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FAQs on Establishing Nutrient/Biological Cycling in Marine Systems, Trouble/Fixing 2

Related FAQs: Anomalies/Fixing 1, 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, 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, & Biological Filtration, Fluidized Beds, Undergravel Filters/FiltrationDenitrification/Denitrifiers, Ammonia, Nitrites, Nitrates, Phosphates, & Nutrient Export,

Related Articles: Establishing Cycling, BioFiltration

Nitrogenous metabolites are toxic...

“Stalled” cycle     5/6/20
Dear crew,
<Hi Jim>
Hope you are all well in these tough times.
<Mostly yes, thanks... hope you are well too.>
I have a new 112G Red Sea Reef XL 425 that I started cycling on 24-April.
The tank has reef saver rock, live sand, and salt water. I used MicroBacterStart XLM, Live Nitrifying Bacteria and their Anomia product according to directions. By 1-May, my ammonia had decreased to zero, nitrites were off the chart (API test kit), and I had somewhere between 5-10 ppm of nitrates. None of these values have changed since. The nitrites continue to test the same angry purple color that isn’t actually on the color chart, and the nitrates are similarly not moving.
<Nitrites spike never occurs before week three and nitrates will rise thereafter, approximately on day 28 of the cycling process.>
I checked my nitrite kit on some RO/DI water, and it reads 0. I then tried half tank water and half RO/DI, and the nitrites still tested outside of the high range of the test kit.
<Patience, there’s nothing wrong with your reagents.>
With nitrates and nitrites not moving (colors on the test kits are identical day-to-day) what, if anything, should I do? Some forums are suggesting that the nitrites are too high, and I should do a partial water change, but this seems counter intuitive to me. Also, should I continue to add ammonia?
<I don’t recommend any water changes until nitrite levels drop to zero and nitrates are high, neither I suggest adding more ammonia, these readings are normal considering the time that the tank has been running and will stabilize in approximately 4 total weeks (counting from April-24).>
Salinity is 35ppt, temp 79-80F,
Ph 7.7-7.83 (trying to solve a C02 problem in my basement),
<You need to address this issue.>
DkH 7. I used Tropic Marin Pro Reef salt, but I will switch to the classic because its dkH is higher, which I hope will better support my Ph.
<I suggest using a buffer here. SeaChem's “Marine Buffer” is a very reliable product that will keep your ph at a constant 8.3.>
Thank you all for the information and expertise that you share every day!
<You’re most welcome. Wil.>
Re: “Stalled” cycle     5/6/20

Thanks for the fast answer.
Quick follow up question: What should I make of the fact that the MicroBacterStart advertises a 7 day cycle and the nitrite spike did happen very fast, consistent with their claims? Is it unusual for the first phase to cycle super fast and the second not, when using these types of products?
<Nitrites raise quite fast even without adding additives, it is their normal course, second phase is much slower and there is no way to accelerate it... please do take a look at the following link and related for more detailed info re. biological cycling. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm >
Thanks, again,
<Cheers. Wil.>

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.
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>
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>

