist. EricR>>

Transferring To New Tank...Cycle First Or Use Existing Media? -- 05/21/07 Hi, <<Hello>> I am frequent reader of your website and I have a question to ask. <<Okay>> I have a 55-gallon tank with 2 Common Clowns,1 Bicolor Angel, 1 Bird Wrasse,1 Royal  Gramma and two Sailfin Tangs one yellow and the other one brown. <<Too many active/large fishes for this tank>> They all have done well for about four years.  I am now building a new tank of about  120-gallons. <<Ah...much better>> My question is how am I going to transfer the fish in the new aquarium?  Can I use the existing biological filter media? <<This can be/has been done this way, though I don't recommend it unless absolutely necessary and/or the aquarist is very experienced and well aware of the dangers re.  In addition to transferring the biological media, do also transfer as much of the old system water as possible.  Be sure to add chemical filtration (carbon/Poly-Filter)...monitor water parameters very closely for the next week...and have plenty of saltwater on hand that has been 'mixed and aged' ahead of time for performing large water changes should the need arise>> And if yes how long should I take to transfer the fish? <<As long as it takes to transfer the media/water>> Or should I recycle the tank from the beginning? <<This is the best method, in my opinion>> Thank you in advance. Anthony Zahra <<Happy to assist.  Eric Russell>>

Quicker cycle? FW and SW nitrifying bacteria are different strains       5/21/07 <Hi Breanna, Mich here.> I have a well-established cichlid tank, which I want to turn into SW. <OK.> This is a healthy tank no diseases or issues. <OK.> I'm wondering if I make the N cycle quicker, if not skip it, if I save the water from this tank? <Mmm, nope, different strains of bacteria at work here.  More here:   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm > I could get rid of the fish, decor, fw plants, gravel, leave the under gravel filter alone as much as possible mix in salt to right level put in play/live sand, and a few pieces of live rock.... <I personally would remove the undergravel filter when setting up a marine tank.  More here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/u_gfiltmarfaqs.htm > Guess the real question: is the bacteria that changes ammonium to nitrate in a fw tank the same as in a sw tank? <That is the question and the answer is no.> Would I be better off "gutting" and cleaning and starting the standard way? <Yep!  Your live rock will be the most helpful in cycling your system.  Start fresh!  Mich> thanks Breanna

Tank Moving and Cycling -- 5/1/07 Hi ya'll!! Love the site! <Hey there! Thanks!> I'm a newbie to saltwater and am asking this question for more for my own edification than anything else. <ok> I just mixed water and salt mix in my 75 gallon tank.  I added 60lbs of live sand and 72lbs of live rock.  Within 24 hours of doing this, I had a tank-filter hose leak bad enough where I had to break down the tank, move it, pull up the carpet / padding and have to have the carpet pad replaced and the carpet replaced. <Eeek!  That's not fun.> My questions are (1) now that I've setup the tank in a temporary location, I'm presuming that I will use the test kit to determine if the cycle has finished and perform a water change as needed to get the levels down just like it were in it's original spot? <Yes.  When your ammonia and nitrites are back down to zero, it is cycled. If they do not rise much, you may want to add a tiny bit of fish food to get it going. If it is well cured live rock, you may not see any cycle, and readings will stay at zero. Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm > (2) When I get ready to move the tank back it's original position, will it need to recycle b/c the live rock will exposed to air, albeit a short time, again b/c of the breakdown process? <No.  If you just remove it all to containers while you move the tank and setup, you should not have any appreciable loss of bacteria.  Don't leave the rock out of water, just set it in the containers of water.  Buy some Rubbermaid stock if you are planning on being in this hobby for long -- we keep them in business.  Hee!> Is there anything else that I need to worry about or can do to take preventative measure - or am I just extending the time before I can get fish and inverts by doing another move? <This should not slow you down.  It is just very inconvenient.> Many thanks in advance! <Welcome. Alex>

Cycle time when seeding from existing setup 4/26/07 Hello and thank you for your time. <Greetings and you are welcome.> First off I just love your web site!  I have spent years looking at it.   <Ditto. I still learn from it myself!> As a long time keeper of fresh water systems, I know to instant cycle a new tank I just add the filter media from an old tank and go from there.  Does the same principle work for marine tanks?   <More or less, but the fish depend on a more stable environment that can only be provided with a little more time than you are used to. You can't just plop the filter in and go get some fish. You'll need to test the water and watch for the spikes of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate that indicate when the cycle is complete. Furthermore, the longer you can wait before introducing fish or inverts will add to the stability.> The reason I am asking is I have a 5 year old FOWLR nano system and I am thinking of moving up to a 55g tank.  Besides a little extra lbs of new live rock I plan on using all of my existing sand, rock and equipment.  Now on to my question.  How much time should pass between the initial tank set up of the 55g with cured live rock and moving the live rock, sand and other occupants of the 5 year old system to the new tank.   <To be safe, I would wait at least a month, but your test results will give you a better idea. I would feel good about waiting an additional week to a month *AFTER* the test results indicate "safe conditions" abound.> I don't want to hurt any of my thriving critters. <A just cause, indeed.> Again thank you for your time, Vicki S <You're welcome, Vicky! Good luck to you! -GrahamT>

LR Cycling -- 4/12/2007 I just got a 12g Nano tank and I added 12lbs of Molokai live rock. I heard from multiple people that if the rock is already cured that it might not do a normal cycle spike. <Theoretically true, but 'cured' doesn't always mean the same thing. Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/lrcurefaqs.htm > So far it's only been 4 days but nothing really changed. <Really?> People from the forums suggested I can already add a cleanup crew and a fish. <Hopefully you are not planning to put more than one tiny fish in this small of a tank. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nanoreefsysart.htm is a very nice article with links above.> Should I do a PWC and start adding? <Based on the water parameters listed below, your tank IS cycling, and you need to have patience and let it finish.  Um, ammonia going from 0.25 the first day to 1.5 the next 3 days is a spike!! When it is zero and the nitrite is zero, then it is cycled.  I am not sure why the NO3 is so high so early, unless you brought your water from an established tank.  You will need to do a PWC (or several) to bring this down after the cycle is finished.> Will the coralline spread to the front rocks and dead coral? <Yes.  The live rock will seed the other pieces.> Should I remove the clam? <No.  It will not hurt anything.  If it is alive (closing when disturbed), I would leave it alone.  However, you might want to remove the Aiptasia anemone in picture 3. And more reading material: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/inverts/cnidaria/anthozoa/aiptasia/aiptasia.htm> Thanks, Jarett <You're welcome. Cheers, Alex.> pH = 8.0 all four days <A little low, should come up when cycling is finished.> NO2 = 0.3 all four days <Will spike next.> NH3 = 0.25 first day, 1.5 three next days <Spiking now.> KH = 10 third and 9 fourth day NO3= 25 third and fourth day  <Starting high.> <Your subscripts didn't translate to our font, so I had to assume subscripts based on your values.>

Nitrifying Bacteria Wipe Out? (Heater Breakdown)  3/16/2007 Hello to all, <Hi.> Need to ask one question on the bacteria, I've recently lost a marine aquarium to a heater malfunction. Of course it stayed on instead of off. Like they usually do. <Sorry to hear that, recommend going with two heaters next time, lower wattage. There is still a risk but if one goes awry again...it's less likely to cook a tank since it's not as powerful....and less likely two will go down simultaneously.> My question is how high a temp. can the bacteria take before dying? <Unless the tank literally boils for a sustained period of time, it is not likely you will kill all of the bacteria. There will however be a die off and it will take time for them to procreate and return to optimal levels.  Think of it as restarting your nitrogen cycle.> Thanks so much for your answer. <Of course.> Jim  Jesko <Adam Jackson.>

Cycling Refugium With BioSpira (But why?) 3/14/07 Hi All, <Hi, "D". GrahamT here.> I have set up a 6 gallon Eclipse tank as a refugium for my 10 gallon nano reef.   <I love refugiums... and adding volume for that matter.> I started the cycling about 2 weeks ago using a piece of frozen shrimp to get the ammonia in there (Left it in for 1 week then removed).   <Wait. You are cycling a refugium? This doesn't compute. If you are adding more volume in the form of a refugium to one system, and it is destined to contain exactly the same water as the main system, then why would we cycle it separately??? (Or at all)> My LFS usually carries BioSpira but they were out and said it was on order.  This past weekend I went back only to find they just placed the order and it would be another 2 weeks... so I ordered BioSpira from Drs. Foster and Smith online Saturday P.M.  Product shipped Monday, received the package overnight A.M.; products still cold, well packaged great service by the way). I took a reading on the ammonia, nitrite and nitrates and of course they all top the charts.   <Well, of course...> I added some of the BioSpira (the 1 oz is for 30 gallons and this is only 6) with plans to add some more later. (Package clipped tightly closed and replaced in fridge.)  Then later add some Right Now! by HDLtd which I have found really helps in knocking down the nitrates.   <Not sure how that could be. Isn't "Right Now!" a live bacteria (like Bio-Spira)? It doesn't claim to contain any anoxic or anaerobic  bacteria capable of reducing Nitrates.> But while doing a search on the WWM site for BioSpira I ran across the sentence...""They, and the microbes in the BioSpira were poisoned, hemolyzed in the fishes' case, by the ammonia...""  So I became confused as to the use of BioSpira and I'm quite possibly misunderstanding the statement.   <Nah, that's just Bob trying to scare you into cycling a tank properly. ;)> <<You are perceptive. RMF>> But it has me thinking that by adding BioSpira to a tank high in ammonia I'm killing the beneficial microbes and in fact wasting my time adding the product.  Please clarify this for me.  If I need to do a water change to dilute the high readings somewhat before adding more BioSpira, please let me know.   <This is news to me. Bob has just earned a forward from me. My research on hemolization tells me it can apply to this situation, but is rather vague specifically with the microbial "form". Hemolyzed red blood cells are ruptured, not sure how ammonia does this, but I am not a bio-chemist. This one is for Bob.><<Way too much ammonia/ammonium presence will kill beneficial microbes... cause hemolysis (in animals with RBC's natch). RMF>> I was running a carbon filter.  I removed the carbon bag before adding the BioSpira. <Not necessary, will not filter out anything that Bio-Spira metabolizes, and can actually provide a ton of surface area for the bacteria to live on.> (Whisper inside filter because of the low water level... below bulkhead and left the bio-filter in place)  The refugium has a 4-1/2" sand bed and that is all that's in the refugium at this time.  I know I need to have all parameters in this tank identical to my main tank before even considering tying them together.   <The simplest way to achieve this would be to fill it with water from the display and some substrate, immediately tying them together.> I have some extra live rock from rearranging my main tank which I plan to add after the ammonia, nitrite & nitrate levels are to 0.  Then I'll add Chaeto.  Should I put a cleanup crew in my refugium?   Move a couple snails and/or a hermit crab; was thinking to order some brittle stars to put in there.   <Not necessary, doesn't hurt unless you worry about competition from the hermits for pods.> The live rock has bristle worms and Gammarus shrimp already.  Love the Gammarus shrimp... highly entertaining and excellent scavengers.  Afterwards, my thoughts are during my main tank water changes to remove equal water from refugium and replace it with the removed water from the main tank.  Should I do this for a week or two before tying them together?    <Would do it once and have done with it altogether. I think it's good that you worry about the condition of the 'fuge, but I think this could be going faster and smoother if you just tie-in to the main display and let everything equalize. The system wouldn't spike if you had started this way, but now you don't want to introduce the elevated levels of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate into your main system. Live and learn. I would be more concerned doing it this way that your 'fuge is chemically different in many ways from the display, and when you finally do "join" them, there will be a period of accelerated acclimation. That said, I think you'll still be fine, because you have a plan and you know what to look for. Good luck! -GrahamT> Thanks again. Regards, Debbie P.

