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FAQs on Establishing Nutrient/Biological Cycling in Marine Systems 5

Related FAQs: Establishing Cycling 1, Establishing Cycling 2, Establishing Cycling 3, Establishing Cycling 4, Establishing Cycling 6Establishing 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

A robust Acropora species in N. Sulawesi. Pic by DianaF.

The Light At The End Of The Tunnel... HI Guys, I just wanted to say thanks a lot to Scott F for the good advice and here is an update as to what is going on in the tank now. <Glad the response was helpful to you!> The ammonia levels have dropped quite a bit ( Almost undetectable) I think I gave some misleading information about how long I have had my tank going. I have had it for approximately 3-4 years, I had to move (lots of fun, with anemone's and lots of live rock!) So I had to take it down and then set it up again but kept 1/4 of the water and had all the original sand and stuff. <A good technique!> So it is kind of established, the live rock is covered in algae, green hair and purple calcareous. I think that it really  helped the tank bounce back from that dosage incident that happened. I was really happy to see the tank stabilize and I did not lose a single fish. <Excellent!> I did lose one Turbo snail who did not acclimatize well to my tank. I can deal with that with all things considered. The next issue to deal with is getting that phosphate down and controlling the green algae. <Another battle- but one that is relatively easily solved with some simple techniques!> Thanks again Scott I really appreciate the good advice, you guys help so many people in this hobby every single day. You should get an award or something. <Ya know what? Just knowing that we've helped out a fellow hobbyist through a frustrating situation is a reward in itself!> Cheers! J* <Continued success, J. Regards, Scott F.>

Cycling, Curing, Got Reef? >Hi Guys, >>Hello. >Your site is great and Bob your book is also excellent! (Anthony I still need to buy your book on coral propagation sorry) >>Bob = happy, Anthony = waiting to get happy. >Anyway I'm setting up a new 50 gal reef tank for mostly SPS corals. I have a question on cycling it. >>Ok, let's hear it. >It's got 50 pounds live rock, a 4-5 inch deep sand bed (the top half live sand, the bottom half fresh aragonite), and a Euro-reef skimmer in the sump. I set up the tank Thursday with the sand and fired up the skimmer. Friday I put the rock in. The rock was clean and fresh but not fully cured with the idea I'd get a better array of critters on it that way. >>I think you'll be pleased with the end result. >It's Saturday and the ammonia is now at about 1ppm and rising. Should I just let it cycle out or is there a limit where the critters in the rock could get hurt and I should start with the water changes? >>Start with the water changes.  Get that ammonia down, mate. >I'm OK with just being patient and let it cycle out but I don't want it to get the ammonia so high that I fry everyone. >>Right now what you're actually doing is CURING the live rock.  Keep that righteous skimmer going (btw, excellent choice), do the water changes, when the cure is finished, then you can worry about culturing MORE nitrifying bacteria (you've already got a starter culture with the live rock). >Also I have 2x 55 watt PCs and a 250 watt MH light. Is it OK to run all the light now (something like PCs 12 hrs, MH 8 hrs /day) or should I cut them somewhat until the tank cycles? >>Don't waste energy and all running the lights right now.  Leave them be till the cure is finished and you're ready to start adding photosynthetic animals. >Regards, Kris Hublitz >>Best of luck!  Marina

Hermits & Parasites (1/9/2004) Hello everyone: <Steve Allen here> I did check your articles and the internet and could not find an answer to this question.  Do saltwater hermit crabs carry parasites on their shells <perhaps> and should they be fresh water dipped before being put in a new tank? <No. Instant death to the hermits. Better to quarantine before putting them in your tank, though the risk of parasites is small.> Also I am cycling <how long> a new tank(20 Gal.) with a blue velvet damsel. <I recommend against cycling with fish. Needless suffering for them. Fish are not needed for cycling. Search WWM for info on how.>  The SG is 1.026, Ph 8.2, Temp 79, Ammonia .25 and nitrites are 2.0.  I do at least a 25% water change every other day to bring the nitrites down.  I have noticed that the damsel is scratching frequently and have read elsewhere that this could be irritation from the nitrites. <yes> I gave the fish a freshwater dip before introduction into the new tank.   The fish has a voracious appetite <good sign> even now with the nitrites as high as they are. I have not seen any obvious parasites or white spots on the fish.  He does come up to the surface(2" below) frequently in the corner where he is fed so I am assuming he is checking for food.  Can the nitrites cause the damsel to scratch or does the fish have parasites? <If you do not see spots on the fish, it is more likely the toxic effect. Get these numbers down, but don't change too much water or you'll never get it cycled.> Thank you guys for your help and great articles. <Glad to be of service.>

Puffer trouble? (1/7/04) I may have got my self into some trouble. <Hi! Ananda here tonight to try to help you get yourself out of trouble...> In Dec I set up a 110 gal saltwater tank. I used 4 to 5 inches live sand. I let it cycle for 3 weeks, added live rock then a few days later I added a surgeon ( Damsel)? <Surgeonfish are commonly called tangs, and damsels are a completely different sort of fish... do yourself a favor and pick up a book about different sorts of marine fishes.> Looks like it any way. At that time the tank was stable. Jan 3rd I brought my Porcupine Puffer home. He was doing great. I keep checking the tank, Chemical wise. I think the sand was bad. I keep having my nitrites and nitrates spike.. like Nitrite 0.2 Nitrate  5.0 maybe 2.5 if lucky. <The fact that you're getting any nitrites at all means one of two things: (1) your tank isn't really finished cycling; (2) you need more filtration. I do hope you have a substantial skimmer -- porcupine puffers are *messy* fish. I would get a skimmer rated for twice the tank size. Also, this tank is on the small side for a porcupine puffer!> Last night we hurried and changed 30 gal, then I came home today and they were up again. I changed 15 gal. How can I fix this? I have black sand in the tank a layer or two down and when I siphoned it, stinks.. <Hmmm. Don't siphon your sand much -- you don't want to disturb the layers that are doing denitrification. Having a layer of black sand is pretty typical; that's an anaerobic layer, which is pretty much guaranteed to stink if disturbed.> Do you think it is my sand and what do I do. <Nope, I don't think it's the sand. If you don't have at least 100 lbs of live rock, I'd add more live rock. Check the forums at http://wetwebfotos.com/talk for comments on various sources for live rock. If you have a skimmer, make sure it is producing nice dark gunk. If it isn't, you probably need to tweak it a bit. If you don't have a skimmer, you need one. For opinions about which one to get, head to the Google search bar on the WWM site, and type in "skimmer selection 110" and peruse the links (do a page search on "110" to find the relevant entries).>   I don't want to loose my Puffer it has such a personality already... <Yup, they do...> Help. Will he make it threw all this? <With care, water changes, and good filtration, he can. You may find it more cost-effective to get him a quarantine tank and do daily water changes in the smaller tank while the larger tank finishes cycling. Besides, you'll want a quarantine tank for your next fish, too. Much more info on QT systems on the WWM site... --Ananda>

- First Saltwater Aquarium - Hello, I have been reading your forum for a few days to get, tips and knowledge about setting up a saltwater aquarium.  We have a 55 gal tank which is starting the 3rd week of cycling.  We have started with 3" live sand and added 45 lbs live rock initially and then added another 11 lbs of LR and 2 Damsels in the 2nd week and a dozen or so snails and 2 crabs.  We have notice the LR has brought out a lot of the tiny snails and crabs, do we need to add more? <I wouldn't.> The only other adding we will do now is more LR.  We have a Prism Skimmer and a Fluval 304 which both have been running constantly, with 2 Rio 600 power heads ( we can also adjust the directional flow with the extra nozzles attached) on opposite sides of the tank for circulation.  We have initially put a regular 2 strip hood light but have upgraded to a Corallife 4x65w (260 watts) 48" Aqualight  with 2 Actinic and 2  10,000k straight pin fluor. lamps with fans about 3 " above the tank, no glass tops.  The pH is at 8.2, Ammonia is at 0.25, Nitrite is at 0.0, and Nitrates are at 10.0 which all has been consistent with these same numbers since we set up.  My question is, can I continue to add LR that is cured gradually while it is cycling, and does this look like a good setup or is there something we are missing or need to do yet. <No... think you are on the right path. You could add more live rock, but I wouldn't go too crazy or you'll lose tank volume to the rock.>  Also, we are looking for the spikes in Ammonia levels and Nitrites to happen, can you tell us when this usually occurs? <Many times when well-cured live rock is involved, there is no spike - the nitrogen cycle is established in days rather than months - this may be the case here.> We are in no hurry and so far everything looks good but need an professional and experience opinion that will let us know are we on the right track.  Thanks so much for your forums and info, we have really learned a lot from your site. Steve & Yvonne <Cheers, J -- >

Re: brown sand 1/1/04 Thank You so much for your very fast response! I don't want to overextend  my welcome but I did want to ask one  more question if I may ? <Adam here today!  Ask away!> I used a product called Bio-Spira from Marineland that claims to eliminate the "cycle. The LFS told me that this really works. Could this explain my low Ammonia and Nitrite readings? <It could, but so could good quality cured live rock or the fact that algae can consume a lot of those materials as fast as they are produced.  Unfortunately, there is more to cycling a tank than knowing that ammonia and nitrite are not present.  A lot of changes take place in the first few weeks that a tank are set up.  The vague notion of "maturity" encompasses those changes.  Things should improve and become more stable with some more time.> Thanks Again! Jim <No problem!  Happy new year.  Adam>

