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FAQs on Establishing Nutrient/Biological Cycling in Marine Systems 2

Related FAQs: Establishing Cycling 1, Establishing Cycling 3, Establishing Cycling 4, Establishing 5, Establishing Cycling 6, Establishing Cycling 7, Marine Cycling 8, Marine Cycling 9, Marine Cycling 10, & FAQs on Biological Cycling: Science/Rationale, Techniques/Methods: Seeding Filter Media, Live Rock/Sand, Using Livestock, Cycling Products: By Manufacturers/Names: Bio-Spira, Cycle...  Chemical Feeding, Anomalies/Fixing 1, Trouble/Fixing 2, & Fluidized Beds, Undergravel Filters/FiltrationDenitrification/Denitrifiers, Ammonia, Nitrites, Nitrates, Phosphates, & Nutrient Export,

Related Articles: Establishing Cycling, Biofiltration

My beautiful clown. Camilo Santamaria.   West Palm Beach Fl.

Cycling with raw shrimp I read the Q&A's every day. Its great and I am learning so much. I was wondering what you thought about cycling a new tank using raw shrimp from the supermarket, instead of using damsels or black mollies. This is touted on different fish boards, and since I am getting close to setting up my tank I would like your opinion. Thanks again for you time and sharing your knowledge. Michelle <Kind of messy... and expensive. I'd rather eat the shrimp (yum!) and use live rock for the job... and/or used filter media from another tank, or friends tank, or a friendly stores tank, and/or some sort of bacteria preparation Product... without the fish livestock for the first couple of hurdles (ammonia, nitrite). Don't worry about feeding the starter cultures. Use some live rock and all will be well and better. And thank you for writing. Bob Fenner>

Cycling Question I have an 80 gallon reef tank that I've wrote about before. I'm planning on expanding to a 180 gallon tank and moving all of the occupants and live rock to it. The 180 will go where the 80 currently is situated. My question is this:  I've seen products in a couple of pet stores that allow you to cycle a tank in about 24 to 48 hours. The product claims to have all of the bacteria needed to accomplish this. I've been told that by using the same live rock (300 lbs), water and substrate, it will help speed up the cycling process, in some cases by two weeks. I don't have the available space to accommodate both tanks in the same room. I'm wondering if you're familiar with these types of products and if they're safe to use. My reef tank is soothing and relaxing to watch and study. I can imagine that the 180 will be twice as enjoyable. Thanks for your help!  George Cassidy <Ahh, wish I was there to help you with the change out. Not to worry or even wonder about the "instant cycling" products, bacterial and otherwise... you don't/won't need them. Your system will be already cycled with the move of the established rock (and/or substrate). And for the record... only a few of the "cycling" products worth a hoot... and none of them consistently... I encourage folks to "blitzkrieg" approach cycling: use filter media, glop, substrate from a known (clean) source that's established, live rock, and maybe one of these prep.s if so inclined... and time. Wait as long as it takes to see if/when ammonia and nitrite come/go, and nitrate becomes detectable... without adding inorganic sources of nitrogenous "feed". Bob Fenner>

Re: Deep sand bed Dear Anthony, Thanks for your advice again. I just came across articles about the combination of tribased pelletized carbon and "right now" bacteria as a fast means for denitrification. What's experience or views about this? <the industry has seen many such products with miracle claims for more than 20 years... one hasn't panned out yet. The very nature of denitrification in an anoxic environment cannot be bottled, liquefied or pelletized. I'd be very surprised if they work if this is their claim. Quite frankly... DSB is so simple, effective and proven (not to mention inexpensive!) I have no desire to pursue another method currently. DSB is my strong advice for denitrification> Regards TFChow <best regards, Anthony>