Graham tattle tail-ing on Brandon...   3/11/07 Bob, <Big G!> Was just looking over the current dailies and came across a post titled, "Kalk & Nano   3/11/07" answered by Brandon. It jumped out at me because he mentioned cycling with livestock. <<I thought that this was O.K.  I will research it further, has worked for me in the past however.>> Even more than that though, was that there is a perfect example of the silly conversation we've been having about the incomplete URLs in his post. Look for his link to: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/kalkh20faq2.htm and you'll see what I mean. <<Checked the dailies and have seen what you are talking about.  Perhaps someone could have pointed this out sooner?  Don't want to be a trouble maker.  I think that the links are getting messed up in the copy/paste operations from Word to Webmail.  I totally missed this.  Will make sure it doesn't happen again.  I know that Bob is busy and it helps when we do the proofreading on our own messages, but I am only human, and I miss things.>> <Did see> There, now you have a visual aid for what I already know you know about. I'm a proponent of talking things to death sometimes... it's true. And to Brandon, shame on you! j/k <<I have put myself in the corner for the last thirty minutes.  Brandon.>> -GrahamT <Mmm, still a S.O.P. with/for many... B> <<Heeee! No worries. BobF> Brandon, Brandon! You had better stop with the trouble making, or I'll use YOU to cycle a 15 gallon FOWLR with 5 pounds of live rock! Where's my wet noodle?!? I hope you were snickering when writing this. I hate to think I made anyone think I'm policing them. I am slightly surprised to see it recommended to use livestock to cycle, though I didn't think you'd be put out by it. You weren't, right? I'm just covering my arse, right? RIGHT?  Oh great! Now he's not even talking to me. Wonderful. ;) You can come out of the corner now... -Graham

Re: Graham tattle tail-ing on Brandon...   3/11/07 Brandon, Brandon! You had better stop with the trouble making, or I'll use YOU to cycle a 15 gallon FOWLR with 5 pounds of live rock! Where's my wet noodle?!? I hope you were snickering when writing this. <Actually, I was giggling.> I hate to think I made anyone think I'm policing them. <I have done the same thing regarding a post by a crew member that said that there are many white H. crispa found in nature.  So I will not fault you for the same thing.  There is nothing wrong with being passionate, besides if we didn't check up on each other, this site wouldn't be the best of it's kind.  So please feel free to let me know if you feel I have miss stepped.  I welcome this sort of thing.  It is how one learns.> I am slightly surprised to see it recommended to use livestock to cycle, though I didn't think you'd be put out by it. You weren't, right? I'm just covering my arse, right? RIGHT?   <Well I figured that it was all right to use live stock.  When I did my 75g reef, I put in ~120 pounds of cured live rock, and two or three fish.  A P. hexataenia, and two P. biaculeatus.  Let it run like this for about two weeks, and the cycle was done.  Turbo cycling.  But no I would not put fish in a tank with live rock that has yet to be cured.> Oh great! Now he's not even talking to me. Wonderful. <HA! Good luck!  My wife says I can't shut up!  So does my boss!> ;) You can come out of the corner now... <I have been out of the corner for about an hour now.  I had to go pick up a Trachyphyllia for my display tank.  They guy that sold it to me charged me $10 extra bucks because he said that it was a Wellsophyllia!  I think that this is punishment enough. (;^D).  Brandon.> -Graham

Tank not Cycling!  -- 03/09/07 Hey Bob <Brandon with you tonight.> I would just like to thank you and the crew for all the work you do helping us marine novices. <You're welcome, we were all novices once.>   I've been cycling my 130 L (I think about 30 gallons) with 6 Kg (13 pounds) of LR. My LFS recommended no substrate; they seemed to think that LR would be enough to cycle it.  <Live Rock is not technically what cycles the tank.  There are bacteria on the rock that have to grow in order for the Nitrogen cycle to start.> I'm running a JEBO 180 hang-on Skimmer during the day (not at night cause the thing is really LOUD). I have DIY in-built wet/dry filtration system and an extra power head for circulation. I've had my tank up a running for about 6 weeks now and it seems like my test results never change.  <Are there fish in the tank?> 0,5 mg/l NH3 0,1 mg/l NO2 (Hard to tell it, might just be 0. I find it hard to read the colour chart.) 0,0 mg/l N03 (Again hard to tell, as the colours for 0,5 and 10 look the same.) pH 8.2 SG 1.026 Temp 26 (79) Seeing these results give me the impression that it's hardly even started cycling.  <I had a recent issue with NO2 that I think is applicable here.  I could not seem to get the NO2 to drop in my tank for anything.  I have had the tank running for a year.  I wound up removing all the live rock, and vacuuming the gravel very thoroughly.  This did the trick for me.  I would try this.  Something that you are not aware of could have died under the sand.> I was just wondering when it was time to start panicking that it won't cycle.  <It will cycle eventually.> Also with my last couple of tanks I noticed that when they were cycling that there lots of little critters moving around but in this tank there doesn't appear to be any.  <The ammonia might be too high.  I would be looking for dead critters at this point.  Could be built up organics in the water too.  Run the skimmer 24 hours a day for about a week and see what happens.  8-10 hours is kind of a long time to leave the skimmer off.  Perhaps you could sell this one and get an AquaC Remora.  These are pretty quiet.  I personally like to run my skimmer in the sump.  I would vacuum the substrate very well, even up under the rock.  I know that it is not generally recommended to do this, but this is a special case here.  The bacteria will grow based off of available food.  The caveat of this, is that sometimes there is so much available food that the bacteria can't grow fast enough to dispose of it all, and you will experience a sort of lag.  I have had great success with trying to cut the amount down.  It seems that the bacteria catch up rather quickly when you do this.  Try it out, run the skimmer, and after about two weeks you should have better numbers.> All I'm getting is lots and lots of algae but this has slowed down because I'm only running the lights for 4 hours a day instead of 7.  <If there are no fish, I would not even bother with the lights.  The algae are growing because of an excess of nutrients.  There is a possibility that this rock was not properly cured as well.  It happens sometimes.  To cure the rock run the tank fallow with the lights off for about four weeks.  After that you should be ready to cycle.> I purchased the LR rock from the same LFS as my other tanks and did exactly the same thing as my other tanks. Thanks for the help <I tossed a lot of ideas at you, I hope that one of them helps.  Brandon>

Alkalinity high, Ca low - ph stuck 8.0   2/25/07 Wife and I have new 75g tank set up and cycling. 2 weeks old. 20g sump and ASM G2 skimmer Trying to monitor levels and do what is necessary to get water chemistry right while cycling tank <Okay> 100# Kaelini live rock uncured originally I think <Yes... is a "Walt Smith" Fiji product... named after one of his and Deb's daughters... have been out collecting... seen the process there for cleaning...> Instant Ocean with RO/DI water 2" aragonite sand bed Here are latest water tests pH - 8.0 can't seem to get it up to 8.3. <No worries... mostly the affects of LR curing...>   Initially was around 7.8 We have added 4 tsp (80g dosage) SeaChem Marine 8.3 buffer on about 4 different days, raised pH to 8.0 but no higher <Is fine> temp - ranges from 78-81.  do I need more fan to stabilize this better or is this normal? <Is fine as well> actinics(4-65w) on for 8hrs with MH (2-250w) on for 6hrs <Would extend once rock is cured> Ammon-0 spiked to high of 8.0 and dropped Nitrites -test .5 today , spiked as high as 5.0 Nitrates - had spiked as high as 80 now hovering at 20 last several days. Is our cycle about to finish?? <Mmm, yes, likely so> My Alk is at 14 dKH today up from 12 last several days. <Less of the alkalinity buffer to add...> Calcium is at 280 up from 240. <More of the alkaline earth to add...> The only thing we have added is about 4 daily doses over 2 weeks of SeaChem buffer to try and get pH to 8.3 and about 3 doses of Oceans Blend 2 part liquid to try to raise Calcium. <Stop the former, continue the latter> All this at recommendation of LFS They said don't worry with water changes yet, just let cycle complete. <About right> No livestock at all.   Pretty coralline on live rock bleached out to pure white initially,  but now appears to be coming back in some places Last several days have a little green algae starting to form on rock and glass.  Looks like single strands about 1/2" long. Today noticed white minute particles floating around.   Thought it may be micro bubbles, but don't believe it is air. Also first time noticed a light film on surface of water in one side of tank.  Redirected Powerheads and seems to be getting better but not completely gone.  No film had been seen in previous 2 weeks. Skimmer running from day one,, poly in filter section. I want to raise Calcium up, LFS said use 2 part mix. <Is one route... see WWM re> We have added about 2-3 dosages of 2 part mix, not sure of what dosage to use, we added 15ml of each part. <Just keep measuring, recording the results of what you add...> This has raised Calcium from 240 to 280, but also Alk from 12 to 14 dKH Can I use only Calcium part of 2 part mix?? <Yes> As I think my Alk is beginning to get to the high side, right?? <Yes... I would leave off boosting it beyond 12dKH> Thanks in advance for your help; Butch <Enjoy the process. Bob Fenner>

Marine Cycling Bio-Spira 2/16/07 Dear Crew, <Hello> I have searched and have not found these specific answers.  I started my marine tank (hopefully a reef) about 5 weeks ago.  20 gallon, 12  lb. live rock, Penguin 150 bio-wheel and Prizm protein skimmer.  <That skimmer does not have the best reputation, may want to consider replacing it.> With the recommendation of the LFS, I set up the tank, LR, water and filters one day and added Bio-Spira the next day along with 3 clowns, 1 flaming angel and a yellow anemone. <Way too much way too fast, and a bad livestock combination on top of that.> Within two days, the anemone died. <Unfortunately not surprising.> Pulled it out and everything seemed to be fine.  The LFS told  me everything should be fine with the Bio-Spira and gave me another anemone, this time white. <Not a good sign of health in the anemone.>  This one died within days as well. <Again not surprising.>  Now after weeks of reading your website, I know I have just killed two anemones for all the wrong reasons. <At least you used it as a learning experience.> Not trusting the LFS anymore, I finally got a test kit. <Good>  I did a 25% water change and after that, my readings were ammonia 0 Nitrites 2.0, Nitrates 20 and pH at 8.4.  I have been measuring the nitrite everyday for a week now with the reading at 2.  Yesterday I did the all the testing again, ammonia 0, nitrites 2, Nitrates 150 <Wow, a lot.> and pH 8.4.  Today, the Nitrates have risen  to 5.0 or higher.  The tank went through an algae cycle two weeks ago but that cleared up right away. <Will probably return in a different form at some point.>  The fish all seem healthy, they eat great and swim normally.  <Good>  With the parameters as I describe, should I do water changes, and if so, how much and how often? <Yes and often until the nitrite reading goes to 0, probably 10% every other day.> I know the tank  still needs to cycle but I do not want to lose the fish because I  didn't act quickly enough.  <Will slow down the process but the alternative is losing the fish.>  I would like to eventually add some mushrooms and some "easy" to keep corals.  <Ok, but not with an anemone.> Another question I have is about micro-bubbles.  I use Prime to  condition the water.  I have read that this may cause the bubbles but it should clear up within a couple of weeks.  <Will effect water's surface tension.>  I have had these  bubbles since day 1 and they have not reduced and they are being produced by the skimmer and the bio-wheel.  I have well water which has been tested for and does not have chlorine or ammonia.  Do I need to use the Prime? <Not really.> With my skimmer, I can adjust it so I get the correct foam in the  chamber but when I do, the collection cup fills up with water.  I  know that this will happen until the skimmer "breaks in" but in the mean time, do I let it fill up the collection cup with water or do I turn it down so that doesn't happen.  <I would probably turn it down just so I don't accidentally flood the house, but really not a big deal either way.>  Also, if I do let it fill the  collection cup, can I just dump the water back in the tank do I throw it out and add new?  <Pitch it and refill.> With my well water, I have an in-well aeration system to condition the water.  I believe I have pure water in my house except for the fact that it is hard water.  I do not want to add a RO/DI unit unless I have to.  <I'm a big fan of these and think most all tanks can benefit from, but time will tell if you "really" need one.>  Is it possible to have my house water tested and if so,  what do I test for that I should be concerned about for my aquarium?  <Beyond Ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, and phosphate total dissolved solids (TDS) is a general indication of how much "stuff" is in the water.> Finally, I want to set up a Rubbermaid container to store premixed water.  Do I need a powerhead and an aerator or just one or the other?  <Either or, both are not needed.> Thanks for all your help and info. Mike <A quick comment on your stocking if I may, 3 clowns will run into problems in the future most likely, really should only be kept in pairs in this sized tank.  Also a flame angle needs a much larger tank, likes to have swimming room.  But keep on reading and learning and you will be fine.> <Chris>

Cycling Questions - 02/09/2007 Hi, <Hello there> I just setup a new 32 gallon tank with built in sump/skimmer and fuge.  I added 26 pounds of Bali live rock that I picked up at a local store, and have about a 3-4 inch deep sand bed.  Fuge has maybe 4 - 5 inches and only has mangroves as of now (left over from old setup - have some Chaetomorpha coming hopefully tomorrow).  I have the displays 165 Watt power compacts running 12 hours a day... Since I couldn't find Bio-Spira locally I purchased Nitromax marine which "supposedly" instantly cycles the tank (which I don't believe).  I have added it ever 2 days as the bottles have instructed. Last Friday I added some food to see if I could get an ammonia reading, and sure enough when I did a water test on Sunday (2 days later - missed Saturday), I had ph 8.0, nitrite 0, nitrate 10, ammonia .25, SG 1.025 On Monday and Tuesday I also did water tests, and now the readings are pH 8.3, nitrite 0, nitrate 5, ammonia 0.  SG 1.025. Should I try to add more food to feed the bacteria? <Mmm, I'd add a smidgen more... a pinch... and test the next day...> Should I stop using Nitromax? <I'd use it if you still had some...> At this point how long do you think until I introduce a fish to the tank (I have 4 that are dying to get into a real aquarium - sadly they are all that's left from my old setup - but that's a long story that I sent an email to the crew about a few weeks ago :) ) <I'd move them now> I am now seeing some algae growth on the LR now <Ah, another good sign> - and still I am seeing feather duster worms, unknown worms, amphipods, some white anemone with a bright green center lodged in a hole in the live rock, etc.  Thanks for your help. <Oh! The mangroves and the rest of the existing non-fish material very likely brought enough nitrification along with them... BobF>

