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FAQs on Establishing Nutrient/Biological Cycling in Marine Systems, Commercial Products

Related FAQs: Establishing Cycling 1, Establishing Cycling 2, Establishing Cycling 3, Establishing Cycling 4, Establishing 5, Establishing Cycling 6, Establishing Cycling 7, Marine Cycling 8, Marine Cycling 9, Biological Filtration, Marine Cycling 10, & FAQs on Biological Cycling: Science/Rationale, Techniques/Methods: Seeding Filter Media, Live Rock/Sand, Using Livestock, 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

Some such products can be of help... though all are really unnecessary. FRESH/refrigerated BioSpira is about the  only consistently effective one... Now: "One and Only": http://www.drtimsaquatics.com/

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  

Nitrifying Bacteria... TimH and co.    1/23/14
Hi,
<Hullo David>
I remember a couple of articles that appeared several years ago where a fellow did some bacterial assays on saltwater aquariums for his university studies and discovered that Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter were almost completely absent.
<Ah yes; likely you're referring to Tim Hovanec; a fellow SDSU class-mate and originator of BioSpira/Dr. Tim's One and Only products>
 He furthermore remarked that the only studies that counted Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter bacteria were from terrestrial assays done back in the 1950s. I was sure I saw these articles in Freshwater and Marine Aquarium magazine ~1996 but darned if I can find them again. I have reviewed FAMA from 1995 to 2001 but nada.
<You can write him: http://www.drtimsaquatics.com/
Ever since the articles were published the words Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter disappeared from articles on nitrification in marine aquariums, but now I see these two words starting to re-appear and would like to find the articles again. Do you know the articles I am referring to? I'm pretty sure I didn't dream them up and I don't think it was an acid flash-back
from the 70s.
Thx for any light you can shed on this,
Dave
<Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Re: Nitrifying Bacteria      1/23/14

I just knew that a regular contributor to FAMA in the 1990s like you would be the best person to ask. You da man, Bob!
<We da fish men Dave!>
Thx very much for your prompt reply.
Dave
<Cheers; oh, and I did send a copy of your query to Tim Hovanec today... he and I have been communicating re other matters. BobF>
Re: Nitrifying Bacteria      1/23/14

Okay. Well, just to be sure we are totally open about all this, I started the ball rolling when a fellow named Shayne Bellou wrote an article on Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter bacteria being the be-all and end-all of bacterial filtering in reef aquaria in his recent article in Reef Keeping Magazine. I wanted to see if there was a way to contact the author via the magazine so got in contact with Jim Adelberg and Harry Tung there. They said they'd pass communications on for me but wanted to know what it was about first. Here is what I wrote to them earlier today:
[Thx for being patient with me. After several hours rummaging through my piles of old aquarium magazines, plus some very useful tips from Bob Fenner, I discovered that the articles I was vaguely remembering were in Aquarium Fish Magazine, not Freshwater and Marine Aquarium Magazine as I had originally stated (my bad).
 The articles started in the AFM December 1996 issue (Volume 8, Number 12) and continued in the January 1997 issue (Volume 9, Issue 1). They were written by Dr. Tim Hovanec � yes, that's right, the same man behind Instant Oceans Bio-Spira and of Dr. Times products. The parallel academic studies that he published during the same period are available on-line at the Dr. Times web site.
The Dec �96 AFM article is where he notes that the original Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter references come from terrestrial soil samples from the 1950s.
The academic articles are not as clear cut about Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter as I remembered, but do go on to show that there are far more bacterial strains involved in an aqueous environment than just the two named in the terrestrial samples.]
What originally struck me in Dr. Hovanec's articles at the time is how they did a complete 180° on my understanding of the bacteria involved. I also noted that no-one was declaring Nitrosomonas or Nitrobacter to be the bacteria of note anymore in hobbyist publications since his articles were published. Yes, his effect was that decisive on the hobby literature. Now when I see someone starting to re-start the old Nitrosomonas/Nitrobacter claim again I felt compelled to bring Dr. Hovanec's findings back to the fore.
Thx again for your help in all this kerfuffle.
Dave
<Thank you for including me/us in the conversation. An interesting topic for sure. BobF>