Please explain what is happening in my tank! SW, cycling non-anomaly  €“ 2/14/12
Hi Guys,
<And gals Lisa>
Firstly let me say thanks for such an informative site. Your threads have answered many questions so far.
<Ah good>
I am a SW newbie, so, I apologise if any of my questions seem silly or paranoid! It is sometimes hard to get reliable information from anyone and so many differing opinions it can be a little confusing at times.
My plan is to have a reef tank, however I will certainly be taking my time before I get to that stage.
I have a 55g tank, canister filter containing Matrix NOT bio balls (filter circulates tank water 5+ times per hour) approx 30kg live rock(semi cured), protein skimmer, power head (to assist in water circulation), crushed coral sand.
It has been cycling now for 2 weeks. The first week I added STABILITY as per recommended dosage and am now at regular weekly doses, though I am only on week 2
Ammonia spiked at .5ppm after week one but has now returned to 0ppm (unchanged in 3 days)
Nitrite has never moved from 0ppm
Nitrate has increased to 10 - 20ppm (in the last day)
Salinity 1.022
<I'd raise this to 1.025... see WWM re>
Temp 25.7c
pH has been at 8.1 since day one
1 water change prior to adding live rock (there was a few day period between getting everything up and running and adding the live rock)
My lights and skimmer have been running as they would once tank is established and livestock added.
Water tests have been done pretty much daily.
I do not plan to add anything at this early stage as I want to be certain that I do not have another cycle
As the tank is still cycling I have added nil livestock at this point.
However, I have so many creatures in my tank that I am beginning to wonder if I need to actually go to my LFS and buy anything J
<Mmm, no>
So far I have "seen":
1 x  4 inch  bristle worm could be bigger have not measured it
<Leave it/this for now>
5 x less than an inch bristle worms
1 x brown worm (not sure if he is still alive as hasn't moved for a couple of days) Cannot find this creature in any of the searches that I have done!!
Sorry I can't be more descriptive than that but his head (or tail) is only just poking out of the rock.
Numerous feather duster worms
<A good sign>
What looks like a flatworm but is deep deep blue/purple, only comes out several hours after lights out, very skittish and retreats back into the rock even with the room lights on.
Several other crawlies that I have yet to identify.
There are small algae blooms on some of the live rock and an occasional dusting of them on the glass every couple of days, though this is barely noticeable.
Water changes now and in the future will be/have been sea water (available at my LFS).
So to my questions ...
Is it normal for a tank to cycle so quickly? How could I possibly have enough "good" bacteria so quickly? Surely I couldn't?
<Can cycle very quickly at times, circumstances>
Is it normal to have no nitrite spike? Could the stability assist in "hiding" a nitrite spike?
<Could have missed; evidently so>
Is it normal to have so many creatures given that they have had little "food" available to them. (Did they survive the ammonia spike because it was so small?)
<Are eating what is there, products from/each other>
Should I be concerned with the amount of critters that I have at this early stage?
<Not really; no>
Am I doing something wrong or is this all normal???
<Nyet to worry>
Would you suggest adding some critters now or waiting? (to keep algae and worms under control). Should I just keep doing what I am doing?
<This last>
Thanks again J
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Re: 45 gallon reef tank. cycling anomaly    10/5/11
Thanks for the info Bob. I'll certainly try to use the search tools.
<Ah, thank you>
Also, I have tried but can't find answers to this anywhere.
I did a 2 hour drip acclimation and tested the salinity of the tank and their acclimation tank with a refractometer before I put them in the tank.
When I put them in, the Ammonia was 0, the Nitrites were 0, and the Nitrates
were 5. The tank had cycled for 2 weeks and seemed to be pretty stable at this point.
Now 4 days after adding the 3 Damsels, Nitrite is nearly 1, Ammonia is .25 and Nitrate is 10.
<Mmm, well, the increase in NO3 makes sense, but it appears your system was bumped for some reason/s into a re-cycle mode...
Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/marcyctrbfx2.htm
and as much of the linked files above as you'd like...
... or your filtration, bio-media was/is insufficient to meet the sudden increase in metabolic load>
On the day I put the Damsels in, I waited 8 hours for them to acclimate before feeding.
Then I gave them a small pinch "about 1/16 tsp" of "instant ocean marine chips omnivore diet" which they ate readily. They appeared timid, but not so much that they couldn't be seen.
On Day 2, they ate less and hid more.
On Day 3, they wouldn't come out of hiding at all.
<The nitrite and ammonia poisoning at play>
I've tempted them with garlic extreme and they still won't come out of their VERY well hidden holes in the rock.
Would 3 juvenile Yellow Tail Damsels cause a 45 gallon tank to re-cycle?
<Could under variable (chemical, physical) circumstances>
The only other thing in the tank is 10 tiny blue leg hermits.
I know that's WAY too high for Nitrites, and am adding Purigen packs to the filter sock to try to reduce it.
<And I'd stop feeding altogether>
Lance Robaldo
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Question About Marine Tank Cycling (and a note that the site's search engine is acting wonky?) -- 06/19/11
Hey Crew!
<<Hiya Michelle!>>
Hope all is well and Happy Father's Day to all you dads.
<<Yes and thank you>>
I'm currently having a bit of an issue with trying to navigate through your site as there appears to be a search engine issue.
<<I'll make a note for Bob>><Have just checked... new one by Darrel seems to be working fine. B>
I had set up a 30 gallon half moon aquarium back on May 28, 2011. It's going to be a new tank for my mated pair of Hippocampus erectus seahorses.
<<Very nice>>
They are now being currently housed in a fully cycled 10 gallon QT because their old 20 gallon high tank has sustained a crack in the glass. I removed 8 lbs of fully established Florida LR and added 2 lbs of fully cured Fiji Pukani LR and 12 lbs of dry rock.
<<Do leave some room for the horses [grin]>>
I removed the aragonite sand which was around 10 lbs and added it to 50 lbs of dry aragonite sand. I experienced an ammonia spike of 1 ppm 3 days after setup. I continued to monitor the cycle and never saw a rise in nitrites or nitrates.
<<Likely due to the abundance of cycled/cured material added to the system>>
They stayed 0 since set up.
The ammonia took around 2 days to go to 0. I have been feeding a pinch of fish food everyday to see if there was any change in the stats and I have not seen any. Is there a possibility that this tank cycled quicker due to having established sand and rock?
<<Almost assuredly this is the case here>>
I'm so used to seeing the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate cycle and I'm a little confused as to why I'm not seeing in this set up.
<<For the very reasons you outline in your setup'¦ Do make sure your test kits are fresh and if so'¦considering your readings, how you set up the tank, and the time that has passed since'¦I think you can proceed. But if you're uneasy re and the Seahorses are comfortable/doing well'¦there's no harm in monitoring things another week. Up to you'¦>>
Thanks again for such an awesome site and all the help you give us.
<<It is our pleasure to share'¦ EricR>>
Re: Question About Marine Tank Cycling - 06/21/11