First Marine Tank/Cycling Protocol/Patience - 01/28/07 Hi, <<Hi Joanne x...hmm...any relation to Jason X? [grin]  Sorry'¦couldn't resist>> I have spoken to Tom before regarding my existing FW tank. <<And excellent advice received, I'm sure>> I have been given another 180-litre tank and after some research and a lot of time reading on your site I have decided I would like to convert it to a marine tank. <<Neat!>> I have priced up the equipment I need which is decidedly cheaper than a marine tank <<...?>>, and understand what order I need to do things in to cycle the tank etc, (mostly learned here!). <<Excellent!>> My question is that I have been told that after the tank has been cycled, before I can add any fish, that I have to take the tank right down, <<Huh?>> replace all the water and rinse the filters, <<What?>> is this correct? <<Not in my opinion>> I may be wrong, but to me this goes against everything I have done or learned and would defeat the object of cycling? <<Possibly, yes>> I would appreciate your advice. <<Well Joanne, I would not do what you have just described.  After the tank cycles, I would merely do a large "partial" water change (say 30-percent) and clean/replace any "mechanical" filter media>> Many thanks in advance. Joanne x <<A pleasure to assist Joanne.  And let me leave you with this thought...  Once the tank is cycled, consider letting it go fishless for some months (6-12 if you can stand it!).  This allows much micro-/macro-fauna to proliferate/establish sustainable colonies in the absence of piscine predators.  Honestly, you will find the life that emerges/develops from the live rock, in the absence of fishes, to be every bit as fascinating to observe.  Cheers, Eric Russell>> Re: First Marine Tank/Cycling Protocol/Patience -  02/03/07 Hi all, <<Hello Joanne>> I have attached my earlier question below, I hope you can be of assistance again. <<I will try...Eric here with you again>> I just wanted to let you know that all your advice is greatly appreciated  and not taken for granted. <<I hope it proves useful to you>> I now have the tank set up with an additional external filter to supplement the internal one, a protein skimmer and 20kgs of cured live rock.  So far I am really happy with how things are going and I have been fortunate that my local aquatics store owner is more interested in making sure my tank is successful than selling me items I don't need! <<Ahh...excellent!>> I wanted advice on some things I have seen swimming round in the tank today, I have managed to catch hold of one of them and they appear to be tiny shrimp, the store owner gave me some of his own mature live rock to kick start the tank and I am assuming they hitched a ride on this as he has skunk(?) shrimp in his tank. <<Mmm, hitchhikers yes...but though not impossible, I doubt these are Lysmata amboinensis.  I think it is much more likely what you have discovered is a "Mysid shrimp."  These are small shrimp-like crustaceans found in most any marine system in varying densities based on habitat/refuge and presence/density of predators.  It's a beneficial detritivore as well as a tasty and nutritious treat for many larger tank inhabitants>> Will they be okay whilst the tank is cycling or am I likely to lose them all? <<Populations tend to wax and wane...even if they seemingly disappear, they will likely turn up again>> Also, I was planning to add a few hermit crabs in the next few week as clean up crew, but I have been reading a lot about them here this morning and am now in two minds as to whether they will be a useful addition to my tank, especially as I wasn't aware they needed a way to climb up for air and to dry out. <<Huh?  Not the aquatic marine species utilized/sold in the hobby...you must have confused these with "land" hermits which are also sold/kept as "pets."  The popular marine hobby species (red-leg, blue-leg, etc.) are totally aquatic.  And it's up to you to decide but, do be aware these crabs are very opportunistic omnivores than can scour much/most of the emergent life from your live rock...yet still...very popular with many hobbyists>> Thanks again, Joanne <<Happy to share.  EricR>> Questions from a SW beginner - PART 2  1/2/07 Sorry to bother again, but just wanted to clear something up. <Not a bother - no problem!> In my last message you said to add some cocktail shrimp or fish food to help the nitrate and ammonia levels spike.  Will this hurt the 3 snails I have living on the live rock in the tank? <Good point - I should have been more clear.  Since you have the snails already in the tank, I'd stick with the fish food method...just a little pinch per day.  And, since you already have livestock in the tank, cycling is a bit more challenging - while you do need to see a spike in the levels, as mentioned before, it's a bit of a catch-22, because livestock, obviously, don't like toxins.  Do measure the levels at least once per day, and do water changes as needed to bring the levels down.  While you'll be prolonging the cycle, you'll be saving the lives of your snails.  This is precisely why I prefer not to use livestock to cycle, as it makes things more complicated.  In any case, it can be done, with careful vigilance on your part. Good luck, and Happy New Year! Jorie> Thank you for you time. Ryan

I have got major problems!  Instant Cycle a Tank With Bio-Spira  - 12/12/06 Thank God for your website!! <We aim to please!> The LFS around here are beyond sad!  Anyway, here are my problems...  please help! In taking a marine bio course at college we had to start up a 30 gal saltwater tank and maintain it for 4 months. It contained 3 fish (clown, damsel, fire), 1 banded coral shrimp, 2 algae conchs and other mollusks and a crab. However, at the end of the semester we were expected to take them home. I had 2 weeks to cycle a 55 gal tank. I used some of the water and substrate from the school tank and a chemical cycling product.  To top it off before bringing them home the fish got ich ( I suspect from the water the crab came with).  Of course now the ammonia and nitrate levels are very high.  I've been careful to keep the temp at a steady 80 and the water aerated.  I did a 10 gal water change yesterday and the levels are still high. Should I put in new carbon filters?  Help!   <Whatever "chemical cycling product" you used, if it wasn't Bio-Spira (I'm assuming it's not, since you are having cycling problems), it will only hinder the cycling process.  Do a huge water change (80%) & add Bio-Spira to the filter.  Your cycling worries will be over!  In 2 weeks, you could have also done a fishless cycle with ammonia.  ~Pufferpunk> Thank you, Jennifer B, Florida

Re: Bio-Spira  12/14/06 Thanks for the super fast response! I used Cycle by Nutrafin and followed directions for marine use. OK, so I'll get Bio-Spira, do an 80% water change and all fish and inverts will be ok? <Yes, you need to remove the toxins in there.  Just be sure the SG, pH & temp are the same as the tank water.>   Should I also put in new carbon filters? <Wouldn't hurt> I have a Skilter Filter 400. Also, the protein skimmer isn't getting any foam yet, I'm assuming that is normal since the tank is so new.   <Get yourself a decent skimmer.  Skilters are junk!  In addition, that pad will collect nitrates on it.> Thanks Pufferpunk! <You're very welcome!  ~PP>

"Seeding" new filter media   11/26/07 Hi crew, <Hi Dave, Mich here.> I have a small tank with one of those Whisper filters that hangs inside the tank, where the filter media is just a flat floss envelope with some carbon inside.  It's getting time to change the floss envelope-- got all shredded from picking algae out of it.  I've got the new filter pack sitting in the side of the tank to "seed" with beneficial bacteria before I remove the old filter pack.  How long will the new filter pack take to accumulate enough bacterial growth to avoid problems when I remove the old one?  <I'd give it a couple of days if you can.> Thanks, -Dave

Serpent Star Woes/System Cycling - 11/13/06 OK, in the process of moving a 150gal from CT to RI. (yeah....fun) <<Mmm, indeed>> So I got a new 150gal, made all the salt water and let it clear up for a few days.  Then, I added about 2" of live sand and let that clear up for a day.  Then, added about 40lbs of live rock to get it started.  Water was clear, tested OK, so I started the move. First thing, about 100lbs of live rock from the old tank.  All was peachy.  Next day, another 50lbs of rock from the old tank, and some animals....(maroon clown, marine catfish, pajama cardinal, domino, coral banded shrimp, purple lobster, 2 huge serpent stars) <<An "interesting" mix...do keep an eye on the catfish and the lobster as they are/will be real threats to the other tank inhabitants...and the domino will also turn out to be a real "terror of the tank" as it grows/matures>> 2 days go by, all are eating, all seems good.  Next day, both serpent stars (actually, one is a big green one with spiny legs. Looks like a cross between a serpent and a brittle) are rapidly deteriorating. <<Uh-oh>> Actually falling apart. <<Ack!>> What did I do wrong? <<Hmm...my guess would be the tank is experiencing an ammonia spike/nitrogen cycle as a result of the move.  Makes sense to me that the Ophiuroids would be the first affected>> Everything else seems to be fine. <<For the moment, maybe>> Do I move the rest of the animals? <<I would.  And test the new setup (ammonia/nitrite/nitrate), leaving it to complete the nitrogen cycle if need be.  It is very likely moving of the old rock caused some die-off within, this, along with the fact you added some new rock...I'm not surprised the bacteria couldn't keep up>> Please help. <<Hope I have>> Thanks in advance, you guys are very wise. <<Kind words, thank you...we do our best>> -Pat <<Regards, EricR>>

UV sterilizer 11/6/06 Hello! <Hi> I just started a new 75G saltwater aquarium from scratch. Is that o.k. if I run my UV sterilizer while the water is cycling? Thank you very much for your time ! Sonny. <Should be fine, may slow down the process a little, but no big deal.> <Chris>

Cannot cycle new tank with lionfish; recommend using "fishless" method instead   11/6/06 Hello all, <Well hello...> A quick question (this time I promise?). <OK, no problem...> I have been curing liverock for two weeks and it was partially cured before.  Once I am getting a zero reading on ammonia I will place into my new 200gallon setup and aquascape. <Good plan.> Bob Fenner's book recommends waiting 2-4 weeks before adding critters, but also mentions that some people use damsels to in the 2-4 initial stage. <Absolutely true; I personally think that using live fish to cycle a tank is cruel, however, and use only fish food, or a piece of cocktail shrimp.  It achieves the same end result and spares the fish any "unpleasantries"...> Is it safe to add my Volitans Lionfish during this 2-4 week cycle stage?  Brand new sand, cured rock, water, etc. <Absolutely not.  The lionfish are too delicate.  Again, though, in my humble opinion, there's no reason to use any live creatures to cycle a tank...do a search on "fishless cycle" on the 'net and you'll find lots of alternative methods that work just as well and don't harm any fish...> Thanks, <You're welcome.> Dave <Jorie> Re: Cannot cycle new tank with lionfish; recommend using "fishless" method instead   5/8/06 Thanks for the response. <You're welcome.> I thought Lionfish were like the 2nd hardiest fish offered in aquarium trade? <I've never heard this "opinion"; generally, Volitans lionfish do fine in a stable, well-established tank, but I've never heard them to be particularly hardy with respect to be able to withstand ammonia, nitrite and nitrate spikes necessary for cycling purposes...> Anyhow... So I will introduce ONLY cured liverock and will perhaps take some substrate and some of the water from my established fish/invert system to 'seed' my new tank? <Good plan; will likely speed the cycle a bit.> Maybe even use some of the liverock in my Fish/Invert sump and use in my new sump for this new system? <Also good.> Would you expect that I'd still have ammonia/nitrate spikes in the two to four week period after? <In a 200 gal. tank, I would expect so, yes...> Should I be introducing my lionfish then at two weeks?  Four weeks?  Or simply when I haven't detected any signs of ammonia or nitrate? <I always like to err on the side of caution, since I've done my share of "pushing the envelope", sometimes without good results; I would suggest not introducing any fish before the 2 week minimum period, and personally would side closer to 4 weeks, but in any event, not before the cycle has completed. In other words, not before the 2-4 week period, but possibly longer, depending on the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate readings in your tank.> Dave <Good luck.  In my experience, when cycling with live rock, at least you'll likely have neat "critters" (hitchhikers) to look at for the cycling period, as opposed to freshwater cycling, where you are literally staring at water for a month or so!  Enjoy your tank, Jorie> Complete cycle & nitrate problems  10/26/06 Hi, <And to you> I am having a cycle & nitrate problem; any thoughts would be appreciated. Tank - 29 Gallon (35 lbs of live rock in tank) Sump filter - with 18 pounds of live rock (no bio-balls) 60 pounds of live sand and 20 lbs of crushed coral <Not much room for water!> Protein skimmer - rated up to 100 gallon tank <Mmm... your mileage may vary...> Return pump 500 gallon/hour Sweeping power head for additional water movement 135 watt PC lighting Tank startup date - August 31, 2006 Ammonia  - Somewhere between 0 and .25 (in between color for 0 and .25) PH - 8.2 Temp: 78 Nitrates  - .05 were previously at 0.2 Nitrates - have been high since the tank was started. Over 50 ppm first week and have been over 50 ppm ever since. With one test (one that will give high range results) kit I'm getting readings of 100 to 200 ppm. <Yeeikes! Some appreciable die-off...> Water changes seem to have very little effect on the nitrate levels, may bring the level down slightly, but is usually back up within 24 hours. No dead livestock in tank - 2 fish one clown, one damsel, three hermit crabs, six snails, and a sally light foot - eat and look fine (but I do not overfeed - food is consumed within 15 seconds). Nitrate levels at least 50ppm (to the top range of most kits). I have had the LFS run the same tests with their test kits - nitrates over 50ppm (that was the top range on their kits). Overflow and sump filters cleaned regularly. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Jackie <Mmmm, is your sump/refugium illuminated? Do you grow macroalgae there? I would. Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner> New Tank/Nitrogen Cycle/LFS Advice? -- 10/16/06 Hey all, I'm new to the hobby and have read a lot off your site and I want to thank you first for all the advice, it helped me a lot! <<Glad you found it useful>> First off, my system is a 75 gallon reef.  It's been up and running only for about 2 weeks now, and I have been monitoring the water daily.  I have a Fluval 405, AquaC Remora Pro, 3 power heads, and power compact lighting set on a timer.  My pH was not staying constant at all, so I went to the LFS to ask them about it.  They explained all about alkalinity and how if it's too low it will affect the pH buffer.  So I got some Super Buffer dKH and pH, so I've been using that for the past 2 days according to the directions. <<Is the LFS aware this is new tank in the beginning stages of its nitrogen cycle?  If they are then shame on them for starting you down this path>> Testing everything now, the dKH is very high, pH is good, and calcium is good (I've been adding a calcium buffer as well). <<Not necessary, or even desired at this stage, and in my opinion.  You have nothing in the tank to merit the addition of calcium (nothing using it up).  Did you check alkalinity/calcium BEFORE dosing the additives?  Likely your pH swings are due to the elevated levels of organics/acids from dead/dying organisms on and in the live rock>> Temp is 78.6, pH is 8.3, dKH is 20, ammonia is 1.0, nitrite is .25, nitrate is 10, and calcium is 430. <Note the high readings of the nitrogenous compounds...this tank is cycling and best left alone.  It is pointless to be 'fiddling' with the water chemistry at this stage>> I was just wondering if it's ok that the dKH is so high? <<Between this and the high calcium level you are running the risk of precipitating the all the earth elements out of solution and creating a real mess of your tank>> The pH is stable now, so I don't know what would cause dKH to be so high, <<Um...the additives you are pouring in to the tank>> and if that is dangerous/deadly to any creatures in the tank? <<No so much in itself, but you're creating a dangerous situation as already explained>> There is nothing in there besides live rock right now.  So any advice for me? <<Yes...STOP DOSING THIS TANK.  Perform a 50% water change to reestablish balance and let the tank finish cycling/curing the live rock you have added.  From this point, test for the 'need' of the additives before dosing. Unless you stock this tank with animals with high calcium requirements you will likely find that frequent partial water changes will provide all the earth elements your tank needs.  I also suggest you read (re-read) our FAQs and articles on establishing new tanks and the nitrogen cycle>> Thanks a lot for the help in advance, Greg <<Happy to share, EricR>>