Cycling we will go, hopefully Hi Bob, <<Hi, it's JasonC today.>> Spent many hours pouring over the wealth of information on your site. Have decided to use as a single source "guide" as there are so many (too many) contradictory opinions at LFS'. Your site was rec. by an avid saltwater enthusiast (15 yrs exp.) at an LFS. I will rec. it as well. Bob, I have a 55 gal corner tank, Fluval 304 beneath, and a submersible Fluval in the tank base aimed at 30#'s of cured live rock. Setup began on 9-07-02, with 6 Damsels added on 9-9-02. Attached is a spreadsheet of water testing and added fish since then. My question is, do I appear to be cycled? It seems odd that I would see Nitrate and Am spikes (small) so soon and concurrently rather than sequentially. I was assured that the live rock had sped things up and that it was ok to add a couple fish. Now I am worried and my head is spinning. Any advice or redirects are appreciated. Thanks, Kevin <<Kevin, I think you need to get a second set of tests run. If the tank were in fact cycled, then your ammonia should read zero. It is possible that the live rock cycled the tank quickly, but again... the 0.25 reading on your spreadsheet is suspect. Best to test the tests, as it were... as a sanity check. Do this before you add any more fish... and while we're on that topic - do you have a quarantine system yet? Check out this link - it will save you much trouble in the long run: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/quaranti.htm
Cheers, J -- >>
Date   NO3   pH   Temp   NO2   Am   Cal   SG   ALK Notes
9/7/02                                 Tank Setup
9/9/02                                 Add 6 Damsels 3 blue 3 domino. All dominos dead within 3 days.
9/14/02                                 11 lbs live rock +
9/15/02                                 Must get test kit
9/16/02   5   8.2   82   1+   0.5           8  
9/18/02   10   8.2   81   2-3   0.5   300         10 lbs live rock +
9/20/02   20+   8.2   81   2-3   1   300         NO3 and Am spike? Weird
9/21/02   10-20   8.2   82   .2-.5   0.25   300   1.023   8  
9/22/02   10.2   8.2   82   .2-.5   0.25   300   1.024      
9/23/02   10   8.3   82   0.3   .10   350   1.024   7 13 lbs Live rock + Too many different opinions on carbon, cycle time, media
9/24/02   10   8   80   0.1   0.25   300   1.024     5 ml calcium 10 pm,5gallon water change, remove all media from 304
9/25/02   10   8.4   79   0.1   0.25   300   1.023     5 ml calcium 8 pm, timer for light 1-10pm
9/26/02   10   8.2   79   0.1   0.25   300   1.023     10 ml calcium 8 pm. Insert bio media in 304. Goodbye bacteria. Mulligan 
9/27/02   10   8.2   79   0   0.25   300   1.023     add 2 clowns, 1 puffer, 10 ml calcium
9/28/02   10   8   80   0   0.25   300   1.023   7 10 ml calcium,  2" trigger
9/29/02   10   8   80   0.2   0.25   250   1.021     5 gallons tapwater added. 10 ml calcium
9/30/02   15   8   79   0.3   0.25   300   1.021     10 ml calcium. Made puree of squid, shrimp, scallop, clam, all fresh and rinsed. They love it.
10/1/02   15   8   80   0.3   0.25   300   1.021     10 ml calcium
10/2/02   12   8.1   81   0.1   0.25   300   1.021     10 ml calcium, 50% water change (new H2O 79 degrees, 8.3 pH, 350 calcium; bucket smelled funny)

Re: Reef Set Up (Biological cycling) A local fish store recommended Cycle by Hagen to start up the tank. Any thoughts? <One of their better products. Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm re your alternatives, possibilities in establishing nutrient cycling. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Steve

Cycling Bob, <<Bob's in Dallas at MACNA, we're holding down the fort for the weekend>> When cycling a tank, will it make any difference for the damsels survival through this period if there are a greater number in the tank? <<More fish will mean more load, which will mean faster spikes with slower recovery which may lead to more lost fish. The answer is yes, it'll make a difference, but not a good one. Cheers, Zo>> Thanks, Rich

Cycling a new tank I was in Anthony Calfo's seminar this afternoon and didn't want to disrupt the whole class for too long but, I was wondering what is the best way to cycle a tank?  <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm and the FAQs linked above> I know of using fish, ammonia and live rock but what is the best & also the what is the quickest in case of emergency? (I have read your book "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist" and have found it most helpful thanks. -also if Anthony Calfo has an email I would like to know he was an excellent speaker.) Brian <Will send your note to him. He's usually "here", but.. traveling now. Bob Fenner>

Cycled? Thanks for responding. I also have some readings from the tank now. Maybe you would have an idea if it's close to being cycled. Is there an average time span? The ph is 7.0 The nitrate is 110 The ammonia is low. I believe it's lower than my chart shows.(0) Thanks again, Janice <<Greetings, Janice, JasonC here... with nitrates at 110, I would say you are most certainly cycled. In fact, you should do a couple of water changes and try to bring those down into the 10's... The way the nitrogen cycle works is a lot like climbing three mountains... you have to go to the top of the first before you can climb the second, and again before you climb the third, but you can't climb all three at once - so, with any nitrates at all, you've already climbed the first two mountains. Cheers, J -- >>

Nitrex question Bob, <Steven Pro in this afternoon.> Are you familiar with the 'Nitrex' name brand of filter media? <I have seen the name in catalogs.> If so, I had a few questions about it that I was hoping you could answer: I've seen claims that this filter media allows for rapid bacteria colonization - allowing cycling of a saltwater tank to occur in hours/days rather than the usual 4-8 weeks (when not using LR). <I looked the ad up in my most recent catalog.> Is this true? <IMO, they seem to be mixing terms. "Cycling" to me refers to the growth and development of a colony of bacteria so that at the end of the cycle the bacteria is capable of breaking down the amount of waste produced as it is produced. Their ad talks about the media lasting four to six months, so I would take that to mean it is some sort of absorptive media capable of absorbing ammonia and nitrite. Similar to Zeo-lite clay in freshwater. If that is the case, I would not describe that as an aid to cycling. It comes down to culturing live bacteria. How would any product force them to grow and multiply faster? They have food from waste products and surface area to grow on, what more do you need to get them to grow? Time and to inoculate the tank with the bacteria. Anything else is not cost effective to me.> Even if the above statement isn't accurate, is Nitrex a good media for converting ammonia/nitrite to nitrate? <I wouldn't know.> I've seen claims that Nitrex will also support anaerobic conditions allowing for the export of nitrate from saltwater tanks (when used with a 'Nitrex' box), <Does it also cure cancer?> but I've also seen accounts on the web where this use has resulted in toxic sulfur dioxide conditions in the Nitrex media, poisoning tanks. My questions are: 1.) is it effective at nitrate removal when used with a Nitrex box? <It might be, but there are guaranteed ways to denitrify water (DSB, algae scrubbing, protein skimming, etc.).> 2) Is there a risk of sulfur dioxide toxicity when using this media with the Nitrex box? <I do not know.> 3) To eliminate the sulfur dioxide toxicity risk, can the Nitrex media be used in a wet/dry (as a replacement for the bio-balls) - and if so, will it still be effective at rapidly cycling a tank (ammonia/nitrite export)? <There is a saying for saltwater tanks, "Good things are rarely fast and fast things are rarely good."> Thanks again! <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Help......Am board (bored? Let's call him "Woody"... oh cycling) Hi Mr. Bob, <<Hello, it's JasonC this time...>> I know you are a very busy man. So I will try to be short. Here is my problem : My new tank is about 100gal and there is about 100 pounds of Live Rock. My tank is 3 months old and I sill have this problem with Ammonia, it just wont drop to zero. Its 0.1 all the time. I tried to add *Cycle*, nothing happened. Am board. I have no fish ( just live rock ). I used different test kits. In fact the dealer came to my house the other day and test my water it was 0.1 . Some one is telling me that I should add fish to provide ammonia source for the bacteria ( he think that 0.1 ppm is too little to feed 100 pounds of LR and the bacteria stop growing or some thing like that ). Would you please tell me what to do ? I don't want to wait longer. <<Well, Ahmad, a couple of things come to mind. First, most test kits don't measure down to one part per million very well, so 0.1 really shouldn't be a concern. I would also be curious to see if you have any nitrates [NO3-] as the presence of these would indicate that you have a complete nitrogen cycle and are capable of housing fish. You could quite likely at this point house something from the durable batch of fish, and surprisingly... Neon gobies are tougher than they look, I'd try placing one or two of these. Lastly, I realize you've waited a little while but... patience is a valuable virtue when keeping marine tanks. Cheers, J -- >>