New Tank Cycle, RO/DI Questions Hello all, <Hello! Ryan with you today> Very good information on you site.  I have been giving out your web address to several people that want to start their own tanks. <Wonderful to hear> My question is about a tank that I started about 6 weeks ago.  I ran the tank for about a week empty.  I then added LR, and since it was a new setup (125Gal) I cured my live rock (170 lbs) in the tank.   All was going very good for the first 4 weeks.  About two weeks ago my nitrite test (Salifert) read zero.  All other parameters were normal (Ammonia 0, PH 8.2, Nitrate - 0).  So I did about a 40% water change and arranged my rock in the tank.  Since I removed the Bio balls from my wet dry I moved the some of the live rock to the sump (totally submerged in water).  At that time I also added crushed coral substrate around the rock as they were placed on the bottom.  To get in the habit of checking tank parameters I tested my water about a week after my water change for nitrites and noticed a slight trace. (Just enough to barely change water color less than 1.0)  (I did not think to test ammonia levels)  At this point there is no livestock in the tank.  I though that I would wait a week or so since I am to in a rush and I know that patience is important.  So yesterday I check the water parameters again. (Ammonia - .25, Nitrite - still about the same as week previous below 1.0, Nitrate - 0, PH 8.2)  <OK> By adding the substrate and doing a water change do you think extended the natural cycle process? <More likely you kicked up some organics that previously had settled, and now your system is processing it.  Time will bring stability back.> At this point I am just going to keep check the levels over the next week or so and see if anything changes. <Make sure that you're skimming at full blast.> I do not plan to make any changes to the tank.  Please let me know if you have any suggestions on any other course of action.  Also I have not have the lights on at all during the cycle process to avoid an algae bloom, can the lights stay off or should I turn them on?   <Turn them on!  The nuisance algae will subside once you start regulating the incoming nutrients.> Also I wanted to know you thoughts on RO\DI water purifiers.  I have been reading a bit about them and was wondering if they are really that good of an investment.  For information purpose I am in the So Cal area (LA County)   If you think that it could be beneficial what brand do you suggest? <You'd have to pry mine from my cold, lifeless fingers!  I would never consider a reef tank without one.  I also live in the Golden State, and quite frankly it's a little scary what they put in the water.  I actually bought two- one for my tanks, one for my family.  Quality of these is generally pretty great, and I haven't heard a RO/DI horror story in some time.  I personally use a Kent brand, and would consider it %100 adequate.> Thanks for all your work and love of the hobby.  * Todd <And thank you for writing in! Ryan>

Zeolite, in seawater, Bio-Spira Marine for cycling Ian: Just a quick note with no need to post.  I noticed your reply to the folks with the ammonia of 4 and pH of 7.2. They mentioned that they are using Ammo-Carb. This is a combo product of Zeolite and charcoal. Zeolite absorbs ammonia in FW aquariums but is useless in SW.  In fact SW is used to remove the ammonia from the Zeolite  to recharge it for re-use. I doubt it's actually harming anything for them, but it's certainly not doing any good.<Thanks for the info!>  Have you ever heard of Bio-Spira Marine?<No I haven't...I am not too familiar with many new chemicals.. treatments that make it on the market :(> It is a new live bacteria product that instantly cycles a tank if used correctly. <wow> Must be refrigerated. It might help these folks, but I'd bet their pH of 7.2 would kill it.<probably so> It may be worth suggesting to people in need of a rapid increase in biofiltration. I have used both Bio-Spira and Bio-Spira Marine with excellent results.<good to hear and I will post this, good luck and happy holidays, IanB> Steve Allen

-New tank- I have had my 75 G tank set up for about a month now. I have 75 lb of live rock for 2.5 WKS, and 2 fish Maroon Clownfish, Firefish). Ammonia-o, Nitrite-0, Nitrate .25 <.25 ppm? Are you sure you haven't mixed this up with the nitrite reading, or do you mean 25 ppm nitrAte.> ,PH 8.1. I only have a ViaAqua Multi-Skimmer w/ UV sterilizer. (For tanks up to 80 gallons). After changing the skimmer cup I seem to get a build up of air bubbles in the top of that side of the tank where the unit resides and pumps water. Is this normal? Harmful? <Sounds like there's a little scum building up, point a powerhead in that direction to stir up the surface.> Also Is it appropriate to feed the clown more than once a day? He seems hungry all the time. <So do I, but you shouldn't feed me all the time! Once or twice a day is fine as long as you make sure you are keeping your organics in check.> Thank You for your time. The site is very useful! <Good luck! -Kevin>

Patience Is The Most Important Additive! Hi Scott <Hi there!> I had my water tested a few days ago and here are the readings Ammonia : 10-20 Nitrate : 0-10 Nitrite - 0.1-0.25 PH - around about 8 <Sounds like a normal tank start-up/cycle. Just hang in there and be patient as the tank cycles...> Please comment on my readings. Looking at these readings how much longer do u think I should wait before I could possibly add fish. <Hard to say, as every tank cycles differently; it can take as little as 10 days, or as much as 3 weeks. Unfortunately, nature is one of those things that we impatient humans cannot rush! It will not be safe to add fishes until the ammonia and nitrite return to undetectable levels.> I have cut down the water changes to once a week and I was thinking of testing again this coming w'end and the next w'end. Do u think another 2 weeks will do? <Don't do any more water changes until the tank finishes cycling. At this point- less is more...Do nothing...It's important not to mess with things now!> Thanks Again Regards Ziad Limbada <You're right where you want to be, Ziad. Just be patient, monitor the water parameters every several days, and things should continue just fine! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Nitrogen Cycle questions Hello, <Hello again Arnold> Thanks for the fast reply to my nitrogen cycle questions. <You're welcome> As for my setup, I was duly warned about the PowerSweep, but for $30 it is on a trial and may get replaced - in the interim I like the cheesy oscillation and the irregular water motion it creates. I am investigating the CPR HOT refugium - I had no idea there was such a product and figured I would have to wait for the world of refugiums until I did a BIG tank with overflow.  For now I will keep the algae in the tank and see how I fare with the Emperor.  <Change the media frequently. The Emperor is an excellent external power filter. I use them on my kids' FW tanks. I am indeed quite pleased with my AquaFuge. It is a veritable 'pod factory.> I plan on adding fish that eat algae (butterfly and tang) and hope to create that elusive natural balance. <The Butterflyfishes eat primarily meaty foods, not algae.>  If that fails I like the idea of the refugium. If I go to the refugium where does my physical and chemical filtration take place?  One nice thing about the Emperor is 4 slots gives a lot of options for media. <Indeed, a very flexible filter. There are trade-offs to be made in these tanks that are less than 48" wide. That's why I like a drilled tank with a sump. So much more flexible. There are many who believe that chemical filtration does not need to be full-time, so they run carbon in a power filter only for a few days per month.> As for the Domino Damsels I had no idea until after I had them (one of those small missteps) they were so mean.  Simon & Schuster's "Freshwater and Marine Aquarium Fishes" (better books coming from Santa) states "Social Life: Quite peaceable but needs plenty of space" - I guess this falls into your never trust one source theory!  They are part of the family now and will get moved up to the main tank, but I plan on removing them as soon as the bioload grows and/or they become a problem. <There may be some tankmates you can find for them. Definitely not Butterflyfishes, Grammas, Dartfishes or Firefishes. Keep researching.> I have read the section on Anemones (more than once) you tease me with lines like "many species are reasonably available and hardy, undemanding aquarium fare."  I was leaning toward a Condy or a Bubble-Tip but at your advice I will hold off for a while. Bummer, this was the main driving force behind the powerful lighting setup. <And your current source is probably not powerful enough for most anemones. In any case, anemones are not for beginners. In time, you may be able to meet their needs. Always remember that patience is a well-rewarded virtue. Entacmaea quadricolor would be a good choice ( http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/inverts/cnidaria/anthozoa/bubbletipanemones.htm)> As for my Nitrates, it remains a mystery.  I am using Instant Ocean in aged tapwater.  LFS says local tapwater is great and I have tested it, it is nitrate free.  I think most of the problem was the Tetra test kit (hated it) I switched to FasTest and I like that better - It also read less than 1/2 the nitrate of the Tetra kit and I performed both tests at the same time!?!? <Hmm. Makes you wonder which one (if either) is right. Testing can be frustrating. A low level of nitrate is not cause for concern. Read up on natural nitrate reduction (NNR) as something to shoot for when you want more nitrate-sensitive animals such as anemones.> Thanks too for the direction on cleanup crew, Ceriths definitely seem like a great choice and I like the idea of a serpent star. <Fascinating creatures, and sure to interest visitors if they come out to feed with the lights on--mine do.> I managed to find on the site that it is not necessary to quarantine snails/hermits what about the serpent star?  <Most crewmembers believe in quarantining all inverts. Read the opinions on the site and go with what makes sense to you. There is 100% agreement here about QT for fish.> Any recommendations on a serpent or brittle star that stays small?  <Most in the trade stay small enough. Just avoid Ophiarachna incrassata.> I like the Red Serpent Star but I am a little intimidated by 14" that's a lot of star in a 65  gal tank! <There are smaller varieties, but remember that we're talking arm span here; the central disk is smaller. They spend most of their time hiding among the rocks. Any of the ones on LiveAquaria.com are unlikely to go after your fish.> That's all for now.  I am working on a species plan for the 300 fish I want to put in my 65 gal tank. <Well, that would leave room for a gallon or two of water ;)> I'll weed it down to a dozen or so and ask for help making the final cut. Thanks again Arnold

As The Tank Cycles... I have an Oceanic 40 gallon Stretch-Hex aquarium with an over-the-side overflow box going to a sump which holds about 5-7 gallons of water (a Wet/Dry filter with the bio balls removed). The pump is 350 g.p.m. A Skilter filter protein skimmer (pumps 250 g.p.h.). A 24" Corallife Aqualight compact fluorescent 65 watt Actinic/65 watt 10000 K bulb. 47 lbs of live rock, 50 lbs of live sand, 10 hermit crabs, 7 snails (which have spawned), and 1 sea cucumber - filter feeder (it was supposed to be a sand sifter). Got the tank August 19th, over the next six weeks added live rock and live sand. Half the rock was not cured. Had Mantis shrimp and what I believe were babies, so with local advice, I dipped the rock in 3 times strength saltwater. <Not good for the resident life forms, but I'm sure the Mantis didn't appreciate it, either!> The rock looks great. I have the pink and red coralline algae growing on rock and back tank walls - new life on rocks. I have what I believe to be amphipods (shrimp like creatures the size of sugar aunts. <Sounds about right...!> At least 3 different kinds of tube worms. 2 sea squirts. 2 tube like worms that do not come out and feed looking like flowers, but send out webs to catch food and than draws them back into their tubes. 4 small white things half the size of peas (Different locations) don't have a clue yet. Some type of worm, only comes out at night. Banded like a coral snake, shades of gray maybe purple (can't tell in the dark, very fast). And some type of red creature living in a hole, its tip fans out to feed. <Lots of different organisms; many harmless- emerge gradually out from live rock...All part of the fun!> All the dealers in my area are giving me different advice, to the point I do not know who to trust. Even small things like whether or not to feed my hermit crabs. Can you please help me with my 3 biggest questions. (1) I have had problems because of the overflow box. Power surges have cause a loss of siphon and the pump starts backup and overflows the tank (I worry the entire water volume of the sump will be on my carpet, not to mention all over all electrical cords). I have a fear of this happening when I am not at home. <That's the way it usually happens!> I would like to buy a UPS, my question is will they run a pump motor or is  there anything I should know before I buy. <Well, there are many different backup power systems available. You need to calculate the total load that you have, and then choose a generator or UPS that can carry the load...> Or should I do away with the sump and go to something where an overflow box  is not needed. <Personally, I'd size the sump so that you have more than enough capacity to handle a "drain down" if the power fails. The water level in the tank will generally not fall below the level of the "teeth" on the overflow box, or the lowest tank return. You could do a test to see how low the water goes down if the power is turned off> (2) I will be upgrading my protein skimmer. If I keep the sump I know from your site I should be looking at Euro-Reef, Aqua C, or Bak-Pak. What would you recommend and what size? <I would consider an Aqua C Urchin Pro- a great little in-sump skimmer. Or, you could look into a Tunze "Universal" skimmer as well. Pricey, but worth it...> (3) I have tested at least 7 times in the last month, my PH has fluctuates between 7.0 to 8.2. <Well, day/night pH swings are pretty common. Test the water at the same time each day. The values may be constant...> My Nitrites and Nitrates always test at zero, but my Ammonia at the beginning of the month was .25. Now I estimate a small drop to maybe .20 (color not as strong). I thought I was going to see a cycle. I started testing after the water started to smell clean. I am only using RO water from a local dealer or distilled water from the grocery store. My saltwater is mixed from Instant Ocean or I buy it mixed from a local dealer, I don't know what brand they are using. Thank you Debra <Well, Debra- it's possible that a system can have ammonia peak at a lower level. In fact, I've seen many systems cycle with an ammonia peak of 1.0 or even less. Just make sure that the ammonia level is undetectable before you add new fish or animals. Be patient and vigilant, and success will be yours! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

