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FAQs on Establishing Nutrient/Biological Cycling in Marine Systems 4

Related FAQs: Establishing Cycling 1, Establishing Cycling 2, Establishing Cycling 3, 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

Nitrate in month old tank I set up a tank for a friend (saltwater- 75 gallon with 75 lbs of uncured live rock). natural seawater was used. the person left the tank off (no pumps running) for almost a month. now the nitrate is plus 80. Question how can the ammonia be processed into nitrate so quickly and then remain at such a high level.  is it because of stagnant water, not enough denitrifying bacteria can be established? Not enough oxygen? <All the above. Yes, yes, yes, and finally yes. Time to do some large, successive water changes, get the water moving, oxygenated, fire up the skimmer... Bob Fenner>

Lionfish and Blue Surgeon >Thanks heaps for your advice Marina!!! >>Quite welcome, Joel, glad I could help. >I will definitely look into getting a zebra moray down the track for my 6'x2'x2'(600l). Is the live rock not enough to cycle my tank? (I also got some pre-seeded noodles from my LFS and placed them in the sump). My tank has been running for about 3 weeks with only 20kg of live rock at present but plan on adding another 60kg in the coming weeks (sorry I don't know what that is in pounds). >>The live rock will help seed the system with nitrifying bacteria, but unless it is not cured it won't really cycle the tank.  I address curing and cycling as two separate issues.  In the curing process, you're addressing the inevitable die-off when l/r is shipped, and preventing (hopefully) further die-off.  When cycling you're culturing two species of "nitrifying" bacteria, Nitrosomonas and Nitrospira (recently learned that Nitrobacter are not the responsible culprits), these animals oxidize ammonia. >Is the idea of the shrimp to put some waste into the water to kick start the nitrification cycle? >>Absolutely, you've got the idea. >At present (and ever since I filled my tank) my ammonia is 0.5-1ppm, nitrite 0, nitrate 0. >>Expect a progression where ammonia levels will drop, and nitrites rise, and then nitrites will drop as nitrates rise.  Once you've reached this stage only water changes or utilization of denitrification (well-performed by deep sand beds) can take nitrate and break it down into its constituent components, not the least of which is good old nitrogen gas (80% of earth's atmosphere). >Thanks again Marina!!!! >>Again, quite welcome, Joel.  Marina Joel Willis

Filter pad change? 07/23/03 <Hi Johnnie, PF with you today> I have a new saltwater aquarium that has just recently finished cycling and I was told to change the filter pad after it cycled, but I am worried about losing all my bacteria when I change the pad.  I have in my filter an air stone to make it wet/dry and Fluval prefilter stones to increase the surface area for bacteria growth.  The tank has been running for about one month. Is that sufficient time for bacteria to be established in the tank so that I can change the filter?  I was also told that I could put a new pad in with the old one still in there and run it that way for a week or two, it was difficult but I can manage to squeeze it in there. If you have any suggestions I would appreciate it. Thanks, Johnnie <Well Johnnie, I would follow your previously given advice, and the filter that way. I would also like you to go here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/filtration/marineFiltr.htm and read up on skimmers, deep sand beds, and live rock. A much better alternative than wet/dries for most applications. Have a good day, PF>

- New Tank, New Troubles - Hi... I've my aquarium running for about 1 month already but my live rocks still not turning into brown, what is suppose to be the problem? <No problem, you just aren't patient enough, these things take time - two to three months to come into their own.> and my yellow tang keeps on hiding behind the live rocks and its left eye is kinda turning into white, what is the problem and how can I treat it?.... <I would do a full series of water tests, by the sound of things you probably haven't established the nitrogen cycle yet. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm > by the way your site is very good and helpful.. thanks.... <Cheers, J -- >

- Tank Cycling Advice - Hi guys I hate to be such a pain with the same problem however I did a 50% water change last night and I tested the water a few minutes ago and they (nitrites) are still 5.0?? So how often should I do these water changes....daily?? You guys help so much thank you!!  Jason <Actually, my advice to you is to not change the water at all until the nitrite is down to zero and nitrate is on the rise. Do also get a water sample double-checked at the local fish store to make sure your tests are working correctly. Cheers, J -- >

- Tank Cycling Advice Follow-up - O.K. thanks! you guys always give such sound advice. How long am I in for until the nitrites go down (aprox.)? <No way to say for certain... your mileage will vary - weeks to months.> Also will the yellow colored water go away with them?? <Should... wait for the cycle to complete and then run some activated carbon. Should take care of the coloration right away.> When you guys refer to "skimming hard" are you saying push the collection cup down further than normal? <Hmm... I've never used that phrase myself and I've no idea what that means... skim as well as you can.> Will snails and crabs help the situation? <Only slightly... wait until the cycle is complete to add any livestock.> Love the site thanks for all you guys do!! <Cheers, J -- >

Cycling tank with live rock >Hello crew, you guys are great! >>Greetings, Marina here. >I have couple questions to ask if I may?  Getting ready to fire up my 120 gal tank FOWL. Can I just add 120lbs of cured premium live rock to bare bottom then add 1" of CaribSea special blend aragonite sand about 2mm to quickly cycle my tank provided the ammonia and nitrite are 0 with a hint of nitrate? >>(Scratching head here..)  Are you asking if the sand will cycle your tank?  Or are you asking if you can cycle the tank with the sand in it?  Or are you asking if you can cycle with the live rock in the tank?  Are you adding one inch of sand (1")?  Or 2 millimeters (mm)? >Also I plan on leaving my lights on 3 hours and the rest off to cut down on algae but gain coralline. >>I see no need to worry about lighting during the cycling process. >Should my skimmer be on at this time? >>Yes. >Or at what stage should I fire the skimmer?       >>Ok, since I'm not sure what, exactly, you're asking, I'll just jump in and give my suggestions.  First, IF the rock is really cured then yes, you can go ahead and put it in your tank (assuming you're also positive it harbors no pests such as Mantis), then add the sand to the desired depth, then add some raw shrimp to begin a cycle.  If the rock is really well-cured, then it should quickly handle the ammonia and nitrites, and the sand will become seeded during this process.  Since you haven't mentioned it, I'll suggest you look up information on site about refugiums, deep sand beds (DSB), and natural nitrate reduction.  Good schtuff.  Should you decide to run a 'fuge, then you may decide to not run the skimmer, but during cycling it's a good idea.  I hope this helps, and best of luck!  Marina

