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FAQs on Establishing Nutrient/Biological Cycling in Marine Systems 3

Related FAQs: Establishing Cycling 1, Establishing Cycling 2, 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

New Tank With Clowns - 07/11/05 Hey this is Donnie, awesome site by the way. <<Thanks Donnie...Eric R. here.>> Ok I just converted my freshwater tank to a saltwater on about 9 days ago, my protein skimmer and Corallife lunar light will be here tomorrow. <<Super>> It has 20lbs of live sand and about 7lbs of live rock, I put in 2 damsels (blue one, and domino) about 4 days ago to start cycling it, then today I added 2 orange/white clowns. <<Sorry to hear this... It's my opinion fish should NEVER be added to a tank until fully cycled.>> The pet store said my nitrate, nitrite, ammonia, and ph (8.2) were good. <<Did they know you just converted 9 days ago?>> They seem to be doing fine right now and they sleep on top of each other.  Everyone in my tank gets along and eats formula one pellets.  Do you think that if I keep testing my water (SG, NITRATE, NITRITE, AMMONIA, PH) and keeping everything in check they will do fine?   <<Please do get your own test kits and monitor your water quality and relocate the fish if ammonia/nitrite show anything other than "zero."  If this is the case, wait until the tank cycles to reintroduce the fish.  Maybe have a look through our archives...here's a good place to start: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marineSetUp.htm>>

Newbie, marine operation Hey Phil,<Hey Rick> Funny thing after you told me about the sponge I noticed that CPR had actually included a little sponge in side the packaging and it seems to do the job.<Good deal> I am cycling the tank and I was wondering if I need to do weekly water changes yet or only after the levels have stabilized?<When a tank is cycling I like to do small 5% water changes until all levels have gone to normal... pH8.2-8.2 etc etc...  Other people do the normal 15-25% changes the whole time.  IMO, you can do what you want!>    Also I wanted to know about stocking, I'm considering four to five small fish for my tank. Cardinal, blenny, clown and a goby. What order should these guys be put in to the tank and how long in between additions?<We have a 30g tank. Depending on the clown it will probably be the most aggressive and your going to want to add it last. Most Cardinals are peaceful and it could be added in the middle of the mix. A goby should be added first so it can "scope" out the tank and find a little area to call home before the fast fish move in. Make sure you have some microalgae in the tank so the blenny can feed at his/her own will.> Thanks for the help.<No problem, hope this helps and good luck!  Phil>

Cycling a 10 gallon saltwater tank - 3/6/03 Hi again I recently set-up a small marine aquarium and only added a small piece of live rock and a yellow tail damsel. I have been testing the water everyday for 5 days now and my ammonia is still at 0 as well as my nitrites are at 0 also. Ph is around 7.7 to 8.0.<This needs to go up. See here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marphalk.htm> Everyday I hope to see some signs of this 10gal. cycling but haven't yet, is this normal? <Can be normal. Not unheard of, but not the collective "norm". Give it another few weeks and maybe add a few flakes of food. I mean a few not a pinch <G>. This can help kick start it. See here for more info: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm. Start there and then go through the links to the FAQs and other articles at the top the page. Knowledge is power, my friend. Good beginning effort by coming to this site, but many more steps to learning. Welcome to the hobby. Paulo>

Boosting new tank cycle with old tank Hi, <cheers!> This is probably a very stupid question, but here goes. <not at all... no worries> I am in the process of setting up a 180 gallon tank to arrive march 20. <very cool> I am planning on using an Eheim 2217 filter along with Lifegards and a sump.   <great filtration for fish only... may not be needed if you go reef (possible hindrance as a nitrate generator)> My question is this.  Currently I have a 10 gallon tank which has been up for couple years.  Would that tank (and fishes) be able to handle the 2217 to help kick start cycling my new tank when it comes? Jesse <its a good and sensible question, Jess. Yes, indeed... the bio-load that is in the 10 gallon can indeed help to inoculate your new filter in wait for the new tank. It will not mature large enough to be fully prepared for the pending bio-load on the 180 if stocked fast, but it will provide a very good seed culture of nitrifying bacteria to make the break in period go stronger and/or faster once the 180 is slowly stocked. Good idea, my friend. Anthony> Treating Ick before the initial tank cycle ends Hey crew! <Hey back> I can't say enough about the informative site!  Is there such thing as "too much" information.  When I get home from work I sign on and read and read and read.  However, I have run into a problem and am not sure of what to do.  This Saturday will be the second week of the cycle on my new 29 gallon marine tank.  I initially started the cycle with three small damsels, of which one died within 24 hrs, one got stuck on the intake of my power head on like the 6th day.....whoops, (I forgot to turn it down!) and I noticed last night that the last one left (a domino) has what looks like ick.  I noticed yesterday when I got home from work all of the tiny white spots on it, even on his eyes.  He has been a real trooper swimming about like nothings wrong....I was kinda shocked!  We'll I leave the light on overnight, and all but a couple are gone this morning!  What's up with that?  Is this ick?  If so, should I treat or just buy a couple more damsels and let the tank finish cycling?  I called the two local pet stores that contradicted each other.......one saying treat the tank now b/c ick will breed in the substrate and the other saying let the tank cycle, then take the fish out, and the Ick will die within a couple of weeks having no host to feed on. (I don't plan on keeping the damsels anyway)  We'll, I was actually gonna keep them until they started nipping at the stuff I am wanting to put in the tank when it matures.  I'm trying to learn all I can about marine tanks.  I hope the initial cycling is the hardest part, cause this is kinda frustrating.  Thanks in advance for your help! <The damsels are not necessary to cycle a tank. Really a rather barbaric process and an waste of life. The domino may  have ich. It needs to be removed to a hospital tank and treated. See here and the blue links at the top of the page for more http://www.wetwebmedia.com/parasiti.htm. Do not treat the main tank. Never. Only treat diseased fish in a hospital tank. Let the tank fallow (no fish of any kind) for at least 4-6 weeks. Raising the temperature (80-82) may help. This is the only way to break the cycle of host/parasite. Don>

QT prep and ending tank cycle Thanks Don. I'm kind of hoping that before the weekend, my NO2 will drop completely to 0. I think it's likely, as it's been dropping steadily and nicely. Honestly, at this point, there's one step between 0 and .025, and I'm not sure I could tell the difference between that step and .025.  It's so slight!   Even .050 and .025 are hard to tell the difference between.  As for the little white things being food, you may have a point, and I guess it doesn't look that bad after all, especially now that I cut the circ back a bit.  I don't think I'll sweat it for now, and see what happens. <Yes the color change charts can be very difficult to read.> One more question if I may, then I'll leave you alone (I'll bet you've heard that before  ;-).   <No problem> I have had my small, hang-on filter w/ sponge hanging on the sump, and running since Sunday (.025 NO2 day), and plan on taking it off and hanging it on the QT tank on Friday (provided everything looks good).  On Friday, I'll also put in the QT tank, 15 gallons of fresh seawater mix, and 5 gallons from my main tank, and let come up to temp.  I was advised against doing a full 50/50 with 10 G from my main tank for now (because it may be harmful to the main tank so early on.  I also have a puny little "mixing" pump (40G hour, maybe less, can't quite remember) that came with the salt mix for free, that seems about perfect for a little added circ. in the QT tank (and to think I thought it was useless when I saw it for the first time!) This is basically what has been recommended to me.   <All sounds good/appropriate> Question------>The question is, do you still think I'll need to do large daily water changes on the QT tank? <Depends on many factors. I would plan on 10-20% daily/every other day. Monitor levels closely and react accordingly. I always like to have a bunch of water mixed up (40G) just in case. Makes changes a lot easier if you have cured water around. You are on a good course, continue and be patient and all will go well. Don> Thanks again! Eric N.

New Tank Cycle Period  3/3/03 Hello<Hey there!  Phil here!> I've just setup a new tank this week Tuesday to be exact, I tested the water on Wednesday nitrite 0 nitrate 0 ph 7.9-8.0 and ammonia .8. I have just retested today and my nitrite is at 1.0, Ammonia is still .8, pH 7.8, and nitrate 0.  Is this normal am I getting ahead of myself here?<The nitrate/nitrite and ammonia are all normal for only a few days into the cycle period.  The pH is low, should be around 8.2-8.4 IMO.>  I added about 30lbs. of liverock yesterday and some more sand to increase the depth of my LSB.  Your thoughts and comments as always are welcome.<This is part of the normal cycling of a tank, please wait 4-6 weeks and everything should be fine!  Hope this helps!  Phil>

Re: Tank cycling and testing Thanks Don! <High Eric, welcome back> I dipped out some water last night into a clear glass container, and none of the "stuff" seems to rise to the top, or stick to the sides of the container, so to me, It can't be bubbles.  It just kind of floats around in there. <Agreed that is not bubbles. What are your calcium and alkalinity readings? Could this be precipitate?> I think what I'll do, is wait until the tank is completely cycled, wait a few more days, and then if it doesn't clear up, work on using some kind of mechanical filtration material to get it out.  Do you think a diatom filter without the powder would be dangerous in any way?  If you wouldn't recommend it, what would you use? <Sounds like a good plan, rushing things normally gives negative results. Do not/have not used a diatom filter so can't comment there. I would search WetWebMedia to see some FAQs on the subject. Personally, I use Live Rock, a skimmer, water changes, an upstream refugium, and a power filter for when things get really stirred up. BTW, my water is not crystal clear and that is OK with me. Bye for now, Don> Thanks, Eric