Question (marine aquarium set-up, cycling) Hi, I have a CPR protein skimmer/bio-filter that's only good for up to 60 gallons. I have a 150 gallon and I am going to build a wet/dry or a osmosis filter for it,  <Two very different pieces of gear, different purposes.> I am wondering if I should start cycling the water now with just that and then in a little while put the other filter on, or should I just wait till I have everything?  <I would start now... the longer the system runs before adding livestock, especially with live rock, the better> One more question when adding salt to a new aquarium do I still have to mix it in a separate container? <Not if there is no life present. No live rock, sand...> Thanks for your time, Chris. <Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

Re: Filtration of Saltwater, Tang question JasonC, <<Hello again.>> Thanks for responding. When I put the tank together, I started out with four Damsels and a live rock 3 months ago. No discouragement from the LFS in doing so. <<Not really a surprise... some stores are only in it for the money, not realizing that by insuring your success, they will gain a lifelong customer. A store in my area recently sent a person home with one damsel per gallon. Not exactly smart but good for the cash register on that one day.>> Needless to say, the live rock started the cycling faster than normal so the Damsels didn't have time to adjust and died within 2 days. The tank sat empty for almost a month until the ammonia and nitrite levels were 0 so I assumed the tank had completed cycling. At that point I added the false Perc and the yellow Tang, they've been fine for six weeks now. Is it possible that the water change I did has caused the tank to start cycling again? <<Or the swapping out of the bio-bag, which I am thinking houses part of your biological filter. By doing so, you force the bacteria colonies to re-establish. As for your live rock... I don't recall you mentioned this before - how much do you have?>> I only changed about 5 gallons. Is there anything I can do with the main tank to save the fish and eel? <<You can wait it out, and if you are lucky the fish will be fine. You could also ask the store where you bought them to hold them for you while you get things back on an even keel.>> Would a large water change (20 gallons of RO) help or hurt? <<I wouldn't recommend this - a water change in the main tank will stall the re-establishment of the biological filter and thus extending the stress on your fish.>> I don't have another tank to move them to other than bagging them and taking them back to the LFS for safe keeping till the water levels get back to normal. <<Perhaps the best option at this juncture.>> Steve Barker <<Cheers, J -- >>

New Tank and Cycling with a Lionfish? Dear Bob and Co., <<Hello, "and Co" here...>> I have been in the hobby for about 3 years now and have a well established 75 gallon FO tank. I am about to start up a second tank which will be a 125 gallon FO. I know about tank cycling but am interested in the possibility of using a Lionfish (Red Volitans) to cycle. <<I wouldn't recommend this. Cycle with live rock... much better, lower impact.>> The new inhabitants will include the Lionfish, a Harlequin Tusk, Lawnmower Blenny, Large Angel (probably an Emperor), Kole, Naso and Regal Tangs. <<I'm not convinced this tank is large enough for this entire list.>> Any thoughts on the cycling idea? Bob mentions it in "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist". BTW, I read the website every day just like the newspaper and am very thankful for what you folks do! <<glad you enjoy it.>> Howard Cushnir Jacksonville, Florida <<Cheers, J -- >>

Is it possible (quickie cycling?), Test Kits accurate? quick question for you guys, <K...> Is it possible for a tank to cycle through the nitrite AND Nitrate portion of a new set up within 3 days?  <not even remotely possible... but bogus test kit readings are VERY possible> My 75gal has been up and running about 1 month now the Ammonia went way up and then I didn't test for like 3 days and have not seen a Nitrite or Nitrate spike at all. Just curious. <nitrate will accumulate at the end at any rate... do not expect that to drop without water changes or a deep sand bed (over 3") and several weeks to several months> Thanks Colleen Pittsburgh, PA <don't forget... PMASI picnic Aug 24th :) Anthony>