Ammonia Cycling Problem  8/31/13
Dearest Crew,
 <Hey Joe (where you going w/ that fish net in your hand.... JimiH)>
Thanks again for the wonderful service that you provide!
 <A pleasure>
I'm having a problem cycling my new 155 in-wall reef tank. I have been using Dr. Tim's nitrifying bacteria and have attempted to contact them without luck.
 <Mmm, knew Tim Hovanec in college (SDSU); and seen several times since he joined the industry years back... He's usually diligent. I'd try again; but, let's see what you have here>
I've followed the manufacturers directions by adding the bacteria followed by the ammonia chloride. I've been keeping my ammonia at about 2ppm but have had my nitrites skyrocket. The test kit goes to 5ppm (API) but it seems that the color is at or above this. I have been doing 15% water changes (more challenging in the new tank then in my old 54 gallon!) but the levels do not seem to be dropping.
<I'd stop the water changes... likely this is not helping... indeed maybe sub-tending the completion of cycling.>
 I'm confused as to what steps I should take to correct the problem. Should I continue keeping ammonia at above 2ppm or continue water changes to get the nitrites down?
<I'd also stop w/ the addition of ammonium chloride... AND add "a pinch" of dried/flake food, or pellets; even a stinky shrimp (yes; cocktail type) to offer an ammonia and more source>
 The cycling started about 2 1/2 weeks ago and the manufacturer claimed that it should be completed in less then a week.
 <... sometimes takes longer>
Lastly, the tank is has about 100 lbs dry rock and about 15 lbslive rock.
I'm currently running the skimmer.
<Again; to review: Stop changing water, adding NH4Cl, add an organic source of carbon/amino acids. Got it? Oh, and the universal (and oh so challenging at times) ingredient, patience. Cheers, Bob Fenner>
 Very confused here.
 Thanks!!!
Joe W.
Wichita, KS
Re: Ammonia Cycling Problem  8/31/13

Thank you Bob,
 <Welcome Joe>
Always a pleasure to chat with you. You don't know how many times I've had the Hendrix comment made to me! Luckily that's one of my favorite tunes!
 <Ahh! People think Hendrix was talented with a guitar, playing it inverted and all; they've not seen me w/ a siphon!>
I was under the impression that the high nitrites were poisoning that necessary bacteria and must be lowered. I'll go ahead and add the cocktail shrimp and halt on the water changes.
 <The high [NO2] will abate on/of its own... Think it might not serve to elaborate more here; I assure you, the simple changes, addition mentioned will "do the trick" here>
I've attached a photo of the tank before it was filled with water. The contractor really did a nice job with the exterior.
 <Ah, very nice; yes. I especially like/d the wood trim as I downloaded the pic>
Thanks!
Joe W.
<Again, welcome. BobF>

Fwd: WWM query mentioning you  8/31/13
Thanks Bob for the referral.
<Ah, welcome Tim>
Dear Joe:
Not sure how you tried to contact us as we have no record of a phone call or email. 
In any case you did not follow the directions we have on the website.  You are not suppose to 'keep" your ammonia at 2 ppm =- that is too much ammonia which has resulted in the high nitrite level.
You need to do a water change asap and get the nitrite down.  The faster you get the nitrite down the faster the system will cycle.
Once you get the nitrite down you need to add  ammonia and wait 24 hours before measuring.  Measure and if ammonia and nitrite below 0.1 then add some more ammonia.  Do not add more if either it above 3-2 ppm wait another 24 hours.
<Cheers, B>
Re: Fwd: WWM query mentioning you   9/1/13
Thank you so much Bob,
 <Ah, welcome Joe. It is my practice to "cc" all that are mentioned in conversations; to elicit their personal input if possible>
Very kind of you! Have a relaxing Labor day holiday!
<Ahh, very enjoyable. You as well. BobF>

Re: Fwd: WWM query mentioning you; Dr. Tim's Uno Solamente f'  9/3/13
Bob,
 <Joe>
How do I go about recommending that your title be recognized as "St. Fenner"?
 <Mmm, oh; please do mention this should you get up to St. Peter's gate... otherwise I'll be w/ my friends you know where>
Have a great week!
Joe W.
<Ah, you as well. BobF>

live nitrifying bacteria additive – 02/20/13   
First off, I can't be more grateful that I found your site.  Your work is so appreciated!  Anyway, I purchased some live nitrifying bacteria from Fosters' and Smith.  I got to wondering, if these bacteria are live, wouldn't the change in temperature from Wisconsin to it's final destination cause the bacteria freeze and die when they get to a warm house?
<They may well go into metabolic check, but unless frozen, they're likely to be fine>
 The info on all of the products say they don't need to be refrigerated, but it disturbs me.
<Well, some products (e.g. Fritz/yme) used to have to be refrigerated...
nowayears there are other techniques that extend storage time>
 I just did a 30 gal in H2O change in my 125, and wanted to add some healthy bacteria after stirring things up.  It was recommended for algae issues.  Forgive me if I am redundant, but I couldn't find this on your site.
Again, thanks so much for all of your help.  You guys are the greatest!!
Jo Anne on the coast of Maine (in the middle of a blizzard).  The generator is not working, and I am freaked out about my buddies!
<Yikes! Do stay warm... and read here while your power is on:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_5/volume_5_3/power.htm
Bob Fenner>