Live Rock!  (7/2/03) Can I use fully cured live rock to cycle my tank? or do I need to get partial cured and let the cycle occur? <Fully cured will be just fine it just speeds up the process.> I have a 120 gal FOWLR tank to start up. and also when is a good time to start the skimmer?<Right away!> if fully cured rock start it with substrate early? also will a white full spectrum and a blue actinic be ok for the live rock? <What kind of bulbs are they, if they are just SO I would upgrade to VHO or add a couple more bulbs.  Cody>

Testing 1-2-3... Hi, <Hi there! Scott F. with you today> I just started a tank and all my fish are dying. So far 2 are still alive (Clownfish) but those are starting to swim upside down. My no3 level is low 5.0 to 25 high, Alk is high and ph is at about 8.4 . What other tests should I be doing to ensure my fish stay alive? Are the readings above what they should be? I get different answers in almost every book I read. Help. Aldo <Well, Aldo, the levels you report seem satisfactory for a fish-dominated aquarium (I'm specifically referring to your nitrate reading). However, the words "...just started" send up a red flag in my head! You really need to test for ammonia and nitrite when setting up and cycling a new system...I'll bet testing for those two compounds will give you a clue as to what's happening! Also, you should arm yourself with a couple of good fundamental hobby books, like Bob's "CMA" or "The New Marine Aquarium" by Michael Paletta. And, of course, the many resources on WetWebMedia should help, too! Steady as she goes! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Saltwater tank cycling... >Greetings! >>And salutations, Marina this morning. >I have been reading your website religiously for the last two weeks and I am amazed at the time and effort that the staff puts into answering readers' questions. >>He.. hoo are WE!   >I am a newbie to the saltwater world, and recently my roommates and I set up a 50 gallon (4 sq ft surface area) tank. The substrate is 2/3 crushed shell with a "mini-beach" of live sand (3 inches deep) taking up the other third of the aquarium. There are approximately 20 lbs of the branch-style live rock with purple, red, and white coralline algae. We have a Berlin air lift protein skimmer (with prodigious skimmate produced), a 360 gph paddle-wheel-and-activated charcoal filter, and a supplemental air stone to provide additional aeration and water movement. Our tank has been up and running for two weeks now with a four very small fish that are active, colorful, feeding, and healthy-looking. We also have 5 hermit crabs, and two snails of the Turbo persuasion.  Our nitrite level peaked, and nitrate is now at 0.2. However, in the last several days, our nitrite has begun to rise again and our tank has a lush covering of brown algae. After reading your FAQs, I understand that this is probably of diatomaceous origin. I suspect that we are overfeeding and keeping our lights on too long, and we have recently taken measures to control this.  I was wondering:  Is algae grown indicative of completion of a nitrite/nitrate cycling, or does it comprise its own cycle? >>No, algal growth is indicative of excess nutrients, light being one of them.  Nitrate is a nutrient, as are phosphates, and dissolved organic compounds (DOC's). >Will the oxygen saturation of the water decrease as these brown algae cycle out? >>Yes, but with the water movement you describe it would be negligible. >Is it now safe to perform a water change of 10-20%? >>With the peaks you describe, and assuming you haven't made any water changes, I would suggest a 50% change, with no vacuuming or disturbance of the substrata.  Do know that the shell substrate *will* accumulate detritus.  I recommend a serpent star or two to help with this.  Also, once the tank is well on its way, I recommend vacuuming the substrate of shell with each water change--1/3 at a time. >Aside from stopping the overfeeding/shortening the light exposure, are there any other means of controlling the algae this early in our tank's life?   >>You could try something like a tuxedo urchin, though they're more known for helping eradicate hair algae.  I could suggest abalone, but they are voracious feeders of the algae.  Let the diatom bloom do what lemmings do, it will eventually starve itself out.  If you are not living in a state with restrictions on Caulerpa (in California we are allowed NO feathery fronded species), then that can be used quite effectively as a natural means of outcompeting the diatoms for nutrients. >What types of algae-controlling organisms will not compete with the lawnmower (Jeweled) blenny that we have our eyes on? >>See above.  Do hope this helps!  Best of luck McGregor.  Marina

- Just Checking In - Hi WWM Crew like my 75 gallon reef tank? It's in the process of cycling does it look good? <Looks like a 75 gallon tank in the process of cycling.> Think there enough lighting for all soft corals? <For many of them, yes.> I have 4 55watt pc.s on it and 2 fans and a bio wheel and 2 powerheads and a poly filter in a little 10 gallon per hour filter. I think that's 100 lbs of Fiji live rock and 45lbs of sand. <Sounds like your well on your way to a new reef system.> thanks for all your work WWM Crew
<Cheers, J -- >