Is it possible (Bob's try) quick question for you guys, Is it possible for a tank to cycle through the nitrite AND Nitrate portion of a new set up within 3 days? My 75gal has been up and running about 1 month now the Ammonia went way up and then I didn't test for like 3 days and have not seen a Nitrite or Nitrate spike at all. Just curious. <Is possible... have seen situations where there was no apparent "break in" period at all! Bob Fenner> Thanks Colleen Pittsburgh, PA

Is it possible (take 3) Colleen... I just noticed that Bob replied to you as well with a rather different perspective. We are answering a lot of mail fast today and both gave you the short answer on either end of the spectrum. Let me clarify here... it IS possible (with fully cured and well established live rock or another bio-filter) to have a tank cycle with little or no obvious nitrite spike. However, this is VERY uncommon and not worth mentioning to most aquarists IMO for fear of someone stocking a tank before the next (and likely) spike. Furthermore, Nitrates are inevitable for most aquarists except , again, in rare cases where you start with a deep and mature bed of sand (say 5+") and have other favorable factors (little or no fish/feeding, a wicked skimmer that works optimally from go, etc). I hope this helps you dear... my apologies for the quickie/"greater good" first answer. Anthony>

Re: is it possible Anthony & Bob Thanks for both of your answers and Anthony for your follow up. to give a little insight (Anthony you are familiar with both places I'm sure) I purchased the live rock from 2 different places Elmer's and SeaHorse both removed it directly from some of their display tanks therefore I feel yes it was very cured. Both are established tanks with critters living and thriving in them. The sand bed however is crushed coral (looks like baby shells) and only about 3/4 - 1 inch deep by suggestion of the guys from Elmer's. I now have about 30lbs of rock and only 1 Sebae clown and 1 yellow tailed blue damsel which I only feed sparingly once a day. the Ammonia did go up to 1.0 but then dropped. Trying to decide when to make my next move and what that should be. a clean up crew? another fish? not really sure, going to do some more research here. <Have visited both places (though Steven and Anthony live in the neighborhood). Next stocking step, whatever you want to utilize as a clean-up crew. Bob Fenner, who will also send your note to Antoine> Thanks for all your help and always being there. Colleen Pittsburgh, PA

Re: is it possible Anthony & Bob Thanks for both of your answers and Anthony for your follow up. to give a little insight (Anthony you are familiar with both places I'm sure) I purchased the live rock from 2 different places Elmer's and SeaHorse both removed it directly from some of their display tanks therefore I feel yes it was very cured.  <I am familiar with both of course and in fact know both of their suppliers. Seahorses rock is air shipped and NOT cured locally. Elmer's rock is cured by a regional supplier and is most always fully cured... but just barely. It would not be fair to call rock from these or most any LFS "VERY" cured. We are talking 2 weeks cured maximum> Both are established tanks with critters living and thriving in them. The sand bed however is crushed coral (looks like baby shells) and only about 3/4 - 1 inch deep by suggestion of the guys from Elmer's.  < a little too deep unless you vacuum the substrate regularly (weekly or close to it)... else you can easily get a nasty algae bloom within a year from detritus accumulation> I now have about 30lbs of rock and only 1 Sebae clown and 1 yellow tailed blue damsel which I only feed sparingly once a day. the Ammonia did go up to 1.0 but then dropped. Trying to decide when to make my next move and what that should be. a clean up crew? <resist the crew as long as you don't see a need (accumulating detritus, brown diatom algae, etc). A good skimmer and good water flow reduces the need for janitors (few snails and rarely hermits or cucumbers)> another fish?  <likely a better choice> not really sure going to do some more research here. Thanks for all your help and always being there. Colleen Pittsburgh, PA <best regards, Anthony>

Sick fire fish (new tank syndrome) Hello, I have a 20 gallon tank with two fire fish and some live rock. The tank is not new, but it's new to me; it was a gift from a friend of mine who had the fish for a year before. She brought it over to my place with 10+ gallons of cycled water and I added the rest. <One note for you, the water is not cycled. The liverock is where the beneficial bacteria are located. The water is merely old and what the fish are used to.> I'm new to salt water, but have been monitoring the tank closely. Two days ago, I came home and the tank was covered with brown algae (with some green weed like stuff on the rocks). I changed 2 gallons of water and decided I would purchase a hermit crab and snail this weekend. Tonight I came home and the littler fish (Ginger) was gasping for air at the top of the tank. Every once in a while she'll dart around the tank like a maniac and then hide under a rock. Her fins are all ragged. The bigger one (Fred) looks fine. Nitrites are between 0.25 and 0.5, Ammonia is at 0.1. <There is your problem.> I know these aren't ideal levels, but I didn't think they were lethal? <No, that is indeed a problem and could be lethal.> Any other ideas what might be happening with Ginger? <No other ideas necessary, you have discovered your problem. Now you need to go up with a solution. Please read what we have concerning the nitrogen cycle and new tank. Your tank seems to have undergone a loss of nitrifying bacteria due to the move. I would also strongly urge you to pick up a great book by Mike Paletta called "The New Marine Aquarium." -Steven Pro>