Steady As She Goes (Cycling A Tank) Hello Bob and crew! <Scott F. with you today!> Hope everyone is doing fine.  I have a question concerning some odd test results during the beginning of cycling my new tank.  I have had some excellent input in the chat rooms, but wanted to get the opinion of the pros, especially since some of the advice is conflicting a bit. <Conflicting advice? About the hobby? Nah. Really?  :)  > I have a 75 Gallon tank for which I added 100 lbs of live rock 8 days ago. Originally, based on smell and looks, I'd say it was about 80-90% cured. 1/2 the pieces 100%.  BTW- Most pieces are very large. 13-19 Lbs.  I'm using all Salifert testing kits.  I tested on day 2,4, and 6 for ammonia, NO2, and NO3.  The odd thing is (to me anyway), I had about 1ppm for NO2,25 ppm for NO3, and 0 for ammonia, on all three days, with the exception of NO2 falling down about 1 notch to .5 by day 6 (hard to tell though, as the color testing method is a little tough to read, as I'm sure you're all well aware)  No ammonia, but NO2 and NO3?? hmmm.  Well after a while I suspected that as good as Salifert is, maybe it's a bad batch.  I took the test kit to my LFS on day 7, and I, and the person there, both tested on what he knew to be a high ammonia tank.  He with his kit, and I with mine.  He came up with 2, I with .25 (once again, colors on the low end of the scale are hard to read, but my best guess is .25).  He felt I should stick with what my Salifert test kit says, as it is better than what he has to use. I bought an Aquarium Phar. ammonia kit, went home and tested, and (I'll say it again, colors are tough to judge), I came up with .25.  All other things look fine.  Temp, PH, salinity, and etc. My questions are: Is it possible that my Salifert kit was bad?  It certainly looks like it to me.  Or at least weak anyway (reading too low), in detecting ammonia. <Well, liquid reagents can degrade over time, even with the best test kits. Hard to be certain, but entirely possible> Is it worth "popping the tank with a little food, and if so how much? <Well, it can't hurt- but I'd wait it out and let the natural ammonia sources (decay, etc.) provide the ammonia at this point...You're well underway> I was warned by my LFS guy to be careful, as it may trash the tank if I add too much, and cause me to re-mix (He could be wrong though). Is it possible to have had ammonia in the tank, but not enough for a good cycle to build enough beneficial bacteria?  The spike of NO2 level on my tank, seems kind of low compared to other cycling levels I've read about <Well, there is no absolute "standard" high ammonia level that you'll see in any given tank cycling process...Just monitor your results rather than compare to other systems or other people's results...you'll be fine> My take on this: The Salifert ammonia test kit I received is not up to par (bad batch). It's not worth trying to pop the tank.  If I had/have  nitrites and nitrates, then I MUST have had ammonia at some point. Even if my Ammonia, NO2, and NO3 levels were somewhat low overall, it's fine.  As long as I start with one small, hardy fish, after cycling completes, the beneficial bacteria should build up over time, and if the single fish is hardy, he should be fine. <I think you hit it right on the head, my friend! Just let ammonia and nitrite return to undetectable levels, then proceed with caution at stocking your tank!> Any input you can give me would be appreciated a lot.  I'm not really 100% sure where to go with this.  On the plus side, my tank looks awesome right now and I am very happy about that! Thank you. Eric N. <Well, Eric- I think that your theories are right on! Just stay focused and patient, and you'll be fine! Steady as She Goes! Regards, Scott F>

Tank cycling and testing Hello Bob and crew! <Howdy Eric, Don with you today> Hope everyone is doing fine.   <Well since you asked, it is -2F out today and that is kinda ugly. Other than that I am not too bad for a 47 year old fat man!> I have a question concerning some odd test results during the beginning of cycling my new tank.  I have had some excellent input in the chat rooms, but wanted to get the opinion of the pros, especially since some of the advice is conflicting a bit. I have a 75 Gallon tank for which I added 100 lbs of live rock 8 days ago. Originally, based on smell and looks, I'd say it was about 80-90% cured. 1/2 the pieces 100%.  BTW- Most pieces are very large. 13-19 Lbs.  I'm using all Salifert testing kits.  I tested on day 2,4, and 6 for ammonia, NO2, and NO3.  The odd thing is (to me anyway), I had about 1ppm for NO2, 25 ppm for NO3, and 0 for ammonia, on all three days, with the exception of NO2 falling down about 1 notch to .5 by day 6 (hard to tell though, as the color testing method is a little tough to read, as I'm sure you're all well aware)  No ammonia, but NO2 and NO3?? hmmm.  Well after a while I suspected that as good as Salifert is, maybe it's a bad batch.  I took the test kit to my LFS on day 7, and I, and the person there, both tested on what he knew to be a high ammonia tank.  He with his kit, and I with mine.  He came up with 2, I with .25 (once again, colors on the low end of the scale are hard to read, but my best guess is .25).  He felt I should stick with what my Salifert test kit says, as it is better than what he has to use.  I bought an Aquarium Phar. ammonia kit, went home and tested, and (I'll say it again, colors are tough to judge), I came up with .25.  All other things look fine.  Temp, PH, salinity, and etc. My questions are: - Is it possible that my Salifert kit was bad?  It certainly looks like it to me.  Or at least weak anyway (reading too low), in detecting ammonia. - Is it worth "popping the tank with a little food, and if so how much?  I was warned by my LFS guy to be careful, as it may trash the tank if I add too much, and cause me to re-mix (He could be wrong though). - Is it possible to have had ammonia in the tank, but not enough for a good cycle to build enough beneficial bacteria?  The spike of NO2 level on my tank, seems kind of low compared to other cycling levels I've read about <Well, you did say the rock was partially cured? Could there be enough base bacteria etc to cause these readings? I don't know if I would conclude the test kit is bad. Do you have a local lab/school that might be able to do a more sophisticated test for you? I don't believe it is necessary to add food at this time. You state that the cycle is 8 days in and cycling can take from 4-6 weeks or more so you have a ways to go> My take on this: - The Salifert ammonia test kit I received is not up to par (bad batch). <Hmm, I'm not ready to make that conclusion yet> - It's not worth trying to pop the tank.  If I had/have  nitrites and nitrates, then I MUST have had ammonia at some point. <Agreed, but maybe being turned over fast enough that it is not showing up on the test> - Even if my Ammonia, NO2, and NO3 levels were somewhat low overall, it's fine.  As long as I start with one small, hardy fish, after cycling completes, the beneficial bacteria should build up over time, and if the single fish is hardy, he should be fine. <Again, wait for the cycle to complete. Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate at 0. Then start with the fish. Make sure the fish you start with is one that fits with your overall plan for the tank> Any input you can give me would be appreciated a lot.  I'm not really 100% sure where to go with this.  On the plus side, my tank looks awesome right now and I am very happy about that! <Congrats! Hang in there, have patience (your best friend now) and you will continue to be successful> Thank you. <My Pleasure, Don> Eric N.

Re: Tank cycling and testing Thanks Don! <My pleasure, Eric> Where do you live that it's so cold? Not San Diego I'm guessing ;-)   I used to live in the NE, <Yep, that's the place!> but I'm glad I'm where it's warmer now (South Carolina).  A quick update and 1 quick follow-up question if I may. update: Things are starting to look a little more normal after I tested again yesterday.  I'm pretty sure that NO2 has dropped slightly, from .2 to maybe .1, or at least .15.  Hard to say at that color range, but I don't think I can quite call it .2 anymore.  NO3 has jumped up to almost 25, from 5 the last time around.  Ammonia still 0.  Alk is at 13dh.  PH still 8.0.  BTW- I brought water samples to my LFS (well, not so local, 100 miles way, but it's worth it), and his numbers seemed to jive with mine, more less. <Good to hear, all sounds normal. Yes, the colorimetric tests can be difficult to read. I have found that with the Salifert tests I can 'see' the colors a little better in sunlight or at least natural light> Question: I see little white flecks swirling all around my tank.  Not enough to make it cloudy, but enough to notice with the PC lights on.  My LFS guy seems to think they are air bubbles, but not once have I seen my powerheads or return pump spit a burst of bubble out.  .  My overflow certainly kicks up plenty of bubbles/air, but I don't see any making it to the return pump (of course I don't have the advantage of PC to see down there!)  I do have 3 baffles in my sump, between my overflow and return pump.  I do have fine oolite sand, but I really don't see any of it being stirred up considerably.   The LR still looks like it has a little of the sand dust on some of the fine algae pieces/hair hanging off of it, but I've "turkey basted" them to death, and it doesn't seem to be removing any more of it. I think whatever dust is on it, is not going to blow off easy, which is why I don't think the rock is causing these white flecks.  Sorry for being so long-winded, I just wanted to give as many details as possible.   <all good> Do you think this is just the bacteria, or part of the cycling process in any way, and if so, should I notice it go away completely after the tank cycles?  If not part of the cycling process, what do you think it might be, and what would you suggest to get rid of it? <Hmmm, little white flecks could be a number of things, but I have never seen bubbles that look like white flecks? If you can get a small magnifying lens or even a low power microscope, you should be able to tell if these are debris, mineral (like precipitate) or even some kind of little critters. Until identified, hard to respond.> Thanks again! Eric N