Thanks for the very speedy reply :).
<<Ulp'¦ Not so speedy this time'¦sorry>>
I have new API kits and I even brought samples to my LFS who uses Salifert and they match what I've been seeing.
I don't want to see my poor horses suffer in a tank that might have been not truly cycled, but I don't enjoy seeing them being crammed in a 10 gallon either.
<<It does sound like they will be okay to introduce to the larger system>>
Do you think as a pre-cautionary note to have some Bio-Spira on hand just in the off chance of another spike?
<<Can't hurt, though I'm doubting it will be needed>>
To let you know that I had been keeping marine tanks for 6 years now before I took the plunge with seahorses.
<<I see>>
More experience in keeping marine life the better before going into such delicate creatures.
<<Much agreed>>
I've been told by a few other folks that keep seahorses that I was on the scant side of LR.
I like to have swimming room for them
<<Even though not particularly active versus many of the other 'swimming' critters we tend to keep, I still like to have more open water than rock'¦and this applies to any system/biotope I might keep>>
and also getting ready to add some sea grass and macro-algae to this tank.
<<I would go with one or the other as these too will fight (like any marine organism) for dominance/space'¦and preferably the sea grass if you are able to keep it alive as it will give a more natural appearance for a Seahorse system'¦in my humble opinion >>
Thanks again for your valuable help.
<<Always a pleasure'¦ EricR>>

please help with my reef tank!!! Stalled cycling, what to do?   10/2/10
Sorry to bug you but I had a couple of questions. I just set up my reef tank about a month ago and it seems my "cycle" has not made any progress.....
Ammonia(.25), nitrite(1), and nitrates(5)
<Oh! "It", the cycle has if you have accumulating NO2, NO3>
sit around the same levels and don't seem to go up or down.
<Mmm, am wondering what sort of means you're employing...>
I use the starter kit for testing from red sea. I am currently running the skimmer(Tunze 9002 mod with media rack), Carbon media, Purigen, filter floss and Chemipure elite. I have read mixed things about
shutting down the skimmer and removing media...
<Might be a good idea...>
Here are the specs for the tank,
34gallons, 35lbs of live rock "precured",
<Oh! In part this small volume, amount of LR... which is likely still "re-curing" is the likely source...>
40lbs of Caribsea black Hawaii sand,
<And this type of substrate does very little functionally to aid in overall system management, including cycling and chemical stability>
Vortech MP10, stock heater, 2x55W Compact fluorescent lighting, and the skimmer plus media listed above. So my questions are first of all should I shut down the skimmer and remove media?
<Mmm, not with the live rock cycling... too likely to turn into a stinky mess>
Second should I leave my lights off?
<I would not>
(they are on for about 10 hours now) and last is I have not done any water changes for 3-4weeks
now since what I read says to not do water changes during the cycle. Should I be doing water changes?
<I would, yes... the chemicals lost to the rock biota dying, decomposing may well be "using up" some needed aspects... that would be replenished, recentered w/ water changes>
Thanks in advance,
<Mmm, and please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/lrcurefaq5.htm
and as much of the linked files as you find instructive. A few weeks more time going by, the water changes... ought to see this system finishing cycling (0.0 ammonia and nitrite). Bob Fenner>