- Starting a New Marine Aquarium - Dear Bob, <Actually, JasonC here today.> I am a new beginner for marine aquarium.  Sir  I like to know that I have been never success in keeping a marine aquarium.  Sir very often when I mix the marine salts, the nitrite level goes up and all of a sudden comes below.   But when I started adding fishes, they  died one by one. <Unfortunate, am sorry to hear this.> But from books I read to use ammonium chloride during the time of cycling and amount of ammonium chloride is not mentioned to be used.   Can you help me out what quantity of ammonium chloride to be used per gallon. <Hmm... we do not usually recommend that people use this technique - too easy to create a toxic amount of ammonia. There are much better sources of ammonia: a piece of cut shrimp, some fish food, a dead fish - these will all provide an ammonia source that will kick off your nitrogen cycle. Do keep in mind that you also need to produce nitrite and nitrate before it is a good idea to add any fish. Perhaps in the future when you write back, you can tell us the actual numbers from your water tests as this is valuable information. You will need to test for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm Cheers, J -- >

Help With Cycling Fishless for Newbie >Dear Bob, >>Hello Nahid, Marina is answering for Bob today. >I am a new beginner for marine aquarium.  Sir  I like to know that I have been never success in keeping a marine aquarium.  Sir very often when I mix the marine salts, the nitrite level goes up and all of a sudden comes below.    >>I am not familiar with sea salt mixes that can cause nitrite levels to go up on their own.  However, I believe you need to become more schooled on nitrification.  This is where one kind of bacteria "eats" ammonia, and makes it into nitrite, then anther kind of bacteria "eats" the nitrite and makes it nitrate.   >What you want to see will go something like this (when you test) 1: high ammonia 2: high nitrite 3: ammonia begins to drop 4: nitrite begins to drop and nitrate begins to rise 5: nitrite drops and you get higher nitrate readings >>High nitrate are then controlled in several ways, simplest for beginners is water changes. >But when I started adding fishes, they  died one by one. >>You may be adding fishes that are too big, or you are adding them too fast and they die of the high ammonia and/or nitrite.  This is not uncommon. >But from books I read to use ammonium chloride during the time of cycling and amount of ammonium chloride is not mentioned to be used.   Can you help me out what quantity of ammonium chloride to be used per gallon.  I will be very much thankful. Yours sincerely, Nahid , India. >>Better yet, and much easier for you, is to put a piece of raw shrimp, crab, or fish (some fresh seafood) into the tank and allow it to rot (many people like to tie it up in a piece of women's nylon hose or a piece of white cotton cloth).  Then, after two or three days you will  begin to test the water.  Watch for the rising and falling as I've outlined above.  When you have ZERO ammonia and nitrite, you will know you have bred cultures of nitrifying bacteria.  Then, when you add your fish, ONLY add one at a time, and we do encourage quarantine (search our Google bar for "quarantine").  I must note that I do not know the size of your tank, nor your filtration, so I cannot recommend what fish to keep, nor in what order to introduce them.  These are very important considerations as well.  I hope this is helpful information.  Marina

- New Tank and Trigger - Hello Crew I have just set up my 40 gallon tank with Ten Kilos of cured rock to cycle. (with the help of you of course, thanks J). <My pleasure.> I was wondering, should I do water changes while the tank is in cycle or will this slow the process down? <It will slow the process down - best to not change water until you are certain the cycle is complete.> I have two filters running at the moment plus a skimmer. I have an internal Juwel filter that has chemical, bio and mech media. I also have an external with a much higher flow which has no media at the moment and is just being used as extra flow (I'm flowing over ten x tank). What media should I put in it if any at all considering I have lots of bio filter already with the rock and Juwel filter? <Hmm... good question. Guess that depends on what your options are for media, but perhaps you are best leaving it as is for the moment. Would consider something less demanding on electricity [like powerheads] if circulation is the only duty for this filter.> Also, once the tank has cycled I'm planning on having a couple of clowns (false). Also would love to have either a valentini puffer or Picasso trigger of which my LFS has a tiny baby I would love. I know they both a bit dodgy with clowns (and perhaps rock?) but your guidance would be great. <When purchased small, they are mostly harmless although a puffer is more likely to take a nip at just about anything. As they age and grow, they will become less predictable and at a certain point they will absolutely be able to 'one-bite' these fish so do consider your livestock choices carefully. Both the puffer and the trigger would make great pets, but in time they will likely need a tank to themselves.> I will move it out when it gets too large. Thanks again for all your help, you really are the super heroes of the marine fish world.. I'm guessing you even wear capes. <Actually, just a t-shirt and sometimes something warmer.> Cheers. <Cheers to you. J -- >

Oy, My Head! >Hello Bob or any of the other fine folks >>Hello. >I am sort of desperate here, so some suggestions would be very beneficial. I have read and read through the many fine articles on the website, so please don't just direct to me somewhere (I must have about 75 pages printed out from the many excellent suggestions). >>You may not *want* to be redirected, but you also cannot expect us to write another tome here if or when it's available elsewhere. >I also just bought your book the other day, can't wait to dive in.   >>You should do so sooner rather than later, my friend. >Anyway, to my problem: I am new to the saltwater tank world, and am 80% more knowledgeable now than I was when I started it - 4.5 weeks ago. >>Of course you are, however, everything is relative, eh? >I have a very serious ammonia and Nitrite problem that I can't seem to shake. >>Well.. if your tank is NEW, then I'm wondering why the cycle is a problem.  Assuming this is something you already know about, of course. >I started my tank w/about 4" of crushed coral on the bottom, 2 bags of the same stuff, but live w/ bacteria. >>Heh.. <giggle>  ok. >By the way, I have a 46 gallon, 1 powerhead, and an Aquaclear 300 on the back. >>That's it for filtration???? >I am looking into a skimmer for down the road. From startup, I left my tank go about 2 weeks, then decided to add some fish - I added 3 very small clowns and 1 yellow tang about 3". >>Letting it sit does nothing, especially in terms of beginning your bacterial cultures.  Then you slam it with fish (and the tang is a VERY inappropriate fish for this system).  The "problem" you speak of is very, very expected. >I know now that this was a mistake. During the 2 weeks, I f course tested good on all the tests, not knowing at the time, I need a single fish to help the process. >>This means that you also didn't know that you don't even NEED fish to start culturing your bacteria!  A raw shrimp placed in the tank and allowed to decompose is all it takes.  Then, allow around 6 weeks. >So what I think I did was "overload" the whole process. >>Oh, you DEFINITELY did that.  Water changes are the only hope for your fish. >Right now on my tests I read 3.0ppm Ammonia, over 5.0ppm on the Nitrites (goes right off the chart), and 30 ppm on the Nitrates.  (Am using Pharmaceuticals test kit). >>Ok, cheap test kit, not at all the best for your money, but it's what you've got.  However, here's the GOOD news; your cycle has begun!  You have spikes right where you need 'em, this means you've got both species of bacteria growing.  Your fish, however, can't take this.  I strongly suggest returning the tang, it will quickly outgrow such a small tank.  Next (or now), you MUST begin some water changes to bring down your ammonia and nitrite to livable levels, start with 50% ASAP.  Do NOT stir up the substrate, vacuum, or do anything that will otherwise harm or disturb your bacteria (treat them like yogurt cultures, VERY delicately - just till they're established).  After that, you MUST address how you're going to accomplish basic biological filtration, because that little power filter isn't going to do it. >About 1.5 weeks ago, I started getting a good amount of brown algae throughout the tank. The fish have survived this whole ordeal quite well and eating very well. I also know now that I shouldn't be feeding them, so have not for about a day and a half. >>They need to eat, and they're not fed at all once collected, and likely not till they get to the LFS, who doesn't want to put money into feeding them, believe me, they are HUNGRY.  Don't worry about the diatoms right now, get those water changes in!  Feed the fish!  Return the tang! >I did a 40% water change last night and tested again today. The only thing that changed was "slightly" on the ammonia (and I do mean slightly). >>Very good move, but you need to do more.  Get yourself a couple of big trash cans (plastic are better, WITH lids), and a box of plain old black trash bags (they're chemically inert).  Mix up a BOATLOAD of saltwater, you'll need to do some major changes, but you can't do 100% all at once, this may shock the fish.  Then follow the above instructions. >Everything else was high. I would say starting 2 weeks ago is where I really saw a "spike" in the Ammonia and Nitrites, w/the Nitrates slowly creeping up. >>This is all normal, to be expected, timing is.. right on time. >I did use AMMO-LOCK when I tested high on the ammonia (which I will no longer use for fear of not allowing the tank to cycle properly, efficiently). >>Using chemicals like this to "remove" this byproduct is not efficient use of funds or time.  At this point we KNOW you've got your cultures, but your fish are going to be quite stressed like this. >I am rather upset that the fish are going through this and I can't speed the process up. I thought about continuing their water changes, but is that/will that affect my tank cycling if it hasn't completed this yet? >>It may slow it down, but ever since that nurse told me she wouldn't give me pain medications because it might slow down what was already a three day long labor.. I truly don't care, it'll take as long as it takes, give the fish a break. >This 46 Gal is the only tank I have, until I get a hospital tank down the road if I can make this 46 "successful". >>Please don't take offense, but that is a rather ass-backwards method (I actually just found that term in Roget's Thesaurus!).  The q/t should be the first thing you have set up, and it can be a simple Rubbermaid container, not a tank.  Heater, sponge filter, and you're set. >Please, any advice on what I should do right now? >>As above, mate.  You'll get through this, you just need to get your fish through it.  Start reading that book NOW, though, you have to make some decisions that are going to truly affect your success here.  Mix up that boatload of saltwater for the changes you'll be doing.. wait, back up, swap those, mix the water and while it's circulating THEN read the book. >Thank you for any help. >>Alas.. No sig, so I'll assume you really are Rob (you'd be surprised how many folks use someone else's email).  You're welcome, I hope you don't take my words too harshly.  Just know that there is a LOT to learn, we're here to help, follow my advice and you'll have good success.  Marina