New tank continuing to cycle Hi Crew, <Howdy Louis, Don here tonight> As always, thank you so much for the hand holding!   <No problem.> I have a 55 gallon salt tank that has currently cycled very nicely with about 70 lbs of LR from  Florida.  Things have started to proliferate on the rock including green algae.  Don't know if you would consider them Macros, but I don't think so.  No real developed leaf structures.  Maybe really tiny ones.  They are more grass like.   Chem levels at this point are: Ph = 8.2 Ammonia = 0 Nitrite = 0 Nitrate = 10-15 Calcium = 325 Alk = 4 SPG = 1.023 Temp = 76 deg f <I would like to see the SG 1.025 and Nitrate 0 if you are going to keep sensitive corals> These reading have been constant for at least a month.  I have a 4+ inch deep sand bed of Southdown sand from Home Depot with 20lbs of Gulf live sand, about 1/4 - 1/2 inch, spread over the top of the Southdown Sand.  SeaClone style skimmer in sump producing very dark gunk and not a whole lot, but definitely bubbling over the cone.   <You should fill a cup that size 4 or 5 times a week> No fish or coral at this point.  Lighting is a Corallife 4 X 65W PC fixture, 2 actinics and 2 10,000K's.  Actinics on 12 hrs a day, 1 hr before the whites and 1 hr after the whites, whites on for 10 hrs.  Return from sump is a Rio 2100, and I have two Hagen 402 powerheads mounted in each top back corner of the tank pointed toward the front center. <Ok> About 8 days ago I added  30+ lbs of the listed 70 lbs of LR from the Gulf of Mexico (FL).  Very minute ammonia and nitrite spike that lasted a day or two at max.  I did have my Magnum canister filter running with carbon to combat and stink that might have occurred during the cure.  The readings above are as of last night.  Do we think the newest LR is done at this point or is the carbon keeping things at bay? <I would give it another week or so> I guess my biggest concern at this point is the calcium and Alk readings.  I am pretty new to both tests and do not really understand them.  Especially the Alk reading.  I believe the calcium reading is a bit low and do not know if the Alk reading is acceptable in terms of other factors or itself.  Can you shed some light on them for me?  What can you suggest to boost my calcium levels at this point given the described system?  Is Kalk solution drip the only option and my best choice, especially as a novice?  And what of this alkalinity issue?  Any suggestions and practices you can offer? <The easiest way to do this is with twice weekly water changes with aged water that has been buffered and supplemented  to bring the calcium and alkalinity levels you want. 350-450ppm for calcium and 8-11 dKH. I use Instant Ocean and get 350ppm calcium and 10 dKH each time and just go with that.>   Are my Nitrate levels a concern at the described levels?  They seem to be pretty steady but have not seen zero since the tank began 45 days ago.  Besides water changes what else can I do?   <Religiously clean the magnum filter or just get rid of it. Do you have any sponge anywhere? If so, this must be cleaned regularly as well. The upper layer of sand in your pics looks pretty coarse, you might try lightly siphoning that to rid and accumulation of organics. Better/more skimmate production will help as well.> Do I need to be concerned if they are at least stable at this  level?   <You want nitrate at 0 for corals> Thought DSB and green algae were supposed to help rid these nitrate levels.  If you take a look at my tank pics here:    http://wetwebfotos.com/Home?actionRequest=userview&userID=2242   you will notice things are growing.  Some green hair algae are getting unruly.  I have not added any cleaner critters yet and plan on doing so soon per your prior suggestion of Astrea, Trochus and Nassarius snails.  Was waiting for final LR to cycle.  I guess at this point the only thing to combat the hair algae is to harvest and dump it?  Am I correct?  What else can you suggest? <Siphon and remove manually is best for now> Not planning any fish until end of August.  I am leaving for a 20 day vacation on July 2nd and with a quarantine period planned for every fish, not to mention care issues while I am gone, I do not want to add any further variables here. <Good call> Do you think the tank will be ok as is for the 20 days I am gone?  I obviously have someone checking and doing water top offs, but that's really it.  Anything else I should think about or I am overlooking while gone? <Mix up the water and see if your sitter can do twice weekly 3-5G water changes.> I think that's it for now.  Always know the appreciation level is immeasurable.  I brag about you guys to everyone!!!!! <Aw shucks, thanks!> Louis Rizzo

Cycling >Hi Crew, >>Greetings Amir, Marina here. >I am struggling to figure this out, and have asked questions on the forum, but no answer, so I am assuming people don't have an idea about this.  So, my final recourse is to take some of your time and hope you can help. >>I do believe I can. >I finally got my cured live rock ~100lbs. for my 75G reef setup.  I had measured some of the parameters using Salifert test kits, before I added the rocks and they were, Ammonia--<0.5; Nitrite--0; Nitrate--0; Calcium--300; Hardness--11 dKH; pH--8.24, and salinity 1.245 measured with American Marine meters. >>Sounds just about perfect, and kudos to you for getting a quality test kit!  With such low ammonia readings, expect only a "mini-cycle" at this time. >I added the rocks to the tank and turned on the skimmer (Euro-reef, if it matters) and 400W of VHO.  The skimmer right away started producing brown junk even though a tad juicy and not as dry as I like, but working on it.  This was done on June 13th.  I started monitoring the Ammonia, and I still do not detect any.  I am wondering what is going on and how am I going to find out when the cycle is done?  Am I supposed to add a hardy fish to this tank to help things out, or may be I should not have turned on the skimmer?   >>Oh no, not to worry, Amir!  You have simply purchased very good quality live rock, clearly it has already been cured.  What you can do now (though not imperative) is add a bit of raw shrimp or other invertebrate flesh to help spur along a larger culture of bacteria.  That's all. >Another question I have is that is my calcium level (a bit over 300) adequate?  I am not planning on keeping any hard corals, but I thought calcium should be above the 400 area.  My source water to the RO unit goes through a water softener.  Should I be adding anything to raise it's level? >>If you're not going to keep any hard/stony corals, then it's really not a concern.  Your hardness is within expected parameters, your calcium is definitely adequate. >One last question for now is regarding quarantine.  I am planning on adding some cleaner crews to this tank before I get any other livestock.  Is one supposed to also quarantine cleaner crews such as snail and shrimps, or can they be added to the tank? >>There is much debate over this.  I, personally, believe in quarantining EVERYTHING (better safe and all that, yeah?), but there are those who feel it's a waste of time/effort.  Most don't quarantine at all, but then again disease and trouble are pervasive as well.  I think that for this initial stocking, you could more than likely skip quarantine, but do feed the tank with the shrimp first, to help ensure you've got that culture going. >Your help is greatly appreciated. >>Quite welcome, Amir, I think you are on your way to having a lovely, healthy setup.  Best of luck!  Marina