I shot the sheriff, no, I killed a damsel?   9/26/06 Wow, what did I do? <Is this that blondie pop singer writing me again? My wife doesn't approve> Ok, so I've been keeping a fish/invert tank for 4yrs and am setting up another predator tank.  My cycling fish that will fit in well, is (was) a jeweled damsel. <Not a good idea... am a fan of fish-less cycling>   He was about 2.5" long.  Anyhow, I have some scattered liverock in a 20gallon quarantine tank to which he has been residing.  The tank has been running for months and previously housed my Royal Dottyback for 2 months.  I do water changes about 30% twice a month and the new water is directly from what is soon to become my reef tank. I have no new liverock in my quarantine. My pH  8.2 No sign of nitrates, nitrites, ammonia. Salinity holds steady at around 1.024 (1.0024?) <The former> and the water temp steady at about 26oc. The damsel was aggressively feeding up until two days ago.  He was dead and stuck to the powerhead (a small MaxiJet 900) yesterday.  The day before he was alive and hiding in a small cave of the liverock.  The day before, he was hanging out at the top of the water level waiting for me to feed him... to which he aggressively gobbled everything down. I've been feeding a mixture of flake, krill, shrimp, etc.  Alternating every few days.  He looked pretty healthy.  There's nothing else in the tank with him and there's no marks on his body.  He lasted 4 weeks and his behaviour change leading up to his death was over the course of maybe 30 hours. I did an immediate water test when I discovered him. The only thing I can remotely even think of is that over the past 10 days, a small Cyano colony on my live rock turned from a fuzzy purple to a dark green/grey. <Mmm, this could "do it"> It looked kinda sickly.  Water parameters stayed excellent. Any thoughts? <Yes. Hopefully this fish hasn't infested the system with parasites. BobF> Regards, Dave Brynlund

<Cycling New Tank>   9/4/06 Hi, <Hello Adam> I have had my tank set up for about 4-5 weeks, for some reason I <I> have 0 ppm ammonia levels but my nitrate is at 7.5ppm and my nitrite is at  0.50ppm, I have a few damsels in the tank and a couple pieces of coral, Are these levels acceptable,<?> I <I> no <know> 0 ppm for everything is the best but should I <I> be worried? I do 5% water change once a week,  is it  strange that there is no ammonia but there is nitrate/nitrite? Any suggestions? p.s. I no <know> I <I> added my fish a little early but LFS said water levels were fine. <Not uncommon to have a nitrite reading with no ammonia level present as this is the second stage in the denitrification process.  As far as nitrate, very unlikely you will ever get a 0 reading.> Regards <Adam, in future queries, please do a spelling/grammar check.  We do not have the time to correct/edit queries before posting.  Thank you, James (Salty Dog)> Adam

Filtration/Tank Cycling/Refugium Addition - 09/02/06 Hi crew, <<Ronde>> I am ~4wks into my SW experience and for the most part am really enjoying it.  WWM has been a great tool for me, but there isn't enough time in a day to read the whole site (I am trying). <<Not necessary to read in a day...take two <grin> >> As I stated pretty much everything is alive with the exception of a few snails (1 or 2 margaritas and a Nassarius or 2 (sp) <<Nassarius>>) and 1 of the 3 green Chromis I purchased. <<Mmm...this tank is likely too "new" for livestock yet>> That leaves 6 margarita  snails, some blue legged hermits, some Turbos (not sure which kind) and some Nassarius snails.  I just purchased an AquaPod 12 for use as a QT for any new pets. <<Excellent...do be sure to read our FAQs on quarantine>> Now for the questions.  1. I have a 46g bowfront glass tank with 60# of CaribSea Arag-Alive Bahama oolite, 30# of live rock, a Penguin 350 bio-wheel, a Penguin 200 BioWheel, a  Maxijet 900 powerhead, a SeaClone 100 (I know it is a bad choice and am looking to get a Remora or Remora pro; do you have any suggestions on which would be more appropriate?) <<The AquaC Remora will serve fine...and you might want to consider removal of the bio-wheel filters unless this will be a FOWLR>> There is also a 150w heater in there too.  Will this setup support soft coral or do I need to change some of the setup? <<You don't state your lighting, but "generically speaking, yes.  Though you need to research the "specific needs" of the species you plan to acquire>> My temp runs from an occasional low of 79 but stays in the 80 to low 81's. <<This is fine>> I have a 36" Current USA Nova Extreme set on timers with actinics  coming on for 8 hours and the 10000k on for 6 sandwiched in between the actinics and the lunars on after the actinics turn off at night. <<You should shoot for a more natural (12-13 hour) photo-period>> I had the lights on longer but had a diatom bloom that the snails have since taken care of. <<Part of the natural algae succession of a new/cycling tank>> My last water tests gave me a result of spec. gravity 1.022, <<This needs to be NSW levels (1.025/1.026)>> pH 8.4, ammonia  0ppm, nitrite <0.25ppm (color in between 0 and 0.25ppm on Aquarium Pharmaceuticals saltwater master liquid test kit) and nitrate 10ppm (usually around 20ppm steady). <<This 4-week old tank is still cycling...please don't add further livestock until this is finished>> Fish are fed 2 times per week 1/2 cube of frozen Mysis which takes about 6-min to eat. <<Your fish should be fed daily my friend>> Also I add Purple-Up a few times a week (I need to buy a calcium test kit) and use Seachem Reef Buffer once per week. <<Please read here:   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/suppleme.htm>> Would a refugium eliminate the need for one or both of the Penguin filters? <<Your live rock will eliminate the need for these...but addition of a refugium is always beneficial>> Due to space restrictions it would probably need to be HOB  style.  On an All-Glass brand tank would the extra weight be a  concern? <<No>> Fish seem to be happy and the snails seem to be happy except for the fact that a few hermit crabs have displaced them from their shells (I need to  buy some bigger shells). <<A common issue...and one more reason I don't keep hermit crabs>> I don't want to be a victim of paralysis by analysis but need to know if I am on the right track. <<Keep reading...you'll get there>> Sorry for the length but thanks for the help. <<No worries my friend...but please do use proper capitalization on future exchanges>> Ronde B. <<EricR>> New Marine Setup/Cloudy Water - 08/26/06 Dear Crew, first of all I think you're website is amazing. <<Thank You>> Thanks for providing such a great resource of information. <<A collective effort>> I have a very strange problem, and I'm hoping one of you "ichthi-geniuses" can help me to find a solution. <<Hee!  If you're looking for "genius" I'll have to refer you to Bob...else I'm happy to help as I can>> <Mmm, what's that line from the McKenzie bro.s "Strange Brew" movie? "I'm just an employeeee." RMF> I have a new marine setup: 120 gallon Tenecor acrylic aquarium, 120 lbs. of live rock, 4x96 watt power compact lighting (2 daylight and 2 actinic bulbs), 3-inch bed of Aragamax sand, wet/dry filter with an Iwaki inline pump, AquaC EV-180 protein skimmer running from a MagDrive 7 pump.  I had two PowerSweep 228's running in the tank for additional water flow, but have removed these as they were increasing the temperature above 82 degrees. <<How far "above"?  Temperatures of 83-84 degrees are acceptable and definitely no reason to remove/reduce water flow and the benefits associated re.  Placing a small fan to blow across the surface of the water would also give you a couple degrees of evaporative cooling>> I'm using Chemipure and those blue bonded filter pads. <<Cleaning the pads every few days I hope>> The only livestock that I currently have in the tank are 2-Green Chromis and 1-Yellowtail Damsel, which were added after the tank had cycled.  The fish are behaving normally and eating.  I'm trying to be patient and increase the bio load slowly. <<A good approach>> Ammonia and Nitrites are zero, and Nitrates are at around 10 ppm. <<Mmm, very strange for such a large tank with such a light bio-load...I suspect your tank is NOT truly cycled>> The pH and alkalinity are at "ideal" levels. <<Numbers please...>> My issue is due to a cloudiness of the water.  Kind of like a milky haziness that has lasted for almost two weeks. <<Any link to the addition of the substrate?  Have you added any terrestrial rocks/questionable ornaments?>> Every evening when I return home from work the water has turned cloudy.  In the morning this haze is considerably reduced only to regenerate throughout the day.  I've read through the FAQ's, and assumed that this was a bacterial bloom issue. <<Is my guess as well>> I have done 3 consecutive water changes over the past week at about 30% at a time. <<And yet your nitrates read at 10ppm?  Have you tested your source/make-up water.  Whatever is producing the nitrate may be feeding the bacteria bloom>> The water begins to clear after the changes, but then starts to become hazy again.  The temperature in the tank ranges from 79 degrees in the morning to 81 degrees in the evening. <<This temp range is fine>> I have not been using the 2 300-watt heaters because the temperature doesn't fall below 79, even though the ambient temp in the house stays around 71 degrees.  Should I employ the heaters to keep the temperature at 81? <<Mmm, nope...I would set these as the lower temperature range of 79.  A two-degree spread throughout the day is not a worry, and the lower temperature at night when the lights are off will allow a smidgen more oxygen in to the water>> I know this is not a problem with micro bubbles.  My skimmer does release some micro bubbles initially after the water changes but this stops after about an hour or so.  I've decided to keep the lights off today to see if this will help to make the water clearer, but I certainly can't keep the lights off indefinitely. <<Honestly, I wouldn't even bother with this approach...always more harm than good in my opinion>> Beyond further water changes I'm not sure what else to do at this point.  Any advice you could provide would be greatly appreciated.   <<Patience my friend...  The phenomenon should clear on its own.  You can probably actually speed this up a bit by "stopping" the water changes (especially if whatever is feeding the bloom is in your make-up water) and letting the tank reach an equilibrium/cycle out whatever is feeding the bloom.  Don't stop feeding the fish, but do feed judiciously (and turn those lights back on).  And certainly continue to monitor water quality...if things continue to deteriorate you should consider removing the fish and allowing the tank to cycle fallow for a few more weeks.  Regards, EricR>>

08/25/2006 - Tank Cycling Problems Hi WWM crew! <Hi there EricS here> I have been reviewing the information on your Web site which has helped me figure out what I have done wrong clearing out a Cyanobacteria invasion and what I needed to do right, but now I am stuck as to where I should go next!  So I am hoping to get some one on one guidance. <Great start. Always refer to the web site first! Thanks much!> Here is the history - about a year ago, we set up a 30 gallon salt water tank which we enjoyed for about 6 months with no problems.  We decided to upgrade to a 55 gallon tank and for a couple of months had absolutely no problems.  The tank was set up with a Skilter Filter with a protein skimmer (that we weren't using at the time) and a wheel power filter. <My opinion on the Skilter is not a very efficient product for that size of tank they may work merely OK for a small tank.  But not for a 55.  Please look at the AquaC Remora or CPR Backpack for a hang on skimmer.  The BioWheel is merely optional when you have live rock> About 2 months into the 55 gallon tank, we began to lose fish - including a clownfish, a royal Gramma, a yellow tang, and a couple of cardinal fish (the first one and then one we got to replace).  These fish died at the rate of about 1 a day.  We had water tested which came back with normal results and the fish store said that we might have introduced an infection that affected our fish, but not our invertebrates (we had a couple of peppermint shrimp, a cleaner shrimp, a brittle star fish, and a variety of snails and hermit crabs).   <What did they exactly test for? What test kits?  Do get your own so that you can do these tests on a regular basis yourself> So we tried again with some blue/green chromis (started with 5) that began to die after a couple of days in the tank at the rate of one a day until we were down to just one.  After that one had survived for about a month, we decided to add some more fish and added a royal Gramma, a tomato clownfish, and a yellow and black fish that I can't remember the name. Around that same time we started to get this invasion of a red algae looking film that after some research I decided was Cyanobacteria.  The fish store suggested we add power heads to our tank and start using the protein skimmer.  We started the protein skimmer and added to 212 PowerSweep powerheads.   <More current is definitely a good suggestion.  Try to point the powerheads more toward the areas that have the Cyano.  I think you still need more current as this is a 4 foot tank.  I have a 75 gallon with 5 powerheads in it and a return so quite a bit of flow :)  You do not need that much but do add more and point them as directed to help clear the Cyano.  Do not use any medications. > We really saw no difference in the tank accept that the fish appeared to enjoy the current!!!  Our red slime invasion continued to get worse!  Then death hit once again and we lost our royal Gramma, the blue/green chromis, and the tomato clownfish.  I took more water to the fish store to get tested along with the a sample of the red slime.  The water tested fine and they agreed that the red slime is Cyanobacteria.  One thing I had learned was that we weren't doing correctly is our water changes - we have not been vacuuming the gravel at all, just collecting water off the top - so I think that the "junk" we built up in the gravel may have caused many of our problems.  So, the fish store sold me a gravel vacuum and some "medicine" for the Cyanobacteria. <Again no medicine.  I believe in natural methods.  Need to find the main culprit.  Cycling and lack of flow are most obvious.  A minimum of a nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia kit.  I like Salifert.  These kits will allow you to watch the cycle.> I have now learned that the "medicine" is more like "poison" as within 12 hours of putting it in the tank, we lost our yellow and black fish and our cleaner shrimp.  We are down to one peppermint shrimp, a brittle star fish, and two hermit crabs. So, what we have done now is a 20% water change using the gravel vacuum, thoroughly cleaned all components of the tank, and changed all the filter media.  I also created a "sea storm" prior to vacuuming by shaking every piece of live rock prior to removal so I could clean under each piece.  I must say, the tank looks beautiful this morning!!!! My questions to you are what do we do next?  My thoughts were that we may need to let the tank cycle again.  Will it be possible to add fish in the next couple of weeks if the water tests O.K.?  If so, what fish do you suggest we start out with this time?  Do we need to go back to the damsel fish for a while or can we start with some others?  Also, in the mean time, do we feed the brittle star fish at all or can she find enough to eat in the tank?  Our plan is to continue water changes on a regular basis as we did in the past, only using the gravel vacuum from here on out. <What are you using for substrate?  Your next steps are to purchase your own test kits so you know that the reagents are fresh and the test is of good quality.  How good is the water that you are using to mix with salt? What do you use to test your salinity levels?  Next fish could be the chromis again.  They are pretty hardy fish so do a couple more water changes.  Get your tests done by yourself.  And then try the chromis I think you will find better success with the flow pointed correctly to rid your self of the Cyano problem.> Thank you in advance for the assistance with these problems.  We enjoy our tank very much and don't want to give up! <Don't ever give up!!  You will continue to learn all the time.  Buy some good books to start with and always try to read online as much as you can. Good Luck! EricS> Kind regards Leslie Cycling a new tank 8/22/06 Hi guys & gals <Hi> My 100 gal reef tank complete with 200 lb of premium life rock and 40 lb of life sand has been running for 2 weeks now.  The rocks are pretty much totally encrusted with brown algae.  Nitrite and ammonia levels are at or very close to 0 while nitrate is at 20 ppm.  Since I didn't check these levels every day I don't know if the tank has cycled.  I'm wondering how one determines if the tank is ready to add fish or coral to. <When Ammonia and Nitrite consistently read zero, the presence of nitrate indicate the cycle is in its final stages.>  Also how about a clean up crew, is this a good time to add one? <Personally I like to wait at least a couple of weeks after the cycle is completed before adding livestock.  This gives the tank a little more time to stabilize and the micro-organisms a change to take hold.  If you begin your 4-6 week QT period now with for first livestock the tank will most likely be ready by the time the QT period is over.> Thanks again <Sure> <Chris>

