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FAQs on Establishing Nutrient/Biological Cycling in Marine Systems 1

Related FAQs: Establishing Cycling 2, Establishing Cycling 3, Establishing Cycling 4, Establishing 5, Establishing Cycling 6, Establishing Cycling 7, Marine Cycling 8, Marine Cycling 9, Biological Filtration, 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

All closed systems must pay close attention to bio-filtration, ongoing biological cycling

Pest Problem? Thanks for the advice the other week on cycling of my tank Bob. I have one more question. It seems the cycling is progressing - up to nitrite now. The problem is I seem to have an infestation of pin head or smaller sized white creatures jumping all over the live rock. What are they and how do I get rid of them. <They are amphipods or copepods and you do not want to get rid of them. They are an excellent natural food.> Currently there is only live rock in the tank. I am assuming they arrived with it. They seem to stick quite close to it and also on the glass. Many Thanks, Brett Moloney Brisbane, Australia <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Feeding during cycling Hi all, <<And hello to you.>> I'm in the process of cycling a new tank with live rock only. There are a bunch of feather dusters that came with the rock that I would love to keep around and I'm wondering if they will survive the cycling process. <<Perhaps, but even if this batch vanishes, there will surely be some more.>> I know this may sound dumb but....should I feed them? <<Not a dumb question at all, but in this case, because you are cycling the tank, I wouldn't add anything just yet.>> Feather dusters are way cool :-). Wes <<This is true, part of the fun of live rock is all the stuff that comes along with it. This fauna [including your feather dusters] will come and go many times over the years... this is quite normal. As long as the tank conditions are favorable, the feather dusters on your rock will persist. Even if cycling knocks them out, baring other chemistry problems, they should make a rousing comeback.>> <<Cheers, J -- >>

Algae in a cycling tank Hi Bob, Anthony, Steve, Anytime I need to know about Aquaria your site is the first I go to! You guys do a huge service to the hobby. I started a 80 gallon reef tank a month ago. I put in the water and sand from the Atlantic Ocean. Luckily I live in Florida! Then 2 weeks ago I put in 90 pounds of live rock. I am using a wet/dry, a Red Sea Berlin Classic Skimmer, a Custom Sea Life 9 watt Double Helix UV Sterilizer powered by a Rio 200 running 24/7. My readings are- Ammonia .50 Nitrites .25 Nitrates 5.0 PH 8.2 Calcium 450 SG 1.026 There is algae (green and red) starting to grow on the rocks and sides of the tank. I can clean the sides of the tank but how can I get the algae off the rocks? <You don't want to. That is a major portion of the "live" in liverock.> Are my readings too high to support a clean up crew? <Yes, please wait until ammonia and nitrite are both zero.> If it is ok to get a clean up crew, what would you suggest? <Stay away from hermit crabs. Use a variety of different snails; Turban, Astrea, Cerith, Nerites, etc.> Thanks for the excellent web site! John <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Dead Fish Two of my domino damsels have died while cycling my tank. Ick got the best of them. My question is should I leave them in the tank to help in the cycle or shall I remove them? <Always remove all dead fish immediately.> The rest of the fish are fine, 3 yellow tails, two 3 stripe damsels. Thanks for the help <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Tank isn't cycling?!? Hi There, my new virtual friend! <Hello. Steven Pro in today.> First, I apologize up front for what I fear will be a long message. Current Tank parameters: 20 gal hex, 9 lbs LR, 20 lbs LS, started 2/14/02. Currently Contains: cleaner shrimp, sarong shrimp, Halloween crab, 3 tiny blue leg hermit crabs, 2 Astrea snails. History: Started with 4 damsels, of which 3 died by the end of the cycle for various reasons (1 don't know, 1 was constantly attacked and weaken to death, and 1 I killed because he was inside a piece of rock that I took out to clean but didn't know he was in there). I added a Rusty dwarf angel that has died, I think due to ammonia poisoning because his mouth was swollen and he wouldn't eat. So now I'm fishless (and will be until I can fix my tank). <An all to common story/beginning.> My cleaner shrimp and sarong shrimp have both molted twice, and the crabs once. They seem to be doing OK. Sometimes out, sometimes hidden. Always eating (except the day after they molt). All my inverts were added after what I thought was a cycled tank. They've all been there for at least a month. I was using the Dry-Tabs test kit during cycling. I'm really not sure that I ever had good water quality - the colors are hard to read. Today I bought the Red Sea Marine Test Kit and I'm still confused as to the reading the different colors. Anyway, over the last 10 weeks I have changed my water at least 20 times, anywhere between 10% and 40%. Was this wrong? <This does interfere with the cycling process, but sometimes you have no other choice, like when you are fish cycling and are attempting to save your animals. Far better to cycle with just liverock and not risk the fish.> Was I not to do water changes during the cycle period? Anyway, the ammonia is somewhere between 0.25 -0.50, the nitrites are also somewhere between 0.25 and 0.50, and the nitrates are between 20 - 40. I am not exact about the parameters cause I sometimes can't tell the difference in the colors, and I'm not color blind nor intoxicated, just personally think the color system sucks! <Yes, can be difficult to read. I like the Dry-Tab kits. The ammonia can be hard to read sometimes, the difference between yellow and green, but the nitrite is unmistakable, clear or pink.> I have only used purchase RO water, from the initial fill to all changes since. For some reason, no matter how many water changes I do, these numbers stay about the same; one goes to the low end, another to the high end, only to switch at the next test time. I am sooooooo confused. <Both ammonia and nitrite are produced constantly. Your tank is "cycled" when as soon as ammonia or nitrite are produced, they are converted to nitrate.> I sent an email a couple days ago asking about the biology of the water. My thinking was that if I just let it sit and "cycle" it would right itself. But according to the answer I received, I'm not so sure that this is what will happen. <Water by itself will do nothing, but your tank can cycle with water and liverock.> So now to my question(s): Should I stop the water changes until the system fluctuations subside? <Since you no longer have any fish, I would stop the water changes and wait it out. Do keep an eye on the levels, watch the reactions of your inverts, and be prepared to perform a water change for their benefit.> Should I continue to do water changes? Was my tank ever cycled in the first place, or did I not read those stupid colors right? <Sounds like it never completely cycled.> Digest version: What should I do to get this tank right? <See notes above and have some patience. Everything will be ok in time.> Thank you sooooooo much!!!! Debra <You are welcome. -Steven Pro> P.S. I see that you attend many trade shows and would love the opportunity to say "Thank you" in person. I am in the Chicago area and see that there is a Backers trade show in October. First, is that open to the public, and second, will you be there? <I think you need some sort of professional affiliation to attend the Backer shows. I think we are all going to MACNA in Dallas-Fort Worth.>

Cycling Question Hi there! <Cheers, my dear. Anthony Calfo in your service> I am new to this and so I hope you will forgive my question if it seems a bit absurd.  <the way I dress... I would never think anybody else absurd> I understand that you must cycle a tank first and that it is possible to have several "mini-cycles" afterwards. But what I was wondering is this - Let's say that you have no fish in the tank (don't want to kill anything, so in my hypothetical world we won't have fish in the tank). If the ammonia spikes up, and I didn't do a water change, will the normal cycle of then ammonia goes down as nitrites goes up followed by nitrites go down as nitrates goes up still occur?  <yes... if/when a culture of nitrifying bacteria have been added/inoculated and assuming that there was some source of fuel/food to cause the ammonia spike in the first place. Some folks that want to cycle their tanks without fear of killing fish will inoculate the tank with a handful of gravel from another established aquarium or purchased bacteria and then feed the tank ammonium chloride for 2-4 weeks to feed and supercharge the blossoming biological filter (colony of nitrifying bacteria). At the end of the trial, they do a big water change and then stock the tank with fish> I only ask because I'm trying to understand the "biology" of the water system. Is "cycling" something that happens only once when the tank is set up,  <generally, yes... and occurs again (as cycling relates to "spikes" for the sake of the discussion) in events when the filter is killed or damaged and must re-establish as with power outages, poor water quality, or other oxygen/food deprivation> or is it a continual process that happens?  <without spikes on a small scale the bacteria live, reproduce and die in a fast cycle> And are the water changes done just to prevent any danger to the livestock?  <dilution of accumulated nitrate, toxins, dissolved organics, etc> So if there is no livestock in the tank, will leaving it alone simply cause a "cycle" to happen.  <no... without a source of ammonia...little or no biological activity will occur/develop as it relates to "cycling".> To help you better understand, think of a QT where there are times that nothing will be in there - must water changes be done on a ritual basis or will ammonia clear itself using typical "cycling" effects? <good question... such a tank would need to be fed with a source of food/ammonia at times when fish were not present. For this reason it is better more convenient) and not necessary to keep a QT tank running at all times. Simple keep an extra biological filter (sponge type) running on the main display at all times. Then when the need for a QT tank arises...simply move the established/dirty sponge filter over to the QT tank with some aged water and some new water and stock with fish immediately (the sick or new fish that needs QT). The biological filter will continue in stride without spikes most likely> Thank you for clarifying this for me. Debra <best regards, Anthony Calfo>