Refugium add on, recycle?  12/4/12
Hey guys, how is everyone doing? Good I hope. So I have a 240 gallon fowlr with a 75 gallon sump that has been going for a month and cycled ( Dr. Tim's helped out )
<Tried and true>
 all the LR and live sand was dry or "dead".  My plan has been to add on a 75 gallon refugium next to the display and just plumb it up from sump and overflow back in. My question is if I use all dry Rock and sand again will it cause any kind of cycle to my system?
<Mmm, not likely... unless the materials there "seriously" affect water quality, you should see no change>
I have another bottle of Dr. Tim's, should I just pop that in as well?
<If you have a concern, yes. Won't hurt anything>
 Hopefully this will be as easy as I think. Thank you so much for the help.
Happy holidays.
John
<And to you and yours John. Bob Fenner>

EcoBio-Stone 5/30/09
Hello Crew, Hope all is going well for all of you.
<It is here, thanks.>
I wanted to ask about a product I ran across on the web called the eco-bio stone. Are you familiar with it at all, and if so do you know if it is worth purchasing or not.
<Well, it is not much, if any, different than other "bacterial boosters" available. My opinion, and experience, tells me skip it. Your system will cycle/cure in time with traditional methods and patience. The latter is the real point, these boosters lead people to believe they can just throw livestock in. It still takes time!>
Thanks,
James
<Welcome, Scott V.>

Cycling with live bacteria-- 10/5/08
Good afternoon crew. I am starting another 20 gallon marine tank and have a question about adding live bacteria. I currently have about 10 lbs. of live live rock and 25 lbs. of live sand. My LFS told me to add live bacteria to it and the tank would be ready to start adding in about 3-5 days.
<Hmm... would have said the live bacteria in a bottle are redundant here; if you're using enough live rock and live sand, you already have all the bacteria you need. Do see here...
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/liverock1.htm
...and linked articles/FAQs.>
I have the bacteria, but wanted to get your opinion before using it. I don't want to add something to the tank that would throw the nitrogen cycle off balance.
<It won't, if used correctly.>
Also, I have my salinity at 1.018 just to make sure there weren't any parasites on my live rock.
<Ah, well, this wasn't too sensible. Who's idea was this? Since marine invertebrates are rarely as tolerant of salinity chances as bacteria and fish, there's a good chance that reducing the salinity to what is effectively a high-end brackish level (75% normal seawater salinity) will have killed a bunch of stuff, raising the amount of ammonia in the water. So even if the live rock you spent good money on was cured, it now as a very good chance of being "un-cured" (if that's a word!) with dead stuff all over it. While I doubt the bacteria are too fussed, you will need to watch the amount of organic sludge coming off, both in terms of elevated nitrate levels and in how much stuff gets dumped in the skimmer. Do remember parasites mostly hop from fish to fish via a short-lived free living stage in the water; only rarely do parasites survive for long (i.e., more than a day or two) outside a host, so live rock that's been cured for several weeks should be entirely safe in this regard.>
Is this going to make a difference in the cycling.
<Likely not in the stability of the ammonia to nitrite to nitrate to nitrogen processes, but if there's a bunch of dead stuff on the rocks rotting away, you've pretty much thrown good water quality out the window for the next few weeks. Monitor nitrate, keep up with water changes, ensure the skimmer is working 100%.>
Thank you, Shea
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Cycling with live bacteria (RMF?)-- 10/5/08
Thank you for the reply. It was the idea of my LFS to keep the salinity low.
<Hmm...>
Luckily it was at 1.018 for less than 24 hours and is now at 1.022. So hopefully there will be a minimal effect on my live rock.
<Wouldn't bank on it; invertebrates such as echinoderms are likely to be killed even with relatively short term exposure to brackish water.>
I was wondering when it would be safe to add fish.
<That's what your ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate test kits are for. Use them. If you have zero ammonia and zero nitrite, then the live rock is doing its think successfully and yes, you can add fish, and in fact need to add at least a few small and hardy fish to ensure that there's a supply of ammonia to maintain and develop the biological filtration. Use your nitrate test kit to ensure that there isn't a massive problem with pollution through any potential decay of invertebrates on the rocks.>
It has been cycling for about 48 hours, 24 of which were with bio Spira. I want a blue spot Jawfish as my first fish but I don't want to condemn this expensive beauty to an irresponsible death.
<Quite so.>
My ammonia is 0, my Nitrite is 1.0 and dropping, and my nitrates are in between 0 and 10.
<Don't add any fish yet; nitrite concentration not zero, and therefore deadly to fish. Given that healthy live rock should be consuming both ammonia and nitrite, I'm quite concerned that there is now dangerously high levels of decay on the rocks above and beyond the background level that normally occurs.>
How much longer should I wait before adding the Jawfish?
<Ask your nitrite test kit, not me!>
Thank you all again so much, I really appreciate all the help you give, and so do Many others.
Shea
<Thanks for the kind words. Do please invest in at least one marine book so you have all these facts at your fingertips. Bob Fenner's 'Conscientious Aquarist' is about as good as any on the market, but do also see here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/bookswwmsugg.htm
Cheers, Neale.>