Tank cycling, nutrient presence   9/14/10
Hello people,
<Hello Robert>
I am having some difficulty with understanding some of the processes within my system and was hoping someone could please shed some light to my issue. (I didn't really know how to present the problem due to the length of the build up so it is in note form.)
<Okey dokey>
I am setting up a 20 gallon marine tank with a 100 watt heater, two power heads (one with canister) and 2 24 watt PC bulbs with generous sand bed (1.5 inches depth). I have some experience within the hobby but I am would really benefit from someone with more knowledge in the area. I have recently set up my tank in a very isolated place in Australia (in the middle), and I placed some live rock (1kg) within the tank (about 3-4 weeks ago). After about three days (approx) an ammonia spike was then followed by a nitrite spike 1.0-2.0 mg/L. After some a period of days the spike began to subside. At this point I went on holidays to the coast (1500kms away). During this time I came across awesome pieces of rock (required) and various coral frags (desired). As logistics is an issue I decided to capitalise on the opportunity as my tank would surely be cycled. After packaging both rock and frags they undertake a 1500 km trip over a 13 hour period. That night I check Nitrite and pH and find that the 10 days I spent away has resulted in no detectable nitrite, a good pH (8.2), and thick algal growth.
My assumption is that the system is reasonably established.
<Yes I agree, but with caveats..>
Sure of present nitrate I do a 10% water change and then add newly collected rock and frags (water looks good/no smell). Next morning my system looks like the Chernobyl incident with extremely poor water clarity (smells dead). After checking, nitrite jumps to 1-2 mg/L. panic stations are at the fore and I remove possible dead material and do a 40% water change. Testing again I find that ph is about 8.0 and nitrite remains the same.
<The new rock had some life in it that did not survive your trip. Since the biological filter of your aquarium was very 'light' (because there were no real 'producers' within) then there was not enough bacteria present to combat the sudden introduction of dead/ dying material (hence ammonia and nitrite accumulation). A second die-off 'cascades' from this, producing more toxins, and so on until either action is taken, or most all dies.>
Not wanting to lose new arrivals I go the LFS and browse through limited Marine stock, the only possible item to assist my problem is Bio Accum (appears to be an activated carbon bag),
<this might help with some released toxins/ poisons, but not with ammonia & nitrite>
although the potential is limited it is a last option in an attempt to hold onto what I have left. Put the bag in, and test water nitrite is the same but pH has dropped to 7.6-7.8 (ish). And nitrites are still about the same. It is now about 5 hours after the addition of the carbon and water still reeks and looks radioactive (cloudy);
<It will do for a few days at least. Daily, or twice daily water changes for a week along with the removal of dead material is your best course of action here>
retests show a nitrite of 0 (?) and pH weak but stable at 7.8. I am clearly perplexed. Is this the work of the bag? Are nitrates still responsible for the poor water clarity and smell?
<No. This is dying animals you are smelling>
Where is the tank at now? And do you have any advice to extend the life of the inhabitants through what I had thought to be a finish tank cycle?
<You are misunderstanding this concept of 'cycle'. The initial cycle of your system was done, but too much was added in the way of pollutants for it to handle. Bacteria populations must be give time to build up, this is why animals should be added slowly, and is also why from a certain point of view there is no such thing as a 'cycled tank', closed systems are always cycling, as the nutrients, bacteria et al. eb and flow with time and changes to the system.>
Cheers Thank you for your thoughts.
<No worries>
P.S. Although I didn't say it before; the depth and knowledge in your site is pretty much the definitive source (in my opinion) for anything to do with my aquatic system and interests, you people do a great job in maintaining such a knowledgeable and descriptive website, thanks heaps!
<Awww, shucks;) Simon>

Filtration Kaput, Am I In Trouble 1/21/09 Hi Guys and Girls <Hello Simon> I need help asap, I have a 5ft 400l tank that was running on an external filter with UV. Unfortunately yesterday I tightened the clamp on the outlet pipe from the UV too tight and cracked the adaptor which at the time didn't realise. <Yikes.> So I woke up to quite a large puddle this morning:(. <I hate when that happens.> As I was in a rush for work, I mopped up and disconnected all the filters and UV. The question is, how long can I leave the tank running without these? I have a fish only marine with a pair of Fire Clowns, pair of Blue Throat Triggers, juvenile Orange Shoulder Tang, juvenile French Angel and a Falco Hawkfish, 20 snail clean up, large spine urchin and sand sifter star. There is a skimmer running and I also have 40k of live rock with a Tunze 6100 and 2x 3600 Seio pumps. What's the best bet for me to do, and will it be ok to connect the filter back up when I get it fixed as the biological benefits would have died off in the unit by now. Planning on moving everything out eventually and getting the tank drilled for a sump. <With the amount of live rock you have, just keeping the Tunze and Seios running should take care of the biological process. Adding about 20 pounds (9 kilos) of live rock would be beneficial. I would then clean/rinse the filter out good before introducing back into the system, and would not use any biological media in the filter. Cheers once again <And to you my friend. James (Salty Dog)> Simon