- Using Freshwater Nitrogen-reducing Bacteria in Saltwater Aquaria - Hello there, <Hi, JasonC here...> I've been treating my 4 marine fish in a ten gallon QT for the past 6 days with Metronidazole for an internal parasite.  There has been an ammonia spike.  The ammonia is testing at 1.0 on a Salifert test kit for the last couple of days.  The QT had cycled before I put the fish in, but I'm sure that there is just too much fish in the tank now. <Your best bet when working through quarantine is to have large quantities of mix-water ready to go so you can execute large, frequent water changes. Even through Metronidazole shouldn't tag your biological filtration, there's never a way to be sure, so it's safest to be prepared with new water.> My question is, I have a Penguin Bio-Wheel Mini filter along with a Whisperwatt filter on the QT.  I do not have the bio-wheel on the filter (lost it).  Can I use a bio-wheel from a freshwater setup that is currently running and has lots of bacteria on it? <No, they're not the same bacteria.> I just finished doing the 4th water change in the last 6 days. <That's the way of it... you may need to step it up - one per day even.> When can I put my fish back into the main tank. <What is the problem you are treating? That will determine the length of the protocol.> One of my Ocellaris clowns is not liking the QT.  She eats, but now has some white "stuff" on her sides below her dorsal fin. <Could just be sloughing off a mucus coat - keep an eye on it.> The other fish seem to be doing fine now. <I would give it some more time.> Thanks in advance. Vince <Cheers, J -- >

Is My Tank Ready Yet?  2/20/03 Hi <Hey there!  Phil here!> I would like your opinion on my tank's cycle.<Sure!> I have a 55 gallon tank with 50lbs of live rock and 5 inches of sand. 15 gallon Ecosystem filter system with MM. I have been using the live rock to cycle the tank.<Good, IMO better than wasting a damsel!> The LFS had the live rock in their tank for 2 months prior to my purchase. The tank is now 3 weeks old to the day. Here is some history: Although more tests were done, only the end of week tests are here (the results did not change). The second week test (showing all zeros for the first time) was confirmed by my LFS in an independent test at the store. Test were performed using the FasTest product. After one week - Temp - 78.3, SG 1.024, Amm - 0.2, Nitrite - 0.2, Nitrate - 0, brown carpet (diatom?) algae everywhere. After two weeks - Temp - 78.3, SG 1.025, Amm - 0, Nitrite - 0, Nitrate - 0, added 6 turbo snails. After three weeks - Temp - 78.3, SG 1.025, Amm - 0, Nitrite - 0, Nitrate - 0, turbo snails doing well, brown algae subsiding, green hair algae starting, coralline algae forming on live rock.   Many "critters" in sand, on glass and in sump. Aged fresh water top offs done daily. Cleaning of algae on glass done every other day or so. It appears I may have had a quick cycle?<Yes, but no.> I have not shown nitrates yet, however.<This part worries me a little.  I would wait one more week before I adding anything to this tank.  You may just have really good quality live rock, but one more week to be safe I think would be best!> I am wondering when to consider adding two ocellaris clowns.<In a week or so I see no problems with that!> Thanks once again!<No problem!  Hope this helps!  Phil>

Is My Tank Ready Yet?? - 2/24/03 Hi guys, <What's up?> I must say, I love your website and I've already ordered some of the books you recommended.<I really do love this site, always something new to learn!!>   I have a 55 gallon, ready reef tank, Life reef sump and skimmer, and 4-96 watt power compacts for lighting.  A month ago I added marine salt and created the deep sea bed (3 inches deep) using a layer of crushed corals under live sand.<Just so you know.. IMO a DSB should be more than 4 inches!  And you should have only one type of substrate, two causes problems in time.>  2 weeks later I added 20 pounds of live rock which was cured by my LFS.<I would always "re-cure" myself to make sure.>  I couldn't add all the live rock right away because it's so damn expensive.<I hear ya!!>  This is all I have in my tank right now.  It has been about one month since I added the live sand and the live rock has been in the tank for about 3 weeks. I have been running my skimmer the entire time and have not been running my lights at all.  My question is:  how long can I keep my tank like this without any corals? <A while, you need to make sure the water quality is "perfect" before you add corals!>  Will my live sand rot? <Nope>  Should I, or should I not be running the lights? <After this much time I think you can.>  Should I be running the lights if I don't have corals in the tank yet.<Sure> I wasn't in a rush to add the coral yet and I wanted to make sure that I wouldn't be ruining my live rock, or even worse, my sand.<You really can't ruin the sand.  Do you plan on adding anymore live rock?  If so you will need to wait another 4 weeks before adding fish.  Hope this helps,  Phil> Please advice.  Thanks.<No problem!!> James Tuozzo

Algae during cycle Hello guys, <Hi, Don here tonight> I have a 55 gallon brand new tank that is 3 weeks into it's cycle. I have 36 lbs of  premium Fiji live rock. The cycling process is nearly complete as ammonia is 0 and nitrite is nearly 0 and nitrate is low. <All good> A lot of things are happening very quickly and I am hoping you can help me out as I'm a new aquarist and a bit anxious with some algae blooms and a new problem that just happened today. First, the algae confusion. I have Premium Fiji live rock and it went through some die off in my tank as it was pink and purple in the store then turned white in my tank and now is slowly coming back to life. I'm not sure whether my tank is getting healthy or not. First, the live rock was quickly covered with brown diatoms which seem to be stopping now. This brown diatom bloom then was replaced by a bright fluorescent green algae bloom that quickly covered the glass front and back, covered some of my aragonite substrate and now I have noticed a couple of patches of Kelly green slime Cyanobacteria forming. How can live rock be covered by both "good" and "bad" algae ??? <Nature> I am working hard to discover the source of nutrients for the bad algae. I use DI water, I did a 20 % water change, I am going to test my water for phosphates and silicates and I am working to fine tune my skimmer to get the dark gunk daily. With everything all happening so fast my head is spinning ! Help ! <Can't see what you need help with! Pretty natural progressions you are describing. You say "I did a 20% water change". Is that the only one? More water changes will help. Right now as the tank cycles, 10-20% per day. The algae are normal (both good and bad) Some scraping is necessary on any tank. Get a good scraper, and a cleaning magnet will help. Keep after it and remember Anthony's recommendation "Dilution is the solution to pollution". Make sure all you water is aged and aerated.> Also, just today I noticed a big swarm of very tiny white bugs crawling on my tank glass. Your site has referred to these critters as Copepods and Detritivores. You say that copepods are "good" and Detritivores are "bad". I'm confused !!! I've had the live rock and the tank going for 3 weeks and these bugs just showed up today. Will they multiply out of control ?? What does their appearance mean ?? <No they won't multiply out of control. Their appearance means things are progressing normally.> Are you able to clear up some of my rookie confusion  and anxiety ??? <Hope this helps, Don> Thanks !!!

Using livestock to cycle a tank (Arrrg!) Bob Fenner & crew, <Hi Neil, Don here today> Just a couple of quick questions.  I'm starting to cycle my 90 gal. FOWLR tank, and on information gleaned from one of the "forums" out there, I added 6 small shrimp to start the cycle 2 weeks ago.  I have added about 20 lbs. of "dead" Vanisi rock 1 week ago,, and 40+ lbs of partially cured Fiji rock yesterday.  Needless to say, my ammonia is off the scale of my Tetra test kit, nitrites are building to high levels, haven't tested nitrates yet,  pH is about 8.0, and S.G. is at 1.023  Temp is at 76.  Since I have added the live rock, should I remove the shrimp yet? Or just let it be ?  Also, the shrimp have formed the fungus'y cocoons around them, (knocked some off placing the rock).  If I leave the shrimp in the tank, should I remove this stuff, or leave it to add to the bioload?  The ammonia is high enough to probably constitute chemical warfare, and I've never cycled a tank this way before.  Always used the damsel method, which I never really liked. <What you write here is exactly why I would never use any livestock to 'cycle' a tank. Totally unnecessary. Dead or alive, get the shrimp out of the tank. If any are alive, get them to someone's tank (friend/LFS) so they can live another day. The rock is more than enough to cycle. Take care, Don> Thanks, Neil

Shrimpy a Misunderstanding Thanks Don, apparently I didn't make my self clear.  The shrimp are from the grocery store.  Been dead a long time.  Dinner type. LOL!  <Yikes!> Used as a source of ammonia to start the cycle only.  As much as I disliked the damsel theory of starting a tank, I'd certainly never use live shrimp.  I doubt that they would be nearly hardy enough to stand up to that abuse. <tee hee, Thanks for the clarification Neil. Leave em in, take em out, up to you, but remove eventually. Not sure I would shell and grill though! Man I am glad to hear you say this and thanks for the giggle Don> Neil