Question about nitrites during fishless cycling, BioSpira f'  1/25/08 Hello all, <Hi Allison, Jeni/Pufferpunk here> A hopefully quick question for you. I have a new 30 gallon freshwater tank which I set up about 2.5 weeks ago (no fish), when I added about 1.5 ml of some ammonia I bought at the grocery store. It didn't tell me what concentration it was, but I read that "Household ammonia is a dilute mixture of 5 to 10 percent ammonia gas in water." My water indicated about 2.0 ppm ammonia. <Should raise it to 5ppm.> It took about a week before my ammonia went down to zero, and since then I've been adding a little bit each day (about .5 ml) and it's always at zero when I test it again the next day (and then add more). I haven't tested my nitrite until tonight and it's reading around 2.0 ppm, though I can't be sure because it's a color test. I would have thought the nitrite would be at zero by now, since it's been a week and a half since the ammonia first went down to zero. Could it be that the ammonia I'm adding daily is killing off the bacteria that does the second part of the cycle (the nitrite-to-nitrate part)? <No, that bacteria feeds off ammonia.> I was hoping to be able to get my first two fish (two Cory cats) in a couple days but I want the nitrite to be at zero, of course. Should I continue adding my .5ml of ammonia each night and wait for the nitrite to get down to zero? <You need to start out with enough ammonia to test 5pp, ammonia. When you start seeing nitrite, you cut that amount in half, until ammonia & nitrite are 0 & the nitrate spikes. Then do an 80% water change & you're ready to add fish (you can fully stock your tank at this point).> If you advise to NOT add ammonia, how then can I keep the bacteria multiplying? <All the bacteria will die without "food'"> I don't know of anywhere to get Bio-Spira locally, otherwise I'd just get that and the fish all at once! <Unfortunately, I have seen way too many instances of folks counting on Bio-Spira to cycle their tank, only to find out it wasn't kept refrigerated from Marineland, to the supplier, to the wholesaler, to the LFS, to the tank. I have a friend who is a wholesaler. He went to a supplier's warehouse & there were huge skids with cases of Bio-Spira, sitting out in their very warm warehouse. They had been there for quite some time. I was at a LFS one time, where they had some Bio-Spira out on their counter. I insisted it was to be refrigerated & they should read the directions on the back of the package. They read it & put it in the refrigerator for sale. It had been on their counter for months! I am getting a lot of reports of folks depending on their tank being cycled with Bio-Spira & after putting precious, sensitive fish (like puffers) into their supposedly cycled tank, losing these fish to ammonia/nitrite poisoning. I'm sorry I for being so long-winded in your particular email but I wanted people to know about this growing problem with Bio-Spira. If it isn't kept refrigerated the entire time, before getting to your tank, bets are, it's not going to work. One way to prevent this problem is to buy online from a place like Drs Foster & Smith. They guarantee cold delivery. Good luck with your fishless cycle. Here is an excellent article: http://www.thepufferforum.com/forum/library/water-filtration/fishless-cycling/ ~PP> Thanks for the help! I really appreciate it! Allison

BioSpira.... 6/6/6 Hello there, <<Hello.>> I'm setting up a 50 gallon tank and am considering using Bio-Spira to cycle the tank. <<A good choice.>> I've heard that directly after the input of Bio-Spira, one could immediately add fish livestock (in my case, I'm looking to add a total of 4 fantails, one at a time, once readings show the ammonia and nitrite levels are 0 per each addition).  Is it a must that you should have fish directly after putting in bio-Spira? <<Yes, otherwise the bacteria will die with no ammonia to eat.  Alternatively, I suppose one could add ammonia after the introduction of the Bio-Spira.>> My reasoning is that the nitrifying bacteria would need ammonia to kick start the cycling, but with no fish, the beneficial bacteria would eventually die correct? <<Yes.>> Therefore, there will not be any ammonia/nitrite readings with just only bio-Spira correct? <<I'm not quite sure what you mean.  Bio-Spira does not contain ammonia or nitrites, it contains live bacteria.>> Ammo-lock shouldn't be used because it would kill off the beneficial bacterial colony correct? <<It will not kill them outright, but will starve the bacteria, rendering the product useless.>> What BEST product would you recommend to rid the chloramines and chlorine in the tap water? <<I use Prime, by Seachem.>> I have the bio-Spira on order (none of my local fish stores even carry this bad boy, not even the mom and pop shops!  They all only have Hagen's cycle and I know there is emphasis that it does not work). <<It does not.>> I'm guessing the instructions will tell how and where to add it, but I just want to get an idea as to where you would recommend adding it? <<To your filter media.>> I've heard some adding it directly to the aquarium water, some to the filter media/bio-wheels?  Any advantages to either?  Recommendation? <<See above.>> Water changes during the addition of bio-Spira are okay as long as I do not vacuum the gravel correct? <<Wait 48 hours before doing water changes.>> I know these questions seem common-sensical (is that a word? lol) but I would like to get everything right in the first try. Any help would be great. John <<Good luck. Lisa.>>