Re: cycling >Hello Marina, Thank you for your reply.  It is greatly appreciated.   >>Very welcome Amir, good morning. >I will plan on adding a bit of raw shrimp as you suggested.  I am guessing that you mean drop the piece of shrimp in the tank and let is sit and fester.  Is that correct? >>Yes. >You mentioned a mini-cycle.  If I am going to be unable to measure the ammonia, nitrite, due to my LR, how can I tell whether the system is ready for fish, anemones to be added to the tank?  Do I just wait a couple of weeks and assume all is fine? >>First put in the shrimp, see what you get.  If everything is still undetectable, that means you've got your cultures up and running.  You should wait as long as quarantine (30 days is usual protocol) to start adding fish, however, I really like to get all inverts in first. >I am planning on quarantining everything, as I have learned my lesson with freshwater tanks, and I can only imagine it is probably worse for marine tanks.  I have the quarantine tank all ready and painted, heater, filter, etc. ready to go.  So should I go ahead and get a blue or yellow tang right now (one of the fish that I would like to eventually add to the tank) to put in my quarantine tank, so in couple of weeks if they seem ok to add them to my display?  Would my display be ready by then? >>The display will be ready, but I will discourage you from putting in aggressive animals first, the tangs fit that bill.  Decide on a stocking list, what is it that you simply *must* have, and go from there.  This will both open and close doors regarding what you'll be adding later on. >Also, are those suitable fish for a reef tank?  I am mostly planning to keep anemone and soft coral?   >Yes, but only one tang for that tank.   >I have ordered the book by Anthony, and unfortunately I have not received it yet, so I don't even know whether the choices of anemone and soft coral are even compatible.   >>You will learn that, while many folks do keep anemones with sessile invertebrates (the softies you've mentioned), it is generally not recommended.  Anemones can and do move around, while the other specimens cannot, and because anemones do sting (along with their poor survival rates in captivity) I tend to discourage all but the most experienced of reef keepers from acquiring anemones. >While I have your ears, any suggestion on cleaner crews?  I would like to stay away from crabs, as I don't trust them :)  Any suggestion on what and quantity for a 75G would be greatly appreciated. >>The outfits that sell clean-up crews have this down to an art.  There are many, many very reef-safe hermits that will do just fine.  I would suggest contacting Inland Aquatics, they have some great packages put together.  See their pages here--> http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&ie=ISO-8859-1&q=inland+aquatics&btnG=Google+Search  and the "Detritivore Page" here--> http://www.inlandaquatics.com/prod/prod_detrit.html I do hope this helps!  And best of luck in this endeavor (very glad you're going to be as diligent about q/t as I am).  Marina

Building the biological filter I am currently doing a fishless cycle on a saltwater tank.  Ammonia levels remain at zero after adding ammonia, but the nitrite level seems to be taking forever to fall.  I was thinking of going a while without adding any ammonia, but didn't know how long I could do this before the biological filter would become ineffective in removing ammonia due to nothing to feed on.  Please let me know what you think.  Thanks, James <You don't say what is in the tank, Live Rock, how much substrate, what kind of filtration, skimmer, etc. These all affect the cycle as well.  You also don't say how long it has actually been, this process can take 4-8 weeks. I would stop adding ammonia and use a VERY small amount of flake food, just a few flakes, a couple times per week at most. Hope this helps. Don>

- Cycling Products - Thanks, one more question (sorry) Do you know of a product that actually is good at speeding up tank cycling for saltwater?  Thanks again, James <I like live rock... but there are bottled items, Cycle is probably one of the better ones, but there are many similar to it. Cheers, J -- >

Fishless cycling I am currently cycling a saltwater tank with dead shrimp.  After the tank is completely cycled, how long does the "good" bacteria stay alive?  Do I have to add fish the next day to keep it from dying?  Thanks, James Hall <Weeks... no need to immediately add life to sustain nitrifiers. Bob Fenner> Vicious Cycle? (Cycling Tank) I need your help on another issue. <You've got issues? I've got answers (hopefully)! Scott F. with you today!> I started cycling my tank on March 24th using household ammonia with no additives.  The article I read said it was comparable to using at least 6 damsels in the tank.  I initially put 5 drops per each 10 gallons until I started seeing nitrite.  Then I reduced the ammonia to 3 drops per 10 gallons.  This has been almost 6 weeks and I still have .50 of ammonia and my nitrite is out of sight.  I quit adding ammonia almost a week ago.  The article said this was a faster way to cycle, but it sure doesn't seem so.  Any advice to speed things up?  Should I not have quit adding the ammonia?  Thank you, James <Well, Frankly, I'd stop the ammonia myself, and maybe "feed" the tank with some dried food to give the bacteria something to "work on". I prefer using natural materials, such as live rock and sand to do the trick. However, since you've already got things going, I'd rely on food to help finish the job. In fact, since your cycle appears to be "stuck", this may be one of those rare occasions when it might be beneficial to try one of the commercially available bacteria cultures...Hope this helps! Regards, Scott F>

Populating A New Tank (Pt. 2) Sorry, I do have a couple more questions. <No need to apologize- that's why we're here!> First, on clownfish I have read a lot of contradictions.  In a group of say 4, do two pair come out of it, or do only two pair and the rest remain "drones"? <Well, interesting question. In my experience, any two juvenile fish can form a pair, given time. In a larger group, you will probably see 2 fish pair off after some extended "jockeying" for sexual dominance, with the largest fish becoming the female. The other fishes may either remain immature males, waiting to take the place of the other should something happen to him, or they may form their own pair...Really depends on the environment and social dynamic within the tank. It's almost a sure thing with 2 fishes, however...> Also, if 6 or 7 fish are used to cycle a saltwater tank, why is it said to start out after cycling ( and removing the cycling fish) to only start out with one or two new fish?  Wouldn't the biological filter be strong enough to support the same amount it did after cycling was complete? <Ahh- I probably didn't catch that the first time. Sure, if a tank was cycled and established with 6 fishes, it would be logical that a smaller number of fishes would be capable of being supported by the filter. I am against using fishes to cycle tanks, so I guess I wasn't even thinking about that! Arrogant presumption on my part!> Sorry for all the questions, but am new at saltwater and want to learn as much as I can.  Thanks again, James <You're doing fine, James...Keep learning and sharing- and take all advice (even mine!) with a grain of salt...There is no one perfect answer for everything, as you are learning! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