Turbo cycling? <<Greetings...>> I've been reading your site almost non-stop for the last week, and I think I've only skimmed the surface of all the information there. What an asset to hobbyists everywhere! Anyway, I am starting on my first saltwater tank, and things seem to be going really well. Too well, in fact, as you will see by my question. <<Ok.>> I have a 72 gal. Oceanic Bowfront tank, which I just filled a week ago today. Tonight, I tested the water, and it looks like my cycle has almost completed! This floored me, because I kept hearing that it would be a minimum of 3 weeks, so I wanted to give you the details, to see if I missed something.  My equipment - Fluval 404 filter with 2 chambers of biomaterial, 1 chamber of filter floss, and 1 chamber of sponge filter media (at the next cleaning, I will remove something and add some carbon). Bak Pak 2 protein skimmer, and a MaxiJet MP1200 power head (to provide additional circulation and "percolation" at the surface). The substrate is 45 lbs. of aragonite and 40 lbs. of live sand. There is about 70 lbs. of live rock in the system, and 2 damsels (were 3, one succumbed 2 nights ago). BTW, we have left the dead damsel in there for now, because I heard that also helps during cycling. <<bunk! How would you like to live with a corpse in your house. Pull it out.>> Here are my readings over the last week, so you can see what I mean about the cycling. Temperature has stabilized to 80 degrees, and salinity is 1.018. The pH was a bit low (7.8), but one treatment with Kent Superbuffer dKH a few days ago brought it up to 8.2 and holding. The other relative readings are: Day 3: Ammonia - 2.0 ppm, Nitrite - .50 ppm, Nitrate - 10 ppm. Day 5: Ammonia - 1.0 ppm, Nitrite - 5.0 ppm, Nitrate - 20 ppm. Day 6: Ammonia - .50 ppm, Nitrite - 5.0 ppm, Nitrate - 20 ppm. Day 8 (today): Ammonia - 0, Nitrite - .25 ppm, Nitrate - 20 ppm. To me, it looks like a classic cycle (according to what I've read), just much quicker than I anticipated. Is there anything I could be missing in interpreting these results? <<You could get a second opinion - take some water to the store and test there, just to be safe. Still, no worries really. It's not out of the realm of possibility to rapidly cycle a tank with live rock and live sand, and this is likely what has happened in your case.>> Our current plan is that once we get 0 ammonia and nitrite readings for a couple days, I will do a partial water change, give it a couple more days to stabilize, and then if everything is still in line, get 3-4 additional fish (We will probably keep the damsels - got a little attached to them already). <<I would advise against the plan to stock 3-4 fish at one time and rather only add one item/fish per month. Even though you have been fortunate with the quick cycle, you will jeopardize your future success with such quick actions. Your biological filter is still new and will need time to adjust to meet the new bioload. Patience is the key from here on out.>> Thanks in advance for your help. Mike Haney <<You are quite welcome. Cheers, J -- >>

Re: Turbo cycling? Thanks for the advice. I think I will take some water to my LFS and confirm the results. We will also get rid of the corpse, and take it slow on adding new fish. <<Sounds good. Cheers, J -- >>

Re: Turbo cycling? OK, I've been reading up on quarantine tanks, and have convinced my wife of the need. <Good> Current plan is to get a 12 gallon Eclipse system and some PVC pipe - nothing else in the tank. This could change based on your answers to the following. I read in the FAQ about keeping the bio filter in your main tank, then just setting up the QT as needed. <Yes> Sounds great, and will work in the future. But for now, I am going to need a QT on a constant basis for stocking my tank - if I am adding 1 fish a month, and quarantining for 4 weeks, then the QT will be very busy for the next 6-8 months. <Ok> So, I'm trying to figure out how to cycle the QT to get it started. I don't want to sacrifice damsels (the 2 we have now have been through enough, and I don't want to buy any more and put them through hell). I like the idea of using some bio-filtering from my main tank, but I'm not sure how to do that with my setup. In the main tank, there are 3 types of bio filtering being used - live sand/rock, some bio-thingies (not really balls) in my Fluval filter, and there is a bio-bale in my CPR Bak Pak skimmer. Don't want to mess with the skimmer, and the live rock/sand is a no-no in the quarantine tank. So, that leaves the bio-thingies in the canister. Now, as luck would have it, I wanted to remove SOME of that media eventually, to open up a chamber for adding some carbon. The Eclipse filter system has a mechanical sponge-type filter, I believe some chambers for chemicals, and a bio-wheel. So, would I just remove the BioWheel and add my bio-thingies from the Fluval? <No, would not really fit in the same place.> Or should I use a different type of filter system altogether, say one that might accommodate the bio-thingies better (not spending another $100 on a canister filter, though). <A old-style cheap box filter would work for holding the ceramic rings. These are the ones that used to come with all starter freshwater tanks, clear plastic box that you stuffed with white floss and carbon and bubbled with an air pump. You could fill it up with the Fluval rings easy enough.> And once I get some bio filtering setup, how do I test the system to make sure it is cycled? <Once the fish is in there, monitor ammonia and nitrite closely.> I would sure hate to get an ammonia spike after I get a new critter in there. <Agreed, but not much else you can do but set it up as best you can, add a small fish, and hope that the ceramic rings have enough beneficial bacteria on them to support that particular bioload.> Again, thanks again for your help. I am learning that I can't rely on my LFS for anything - they tried to talk me out of buying a QT. <What? Beyond the poor philosophy, how many LFS salespeople try to talk anyone out of buying anything?> I also found out that they won't take a deposit and hold a fish for you. <Poor business to not hold a fish for a few days at least. Maybe not an entire quarantine period, but a few days is standard for many.> I think I will have to look elsewhere when it's time to purchase livestock. <Yes perhaps that would be best. -Steven Pro>