Saltwater tank cycle - stalled nitrites and nitrates? 08/15/2008 I have a 29-gallon fish only with live aragonite sand tank that I started on 7/24/08. <<Ahhh...what a day, my birthday >> I added 2 small clowns, a cleaner shrimp, and a royal Gramma basslet, who are all doing fine so far. <<Were these added straight away? on the above date??> Here's my issue: My ammonia dropped to zero 4 days ago, so this is day five. <<Confused here.. You started this on the 24th of July? and this is day 5? Unsure what time scale we are talking of here>> Here are my current readings as of about 1 hour ago: Temperature: 77, gravity: 1.022, pH: 8.0, alkalinity: low end of high, ammonia: zero, nitrites: 4.5, nitrates: 10. I also have a wavemaker, a powerhead, and a Penguin 350 filter running as well. I do 10% water changes as needed every few days, first because of high ammonia and now because of high nitrites. <<If your cycling, stop doing water changes. A water change is not needed until the cycle has finished>> My nitrites have been high for 8 days now (pretty much maxed), and my nitrates have stayed at 10 for 4 days. Why aren't the nitrites dropping and why aren't the nitrates increasing? <<Your water changes may well be interfering here, as water changes have a positive effect on nitrates. If you stop the water changes, and leave the tank alone, it should continue...I.E Nitrites will fall and nitrates will peak and fall>> Is my cycling process stalled for some reason? If yes, how can I get it moving again? <<See last comment>> It's getting very frustrating to get the same bad readings day after day and although I know it takes a while for the nitrates to increase, isn't it strange that they aren't increasing at all? Thanks in advance for your help. <<Please do take the advice above. Also, as a side note, please do keep a close eye on the fish. Fish should not be in the tank while its cycling as this can cause some serious damage to them. Hope this helps, patience is your new best friend. A Nixon>>

Cycling Help, My water is acting fishy. 8/6/08 I really need your help as my patience has run thin with this aquarium, I need to know if this sudden change in my waters parameters is because my water has "crashed" or if its in the ending stages of cycling. I used the Red Sea reef test kit and those little ten dollar dip strips. Nitrite 10,Nitrate 20, ph 8.4, alkalinity 300, calcium 400, phosphate .1, and with salinity I have a Corallife hydrometer and a Red Rea hydrometer, I get different readings on both so I averaged the middle of the two which is 1.024. <It is best to compare two of these as you did, generally I have found the Instant Ocean brand the most consistent for testing SPG, although the best is to invest in a refractometer.> What worries me is the nitrite and nitrate jumped drastically almost overnight and now brown algae is trying to grow everywhere but I keep scrubbing it off. <How old is this tank, is the rock/sand curing? If so, that would explain the nitrite spike. Otherwise, has something died or gone missing?> I have a Seaclone 100 skimmer, a power head, heater, Whisper 20 gallon filter (hob) the only thing in the tank is about 6 lbs of live rock, live sand, and that's it. <Be sure to clean the Whisper/Seaclone cup frequently, do consider replacing both down the road.> I forgot to mention I have a Current USA 20" 1x40Watt for lighting, I really don't want to scrap this and start over if I'm just over reacting to a normal cycling process. <It is a normal stage of development for most tanks. It really sounds like you are in the crux of the curing/cycling process. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_2/cav2i3/Live_Rock/live_rock.htm> Will this tank water eventually balance it self out or do these test results mean my water is destroyed? <Give it time and water changes. If you have anything to feed, do so sparingly.> If I read any of the results wrong and they sound fishy to you (no pun intended), then let me know and I will try to test again for you, that Red Sea reef test kit really reminded me of 8th grade biology all over, they even make you calculate a formula to get readings. <Testing is fun at first! For what it is worth I would not even bother with the test strips. They can be good for a very general look see at your water, but do not consider the results definitive. Good luck, Scott V.> Re: Cycling Help, My water is acting fishy. 8/6/08   8/7/08 I made the first rookie mistake and went out and got a small toad stool leather coral, two feather dusters, and an emerald crab before the tank was done cycling and they all died but were removed immediately when found, I tested the water after each creature died for fear of ammonia spike but it never did. I tested again this morning and nitrites and nitrates were still off the charts, I forgot to include some important information before, it is a ten gallon tank we are talking about, and is only a month old. <Yep, too much too soon in too small a system.> Little green hair algae has started to form as well in different patches on one piece of live rock in particular, the only thing in the aquarium right now is live rock and water. <The algae confirms your water tests.> I have included pictures of what is happening with the brown algae, it tends to stay to one rock in particular. Here are the pictures of the tank, sorry for the cloudiness, its the infamous SeaClone and its tiny bubbles working hard, or hardly working. lol <The story with these skimmers, usually the later.> http://usera.imagecave.com/ghostlymatty/DIGI0012.JPG http://usera.imagecave.com/ghostlymatty/DIGI0013.JPG http://usera.imagecave.com/ghostlymatty/DIGI0014.JPG your site has been keeping me well informed on the different needs of each type of invertebrate or fish, I will no longer buy any type of sea species until I research them on your site first. <Please do!> So should I do a major water change or wait and see if it balances itself out first. <I would not necessarily do a huge water change, just stick to a good regimen of partial 10-20% changes per week. It will take time for the tank to finish cycling. Scott V.>