Marine Cycling Bio-Spira 2/16/07 Dear Crew, <Hello> I have searched and have not found these specific answers.  I started my marine tank (hopefully a reef) about 5 weeks ago.  20 gallon, 12  lb. live rock, Penguin 150 bio-wheel and Prizm protein skimmer.  <That skimmer does not have the best reputation, may want to consider replacing it.> With the recommendation of the LFS, I set up the tank, LR, water and filters one day and added Bio-Spira the next day along with 3 clowns, 1 flaming angel and a yellow anemone. <Way too much way too fast, and a bad livestock combination on top of that.> Within two days, the anemone died. <Unfortunately not surprising.> Pulled it out and everything seemed to be fine.  The LFS told  me everything should be fine with the Bio-Spira and gave me another anemone, this time white. <Not a good sign of health in the anemone.>  This one died within days as well. <Again not surprising.>  Now after weeks of reading your website, I know I have just killed two anemones for all the wrong reasons. <At least you used it as a learning experience.> Not trusting the LFS anymore, I finally got a test kit. <Good>  I did a 25% water change and after that, my readings were ammonia 0 Nitrites 2.0, Nitrates 20 and pH at 8.4.  I have been measuring the nitrite everyday for a week now with the reading at 2.  Yesterday I did the all the testing again, ammonia 0, nitrites 2, Nitrates 150 <Wow, a lot.> and pH 8.4.  Today, the Nitrates have risen  to 5.0 or higher.  The tank went through an algae cycle two weeks ago but that cleared up right away. <Will probably return in a different form at some point.>  The fish all seem healthy, they eat great and swim normally.  <Good>  With the parameters as I describe, should I do water changes, and if so, how much and how often? <Yes and often until the nitrite reading goes to 0, probably 10% every other day.> I know the tank  still needs to cycle but I do not want to lose the fish because I  didn't act quickly enough.  <Will slow down the process but the alternative is losing the fish.>  I would like to eventually add some mushrooms and some "easy" to keep corals.  <Ok, but not with an anemone.> Another question I have is about micro-bubbles.  I use Prime to  condition the water.  I have read that this may cause the bubbles but it should clear up within a couple of weeks.  <Will effect water's surface tension.>  I have had these  bubbles since day 1 and they have not reduced and they are being produced by the skimmer and the bio-wheel.  I have well water which has been tested for and does not have chlorine or ammonia.  Do I need to use the Prime? <Not really.> With my skimmer, I can adjust it so I get the correct foam in the  chamber but when I do, the collection cup fills up with water.  I  know that this will happen until the skimmer "breaks in" but in the mean time, do I let it fill up the collection cup with water or do I turn it down so that doesn't happen.  <I would probably turn it down just so I don't accidentally flood the house, but really not a big deal either way.>  Also, if I do let it fill the  collection cup, can I just dump the water back in the tank do I throw it out and add new?  <Pitch it and refill.> With my well water, I have an in-well aeration system to condition the water.  I believe I have pure water in my house except for the fact that it is hard water.  I do not want to add a RO/DI unit unless I have to.  <I'm a big fan of these and think most all tanks can benefit from, but time will tell if you "really" need one.>  Is it possible to have my house water tested and if so,  what do I test for that I should be concerned about for my aquarium?  <Beyond Ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, and phosphate total dissolved solids (TDS) is a general indication of how much "stuff" is in the water.> Finally, I want to set up a Rubbermaid container to store premixed water.  Do I need a powerhead and an aerator or just one or the other?  <Either or, both are not needed.> Thanks for all your help and info. Mike <A quick comment on your stocking if I may, 3 clowns will run into problems in the future most likely, really should only be kept in pairs in this sized tank.  Also a flame angle needs a much larger tank, likes to have swimming room.  But keep on reading and learning and you will be fine.> <Chris>