Re: Turbo cycling? I didn't have any water for him to test today. I will take some up tomorrow. <<Sounds good.>> Since you brought up quarantine tanks, I have another question - When I bought my live rock last week, I bought too much and had about 15 lbs. left over. I put it in a 5 gallon bucket of saltwater (drained from my main tank) to keep it until I decided what to do with it (temperature and salinity are the same, but there is no circulation). <<Erk... need to toss a small powerhead in there or something similar.>> Would this live rock be good to put in a quarantine tank? <<I wouldn't>> I'm thinking about just picking up a 10 gallon tank and one of those corner filters, with the live rock to provide "extra" bio filtering, plus a place for the new fish to hide. <<Is better to use PVC pipe fittings - live rock can and will absorb the various therapies one might apply to a quarantined fish. PVC won't react with copper and the like.>> Does this sound like a sound plan, and if so, do you think the live rock is still good to use after a week? <<I would be dubious about the live rock... one week in a stagnant bucket of water. Add the pump, let it brew for another week, then take it out and smell it. If it doesn't knock you over, then I would try and jam it into the main display.>> Again, thanks for all your advice. <<Cheers, J -- >>

Re: Turbo cycling? I went to the LFS at lunch. This guy said he didn't think there was any way it could be done cycling yet. <<Did he say that after he tested the water?>> He recommended that I overfeed the tank for a week and see if the ammonia spikes again. <<But what about the water test results?>> Of course, this is the same store that recommends the damsel destruction (complete with leaving the deceased in the tank) method for breaking in a tank, so I'm wary of following their advice. <<Well, cycling a tank with damsels is tried and true, it's just not nice for the damsels. Leaving the dead ones in... I just don't know about that one.>> What do you think? <<I think it's possible to cycle a tank in very short order using very well cured live rock in large quantities. How long varies from system to system, but I've done this myself and I know it can be done - but does require a lot of preparation, but not impossible. You likely got very lucky with the cured state of your live rock and sand. I can also see why some would be skeptical... "it has always been thus..." but no worries. Stick with what the tests tell you, and if you don't trust the tests get the water tested somewhere else. I would ask the LFS to test again and save the opinions for after the tests are done. Personally... I would wait a week or two, I would not overfeed - you will get problem algae if you take this route - and keep testing. Meanwhile, start building the quarantine system for the next fish you buy, and then place that fish in quarantine - it should be there a month or so... you'll have plenty of time for this to all work out. Cheers, J -- >>

Will Elevating Temperature Hasten Cycling?... Hi Bob, I have a new tank with live rock .Its still cycling, can I raise the temp to 84F to make the bacteria grow faster or does doing that would affect the living organisms on the rocks ( there is a lot of invertebrates)? Thank You. <Good question... don't know... but worth experimenting... There is likely an "ideal temperature/range" for doing just this... If your rock hails/hailed from a more tropical setting, perhaps it will cycle faster through the process at an elevated temperature. Do take care to be even more careful in monitoring water quality... adding alkalinity, making requisite water changes... Bob Fenner>

Speeding the Cycling Process Hi Bob, I have a new tank with live rock. It is still cycling. Can I raise the temp to 84F to make the bacteria grow faster or does doing that affect the living organisms on the rocks (there is a lot of invertebrates)? Thank You <I would not recommend raising the temperature to quicken the cycling. You will be better off learning patience now. -Steven Pro>

Biological Filtration/Q-Tank Hi (Dr Fenner ?) <Just Bob, please> Congratulations on a marvelous website ! I have been a silent visitor to your site for months, mostly because I have always found answers to my questions in your FAQ sections. Now finally I have something to ask of which I am not very sure yet, if you don't mind. <Not at all... as a matter of note this is exactly how we hope to add content, get input on what topics we might write about...> After having to destroy my decor and battle for hours trying to catch sick fish with whitespot I decided that I will not add one more fish to my system without putting it into quarantine first, <Hallelujah> so I'm busy setting up a quarantine tank, its about 25 gallons in size. I don't want to run this tank continuously and would like to only run it when I actually have to quarantine a new fish. So I would keep the tank empty and when its time to buy a new fish I would fill it up with new water of do a water change from the main tank into this quarantine tank. My question to you is about the biological filtration and the best way to make sure that I don't get ammonia spikes in the QT - I have 2 options: 1. Keep the foam sponge from an Aquaclear hang on filter in the sump of my main tank permanently and then install it into the QT on the day when I add the new fish to the QT, hopefully introducing all the bacteria that the new system needs. 2. I have a Merlin Fluidized filter (from Red Sea) here which I am not using - I can run this permanently on the main tank and then transfer it to the QT whenever I need to quarantine something. Which one of these do you think would be best, if any ? Do you normally keep your QT's permanently running ? <Both are excellent... in fact I would employ both... simultaneously for redundant back-up... and utilize your main/display tanks water for the quarantine/treatment system for water> Your comments on this would be greatly appreciated. Kind Regards Derek <Thank you, Bob Fenner>