- Using Floss from a Cycled Tank - Dear Crew, <Good morning, JasonC here...> I have a bare bottom 10 gallon quarantine tank with a single female beta and a box filter containing floss and Eheim EHFI Substrat.  The tank is cycled.  I will soon be restocking my now-empty 30 gallon tank with new plants and gradually with new fish plus my beta.  The 30 gallon tank has an Eheim canister filter.  I plan to use  the contents of the box filter to seed the canister filter with bacterial colonies.  Now here is my problem and question: Problem-the 10 gallon tank keeps growing brown algae.  Every couple of weeks I move my fish out and completely scrub out the tank and the heater and thermometer with salt and water.  I soak the filter floss and substrate in fresh aquarium water.  The side of the tank that faces a window is covered with black paper, but the algae keeps growing back.  I think algae is in the floss and the substrate but I don't want to replace them since they hold the bacterial colonies. <Actually, they [the algae and their spores] are everywhere... in the air, water, etc.> When I restart my 30 gallon tank, I plan to use the floss and substrate to seed my canister filter with the bacteria.   Question:  Do you think (as I do) it is likely that algae are growing the filter floss and EHFI Substrat? <No.> Will this plan to use the colonized floss and EHFI Substrat in my 30 gallon tank introduce algae into my clean 30 gallon tank? <No, the algae will appear on its own.> And if so, will that be a problem that will be difficult to overcome? <No, just be careful about the amounts that you feed, and stick with the diligent cleaning.> I will eventually be buying algae eaters, but I don't have them now and I've heard it is best for their health to introduce them into an established, cycled tank. <You could try at this point, if you tank is indeed cycled.> Is it possible to rid the floss and EHFI Substrat of algae without destroying the helpful bacteria? <Well, the de-nitrifying bacteria are everywhere, but probably not in the same numbers that are in the floss... removing the floss would reduce their numbers but probably leave you with enough bacteria to do the job - they would multiply as necessary, perhaps showing a brief rise in metabolites - ammonia and/or nitrate.> What is the best way for me to proceed with restocking and cycling my 30 gallon tank? <Your plan is fine - use the existing floss and substrate.> I appreciate your help. Judy <Cheers, J -- >

New tank Hey btw I have a quick question do u run a skimmer on a new tank or do u just let it cycle without using the skimmer? I bought some Arag-Alive 20 pound bag and some dolomite did I make a mistake in purchasing this or will it help in the cycling process?  Also thanks for the wonderful site. <Run the skimmer when your tank is cycling.  Make sure you check your PH because the dolomite doesn't buffer the PH much past 7.6 so you are probably going to need to use a separate buffer.  Cody>

Cycling with liverock I will try to be brief. <No problem> I am brand new to this stuff, at least to marine.  I have started the set up process with used tank and accessories from an individual who upgraded to larger.  I have set up a plenum with "live" sand, at least that is what the bags said.  About 60 lbs of live sand, 20 lbs of aragonite, and 20 or so of "substrate/ gravel".  Using the equipment below, I let the sand settle and run for two days.  Now the fella I bought the equipment from said I needed to get something in the water otherwise I would "loose the sand".  On his suggestion I ran out and got a half dozen damsels and a dozen hermits.  72 hrs later still all tests are quite good and livestock are hanging in. Everything I have read suggest I should be cycling with LR right now.  My question is this, is it ok to put some in (100 lbs),  it is supposed to be fully cured Fiji.  Should I expect a large enough spike to kill the little livestock I currently have? <Any ammonia or nitrite will stress the livestock. It is preferred to add liverock and cycle the tank with this. If you decide to keep the livestock use water changes when necessary to control the ammonia and nitrite. Yes, you can add the rock now. Hope this helps, Don> What I have; 100 gal tank two 14000 k MH :  on for about four hours/ day four compact actinic : on for 12 hours emperor power filter/ BioWheel three power heads Berlin HO skimmer I will be converting to sump after I gather up all the remaining items.

After The Flood... I had a fully established tank. (55 gal, 55lbs LR, 40lbs LS, Wet/Dry, BAK PAK 2, 220w PC'S 50/50.) My wife and I went away for the weekend and when we came back half of the tank water was on the floor. Frogspawn and zoo's were dead. I immediately drained the remaining water into a big Rubbermaid container and place the LR, Fish and inverts in there. (what a mess). The tank was trashed and so was the stand. I had to leave everything in the Rubbermaid for 2 days so the carpet guys could dry and replace padding. I ended up buying a 46 gallon bow front. The reason I did not go bigger is because I would have had to spend more money on lighting and LR, and after $1000 dollars in restoration on carpet and floors plus new tank and stand, my wife is not the happiest camper on the block. <I can't blame you a bit! What an awful experience to endure. Even though we are hardcore fish nerds, there are other priorities at times!> I am sorry for the details but I wanted to paint a picture before I asked the question. <You did a fine job...no apology needed!> Is my bow front going to cycle? I kept good circulation and heat on my live rock while it was in the container. The Sand is now dead and my bioballs in the wet/dry are dead, and I only could use about 15 gallons of the old water,  but for some reason I think the LR will save me. What do you think? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks. Jason Auringer Austin, TX <Well, Jason- IMO, the tank will most likely incur some type of cycling event as the biological filtration re-establishes itself. Because you have some cured live rock in there, you may not see quite the spike that you would in a completely new tank. Nonetheless, I'd install just the rock and sand and monitor the water chemistry for the next couple of weeks to confirm the progress of the cycle...Even though your fishes are in a temporary situation- there is no need to rush the process. You'll be surprised how well your system can bounce back from such an awful event! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Some Like It Hot...Some Don't! Hello to all. Need your expertise. <Scott F. here to help today> Is it true that if the water is too warm, the beneficial bacteria won't work properly because there's less dissolved oxygen?  I ask this because my tank has been cycling for a month and I don't think it's complete yet. It's a 120 gal tank with 60 lbs of live rock. Ammonia has been between .25 & .50 since the very beginning.  Unfortunately the temp on my tank has been way too high.  Averaging between 80 & 85 degrees( Don't worry, I have a 1/4 hp chiller being delivered in about 10 days). <A good investment!> So back to  my question,,,,,,,,,,,Can the warm water be the cause of my delayed cycle? <An interesting theory, but I believe that, although dissolved oxygen levels are lower at high temperatures, you still would have sufficient oxygen in the tank to accomplish cycling. I wonder if it's more of a function of letting the population of nitrifying bacteria develop in sufficient quantities to cycle the system. You may want to "po" the system with a commercial bacteria product, such as "Cycle", etc. to help out a bit...Stay patient, and keep monitoring the system- I'm sure that things will work out here! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