Tank Cycling and Pods 7/31/06 Hi Gang, <Hi> I'm cycling a brand new tank at the moment and noticed some copepod activity already from the live rock. The tank has been running for about a week now and is 475 gallons with approximately 600 lbs of LR and 600 lbs of LS.  I have a 130 gallon sump with built in refugium. <Sounds very nice.>  My water parameters are currently: 1.023 SG, .25 Ammonia, .5 Nitrite, .05 Nitrates, PH 8.2, and running at 80 degrees. <Normal for this stage.> Am I correct to assume that copepods/amphipods are immune to the tank cycling effect (i.e. nitrogen cycle?)? <Not immune, but pretty tough.  It will slow their population growth, but enough survive to populate the tank once the conditions are more optimal.>  I ask this because I plan to add copepod cultures to the tank, and would like to give them a nice head start before adding any fish. <Good idea.> My current intentions are to cycle the tank for at least 4-6 weeks, before adding any fish. Do you think it's ok to add the "pod" cultures now, or should I let the tank complete its cycle? <Let it complete the cycle, and then add the pods.  Give them a couple weeks to "take hold" and you should be in good shape.>  Any help is appreciated... Rao <Chris>

Cycling a New Tank 6/30/06 Hello Everyone <Hi> Thanks for all the help I appreciate it. <Sure> I spend many late nights reading and taking notes from your site - I have learned a lot and appreciate the help. <Good to hear> I set my 55 gal up on June 8 with 20lbs of Caribbean Uncured Rock from E- Tropicals. We planning on FOWLR & Inverts I just cleaned the rock and put in my tank, using the rock to cycle my tank. <Good> I tested my water parameters every day : Ammonia - Nitrite - Nitrate - Specific Gravity - PH - Temp ... My water never smelled nasty, never turned an ugly color, ammonia never got over 1.0 - nitrite never got over 2.0 - nitrate never got over 20. I know that all tanks are different and cycle differently. <Yep> Readings now are: ph 8.2 Specific Gravity 1.023 Ammonia 0 Nitrite 0 Nitrate 20 Temp 78 Have not done calcium - alkalinity - iron - phosphate test yet. <May want to test for calcium, phosphate and alkalinity, I've never done an iron test for salt water.> LFS is next to none, so all I have is ya'll for advice, which I appreciate and find helpful. I have no brown nor green or any color algae. Some mention having the lil brown algae (Diatom?) when they get done cycling. <Can happen, but not a true indicator of the tank being cycled.> Could my tank of cycled? <Seems to be.>  If so what per cent of water change needs to be done? Do I need to wait a week to order my inverts? <Start with 10%-20% weekly or bi-weekly water changes.  As far as the inverts go, hardy corals should be ok to order now.  Just stay away from the more fragile corals and anemones.> My live rock has something that looks like cake icing on it - could it be die off? <Could be, might be a sponge or calcareous algae as well.>  It will not brush off with a toothbrush (soft) but I do get some brown color die off. I read about the hitchhikers others have on their live rock and I have none yet ..... Guess I need to be more patient which is getting hard to do. <They are in there, just give them a little time.  Check at night, most tend to be more active then.> It is hard to take a picture right now. I have : 2 Aqua Tech Power Heads (170 gph each) Sea Clone Skimmer ( Never has skimmed anything yet- maybe nothing to skim?)  I know - I have read about the Sea Clone but was late in canceling order and fiancée already had it up and going when I got home. Grrrr........ <Check some of the bigger BBs for modifications that may help get more out of this skimmer.> Millennium 3000 Power Filter Marineland 170 Bio Wheel <Make sure to clean out these often, can lead to excess nitrates.  If you are able to add another 20-30lbs of LR I would ditch them completely.> 18 inch 15w Full Spectrum Aqua Ray bulbs Anything else? Any ideas if I cycled? Thank You Kathleen <Looks like your tank is ready to go.  Fire up the QT and get rolling.  Just remember, stock slowly and let the system catch up to any changes in bioload.> <Chris>      

SW Cycling  6/20/06 Hi Crew, < Hello Samuel! > Would it be possible to successfully start a salt water tank without cycling it if you just put in the salt water and some mushrooms and do not add anything that would generate ammonia. < Yes, you can cycle a tank easily with live rock and sand. Most of the people I help use this method to cycle the tank. This way there is no risk to any fish or inverts. > And maybe some bio-Spira to take care of ammonia generated by the mushrooms. < Bio-Spira is not necessary at all when you are using live rock and sand. If you are already using cured live rock and sand from an established tank, there should be no perceivable cycle. > < RichardB >

BioSpira.... 6/6/6 Hello there, <<Hello.>> I'm setting up a 50 gallon tank and am considering using Bio-Spira to cycle the tank. <<A good choice.>> I've heard that directly after the input of Bio-Spira, one could immediately add fish livestock (in my case, I'm looking to add a total of 4 fantails, one at a time, once readings show the ammonia and nitrite levels are 0 per each addition).  Is it a must that you should have fish directly after putting in bio-Spira? <<Yes, otherwise the bacteria will die with no ammonia to eat.  Alternatively, I suppose one could add ammonia after the introduction of the Bio-Spira.>> My reasoning is that the nitrifying bacteria would need ammonia to kick start the cycling, but with no fish, the beneficial bacteria would eventually die correct? <<Yes.>> Therefore, there will not be any ammonia/nitrite readings with just only bio-Spira correct? <<I'm not quite sure what you mean.  Bio-Spira does not contain ammonia or nitrites, it contains live bacteria.>> Ammo-lock shouldn't be used because it would kill off the beneficial bacterial colony correct? <<It will not kill them outright, but will starve the bacteria, rendering the product useless.>> What BEST product would you recommend to rid the chloramines and chlorine in the tap water? <<I use Prime, by Seachem.>> I have the bio-Spira on order (none of my local fish stores even carry this bad boy, not even the mom and pop shops!  They all only have Hagen's cycle and I know there is emphasis that it does not work). <<It does not.>> I'm guessing the instructions will tell how and where to add it, but I just want to get an idea as to where you would recommend adding it? <<To your filter media.>> I've heard some adding it directly to the aquarium water, some to the filter media/bio-wheels?  Any advantages to either?  Recommendation? <<See above.>> Water changes during the addition of bio-Spira are okay as long as I do not vacuum the gravel correct? <<Wait 48 hours before doing water changes.>> I know these questions seem common-sensical (is that a word? lol) but I would like to get everything right in the first try. Any help would be great. John <<Good luck. Lisa.>>

Would Chaetomorpha help during tank cycling ?  5/29/06 Ohio Gozaimasu Crew ! <And good morrow to you> I have been thinking(<==always dangerous) <Less than always feeling> about how to bolster the cycle process in my AquaPod 24 tank.  My 'cured' LFS Fiji live rock went in last night after spending ten minutes each in a super-salinated (1.050) bucket followed by a distilled water soak.  Vigorous swishing and scrubbing left both buckets so nasty that half way through the 22 pound box I stopped and replaced the water.  Some of the obviously dead, decaying soft matter left me really appreciating the heavy neoprene gloves I was wearing while I scrubbed it off.  Right now the LR is simply sitting on top of the DSB and a PVC frame.  Aquascaping for esthetics will wait till the tank is properly cycled.  Having gotten all the LR into the tank I made sure that the heater, powerhead and skimmer were all working properly and went to bed. This morning I tested the tank's water parameters and found that 'shocking' changes had occurred overnight: Ammonia 0.2 (was 0) Nitrate 35 ppm (was 0) Nitrite 0.3 ppm (was 0) Phosphate 0.1 (was 0) pH 8.3 (unchanged) Alkalinity 5.5 (unchanged) Temperature 78 (unchanged) Salinity 1.025 (unchanged) Skimmer cup empty <All about right thus far...> Retesting late this afternoon the numbers were essentially unchanged. <The alkalinity and pH will drop soon... Nitrogenous compounds increase...> After spending the last 2 1/2 (very pleasurable) hours Googling my way around WWM you can imagine my relief to be reassured that these 'instantaneous' changes in water chemistry are completely normal as a new tank begins the cycling process. <Yep> 20 gallons of buffered and aerated water with a SpGr of 1.025 are at the ready while I monitor the ammonia and nitrite levels like a hawk.  Any readings above 0.8 ppm on either will trigger a change of  50% of the water, followed by re-testing twelve hours later. <Very good> Then, while fussing with the airstones and powerhead  trying to ensure even water flow, an inspiration struck.  I currently have the tank lights off because I subscribe to Anthony's advice that leaving them off will minimize the growth of nuisance algae during the curing process. <Some are of this opinion... I am generally not>   Two of my synapses shorted out and I thought "Nitrogen + Phosphate can be controlled using a macro algae like Chaetomorpha (which I was planning on adding anyway)". If I were to add a 5 inch clump of Chaetomorpha (sp) available for less than ten bucks at the LFS, and then started a 10 hour light cycle, would that help or hinder the curing process ?   <Maybe... it might "just die" or be overwhelmed by chemical changes, out-poisoned-competed by BGA et al.> Thumbing through my college Botany book it appears that these compounds which are toxic to the Kingdom Animalia would be ideal 'munchies' for a member of Kingdom Plantae. <Many, not all> Or so my 'reasoning' goes.  Any thoughts/observations ?  I certainly don't want to interfere with the establishment of viable cultures of Nitrogen-fixing bacteria but would really like to help ensure that the toxicity of the tank doesn't threaten the viability of the desirable organisms currently tenaciously clinging to life deep within the crevices of the live rock.  And, maybe, save a few bucks in salt mix and buffering compound. <Mmm, well... the most "trouble free" process involves darkened curing conditions, time going by... but all can be expedited, much life spared by monitoring, doing the water changes you mention... Worth trying the Chaetomorpha though> Sayonara, and thanks once again for being willing to do all the 'donkey work' involved in keeping up such a great site ! John <Eeee haugh! Bob Fenner> New Tank Cycle`5/25/06 Dear Sir, <Hi, and don't forget our lady members too> First off let me say that you have the most informative site on the internet, bar none!!! <Thanks> Here is my situation... I have now been running a 200 gallon reef tank for 2 1/2 weeks. The equipment is as follows: 2x1850 gph pumps, Euro-reef 8-3 skimmer, Korallin Reactor, 85 gallon sump, 3x250 MH's and 300 lbs of live rock. My current tests are: Ammonia 0 (for last week), Nitrite .05 (Salifert) and 0 (with Fast test), Nitrate is 25ppm (down from 75ppm a week ago!!!), KH 9.6 and, PH 8.2 and Calc at 320 (up from 230 a week ago). Sorry for the long intro, I just want you to have a good idea at where I am. Question one is, do you think that I am cycled? <No, not until nitrites are at o>  I have done only one 40 gallon water change a day ago and have added some snails and hermits while closely monitoring my levels. And the second question is a two part one: How long should I wait to introduce some soft corals that already are in another tank and how long shall I wait before I introduce a Yellow Tang and Clown Fish (already established in other tank for 6 months). I am considering doing another water change soon (40 gallons) to lower my nitrates to an acceptable level before I introduce anything else. <Wait until Nitrites are at 0, can take upwards of a month.> Thank you so much for your help, <Anytime> Matt <Chris>

New Tank Cycle 5/25/06 Part II Dear Sir and Ma'am, <Hi there> <Only after both ammonia and nitrites are at 0> I have tested as much as 75PPM and am now down to around 25PPM. I am concerned since my Nitrite tests read .05 on Salifert and 0 on Fastest. <Go with the Salifert, a very high quality test kit> My reason would be to believe that either the test kit is contaminated or false or that the concentration is low that it is not picking up on the Fastest. <The latter> Thank you again, Matt (Sorry to be a bother) <No bother, keep at it> <Chris>