Re: Biological Filtration/Q-Tank Hi Doc (grin) <Derek> Thanks for the speedy reply. One thing I forgot to ask was how long it takes for something like a sponge or a Merlin to be properly "infected" with the bacteria ? Am I correct in assuming that you need about a week ? <Several days to a few weeks> There are so many test kits available, but to date I haven't found one that measures how many Nitrosomonas or Nitrobacters bacteria you have in a sponge, if you know what I mean...I don't even know if there is 1 in there :) <Interesting possibility... as far as I'm aware there is no such assay. Perhaps you will devise one. Bob Fenner> Thanks for the advice Derek

Question(s, goosing nitrification, Powder Brown Challenge, skinny trigger) Hi Dr Bob, <Hello> I hope you are well today. You keep on amazing me by helping out so many people and asking so little in return, I am very impressed with you and your crew. <I am impressed with the folks here for these reasons, but not myself... assuredly, if you had spent as many years, hours studying, working in the field... you would know, do more> I have 3 questions for you today if this is alright ? <We'll see> Question 1 - We have a huge aquarium here in the city and they have this "wonder product" they use for cycling their tanks, they call it Comprazyme (I have no idea how to spell this) and its a brownish powder. On a 130gallon FOWLR tank they add less than a teaspoon of this stuff and 3 days later they start adding livestock, it never shows any ammonia or nitrates after this My LFS borrowed some of this powder and tested this with the same results - he also cycles his tanks so quickly now. I have been searching all over for information about this Comprazyme and haven't found a thing - does this sound familiar to you at all ? <There are various yeast and bacteria derived (even synthesized) enzymes that will "do the trick" of nitrification... many have been developed for the sewage treatment and industrial clean-up businesses... None are really appropriate for aquarium use IMO/E.> Question2 - I have a new Powder Brown Tang, which has been in my quarantine tank for a couple of days now. I am detecting some nitrites in the QT, about 0.3ppm and it doesn't seem to be increasing or decreasing. Since day 1 my the Tang has been scratching himself every now and again (which could be normal according to one of your articles about tangs I read earlier). I think you normally say that nitrites of above 1.0 is dangerous, so can I keep the tang in the QT if the nitrites stay at 0.3 ?  <Yes, though do make efforts to lower this... utilize some ready bacterial involvement from your main tank> I did a 25% water change yesterday with no effect. My main tank has zero nitrites, so I'm tempted to move the tang to my main tank but I'm very scared to do that, due to past nightmares. this is why I set the QT up in the first place. <I would NOT move this specimen. Too much risk of parasitic outbreak/transference> Question3 - In my main 140 gallon tank I have a small Picasso Triggerfish, it is a very interesting fish and I just love its behavior etc. The only problem I have is this little guy's appetite - it eats and bites anything it can get its teeth on. It is literally biting holes into my live rock and ripping it apart. I don't mind replacing some live rock every now and again, but I'm worried that he is killing the live rock, if this is possible. Can he damage the live rock, i.e. killed the life on it ? <Only to an extent... I would try offering some other live foods in an attempt to "fill it up"... like whole shellfish (on the opened shell or headless (e.g. "Cocktail" sans sauce) shrimp of different kinds.> Thanks in advance and my apologies for the many questions. <No worries, Bob Fenner> Gavin

Nitrogen Cycle <<Greetings,>> My reef tank has been established for a little over 6 months. I am using a Wet/Dry filter without the biomedia for my sump. It has a sponge prefilter to prevent detritus from getting into the main area of the sump. I would like to replace this sponge every so often because it is losing its effectiveness. Will this cause any sort of disruption in the nitrogen cycle? Is there nitrifying bacteria living in this sponge? <<There is some nitrifying bacteria in the sponge, but by Reef Tank, I'm guessing you have a good quantity of live rock in the tank and in the sump? This would house the majority of your biological filter. Pre-filters should be changed/cleaned every week to two weeks maximum.>> Thank you, -Eric <<You are welcome. Cheers, J -- >>

Cycling Hi, I just want to know how long to cycle a newly setup aquarium my aquarium is just been setup for 2week now and just went to Petco store and they tested my water they it's too much nitrate what would I do <<Well... first, it is in your best interest to own your own test kits, even the ones for cycling. Next, there are three stages in the nitrogen cycle which need to be reached one by one, two of which are toxic [ammonia, nitrite], and two of which sound like each other [nitrite and nitrate]. Is it possible you mis-heard or even that the Petco clerk had a slip of the tongue? Two weeks could be about the right timing for you to get a nitrite reading. If you are actually reading nitrates, your nitrogen cycle is complete and you are ready to stock the tank. All this of course varies on the size of your tank. The average is about four to six weeks. I've had a tank take nine. Here is a URL that you will hopefully find helpful: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm Cheers, J -- >>

Cycling Hello Bob and crew, <<And hello to you.>> I have a strange question about cycling a new marine tank. I have a 54 gal corner tank (one of those curved front ones) and have set it up as a marine tank but have yet to add any salt. I have a few African Cichlids in there at the moment and was wondering if I could cycle the tank with these and then add the correct amount of salt when I do my water change? Or will this mess with everything? Perhaps the bacteria that grow in fresh water don't like salt etc, etc. <<It's none of the above - the bacteria that form the levels of the nitrogen cycle are completely different from each other - fresh and salt.>> And while I am messaging you, I would like a couple suggestions for livestock in this tank. I am thinking about doing a fish only tank, but I am not sure what to get... I was hoping to have a couple juvenile, but larger fish, and maybe a small school. <<A 54 is a little on the small side for schools or larger fish.>> unfortunately the fish that I like...Puffers and Triggers would out grow the tank quite quickly I assume, even if I buy them small.. <<you are correct.>> not only that, they would love to munch on some smaller schooling fish. Maybe you have a couple suggestions? <<Check through the pages on WetWebMedia and beyond - too many possibilities to list here.>> Also, is there anyone who sells artificial corals and anemones, if not, do you think there would be a market for it...heh.. <<There must be a market for it because there are several manufacturers, probably the most notable is Walt Smith's, Nature's Image.>> Thanks so much, Chris <<Cheers, J -- >>