Cycling a Tank I have several questions that I hope you can help with, but first let me give you my tank set-up. I have a 100 gallon tank with a wet-dry trickle filter. The wet-dry is divided into to parts the top half contains probable about two gallons of bio-balls. The other half contains blocks of sponge. The sump has a Berlin turbo classic skimmer and I don't know what the pump is rated for in the sump, but I am sure it is at least 300 gallon hour. I , also, have a rainbow system. The rainbow consist of a mechanical, chemical, heater, and a UV unit, its all run with a quiet one pump. The decor is frames of PVC pipe with rock work attacked. On this rock I have added about 20 pounds of live rock to cycle the tank. I am using four florescent 50/50 bulbs for light. This tank is going to be a fish only with some live rock. Now to the questions: 1. I have been cycling this tank for six weeks now and things just don't seem right. I add some bio-balls I had from an existing tanks canister filter, and two mesh bags of gravel from the same tank. The ammonia went to 2PPM for two weeks and then dropped to 0.5 which it has stayed at till this day. I'm I doing something wrong? <It does not sound like it.> Should the ammonia not have dropped to 0? <It will eventually. It may take longer in your case or your test kit may have become contaminated. Double check at your LFS or with another kit.> For the last four weeks I have even been adding stress zyme to try to help things along. <IMO, not going to help.> I have no carbon in this tank should I? <I recommend using it, but would probably do nothing for this problem.> I have been running the UV filter could this be the problem? <No, UV's only "kill" things which pass through them. Your beneficial bacteria prefers to grow on a substrate.> Below is a chart I have made of the readings from my tank that might be helpful. Also, have noticed what I would describe as detritus accumulating on the live rock. I blow this off and I assume it is from the bristle and other worms. <Better to vacuum it off with water changes.> 2. I have developed some algae growth in the tank . My question is about hair algae. Are there Different types of hair algae? <Yes.> I am familiar with the long stringy type which I do have a small amount, but I am get a large amount, mostly at the top of the tank, of an algae that I would describe as a long feather duster in shape. Is this also hair algae? <Maybe, take a look at the pictures of algae on the WWM site.> I would like to get a handle on this growth before it gets out of hand. What can I add to the tank that will eat and Keep this algae under control? <Various Tangs, snails, scarlet reef hermit crabs will eat algae, but far better to control its growth too by careful import and aggressive export of nutrients.> Also, can I add it even thought my ammonia is still at 0.5ppm? <Best to wait until ammonia is zero.> Things aren't all bad I am getting the purple and red algae from the live rock spreading on to the other rocks. 3. What would be best in controlling bristle worms an archer crab or coral banded shrimp, and can I add them with the ammonia levels I have? <No need to worry about the worms.> 4. Attached to my live rock I have a invertebrate I would like to identify. It has a long skinny base at the top I would describe it like an anemone flower. It is brownish red in color and can move. Also, it is starting to the other rocks in my tank. What is this? <Possible Aiptasia. Again, take a look around WWM.> 5. Last question I bet your thankful. I was watching my tank and noticed a strange creature and I want to know what it is? It is very small and almost see through. It has a center that I can only describe as geometric in shape around this shape seems to be tentacles or legs maybe eight. I see them mostly on the tanks glass, but I did see one swimming and the movements reminded me of an octopus or squid swimming. <Look around WWM for pictures of copepods and amphipods, but your description sounds different. A picture would be helpful.> Thank you and I'm really getting despite about this cycling problem. <Patience, all things should work themselves out in time. -Steven Pro>

Cycling with mollies I am going to start a 150 gallon saltwater tank and I heard that you can use black mollies to cycle a tank (cheaper than damsels and less aggressive) Is this true or just a rumor??? thanks. <true if they are acclimated very slowly, and while they have some merits... cured live rock will ultimately make any argument about the "best" starter fish somewhat moot. I strongly recommend live rock for most any installation. Anthony Calfo>

Re: cycling fish You mean cycle with just live rock??? Or have some in there? <When you add fully cured live rock to a tank, you bring in a nearly ready and stable colony of living biological filtration.. less starter fish are necessary and the break in period is more gentle. Live rock is recommended for all marine aquaria. Do read more about its merits in the archives of articles and FAQs of WWM. kindly, Anthony>

Question about Cycling & Diatoms Hey guys, I've written you before as I was setting up my tank, I now have a question about the cycling of the system. Background: I have a 92 Gallon tank, 90 pounds of live rock. 4-5 inch sand bed, 901 Hagen Powerhead, Sea Clone Skimmer. constant 79-80 degree temperature, Salinity/Gravity 31/1.022, PH: (after a week when the ph dropped to 7.8, I placed a small amount of crushed coral in as a buffer and it is now 8.2), Ammonia, Nitrate and Nitrite are mentioned later., Lighting: (1) 36 inch 20K (1) Actinic (both on 12 hours a day), I received live rock 2 weeks ago and placed it in the tank as well as a 20lb bag to seed the 4 inch dead sand bed. (I, of course, placed the rock directly on the glass by the way, due to a statement I saw on your site re burrowers. :) ), I placed 4 damsels in the tank 4 days later. I lost the first Domino the next day which lead me to believe that it was due to the inevitable, not something I did, since all others are still alive, eating, and "active" almost two weeks later. <Possibly due to shipping trauma.> My Ammonia levels spiked then returned to zero, like you said would happen. The Nitrates and Nitrites are still relatively high, but I'm being patient about that. <Are you getting good skimmate from the SeaClone? I prefer to have to empty me collection cup of a dark material similar to coffee several times weekly. This is good for nutrient control.> My question is: I have seen an almost rust-colored algae covering the live rock that has appeared in the last two days primarily under the light fixture although the rock is about 8 inches from the surface of the water. My gut feeling is that this is good since something is growing and the powerhead seems to be helping the growth. But I have recently ran across someone that has had a tank for a year with this rust-colored algae covering the tank, and they actually think it's "Ugly", and try to get rid of it. :) Is it something I should worry about? Or should I just enjoy the tank and leave it alone? <This sounds like diatoms. These are almost inevitable in new tanks and usually run their course and disappear after a month or two.> P.S. I apologize if this topic is mentioned on the site somewhere, I just haven't found it. Brian Zimmerman <Don't worry about it. Glad to be of assistance. -Steven Pro>