- High Nitrite and Nitrate or What is High?  - Hello. I am looking for some help controlling Nitrite/Nitrate. I recently (10/25/2003) setup a 26 long reef. I have about 30 pounds of Fiji base-rock sitting in a closet for a year so its not 'live'), 10 lbs of Fiji live rock (uncured) and 2 lbs of cured live rock (nice and purple). I also have about 3 inches of mixed sand/aragonite/crushed coral substrate. I have had a Skilter 250 running on it (with airstone in contact chamber mod) the whole time. I have 4 power heads but have reduced that to 2. 2 weeks back I also got about 1 lb our live sand from my LFS curing tanks and 6 small blue legged hermits. As of a week ago my ammonia was at 0. This past weekend I hade my nitrite spike, and then it came down. I did a partial (10%) water change to bring down the nitrates. Ph was 8. <That's a little low.> On Sunday I introduced 3 Pajama Cardinals. Yesterday I received an order from Indo-Pacific Sea Farms that include their WonderMud, Live Sand Activator, 6 micro hermits, 6 baby bristle worms, 6 sand-bed clams, 6 Strombus snails, 6 Nerites snails, 2 types of Caulerpa (red and long feather). My problem is my nitrites/nitrates. They are VERY high. Pegged on my test kit (can't go any higher). <Time to haul a water sample down to the store and get a second opinion on the test results.> I have done a water change everyday since Sunday (5 gallons each time). My ammonia is still at 0 but my nitrites/nitrates are still high (as of yesterday). <What is high? You've given no numbers so far.> All the livestock seems to be doing very well. In fact, 2 of my Pajama Cardinals had begun developing whitespots (ich?) right after I put them in, but that has vanished. <Hmm... not a good sign, please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/parasiti.htm > Also, my skimmer doesn't produce much skimmate. <Your tank is very new and the skimmer really isn't an efficient design... I wouldn't expect much out of it at this stage in the game.> It always has foam in the contact chamber, but the skimmate is not very dark. Kinda like murky water. Yesterday I also added a penguin mini bio-wheel filter. I am trying to follow Tom Walsh's setup. If you guys could give me a little advice on controlling the nitrite/nitrates, I would appreciate it. <My though here is that you have chosen a poor set of test kits or your reagents are old. Do take a water sample to the store so they can test it and confirm your results.> Thanks. Jose <Cheers, J -- >

- High Nitrite and Nitrate or What is High? Follow-up  - Ok, Nitrite is reading at 5 PPM only because that's as high as my chart goes. Nitrates are reading at about 30PPM (between the 20 and 40), much lower than yesterday. Ammonia is still at 0. I took a sample to my LFS and they confirmed. <Hmm... would now also suspect the LFS tests too... it's not that easy to have nitrates at 20-40 ppm and also have nitrites. As the 'cycle' implies, each step replaces the previous one so that once you have the bacteria that can produce nitrates, you've already established the bacteria that produce nitrites and with nitrates at 40ppm you've got sufficient bacteria to produce that amount. Sounds fishy to me.> LFS guy promptly gave me some TLC (live bacteria) and said to add it according to instructions (1 ounce every 10 gallons, I added 2 ounces). Fish are looking quite good, very active now, no more hiding. Quickly eating all the frozen brine I give them. Hermits, snails look good. The anthelia polyp is looking better today than yesterday. 3 of the 6 sand-bed clams has buried themselves in the sand, and I caught the other 3 with their breathing tubes sticking out and pumping. Overall everything seems to be doing ok despite the high nitrite/nitrate readings. I will keep monitoring (of course). <Yes, perhaps also seek a third opinion or obtain some quality test kits for yourself - Hach, LaMotte would be the best you could get, but Salifert, SeaTest, and Sera are also pretty good.> Also, I ordered a AquaFuge hang-on refugium (the smallest one). I am thinking of setting that up with some live-sand/rock and some macro-algae in an attempt to keep the nitrates down. <Don't think you will reap this benefit from a refugium of this size - just too small. What the refugium probably will do for you is produce some good live foods for your tank.> Hey, what do you guys think about those mangrove shoots I have been reading about? <Mangrove shoots grow very slowly into Mangrove trees.> Ever use some of those? <No - for the reasons I'm about to describe.> I read they get rid of phosphates and nitrates. <Yes, once they put on some leaves and get to size...> I think I would have enough space in that hang-on refugium. <I don't think so... the trees need proper lighting and space to produce their root structure. It takes quite a while to realize the benefit of mangroves. Cheers, J -- >

Live Rocks, Lighting and Inverts I have been cycling my 55g (hope to be fish/corals tank) for 6 weeks and the ammonia and nitrate level is 0 and my nitrite is approaching 0,currently between .5 - 1.0.My ~70lbs of Walt Smith Red Tonga Branch live rocks is almost fully cured, but still a scent of smell; is this normal, <yes try turning the rock to get the under sides exposed to water flow and skimmer> reason for nitrite to not be at 0? <not done cycling yet> I want to do my final seascaping of the live rocks and then plan on adding inverts to the tank in a week; what inverts are recommended? <go on this web site and search for invert and new tank set up it will help you out with a lot of questions you have thanks MIKE H> Also, during my seascaping should I move the sand bed? I have a CSL 48" 260 watt cp/Moonlite arriving late next week; can I expose that to the tank when it arrives? I want to start growing coralline algae; is this the approach? I've been cycling the rocks WITHOUT any lights; is this ok or should I start exposing the rocks to light immediately? Thank you in advance.

Question on Testing  Hi!  We are just starting out and our 45gal tank has been cycling with LR for 1 week. How often should we be testing? Once a week? Once a day? I know it is important too test but just don't know how often.<I would just test twice a week, until the aquarium cycles> Thanks,<good luck, IanB>  Grneyes 

- Cycling Question -  Hi Guys,  I am really happy to see a website as comprehensive as yours.  I have some questions for you guys and I hope you don't mind. <Not at all.>  I've recently increased my substrate of coral sand from a 2" depth to about 3.5" -4", but it was done midway thru the cycling process about three weeks after I first started with the 2" substrate. Will that forestall the cycling process? <I don't think so.>  Within the substrate, on the base, I've also placed coral skeletons throughout... will that affect anything at all? <Not really.>  The nitrate level doesn't seem to go down at all. Do you think that has got to do with the test kit? <Probably... take a water sample to your local fish store and get them to double check your results.>  I've got Siporax like rings in my Eheim canister as media and Chemi-pure as well. My skimmer is a Red Sea Prizm. <Unless you have live rock in the tank, I wouldn't run the skimmer until the cycle is complete.>  Thanks for your time once again.  Regards, George  <Cheers, J -- > 

Newbie with Ammonia and Brown Algae?  Hi, first time in this world of saltwater aquarium and I am still a bit confused even after reading through all the FAQ's regarding ammonia spikes. What I have:  55 gal fish only tank  1 maroon clownfish  2 damsels  wet/dry unit with protein skimmer  tank is about 1.5 months old  pH: 8.2  gravity: 2.022  temp: 78F  I started with cycling the tank for about 3 weeks via pinching flake food everyday and then bought 2 damsels. Nothing happened, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate = 0. After about a week, I got a maroon clownfish (about 2.5") and after a week I got this huge ammonia spike reading 0.4, but no nitrites or nitrates.<the aquarium normally takes around 4-6 weeks to cycle...sometimes longer> I have changed the water twice this week (about 10gal each time) and added Cycle (this was Wednesday, Oct. 29).<I would not even bother to add that stuff "CYCLE"> The ammonia is reading last night was 0.2 and there is a lot of brown stuff at the bottom of my tank and walls.<ALGAE> Is that brown algae? <YUP, because of large amounts of organic matter> If so, is that a good sign or not?<it depends if you like brown algae or not lol> Should I add more Cycle? <NO> I also added a Phosphate bag in the sump to reduce the phosphates and there is also a bag of activated charcoal in there as well. The fish look fine, the clown fish looks the healthiest.<good> I only feed them once a day and none of the food really falls to the bottom.<you will just need to sit back and let this newer aquarium cycle>  Should I continue to change water at this rate? Should I be getting rid of the algae?<In order to get rid of the brown algae you will need to use RO (reverse osmosis) water when performing water changes, Good luck, IanB> Thanks a lot!

Cycling and water changes hi I am currently setting up my new marine tank. It has already been cycling with live rock for 3 weeks and my levels are still going up. They are sort of on the higher side of the range and I was wondering when I should do a water change yet or should I wait until levels start to go down. <I would wait until your aquarium cycles...nitrite and ammonia both should read 0 (zero). Then I would perform a water change depending on the nitrate levels. (under 40ppm is what you are aiming for). I keep nitrates less than 10ppm in my aquarium. Good luck, IanB>

- Is It Time? - Hello everybody! My 80-gallon reef tank is one and a half month old. It has gone through the cycling process within the first week (live rock was in good condition when arrived). Right now I have a lot of hair algae (mainly green) and a few species of macroalgae (Caulerpa, Halimeda, scroll, Dictyota) growing on the live rock as well as some fan worms. RedOx is 420, Ph is 8.2, alkalinity is 11 dKH. I have some problem with my calcium test kit, so I am not sure of the calcium level. I would like to keep small reef fishes, like blennies, gobies and some shrimps and of coarse some corals (not yet in the plan). I am now thinking of adding 5 turbo snails for algae control, a bicolor blenny for algae control and one Cleaner shrimp. Is it ok, or should I wait more for the tank to stabilize more? <I think you are probably safe to make these additions. I would definitely be testing for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate to be 100% certain that the tank is truly cycled before you make these additions.> In the future I would like to add a Firefish. I also like Yellow tang or Ctenochaetus strigosus. Will it be possible to add one of those fishes, too, and which one is the most peaceful for such a reef? <Depends on the size of the tank.> Thanks, Thanassis <Cheers, J -- >