New FOWLR setup Thanks Don for the response!!! Hey do you think given your suggestion, that it is fair game to say that I could try to fill my 90g with tap and live rock.... <Oh, heavens no. You will likely have chlorine/chloramines in the water from water company purification. See here for more http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/treath2o.htm Never add water/salt directly to the tank. Must be aged. After properly aging and treating the new seawater, add water and substrate.  Wait for the water to clear (sand will make a mess). During this time you want filtration (filter/skimmer etc) on high. Then add live rock and allow tank to cycle (4-6 weeks). During this time, you should research the livestock you want to add and find out what will be appropriate to you tank.>   add clean up crew and see what happens? <add no life forms until the cycle is complete> I have also possibly thought about maybe a DIY in that I would take some good grade carbon and a hefty wad of POLYFILTER and have tap trickle through this. (I would add this to in tank filtration after water has been aged Want to go RO/DI but short of cash and just do not really know if it will be necessary. I mean there is more phosphate in foods and the like anyway!  AS well the waste ratio bothers me. Your thoughts would be appreciated. <That's about it, much to read/learn. Click the Marine Aquarium Articles on the WetWebMedia.com home page. Right off the bat you find useful info categorized by Setup, Livestock, Maintenance, etc. Don>

Establishing cycling through an existing sump hey crew, I have a quick question.  my mother want me to help her setup a marine fish tank.  Is there any way that I could mature a sump use my existing system. <Yes. Neat idea>   I know a guy that owns a glass drill bit and was wondering if I put a corner overflow in my sump could I run another sump underneath to mature it.  If so would I need to do anything else to kick start it or make it mature faster. <Not necessarily>   How long would I have to leave it? <Likely a few weeks> Is it even a viable option? <Sure> If it did work could I just connect it to my mums tank and immediately stock it with corals, rock and fish. <Not immediately. Please see here for more: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm and the linked FAQs (in blue, at top) beyond> Thanks heaps in advance, Regards Amon <Thank you for writing. Bob Fenner>

New tank cycle Good evening crew:   <cheers> I appreciate your service very much as things never go quite the way you expect.  I am in the process of setting up a 120 g FOWLR.  The equipment is a Gen-X external, CPR Sump #5, Euro Reef CS -2, 2 Maxijet 1200s, 2 Ebo heaters (400 watts total).  I bought a Kent 35 GPD RO/DI so the water should be good. <actually... it can/will be variable with source water and life of RO membrane... don't take this for granted but do test. Be sure to aerate and perhaps buffer all purified water too before using or salting>> I purchased 145 lbs of Tonga (just arrived at the LFS) and put it in the tank Super Bowl Sunday.  Substrate is 120 lbs of Super-Reef aragonite.  The tank parameters I have observed have me a little perplexed.  First the basics - (Test kits are all Salifert where applicable): >> Temp: 79 >> Specific Gravity: 1.022 >> PH:  Between 8.0 and 8.3 (It's kind of hard for a novice to tell - let's say about 8.2) 've run the lights a little bit - about 4-5 hours a day (65 wattsx4 2 Ultra Actinic, 2 10000K full spectrum whites) Now for the confusing part to me In the 7 days since I put the rock in I checked the Ammonia 3 times - I would say the first 2 times it was 1.5 on the little chart the next time a little lighter - maybe 1.25 - it never got to the orange reddish of +2 <OK> I checked the nitrites on Saturday the 1st - not expecting that much - I got the deep magenta color at the right end of the chart For giggles I checked the nitrA tes today <hey, my kinda fun too>- I got the deep magenta at the right end of that chart too - Does this sound OK? <no idea... keep in mind, my friend, that there are dozens of test kits (and colorimetric scales) on the market. We need a number (ppm) not a color here> Visually things look good - I've been religiously emptying the skimmer daily - and it's obviously working.  The rock looks good - it's changed - stuff has sloughed off - some pink, green and purple coralline may survive it looks like - there even looks like some reddish sponge on one- water looks extremely clear - but this is not following the progression I expected from reading Bob's book.  Nothing has been added to the tank except the rock. Any thoughts or words of comfort?> As always thanks for your help David Schule <we cannot say without readings to comment on, but under any circumstance the rock is simply curing and curing safely will take several weeks. Waiting a full month before adding livestock is best assuming the ammonia and nitrite are zero (nitrate ideally close to it after a big water change. Best regards, Anthony>

Re: tank cycling This may be a dumb question...if I put L/R from an established tank into a new tank ,will the tank still cycle .I did this about 3 weeks ago and all my reading are great. like the tank never cycled. there is fish in the new tank and my feather duster are out and having a great time. I'm concerned. Thanks ,you guys are the best! <Hello, the tank should still cycle, but it will not be as severe as it could be, not as much die off from the rocks.  No need to be concerned, keep on testing, if you notice a spike in ammonia or nitrites focus on more water changes.  Best Regards, Gage>

Those Darned New-fangled Products...! Thanks for the reply, Scott . . . <My pleasure> And (sorry) back to my question about my water. <No need to apologize!> Have you any experience with Seachem's Acid/Alkaline buffer (said to use in fixed ratios to yield a buffered acid pH) or Kent's "pH Control Minus", "when used in conjunction with "pH stable", will yield a stable, buffered, pH."  They're about the only non phosphoric acid buffers I found . . . Seachem's is said to be terrible. (hmm I see SeaChem is a sponsor . . . are you required to not comment? ; )) <Nah- we speak our minds, if you haven't guessed already! LOL. I really don't use such products, myself. I'm surprised that the Seachem product has a seemingly bad rep out there. Maybe some of our other readers could give you some feedback on this product, or others similar to it. Try the wetwebmedia.com chat forum. You may want to contact Seachem directly to discuss the proper usage of the product. I've talked to their technical people before, and was impressed with their friendliness and desire to help!>   I must ask about all these new products I see that appear to be truly different, such as that new "Bio-Spira" by Marineland, and the New Life Spectrum food which was discussed in TFH. <A fine dry food, in my experience. I am not a big fan of dried foods myself, but I really like this one!> If the Bio-Spira claims are true it would change the entire freshwater fishkeeping world, I think.  Again, do you know anything about these products? <I have not had experience with the "Bio-Spira", but it sounds to me to be the same type of products that have been around for a long time, such as Hagen's "Cycle", Aquarium Pharmaceutical's "Stress Zyme", etc. Perhaps the concentration is different in this product, or maybe it's some type of special strain of Nitrosomonas or Nitrobacters, but I think it may be similar to products already out there-but in different packaging...Marineland does make some fine products, and is a credit to the hobby, so I certainly wouldn't discount such a product without personal experience. I'm certainly not in a position to give a technical analysis of this stuff, so you may have to give it a shot if you find it interesting! I'm sure that it is a very useful product.> Again, THANKS! (Mahalo to you Scott) and for all the locals, Kung Hee Fat Choy, Akemashite omedetoo gozaimasu, and a Happy New Year.  If only I could say that in Hawaiian!    <Hey- you already have with your "Aloha Spirit", my friend! Keep doin' it "local style"!>

Uncycled System I have a 90 gallon tank and did a water change on Friday about 20%. I then tested my water on Sunday and the nitrite was at .50 do you think I called have a problem with my pump I have only been feeding once a day for the past week. <Umm, you have a "problem" with your system being uncycled. Please see here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm and the linked FAQs. Bob Fenner>

New Tank Cycling I had a few questions. <Great! Fire away!> My tank is actually doing well I believe, I have two tomato clowns together, and a sally lightfoot crab. The nitrite is the tank started to go up a little.. <Jeez...NEVER put live critters in a tank that isn't stable, especially not while it's cycling> I put a product in the tank called, Prime.  By Seachem..   <Better off to leave all of these type additives alone. Your tank will cycle fine without it> I almost had a heartache when I checked it.  The nitrate and nitrite was high as they could go and have been when I check them the last couple days. Is this normal?   <If your tank hasn't finished cycling...yes> If so how long till I can test the water and actually get a good reading? <You need to get rid of the critters... carry them to the LFS for a trade-in or give/loan to a friend. Then let the tank cycle for 3 or 4  weeks with no live animals in the tank...and test the water weekly if you get rid of the critters. Are you using live rock? This will cycle the tank perfectly> Do you know any pro or cons to Prime.. <I don't use this stuff or any other miracle cure for tank cycling. Nature will do the trick. What you really needed was patience not to add living animals to an environment where they can not survive> I read something that said that when the tank has algae growth, the tank is cycled, is this true? <Water tests will let you know when cycling is complete> Some brown algae is currently growing, <Diatoms> which is the first type that grows if I'm not mistaken. <Yes, but the proof of cycling is when the water tests come out with all zeros. No ammonia, no nitrite and little or no nitrate. Check out wetwebmedia.com for information on this and thousand of other topics. David Dowless> Justin

- Cycling a Tank with Live Rock - Hello again. <And hello, JasonC here...> Just a quick question for you guys today.  I've looked in the WWM archives and cannot find the answer. My 54 gallon tank is now done cycling, ammonia and nitrites are both at 0, and I'm seeing the beginnings of algal growth.  I used 25 pounds of fresh rock to cycle the tank over the past 2 weeks, and I did about three 12 gallon water changes when ammonia and nitrite went extremely high.  My question is this:  Do I need to do a massive water change before adding livestock?  I've read in other places that a large (50-90%) water change is necessary before proceeding with stocking, although I cannot find this same statement here on WWM. <I don't think it's necessary unless you didn't run a protein skimmer while this rock was curing. Perhaps a small 10% change like you would do as part of your normal maintenance.> I utilized fully cured rock for cycling my first tank and never did see the normal cycling progression.  Cycling with fresh rock is new to me. <Not any more.> As always, thanks much. Karen <Cheers, J -- >