Use of Ammo-lock and other Ammonia detoxifiers Hello Mr. Fenner! <Howdy> It's been a while since I've emailed you, but that is attributable to the fact that I use your book, "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist" as my marine tank bible. It answers the vast majority of my questions! However, I'm in the midst of a debate that I'm having a hard time settling. <Perhaps there is no such settlement to be had> Today I've got a question on someone else's behalf regarding the use of Ammonia detoxifiers, such as Ammo-lock. This person setup their 75 gallon aquarium and added fish prior to cycling (I've had great success with fishless cycling on my tanks). They were told by their LFS that the live rock and live sand would not be sufficient to cycle the tank, and that they needed to add fish.  <Mmm, I do disagree... the LR, LS are fine on their own> Well, they did, the ammonia spiked, the fish began dying, and the LFS person told them to use Ammo-lock. They did this and, now, after seeing a spike in Nitrites and a gradual rise in Nitrates, they're experiencing a second, HEAVY ammonia spike. <To be expected... the product by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals is fine for what it is intended for... but this does NOT include forestalling the establishment of biological cycling> Now, I understand that Ammo-lock is supposed to convert NH3 to NH4, which is less toxic to fish, but that it should not prevent the accumulation of Ammonia in the tank. <Actually... this product does not do this> I also understand that it will skew test results. <Can, yes, some types of tests> Personally, I've always been of the opinion that, chemically speaking, less is more, and that water changes should be used instead of chemicals, but I understand that others feel differently. My advice to this person was to bring the remaining live fish back to the LFS (no hospital tank setup) and continue cycling the tank in a fishless manner. They told me that Ammo-Lock does NOTHING to inhibit the cycling process. <Not so... the ammonia present is chemically bound-up, hence the group of nitrifying bacteria populations that "consume" such die off... and must need "re-grow" to convert newly formed/forming ammonia to nitrite, supplying this to other microorganisms that convert this in turn to nitrate... A simplistic model, but if "A" is necessary for "X" to make "B", and "A" is made unavailable then "Y" that relies on "X" dies off along with "X"...> So, my question is -- do Ammonia detoxifiers inhibit the cycling of a tank? <Most, by numbers of products, popularity... actually do forestall the establishment of biological cycling> What EXACTLY is their purpose and should they be used in situations such as these?  <Purpose? Let's see... mainly useful in dire "emergency" situations (too much bio-load being added too quickly, loss of biological filtration integrity in a compromised setting (e.g. treatment, quarantine tanks)... NOT in systems that have yet to fully cycle> I've always been under the impressions that nothing like this should be used while a tank has been cycling (I prefer never to use these things, no matter what the situation, but that's me). Any advice that you could give on this topic would be greatly appreciated! <We are of the same impression, belief set here.> Grateful as always! Deb Colella (A humble aquarist who strives to be as adept at this hobby as you!) <You humble me my friend. Bob Fenner, who apologizes for the delayed response. Have been out of the country> Deborah Colella

Cycling a New Tank Robert: <<JasonC here, Bob is away diving in the tropics>> I got my new setup rolling last Friday and have had 3 yellow-tailed damsels and 2 domino damsels surviving quite well. I've been monitoring the chemical levels with the Quick Dip products by Jungle Lab. They seem to work quite well for ph/Nitrate/Nitrite but I've never seen much change in the ammonia test. How long after my introduction will I see the ammonia spike? ...and then the nitrite spike? I've been using Mark Weiss' bacteria culture which I understand from several people wonderful things about. <<there's really no patent answer for that. Perhaps a week, two weeks... perhaps this afternoon. Many factors influence this, size of tank, how much you feed, etc.>> Currently there is only one yellow-tailed damsel that has refused to eat since I got him, he is currently resting on the bottom breathing heavily. Not sure if this is anything I need to worry about, maybe it wasn't healthy I don't know. No other fish are having any problems. Should I let it die or just get it out of there ASAP? <<resting on the bottom, breathing heavily are not good signs. I personally would give the fish perhaps a little longer, but seeing as this is a brand new tank, the environment in there will only get tougher. Do what you feel is best... >> thanks for the help! <<You are quite welcome. Cheers, J -- >>

A Good Fish to Cycle With... <<JasonC here.>> Thanks for the tips. While I was there at the LFS I was informed that the snowflake can be used to "break-in" a new tank. Is this accurate? <<perhaps, they are pretty tough, but I'm not sure I would recommend it myself.>> I was also told that I can use damsels to cycle the tank but I do not want to go to all that trouble of getting them out down the road. <<smart thinking. There are a bunch of fish you can cycle a tank with and you can also cycle it with live rock.>> I am not able to get live rock in my area so I think I have to cycle my tank with live fish. <<ok then, any chance I can convince you to get a box of live rock shipped to you? Will be well worth the investment.>> Will the marine Betta or dragon wrasse be strong enough to do the job? <<I wouldn't choose these either.>> If not, what would you recommend other than damsels? <<neon gobies - check them out at http://www.wetwebmedia.com/neongobies.htm >>  Thanks and have a good weekend.  <<Yourself as well. Cheers, J -->>

Questions about Cycling with Ammonia Hi Bob, <<Bob is out of town until 12/7, JasonC here answering the WetWebMedia Mail.>> Any news about your books (I need 2 of them) ?? The tank cycling is progressing and I need some first class info.. <<don't know if your order was processed before Bob and Di left town. Do check back after 12/7.>> To update you (and ask a question... you expected that, didn't you ?). I have been using the fishless cycling and (after 10 days) the regular ammonia quantity I add is turned to nitrites in 1 day, while nitrates are over the 50 mark. <<with regular ammonia from a bottle, interesting. How much ammonia did you add?>> When I started (after 3 days) I had NH3 = 4, NO2 = 0, NO3 = 0. Now (day 10) I have NH3=0 (or very close), NO2 = 8 ppm, NO3 = >50 ppm. In this environment I can't add a fish. <<no, you can't>> I was thinking of adding the macroalgae now. There is some sort of brown algae growing already.. The question is : will the brown algae consume the nitrates ? <<no, it won't. A little more time should pop the NO2 down to zero at which point you should probably do a water change [perhaps 25%] and then add the macro algae.>> Don't you think 10 days is a bit short ?? <<have heard of, witnessed 24 hour cycles in tanks with lots of prepared & cured live rock and sand. So who knows, certainly cycling with fish takes the longest. Very curious to know more about the direct ammonia method, if for any other reason than to get it on record for the WetWebMedia readers, but certainly to fix my own > (You see, if I had your book here, I would probably ask far less questions, if any !!) <<yes, is an excellent title, but somehow I think this same question would have come up, even with the book. Is a very interesting question.>> George J. Reclos Ph.D. <<Cheers, J -- >>

Cycling a Tank with Ammonia Editor's Note: this gentleman is a Pharmacist & Immunologist and as such is a professional with regards to the procedures he describes. If you don't have the foggiest idea what he is talking about, then don't try it at home! I started with a solution which was supposed to be 20%. The solution was found to be 18% after volumetric titration. After making the calculation to see how many ppm correspond to that 18% I added enough micro liters (1 micro liter = 1 millionth of a liter) of this solution in a liter of double distilled sterile water and used the kit I have to see when I would get a reading of about 4 (with those colorimetric kits it is quite difficult to say). Again the kit proved to be almost 30% off the calculated value but it was used as a basis for the calculations since this would be used with my tank water. Once this was achieved, I adjusted my calculations for a level of 6 ppm and added the necessary quantity in my tank (I first add the ammonia in 100 ml of water and then drop it in the tank). I repeated this every two days. After the NH3 dropped to almost 0, I add the same quantity every day. Of course, this would be far more accurate if one was to know what is the anticipated amount of ammonia a fish will produce per day. I think that 6 ppm in a 140 liter tank is a bit too much for one fish. This means that the biological filter will be calibrated for higher ammonia levels that the ones the fish will produce therefore part of the colony will die - polluting my water. That is why a fish cycling should be preferred but one has to work with what is available to him !! Thanks for your information about the algae !! I was under the impression that the algae being a plant would use the nitrates found in the water column... <<and they will to a small extent, but not to the level I think you were hoping for. Like any algae, they prefer the various phosphors, but will gladly take it any way they can get it as I'm sure you know.>> I was really surprised to learn that it won't !! Will the macroalgae have a problem to compete with the brown algae already installed in my tank (another very quick presence !!) <<Usually, macro algae get preferential treatment from the people keeping watch, so it has a competitive advantage. You can also help that along by vacuuming out the brown algae once the cycle is complete.>> Note: You have to keep the concentrated ammonia solution in a tightly closed bottle in the refrigerator. The colder the water the more ammonia it can hold !! <<Thank you very much for the detailed explanation of this whole thing. You are a gentleman and a scholar. Cheers, J -- >>

Follow-up on Cycling a Tank with Ammonia Hi Jason, <<Hi>> Thanks for your kind words. I am preparing a "diary" which will appear in our site at the end of the month. If you like you can copy and paste it in your site or link to it. I send a notification to Bob at this address so you will know !! It will be a small reward for letting me use the information in WetWebMedia. George <<No really, thank you for sharing - this is what helps glue this site all together. Thanks again. Cheers, J -- >>

Re: Cycling Question Thanks Steven! The salinity is at approx 1.18. Is it possible that the low salinity may be delaying the bacteria from forming?  <Yes, absolutely> The bacteria that creates Nitrates from Nitrites? Was thinking of keeping the water temp at 78 and bringing the salinity to 1.24 <A good plan. Bob Fenner> Thanks again!