Basic Cycling Questions Hi. <Hi! Ryan with you> Newbie marine aquarist here. <Morning!> I am getting close to completing the initial cycling of my marine tank after adding live rock several weeks ago.  I have a couple of questions if you have time: <Sure> 1) Even though there are no fish in the tank yet, I am starting to get brown algae growing on the inside of the acrylic tank walls, on the live rock, and on the substrate.  I have heard that snails and crabs are good for keeping this growth under control.  However, I have not read much about how or when to introduce them to the tank. <Generally added once nitrite/ammonia levels drop.> How many of these critters would be good to have in my 125 gal. tank (plus 20 gal. sump)? <10-20 Snails, 20-30 SMALL hermits.  I use Blue-Legs in my tanks.> Do I need to be concerned about them carrying diseases that could affect fish that are put into the tank later (2 to 4 weeks from now)? <Invertebrates rarely share diseases with Fishes.> Can I introduce them to the tank now, or should I wait?  If I need to wait, what is the best method to control the algae now? <Test your water, and if you are showing low levels of nitrite and ammonia, add them.  You should be very close.> 2) After putting the live rock into the tank several weeks ago, I noticed that the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels went up slightly over the first week.  Almost immediately (within a week) the ammonia and nitrite levels returned to zero, but the nitrate levels have persisted at about 10 ppm.  Is there something else that I need to be doing?  Is 10 ppm nitrates acceptable?  Is the tank considered "cycled", or do the nitrates also need to be zero? <You're cycled, but you may run the risk of cycling again when you introduce the livestock.  To avoid this, add 5 hermits or so, and test the water a few days afterwards.  If the test results are constant, add your cleanup crew.> Thanks (again) for your help. <And the best of luck to you!  Ryan> Dave Innerbichler

FO (cycle) Hi all, Hope all is well. I have a 110 FO tank that had cycled and was successful up until about two months ago. Filtration is a large wet dry (14 gallon Bioball) skimmer and 25 watt UV. All equip is running just fine, tank cycled and at one point was up with about 4or 5 fish. Then I lost all to a bad outbreak of white spot. Needless to say I lost all except a trigger that lasted another month. The tank has been empty for two months...though I kept all life support running. I am sure the ick has been eradicated, given its typical nine day or under life cycle but my question is, would I have to again RECYCLE or do you think the biological filer has kept enough bacteria in good order... without the daily intro of wastes etc.???<First of all you need to quarantine all new additions to this aquarium for at least 3 weeks before you introduce them to the main system. Second I would only add 1 fish at a time... just to make sure that your denitrifying bacteria is still present and able to handle the bio-load of this aquarium. Good luck and quarantine all new fish. IanB> Thank you for any help you can provide.

Cycling - And Get That Tang Outta There! >Hi, >>Greetings, Marina tonight. >I have a 36 gallon FOWLR with 45lb live rock, two false Percula clowns, a blue velvet damsel, and a small Kole yellow eye tang.   >>Eek.. you were doing great till you got to the tang.  I do hope you're aware that this fish won't do well for long at all in such a small system (should actually be busy growing in something along the lines of a 75 gallon or better). >All fish seem to be doing well, all are active and have excellent appetites.  I am currently running a CPR BakPak 2R and a Hagen Fluval 204 canister filter.  The tank has been running for a little more than two months now, and it still hasn't cycled.  My water parameters are pH 8.2, ammonia 0.5ppm, nitrite and nitrate at 0.  These are the same parameters that the tank was at two months ago.  I have tried adding live sand as well as using Hagen's Cycle product.   >>Not a prudent use of funds. >The tank has already passed the brown diatom stage and has a thick growth of green covering everything, with a beginning of bubble algae on the sand.   >>Ah, my Valonia!  You have excess nutrients very quickly building up in your small system (which by many would be considered a nano), my friend.  I will suggest you upgrade your filtration very soon, to start with.  The canister is undersized for a marine system, I would be using a 304 or even a 404 on a tank that size, with FREQUENT cleaning. >I am currently using the Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Saltwater Master Test Kit.  Have you heard anything about the accuracy of these tests?   >>Not only heard, but personal experience has taught me they're not very.  Also, if I recollect correctly, their ammonia test may be using the Nessler's reagent (this may have changed, so don't take my word for gospel, please), which would mean that your dechlorinator would give you false ammonia readings.  Fancy that, eh?  Try either SeaChem or Salifert ammonia tests, see what you come up with on those (they really are better quality overall, too), then go from there. >I was also thinking about eventually switching to an AquaC Remora protein skimmer.  What do you think?   >>If your current skimmer is giving you the nastiest skimmate possible, then the only reason I would change would be because it seems over-taxed.  The change I really WOULD make would be to upgrade that Fluval, or add a refugium (I believe CPR makes a neat little hang-on 'fuge), and DEFINITELY find that tang a better home.  Then you can add something that won't outgrow the tank so quickly, nor will pollute so much as a tang. >Any help would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks, Rem >>You're welcome, Marina.

New Tank Cycling I currently have a 2 week old 75 gallon w/ live rock and live sand with 5 damsels to start the cycle quicker and I woke up this morning and noticed in the corners of my tank I have this brown stuff on the LS.  What is this from, how do I treat it, and good or bad? Also while trying to cycle my tank quicker what should I use I wanted to add bio Spira to the tank but the LFS said it was only for fresh water, what should I buy? Thanks -Jerry- <Hey Jerry, use the Google search tool on our site and search for diatom, I am fairly certain that is what you have, it is very common in new tanks.  I would not add any product, just let the tank cycle.  Test your ammonia and nitrite frequently, water changes as necessary.  Patience is important.  Best Regards, Gage>

- New Marine Aquarist, Follow-up to the Follow-up - Hi! Thanks for clearing most of my doubts. <My pleasure.> Uhh..  my phrasing wasn't particularly good, but I meant the steps in which to introduce the corals and fishes. Do the corals go in immediately with the sand and base rock and the fishes only after the tank has matured? <I'd let the tank mature some before going for any corals.> I'm kind of confused.. :D Also, can the bacteria colony in the filter and sand bed be established by the seeding products or must it be developed naturally? <Both or either - your choice.> Sorry for bothering you again but I don't wish for any problems with the tank. :P <Might I suggest that you spend some time reading through our web site, http://www.wetwebmedia.com - the questions you ask are very common, and have been asked before. We archive all these questions and answers and make them available to you here. Spending some time reading these articles should allow you to answer some of these questions for yourself. Cheers, J -- >

2nd Opinion on Cycled Tank Hi Mr. Fenner <Hello Do!> I have a problem. Please HELP! I have this tank for a lil over 5 weeks already. It's a 26gallons tank w/30lbs cured LR, SeaClone Skimmer 100 (got it before discovering your site :(, and a 280 Emperor.  The LR has been in there since Wk 2 w/ 2 damsels that are still living healthy. Wk 5, I bought 5 Turbo Snails and two blue-legged hermits that I read from your site to control the brown algae. Also w/ two common Caribbean anemone purple tip. Temp always @78 F. <A bit rushed... would have been better to wait on the livestock for another month or so...> The problem is, The 1st 3-4 wks of cycling, I was getting high NH3 then settled to about .5ppm, NO2 was low and lil or no NO3. Soon I found out that the bottles from the test kit that my friend gave me was contaminated. So I went out and got a new kit. This is my reading for the past four test w/ the new kit during week 5. 9/15/03 pH=8.4 , NH3=.4 , NO2= 0ppm , NO3= 30ppm 9/18/03 pH=8.3 , Nh3=.5 , NO2= 0ppm , NO3= 20ppm 9/20/03 pH=8.2-3, NH3=.4 , NO2=0ppm , No3= 20ppm 0/22/03 pH=8.2-3, NH3=.3 , NO2=0ppm , NO3= 20 ppm Have done 2 water changes 10% when my NH3 was up to 4-5ppm. How am I getting O ppm for Nitrite?? <You have a not too unusual situation (there are many variations on "typical" cycling scenarios), with adequate populations, activity by nitrifying microbes converting nitrite to nitrate, but not enough of them making ammonia into nitrite> My old kit did detect some NO2.  Has my tank cycled?? My LFS says it's already cycled and now I need to do water changes to get my NH3 and NO3 down. Is that true? Thanks for the Help! <Hold off on changing water (unless ammonia or nitrite exceed more than 1.0 ppm) and DON'T add any more livestock, feed sparingly... and your system will cycle in a few days to weeks. Bob Fenner> Sincerely, Huyen  

N-Cycle & Algae Question >Hi Mr. Fenner, >>Marina here in his stead. >I have a 26G tank. Been running over 5 weeks w/23lbs Live Rocks and 2 damsels. I'm noticing brown-like algae on my white dead coral that I bought from Petco. Is this a sign that my tank has been cycled???? >>No, it's a sign you have excess nutrients. >My pH=8.4-5, Ammonia=.40ppm, NO2=O ppm, and NO3=20-25ppm. Any advice on what I should do??   >>Water changes, along with ensuring you have adequate nutrient exportation in place.  You want the ammonia to be zero, nitrite zero, and a low reading nitrate. >Been reading the website, no help.  My damsels used to be active, and now most of the time they are hiding.  Please Help w/lots of details. Thank you VERY much.  -Donnie >>Read the site more, there is more there than what I can/will provide here.  You have not insignificant ammonia readings, this is an issue.  I would make use of a good quality protein skimmer.  You can bleach (and properly dechlorinate) the dead coral to remove the algae.  Marina

Lots of Fine Bubbles & Tank Maturity Hi. Great Website. Been on there for the past months. Well, having problems. I have a 26G Bow front Tank, w/ an Emperor 280 mechanical filter-bio wheel, SeaClone Skimmer, 23Lbs of Live Rocks, 3-4inches of crushed corals, and a Maxi Jet Power Head. I have no idea whether my tank has cycle or not. It has been 3 weeks.  Any visible sign I should look at? I have a Master Test kit but my Nitrate bottle was contaminated. I can only test for NH3, NO2, and PH.  All three test shows normal level.  At First, NH3 was high, now at normal level.<In order to know if your tank has cycled you need to test nitrites (0) and ammonia (0) and nitrates should be under 40>   My three damsels seems fine.  Temp always 76-78.<good> Another question. I have lots of Fine bubbles.<Aim the powerheads down rather than keeping them at water level> What can I do about this. It seems that it is coming from the filter and skimmer.<if its coming from the filter but a small PolyFilter or something in front so that the small bubbles cannot pass through> Are these bubbles good? <they really aren't bad. just unsightly> Planning to get a bubble tip anemone, two clowns, and a tang<no tang in a 26gal bow> and the 3 damsels that has been there since week 1. Thanks for the Help. Much Appreciated.<good luck, IanB> -Donnie