Damsels, Cycling, and Algae - 05/20/2006 I'm in the process of starting up a saltwater aquarium for the first time.  After reading through some of your posts I see that I probably should not have followed the advice of my aquarium store. <Uh-oh....> I have two damsel fish and live rock in a 29 gallon tank in the cycling phase. I've lost 2 damsels.... and the tank isn't nearly cycled yet.   <Return those fish.  The live rock alone is sufficient for cycling the tank.  Get the fish back to the store before the conditions in your cycling tank kill them.> I have 2 issues.... 1 is brown algae which has appeared on everything.... sand, rack and tank.   <To be expected with a newly established system.  You'll go through some phases of different algal "blooms".> The other issue regards the fish themselves.  Every so often they tend to swim almost parallel with each other, leaning to one side and occasionally nipping each other.... <Damsels are HIGHLY territorial, and HIGHLY aggressive.  In such a small system, I do not recommend trying to keep damsels at all.  And again, since the tank is cycling, I would get them back to the fish store *pronto*.> One damsel is a deep blue with a purple tail.... the other is a brownish with a large brown vertical stripe ¼ from the eye.  Any suggestions on either issue?   <Just as above.  Also, you might want to take a read through a couple of good books that will help you along your way - "The New Marine Aquarium" by Michael Paletta and "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist" by Robert Fenner.  The former will help you start out, the latter will be an excellent reference that will be very worthwhile.  And, of course, keep using WetWebMedia.  There's a lot of great things to learn, here!> Thanks,  -Steve. <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina> New enthusiast and a new QT 5/19/06 Hi, <Hi> I love your site and I have looked for the answers to my questions, forgive me if I am repeating a question.  I am new to salt tanks, I have a 55 gal which has been up 2 mos. I just set up a 10 gal hospital tank, which is a Wal-Mart type.  I bought "biospiral"? <Bio-Spira> to start the biological process, and I received several "creatures" which I quarantined in this tank.  Before they were added the ph was 8.2, ammonia 0, nitrates and nitrites were 0, temp 78, and saline 1.022. I added a red tree sponge, a hermit crab, emerald crab, flower anemone,  two small corals, and a shrimp. There are no live rock or sand  The anemone died a day later (I think he was sick or injured in shipping) <Typically don't ship well>, and now my ph and all levels are too high, ammonia is 1.5 nitrites are .50, nitrates are 20, and ph is 8.6.  I removed the anemone ASAP, and I have looked for any debris or food.  I have made partial water changes 3x from my bigger tank <Good> I don't know what to do now, suggestions? I have called the aquarium store I use and they will take the sponge if that might be what is causing the problem.   <Basically you have too much life for a little tank.  Even with the Bio-Spira your tank can not keep up with the livestock.  Often with Bio-Spira it is incorrectly stored (not refrigerated) and ineffective as a result.  As a general rule I QT one thing at a time, this allows for better water quality and less chance of missing disease.  Keep up with the water changes and maybe return some of the livestock for the time being.> <Chris>

Urine as an ammonia source? Tank not a bathroom 5/16/06 Dear Crew, <Hello>    Once again I'm asking you to share  your knowledge.  What is your opinion on using human urine as a  source of ammonia to kick-off the cycling process? <Gross, unsanitary, inefficient, unnecessary> Aside from  the shock and disgust I catch from asking this question, what are the scientific flaws/advantages? <No advantages that I can think of.  Disadvantages include unknown amounts of ammonia, potential pathogens, high levels of nutrients,  PH problems due to acid nature, smell, and the fact that no one will come visit the house.> From what I understand urine has a small NH3 content. Urine has a specific gravity of about 1.017-1.020, owing to its dissolved solids, about 60% of which are organic substances.  Besides ammonia, those organics include urea, uric acid, and creatine, which are all bacterially decomposed to form carbon dioxide and more ammonia. The other 40% of the dissolved solids in urine are   inorganic Na, Cl, K, PO4 and SO4.     <Really don't want to add PO4 to the tank.>    I gathered this info here: http://www.skepticalaquarist.com/docs/startover/fishless.shtml <Much more natural ways of doing a fishless cycle. LR and fish food as good as or better than using human waste.  Details listed on WWM>    Thanks for your time and effort! Mike. <Chris>

No nitrites - 05/16/2006     Hello, and thanks for all the great reading and help. My set up is as follows: 90 gal reef with 20 gal sump. 220 lbs of Australian gold sand (dreaming of a dusky jaw) and 115 lbs live rock. My equipment is 3 maxi-jet 1200's inside main tank and a PM bullet 1 skimmer in sump. I have no livestock at all, trying to cycle naturally.     My lighting is 2- 150w MH, 2-96w blue actinics with 4 lunar lights. My tank has been set up like this since April 13th, starting the process about a week before that. I believe I need a fan over my sump as my temp. goes from 80.4' to 82.4' during the course of the day. I only keep my MH's on for 6 hours, actinics for 10. I do have a built in fan under lights in canopy. From what I've read here I should try fanning my sump.      I recently (5 days ago)  finally had an ammonia spike of 1.0, this was quick-- basically waiting for weeks and then bam, here and gone. My ammonia is now 0. My nitrates are only 5-10ppm (I have only done 1 water change due to too many diatoms, 3 weeks ago) . I have not seen a nitrite reading at all. I know my test is working property as I cycled my quarantine just fine.     I presently have 2 clowns in my quarantine waiting, and I'm wondering--did I miss the nitrite spike? I test about every 4 days. I'm not sure how long I should wait.     Thanks I know this is ridiculously long, I truly appreciate it. Jill <<Jill:  How long have the clowns been in QT?  What is the SG of your tank and QT?  Before you add the Clowns to the main tank, I would make sure that they are healthy and eating.  It's a lot harder to catch a fish in a tank with a lot of rocks.  At this point, since you already have the clowns and you believe that your tank has cycled, you can consider adding them to the tank.  However, if you really want to play it safe and avoid introducing fish diseases into your main tank, you should QT the clowns for at least 6 weeks with at an SG of 1.009 measured with a refractometer.  While the clowns remain in QT, you can consider getting some snails, etc to add to the tank.  Best of luck, Roy>> Extended Nitrogen Cycle?  5/11/06 I sent this message 2 minutes ago, and then found that the spell checker changed words (names) that should have been left alone...sorry.  It seems WordPerfect mail takes too many liberties in its changes (changes words without telling you or asking you).   <<No worries mate>> I wrote before that I was having a slow start to completing a nitrogen cycle on my marine fish tank. This initial step is supposed to be the easiest part, but four months later (I started 04 January) it is still not safe to put any fish in it.  I have added the previous message I sent one month ago, and Eric kindly offered some advice. <<EricR here again my friend>> Here is a copy of the previous message one month ago... <<Thanks Mike...I've edited out the previous email to save space as it is already archived>> One month later... I did a 200 liter water change four weeks ago using Instant Ocean  Salt mix with tap water premixed with Tetra Aqua water conditioner to get rid of the chorine and heavy metals.  This also means turning off the protein skimmer for three weeks because the conditioner causes bubble storms. <<Indeed it does.  Have a look here ( http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water4maruse.htm) and try to discern a better method (aerating for 24 hrs, carbon filtering) for preparing your water...short of utilizing RO/DI or similar filtration>> I have not added any shrimp at all for 6 weeks (nothing floating around in there) and turned on the protein skimmer one week ago and it is not picking anything up (nothing to pick up). <<Mmm, maybe>> I initially used the Marine Master Test Kit to measure the water, and then ordered the Salifert Test kits to compare as they should be more accurate. I also added six amps of Biodigest by Presidio four weeks ago after the water change, added a PolyFilter in the tank and Seachem Seagel in the protein skimmer compartment.  Here are the results of the tests today: Ammonia 0 ppm Nitrite  2.5 ppm Nitrate 50 ppm The nitrite is down only because of the water change (from 5 ppm to 2.5), and has stayed at that level for a month, checked twice a week.  The Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Marine Master Test kit agrees on the ammonia and nitrite levels with the Saltier test, but underestimates the nitrates (checked three times). Freshly mixed salt mix measures 0 pp ammonia 0 ppm nitrite, and measures 2 ppm nitrate.  This cycle seems to be at a stand still, and I have no idea why. <<If it's not your source water...and not your test kits...then it is likely the substrate (marble chips) or the concrete "rock" in the tank.  Or maybe even the Silastic used to construct the tank itself>> This is not supposed to happen.  Have you ever encountered this problem from anyone else, and do you have any further suggestions? <<I think at this point you need to start back at square one and investigate each component before/as it is added to the tank.  Were this me...I would empty the tank and flush it out with clean water, refill with new saltwater "only" (all filtration systems running, e.g. - fluidized-bed filter, skimmer, etc., but leave off carbon/Poly-Filter filtration for now), then test the water after a week.  In the mean time I would place the substrate and "rock" in separate vessels with clean saltwater and a powerhead and test this water after a week.  If the tank water tests fine, I would then add the substrate (assuming all test were ok), wait a week, and test again, then do the same with the rock.  Also test your filter media (carbon, resins), and anything else you can think of that comes in contact with the tank water.  Hopefully this process of elimination will reveal the culprit>> All the Best.. Mike Lomb <<Cheers my friend, Eric Russell>>

Live Rock Cycling 5/11/06 Hello Again WWM Crew, Your help thus far has gotten me to where I am and I am ready to take my next step!  I was hoping you could answer a few questions to help me do this. <<Woo Hoo!  Off to the races!  Will be glad to help out.>> I have a 75gal display tank with an overflow plumbed down to my basement into a 55gal tank converted to a refugium/sump. I have 1 inch of 50/50 live sand/aragonite in the display tank and 4 inches of the same in the refugium.  The live sand has been in the system for over a month and there are definite signs of life.  I have been curing 70 lbs. of previously uncured Caribbean and Tonga live rock for the past 2-1/2 weeks with my Aqua C remora in operation in plastic drums.  There is no detectable ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate at this point. <<Sounds like a very nice set up!  All sounds very good.>> This leads to my questions: Some of the rock still has a strong odor, is it safe to place into my system yet?  Once it is in the tank, should I expect another Nitrogen cycle? <<Hmmm... Shouldn't still be all that stinky unless there is a lot of decaying matter still attached.  I would go over the rock an carefully remove any dead or dying material (even using a toothbrush or small scrub brush in places).  Afterwards, do a large water change... on the order of 50%. If you haven't been doing water changes, change another 50% in a few days.  The rock should not cycle again after moving to the display.>> Will the tank be considered safe to add fish at this point or do I need to cause another cycle - perhaps using cocktail shrimp? (raw or cooked?) <<I would wait until you resolve the smell issue.  The fact that you aren't getting any ammonia, nitrite or nitrate could just mean that it is being processed as fast as it is being produced.  If there is enough stuff on your rock to stink... there is plenty to fuel the cycle.  There is no benefit to using a piece of shrimp or other piece of rotting meat to drive a cycle.>> How long should I wait until I can a few fish (pair of clowns) after all looks good? <<After the stink is gone, you should be fine to move the rock to the display and start adding animals.  I guess I should concede that the "stinkiness" of live rock is quite subjective.  If I unloaded my tank right now, my wife would say it stinks to high heaven, but I would say it smells like the beach.  Whether or not you find such smells pleasant or objectionable the difference in odor between living things (even unpleasant ones) and the stench of decaying organic matter is usually instinctively clear.  Your rock may be just fine now.>> I have reviewed most of the articles available on your regarding tank cycling and live rock but I am having trouble piecing it all together for my situation.  Thanks again for doing what you do.  You have been there every step of the way. Andy <<Every circumstance is different, so the posted articles don't always have all of the answers.  That is why we are here!  Best Regards.  AdamC.>> Live Rock Cycling part 2 5/15/06 Thanks AdamC!! I have been doing 100% water changes every 2-3 days. <<Awesome!>> I have been scrubbing the rock during most of the water changes. Many of the pieces do not have that odor.  On some of the pieces it is evident and I cannot see any decaying matter, but I expect it is "inside" the rock where I can't get to. Nevertheless, I will keep curing until I cannot detect the decaying odor on any of the rock.  I have been patient for this long, what's another few weeks?  Thanks again for your help, this clears things up! <<Glad to help.  I am guessing that you are being overly cautious (which is better than being cavalier!).  Unless the odor is strong, and as long as no ammonia is present, you can at very least move the rock to the display and get it aquascaped.  After giving it a few days or so to settle down after being moved, you should be fine to start slowly adding animals.  Best Regards.  AdamC.>>