Cycling Question Hi Bob- <Steven Pro this evening.> I've been referencing your site for 3 months now. Really useful information. I have a quick question with regards to cycling. I've had my FOWLR 55 gallon tank up and running since Nov 26, 2001. I have a wet/dry filter and two power heads. Water temp is always at 79-80 degrees. I initially cycled the tank with 5 damsel fish <Way too many fish> and 11 lbs. of live rock. <Way too little liverock> After some damsel death (unfortunately) the water was reading fine. After a month (Dec 27), I added a tomato clown and a Lunare wrasse. Both are doing fine. I waited another month (Feb 1 ) and I added a clown trigger. Two weeks later added another 10 lbs of LR. After adding the trigger and 10lbs of LR the Nitrite and Nitrate have gone through the roof. The Nitrite are over 1ppm and the Nitrates over 100ppm. <It sounds like you exceeded your biological filter capacity.> The fish seem to be OK and the Ammonia is at 0 - .25 ppm. I know that the cycling process has started because of the presence of Nitrates and the low Ammonia. I've been feeding once a day. Can you give me some info on how I can get the Nitrites down? It has been 2-4 weeks since the rise. <Please read some of the articles and FAQ's on biological filtration, establishing biological filtration, cycling a tank, etc. -Steven Pro> Thanks! Bill

Re: general questions that you may know... okay, but that just leaves me to ponder this - if I do stop feeding my fish and the ammonia and nitrites go to zero. When I start feeding them again wont the ammonia just go back up again?? thanks, Nellie <if that happens, it is a clear sign that the biological filter is flawed or inadequate. Simple diagnosis. kindly, Anthony>

Re: general questions that you may know... ah-ha, that make sense. thank you very much for all your time, I appreciate it. best regards, Nellie <very welcome, best of luck to you. Anthony>

Right Now cycling bacteria Hello Bob: I had the pleasure of meeting and hearing your presentation to the Marine Conference in Monterey sponsored by SEABAY as well as obtaining your autograph of several of your books. Have you any experience with the subject of products which promise cycling of an aquarium, both fresh & marine in 24 hrs. vs. weeks naturally. Would appreciate your opinion of it. Sounds great for those impatient ones like me. Thank you, Stephen Pace <Do know of products like Fritzyme, Hagen's Cycle which are formulated for fresh, marine. My total opinions on the subject of establishing biological cycling can be found here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm and the links beyond. Bob Fenner>

Est. Biol. Cycling I am in the process of cycling my 100 gallon salt water tank. I add some live rock to cycle the tank. for two weeks I had an ammonia reading of 2 part per million, then it dropped to 0.5 parts per million. Is this normal when cycling with live rock. All the tanks that I have cycled before would go from high and then just drop to zero. I'm I doing something wrong? Thank You, John Bugby <No, you just have not waited long enough. -Steven Pro>

Re: Live rock (est. biol. cycling) Dear Anthony, <Gia sou!, Thanassis...and thank you for my first lesson in Greek <G>> thanks really for the prompt reply. <you are quite welcome, my friend> Concerning the raise of ammonia, could it be because I cleaned 5 of my six corals the other day? May be a lot of good bacteria were killed during the cleaning, and affected the total biology of the aquarium?  <very unlikely.. if there are other manmade biological filters on the system that have had a good cleaning or filter cartridge replacement recently...that is more likely> am told by my dealer to add some ready bacteria in form of a special liquid containing such bacteria. Is it cool do do this? <In my opinion, such products are a waste of money... although they will do little harm. What is your filtration and fish load again per tank size?> Let me teach you how you say "hi!" in Greek: "Gia sou!) So, best regards, <arrividerci, amico. Anthony> Thanassis

Cycling Question Greetings, I wanted to know about a cycling issue. I put about 160lbs of Fiji rock into my 125 about 2 weeks ago. It was curing at the LFS for I am not sure how long, maybe a week or two. I have been running a protein skimmer for about 10 days and using activated carbon. I never really was able to read ammonia, but about 5 days ago, the nitrites were around 5 and nitrates over 20. Two days ago, the ammonia was still 0, the nitrites were around .1 and the nitrates were around 15. Today the nitrites are at .01 (Salifert low level test) and the Nitrates are at 2-5 (Salifert). I also have a DSB with about 100lbs of aragonite and 60lbs of live sand. It seems that the live rock has cured as indicated by the low levels of nitrites. Question is when should I begin adding inhabitants? <Give it a week just to be sure your water quality is stable.> I was thinking of first adding a cleanup crew, then a few Percs, then a few soft corals over the next month or two. When would you suggest adding the snails, crabs, and other inverts for the cleanup crew? <Go ahead and add them first to help control algae.> How long after that would you add the Percs? <The longer you wait the more copepods, amphipods, mysids, etc. you will have scurrying around your tank. A month would be fine, but longer is better for the diversity and population of infauna. Thanks! Adam <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

New Start-up: Fish to aid in cycling ? Hi Bob, I won't go into all of the praise that you seem to get from many other aquarists . suffice to say Thanks. <Thank you> I am just starting what will ultimately be a full reef set-up. A 130 Litre tank with a sump holding about another 60 L, Air-powered fractionator, and power filter (mechanical only) in the sump, with under-gravels spanning the whole tank up top. Dual 30W Fluorescents light the whole thing up. (1 x 50/50 daylight/actinic blue, 1 x 10000K Daylight) I have just added 4 Kg of Live Rock to kick the whole show off and was wondering if it would be pertinent to (catch) add some local fish of whatever sort I can land from my local rock pier (Gold Coast, Australia). <A few of us are off to visit you next month... Brisbane up to Lizard, north of Cairns... No to adding the local fishes here> I fully expect that these poor soles will die in the cycling process, but will the added Ammonia speed the cycling process, or just leave the LR to do it's thing. Note that the LR is "fresh", covered in various corals, worms, and even some things that look anemone like. <Nice. Just leave the rock in... perhaps a pinch of some dry food every day... this will do the job... w/o the risk of possibly adding pests, parasites. Give here a read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm> Thanks in Advance, Glenn. <Be cracking a tinnie with you later. Bob Fenner>