Cycling Refugium With BioSpira (But why?) 3/14/07 Hi All, <Hi, "D". GrahamT here.> I have set up a 6 gallon Eclipse tank as a refugium for my 10 gallon nano reef.   <I love refugiums... and adding volume for that matter.> I started the cycling about 2 weeks ago using a piece of frozen shrimp to get the ammonia in there (Left it in for 1 week then removed).   <Wait. You are cycling a refugium? This doesn't compute. If you are adding more volume in the form of a refugium to one system, and it is destined to contain exactly the same water as the main system, then why would we cycle it separately??? (Or at all)> My LFS usually carries BioSpira but they were out and said it was on order.  This past weekend I went back only to find they just placed the order and it would be another 2 weeks... so I ordered BioSpira from Drs. Foster and Smith online Saturday P.M.  Product shipped Monday, received the package overnight A.M.; products still cold, well packaged great service by the way). I took a reading on the ammonia, nitrite and nitrates and of course they all top the charts.   <Well, of course...> I added some of the BioSpira (the 1 oz is for 30 gallons and this is only 6) with plans to add some more later. (Package clipped tightly closed and replaced in fridge.)  Then later add some Right Now! by HDLtd which I have found really helps in knocking down the nitrates.   <Not sure how that could be. Isn't "Right Now!" a live bacteria (like Bio-Spira)? It doesn't claim to contain any anoxic or anaerobic  bacteria capable of reducing Nitrates.> But while doing a search on the WWM site for BioSpira I ran across the sentence...""They, and the microbes in the BioSpira were poisoned, hemolyzed in the fishes' case, by the ammonia...""  So I became confused as to the use of BioSpira and I'm quite possibly misunderstanding the statement.   <Nah, that's just Bob trying to scare you into cycling a tank properly. ;)> <<You are perceptive. RMF>> But it has me thinking that by adding BioSpira to a tank high in ammonia I'm killing the beneficial microbes and in fact wasting my time adding the product.  Please clarify this for me.  If I need to do a water change to dilute the high readings somewhat before adding more BioSpira, please let me know.   <This is news to me. Bob has just earned a forward from me. My research on hemolization tells me it can apply to this situation, but is rather vague specifically with the microbial "form". Hemolyzed red blood cells are ruptured, not sure how ammonia does this, but I am not a bio-chemist. This one is for Bob.><<Way too much ammonia/ammonium presence will kill beneficial microbes... cause hemolysis (in animals with RBC's natch). RMF>> I was running a carbon filter.  I removed the carbon bag before adding the BioSpira. <Not necessary, will not filter out anything that Bio-Spira metabolizes, and can actually provide a ton of surface area for the bacteria to live on.> (Whisper inside filter because of the low water level... below bulkhead and left the bio-filter in place)  The refugium has a 4-1/2" sand bed and that is all that's in the refugium at this time.  I know I need to have all parameters in this tank identical to my main tank before even considering tying them together.   <The simplest way to achieve this would be to fill it with water from the display and some substrate, immediately tying them together.> I have some extra live rock from rearranging my main tank which I plan to add after the ammonia, nitrite & nitrate levels are to 0.  Then I'll add Chaeto.  Should I put a cleanup crew in my refugium?   Move a couple snails and/or a hermit crab; was thinking to order some brittle stars to put in there.   <Not necessary, doesn't hurt unless you worry about competition from the hermits for pods.> The live rock has bristle worms and Gammarus shrimp already.  Love the Gammarus shrimp... highly entertaining and excellent scavengers.  Afterwards, my thoughts are during my main tank water changes to remove equal water from refugium and replace it with the removed water from the main tank.  Should I do this for a week or two before tying them together?    <Would do it once and have done with it altogether. I think it's good that you worry about the condition of the 'fuge, but I think this could be going faster and smoother if you just tie-in to the main display and let everything equalize. The system wouldn't spike if you had started this way, but now you don't want to introduce the elevated levels of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate into your main system. Live and learn. I would be more concerned doing it this way that your 'fuge is chemically different in many ways from the display, and when you finally do "join" them, there will be a period of accelerated acclimation. That said, I think you'll still be fine, because you have a plan and you know what to look for. Good luck! -GrahamT> Thanks again. Regards, Debbie P.