Cycling, pH/KH adjusting Hey guys, I have a few quick questions about water quality in a new 150gal FOWLR setup.  I added cured LR and tested ammonia, nitrites, nitrates 2 and 5 days after, they were all 0 both times.  Is it possible for it to have cycled this quickly? <yes, indeed... if the rock you acquired was mature, cycled (cured) and substantive (I'd say at least 100-150 lbs here), then you may have just experienced one of the wonders of living substrates (rock and sand). Play it safe and wait 2 full weeks before adding fishes or invertebrates. If nothing by then, you are likely fine and can begin stocking slowly> I'm anxious to add the first fish but think it's strange that I haven't seen any measurements on those. <understood and agreed. Do take a water sample to a friend or LFS to test with a different brand of test kit to confirm> Also, my pH is 8.0 and KH about 4.   <the pH needs to be a little higher, the Alk is SCARY low. Be sure to raise that (slowly) to 8-12 dKH before adding livestock> I know my local water is very soft but thought the substrate (aragonite) and salt would buffer it.   <true to a large extent, but it sounds like your source water is exceptionally soft> What else should I use?   <start with small amounts of common baking soda> I have some CaCO3 or baking soda but am not sure if I can use these the same way I did for freshwater. Thanks a lot! Mike <absolutely my friend! You are doing fine! Best regards, Anthony>

New tank not cycling? Hello, I've been reading your articles for several days now and have also asked a few questions that you have answered for me.  I do have another question.  I've recently set up a new 125 gallon marine tank.  On advice from a friend, I don't know if it was good or bad, I added "Stress Zyme" on the 1st, 7th, and 14th day.  I started the tank off with 3 4-striped damsels, a brackish leopard puffer that my wife couldn't live without and a tomato clown that I couldn't live without.  The day after I set the tank up I added the fish to "get things going".  I lost a damsel by the next morning which I promptly replaced.  That one died two days later.  By the way, none of the damsels ever ate and all came from the same tank at one of those chain pet stores.  By the time the fist week was over I had no damsels left.  I replace them with 3 domino damsels.  All were eating fine.  My ammonia doesn't go above .50 and my nitrite has never gone above 2ppm (usually stays about .8ppm).  PH stays about 8.2 - 8.4, and the nitrates are about 20.  This has been going on for about four weeks now.  Talking to the guy at my LFS, he suggested that maybe it hasn't cycled at all. <Not yet... it is in process>   By the way, I now have 2 tomato clowns, the brackish puffer, a porcupine puffer, coral banded shrimp, turbo snails, scarlet reef hermit crabs, and only one domino damsel.  I only added the other things since the water parameters never went really high. <You should have waited...>   All fish seem to be eating fine.  Anyway, the LFS suggested that I use Bacter-Vital to once again "get things going".  I followed the directions and added it over the three days and turned off the air to my skimmer so it's only circulating water.  The water since the fist dose has been very cloudy.  I've been told that this is a good sign that the bacteria have started to multiply. <Mmm, no> Have I done something wrong?  Was stress Zyme not a good idea? <I would not have used this product for this purpose>   I have also recently had an outbreak of red algae and was thinking of adding red slime remover.  Is this going to add to my list of bad ideas.  Any help would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks. <... time to move back a few steps... don't add anything... including food until the ammonia is zero, the nitrite below 1.0 ppm. Consider adding some live rock, possibly some "used" substrate, filter media from a "clean" (no disease) system that is well-established. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm Bob Fenner>

New tank not cycling? I will stop feeding immediately.  It will be hard, that porcupine puffer loves his shrimp in the morning. <It might well kill it... and the rest of your livestock, to keep feeding> Would live sand work instead of the live rock?  And if so how much?  Would 20 lbs be enough? <Yes, LS would be fine. Five pounds will likely do as much good as twenty here> If the cloudiness isn't a bacteria bloom, what is it.  It didn't get cloudy until I put the Bacter-Vital in the tank. <... this material is likely the cause of the cloudiness... could be microbial or simply chemical.> Also, I have two freshwater aquariums set up.  I tested the water in both of them.  The ammonia was about 0.25 with very very low nitrate almost zero.  Is there something that can be done about the ammonia. These tanks have been set up for about four months now and the ammonia has never gone below 0.25.  Once, again thank you for you suggestions. <You have measurable ammonia in your other systems? I'd have your test gear checked... Ammonia should be zero. Bob Fenner>

Re: New tank not cycling? I hate to keep bugging you, but I have some more questions.  I removed what looked like an uneaten piece of shrimp on Thursday before  your last email response.  Couldn't quite tell what it was anymore.  I did not feed Thursday evening or yesterday.  I added 20 lbs of live sand on Thursday night.  All the store had were 20 lb. bags. <Bags? Real live sand does not come in bags... real live sand has many worms, crustaceans, other invertebrate infauna... but what a few businesses sell as such will work here... bacterially> Tested the water this morning and the ammonia has since risen between .5 and 1.0 ppm and the nitrites are up to about 4 ppm (tested twice).  Should I do anything?  Water change or something? <Yes... hopefully for the last time... Please read where I've been sending you (www.WetWebMedia.com) re cycling... do change water (with pre-mixed) if your ammonia or nitrite approach 1.0 ppm> By the way, I'm sure you know, you were right about the test kit.  I was using quick and easy test strips for my freshwater tanks.  I tested Distilled water, tap water and water from the bigger freshwater aquarium.  The test strips indicated 0.25 for the ammonia on all three. When I tested with my Red Sea test kit, all three were zero and also with zero nitrites.  So much for quick and easy.  Once again, any help or suggestions would be appreciated.  Thanks! <How would I know what you already are familiar with? If you have "general" questions (whether you're aware of their implications, leads to other areas)? Please avail yourself of the articles and FAQs on marine aquarium husbandry on WWM. Bob Fenner>

Jump Starting Wet/Dry BioBalls Wondering........ if I were to float bioballs in some of my existing tanks and ensure that the current kept them tumbling across the surface, would that serve to colonize them so that I could later gather them for use in a wet/dry? <Yes> I have enough mature tanks that I could distribute six or seven gallons of bioballs among them without taking up too much surface area in any one tank. It would seem that at least some sort of colonization would take place, but I wonder if there would be enough to (nearly) instantly cycle a new filter. <Likely so. Please see here re means of establishing cycling: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm Bob Fenner> Thanks in advance for the help! Chris

- Re-Cycle - <Greetings, JasonC here...> I have a 55 gallon setup running about 3 years.  I run a magnum 350 w/ a T valve into a Corallife double helix UV that flows into a SeaStorm 60 fluidized filter bed. Heavily planted tank, discus, cardinals, blue rams, ghost shrimps, small fiddler crabs and everything is running smooth...  until I cleaned the filter 4 days ago after letting it run for about 3 weeks and found it infested w/snails and thousands of eggs. That was a first. I did the same cleanup and replacement as usual, I use Purigen, renew, and peat in the filter and my tank continued to work fine.  pH 6.6  GH 8 I don't test for ammonia nitrate 20ppm Then I'm told that I can run the UV 24hrs. at my favorite supplier since I was buying 2 new blue rams and told him about my setup. I run the lights and UV on a 11hr. timer for about the last 6 months and I rarely lose a fish and have no green water ( it was my reason to buy it; I have to cut back my plants every 3rd day, it grows like a jungle and I use 3 50\50 Corallife bulbs, no CO2) So I ran the UV 24hrs. and 3 days later the new rams are dead, and my tank is cycling, nitrite and nitrate are very high, which I never had before.  Did the snail explosion poison the tank? <I don't think so.> I never had snails before and maybe I didn't clean the canister good enough...or did I destroy my bio filter with the change in duration of the UV sterilizer? <I would concur that your biological filter took a dive, but I don't agree that your UV caused it. My theory is that your canister had become part of the biological filter, and by cleaning it out you diminished the population of de-nitrifying bacteria, so in effect you are rebuilding your biological filter.> I did a 20% water change and added StressZyme to the tank and quit feeding for the last 2  days, hoping things will calm down.  I also Put the UV back on the timer. <Again, I think the UV is a bit of a red herring here.> any suggestions ...  I've gotten no real reasons for the dilemma I'm in... <Without any actual numbers, and even if you only had one of each of these fish you list in combination with the plant life, you have a very full tank. The system [combination of filtration and biological filtration] is a bit of a tight-rope walk... if I were you, I'd either consider cutting back on the life in the tank or perhaps adding additional filtration material so that you can clean the canister without kicking the biological filtration in the head.> haven't lost anything as of today thanks <Ah good. Cheers, J -- >