Power filters and protein skimmers Bob, How are you doing? <Fine, you?> I am new to marine aquariums. I have a 75 gal tank that I am setting up to be a marine tank. I have 100 lbs of Live Rock, and 80 lbs of Live Sand. I would like to use HOT filters and skimmers to keep the cost down. I currently have a TetraTec PF500 power filter and a RedSea Prizm protein skimmer. I wanted to know what you thought about these 2 products, if you had reviewed them and how do these 2 products compare with similar products? <Fine products. Very good for what they're designed for> I had originally filled the tank and then added the uncured Fiji live rock about 3 weeks ago. I then read that Tetra had a new power filter to replace the Whisper 5 that I got with the tank, so I exchanged the original filter with the TetraTec. I then tested the water and the Nitrite and Nitrate readings were very high. So I did about a 80% water change 2 days ago and installed both filters (TetraTec and Prizm). <... eighty percent is way too much... better to do smaller changes... wait off on all during your "run in period". Please read over the set-up, establishing biological filtration sections on the marine index on WetWebMedia.com here> I was going to wait about a week and test the water again before I start putting fish or invertebrates into water. <Mmm, wait about a week after your nitrites go to zero... or more to try a hardy invertebrate> I read your book and thought it was wonderful. Are there any monthly magazines that you would recommend so I can keep up with the technology changes and other interesting news about marine animals for my tank? <Yes... as a matter of fact all three of the national monthlies: AFM, FAMA, TFH... their URLs et al. from there can be found: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/links.htm in the middle top of our links page. Bob Fenner> Thank you, Tom Schumacher

Question About Tank Cycling Hi Bob, I have a question about the cycling of my newly setup 125 gallon saltwater tank which I will use for fish only. I have never had a saltwater tank before, so if some of these questions sound off the wall, sorry. Here's my situation: I purchased this tank used from a private individual whom previously had it setup as a freshwater tank (but also had it setup as a reef tank before that). He drained it and tore it down just two days before I purchased it. With it he gave me a huge Tupperware container full of the gravel mixture that he already had in it (it was a 50/50 mixture of gravel and crushed coral). I took it home and set it up the next day using most of his gravel plus 30lbs of new crushed coral that I rinsed thoroughly. I added one damsel the next day, and then 14 more one week later.  <Fourteen? Ten plus four?> It has now been one week since I have added the 14 damsels to the tank, or 2 weeks since the first damsel was introduced. I have tested the water every day since I added the 14 damsels, and I continually get the following results: pH - 8.2, Ammonia - .25, Nitrite - .5, Nitrate - 20. I have been very confused about the readings because everything I have read about nitrogen cycling says that your ammonia should shoot clear in the first 10 days then drop to 0, followed by a spike in nitrites then drop to 0, followed by an increase in Nitrates. <Nah... many variations on the theme here. Your readings are likely accurate> I have begun to wonder whether or not my tank has cycled already?  <Some> I read something that said to speed up your cycling you could go to a pet store and ask for a cup of gravel out of an already established tank. Well, after reading that I thought about it and I did put in approximately 75-100lbs of gravel mixture out of an established tank. Could this be the reason? Is it possible it has already cycled?  <Yes, and partially cycled> Would it matter that the gravel mixture came out of a freshwater tank and not a saltwater tank?  <Oh yes... different bacteria involved... and a bit of a "population check" (caesura, slow down) in the big move> The gravel did sit in a Tupperware container for 2-3 days (there was a lot of moisture in the container). Would this kill the bacteria? <A good deal of them, yes> Two days ago I fed the fish more than the usual amount because I read that that would generate more ammonia than normal. I then tested the tank the next day (yesterday) and the ammonia was still at .25. Well, what do you think? I am in dire need of a professional opinion. I want to buy some different fish, but I want to be sure that I am not going to kill them by putting them in too soon. Do you think it is safe or should I wait a little longer? <Do wait... a few weeks more till the ammonia and nitrite have been zero for a while. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm and the FAQs links there> Now that I got my main question out of the way, I have a few more that aren't as important. The lady that runs the only pet shop around here (only one within 220 miles) won't buy damsels back. So, I'm wondering if it will be safe to add other fish to the damsels or if I should get rid of some or all of the damsels first. <Depends on what species they are, your desires> I would like to keep them if I could since they cost me 6.95 each, but I will give them away if I have to (or maybe make a quarantine tank and put them in there for a while?). I plan to add some clowns and tangs or something. What do you think?  <That you need to think, study, develop a stocking plan... read through WetWebMedia.com here> What fish would you recommend. I really like the maroon clown because it looks awesome, but I understand that it is very aggressive and would make it difficult to add smaller fish later. Is this correct? Also, I read about the need to give new fish a freshwater bath before adding them to a new tank. I do not have any other tanks, so I am wondering how I should go about this. Is it okay to put sink water in a pitcher and just add water conditioner to get rid of the chlorine? Will it work to use this as a 10 minute freshwater bath or do I need something more elaborate? <Acclimation protocols, others experiences are detailed on WWM> Well, that is all I can think of for now. I did not intend for my questions to be so long, sorry about that. Any advise you can give me about my situations will be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance for your response and thank you for your wonderful website! It has been a huge help! -Scott <And will be more so with your help. Be chatting my friend. Bob Fenner>

Re: collapse of biological filter. Dear Bob, Yes well, crashing the tank is alive and well in NZ. I finally got rid of all the ich in my main system - chelated copper - did a great job, but also took out my biological filter. What now??  <Re-seed, time going by...> Its currently a fish only system, and I've done a big water change to drop NH3 levels, but because I use AmmoLock I can't really tell what my NH3 levels now are. I use Aquarium Pharm tests, and I know they give a false reading for NH3 once AmmoLock is used. My test kit is currently reading 4, yes 4ppm NH3, but there the AmmoLock...So, given that AmmoLock is in the tank, what is the 4ppm a reading of? NH4 and NH3 combined? <All of the above> Or is it just a wacky numero that tallies with nothing? All the fish still look happy, no ich, all swimming in a solution of AmmoLock sea water and Cycle at the minute...Only problem is the test reading keeps rising to say 8ppm until I do a big H2O change to get it down to 4ppm again, but as I say, this is with AmmoLock. So now what??? Any ideas? Return all fish to dealer and recycle tank? Any help appreciated. Regards Miriam <Leave the fish out of this water till the ammonia is zero. Please read (perhaps re-read) here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm, and the FAQS beyond... and consider adding a bit of live rock, macro-algae... and a short vacation... to let all settle in. Bob Fenner>

Lingering Nitrite Robert: I have been reading the FAQ's & Articles your web site so often, it inspired me to buy your book. <Glad to hear it. I will pass along the compliment to Bob. You are talking to Steven Pro now. Anthony Calfo and myself are filling in for Bob while he does some traveling.> I have a 10 month old reef tank with a NO2 problem. The stats are as follows: 110 Gal oceanic Emperor Skimmer UV sterilizer 75 LBS Live rock Oceanic Wet/Dry NO2: .14-.15 S.G. 1.20 PH 8.1 NH3 0.0 CA 470 Temp 78 NO3 20 ALK 2.5 I have 375 watts of compact lighting for 10 hours per day. Water changes : 20% monthly. Last change 2 weeks ago. I have a mild diatom problem so I reduced the lighting period to 8 hours and it seems to be better. I am using a Salifert test kit for the Nitrate at the 10X precision mode. My LFS suggests something may be amiss with my wet dry. I opened it up and found the balls to be moist with no particular slime on them as he suggested. I did notice the plate above the balls wasn't really distributing the H2O well so I adjusted it to make it a little better. I also took the discharge for the UV and fed it into the distribution plate to send its discharge through the balls again. Any Ideas? <There are a few possibilities. Sometimes UV's are capable of converting nitrate back to nitrite. You might want to try bringing your nitrates down close to zero and/or removing the UV for a while. See if things change. Also, do be sure to check your nitrite test kit against another tank or test kit to verify the results.>

Protein skimmer off? Hello Robert Me again. my Last ???? was about the sea slug. Look what I found? http://www.seaslugforum.net/ <Yes, know of this excellent site, it's listed in my Bibliographies> Any way I'm cycling a new 125. When you start cycling is it wise to off the protein skimmer. <Please read the WWM site re set-up, skimming... Bob Fenner> My theory is that it would lengthen the time it takes to cycle, since it's spitt'n out the waste that I need to start a cycle. I'm wrong?? Thanks JET