Concerns, discussion re bacteria whereabouts, cycling, WWM confluence 12/13/05 Hi Sabrina,  I'm happy to hear you're getting in all this great diving! <Hey, good to hear from you!!> How was the diving in HI? <Absolutely wonderful....  I can't wait for another chance to go back!> Going back to the Red Sea huh?  I won't be back until both of us can afford to go--just isn't fair for me to go w/o Hubby!  Have fun. <I shall - and I'll think of you with every puffer that I see :)  You're lucky; my husband has no interest whatsoever in diving.  I guess the plus side is that I get to go cool places without having to pay for two of us, but it'd sure be nice to have him along.  Sigh!  Say, how was the Bahamas?!?!> <<Yes>> Anyway, the reason I'm writing is I read your request & started scanning the FW Qs. <Many thanks.> I came across one previously answered by a woman named Catherine. Here's where my complaint comes in.  She is telling someone about the good bacteria in a tank: "bacteria are in the air and will colonize the tank. " Absolutely not true. <<Mmm, actually, yes, tis so>>   It lies in media, gravel, on surfaces inside the tank but not in the water column & definitely not in the air! <Mm, a good thing to think about here is that a clean bucket of water with some household ammonia will over time still develop nitrifying bacteria.... they get there somehow.  Nitrifying bacteria are everywhere. They certainly don't colonize the water column or air, as they don't have "food" available, but they populate bodies of water and other places where there is available "food" somehow.  I think it was what's-his-name....  Ah!  Dr. Tim Hovanec, of Marineland, the dude who developed Bio-Spira, that actually did say in a talk I attended that nitrifying bacteria *can* find their way to water via air, and then colonize a tank.  He gave the analogy of a bare saltwater tank in Kansas still developing bacteria colonies, if I recall correctly.> <<Yes>> Also, she recommends the awful product called Cycle, to this person.  Everyone who knows lots about aquarium keeping knows this product is bunk & can actually be detrimental to the cycling & health of a tank, since it only contains dead bacteria (waste). <I don't disagree that the stuff is virtually useless.> <<"Sometimes works"... better than nothing... but can't hold the proverbial candle to the Marineland products>>   That it's harmful or detrimental is arguable, though....  I tend never to recommend these sorts of products at all.> I'm not sure what her qualifications were that she got onto WWM but she needs to be watched closely.  We can't be giving out false info at WWM. <If you'd like, you can contact her, let her know your feelings - it's definitely a good idea to keep open communication and help others learn - otherwise there's not much reason for us to exist as a crew.... that's why we're here; to teach, to learn, to grow together....  Let me know if you'd like her email addy, if you haven't already got it.> <<Will cc her here>> I'm not sure if you're the right person to tell all this to <Bob's the best, actually; he's the "head dude" in all things WWM-ish....  I've CC'd him here so he can see these concerns as well, and address them if necessary.> but you seem to be taking the "bull by the horns" at WWM lately. <Hah!  Sure feels that way, some times!  I merely tried to "save the pieces" in Bob's absence.> Thanks for listening, <And thank you, very much, for sharing, voicing your concerns - and (of course) for helping out!  I do hope all is well with you, and hope you had a wonderful, relaxing, fishwatching trip.> Jeni <Happy Holidays to ya, and thank you again,  -Sabrina> <<Cheers, life to all. BobF>>

Bacteria additives products like Nitromax marina, Stability,& Cycle are they safe for ammonia spike in reef tank. <Safe, yes, bacterial? Sometimes the above do work, but the present "Winnah and Champion" in this category is BioSpira by Marineland... Do check this out on the Net, BB's. Bob Fenner>

Marine, establishing cycling, using WWM Thank you for that link. I plan on purchasing one of those products. Which do you recommend, the Fritz-Zyme #9 or the Turbo-Start #900?  <Very fresh (overnighted, refrigerated Fritzyme works... the best product of this type on the market is BioSpira however> Also should I get the Fritz guard or should I be fine just adding the bacteria? <Use the Marineland product> Last but not least. I am going to be obtaining live rock. I am near a beach in Miami, FL and am wondering hypothetically (I know the legal consequences) if I were to take rock directly from the ocean kept it submerged in water and put it in my tank wouldn't that be the same and/or better than obtaining live rock from a store? Thanks. <... please insert the terms: "Collecting your own live rock" in Google here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ Bob Fenner> 

Bio-Spira Issues  6/8/05 Dear PufferPunk, Thanks for responding back. I am using distilled water; consequently, I am not using any conditioner. This morning the Ammonia is up to 0.50.  I have stopped feeding the fish since yesterday.  Should I continue not to feed him?   <Feed lightly.> I plan to do another water change today with distilled water. I guess my question at this point would be...How does B-S claim that it cycles the tank over night when I followed the instructions fully? <Bio-Spira is an excellent product, if kept refrigerated the entire time before use & used according to directions.  Where did you buy it from?  Are you sure it couldn't have gotten warm somehow, at some time?  I really do swear by the product.  Even at 0.5, the ammonia shouldn't kill your fish.  Wait one more day & then do water changes, until your ammonia is 0.  Unfortunately, this means your tank will be cycling with the fish in it.  You will have to test 2x/day & do water changes accordingly.  Is the other packet of B-S from the same supplier?   Maybe you could talk to whomever you purchased it from to see if it was definitely refrigerated properly.  I went to a LFS last year, who swore it didn't need to be refrigerated.  It had been out on the shelf for weeks.  After my insistence that it indeed needed refrigeration, they put in the refrigerator.  You can bet they sold it to someone... Ps. I am using distilled water because the quality water where I live is very poor. <I'm wondering if RO water might not be better.  what's wrong w/your water?  What fish do you keep?  ~PP> Thank you, Kelly

Damsels in Distress Getting over it Very Well  >Just a quick update on the damsels in distress, and Bio-Spira.  >>Excellent, lay it on us!  >We received the Marine Bio-Spira on Thursday, and I added it to the tank immediately. (readings at time were: ammonia was back up to 1.5 with nitrite lingering at .3 Ph 8.2 ) Monday day four after adding Bio-Spira readings are: ammonia 0. (used two different brands of test kits just to make sure), Nitrite .8, and nitrate 20ppm. Ph 8.2.  >>Wow, what a difference!  >Fish actually look brighter colored now and seem to swim about the tank more.  >>That is awesome, Sirina, I am so glad to read this.  >I think the Bio-Spira is really working from the looks of things. Hope this keeps up! Added some new carbon to the extra media filter holders in the Emperor 400 filter this morning after taking the readings. Sirina C.  >>Great, sounds like you are on your way to a happy, healthy, beautiful marine display. Marina