Crashed Bio-filtration, SW - 5/8/2006 PLEASE HELP! Well, after the puffer crashed my tank I lost EVERYTHING! <<Oh no.>> The puffer is now in a hospital tank but the problem I'm having is the ammonia level in my 110 gallon tank.  It is way off the chart.  The first day I did a 20 gallon water change; 2 days later did a 25 gallon water change and cleaned the filter for a second time with absolutely no change in the ammonia level.  My nitrites and nitrate levels are at 0 my ph is down to 7.8 but I'm assuming that's because the ammonia level is so high.  I have made sure there's nothing else in the tank only my live rock and sand. <<Do a series of large water changes to remove the ammonia.>> My ammonia level in my hospital tank is also spiked very high.  I don't know what to do at this point. <<In the hospital tank, you need to be doing large daily or twice daily water changes to keep the levels of toxins down for the puffer.>> Could my tank be cycling due to all the fish dying? <<The puffer crashed your bio-filtration, so yes it is re-cycling.>> Is this something that will go down after more time or is there something else that could be going on that I'm just not seeing? <<The tank will level out.  BE sure to add Bio Spira or fishless cycle to the intended bio-load before adding fish to your tank.  Lisa.>> Re: Crashed Bio-filtration, SW - 5/8/2006 I can not thank you enough! Thank you so much for having such a wonderful site that newbies like me can got to and get such wonderful help! <<You are quite welcome. Lisa. :)>> New to SW, cycling, mis-stocking... great response  4/26/06 Mr. Fenner:   <Actually, Mrs. Bivens here tonight...Jodie Bivens.> I have a FO 55g tank that has cycled and my LFS suggested I put 4 new fish in it at one time!   <Please do NOT do this.  Even if the tank is cycled, adding four fish all at once in such a small tank is too much of an additional bioload (unless they are very small fish).  Odds are definitely stacked against these poor fishes.> He says he is a professional and has 30 years of experience and LR, protein skimmers and ozone are an absolute rip off and that you can't keep fish and inverts in the same tank.   <That is one big run-on sentence (on your part), and one big load of nonsense (on his part).  Live rock is invaluable in my opinion, as is protein skimming.  I've never used ozone personally, but then again I've heard many good things about it.  Keeping fish and inverts together?  That depends on both what fish, and what inverts, but TOTALLY do-able and very often beneficial.> I put in a flagfin angel, a Koran angel, a raccoon butterfly and a regal tang at once and within 48 hours the raccoon and the Koran were dead. <No kidding.> I have done 25% water changes every week since the cycle.  The flagfin, the tang and my original niger trigger are all doing (apparently) great!   <Did this guy tell you that housing two angels, a tang, a butterfly, and a trigger in a 55 was acceptable?  Let me tell you this:  It is most certainly not.  Seems your LFS is out to make a buck; that's it.> I am within 1mm of firing the &*&^%$#&(^ and never going near him again!   <I recommend that to you 100%> Am I CRAZY? <For putting all those fish together in a 55?  Yes.  Okay, okay, maybe not crazy but misinformed.  Pardon my snarkiness, but people like this "man" infuriate me.> Peacemaker <Peacemaker, let me parody a well-known commercial:   *Flagfin Angel = $60.00   *Koran Angel = $40.00   *Raccoon Butterfly = $35.00   *Regal Tang = $50.00   *Researching and saving innocent fishy lives = priceless> PS I have read your book and Tullock's book and they seem to be logical and reasonable.   <I agree; I see Mr. Fenner's book as my Aqua Bible.> This guy seems to think that He, his teacher and whoever are the only people who know anything about marine AQ's.  It seems to me that the more natural you can make an environment, the better.   <Absolutely.  If you were kidnapped and forced to live in a tiny box, would you want just a couple other people and nothing else, or your natural environment?  I sure hope my captors would provide me a couch, TV, and coffee!> They seems to think that the only thing natural in your tank should be the fish!  $500 worth of dead coral skeletons and a siphon tube overflow with no biomedia, just sponges just does not seem to be natural. BTW I am 58 yrs old, by no means a techgeek! <Peacemaker, please do your research.  You seem to have good intentions, and we'd like to see you succeed with your aquarium!  Bookmark us and read, read, read.  In the meantime, stay away from that LFS.  Cheerio,  Jodie>

Nano-Cube Cycled?   4/20/06 Hello, I have a 12g Nano Cube that I've been running for about 10 weeks now. It's completely stock with no modifications or additions. <There are many that you should make to make this tank sufficient.  Do a search for mods.> I have about 2" of live sand over which I've placed about 10lbs of Fiji live rock. Parameters are as follows: Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 0, PH 8.2. Salinity 1.022. I perform a 1 gal water change twice a week using distilled water and Instant Ocean. Lights are on a timer set for 14 hrs a day. Temp runs about 81-82. Animals include: 1 small clown fish, 1 fire goby, 1 sand sifting goby (not sure of the name, sorry), 3 small blue leg hermits, 6 small algae eating snails (Trochus?), xenia coral, 4" Zoanthid colony, 4" star polyp colony, 3" mushroom colony. <Wow, this is an awful lot to have in a tank so young.  You really should've taken more time adding organisms here.> When I purchased the tank, my LFS told me that the tank would cycle in about three days. <That's actually amusing, it should take a least 2 weeks, sometimes up to a month to cycle properly.> I thought this was dubious information but being a trusting fellow I proceeded. I didn't begin testing the water until about day 5 at which time (all test readings being 0), I added the Zoanthids, and have slowly added items at a rate of about 1 per week. While I've continued to test about once per week the only measurable amounts of Ammonia, Nitrite, or Nitrate I've had have been an occasional increase in Ammonia when I would add a new addition to the tank and this would then settle back down after a day. <Normal> At no time have I ever had a Nitrate level above 0. My questions is this: Has this tank ever actually cycled? <Probably considering the time frame here.> If so, should I avoid making water changes until I begin to see a rise in the Nitrate level? <Absolutely keep up with the water changes, you have too much in your tank to be able to not do them.> If not, am I doomed or is there a way I can finish he cycle without killing everything in the tank. I have no other tank to use at this point. Thanks for your great web site as it's already helped immensely. Sincerely, David. <You're probably fine here, but take note that I said "probably".  I really do believe you added way too much too fast.  It is important that you keep a VERY close eye on parameters right now. (this is always true with a nano system.  You don't have ANY room to error here)  I would test twice a week, stay with your once a week water changes, and once again, watch closely.  Good luck, Jen S.> Re: cycling again 4/21 Hello again, <Hi Jill> and thanks for all of your help through this process. My set up is a 90 gallon reef (brand new), 240 lbs sand, 115 lbs live rock.   <WOW - lots of live rock/sand there!> I have a 20 gallon sump with PM bullet inside running with a Sedra 9000. My main pump is a Mag 9.5. I keep my ph at 8.3 and a temp. of 80'. The tank has been like this since Monday (5 days ago).  My question is do I need to do water changes during the cycling process?   <You don't have to as long as there is no livestock in there.  If it takes exceedingly long, then do a 10% change.> I only put some dried krill in the tank for the little hitchhikers that came with my rock (miniature serpents and a snail or two).   <Good to have the ammonia source added anyway.> Would you recommend adding Hagen's cycle? <Nope nature does wonderful things just by herself.  But it will take longer than 5 days.> I am opposed to adding any livestock to cycle my tank.   <Me too, too much stress.> This process began-albeit in my mind-a year ago and I do not need to rush it now.   <Great! Better not to rush this.  Good luck!  Jen S.> Thanks for your help. Jill

Re: cycling again 4/21  - 04/22/2006 Hi Jen , thanks for your reply. <No problem> I forgot to ask about my brown diatom algae that is breaking out. With no livestock I didn't think it would be so bad. Is this normal?  I do expect the tank to take 6 weeks or so to cycle with no livestock, but I was trying to avoid changing the water (I had to change the filter pad, the water was running right over it) but I know I shouldn't touch much. Thanks again, have a great weekend. <Actually, do a small maybe 15% water change.  Too much nutrients here, even with the cycle.  Its also good to manually remove all diatoms, syphon out.  This can, but probably won't, become a large issue.  Have a good one, Jen S.> Jill

Cured Live Rock/Nitrogen Cycle Confusion - 04/12/06 Hi Guys, <<...and Gals>> Firstly, just a comment from my side.  My first attempt at a marine tank was an absolute disaster, due to all the classic mistakes that beginners make.  This time around I feel a lot more prepared and confident with my new setup, because of 3 things: 1. Research done on your website. 2. Email assistance by your crew. 3. Dr. Fenner's book "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist" Once again, thank you very much for all of this...without your help I would have been nowhere. <<Ah, all very good to hear...is truly a "collective" effort>> Secondly... I am at the point now where a very basic part of my new aquarium has me a little bit stumped.  I have read and searched through so many FAQ's on your side about this, but I still can't decide on the best step to take. <<Ok>> In short, my question is as follows.  My new tank is around 130 gallons, with about another 40 gallons in the sump.  Once my water was at the correct salinity and temperature, I added my aragonite substrate and 150 pounds of cured live rock.  The system has been running like this for 7 days now (skimmer and lighting are still switched off). <<I would fire up that skimmer>> At the moment there is still no trace of ammonia, nitrites or nitrates.  So to me this means 1 of 2 things: 1. The cycle happened so quickly that I didn't notice it. 2. There is no source of ammonia in the tank, so nothing to kick start the process. (Hard to believe, unless my live rock is actually dead rock) <<If your rock was truly "cured", then the first option is quite possible>> I'm hoping that (1) is the case because of all the live rock, but then why am I not seeing any nitrates? <<This is due to the large amount of cured rock>> I'm just a bit confused now.  Should I wait a couple more weeks and if no spikes occur then proceed to add the first livestock (at the risk of only then starting the cycle)? <<Small risk here in my opinion.  If you trust your test kits, go ahead and add your first fish and continue to monitor water quality.>> Should I add something to the system to "test" it or force the start of the cycle? <<Can do...toss in a pinch of fish food and see what happens if you wish.>> I've search the FAQ's about this and in general I get the idea that I should just leave it another few weeks and start stocking if no spike occurs, but I would still like some guidance if you can spare a moment. <<Likely all is fine but if you have the patience for it...throw in some fish food and give things another week>> Many thanks for you support. Chris <<Very welcome, EricR>>

Extended Nitrogen Cycle? - 04/10/06 I am currently cycling a marine tank without livestock. <<Good to know...I personally don't care for the alternative>> I started this on 07 January 2006, and it is still far from complete. <<Hmm...unusual>> The tank holds 250 liters of water after displacement (60 cm, height and width, and 100 cm length), <<That's "some" displacement.  More than "half" the volume of the tank by my calculation.>> and has a 10 cm deep sand bed made from 1 - 2 mm crushed marble, and 35 kg of white concrete sculptures (previously soaked in fresh and then salt water for four months and is pH neutral). <<No live rock/aragonite/Oolitic material?>> There is 100 liter sump under the tank, three chambers separated with baffles (a copy of Rob Fenner's design from this web site).  I am using a Deltec MC 600 hang-on protein skimmer on the side of the display tank that has been running since the first day.  There is 3 liters of JBL micromec sintered glass beads in the central (second) chamber of the sump.  There is also a Merlin fluidized bed filter connected to an internal pump in the sump circulating the water between the first and third chamber.   An internal Tunze Turbelle Stream 6060 pump is in the display tank (6000 lire/hour), and 3000/hr liter Pentair pump in the last chamber of the sump returning water to the display tank.  A Durso standpipe returns the water to the sump in an internal corner overflow (20 cm x 15 cm). <<All good>> There is NO live rock (not available in New Zealand), <<Ah!...now I understand...bummer>> and I have not used any bacterial seeding products yet. <<Might help>> Biodigest by Porbidio is available in New Zealand. <<I'm not familiar with this product, but likely not harmful at the least.>> I do not altogether trust live media from other established tanks (I have seen Ick in them.) <<A moot point if the tank remains fallow for about eight weeks from time of entry as the parasite will complete its life-cycle and die out in the absence of a host>> I tried to get an initial value of 0.5 ppm ammonia in my tank, and added crushed frozen cocktail shrimp to the tank.  It took about 20 shrimp in total over a three week period to get to this level. <<Seems like a lot of decaying shrimp to me>> The first detectable level of nitrite appeared on 16 February at 0.2 ppm (seven weeks later), the first detectable level of nitrate appeared on 20 Feb. at 5 ppm. <<I think your test kits may be suspect>> I continued to add one or two shrimp a week to keep the cycle going from the front end to support the Nitrosomonas bacteria that convert ammonia to nitrite.  There has been no ammonia detected since 01 March.  For the last five weeks the nitrite levels have been about 5 ppm, nitrates 20 ppm and ammonia zero.  The pH has remained at 8.3, temp 27 degrees C.  Other not so important parameters at this stage are calcium 320, KH 10.6, Alk 3.77, and Mg 1300, and salinity 1.023 , phosphate 0.5 <<That's a lot of phosphate...assumably from the rotting shrimp...else if not, you have another problem. The tank is topped up with three liters of fresh water each day, using dechlorinating solutions.  (By the way my freshly made up salt water contains no ammonia, nitrites or nitrates). <<These are the same test kits used to measure the tank?>> I was aware that cycling a tank without live rock and waiting for bacteria to fall from the sky can take up to 100 days, but this is a great trial of patience. <<Mmm, no...not in my opinion.  I remember cycling tanks back in the day when live rock did not "exist" in the hobby, and without using live "seeds", could be accomplished in 6-8 weeks routinely.>> I could just do a partial water change, but I thought that is defeating the purpose of establishing bacteria to manage this (pulling the food from under them).  At present the Nitrospira and Nitrobacter bacteria that convert nitrite to nitrate are at too low a level to complete the cycle (but they are there). <<As you state, the bacteria are present...I would remove as much of the shrimp as I could find and do a large water change at this point.  Let the tank run a couple days and retest.  If ammonia/nitrite/nitrate read zero (assuming you have fresh/reliable test kits), I would then add a small fish (fed daily) and continue to monitor tank parameters>> The high nitrite levels may be forestalling this. <<I don't believe so>> Perhaps caving in with the use of a bacterial seeding product may be appropriate, and withholding further dead shrimp from the front end of the cycle, or just waiting yet another month.  Do you have any suggestions for how I should continue to manage this long nitrogen cycle, now starting its 14 the week, about 100 days, and still counting. <<Indeed...try my suggestion...things just may need "shaking up">> All the Best from New Zealand...Mike Lomb <<Cheers from Sunny South Carolina...EricR>>