Cycling with Fish. Redux. Hi Bob, I am writing to you not about myself here. But a general question about newbies and cycling with fish. I am beginning to think this has it's place.  <This? Referring to...?> My reasons are as follows: New folk are often in a hurry. They want to see some fish in the tank. Maybe it is not the purist way to go as obviously LR will do just fine. Perhaps it is not even quite humane as I am sure it isn't so pleasant. But here's the thing: New folk will often make the mistake of putting inappropriate critters in the tank and end up losing more livestock than if they had just started out with fish in the first place. In the best of all worlds, nobody would be impatient and understand immediately that this is about the destination more than the final point, but such is not the case. <Never discount human behavior... you will lose> Right now on WWF we have a guy, and if he recognizes himself it's ok as he isn't exactly alone, who really wants to start. (I recognize a bit of myself when I started too!!) I think at some point we should just say, ok, "Just get _____ fish and watch him closely. And do the tests." A clownfish or damsel or neon goby perhaps? Though we shouldn't recommend something that wouldn't be welcome later. A damsel can be an impossible thing to catch. <Nothing is impossible to catch. Bob Fenner> --des/Jane

Cycling with Fish redux redux >Hi Bob, >Gosh Bob, you have me confused again. I'm wondering what the message is here. <Clarity is pleasurable. I want to be perfectly understood> >>I am writing to you not about myself here. >>But a general question about newbies and cycling with fish. I am beginning to think this has it's place. >><This? Referring to...?> >Cycling with fish to clarify myself! >(Just proves I can be cryptic too. :-) <Perhaps> >>with fish in the first place. In the best of all worlds, nobody would be impatient and understand immediately that this is about the destination more than the final point, but such is not the case. >><Never discount human behavior... you will lose> >Am I discounting human behavior by saying that people might be impatient in starting a tank, or am I counting it! <Counting on it from this side of the water> >>recommend something that wouldn't be welcome later. A damsel can be an impossible thing to catch. >><Nothing is impossible to catch. Bob Fenner> >Perhaps very difficult. I practically took apart my tank trying to catch a Sally light foot. <Yet it, and you persist> >But ok, what do you think about cycling with fish?? >Especially for a beginner. <One method of induction. Bob Fenner> >Thanks, >--des/Jane >btw, the tang desktop calendar looks gorgeous! <You should tell Michael> 

Tank (new, small, marine) Hey, Robert maybe you can HELP me out. I have a new 10 gallon tank. it is cycling on day 26 now my pH is 8.5 my ammonia is way way high at 3.0 ml/l the nitrites are at 0.3 ml/l I have 1-2'' fish left at this level. <Yikes... why have any fish present while establishing nutrient cycling? Please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm and don't feed this system for now!> I have a whisper power filter plus a corner filter. I clean the filters every 2 weeks. <Do not change the filters at all till the system has cycled completely AND a few weeks have gone by.> I do water changes every 3 day to keep the ammonia in check 20%. I ALSO VACUUM EVERY WEEK the temp is 81. I also have 3 live plant in there. I can't seem to keep the ammonia at a safe level??? I used cycle to get going. it seem like it is not working my biofilter is not established or is something else wrong. also my water has been treated with conditioner and the hardness is 8. do you think my tank maybe oxygen depleted. I can't seem to pin point the problem???? I HAVE A 8'' AIR STONE. THANKS MICHAEL MATTHEWS <Michael, please read through the set-up sections on the Marine Index posted on the WetWebMedia.com site, including the linked FAQs files. Much background you need to understand, be successful, enjoy your system. Bob Fenner>

Cycling Thank you for your time, I cycled my tank a year or so ago. I have a 55 gal with 35 lbs of live rock and HAD live sand. Everything was fine and then I moved to Alaska. My rock was shipped after I moved and got settled and when it arrived, FedEx had thrown the box and it was broken open and exposed to the frigid Alaska climate. When I submersed my rock, two blue bristle worms wriggled out actually they were only half blue). <Neat... tough animals> What's strange is that my water quality has not changed at all in the two weeks that the rock has been in the tank. My macroalgae, tube worms, and other small life appear to be fine. <Amazing, eh? Sorry, had to use the GWN input> Shouldn't I have to cycle the tank again??? I don't want to put fish back in the thing and have them all die. Or is my rock all dead??? The crystalline algae is fine, the only thing that I can see that died is the few scattered coral polyps. Any suggestions??? <To wait... another couple of weeks may show your system undergoing another/recycle event> Thanks, Charles Henry, III <Mmm, an old roomie was named Chuck Henry... Bob Fenner>

Re: new setup WOOHOOO my tank just cycled. w/n 48 hours my ammonia and nitrite levels have dropped to nothing from a VERY high level. thanks for all your help with getting me setup. now I'm going to slowly stock my tank per your directions. <Ah, the adventure continues> I had to test my water 3 times because I couldn't believe it actually worked. I was sure my results were wrong. <Patience my friend. Allow a few more days to pass before adding more life. Bob Fenner>

Cycle time I had to rip my system apart and start from point A. I know that It could take a week to 30 days for the tank to cycle. Put in 45 pounds off cured rock and 40 pounds off aragonite about two and half weeks ago. I know cured LR that is mail order is not the same that is sold at the LFS, so that will extend the time needed.  <Perhaps... just as likely will/could be shorter time period> Is it possible or normal for nitrates to drop from upwards of 180 mg/l to 20 and nitrites to be up at 8.0 mg/l?  <Possible, not normal... or desired> Thank you for your time and patience and I know I need the same for the tank. <Yes... please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm and the FAQs and links beyond. Bob Fenner>

Re: new setup can you recommend a good culture? would the cycle product do anything for me? <Yes, Hagen's "Cycle" (tm) is one of the more consistently useful products in this area> what will do something for me? <Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm re possibilities> with this size of tank (46 gal) how many damsel fishes should I cycle the thing with to see if they will survive before adding real live stock <Read on brother. Bob Fenner>

Re: new setup <<JasonC here...>> can you recommend a good culture? <<you mean a bottled thing... no, I wouldn't recommend any of them.>> would the cycle product do anything for me? <<empty money out of your pocket.>> what will do something for me? <<time and patience.>> with this size of tank (46 gal) how many damsel fishes should I cycle the thing with to see if they will survive before adding real live stock <<I would use live rock rather than fish, but if you must, one damsel will be perfect, a neon goby would be better. As for seeing if they survive - this is not the correct way to check if the nitrogen cycle is complete - you should own and perform Ammonia/ium, Nitrite, and Nitrate tests every day; this is the best what to know when your tank is ready for fish. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/martstkituse.htm - Cheers, J -- >>

Re: new setup I was reading on wetwebmedia.com... is it true that the cycle time could be zero. in other words you never even have the spike in ammonia/nitrites?? is this very common. <<common among the well-initiated, well-stocked. Requires all the pieces/parts in advance, and the rock/sand to be cured there on the spot, ready to go. Not the same as getting a chunk of live rock from the store and plunking it in...>> thanks again for all the help!!! Live Rock, Maybe Sand: These nifty "products" are natural bits of the reef. they come replete with all sorts of life in/on them. and are able to spread, populate your new system with the greatest of ease. Even for "fish only" systems, a pound or more per ten gallons of either or both LR/LS is about all that's called for to get things going. How to apply the rock and/or sand? Plunk, sprinkle them in. Done. Time Frame: May be zero, as in "instantly cycled", to a few (2-3) weeks generally. <<Is this a cut and paste? Would have to generally agree with this last statement. Keep in mind that in all these cases, there is nothing in the tank during this process but water, sand, and live rock. Cheers, J -- >>

Re: new setup I was reading on wetwebmedia.com... is it true that the cycle time could be zero. in other words you never even have the spike in ammonia/nitrites?? is this very common. <Could be indeed... and is quite common in instances of using "pretty well-cured" live rock> thanks again for all the help!!! <Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