No ammonia spike during cycle! >Hello.     >>Greetings. First and foremost, thanks a million for all of your words of wisdom. It's much appreciated. >>Though they weren't mine (I think), I'll say that you're welcome.  Marina here this morning. >I'm a little confused.  I've been under the impression that during the tank's cycle, I SHOULD see an ammonia spike.   >>Yes, to one degree or another. >I have a 120gal tank that's almost a month into cycling with 60 lbs of live rock. I haven't seen the ammonia rise any higher that .50.   >>Ok. >I'm assuming that this isn't too high since the charts goes a lot higher than that. >>No, it's not too high, but just because the chart goes higher doesn't necessarily mean that you want to get that high of a spike.  What you need is to ensure that you've got a culture of the nitrifying bacteria started. >The live rock is from Tampa Bay Saltwater and it has a lot of life on it. I've only changed about 20 gal of water 3 times.  I've read that doing too many water changes during the cycle slows down the process. >>Mmmm.. not entirely correct, it just means that you won't culture quite as many bacteria, but you'll also likely kill off lots of the good things you paid for. >At one point I noticed that the nitrite had a slight rise but now nothing. I only see slight ammonia (.25 to .50).  My nitrate is showing around 10 to 20ppm. I'm a little confused. >>If you still have ammonia readings, then you *are* culturing the desired bacteria, nitrate is the end result, and without an established DSB (deep sand bed) or cured live rock you'll keep the nitrates. >I have noticed that I have not 1, not 2 but 3 Mantis Shrimp. >>YIKES!  Gotta get those buggers out of there, ASAP.  Traps are problematic, I've heard of folks having good success by keeping a bucket of freshwater nearby, then, when they see which rock the shrimp is hiding in, put the rock immediately into the bucket.  The shrimp *should* come out immediately, but if it doesn't, keep that piece separated!  Do this for each shrimp until you're certain you've gotten them all.  They'll kill lots of stuff, btw. >Is it possible that there is a sufficient amount of bacteria in the tank already. >>Yes. >I'm guessing that my tank is already cycled but the MANTIS SHRIMP is constantly killing mollusks and snails resulting in the constant low ammonia reading.  I'm probably way off but maybe you could shed some light. >>This could indeed be the source, but I'd get them out first before making any definite decision as to whether or not the tank's cycled.  This is a must. >Please help, Demetrius >>You've got it, and good luck!  Marina

Protein Skimmers and "Grunge" Hi guys, <Scott F. your guy tonight> A couple of quick questions for you tonight.  I currently have a 55 gallon marine tank and am upgrading to a 110 gallon within the next few days. <Bet you're not sleeping to much this week, huh? I know that I'd be too stoked to sleep...! Wow- it's scary what excites fish nerds like me, huh?> I have a Oceanic Plus model 6 protein skimmer.  The included pump is an Eheim unit that pumps out about 300 gph.  Assuming that the skimmer is a venturi model, are there any potential negatives incurred by replacing the pump with something that puts out 700 gph or more? <Well, it really depends on the size of the venturi, and the ability of the skimmer to keep up with increased flow...You'll just have to test it and tweak as required...Sorry I couldn't be more specific!> Kind of a strange question, but do snails and crabs have an impact on bio-load capacity of a marine tank? <Sure. Not to the same extent as fishes and larger invertebrates, but these animals eat, respire, and excrete metabolic products into the water. Now, let's be realistic- it probably takes quite a few Turbo snails to equal the metabolic output of say, a Yellow Tang- but the point is, you should consider these little guys as bioload when studying the stocking capacity of your tank> I know that there are general rules of thumb when it comes to number of inches of fish per gallon(s), but does adding a healthy number of these inverts (to minimize algae and detritus) affect the stocking parameters of the tank? <Well, I really think that the "inch of fishes per gallon" rule is somewhat inaccurate, as far as I'm concerned, you need to look at a host of factors, such as the habits and requirements of the fish, the companions that it will reside with, the fishes' ultimate size, the filtration and skimming available in your system, etc. 8 inches of one inch gobies will not put out the same metabolic waste, nor do they have the same tank size requirements as a single 8 inch Humu Humu Triggerfish, etc. Do consider the "big picture" when stocking your tank...> Finally, without appearing to endorse one supplier over another, have you had any experience with the reef janitor kits from G.A.R.F. or any other suppliers? <I've used products from my favorite source, Indo Pacific Sea Farms in Kailua-Kona.. They offer a variety of worms, snails, and detritivore kits, along with great service! G.A.R.F. has a good reputation, too.> What about their GARF Grunge product? <I personally do not have experience with the product, but I have a number of friends who do, and they were pleased with the product...Lots of vendors, and even fellow hobbyists, offer similar "rubble" products to help "kick start" your system...Ask around on the WWM chat forum> In your opinion are these worthwhile investments? <They certainly can't hurt- but you can obtain similar results by obtaining a few cups of sand and some small rocks from a friend's established aquarium> I have continuously battled a hair algae problem even though I minimize my feedings, maintain water quality within desired parameters, and do approx. 15-20% water changes every other week.  My nitrates are running around 30, phosphates are 0,  Nitrites and ammonia are 0, PH 8.3, Calcium 375-400, Lighting is total 260 watt PC lights (half actinic/half daylight) that are on for about 8 hours/day.  Water flow is throughout is brisk with multiple powerheads.  I have about 40 Lbs of live rock, which appears to be a very fine host for the hair algae.  Any thoughts or suggestions or comments would be much appreciated. <Algal blooms are common in new tanks, and will dissipate in time, once nutrient export processes "kick in"...Continue aggressive husbandry techniques, including the water changes, protein skimming, etc. You can read up about these techniques on the WWM site!> As always, you all do a great job helping the rest of us inch closer to success. Thanks. Dave <Thanks for the kind words, Dave! I learn a little more each day, myself! this hobby rocks, huh? Regards, Scott F>