Vicious Cycle! Thanks for reading this, and I hope to talk to you again.... your Friend, Justin I have a Penguin 330 a Emperor 180 and a undergravel filter with two powerheads with the undergravel.  I have a protein skimmer with a high-output light. I put three domino damsels in there and I'm down to one....  I have a Tomato clown that seems to be doing fine. <Sorry to hear that> I test the nitrate, nitrite nightly along with the pH and salt. The Nitrate in at 40, and the nitrite is at 3.0.... I know that the nitrate is at a stress level, I keep doing water changes, with Instant ocean salt and I've tested the water for nitrates.  The nitrites seem to not be going down at all.. <Because you keep changing the water, I'll bet! Just leave the tank alone for a bit. monitor the ammonia and nitrite- you'll see it peak and decline. By changing water, siphoning, etc., you're interfering with the very process that you are trying to foster> I put a lot of live Rock ( Rock really, because they shipped it to my workplace in no water) I'm hoping that will help to cycle it a little more. <Well, you're going to see ammonia and nitrite for a while> Any tips you can give me on getting the nitrate and nitrate down, and keep down?  I have tried putting Amm. Lock in it to help to un-toxin the water. Please send thoughts, Justin. <Ok- what you really need to do here is let nature take its course. The tank will cycle on its own. No need for chemical additives, water changes, etc. yet. Just keep monitoring. When the ammonia and nitrite have peaked, you can then begin water changes, etc. Just be patient and you'll see good results! You might want to pick up a good basic book, such as Michael Paletta's "New Marine Aquarium", or Bob's Conscientious Marine Aquarist". This will give you a good basic background in marine aquarium husbandry. You can do it, Justin! Good luck! regards, Scott F>

Re: new tank cycling Hello, I was wondering, if you had some tips for me. I have a tank that I'm setting up, and instead of getting regular mollies to get it ready.  I used sail-fin mollies, the mollies are doing fine.  However I seem to be having trouble with keeping anything saltwater in it, such as damsels and percula clowns... HELP! Thanks, Justin <Hey Justin, help me help you (ha). Test your water for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, ph, and salinity.  How long has this tank been set up, and what types of filtration are you using.  Let us know so we can help you get to the bottom of this. Best Regards, Gage>

Algae Strikes! Dear Crew !!!!!!!!!! <Scott F. this evening!> Once again you help is needed. I just finished setting my first reef tank. Added water, sand LR (not all yet but will add up slowly), and everything operates (filtration, Skimmer Temp 24h). Tank is 2 weeks now, PH steady at 8.23, temp 26 Celsius, ORP 300. Sand is live aragonite about 10 cm deep. I made the mistake of leaving the lights on too early too long (first couple of days for 8 hours) and my LR had grown some brown algae which moved over the sand as well. <Quite normal in new tanks, where nutrients are abundant> It grew in only two days so as soon I noticed I turned off the lights. Now it seems to reduce every day. What type of algae is it? It's brown color with some hair on the bigger rocks. <Well- it sounds more like a (surprise!) brown algae, or Cyanobacteria. And the "hair"-type algae is really another algae that thrives in nutrient-rich conditions. Could also be diatoms, which are usually caused by nutrient rich (i.e.; phosphate and silicate rich) source water. When will it go away? <No set time table. It will generally go away within a month or so, assuming that your husbandry practices and nutrient export techniques are adequate.> No inhabitants in the tank now, so no food or nutrients of any type. <Well, lots of nutrients within the live rock and sand, even if you're not feeding. The bacteria and organisms in the rock and sand are not yet "working" in sufficient numbers to assimilate all of the nutrients in the system. You need to think about nutrient export once the tank is cycled (particularly, regular small water changes). Aggressive protein skimming, removing at least a couple of cups a week of dark skimmate, will go a long way towards reducing and eliminating nuisance algae. > Also I want to add some damsels to speed cycle (tank is 150g) so two damsels wouldn't create a problem I think ? <Depending on species, it should not be a problem. I'm not a big fan of using damsels to cycle a tank. As you are aware by now, your tank certainly has enough nutrient to get things going. Just be patient and monitor ammonia and nitrite regularly. Also, it would not be humane to add any fishes if you're noticing measurable ammonia and/or nitrite levels, IMO> Waiting for you reply. Take care and I wish you all warm greetings and happy holidays. Kostas <And the very best to you and your family! Be patient with your system, and you'll do fine. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Sea Turtle System Filtration Dear Mr. Fenner, <Hi there> I found your article about establishing biological cycling on the web and was just wondering whether you could give me some advice as I have never had an aquarium in my life before, but am currently in the process of setting up a marine aquarium system here at the University of North Carolina. <Okay> I will be having eight 50-Gallon tanks with 80oF saltwater containing each a loggerhead sea turtle hatchling. These individual tanks will be connected to and supplied by a 500-Gallon sump tank containing 400 Gallons of water and various filtration systems. Besides using a filter bag for mechanical filtration, a protein skimmer, and a UV sterilizer, I realize that I will need some sort of biological filtration in the sump tank. So I had the following questions: 1) What medium for biological filtration would you recommend for such a large system, how would I set it up, and how much volume-wise would I need of the medium? <I would utilize a fluidized bed filter in this setting... due to the high and variable production of nitrogenous wastes by these turtles... The arrangement of plumbing, sumps to accommodate this filter can and should still incorporate your transit volume sump.> 2) As I am pressed for time to get the system up and running and thus ready for the turtles, do you think the method for fish-less cycling would work for such a large system, and if not, what other method of spiking would you best recommend for my situation? <I would avail yourself of "some" (a few tens of pounds) of "fresh" live rock... and not resort to inorganic sources of ammonia to stir on establishment of nitrification).> If you could give me some advice on these issues and/or could recommend someone who is experienced with the startup and running of such large systems, I would be extremely grateful. <I am referring you to the folks at RK2 Systems, Sven Fossa (fabricators, consultants in aquaculture) for more input. Please feel free to re-contact me if there are other issues, any of this is unclear. Bob Fenner> Many thanks in advance and kind regards, Cordula

Trigger and ammonia Bob, <Rob> After about 1 week now, the ammonia level in the new tank is near 1ppm and the nitrite level is at about 0.2ppm.  I am planning on doing about a 15 to 20% water change tomorrow. <I would wait on this... unless there is some compelling reason... the change will too-likely produce a "metabolic check" on your nitrifying microbes... forestalling the establishment of nitrogen cycling... Wait till both ammonia and nitrite are zero> I have not turned on the skimmers in the new tank (b/c I was advised to leave them off during the first month). <Mmm, I advise you to turn on your skimmer/s> Given the current situation, would it be wise to turn them on to remove some of the pollutants from the water? <Yes> Thanks again for all your help. <You're welcome. Bob Fenner> Rob Stein.

Cycling A Tank With Live Rock HI Bob/Crew. <Scott F. here tonight> I am about to get a 100 gallons tank with live rock cured by my favorite retailer. They say that when I will set it up, as the rock is cured, I will be able to start stocking straight away gradually from soft corals and fish to hard corals. I just wanted to check with you that this will be ok, and I don't need 'cycling', as the rock is perfectly cured and already containing working bacteria. Thanks again, Massimo <Well, Massimo- sounds like the rock is "cured", meaning that the majority of the undesirable organisms attached to and located in the rock have already died off and have been removed. However, your tank will still need to go through it's nitrogen cycle in order to establish a biological "balance". Before you start adding the corals, inverts, and fishes, you need to let the tank sit with just the rock and sand, and test ammonia and nitrite regularly, as you would in any tank. When these levels peak, and then return to undetectable levels, the tank will be ready for you to slowly add additional animals. The tank may cycle rather quickly, but it will still have to cycle. Be patient, keep on top of things, and you'll enjoy a healthy aquarium for many years to come. Good luck!>

Tank Cycling: Maximum ammonium levels Hi, I am cycling a tank using live rock and sand (with lots of life in it).  I was told I should do water changes to keep the ammonia level below the "high" level indicated by my ammonia test kit.  My ammonia test kit reads ppm.  What ppm is "high" such that I should perform a water change to reduce it until the "cycle" kicks in and reduces it? Thank you very much, -Shawn <Hello Shawn, I would not worry too much about this, it will eventually balance out.  If your ammonia levels start getting close to 1.0ppm, I would do a water change.  There is a good article about cycling at the link below. Best of luck, Gage http://wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm>

Marine stocking Respected sir Well sir now I am not getting any live rock.  Can I start adding live stock?  My nitrite is zero.  So from which fish should I start with. Should I go with damsel or clown? Your advice will be greatly appreciated.  THANK YOU LIFE UNDER WATER MONTY <Hi Monty, That is too bad Monty, live rock is a great addition to any marine set-up. If you have no living inhabitants or rock with decaying matter, did you use some nitrogenous wastes to cycle your tank? If so you should test zero for ammonia and nitrite, and a moderate level of nitrate when the cycle is complete. If you test for nitrate, perform a water change and then add the fish of your choice, after quarantine.  Please go to WetWebMedia.com and the Marine stocking page to research your stocking choices.  Craig>