Questions about Cycling a Tank with Fish Jason, <<Hello...>> I originally put 3 blue tail damsels and 2 domino damsels. This tank has been setup for almost 2 weeks now. The first yellow tail died w/n a day or so. it was never healthy from the start. I lost a domino end of last week and today I lost another domino leaving the population to 2 yellow tails. Should I be concerned? <<Well, yes and no. On the one hand, you've chosen one of the longer ways of cycling a tank - with fish - and in this method one has to expect some mortality. On the other hand, when one introduces a sick fish to a closed system, often the thing that made the fish sick stays in the tank long after the fish is gone.>> I've checked nitrates/nitrites/ammonia and ph with no noticeable change in ammonia or nitrites. Temp has been a little high due to the climate right now (82-84 during the day). I'm trying to get this down but I also need to leave the lights on also to get some algae and bacteria growth going. <<the fish need a regular light cycle too - how long are you keeping the lights on?>> this is the primary reason for such high temps. <<I thought it was because of the weather? Do tell. Cheers, J -- >>

Tank Cycling Questions <<Hello, JasonC here...>> well let me rephrase a bit.. I've been using marc Weiss's bacteria culture in conjunction with damsel fishes. does this change anything? <<I doubt it - I have little to no faith that the Marc Weiss bacteria culture will do anything for you.>> lights stay on about 12-15 hours per day. <<Should keep that a constant, not a variable - how about just 12 hours a day? Cheers, J -- >>

She's still no a cycling Cap'n hi Bob thank for all for all the prev advice but the tank still hasn't cycled I don't think, here's a quick recap amm never above 1 Nitrite up to 4 briefly but now never above .50 trates up off scale I think but now at 20 equip Rena xp2 removed zorb/scavenger pouch week ago (your advice) AMiracle ps2, large internal filter adhered to tank 4 green Chromis in tank for cycling ( know now its evil but was slightly under informed when starting, they are very happy looking though) <Ah, good> I have large amounts of red BGA and Caulerpa and.... 3 whole pieces of live rock there is lots of invert life on this fanworms a small starfish like squashed blutack and something that I saw half of which looks basically like a yellow hedge trimmer <Perhaps a sea cucumber> would a refugium help ditch the BGA I plan to get a tang and want to grow my own food. would diurnal timing be useful because I think I would put it next to the main tank and put my Green Chromis in it a Caulerpa forest would look nice. <A refugium would/will help... but at this point, the best thing you can do is "benign neglect" of your system... take many deep breaths, step back, and let a few weeks go by... Really, taking your time here is crucial to your systems success. Don't add any more livestock, don't feed much of anything... just wait> I plan also on making a small reef I the corner of the tank and the Rena has a spray bar. would putting this behind the reef be alright or is this best a dead spot <Best to reorient the spray bar, other circulation to discount any "dead spaces"> sorry if this looks slightly rushed thanks a lot Ross <Take your time my friend. Bob Fenner>

Re: She's still no a cycling Cap'n Hi This is gonna sound weird. When you say 'don't feed much of any thing' how much food is not feeding much of any thing, at the moment I am feeding a block of Brine/s 1*1*2 every day. should I feed this every odd day, half every day, half every odd day. if I don't feed very much the smaller Chromis doesn't seem to get very much as they are voracious eaters. <Much of anything... a bare minimum...> I have noticed on the smaller one more often but the others to what appears to be small darker patches along their body could it be scales knocked off they still have the occasional tussle, also I noticed white flecks but only on their foreheads, there is a lot of bugs/debris in the water column could it be this or more likely ich due to constant slightly polluted water. <The latter> My glass is covered in bugs (copepod, little round bugs crushed nose to tail) could these bother the fish. <No> what are the breeding habit of a Chromis. a few weeks ago I noticed one swimming out from under a rock with bits of gravel in its mouth and dropping it, now It occasionally splits from he school to sit under a ledge near an other entrance to the cave. <Natural behavior, not likely reproductive> I would love to tell you the tank had finally cycled but I am refusing to keep testing it so often, the suspense makes it more interesting <Just keep the system steady... it will cycle> thank you for all the help and advice you've given me Ross <You are welcome my friend. Bob Fenner>

Reef water? (for establishing cycling) Bob, A retailer in my area is under the impression that using water out of a long established reef tank somehow hastens the cycle of a new aquarium.  <This is one useful approach to establishing cycling. Please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm,  though I would do more, different> Folks in the shop are contemplating selling the water to new customers for it's bacteria benefits. <I'd just give it, and better, a bit of the siphoned out "gunk", old filter media, substrate to customers as a "service" item. From disease-free systems of course> I've argued the point that trace amounts of nitrate could hinder the development of Nitrosomonas during the initial cycle of a "fish only" system. Unless I'm completely mad I don't see any benefit to adding water that has been exchanged from an established tank of any sort. What value, if any do you see in the practice of adding reef water to an new tank? <Not much nitrate in such water, diluted and all... but not as much "good bacteria" in the water column either. Please read where cited. Bob Fenner>

Re: follow-up on new system questions Hello, again, hope I'm not being a pest! I've been reading like crazy: your site, your book, other sites, 3 different BB's and still don't get it. If the LR was so well-cured /had so little die-off that I've registered zero on NH4,NO2,NO3 after two -three weeks, what is the source of amino acids to eventually lead to a rise in NO3, signaling that the tank is cycled? <Mmm... you may have enough "balance"... the forward rxn of nitrification and denitrification (the anaerobic nooks and crannies of the live rock) to end up with what you describe... zip of all> Just the few pathetic droppings of some snails and hermits? I really don't want to risk adding any livestock prematurely. Even though the cocktail shrimp idea without sauce) is old and not too intelligent, could it hurt to try it, using it both as a crude test and as a way to prime the pump, i.e. feed the bacteria in the LR?  <Your anaerobes would likely counter it... your system is cycled> I know I'm being compulsive here (or hopefully just conscientious). <Hmm, do like that adverb> Also, an Eheim question please and no rush answering these) I've got one of the new 2026 units. You sure were right on about how much more convenient these are than the old one I used for freshwater years ago. Then I had it filled with Bio-mech, never changed it out, rinsed it in tank h2o, and never had a problem , even with Discus. The new Eheim came pre filled with Ehfi-Mech (looks exactly like bio-mech), but their info says it's a "coarse mechanical filter" and "ensures even flow of h2o thru the filter". They say the Ehfisubstrat is for the bio. filtration and that it should be periodically replaced in thirds. I'm tempted to do just what I did with the old system since it worked so well. Am I missing something here? <Not as far as I know, am concerned> Thanks again for all your help, and I have to say, after reading a # of other sites, yours is clearly the winner! <Perhaps because I'm so ancient! Bob Fenner>

Re: follow-up on new system questions Hi, may use you for a second (or third) opinion?  <Let's try> The question was how to tell if a new tank was cycled if you start with well-cured rock and don't get NH4/NO2 spikes. The LFS said to "test the system" by throwing in some seafood, REALLY!, i.e. some shrimp, fish etc (they didn't say how much, cooked, raw, etc), let it decay and check NH4, and if the tank is cycled, I won't get a spike; maybe a small bump, but they weren't' t clear on what constitutes a spike vs. bump, and I don't think they were kidding. Make sense to you?  <An "old" not entirely intelligent "test"... Please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marcyclefaqs.htm> thought I'd check with an expert before I risk polluting the tank with groceries! If it makes sense how much would you use for a 46 and how low should the nh4 stay?  <Just read my friend. Bob Fenner> Thanks in advance!