Marine cycling issues >Hi guys/gals, >>Greetings, Marina here. >I'm in a dilemma here.  I've had my new tank (29 G) running full of water for about 8 wks now.  Before I had found this website and three damsels later I found that cycling the tank with damsels was not the appropriate way to go about it, so my tank obviously is still not cycled.  So in the meantime, I've been reading and reading, trying to decide how I want to go about it.  (45 lbs of rock right off the bat would be nice, but funds are permitting)  Then I don't know whether or not to order rock from somewhere like Harbor Aquatics or TBSaltwater or just get it from the LFS.  The going rate for Fiji around here is $7.99/lb, and doesn't look very appealing for the money. I wonder if talking to the owner of the LFS and finding out exactly when the shipment of rock comes in and picking it up before it goes in their tanks if it would cycle my tank faster?   >>Your live rock will need to be cycled, no matter what.  Have you considered ordering online? >I'm also wanting to switch over to a sand bed from the 1" Aruba Puka I have now and use preferably Southdown, but no luck around here finding it!  So I'm thinking about using CaribSea Aragamax Oolitic or the Oolitic Select.  It says that it will "denitrification"?  with using only an inch of this sand and a 30 lb bag in my tank will give me around an inch of coverage. >>To the best of my knowledge this is not possible.  As far as I know, the only way you can achieve denitrification is when you have a sand bed deep enough to allow anoxic areas where anaerobic bacteria that *perform* this duty can thrive.  You will need a sand bed depth more on the order of 3".  Aragonite, Aragamax, you can even you silica-based substrata (though you will not get the benefits of alkalinity/buffering capacity) can all be used.  IIRC, there's another name for Southdown, I'd have to do some checking first, I want to say it's called "Yard play" or something like that, but don't hold me to it! >I think?  I know the rule of sand beds (under 1" or 4" and up) but some people say that on smaller tanks a DSB is not necessary.  Is there any truth to that? >>The issue is actually more that it may not be possible to achieve sufficiently anaerobic areas in small tanks.  However, this can easily be solved by utilizing a refugium with a DSB. >Would I be O.K. using one 30 lb bag of Aragamax and maybe use a little (maybe 5 lbs of the Aruba Puka)? I have recently threw a Skilter away and replaced with a BakPak2, and a small Whisper #1 Power filter (rated up to 30 G). I also have installed a Maxi Jet 1200 for circ.   Thanks in advance. DB >>What is important in making a functional deep sand bed is grain size.  You want a relatively finely-grained substrate, "sugar-fine" is a term that is both easy to understand and envision--this is what you're shooting for.  Good luck!  Marina

Tank Cycling this fast? Hey everyone, I stumbled across your site about a month ago while setting up a new reef tank (what a wealth of info). I used to have a 90 gallon reef a few years back but didn't have the room or time to deal with it. Now that my wife and I moved into a new house a year ago we are getting back into the hobby (more like full time work with great rewards =). The set up is as follows. 170G acrylic with oak stand & canopy (3 fans in canopy 2 blowing out 1 in) top of tank is completely sealed. Overflow in middle of tank with w/ ball socket tubing aimed across surface both ways of tank 4 Maxi Jet powerheads Model 1200's, 2 at bottom & 2 mid level Wet dry filter w/ bio balls built at LFS for tank  (salt water only store very reliable has been around for many years). Red Sea Berlin Turbo Classic protein skimmer. 2 500W titanium heaters with controller units. 4 VHO URI 160W fluorescent tubes installed in top of canopy (2 actinic white, 2 actinic "03blue") about 5" from the surface. lights are on 2 separate timers and are controlled by 2 IceCap ballasts Model 430's. I set up the tank with 2-3" of Aragonite and crushed coral mix from an already established marine aquarium,150lbs of dead live rock for base, 100lbs of cured Fiji live rock from lfs,100lbs of Fiji live rock from the same established aquarium as the crushed coral came from, and 10 gallons of  water from that aquarium.  All live rock was transported in water in the hopes that not much die off would occur.  My question is this. The LFS said because of all the rock, gravel and water used from an already established aquarium that I probably wouldn't even notice a cycle even though it would very quickly.  They said to just wait a day or 2 and run tests just to make sure. If the tests came back ok, then go ahead and throw in 3 fish and a clean up crew. This didn't sound right to me but tests seem to show they were correct. Everything was added this past Saturday with water, temp. and salinity already correct. I tested today. Could this actually have cycled that quickly? <Yes, it could "cycle" and have a partial ability to process ammonia/nitrite in a short time.  I would still wait for some time before introducing fish.  Research the Coral Beauty as temperament may be an issue.> Readings are as follows. ammonia 0 nitrites 0 nitrates 20-30 (hard to read exactly) PH 8.2 temp. 78.6 - 79.3 salinity 1.0235 alkalinity and calcium will have tested at LFS tonight or tomorrow (these test kits are on the way) Please let me know if you think its safe to add a couple fish and a few inverts after a 10-15% water change. After all the readings I have found on your site I respect your feedback a lot.  Besides reading tons on your site I also own and have read The Reef Aquariums volume 1 and 2, and a few smaller but older books on the hobby. Also if you have any suggestions on the rest of my equipment or changes I need to make please feel free to comment. I would like to keep mostly soft corals to start with (1st year or so) and smaller fish (1 Coral Beauty, 2-3 common clowns & the rest mostly blennies, gobies, & wrasses), and lost of inverts. Sorry for the long post and I hope to be hearing from you soon. Sincerely, Shawn H. <I would change enough water to lower nitrates sufficiently.  Likely more than 15%. Better look into Quarantine for your fish at WetWebMedia.com....do this before introduction to main tank.  Craig>

Cycling a 60 gallon marine tank - 4/1/03 Dear Robert, <Paul here, in his place>        I have 60 lbs. of LR in my 60 gallon tank. It has been 15 days since I started this setup and have not seen a spike in ammonia. Is this unusual? <Not really.> What is the average time for the ammonia to rise in my size setup. <Well not really relative to size. Please check here:  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/filtration/biological/biofiltr.htm There a great many links here. Read through as many as you can if you have not already. There are many exceptions to the rule, but typically  it can take between 2 weeks to 8 weeks. I think the average time frame is somewhere in the vicinity of 4 weeks though. Always quarantine and add animals slowly> Thank You Bob Najdek

Cycling... How long would it take to cycle a tank with live rock that has already been in a tank for close to a year? I have a fifty gallon that has too much live rock so I am wanting to set up a 29 gallon with some of the live rock from the 50. Just thought I'd ask. Could you please e-mail me the answer? Thanks, Cody <Well, Cody- it really depends on a lot of different factors, including temperature, the volume of rock, etc. I've seen aquariums cycle in as little as two weeks, sometimes with nitrite levels that never exceeded 5 or 6 ppm...I'd allow a month, and hope for a shorter time! Monitor nitrite levels regularly. Go for it! Regards, Scott F>