Help with Cycling I need help. I have a 72 gallon FO tank that has been set up for about 3 weeks now. I started with 9 damsels and I now have 6 (not because of water conditions, these fish are extremely aggressive and beat each other to death). <Yes, it is to be expected with this size tank and the number of damsels.> I bought a test kit from Aquarium Pharmaceuticals to watch the cycle process. After a week ammonia went to 0.5 and has been there ever since. My nitrites are increasing slowly. The colors on my kit are very hard to read so I can't really tell if I have any nitrates. I haven't seen a huge ammonia spike. Could this be due to a product I'm using called Nitro Max? <Likely nothing> It's supposed to help the cycling process. Yesterday, I took a water sample to my LFS and they said it looks like I'm almost finished cycling! They also said I do have some nitrates. Could this be true even though I haven't seen an ammonia spike? Should I have mentioned that there was no ammonia spike? Should I throw out the test kit and get another? <You are way too fixated on watching the cycling process. Just relax and wait until ammonia and nitrite are both zero.> Thanks so much for your help, Jerome <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

New Reef in Greece Hi! My name is Kostas and I live in Rhodes Island GREECE !! <Cheers, from America!> I've send couple of e-mails before and your help is greatly appreciated. Now I need your help again. Just finished setting-up my 150 g reef tank. I'm now in the process of adding RO/DI water, already  added 100 kilos of Ultrastone live aragonite sand ( making a sandbed of about 10 centimetres, that should be ok?) <yes... a good bed of sand> and added the fist 20 kilos of Live rock. Now as soon as the tank and sump is full ( all equipment sump/protein skimmer/calcium re/ are from Lifereef ) I was told I should add bacteria. Is that ok ? <not necessary at all... a waste of money. Live rock and live sand bring in more and better bacteria> Also since the LFS didn't have all the required LR I will have to add some more about 30-40 kg later. Would that create a problem in an established tank  ? <it can be a problem. My advice is to hold the new rock first in a QT tank or other separate vessel for a minimum of 2-4 weeks to cycle and cure it to insure stability. No lights needed, but strong water flow and protein skimming will be. Adding that much fresh rock later can stress and kill fish or coral> Once the bacteria mentioned above are added the cycle should start ? <with or without the LFS bacteria, the cycle begins anyway. A single piece of live rock will really be the best start. The more live rock early the better> Should  I do anything else ? or just measure water parameters until they reach the desired levels? ( should I add any fish to help the cycle or not?) <yes... please do add just a few hardy and inexpensive fishes to help the cycle along. No new fishes after that for 4 or more weeks when Ammonia and nitrite return to zero ppm> Waiting for your reply, take care, Kostas <best regards, Anthony>

When is cycling finished? David (or whoever's at the wheel today) <You got David again!> I have been running complete tests on the system.  My ammonia is zero (peaked after about 1-1/2 weeks then dropped) Ph is good, <8.0-8.4 ?> spg is 1.025, but my nitrates are still (tested again today) 25mg/L.  Do you think the tank is still cycling?   <How long have you had no ammonia and no nitrites. The nitrate may not go to zero and if it's not excessive, it isn't really very harmful in a FO tank> Nitrate levels have been the same for almost 3 weeks now.   Tank is been running for 6 weeks or so (maybe a little longer now).  As of now I have 10 lbs of live rock. <More LR will aid with the filtration on your tank. However, if it isn't completely cured it could easily spike your ammonia levels> Would adding another 5 lbs or so help?   <Certainly wouldn't hurt...just test ammonia carefully> It's only a 20gal.  Thanks again and sorry for being such a pest.   Maureen <Not a pest at all! That's why we're here...to answer questions! David Dowless>

Unhappy new addition?? Hi there again, guys! I have a zillion more questions for you, but I'll limit this session to just two. I have a 20 gallon saltwater, UGF, etc. I purchased a tank raised Percula clown yesterday, acclimated him, and he seemed okay. My yellow-tail blue damsel started attacking him and wouldn't leave him alone. He even tried to bite! He was smacking him in his face with it's tail and had him cornered and wouldn't let up. <This is not unusual behavior for damsels. They are inherently territorial and aggressive.> Needless to say that the damsel is now gone, but the clown (Waddles) is still hiding and won't eat. I had to really move around some rock to get that little @#*&@ out. Is he still unbelievable stressed or should he have a companion (there were 4 in his tank at the LFS)? <I would bet on stress, damage, even just plain old fear.> My Domino damsel doesn't bother him. <No yet!> Any suggestions? <I always try to plan out every fish I put in a tank before I put any in. Come up with a game plan and you will have fewer problems like this in the future.> Now on to question number 2. My tank has been up and running for over 6 weeks and my nitrates are still hovering around 25 ppm (according to how the test reads). The guy at the LFS suggested that I do a 20% water change since in his opinion it seems my tank is "stuck" (ammonia zero, salinity is normal). The nitrates have been at this level for about 2-1/2 weeks, maybe a little longer. Any suggestions on that as well? <I am a bit confused. You will always have nitrates with an undergravel filter. You do not have a Deep Sand Bed to perform denitrification. Perhaps you should invest in Mike Paletta's "The New Marine Aquarium." It is an excellent first book. Very easy to read and pretty short, too.> Thanks again, Maureen <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Dastardly Dascyllus Behavior Steven, You can disregard the question on the clown (Waddles). As of this morning, he is eating and swimming all over the tank. Hope his days of being stress-free are over. <I am glad to hear it.> As for my Domino, so far so good and I'm keeping my fingers crossed. <You can hope, but this fish is going to be a fish. No changing its behavior. Domino's are categorically one of the meanest fish out there.> I know he'll eventually have to go, as I wish to purchase some Cardinalfish in the future. <Agreed> As for my second question, I don't think you answered it. <Perhaps I was not clear enough.> My nitrates (been at this same level for 2-1/2 weeks or so) seem to be "stuck" at 25 mg/L (according to the test) and the guy at the LFS suggested I make a 20% water change since in his opinion, the tank seems to be "stuck" at the end of it's cycle. <Your LFS guy is incorrect about the cycle. You said you tank is run with an undergravel filter. If so, you will always have nitrates. You do not have a sand bed and are therefore unable to culture denitrifying bacteria. You will always have nitrates that you will have to continually try to dilute with water changes.> Been up and running for 6 weeks, ammonia zero, salinity is normal. What is your advice on this? Should I make a water change? <Yes, but do not think that eventually you will not have a need for them. Even with a DSB and complete denitrification there is always a need for water changes.> Thanks, Maureen <You are welcome. If I was not clear enough or you need further explanation, feel free to email again. -Steven Pro>

When is cycling finished? Steven, <David Dowless answering this evening> Sorry to be such a pest, but I'm just a newbie to the Saltwater tanks and there's soooo much to learn.   <And unfortunately...no one will ever be able to learn all of it!> As for my tank equipment in addition to the UGF, I also have a BioWheel and 10lbs. of live rock.  Will my nitrates still continue to be high?   <The UGF and BioWheel will both work to create nitrates. I would add more live rock and a protein skimmer.> It's only a 20gal. tank, and I'm obsessive about topping off water, making sure the temp is right, etc.  It's been up and running for 6 weeks now, and I thought the initial "cycle" would be done by now.  Am I wrong?    <No way to tell unless you've been running ammonia, nitrite and nitrate tests. THESE TESTS ARE A NECESSITY if you want to be successful in this hobby. There is no hard and fast rule about cycling although I would guess your tank should be about finished. Test the water. When you finally begin to add fish do it very slowly, one at a time and feed lightly> I know I have to keep up with the water changes, but I thought that since the tank is new and still cycling that I shouldn't do any changes in the water until all the parameters were within normal limits.  I've spent hours and hours at this website (usually late night) and sometimes the more I read, the more confused I become.  Everybody you talk to seems to have a different opinion so that's why I'm writing again.  Hope you don't mind. <I don't exactly agree about this last point. There are differing opinions on the best lighting, the best filtration, fish that are compatible etc. But some things in this hobby are known as fact. For example...the cycling event that you speak of has been well documented for many decades and we all know there is no preset time for cycling to stop. The event is ammonia, then nitrite then nitrate. The CMA book (by Fenner) shows a time line of 36-48 days...but there are no guarantees. Patience my friend> I just want to make sure that I'm doing everything right.   <Knowledge is the key to success in this hobby. You're on the right track. Keep reading and learning. Eventually you will have enough "opinions" that you will be able to decide what makes sense for yourself> I also have one more quick (promise) question for you.  Should I wait to add some new additions (in particular a cleaner shrimp) until my nitrates drop?   <My friend you need to keep reading. Shrimps of any kind would never be my first choice of critter in a brand new tank. They're very sensitive to water quality> Thanks bunches. <It's an honor to serve. David Dowless> Maureen