Cycling New Tank Dear Bob, Can I cycle my new 125 U.S. gallon tank using liverock and 10 - 12 green Chromis. <No, just use the liverock.> I don't want to see an empty tank for a few weeks? <It is that or a very good shot at a tank full of dead/diseased fish. Your choice. -Steven Pro>

Cycling without fishes HI again, thanks for the replay :) I have two more questions for you : 1.The ammonia in my tank drop to zero but the nitrite did not I know it takes longer time) But in the main time there is no any source of ammonia for the bacteria. Is that OK? <there is always a source of ammonia in a stocked tank... it is just that after the cycle, the bacterial colony have grown large enough to keep it to zero> SORRY, but there is no fishes in the tank. Just like rock covered with algae. should I add some flake food for keeping the bacteria alive <that should not be necessary. It wall not help you keep fishes any better. Just go slow with adding any new fish after the cycle is complete. And be sure to Qt all new fish separately for 4 weeks before adding them to your display. This is critical for long term success. Best regards, Anthony>

Cycling Troubles Hi Mr. Bob, <<Hello, JasonC here at your service... >>  I NEED YOUR HELP PLEASE. I HAVE A HUGE PROBLEM. HERE is my problem (I hope you COULD HELP): I have 3 tanks 17,30 and 100.I will talk about the 17 and 30 gal first. Am using a product called Cycle from Hagen. After treating the water with de-chlor there was a released ammonia in my 17 gal tank .I asked a lot (and I mean A LOT) of EXPERTS and they all agree that our tap does contain chlorine only and there is no any chloramine. I do not know. <<Get the water tested if you want to be sure, or check with your town... they should have this information on record.>> From where the ammonia come from I just treated the water that's all??? <<And you did or didn't add the Cycle?>> Here is my real problem after a month of using Cycle in my 17 gal tank I check for ammonia in my tank it is 1.6 (there is no fish or LR/LS in my tank), the nitrite raise 0,1 and drop to 0 in the first week. How come ??(all my test kits are %100 new). <<Well, if you suspect your test kits you could take some of the water to the store for them to analyze. I've never used Cycle, but it's my understanding that it contains bacteria cultures that will promote the Nitrogen Cycle. Are you following the directions to the letter? A quick browse of the web, I see the product should be refrigerated after opening which means it has a shelf life. You may have gotten an old bottle.>> So after this problem I moved to a 30 gal tank. The same thing happened once again (but this time the ammonia was 0,6 ppm). Why? <<Were you using the same bottle of Cycle? Perhaps the material had gone bad, so in essence you were just adding dead organic materials that in turn produce ammonia. Also, concentration would be lower because there is more water.>> Some one told me it could be the Cycle it self. <<Ahh... there we go.>> He said such a products may be effected by heat and dies-off and reduce ammonia (am adding Cycle weekly). <<Well sure, the phrase "refrigerate after opening" means a lot.>> He said THAT I should wait and I did, but nothing happened. <<How long are you waiting?>> Next (the funny part) I got a new Cycle and I used it and look what happens the ammonia drop to zero after a month and the nitrite just wont. it was about 3,3 ppm .I waited for another TWO months and nothing happened. In fact it raised more and more. Now I got a 100 gal tank. I used Cycle and LR .Every time Cycle is added to the tank the ammonia goes higher, its 0.3 now. Am LOST CAN U HELP ME PLEASE. <<At this point I would at the very least get a second opinion on your water tests. Take some water samples to the store and ask them to test it for you. Next, I personally don't recommend booster formulas like Cycle, but I've heard that out of all of the ones available, Cycle is perhaps the best. I would also consider, if I were you, contacting Hagen either via phone or email and ask them, they make the stuff and they should know. Because I'm not familiar with this product, I've no idea whether you are using it correctly or not. What I can tell you is this... I've cycled many a saltwater tank with live rock alone and no additives. This is the method I would recommend to you... throw the Cycle in the rubbish bin and move on. If you have live rock, use it... will take two to four weeks, but after that you should be good to go. Here's some reading on the benefits of live rock: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/liverock1.htm Cheers, J -- >>

Liverock Cycling Hi again, I am worried about cycling my new tank with liverock. <No need to worry, it is the preferred method.> I used to cycle my tank with Hagen product (Cycle) the ammonia used to raise to 0.1 and drop to zero in few weeks, but now with liverock the ammonia just keep raising its now 0.5. Is that NORMAL? <All depends on the condition of the liverock.> The rocks are FRESH and I check them. The rocks are covered with coralline algae and there was no any sponges on it. <But there will be other things can will die. All fresh liverock needs to be cured. Please see the writings on WWM regarding this.> My tank temp is about 29 degrees to grow bacteria faster. <Keep learning my friend. -Steven Pro> 

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