Re: cycling help, my water is acting fishy. 8/9/08 Then I shall give the tank time and look into upgrading to a 20 gallon at the least as from what I'm understanding that having more water is better and easier than in a nano system sized tank, such as the ten gallon where the slightest fluctuation in the water can be instantaneously fatal for my stock... <Yes, a larger tank is easier to keep constant water quality in. For the small difference in price, consider at least a 40 gallon, even looking in the local classifieds for some great used deals.> Maybe perhaps I can turn it into a refugium once it finishes cycling, <A great, worthwhile idea.> I shall inform you in a week or so if nothing changes. Thank you for all the help. <Sounds good, welcome, Scott V.>

Re: Cycling Help, My water is acting fishy. 8/16/08 Okay, I just thought I would up date you to see if you have any suggestions, there still has been no change in nitrates or nitrites, both still reading very high. I replaced my Whisper filter with a Marineland Penguin BioWheel 150 and it seems to be working a lot better. <A nice filter, the pad will still need to be cleaned or replaced quite frequently.> The Seaclone 100 skimmer is now producing foam and working quite well despite popular beliefs about it, the trick is maintaining a certain water level constantly. <Oh yes, these will work fine on smaller systems, but they do require much tinkering to keep that level constant.> I also added some different live sand to see if it would help, this one is more of an aragonite variety called Caribbean live sand, it was all they had available at the pet store at the time. It's been almost a month now and nothing has dropped yet, is my tank stuck in a never-ending stall at the moment? <Looking at your original query, it has been a bit over a week (Aug. 5) since we started corresponding.> The brown algae seems to be fading away and being replaced by a lot of green hair algae and dark colored slime on my live rock. I also have this long stringy macro algae looks like a plate of green spaghetti) <Chaetomorpha.> that the guy at the pet store gave me from his personal tank that is supposed to control nitrates, was this a mistake adding it? <Not necessarily, this is a great method to control nitrate. This algae does of course require light to grow. It is also easier to manage/control in a dedicated refugium. You can keep it in the main tank if you like the look and keep it from clogging filters, pumps, and most important: overflows. > It seems to have doubled in size since I added it last week. <A good sign, do be sure to harvest whatever grows in a week or so. Check out all the benefits of a dedicated macroalgae refugium at the links below, otherwise patience and time my friend. Scott V.> http://www.wetwebmedia.com/refugium.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/maralgae.htm

Re: Cycling Help, My water is acting fishy. 8/19/08 Haha, no I meant a month from when it was setup, the spike in the nitrites and nitrates have been only recent, I am now getting these different blooms of algae, first with the brown algae, which disappeared and came back just recently, and now a light greenish tint of algae growing on the sand bed and glass. <Typical cycling/growing pains of a new tank.> Do you suggest anything to get rid of that or is it just the different stages my tank is going through during this cycling process. <Other than manually removing and the preventative measures discussed before, I would do nothing.> Am I able to just wipe the glass clean with a small sponge (brand new of course, not used) and let the skimmer and filter clean up the rest? <Yes, the way to go while your tank matures. Scott V.>

Re: cycling help, my water is acting fishy. Re: Cycling Help/Stocking 8/29/08 Well I am pleased to report after adding two more pounds of live rock that my nitrites have finally dropped down to 0 and my nitrates are at a normal range. <Normal? OK, good to hear the nitrite is under control.> I added three turbo snails to help tidy things up in there. I have also added a very small green mushroom polyp to see how polyps are taking the new tank. Do you have any recommendations on caring for small polyps? <Nothing too spectacular, low flow area of the tank, sparing (if any) feeding, leave the things be. More general information on these posted: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/corallim.htm> I also wanted to know if I should work on getting corals and invertebrates situated before I start worrying about adding fish. <You could, some even do a fishless reef. It really comes down to what is on your list to keep. There are many corals that fall onto the 'mature and stable systems only' list, and some of the fish you wish to keep may also. You will have to research what you want to keep and stock the tank accordingly. You can add fish now, so long as they are carefully chosen (not Dominos!). Also, patience will pay off here, give it time between additions. Scott V>