New Tank Syndrome Hi there... <Greetings from David D!> I've been reading through you web site for some time now, and you seem so willing to help people... That's hard to find in any hobby. <Helping people is the reason this site exists! we actually enjoy doing this this!>  Any suggestions you can give would be great!  <Okay>  I started my first fish only salt water tank about 4 weeks ago.  It is a 45Gal. pentagon corner tank.  The tank was left to run for two weeks with no fish, I fed the empty tank as some books have suggested to start the cycling process.  <I would have just added live rock. No feeding. It will prolong the cycling process.>   I'm using a Proquatics canister filter that is rated up to 60Gal tanks.  The temperature has been steady at 78 Degrees F.  Is this a stable temperature for marine critters?  <78 degrees 24/7? Fantastic! Many experts would suggest this as the optimal temperature for most tanks.>   Specific Gravity is between 1.021 and 1.022. <Would be better between 1.023 ad 1.025...No biggie.>   PH has been at 8.6, this seems high since most books say PH should be between 8.2 and 8.4 <Correct. But PH is a dynamic reading that will change at different times of the day or night. Try testing PH at different times of the day. If it's at or above 8.6 all the time, you are on the high end of the scale. I would not feel comfortable with the PH going any higher.>   Is there any danger of  PH being this high?   <See above>   If so, what can I do to bring it down to the "recommended" range?  <Are you adding any supplements to this tank? Water changes will lower the PH unless the new water is also at a high level! Test the water before adding to the aquarium.>   Alkalinity is also high.  <Test your makeup water and water used for changes. The problem is most likely your tap water.> Unfortunately the chart I have just has low, normal and high readings... no numbered readings. <You need a new test kit.>   Is it dangerous for Alkalinity to be this high, and if so what can be done to bring it down.  <Without a number, I don't know how high you mean.>  After the two week period I followed the suggestion of a store sales person to use damsels as starter fish to help along the cycling process.  I added three small damsel fish, and of course two just died. <Likely high ammonia and nitrites. This problem could have been avoided if you had used live rock instead of damsels. This would have avoided the damsel sacrifice to the ammonia gods.> the other is still ok, but is becoming a little more lethargic.  <He's probably going the way of the dinosaurs!>   The day after I added the fish I tested the water with a Red Sea Marine Lab, ammonia was at 0.25ppm (toxic ammonia 0.05),  <That's way, too high.>  nitrite was at 0.2, <needs to be zero to be healthy for fish>  nitrate was at 2.5 (true level 0). I just check all of this again, after two weeks and now the amounts are: ammonia 0.5 (toxic ammonia 0.1),  <Must be zero. Keep waiting. No water changes until cycling has finished>   nitrite 0.2,  <See above>  nitrate 5.0 (true level 3).  I can see here that the cycle is in its process, but before I add any more fish and kill them off, when do I know that the cycle is complete?   <When ammonia and nitrates remain at zero for a week or more.>   I have read conflicting ideas of when the cycle is done.  <This is pretty standard in the hobby. Patience...>   What readings will I get from this marine lab kit that will tell me its done, and safe to finish stocking the tank?  <See above. Always stock slowly, one fish added every two weeks or more.>   One book says to do a 100% water change when the cycle is done (doesn't this defeat the purpose of waiting all this time to let the tank mature?)  <Not if the cycling is finished. Your are waiting for the inevitable buildup of good biological bacteria. But I wouldn't do a 100% water change. If the water tests perfect, I would do a normal water change like 10-20%>   Other books have said to do a 50% water change when its done cycling... What do you recommend? <See above>   I also think I may not be aerating the water enough.  I have one airstone at the bottom corner, and the air pump is at full power.  Will this be enough to keep the oxygen level ok?  more airstones?  <Try a bubble bar (wand). It gives a nice bubble wall effect.>   I have one power head in the tank circulating the water, I tried to use the air hose that came with it, but it produces so many tiny bubbles, that the entire tank becomes cloudy with bubbles.  <Don't bother with the air hose.>  So I decided to just use the power head to circulate the water.  With a Fish only system, do I really need a protein skimmer?  <For optimal fish health and long term success? You certainly do!>  As for this canister filter I have, will other forms of media in it help things along?  <Yes but be diligent in changing and cleaning the media.>  I've seen these small cylinders that claim to help bacteria cling to them, keeping the stock of bacteria high.  Do you suggest any other media other than the carbon  <In the filters? Use whatever the manufacturer recommends. If this were my tank, I would add live rock some time before the cycling process finishes. If you get good quality, fully cured rock, it won't interrupt the cycling process at all.>   Well, I think that about addresses all of my questions... sorry there are so many. <Absolutely no problem> Thank You in advance! Justin <My pleasure Justin. My friend, if you really want to be successful with this venture, and save a lot of wasted money, buy a couple of good saltwater aquarium books. The Conscientious Aquarist (by Bob Fenner) comes to mind as well as many others and continue reading on WetWebMedia. You're on the road to success!>  

Bio-Filters Can you speed up a new bio-filter by using some media from an established filter? Thanks <In short, yes. This introduces a larger population of bacteria, they still need to multiply and catch up to the tank nutrient load. Craig>

Nitrogen Cycle Woes Hi. < Hi there! Scott F. at your service!> I will make this as short as possible, but I want to let you know everything. I started a 75 gallon saltwater tank about 4-5 weeks ago. I have about a 3 inch live sand bed, about 55-70 lbs. live rock, a Sealife Systems Pro Series 150 sump with built in skimmer, Custom Sea Life double helix UV sterilizer, a 7 gallon refugium with Caulerpa and live sand\rock, two Corallife ballasts with 4 Corallife bulbs (2 10,000k and 2 actinic blue), and a rear hang on filter with carbon and a BioWheel (very small unit). I started the tank with damsels and they all died. In fear that I would backtrack the nitrogen cycle I continued adding a fish or two as they all have continued to die. Currently I have no livestock in the tank. The lights are set on timers for 12 hours a day and the refugium runs opposite of the tank lights. Ph is at about 8.6, ammonia and nitrites slightly detectable, nitrates about 20, and temp always 78-80. Along with the live rock there is some base rock and a couple of pieces of limestone. My questions are: 1. powerheads (how much water flow do I need through the tank) <Really depends upon the types of animals you intend to keep-for SPS corals, some people circulate up to 20 times the tank volume per hour!> 2. refugium (Caulerpa is doing horrible, just lays flat on bottom) < If it were me, I'd "86" the Caulerpa and go with a different macroalgae, like Chaetomorpha. Read Anthony Calfo's "Book of Coral Propagation" for more information on the "dark side" of Caulerpa use> 3. should I just let the tank sit or should I put another fish in <I'd just let the live rock and sand do the work at this point. Keep testing the water and take careful notes. Be sure not to add fish until ammonia and nitrite return to zero>  4. do you see any flaws or have recommendations <As above- just keep testing and observing> I apologize for the length and look forward to hearing from you. <Please don't apologize. You are doing fine- just keep reading, be patient, and feel free to contact us any time! Good luck! Scott F.>

Cycling process hey guys again <Hi Mike> I just started to cycle my 50 gal set up with 3 damsel fishes (1 yellow tail, 2 3spot dominos) and within 24 hours the 3 spot dominos are dead, and I think the other is next because it looks like his breathing is very labored. I checked my spg and it was fine yesterday (1.022) but today with the fish dead, it moved up to 1.024. I was just concerned about the hike in spg over night, and was wondering if that could be the reason the damsels have died. and what are other possible reasons for them to have died? the fish looked fine at the store where I got them. if everything checks out right, should I continue to buy more fish for the cycling process? and when? thanks again. mike <Likely ammonia and nitrate killing your fish. SG should not change except through evaporation which should be replaced. They could have been stress/diseased at the store, but do test your water right away. It is more than worthwhile to have your own reliable test kits for common fish wastes. Cycle tank and stabilize before placing any more fish. New live rock and sand? Likely that and fish or LR/LS waste is the culprit. Do check out the WetWebMedia.com site on stocking marine systems. I also suggest a really good book as it will save you untold heartache and money. The Conscientious Aquarist by Bob Fenner is a good choice. Craig>

New tank, Nitrogen Cycle Newbie hello guys <Scott F. here tonight> I'm relatively new to saltwater aquariums. I have received a 55 gallon tank from my uncle it is now 35 days up and running with 2 damsels in it and has not cycled.  <You are right about on schedule>  The ammonia has peeked then dropped to 0 but the nitrates are off the charts for 3 weeks now with nitrates around 10 and the fish show no signs off stress. < Hmm- Nitrite NO2 or Nitrate NO3- there is a big difference! If it's nitrate, this is an acceptable number. Do recheck> Is it common for this cycle to take this long?  <As stated above-see http://wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm for more info> I have a wet dry filter with a 10 gallon aquarium sump and a pump that's rated at 625 gph. One more question I if I could I just bought a 150 gallon tank brand new. Talk about addicted to this hobby. <hard not to be!> I'm going to build my own wet dry filter and stand and canopy for this tank I'm a carpenter so don't worry lol. I plan on using 80lbs of live sand mixed with Tahitian moon sand. do you see a problem there? <Should not be a problem, but you really need to shoot for 3 inches or more if shooting for a deep sand bed, or 1/2 inch or less if just for appearance. In between is not advisable> Also will be building a reef structure using Tufa rock with caves for the fish and seeding it with some live rock this is going to be a fish only tank. How much live rock do you suggest <1-2 lbs per gallon should be fine>. And what size sump would you recommend for a 150 tank? I'm planning on a 29 gallon long tank to hold heater protein skimmer pump etc.  <Should be fine-the larger, the better>. And how many gallons of bioballs would I need for this wet/dry filter?  <It really depends on how your filter is designed. See elsewhere in this site for tons of information on these filter options> Thanks for your time. <My pleasure- good luck-and read/read/read! Enjoy> 

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