Cycling new tank I was referred to an article about adding ammonia to a tank to speed up the cycling process, but it still didn't really answer my question. Is it possible to cycle a 90 gallon tank to the point where I could order and add about 3 small fish (2-3inches) at the same time? <With a 90 gal. Tank?  Certainly.> I want to take advantage of Liveaquaria's prices and their  arrive-alive/stay alive guarantee, but if I can only add one at a time the shipping rate defeats the purpose. <Yes, I frequently face the same problem :) > Someone at LiveAquaria suggested that I cycle it with about seven damsels then remove them before adding new stock, but I do believe you when you say that removing them could be a pain. <It's more than just a pain.  Why torture the poor damsels?  If it isn't cycled enough and only Damsels will survive, then it isn't ready for Damsels either.  I believe in your last post you mentioned having 75 lbs of live rock.  That will cycle your tank.  Keep an eye on the water quality and do frequent water changes when needed.  Watch for the initial spike in ammonia.  It should fall back off as Nitrites rise, then Nitrates.  At that point, do your water changes and bring the Nitrates down.  With a 90 gal tank three small fish should then be fine (although I would recommend adding hermit crabs and snails first.  Will help keep it clean as well as help further establish the tank) , and you wont even have to catch them again later.  Just be patient, keep an eye one the water quality, and be prepared to do plenty of water changes.  After adding the fish, continue to do the same.  You don't want any surprises by finding Ammonia off the scale after not checking it for two weeks! > Any other suggestions. <Do you have a skimmer?  If you don't, add one.  Otherwise, just patience.  Scott V. > Blue Skies, James Smith

Stocking (actually cycling) a 90 gallon 09/10/03 I have a question for you. Just one more I promise! <You don't want to know how many times I've said those exact words to Bob and Anthony...> I have finally got my 90 ordered and it will be in next week. My filtration will be a wet dry due to the fish that I want to stock, and about 75 lbs of live rock. I know that stocking is a slow process, and I definitely want to preserve the health of my fish, but I would like to take advantage of the lower prices and service that you get from places like LiveAquaria.     If I cycled my tank with a shrimp, removed it when ammonia tested positive, and then added about 7 damsels could my tank possibly support adding more than one fish at a time? I would of course remove the damsels right before stocking, and the added specimens would be as small as I could get them. The damsels would be returned to my LFS not flushed. <I would not use the damsels. They are a huge pain to get out of a tank with live rock. I had to tear down my 75 to get out my tang, about 10 times the size of one of those damsels. One of the board members used ammonia to directly cycle his tank, how he did it is here: http://members.cox.net/gbundersea/aquaria/5gallon/cycling.htm (thank you for posting this Greg). I'd recommend you read that, and this www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm  apply it to your situation. Have a good night, PF>

Bacteria In A Bottle? Crew: <Scott F. at the keyboard tonight!> I noticed Scott F's post about bacterial starters. I wanted to point out that Bio-Spira is strictly for FW. It also must be kept constantly refrigerated until use. Because of this, it is relatively expensive and it can be hard to find. PetSmart and Petco do not currently carry it in my area (SLC, UT). It is available at one independent LFS. Bio-Spira claims to be the best FW product because it contains the "right" bacteria. They seem to have good research to back this up. <You are right about this product just being available for freshwater at this time. I jumped the gun a bit...I spoke with the Marineland folks at MACNA last weekend, and they told me the marine version of this product will be available in the next few months(!)...> Cycle claims to be for SW and FW use, with the dose doubled for SW. BioZyme is a convenient powder. The FW version cones in a yellow container and the SW is in a red container. Fritz-Zyme has two versions also:  FW is #7 and SW is #9. These do not require refrigeration. I have only been able to find them online (got mine from Inland Reef in Nashua, NH). They also have research they claim shows theirs is the only SW product that works with any rapidity. <True in my experience...I like FZ9, myself...> They also make Turbo Start 700 (FW) and 900 (SW) that are much more concentrated and thus faster. However, they require refrigeration. They can therefore be hard to find. I got Turbo Start 900 online form Poseidon's Realm (shipped FedEx with cold packs-nice and chilled on arrival). I am encouraging my independent LFS to carry this since he already has a refrigerator for Bio-Spira. I was very satisfied with the Fritz-Zyme products' apparent efficacy. Of course, there's a lot to be said for patiently letting nature take it's course with regular cycling without additives. It costs less too. I just didn't have the time due to my need to get things up and running quickly while taking a few days off work. <I Can relate! I agree, these products have their uses, and they are no substitute for patience and time...But they do work in a pinch!> Here are some links to evaluations of these products: http://www.bioconlabs.com/bacteval.html http://www.fritzpet.com/nitrifying_bacteria_lab.html http://www.marineland.com/science/nspira.asp Best Regards, Steve Allen <Thanks very much for sharing your experiences/information with our readers, Steve! Regards, Scott F>

Not-So-Smooth Move... Hello, <Good Evening! Scott F. here tonight> I recently moved to a new house and brought my 55 gallon tank with me.  Unfortunately,  the movers were late getting to the new house and it was a total disaster. <Sounds like fun...LOL> My question is, can I keep my sand which spent 30 hours under about 2" of water and my bio filtration which spent the same amount of time out of water? <Yep...Think of how this stuff ships from the South Pacific...It makes it though in good shape...> I know I need to re-cycle the tank, but do I need to replace the sand and live rock? <No, it will need cycling, though, as you surmised> Should I treat all of it as brand new? Cycle the tank and do water changes before I introduce fish? <That's the way I'd play it. Add the rock and sand and treat the system as if it were brand new...Just do regular water tests and stay on top of things...> I'm lost and I could really use your help.  Would adding live sand or live rock speed up the process?  Thanks, Dru <Well, Dru- you pretty much have it...Not a complicated process...You just need to be patient, and test the water regularly to follow the tank's process...You have the right idea! Good luck in your new home! Regards, Scott F>

Nitrite Stall Hiya Campers :) <Geez Mom, another five minutes, yawn....> While I'm not personally experiencing this atm, I have read a number of posts on different forums about the subject. What I never seem to read is what actually causes it (other the conversion process can stall due to "non optimal" conditions), or what works best to stop it. Why do tanks sometime stall at the nitrite conversion part of the cycle, and what are the ways to deal with it? <A bunch of chemical and physical factors can result in a "physiological check" in the development of, or ongoing biological cycling... a sudden temperature or pH change for instance. Best to use pre-mixed water of matching properties, make sparse, small changes of water in newly set-up systems... Bob Fenner> Thanks :) Allison

Re: Nitrogen Cycle and Powerhead Weirdness, II >Hi there, >>Hi. >I hope you had a real good weekend. Thanks very much for your reply. >>You're welcome. >I have checked as you said, there is no whirlpool effect anywhere near the powerhead.  I had  also previously blocked the air inlet tubing and submerged the whole thing below the water so there is no chance of any air getting in from there.  One thing I forgot to mention is that if I turn the powerhead off there are streams of bubbles that get released from the gravel, there are so much of them that it looks like some one turned on an air pump , this lasts for a up to about half a minute and then it stops.   >>Wow.. now THAT is weird.  I've never seen that in a system that hasn't got anoxic regions.  And if *that* were your problem something tells me you WOULD smell it. >If I turn on the powerhead immediately then the whole cycle is repeated i.e. the gas spitting intervals, till I get a continuous flow.  Yesterday there was so much of gas trapped in the pipes that when I turned the powerhead on it would not pump because of that, there was not enough water in the pump passing through the impeller (even though it is completely submerged) for it to start pumping.  No water can get in from the outlet as I have sealed it via a pipe that discharges into a canister outside and above the tank water level that discharges the water by waterfall over a plastic sheet back into to tank to release the bubbles.  I had to finally use another pump in the canister to get it going. >>How frustrating! >I have been keeping fish for over 25 years and I have never seen anything like this, if there is any light you can throw on this it will help.  Incidentally when I first bought this tank about 7 years ago I had exactly the same pump installed in the same position, I had no problems, later on when that pump got busted I replaced it with pump that was slightly less powerful, and now I have switched back to the more powerful version.  Kind Regards, Jorell >>I'm at a loss myself, Jorell.  I can see NO way that this is being caused by the powerhead from your description, it makes no sense that a more powerful powerhead would or could get air or whatever it is trapped under the gravel.  Yet that is the only change to the system, yes?  My only last suggest would be to use a reverse flow, but personally I've never really liked them (O2 saturation issues).  I would HATE to have you significantly disturb the substrate in such a well-established system, but I would be very curious to see what in the world is going on down there.  I'm sorry I'm not of greater help, maybe another reader or crewmember will see this and may have some ideas.  Marina

Re: Nitrogen Cycle III (I think!) >Dear Marina, Thanks again for your reply. >>Very welcome, Jorell. >Your words are like song to my ears (er... flowers to my eyes:). Sorry I should have explained in more detail the first time. I am quite fond of the under gravel filtration process but you obviously know what you are talking about, so I will take your advice.   >>If it works, it works, right?  In other words, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  But since you're considering an upgrade, do look into use of refugiums. >Can you tell me what are the reasons that an under gravel filter is undesirable, I have read a few articles saying why not but never been fully convinced.   >>I can't, because I'm not convinced either.  I actually find them to be a pretty decent, simple technology for achieving biological filtration.  This is also why I like refugia.  However, I've never used a 10" (!) gravel bed on EITHER.  :D >Where can I read up on "refugia methodologies" must admit I have never come across this term before.  Appreciate if you could point me in the correct direction. >>Indeed.  The EASIEST methods are to go to our "marine aquarium articles" section, and I believe it's under "set-up".  There we have information and FAQ's on refugia and plenums (a more complicated, but proven as well, method of natural nitrate reduction). >The reason I have a deep sand bed is because I am in the habit of siphoning the very top layer of sand (about one grain high) about once a week when I make a water change and I add fresh sand into the tank about every month, I put in slightly more than I take off. So the layer has gradually built up.  (There are a hell of a little critters in my sand bed but I am sure casualties are none or minimal). >>It seems to be working quite well for you, especially if you're getting what I read to be excellent "pod" growth. >The only reason I do this is so that the top of the bed looks white and clean. >>Yet you've accomplished SO much more!  Good on ya. >Kind Regards, Jorell