Reseeding a reef tank Good morning, I have just finished getting rid of a hair algae outbreak, one year of it. I lost most of my corals, only some sand polyps and a sickly looking cabbage left. My tank,65 gal with approx 50 pounds of 'live' rock, has regained all the recommended parameters,1.024 salinity.8.4 pH. no trites or trates, top off and make up water all strictly RO/DI. Finally to my question, what is the best way to reseed the tank to ensure the health of any new corals I will add? Should I consider a bacterial additive to boost the sand bed, add some cured live rock or ???I just don't want to go down that trail again. Any advise would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again, Steve. <Hi Steve. I am not sure the rock needs any 'bacteria boost' at this time since you have no nitrates/nitrites the present bacteria must be doing something <G>. Do you have a good population of pods, worms and such? You may consider a retail package that would provide this. Or, if you can find an established tank, just get a couple scoops of sand from it and use that to seed your population. Lastly, another 15-25# of rock would help also and provide seed organisms. Hope this helps, Don>

Re: liquid bacteria? Hello to all.  First and foremost, thank you for all of your info. Much appreciated! I'm in the process of setting up my 120gal FOWLR.  I currently have to tank filled with R/O water.  I have a Wet-Dry filter/ Turboflotor Protein Skimmer/ JBJ 4 x 65w PC lighting, etc. I'll be ordering 80lbs of live rock from Tampa Bay Saltwater in about a week. Meanwhile, I've been hearing about these quick start liquid bacteria products. Do you think it would be a beneficial to add this bacteria to my water now to give my filter a head start? Or, should I just wait until the live rock arrives? thanks in advance <Please read here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm and the Related FAQs pages (in blue, at top). Bob Fenner>

Water Changes And Filter Media  3/11/03 Hello,<Hey there!  Phil here!> I was wondering on when the proper time was to perform the first water change on a new tank, should this be left till after livestocking is completed or should it be done after the first full month the tank has been setup?<The water changes should be every two weeks, starting as soon as water is put into the tank.>   Also when would it be appropriate to change the foam filter media on my Fluval 302 and H.O.T. magnum filters, or again should I wait and let bacteria build up.<You are going to want to wait a little bit, but as soon as the media gets all nasty its time for a change.  Remember that if you don't change the media it will be come a nitrate factory!!>  My tank has been setup for two weeks and my first fish were put in yesterday (2) tank raised percula clowns.<One of my favorite fish, second only to the Royal Gramma IMO.  Hope this helps!  Phil>

A Fresh Start With A New Tank! Dear Crew, <Scott F. your Crew Member today!> I have been reading your QT FAQ's and need a simple clarification. You recommend "cycling" the QT with a sponge filter kept at least one month in your main tank. Always keep one in the tank to have it available. Does it go without saying that once used in the QT the sponge should be thrown away and NOT returned to the main tank? <Good question! Nope- don't throw it away...Just rinse it thoroughly and replace it back in the sump when you're done with it...> Also, a sponge not a Poly-Filter in the QT? <You can use Poly Filter in a quarantine setup- it's a great chemical absorption media...but it is not a biological filtration media.> I have decided to actually follow your advice on dipping, acclimating and quarantining; so I have that going for me. <Good for you! You're going to really appreciate the control and confidence that you will gain when adding new fishes to your system...I've said it many times: Quarantine is the #1 thing that you can do to keep diseases out of your display tank...Everyone should embrace this practice!> I am setting up a new 75 gallon reef with 20gal sump. I will be cycling the tank and DSB using Live Rock and seeding some live sand on top of the DSB. The Live Rock will be fully cured when I get it; I am hand picking it from Tropicorium's propagation and livestock tanks. They have literally thousands of pounds "hanging around." <Yep- an excellent facility!> Simplifies my setup for sure. My first fish additions will be 5 or so green or black Axil Chromis. Hardy, attractive, non-aggressive, dither fish with interesting schooling behavior. Do I need to quarantine my very first fish additions? <Yep- because if they are carrying a disease (for example, a parasitic disease such as Cryptocaryon), it will be introduced into the system and will continue to infect all new additions until it's eradicated!> Would 5 at a time in a 10? 20? gallon tank be crowding? Add them at the same time as the "old" live rock or still cycle my tank for a couple of weeks? <This amount should be okay in a 10 or (better still) a 20 gal quarantine tank. I'd cycle the tank with live rock before adding any fish. It's the humane (not to mention, more effective) thing to do!> Lastly, please give me some guidance on coral selection or point me to the relevant FAQ. Individuals mostly describe successful soft/LPS/SPS mixed tanks on their personal web pages. Some are very densely populated 55 and 75 gallon systems. What coral "variety" and density is reasonable in a 75 gal provided additions are made slowly and the system includes refugium and CA reactor? I had planned on starting with mushrooms and other starter animals and being able to add more challenging, interesting, beautiful specimens eventually over the years. The no mixing dictum from your site is making me rethink. <Yep- I really think that you need to "specialize" to a certain extent, with corals, rather than mixing them. I think that you could create amazing LPS or soft coral systems quite easily. I think that LPS corals are sort of a "neglected segment" of the reef hobby. They are awesome animals, colorful, and quite hardy. recently, I have seen a couple of systems that were dedicated to LPS, and they were gorgeous! In one of them, the hobbyist had lots of Trachyphyllia and Caulastrea specimens throughout the tank, interspersed with a few other LPS specimens, and the tank was stunning...Lots of neat possibilities here. I'd recommend  getting a copy of Anthony Calfo's "Book of Coral Propagation" and Eric Bornemann's "Aquarium Corals" as the backbone of your coral library...You'll find a ton of information on all of the specimens that you could use in these setups just within these two books! Also- you can scour the WWM site for a lot more information as well!> Reading your site can get a little obsessive. <Yep- I'm on it every day just to "free surf" and check out different topics, myself. We really have a lot of great material to peruse here! Glad you enjoy it! Good luck with your new tank! Regards, Scott F> 

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