Bio-Spira 9/15/04 Hi again. my friends. <cheers> Two quick questions. You guys suggested to put Bio-Spira for the seeding of  sterile sand. <hmmm... some crew members might care for it... some do not. I'm of the latter opinion> What is it? <an attempt to inoculate the bio-filters with nitrifying bacteria> I put sand in the aquarium and then what? <a handful of live sand from another mature tank is all that is needed here instead> What would you recommend for a reliable test kit? <I like aquarium systems brand test kits> What are the most important parameters to test for and what are a waste of time? <do buy a good beginners book and read it for these guidelines my friend... let me suggest Paletta's "New Marine Aquarium" for starters> Are electronic controllers of any value? <generally a good long term investment> What are the pros and cons? <better accuracy, more expensive> Thank you gentlemen. Stephan <best regards, Anthony>

New Tank Cycle Query Hi I have had my marine tank for all of 2 weeks now.  Spent 4 years looking in wonder then decided I need a go. I have bought a Juwel Rio 400 tank (400l)  added lots of coral gravely stuff extra load of Tufa rock water etc.  Am using normal Juwel filter and a Fluval 404.  I also have a Vecton 25w U.V filter and have just burnt a Prizm skimmer as it was noisy enough to wake the dead and bought a Deltec MCE 600. I think this setup should be good for a fish only marine tank what do you reckon.  I have put in normal marine tubes and two air blocks under the rock work giving pleasing display of fine bubbles. My problem comes with the fact that I filled with water mixed with salt starting adding Biomature.  Not much happened to start then up went the nitrites.  After a week the nitrite levels where very high.  So I stopped adding Biomature and borrowed some mollies of a mate which are doing well. Now just two weeks after starting my nitrites read zero.  Ammonia zero, ph is just over 8.0 and nitrates are quite high.  I think 25mg/l last night.  I was told it would take 28 days plus for nitrates to reach zero.  I am worried I have done something wrong but asking local shops I get anything from its ok to stock now to you need to start adding Biomature again.  Any ideas?? Matt >>>Hello Matt, First of all, stay away from bottled products that promise to help cycle your tank. They are not worth the plastic they come in. Every tank is different, some take longer to cycle than others. Nitrates will come down, hang in there and be patient. Cheers Jim<<< Ammonia and biological problems Hi there, I'm new to marine aquarium and I have many queries to ask for your expert advice... Last week I bought a pack of frozen brine shrimps for my marine fishes, the shop assistant ask me to feed them twice a day with the brine shrimp. but I only feed them once a day with the brine shrimp and I also ensure that they finish everything that I drop in. But few days later, the water starts to turn brownish in color, so I return to the shop assistant and ask him why the color change. He told me that  it is the producing of ammonia in my marine water that's why it changes color, he then recommended me to buy a bottle of NUTRAFIN Biological Aquarium Supplement. << I'm not familiar with that product but I think a protein skimmer or deep sand bed would be a good option here. >> On the bottle states it will provide beneficial bacteria to consume ammonia and nitrite to prevent fish loss, quickly creates a safe and healthy environment, one small dose contains enough beneficial bacteria to rapidly consume ammonia and nitrite, safe for both plants and animals and it is impossible to overdose your aquarium. The next day, my cleaner shrimp died. I'm shocked and afraid that my other fishes will follow suit, so I changes the water immediately. << I would also think that this bacteria could be obtained in a much better way.  I would buy a good amount of live rock (at least 10 kg) and some live sand. >> What was the real cause why my color change? Could the water color change due to protein in my water? Or was it really ammonia in it? << I would think protein and dinoflagellates, but not ammonia. >> What causes ammonia and nitrite in my water? Is it harmful to the fishes and aquarium? << very harmful. It comes from fish waste and excess food.  You can't prevent it, so you need to get rid of it with a protein skimmer or deep sand bed, or buy growing macro algae. >> Was it really the NUTRAFIN killed my cleaner shrimp? << I don't think so. >> Is it safe to carry on putting the NUTRAFIN Biological Aquarium Supplement? << Probably safe, but I wouldn't use it. >> Is NUTRAFIN Biological Aquarium Supplement safe with shrimps and snails? << Probably safe. >> Is it really necessary to wash my filter with marine salt water only? << No. >> Is it alright to change portion of the marine water once a month? << Yes, a good idea. >> Can you also recommend to me what else do I need other than hydrometer and protein skimmer? << Hydrometer is very important for a new tank to make sure you are where you need to be.  Also consider live rock to be the most important item you put in a reef tank. >> Many Thanks, Dan <<  Blundell  >>

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>

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

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

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

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

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

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



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