Live Rock Cycling <Hello! Ryan with you> My tank has been running for just over 2 weeks now and I was told that since I setup my new Aquarium with Cured Live Rock/Live Sand, it cycles in like 5-10 days. <It may, but it's always better to over-shoot.  Give it at least 3 weeks to stabilize.> ( I have a 29gallon Acrylic tank with a Corallife 130w (65w white, 65w Actinic), 100w Heater, SeaClone 100 skimmer, Fluval 2 Plus Underwater Filter, Aquaclear 301 power head, 40lbs Live Rock and 40lbs Live Sand ) I talked to the Store where I bought my stuff to start the tank, and told him that the Ammonia was at 0.50 as well as my nitrites at 0.50 and he said I should do a 15% water change. <I'd wait until fully cycled> I said that I thought you were suppose to wait for the Tank to cycle (4-8weeks) before you did your first water change. <Yup> He said since I used the cured Live Rock/Live Sand my tank should have already cycled.  I have read that until your tank cycles you will get above normal ammonia, then above normal nitrite, then above normal nitrate, then it is cycled.  Help me out here, what is the deal, is my tank cycled and I should start doing weekly 10-20% water changes. <What are your reading to date?> My Brown algae kicked in around day 4 and was kind of there for like 3-4 days but is gone now, and the tank is actually doing well with the exception to this ammonia/nitrite thing. Heck I got a Dwarf Flame Angel and a Bicolor Pseudo that are doing really well as well as some snails/cleaner shrimp and 4 hermits with a Sand Sifter Star. <Whoa!  Don't you think you should make sure it's cycled before adding all that livestock?  Now that I get the picture, it seems like you a re-cycling.  By adding all that bio-load in a short period of time, you've maxed out the available resources for processing waste.  You need to be very mindful of your nitrite and ammonia- they could easily stress your livestock.  And be extra light on feedings until everything pans out.> They are all swimming and eating well, I take out the extra food they do not eat or miss and am only feeding them like 1/4 part of a small frozen Mysis Shrimp cube.  I was reading that until a tank is well established you will get these small Ammonia/Nitrite amounts until the Live Rock/Live Sand Biological environment gets established.   <Please read> http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm http://wetwebmedia.com/feeding.htm I am new to the Saltwater realm coming from 10 years of freshwater, and have read a lot of different opinions as well as listened to the opposing two fish stores I shop at.  I think I bought a good starting setup for a Reef Aquarium and just want to make sure I can get this started well so I can start putting more Inverts/fish in my system.  I know I should wait like 4-6 months before I put Corals in my tank, but I want to get some inverts and fish established first with a stable system. ( Dwarf Flame Angel Might peck at hard and soft corals, but they say that only 2 in 10 peck at hard and soft corals. My wife liked him so I am taking the 80% chance that he will not.) <You're already pushing things- A Flame Angel in a tight fit in a 29 gallon.  The smaller a tank is, the more likely he is to "sample" your corals.  Please go very slowly, and check out Mr. Fenner's portion of CMA on smaller systems.  It should be very helpful in your new project.  Good luck! Ryan> Thanks,

Lazy Nitrobacter? Hi "Crew", I have just set up a new 90gal reef tank (40# live rock, ~80# "Aragocrete" rock), 30gal sump, SeaClone skimmer (I know I know), no inhabitants yet.  The tank has been up and running for about 3 weeks now.  I have been testing NH3+, NO2-, and NO3- daily (Seachem Marine Basic kit), and when I look at my values, they don't seem to follow the pattern I see on graphs of a cycling tank published in books and such.  The ammonia "spike" was more of a nub (peaked at 0.5mg/L), even though there must have been loads of ammonia coming off the LR.  The NO2- peaked at 10mg/L about 10 days ago, but has plateaued at around 5mg/L.  NO3- peaked at about 15mg/L, but has since the tank started growing algae (reddish-brown -- diatoms? or Cyano?, and just in the last day or two green algae is growing on the rocks) the nitrate has come down to ~2.5mg/L.  Now I had expected to see a higher nitrite spike, but figured my LR must have good cultures already.  If that was the case though, then shouldn't the nitrite be lower - like zero by now?  Are my Nitrobacter loafing? or is there some influence/nitrite source I have overlooked.  I should also say that until the end of September I am stuck using treated tap water to mix my salt (instant ocean). I did not find nitrite in the tap water.  Can you help me understand what is happening?  Are my tests inaccurate or could something commonly found in tap water/ Amquel interfere with the tests?  I have searched the site and didn't turn up anything yet.  I will keep looking though.  Thanks for all of your much needed and much appreciated help!  Nick <your test kit could be suspect, but I would bet you just need a little more time. The general, accepted thought is that it takes a minimum of 27 days for new ammonia to make it all the way to nitrate>

Is it Cycling, or WHAT? >Hey Crew, Hey yourself, Rick.  Marina sloggin' it tonight. >I need some reassurance, >>You're a nice guy, you're smart, and darn it!  People LIKE you.  Howzat? >...my semi reef 55 gal. corner overflow with 65 lb. "live" rock and 60 lb. "live" sand, no fish or inverts, sump, EV-120 skimmer. >>It is inanimate.  Don't expect it to like you. >Circulation is just over 500 GPH. I'm worried, this aquarium seems to not be cycling.  It's been almost 2 weeks and the Ammonia levels are still off the scale.  Nitrate is 2.0 PPM, >>I think you mean nitrite (NO2), yeah? >...nitrate is 10 PPM or less.  pH 8.2 and temp 78*F.   >>Believe it or not, it IS cycling.  What the "cycling" term/process means is that you are actually culturing bacteria.  You are culturing TWO species of bacteria, Nitrosomonas, and Nitrospira.  These bacteria are the bacteria of nitrification fame (or infamy, however you view it), and oxidize ammonia into less toxic compounds, those being nitrites and nitrates respectively.  So, if you had sky-high ammonia readings with *no* nitrite or nitrate readings you would be inclined to wonder, what is happening here?  But!  Since you've GOT high nitrite readings and relatively low nitrate readings, this means that you are indeed in the midst of the cycle (which, by the way, can often take 6-8 weeks, especially if you're combining the curing process with it--curing while cycling can lead to a huge die-off of the critters in/on the l/r, which in turn leads to sky-high ammonia readings.. you get the idea) as evidenced by the fact that you ARE getting nitrite and nitrate readings.  So, no worries!  Just WAIT. >I think I still have some die-off from the rock.  I hope the Rock and Sand haven't died. Big power failure here and no circulation for 9 hrs. >>Aaahh!!!  Yes, you're probably getting die-off from the rock, which will include a loss of your nitrifying bacteria.  Water changes on an enormous scale would have been the only way to prevent this (and it's a good way to preserve MUCH life found on good quality live rock, too). >Is my live rock history?  Rick >>No, but we can be sure that plenty of the life is.  However, do know that it WILL bounce back.  Do a couple of 50% water changes to bring the ammonia levels back down so you won't experience so much loss, then let it continue to cycle.  You'll be golden (barring any power failures!).

Patience Is A (Big) Virtue- Pt. II Scott,  Thanks for the reply! <Hey, my pleasure!> I have a couple follow up questions... If I hold off on the addition of fish for 6 months to a year, should I add any food or other supplements to the system during that time? <I would do some feeding of frozen stuff- maybe a couple of times a week...> Do you think I should remove the damsel?  I plan on adding snails and macro algae to the refugium soon, do you agree? <Well, if you were totally hardcore- you could remove the damsel...As far as the macroalgae is concerned: YES! Try Chaetomorpha and/or Gracilaria- great macros to use!> Finally, could you elaborate on your statement when you made the comment in my initial email: "An interesting setup, too".  Thanks for your time. <Ahh- I was alluding to the skimmer only filtration...Very similar to some of the Berlin systems in the late 80's/early 90's. The idea of skimmer only tanks is not new- and it's not for everyone, too! However, if you are running a very natural setup and utilizing skimming as the sole mechanical filtration, the concept is quite workable. I am a big fan of sump systems with skimmers and some chemical media thrown in (carbon and/or Poly Filter)...Essentially relying on natural filtration (the rock/sand) and settling in the sump for your filtration. All good stuff... I guess I'm digressing too much, but the point is- simple is good! Especially with excellent husbandry techniques! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Cycle Questions and DSB installation - 8/14/03 Hi All, Tried this question yesterday and seems the response got lost.  <I saw it and it is probably in one of the crew's inbox so you may get this answered twice. Unfortunately we don't have the bandwidth to just sit around and wait for email to come in. Being that we are all volunteers, we get a handful of email and go through it as soon as we get time from our jobs, kids, school, vacations in some cases, etc. Sorry for the delay, Sam. ;-) There are some emails further delayed than yours. =) In any event, let's get to it>   Anyway, getting ready to cycle a new tank, but there seems to be different opinions and how.  <Yes indeed>   Some say lights on others off.  <I like lights off during cycle with NO starter fish. Lights off because lights on with a high nutrient spike like ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate would be advantageous to algae growth. Just a few pieces of fish flake food or sinking pellets or something every few days.>   Some say skim others no.  <I believe most, if not all of us here at WetWebMedia, would employ a skimmer during cycle for a great many reasons. One is that the tank will likely spike any way even while skimming. The skimmer is more of a chemical filter, taking out chemical constituents out of the water>   You get the picture.  <Yes I do.>  Suggest to me the most proper procedure and also when the DSB should be installed in this equation.  <I would install the deep sand bed after I have placed my live rock. Place the live rock, then pour the sand around it. Be sure to add some sort of live sand from either a friend, store bought, or ordered from a great many fine online dealers. I would avoid the bagged "live sand" as your only source (OK to use, but doesn't have a supply of the many sand organisms (mostly bacterial forms)> Thanks in advance.  Sam <You're welcome - Paul>

Cycling - 8-13-03 Hi guys,  <Howdy, Cody here today.> As I have stated before, GREAT WEBSITE!  Need some info.  In cycling the tank there seems to be a great debate as to what methods are best.  Lights on, lights off, skim or not to skim, additives or none, you get my drift.  What do you recommend and why?  <I usually set the tank up let it sit a couple of days then add LR.  While the rock is cycling I leave lights off so I do not get a algae bloom from the increased nutrients, I also run the skimmer from day one to help cycle the LR.  Then when every thing is cycled I add my cleaning crew and start adding additives.  I only add calcium as needed to my tank and let the weekly 10% water changes do the rest.  Cody>  Thanks in advance.  Sam