Incomplete Cycle, Attentive Husbandry - 6/10/08 Hi <Hello> I have a 100 gal tank that has been setup for about 18 months. First cycling never really happened. <Not good'¦.will result in continued problems.> We have a pacific tang, 2 clown fish, niger trigger, 3 damsels, yellow tang and brown Scopas. <Quite full> Salt levels are high <?> and we have done a 10 gallon water change with distilled water. <Drastic'¦this will have a profound effect on your pH and alkalinity, as well as the salinity of your water. Even changes from bad to good must be done slowly- I've seen a tank of damsels swell up and pop because the SG was lowered too quickly.> Salt level has dropped to about 33ppm. Temp is 72F. <Too cold> We were told by our local store it was also ok to add new live sand to the tank. <Product is rarely 'live''¦sits in a bag for months. Of little benefit, at great cost.> Sand was added, approx 10lbs. We were told no need to recycle sand, it was ok to just add directly to tank. Within a week of adding, we have lost the trigger, 2 damsels, 2 clown fish, and pacific tang. All these were gone in less than 24 hrs. Is it possible since the sand was added directly to the tank that it caused the tank to cycle over again? <No, these fish likely were lost because of lowered dissolved oxygen and abrasion to the gills from the dust in the sand. A few quick tests for NH3, NO2 and NO3 will shed light on your cycling issue.> What can we do to save the 3 fish left? <Attentive husbandry will be the key- keep your SG, temperature, etc under control. If these basic parameters cannot be maintained, you have little hope of successfully keeping these fish ive.> levels as of tonight are pH 8.6 NO3 15-20 NO2 .35 Ammonia .15 <You tank is not yet cycled properly. Read re cycling, general maintenance in the archived articles and queries on wetwebmedia.com. I don't intend to sound harsh, but my belief is that inattentive husbandry and poor information is the root of the problem here.> Any thoughts? <Keep up with water changes to bring nitrogenous wastes down, read, read, read, and you'll find success and continued enjoyment in the hobby.> Melissa Wilmington <Benjamin>

Cant get rid of nitrates and nitrites Tank Cycling 4/17/08 I have a new 54 gal tank that I cannot seem to get cycled. All parameters are OK except for nitrites and nitrates. I have been using BioZyme as directed, then when that did not work after 2 weeks, I used some TLC saltwater, as prescribed on the bottle. My ammonia has been 0 for 2 weeks now, I have somewhat reduced my feeding. I have done a 10gal water change and still have lost 4-5 fish. <You should not have this many fish until the tank is cycled, part of the problem.> I am by no means an expert, but I thought I had a fair understanding of biological filtration. I am using a MegaFlow 1 sump, with standard media that came with it. No protein skimmer. <Get one, they are a valuable tool towards maintaining a good water quality.> I mostly have a fish only tank. No reef. Parameters are as follows: Temp: 78 o F Specific Gravity: 1.023 pH: 8.4 Ammonia: 0 Nitrite 5.0 mf/L Nitrate: 80 mg/L <Whoa, need some water changes, now. The nitrate is high for any system.> I appreciate your help as my local pet store is not offering much advice. They are telling me to 'just wait. <Waiting and patience is part of the equation. Water changes are also.> I wanted to buy some Nitromax, but they told me to just sit back. <Good advice, there is no additive that will hurry the natural cycle of things.> That is hard to do when I am loosing some fish. <One fish, two small Damsels (if you want Damsels) most at this point. Do not add any more until your levels are down.> I can't understand while my nitrite and nitrates aren't going back down since my ammonia is back at zero. <Ammonia going down is just part of the equation. The nitrite should soon catch up. The nitrate will not resolve itself without some kind of natural nitrate reduction such as a DSB or macroalgae growth preferably in a refugium). Even then, a level of 80 will require a series of water changes to get the levels down to an acceptable level. Lay off the use of the biological additives, you have all you need. Time is the game now. Good luck, Scott V.>

Re: Tank Cycling 4/17/08 Once the tank does properly cycle, how should I add fish. Just one at a time, I assume? <Yes, ideally after a quarantine period in a dedicated tank.> Then, how long to I wait before I add another? <This is where your water quality tests will really play in. If you have an ammonia or nitrate spike after adding a fish, wait a few weeks. When these levels reach zero, wait a while longer and then add another fish. If these numbers hold steady (zero) you can add sooner, say a week or so, but going slow and exercising patience is better and will payoff. Either way you will need to keep the nitrate in check.> Thanks <Welcome, Scott V.>