Question on Hair Algae Tufts and Cycling  4/6/06 Hi Mr. Fenner, <Hi Howard - Tim answering your question today.> I really enjoy your website and have picked up a lot of useful  information!   My question regards excessive green hair algae  tufts growing in a new tank. My new 25 gal. Florida live rock tank is  now on day 15 and contains 25 lbs. live sand and 25 lbs. aquacultured live  rock with myriad life growing on it. I'm using a Remora skimmer,  2 X  160 gph. MaxiJet powerheads for circulation (just replaced the ZooMed 270 GPH  PowerSweep), a small Whisper power filter with Seachem Matrix carbon in a small  bio-bag just for picking up larger particulates and water clarity, and a 2 X 65W  PC Corallife Aqualight with (1) 10K and (1) 50/50.  I've done several  small 10-15% water changes using RO/DI water and Seachem Reef Salt as well as  the boxed Catalina Seawater and also dosed daily with SeaChem's  'Stability' to assist the cycling during the first 8 days. The  free ammonia level never exceeded .5 PPM during the cycle and nitrites topped  out at about 25 PPM for a day or two before dropping quickly. The tank has  now just about finished cycling with the following water  parameters:    PH ----8.2 Alk. ---11.2 SG --- 1.0255 temp --- 75.5 - 76.5 free ammonia ---0 PPM nitrite -----0 - .1 PPM nitrate ----3-5 PPM  (has varied a bit from day to day) During the first week or so I ran the lights about 5-6 hrs. per day,  but now have them on about 10 hrs. per day with the 50/50 coming on 1 hr.  before the 10K and going off 1 hr. afterwards.  The tank is also near a  large bay window in a bright room but doesn't really receive any  direct head on sunlight during the day. I have been diligent in trying to keep my water parameters good and have  not fed the tank anything nor added anything else with the exception  of a very small amount of Seachem Reef Complete and Reef Trace only once or  twice between water changes.  I don't think either one of those would  have added any bad nutrients to contribute to algae growth. I also top off daily  using bottled distilled water. About a week or so ago, I saw some small areas of brown slime type algae on   the back glass and small light patches of green hair algae growing on  nearly all the glass as well as on some of the rocks which I though was ok  and a normal part of the cycling process so I wasn't concerned.  Within the  past week or so however the green hair algae tufts have really started to take  over the tank and is now growing very thick on the front and back glass mostly  in small thick tufts that almost resemble numerous hair plugs.  Large  areas of my rock are now also covered with thick patches of the same, as well as  small areas of dark red hair algae growths, and I'm worried that it's starting  to smother out the other life on the rocks.  The green hair algae is so  thick on the front glass that it nearly completely obscures you from seeing  inside the tank.   Is this type of hair algae breakout normal in a new tank and should I begin trying to manually remove it from the glass and rocks or just let it run its course and hope it subsides?   I have delayed in receiving the rest of  my rock package and clean up crew until I can get a handle on this hair algae issue.  Any advice you can offer, or advise what I'm doing wrong would  be greatly appreciated!  Thanks very much. <This is a very common problem experienced by the majority of marine aquarists. As such, there is a wealth of information on this topic to be found on the website - simply do a search for "Green hair algae" using the Google search feature. Alternatively have a look at this site and the links contained therein http://www.wetwebmedia.com/algaeconMar.htm. Best of luck.> Regards,  Howard W.

Yet another question about tank cycling...  - 04/04/2006 Hey there WWM crew! <Hey!>  I have a question about cycling a new tank.  I apologize if this is something that has already been addressed...I've spent several hours searching FAQ's & haven't found anyone else with this particular problem so here go's.  8 weeks ago I began to set up my new nano reef tank.  It's a 12 Gallon JBJ nano cube.  Everything in it is stock.  I started with 1" of aragonite crushed coral substrate & distilled water with enough Reef Crystals to get a specific gravity of 1.023.  I let this run in the tank for about 4 days before purchasing 12 lbs of live rock from my LFS. <Sounds good.>  The rock was beautiful- almost completely covered in purple coralline algae.  Since then, I've been monitoring tank daily.  The results are as follows:  Temp- 78 degrees F; sp gravity- 1.022 - 1.023; pH 7.8; Alk- 300; ammonia- 0; nitrites- 0; nitrates- 0. <Alright, pH needs to go up a bit.>  I've taken samples to the LFS & they have verified these tests.  The coralline algae is as pretty as ever.  A community of feather dusters has popped up & seems to be doing fine.  <Enjoy!> Also lots of various other critters (snails & Caulerpa & such) that apparently came w/ the rock.  But my tank does not seem to be cycling. <No spike in ammonia?> I have not done any water changes or changed any filters- just been letting it do what it will & monitoring closely.  I have the lights set up on a 12 hour cycle.  I didn't want to add any inverts or fish until I was sure it was safe to do so.  I also don't want to use any chemicals to raise the pH & lower the alkalinity- if I don't have to. <Here often needs chemical tweaking, its safe to do so.> I favor a more natural approach.  But I'm getting a little anxious.  Is it safe to say that this tank is not going to cycle w/o the addition of some livestock?  My plan for the tank was just a small colony of shrooms, some pulsing xenia and 1 percula clownfish- along w/ some blue legged hermit crabs for clean-up.  Nothing elaborate-  In the long run I really just have to have a "Nemo" fish for my daughter who is 2.  Any advise you have would be greatly appreciated.  My rocks are beautiful & fascinating- but the goal of this project was to eventually have a fish!  :-)  Thanks & have a great afternoon!  <I cannot tell if your tank has already cycled - it has been 8 weeks and at least should have begun, or if it hasn't started.  Which I feel is unlikely.  The addition of the live rock should've given enough of a boast to start the process.  Read more here on what you can do/add http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsetupii.htm  It seems to me that your safe to add a VERY limited amount of inhabitants to this tank.  Be careful though and keep a close eye on readouts.  Have a great one, Jen S.> Jaime Gard

Marine Set Up/Nitrogen Cycle  - 03/22/06 Hi crew (again)  <Hello John.> I have another question.  <Shoot> My tank is cycling over due to a sump failure. The tanks cycling looked to be finished, <Looked to be finished?> so I was going to pick up my fish. Ammonia was 0, and nitrates about 30 yesterday.  Today, ammonia is back to 0.25 and nitrates 120! I thought it was cycled so I didn't pick up my fish. Do you know anything about the fluctuations in ammonia/nitrate? <If a food source is not present to develop a good bacteria colony, the different test readings you are getting are quite possible.  Read here to further understand the denitrification process. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/filtration/biological/biofiltr.htm>  The only thing was that I added a trickle filter  as well but didn't remove anything. Thanks Ps. the test kit is not inaccurate because I compared it to the one at the LFS.  <You do not mention how long the tank cycled or if any waste producers were in the tank to start the cycle.  Do not understand how nitrates can go up that much in a day or two.  I'd retest nitrates again or let LFS test and compare.  James (Salty Dog)> SW Cycling - 3/20/2006 Hello everyone: <<Hi Cody>> I'm getting ready to install a Magnum 350 canister filter in my 29 gallon salt. It is a used system; it was used for fresh water. The question is, the bio wheels are still wet from fresh water. How would I introduce the biological system for the salt water with out crashing the tank? <<The nitrifying bacteria housed on the FW canister are different from the SW variety of nitrifying bacteria.  They will not survive the transfer.  Please search WWM regarding cycling and filtration.>> Thanks for your help. Cody <<Glad to help. Lisa.>>

Biological Filtration/Bio Spira   3/19/06 Hello, <Hello Czarina> Advice needed here! Two of the fish stores near to us have said very convincingly that using Bio Spira nitrifying bacteria, at the same time as adding 3 larger fish (i.e. not damsels, but rather straight to a small puffer, a tang, and something similar) prevents the need for cycling the tank in advance. Everything I have read states that there is no way to avoid cycling- so I am truly confused as to whether this is a truly viable option, or whether this is indeed risky- and will most likely result in the demise of the fish. <I have mixed feelings about products like these. There are factors such as shelf life, temperature extremes, etc, that can have an effect on the bacteria in the product. I've always let my tanks cycle the natural way, felt more comfortable doing so. James (Salty Dog)> Please let me know what to do! Kind regards, Czarina.

Royal Gramma Help... actually, an example of punctuated knowledge, learning in our species... A useful paradigm for military conflicts, government manipulation of the masses   3/16/06 Hi, I started a fish only saltwater aquarium about 7 weeks ago. I cycled the tank with damsels and removed them as I was told by my fish consultant when I was ready to get other fish. <Mmm, see WWM re this practice... the damsels may have left you a nasty (disease) surprise...> I bought 2 percula clowns and 1 royal Gramma. In about 2 days, one clown died and from the way I described it, my fish consultant believes it was clownfish disease. <There's more than one... Brooklynellosis? Should not have occurred if these were tank bred...> About a week later, I lost the other one. I am waiting about 2 weeks before I buy anymore clowns. <... in the meanwhile, please read on WWM re these animals needs> I have now had the royal Gramma for about 3 weeks and over that time I have added a Heniochus butterfly, a coral beauty angel, and a strawberry Pseudochromis. <... how large is this system? How filtered?> The Pseudochromis charged at the royal Gramma once or twice when I first added him to the display tank, and they have seemed fine ever since. <Will be unless this system is "at least four feet long"> I see no tension between any of the fish right now. They are all eating fine and look healthy, except the royal Gramma. A couple days ago, I noticed his top fin was a little rigid and had a tiny tear in it. I also saw that his left fin looks like the cartilage has been torn. <Likely from tussling with the Dottyback> He can still swim fine, but I am concerned. I also saw that one of his bottom fins looks like half of it was sort of snapped off. I also see 2 whitish lines back above his eyes, but I don't know if they were there before. Could these characteristics be from the Pseudochromis or could it be an infection of some kind? <Both, from one, then the other... will likely die if not removed, treated elsewhere> I am very concerned and if you have any advice, please let me know. Thanks! <... as time goes by you'll understand how little useful information you have provided here. Please, do yourself and your livestock the favor of educating yourself. Don't rely on a consultant, me... read. Bob Fenner>

SW Cycling - 3/10/2006 Hello there, <<Hello Tiffani.>> I have a quick question (the set up into it is a bit longer).  Well, at least I hope it has a quick answer.  I have been cycling my 46 gallon bow front with about 40 lbs of live rock for very close to 4 weeks now.  My ammonia level is .25 ppm.  In fact, it has been at that level since I began testing the water parameters, which I began 3 days after my initial set-up.  I saw the huge spike in nitrites, which has since dropped to 0 and has been there for a little over 2 weeks.  My nitrates have been hanging out at 20 ppm as well.  They were much higher at one point, but at the 20 ppm level for about 2 weeks.  I have done several water changes, as I have read that can lower the nitrate level, however, no such luck.  My question is, should I still be registering ammonia if the nitrites are clearly 0?  My impression of the whole cycling process was that ammonia is converted into nitrites, then they into nitrates.  I just assumed since the nitrite was 0, the ammonia would be as well.  My SG has been 1.022 all along.  The temperature has been steady at 78-79 degrees.  I am wondering if it could be my test kit giving me a false positive on the ammonia.   I am using the Marine Lab by Red Sea. <<This could be the issue, of you could be experiencing additional die-off in the live rock.  Do buy another brand of test kit, and have your LFS test your water, to ensure the accuracy of the reading.  Also, have you checked your source water?  Test the water you add to the tank, to see if this is the source of ammonia you are seeing.>> I am anxious to get started with adding some livestock, but patient. <<A virtue in this hobby of ours.  You will thank yourself later!>> Thank you in advance for your time and for maintaining such a thorough and wonderful website.  It is much appreciated. Sincerely, Tiffani Tobin <<You are quite welcome. Glad to help. Lisa.>> SW Cycling II - 3/12/2006 Thank you very much Lisa. <<You're welcome!>> I will purchase a different test kit and see if I get different results.  Not to say that things are not dying off on the LR, but there sure is a lot of life scurrying around on them.  I guess having ammonia readings then could mean there is additional die-off.  I had not thought about that.  Would I then expect to see an increase in nitrites, because I have not over the past 2 weeks? <<It is hard to say. Live rock often changes the typical cycling levels we would expect to see.>> I will be sure to have an LFS test my tank water too.  I will also pick up an ammonia test kit for freshwater and see what happens.   <<Yes, as your source water may in fact be the issue.>> Thanks again, Tiffani. <<You're welcome again! Lisa.>> SW Cycling III - 3/16/2006 Hello Crew, I guess since the replying back and forth, the initial email has gone off into cyberspace somewhere, but I still have a couple of questions.  I will try to sum up things in a Reader's Digest version.  I am now cycling for about 4 & 1/2 weeks.  I have been registering 0.25 ppm of ammonia for over 2 weeks with no change.  Nitrites have been a clear 0 for the same time (I did see the initial gigantic spike in the beginning of the cycling process, with the drop to 0).  Nitrates appear to now be a little less than 20 ppm, but not quite 10.  Anyway, I was (in a previous email) wondering if it could be my test giving me the false positive on the ammonia.  So, I went and bought a different test for ammonia, a dip test into a vial of tank water.  I have tested 4 times in the past 3 days and that is registering no ammonia levels.  I also purchased a SeaChem Ammonia Alert that suctions inside the aquarium for a constant level of ammonia.  That has been in place for 3 days as well, and that also shows no readable ammonia.  I just do not know how reliable that is.  I, of course, have no intention on relying on that alone in the future.  Should I believe that it is actually possible there is no ammonia and my tank may be cycled at this point? <<Yes.>> Two test methods would indicate yes.  If there is a problem with My Red Sea Marine Lab test kit for ammonia, do you think it is possible all other results are inaccurate regarding other parameters? <<If ever in doubt, use a secondary test/method.>> Sorry, I think I have bordered on a novel version. <<Not a problem, it helps me remember the original question, when it is not attached.>> I am sorry, one more question.  Reading through your site about water for the tank...I want to clarify something if I can.  If I allow water (for top off or salted for a water change) to sit in a container with a power head and thermometer for at least a week, does it then NOT NEED a dechlorinator? <<The chlorine will gas off over time, but other harmful substances will remain.  I use Prime, by Seachem.>> Thank you so much in advance for your time with this matter.  Do you ever just feel like slapping people like me? <<Not at all! Lisa.>> Sincerely, Tiffani Tobin

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