Hold Onto Your (Bio) Balls And Pass On The Wrasse! Dear Crew, <Scott F. here today!> I have a 90 gallon system with a 20 gallon sump (with bio-balls) that has been established for 4 ? weeks now. I have 95 pounds of live rock, 3 inch sand bed (fine aragonite). Ammonia 0.5, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 7.5 (and slowly rising), pH 8.2, temp 26?C, specific gravity 1.024. <Are you sure that the tank is cycled? Detectible ammonia is not good...especially with zero nitrite...Sounds to me like it still needs to cycle? Do recheck!> I have in my tank - 2 x 1" clownfish, 1 x 1" blue tang, 1 x 2" lawnmower blenny, 3 x 1" barrier reef Chromis, 1 x 2" Longnose Hawkfish and a handful of hermits. <Wow- a lot of bioload on such a new tank...Again- monitor the water chemistry carefully...You might be overtaxing a newly-cycled system here...> I was wondering when it would be safe to start removing the bio balls from my sump so I can get my nitrate to drop and add a pair of Coral Banded shrimp. Also for my last fish would a Banana Wrasse fit well in with the rest of the tank mates? Your guidance would be much appreciated. Thanks, Dave <Well, Dave- I'd probably wait a while longer until things get more established...I know that I keep going back to the detectible ammonia reading, but you need to monitor carefully, hold the population as is for now, and let things settle in for a couple of months, at least. After a few months, you can safely remove the bioballs, as long as you have an established sand bed (you may want to kick it up to 4 inches to be more effective at denitrification). Make sure that good husbandry practices (aggressive skimming, regular small water changes, etc.) are all in place before attempting this switch. As far as the Banana Wrasse is concerned, if you're referring to Thalassoma lutescens, I'd  pass. First, this fish can hit almost 12 inches in length. Although it is reasonably peaceful, it can get scrappy at times. Also, it will munch on shrimp, hermit crabs, etc., so it would not be wise to keep a pair of shrimp with this guy! On the other hand, if you like the bright yellow color, and like a smaller fish with bright yellow color, the Canary Wrasse, Halichoeres chrysus is a nice choice. Much less scrappy, and a lot smaller, usually toping out around 4 inches. It can munch on tiny shrimp, such as the more diminutive cleaners, but it's a great fish, with lots of personality! Hope this helps! Regards, Scott F.>

Adding Fish to New Tank (8-12-03) Hello, I currently have a 75 gallon saltwater tank that is cycled but currently with no fish.  If I add Percula clownfish can I add 3 or is it better to add in groups of 2?  Can I put in 2 now and 2 later or will the first 2 not accept the later ones? <I would only put 2-3 in this size tank and add them all at once.> Also, I have considered getting a yellow tang for a long time but am reluctant because of all I hear about them getting ich.  If my tank is well established and maintained are the chances good that one will still get ich somewhere down the road? <Yes, your fish can get ich even if they are established.  Ich outbreaks come from stress or a new tank mate exposing the current fish to it.  That's why you quarantine all new fish a minimum of three weeks before you add them to the main tank..  Cody> thank you, James

Live Rock/Curing/Cycling/Stocking Hello Fish God's and Goddesses,   Once again I find myself asking for your great wisdom oh wise ones. <Well, I wouldn't go THAT far, but thanks anyway!> Brief History: Have kept freshwater for 20+ years ... have extra cash... wanting to convert to reef ...... have existing Cichlid tank ...in process of finding good homes for Cichlids.....tank size 130g W/ 45g sump....Aqua C skimmers in transit .... picked up 30g quarantine tank yesterday .....planning on approx 200lbs assorted LR with 6-7" DSB ..... want to quarantine/cure rock before adding to main display.....main display will require cycling from scratch once Cichlids are gone and tank cleaned....... have been planning transition for several months and have read a good portion of your great site....still have a few questions though. <Sounds great so far!> Is a nitrogen cycle a nitrogen cycle is a nitrogen cycle whether it be fresh or salt water? <Essentially.  You'll see an ammonia spike, a nitrite spike, followed by a nitrate spike.  Same old, same old.> Am I correct in thinking that the reason to introduce LR to cycle a system is for the source of ammonia the life forms on the rock provides which then develops and feeds the first set of bacteria.....once the first set of bacteria is established they continue to grow and to consume the ammonia resulting in nitrites as their byproduct.......due to the available nitrites the second set of bacteria begins to grow and continues to consume the available nitrites resulting in nitrates as their byproduct which is then controlled by water changes?  And once the two sets of bacteria are established an equilibrium is reached between the byproducts of the tank occupants whether live rock/fish etc. and the bacteria living in the tank/filter systems thus completing the Cycle and balancing the system? <What's basically the right idea - but the most wonderful plus of LR is that it already contains gobs of bacteria (and all kinds of other wonderful goodies).  Also of note is that there will be a lot of die-off on the LR (bacteria, other organisms) that will start the process (lots of ammonia).> Would I then be correct in thinking that at anytime you add any additional LR, fish, inverts, etc. (bioload) it would cause an ammonia increase for a short time to allow the bacteria to grow enough to completely consume and process the new load? Kind of a mini cycle? <Essentially.  Same as with a FW tank, in that respect.  However, in an already established, stocked system, any additional live rock must be cured BEFORE going into the tank.  The first batch, however, will do best in the main tank (with no fish/inverts yet) to cycle the tank and cure at the same time.> With that said, in my particular situation, I am wanting to quarantine/cure my LR before adding to main tank. I was thinking of cycling the main tank with just the 6-7" DSB providing it with an ammonia source. I would then be quarantining/curing the LR at the same time the tank is cycling so the timing works out. Once the tank is cycled the LR should be ready to be placed into the tank. <Any particular reason you don't want to use the LR to cycle the tank?  I think it'd do a much better job of it than just the sand, and the rock's going to go through a cycle anyway, be it in QT or in the display.  Once it's done curing/cycling, you'll be safe for critters.> Now if the main tank is completely cycled and I then add the live/cured rock from the quarantine tank, of course, depending on the amount of rock added this will surely cause an ammonia spike as the bacteria in the display tank is not sufficient in size to handle the additional load. <Well, not really, as the rock itself harbors far more bacteria than just the live sand alone.  I don't think you'd see an ammonia spike - but then again, I don't see any reason not to cure the first batch in the main tank.> Will this ammonia spike be detrimental to the newly placed pampered LR? Will the higher ammonia kill anything on/in the rock? Here in western Canada live rock ranges from $6.00-$12.00/lb for premium  so for 200 lbs I would like to pamper my investment and not put it through any unnecessary stress. <Understandable.  The rock will go through a cycle no matter what you do; that's what the curing process is.> Because of the cost I was hoping to add the LR in 3 stages a month or 2 apart. First batch of rock will be 75lbs, second 70lbs and the final batch 50lbs. If I add these in stages, each time I do causing an ammonia spike.... say I get to adding the third batch .....would the increase in ammonia be detrimental to the LR from the first 2 batches? I could quarantine/cure the rock all at the same time and add it together but would this not create a dramatic spike in ammonia possibly having to start the whole cycle over again? <Well, your first batch, go ahead and do in the main tank.  The next batches, do in QT.  Once each batch has cured, they're good to go into the main tank and shouldn't cause an ammonia spike.> Being a fishless cycler myself  I cycled my Cichlid tank using pure household ammonia. Because of the species of Cichlids I wanted to keep, I wanted to add them all (30 altogether ranging 1-2") at the same time so their sizes would remain relatively the same as they grew older thus reducing potential conflicts. Having no idea of what the average bioload of a 2" Cichlid was nor how to convert it into the amount of bacteria required to handle the load I took a calculated guess. I started off with adding small amounts of the ammonia. Once the tank was completely cycled the first time I continued to feed the tank slowly increasing the amount of ammonia added. I cycled the tank for 9 weeks at which time I was feeding the tank 5 ounces of ammonia daily. Two ounces in the morning and three ounces in the evening. By morning ammonia and nitrites were 0. Healthy batch of bacteria I thought to myself. <Sounds good> The big day finally came and I added all 30 Cichlids. Gravely concerned about what was going to happen I tested the water hourly for the first few days staying home from work to do so. I am happy to report that neither ammonia nor nitrites increased at all. The only adversity I had was a couple days after I added the fish the water became slightly cloudy for a few days. I suspect this was due to a bacteria dye-off as the additional ammonia was no longer available to support them. That was 11 months ago and I haven't lost one yet. <Excellently done.> In theory would this same technique work with saltwater as well? If I were to get the display tank processing additional ammonia again could I then add all the LR at the same time? <Before you add fish, you can most certainly add all the LR at once to do the cycle and cure.  IMO, that's the best option.> Or could I slightly over feed the display tank with the enough ammonia to add the first 75lbs of rock with no adverse affects? I would then continue to slowly feed the tank small amounts of additional ammonia to build up the bacteria in preparation to adding the second batch and then the third? If I guess wrong as to what the correct additional amount of ammonia is .... what can happen... either a bacterial dye-off if too much feeding or a shorter mini cycle time if not fed enough. <Again, if you do the LR in batches, cure (cycle) it first, then add it to the tank and you should be fine.> I hope all this makes sense? Anyway, I have taken enough of your valuable time and let me know if you think I am nuts? <Well, I don't know about you, but I know I sure am!! ;D > Your thoughts/comments/criticisms would as always be greatly appreciated.  Thanks in advance for being there for us dummies!!! You guys/gals rule!  I apologize for the lengthy message but I need to get this clarified!  Gary <And thank you for all the kind words.  Hope I was able to shed some light!  And in case I didn't, check out the LR articles/FAQs, or get back to us! Sabrina>

High Ammonia, No Change Hi Crew, <Tom> On July 12th I began setting up my first marine tank the humane way. I used household ammonia marked 10%. From the outset I put too much ammonia in the tank., .6. I then added "Cycle" and "Stress Zyme" according to instructions. I also put some fish food in the tank. <That a lot of ammonia total...> I know that I am supposed to be patient, but there has been absolutely no change since July 12th. I am using "Master Saltwater Test " by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals. <Try using a different test kit to see if it agrees with your current results. Also, consider adding a very small piece of live rock or sand from a fellow hobbyist's established system to seed more aerobic bacteria. Other than that, patience...> Can you shed some light on this problem. Thanks, Tom <Best, Chris><<RMF would also do a massive water change to dilute the current toxic level of household ammonia present>>

Emperor to Fluval (7-25-03) <Cody here today, sorry for the delay.>I've switched from an Emperor 280 to a Fluval 304.  Is it a good idea to keep both running while I build up good bacteria in the new filter system?  Or can I just make the switch since the water is in good shape?<Keep both running for a week or so to build up bacteria.>  Thanks. Tom Lenzmeier

New tank cycle I have a new marine set-up  75 gallon tank, 60 pounds of live rock and 20 pounds live sand.  Ammonia level is around .05, pH is 8.4 and nitrites are 0.  The snails that hitched a ride on the live rock are doing fine, but the two damsels I added to the tank last night looks like they are not going to make it.  Tank has been up for about a week.  Did I add to fast or not acclimate them long enough. <A new tank will take 4-6 weeks to fully cycle. In addition, I would never introduce a fish with out proper 4 week quarantine first. Please see www.wetwebmedia.com and click on the Marine Aquarium Articles or use the search option at the bottom of the page to find more on tank cycle, quarantine, and acclimation> I floated them in the tank for about 20 minutes prior to introducing. Thanks
<No problem, Don >

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