Mini cycle after aquarium upgrade   11/15/07 <Hello Dan> First and foremost I'd like to thank you and your team for your hard work and dedication. I am amazed and inspired by the level of knowledge and expertise you share with the community. <Thank you from the whole crew!!!> I've recently upgraded my established, healthy FOWLR 40gallon breeder to a 90 gallon oceanic setup. My plan is to do fish and some corals. I staged the move from one tank to the next over a 2 week period, beginning with introducing about 30lbs of live sand along with 40lbs of cured LR. I filled about 75% of the tank with new RODI filtered water and mixed salt with no livestock. Water circulated (about 500-600 gph) for 4-5 days at 77 degrees. I did not do any water testing during that time. On day 5 I did water tests - ammonia was less than .20 , nitrite and nitrate were 0. Salinity was 1.023, temp 78, ph 8.2. KH was 125. Calcium was a little higher than normal (I had buffered the day before). I began transferring the remaining LR and about 40% of my existing sand from the old tank. Fish were in a holding tank with water from the old tank. This past Sunday I did the final transfer of live stock - 4 fish and a few inverts. Monday am- Ammonia was .25 -- late Monday pm it was .30 - nitrites and nitrates were both 0. Tuesday Ammonia was just about the same, maybe .35-.40 other parameters were fine. (ph, salinity, temp, KH, ca, etc) I mixed 50 gallons of salt water and began to prepare for the inevitable 50% water change if the ammonia didn't level out...However to my surprise - Tuesday - Ammonia stayed the same, along with all other parameters. Late Tuesday PM, Ammonia began to drop back to .25 Today (Wed) Ammonia is almost 0 again. Funny thing is Nitrate and Nitrites are at 0 as well. Question - can a "partial" cycle take place without a true spike in ammonia and rise in nitrites before leveling out? <ANSWER- YES. Basically, you already had sufficient numbers of nitrifying bacteria present. Your transfer included new sand, new rock, and your "bio-load" changed. The bacteria needed to catch up to the new demand of your new system by colonizing new surfaces. There is a "mini cycle" that lasts between 72 hours and a week for these bacteria to colonize. After this time frame you should begin to have zero readings on your test kits. (This is normal) However, the system is still maturing and bacteria are still adjusting to your maintenance schedules and so forth.> I have 2 test kits and tested everything except ammonia with both measures. Am I in the safe zone? I was anticipating much more of a cycle <You are in the "safe" zone. I recommend that you wait another 30 days before you begin to purchase new stock or add more corals as the new system stabilizes. Continue testing and make water changes as necessary. On another note, when hobbyist switch from FOWLR to reef tanks or corals they are unaware of how important the control of phosphates are. Please purchase a good phosphate test kit and keep this level as low as possible with water changes and the use of an Iron Oxide resin. Enjoy your new tank-Rich...aka...Mr. Firemouth>

Strange spike in my water quality 2-25-08 Hello Again WWM Crew! I hope your day is going well. <No biostatistics today! Yay!> I have a question about a strange spike in my water quality numbers. <Alrighty then> I have a 125g FOWLR tank (about 50lbs of LR and 100lbs of LS). My numbers were all within range (ammonia 0, nitrites 0, nitrates 5-10, ph 8.2-8.4) for a couple weeks, then I added my livestock about two weeks ago. <What, pray tell, does "Livestock" entail?> The numbers since then have been the same, but Friday night when I tested, I did not expect the results I received: (Ammonia .50, Nitrates 3.0, Nitrates 20, ph 8.2). I quickly did a 20% water change, and let the tank "settle" overnight. Saturday morning, I tested again, and even with the water change, I had identical numbers: (Ammonia .50, Nitrates 3.0, Nitrates 20, pH 8.2). I did another 20% water change Saturday afternoon, and checked again Sunday morning...almost Identical numbers again: (Ammonia .25 [slight drop], Nitrites 3.0, Nitrates 20, ph 8.2). I did yet another 20% change Sunday night, and just checked again this morning, and the numbers are the same as yesterday: (Ammonia .25, Nitrates 3.0, Nitrates 20, ph 8.2). The other thing I have noticed is that there seems to be some growth in the tank. Not much at all, but there are a few resin ornaments we have in the tank and there seems to be a brownish algae growing on the tops of them. <Not at all unusual, especially during a cycle> My question is, is it possible my tank is re-cycling for some reason? <Most likely> Also, what course of action should I take? Am I not changing enough water (20%) to make an impact on the numbers, or are the nitrites and nitrates holding steady because the tank is cycling (again?). <Sounds like you simply added too much biomass too quickly, with a possible of lack of adequate biological filtration. Water changes are going to interrupt this second cycle, so I would cease the water changes, add Amquel+ or Prime daily to neutralize the ammonia/nitrites, and add a 'cycle booster' type product (I like SeaChem's' Stability) to 'jump start' your biofilter. Next time, don't add animals as quickly!> I appreciate any thoughts and suggestions. As always, thank you for your time and your help. <Anytime> Mike P.
<M. Maddox>

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