Cycled? Hello again Mr. Fenner, Last Thursday, I setup my 25g Eclipse tank w/30lbs of live sand. r/o water w/Corallife Salt mixed to 1.025 & 1 chamber of the Fluval 304 media from my 10mo. old 50gallon. I anticipated wanting more tanks, so I added a 2 chambers of media (one in each Fluval 304 4months ago). <Good idea> I have 2 running on my 50g. It may be a silly question, but, when will I know when the 25 eclipse is cycled. My LFS guy says that I probably already is.  <Probably so> There is no livestock in the tank now. I read over the biological filtration section on the site & it say to do what I've done & "viola" , but how long is the "conditioning" time. Thanks again Craig <Best to wait, you'll likely see substantial algal growth, some accumulation of nitrates as tank fully cycles.> Are we on for sushi next weekend? <Turns out no. Am cooking for some friends "pre-wedding" party, have to drop off Di to a wedding in FLA and pick up Pete (coming back from visiting his family in the UK... Perhaps another time? Bob Fenner>

Re: Cycled? Mr. Fenner, What are you cooking??? Maybe my brother & I will come there! <A couple of turkeys (barbeque, yum)> Just joking w/you- Thanks again & have fun-perhaps another time. Craig <Most anytime you plan on being in San Diego, do contact me re "what might be going on". A friend (Maurice, who helps/runs the local marine club) wants to head up to LA for instance this Friday to do a bit of shopping/going about the livestock wholesalers... and am giving a pitch at the OC and LA clubs party on Dec. 15... Bob F>

Article (and Add links!) Hi Bob, Hope you are well!! <Yes my friend, thank you> Finally reviewing your cycling article for the web site <Ah yes> Looks good ...a few comments are: 1. Under Rationale: Can you explain a bit about how nitrates are not toxic at low levels. 2. Can you add real time tables for each method?? 3. Can you throw in a graph or two?? 4. Can you add a comment about what happens when you "overload" your tank? 5. And last what to do if you stock your seahorses and realize that the nitrite and/or ammonia is too high?? 6. Can you recommend 2 or 3 test kits by brand name 7.Can you mention how temperature affects the process. <Do you want this added to the original text and sent back all in one go?> Thanks Bob I hope to load it onto the site this week!!!! <Thank goodness... 'bout time!> Also I need to buy a Banggai cardinal photo for the web site... <Mmm, good... let's see. Will make some thumbnails for you to peruse and decide. Purpose?> And one last thing!!!! Can you add OceanRider.com to the list of seahorse sites (where you have Seahorse.org listed)?? I am more than happy to pay for it if need be. It is just that this board is the biggest basher site on the internet and I hate to see people going there as if it is the only place to go!! <Thought it was!> A few other sites are: Seahorse-talk-subscribe@yahoogroups.com (run by Neil Garrick-Maidment) http://groups.yahoo.com/group/OceanRider/ (ocean rider's club) http://www.egroups.com/subscribe/Seahorses_Forever (run by some hobbyists) <Will do so. Mahalo for the leads, links, heads up. Bob Fenner> Aloha, Carol

Tank cycling Hi and good evening, Bob. I'm the guy from Honduras who is setting up his tank for a SW FO. <Yes, how are you?> Since the tank has been sitting empty for 4 weeks I finally filled it with water and salt mix and put in the decoration. That was a week ago. The owner of the LFS had promised me that he would come and check my water parameters since my test kits still hadn't arrived. My tank holds exactly 82 gal of water! I run the canister filter with activated carbon and mechanical filter material. 1 H.O.T power filter with biological filter material and 2 airstones for aeration. I put in some crab meat ( I heeded Your advise and ate the good part myself! )  <Yes, very good> and "cycle" bacteria to start the process. That was all I could do. Now, today, after 1 week has passed the owner of the petstore finally came to my house and checked my water for the first time. Here are the results: spec. grav. 1.020 ph 8.2 Ammonia-Nitrogen NH3-N 0.4 Nitrite 1.0 Nitrate-Nitrogen NO3-N 10.0 The test kit was a FasTest Master kit from Aquarium System For the next test I have to wait. I received confirmation today that all my ordered stuff is in the country and that by next Tuesday ( 5 days from now ) I should have everything. Then I can test daily and for such things as copper, dis. oxygen, silicate, phosphor. Also I should have a AquaC protein skimmer, 4 powerheads and a bio wheel. My question: How do You rate the test results after 1 week of cycling? <They are fine, typical for such a "seeded" approach... your system's cycling is well on the way> My water was milky the first 2 days of operation but now is clear. The airstones will be removed once I have the powerheads. My LFS is awaiting a new shipment of fish and when that arrives I will contact You as to how we should start. At the moment all he has to sell are: 3 Chrysiptera parasema, 2 maroon clowns, 1 yellow tang. Since they are in his tanks a long time already, they don't need quarantining. He said he has ordered some ocellaris clowns which I would prefer. If I start with the 3 c. parasemas, will I be able to add more fish later?  <Yes> He also has a banded coral shrimp and some small hermit crabs. Would they be good at the beginning? <Better to wait on these for about a month> I will not add anything until my ammonia, nitrite are 0, and my nitrate is less then 15. My son has received now both of Your books that I ordered, so, by Christmas I should have them. <Ah, know you will enjoy them> Thank You as always for Your patience and willingness to help aquarists in distress. Good night, Bernd <Be seeing you my friend. Bob Fenner>

Re: blenny or dragonet Hi again Mr. Fenner, I took the blen... sorry dragonet back (sadly, it was so cute) and now have store credit that I am aching to use, but I still don't know if the tank has even started cycling, my amm has never risen above 1and has been hovering between .25 and .50 for around 6 weeks. trites went up to 4 but have come down and are also hovering around .50 and .25 for about the same time. nitrates went above 140 but have come down to 20 it all so confusing. <Not done cycling... something is amiss... did you "stoke" the nitrogenous fires here? If so, stop! Your system will achieve stasis on its own at this point> there is a bag in my external filter that cleans water and contains scavenger resins <Remove it... very probable a part of the problem... not solution> Also the chlorophyll in my feather Caulerpa has drained out and its clear yellow. <Remove the chemical filtrant.> following the advice of someone on WWF I took it out thinking it was going to crash but I left some in to watch it and it never went. <Leave it in place> its only feather Caulerpa my other Caulerpa sp are thriving (I think) razor and a flat leafed one. I was thinking there may not be enough nutrients/trace elements as I have never changed the water adding more phos (or is Phos produced in tank). is feather less hardy than the other two. <Now you're getting warmer> I am having more trouble id ing three small polyps on my LR They are bout 2mm high light muddy yellow colour with very fine tendrils extending above. they extend up and out much like a fan worm. (please, not be Aiptasia) <You'll soon know> last one: I am going on holiday for a week and have deemed my friends untrustworthy of looking after the tank and so have bought an automatic feeder.  <Good idea> I have put in it a mix of cut up krill, flake and freeze dried brine/s. I plan on only feeding then every odd day so as not to clog up the filter, how long can fish last without food, someone said up to a week is this true? does this sound all right. <You have fishes in this system? Yes to in most cases, species, not feeding being preferable than mis, overfeeding for a weeks duration... I would use the feeder here, feeding sparingly... No more livestock till this system cycle please> thank you for all your help so far Ross Ferguson btw are any of your tanks big enough for you to try walking across the surface? <Ha! None so deep that I couldn't climb back out. Bob Fenner>

Cycling tank Hi Mr. Fenner. I have started my tank in the last 2 wks. I have a Merlin Plus 120,Whisper2 power filter, DSB, Penguin 660 powerhead started cycling last Wed. with a piece of shrimp. It's a pretty big shrimp. I checked salinity, ph, and ammonia. Everything seems on track right now, but the water is fairly cloudy. Is this normal? <Not necessarily "not normal"... wouldn't use a "large" piece of shrimp to cycle... there are better ways to establish nutrient cycling.> How long am I suppose to leave this shrimp in there? At this rate it'll take a month for the whole thing to rot. Thanks, Rob S. <Please read over the set-up section on our site: www.WetWebMedia.com Bob Fenner> 

Re: Cycling tank Thanks for your reply. I took the shrimp out. <Ah, good. Good move> It was in there since last Wed. I checked ammonia today and it was about 1.0 ppm only. Do you think that the shrimp was in long enough to start a good cycle or am I going to have to start over. hope not!) <Your system will cycle> If not I'll just let it go and keep checking water parameters. I checked out the web site you suggested and I think I've done everything it says to for setup and cycling except I didn't use live fish. <No need to> Maybe I should have, but didn't have any rock or structure in the tank for them to hide in or relate to. Hope I'm not sounding to much like an idiot! Thanks again, Rob <You're doing fine. Bob Fenner>

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