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Opinion on Using Partial Live Sand and Rock to "Seed"
Non-Live Sand and Dry Rock For New Setup – 03/12/13
I have tried to research here on WWM, forums, my books, etc. to find this answer but have really only found differing opinions on this topic.
<<Mmm, as is the case on so much in this hobby>>
My question is regarding the use of a combination of live rock and live sand to eventually "seed" some non-live sand and, likely to a lesser degree, the dry rock in a new reef aquarium.
<<Okay…a common enough practice>>
This will be my first reef aquarium and my only previous salt water tank was a FOWLR about 10 years ago. So, I can't base much on experience here and have to go by what I find while researching.
<<And ‘kudos’ to you for “researching”>>
I know it is generally accepted that live sand can be used to eventually seed non-live sand and have read that, to some degree, this can happen with dry rock used with live rock.
<<Indeed…with the bio-diversity obtained from such being highly dependent upon the condition/quality of the seed material. But even so, it is generally considered to be of benefit over not seeding>>
However, it seems that the dry rock will never have comparable biodiversity as high-quality live rock, or many of its benefits.
<<It will be only as good as the seed rock as mentioned…and assuming ample time is allowed before the introduction of macro predators to give the biota time to grow and spread/establish>>
I am pretty comfortable using live sand to seed the non-live sand, but wanted to see what the ever-so-informative folks at WWM thought about using a mix of live and dry rock, like Marco rock?
<<”I” think this is fine>>
And, if so, what percentage would you recommend as a minimum?
<<Is up to you, really…given some considerations. You can get by with as little as a 10% ratio of live ‘seed’ rock versus dry rock…just allow more time for seeding with the smaller ratio>>
I have Anthony and Bob's Reef Invertebrates book and they seem to think this shouldn't be an area to skimp on as the benefits of using all live rock is worth the extra cost.
<<The more “quality live rock” used the better, yes…but seeding dry rock to save money, or even to just reduce the possible introduction of nuisance organisms, is acceptable in my humble opinion>>
But, with my setup I wanted to see if you thought this might be feasible.
<<Indeed I do>>
I also like the idea of being able to saw, chisel, and otherwise shape some of the dry rock and take as long as I would like to come up with something a little different.
A brief overview of my tank and gear; a 180 gallon acrylic (6x2x2) with dual internal overflows, LifeReef sump and LifeReef refugium built as large as can fit inside the stand (only about 25 gallons for the refugium). I just don't have an option yet to store the gear elsewhere. I have planned to use the refugium primarily for copepod production but will include a deep sand bed and some algae for nutrient uptake
<<Excellent…and I do recommend Chaetomorpha macro-algae on a reverse lighting schedule here>>
, Reef Dynamics 180 in-sump skimmer
<<I do love this company’s (formerly Euro-Reef) skimmers>>
, 4 Tunze Stream 6101's with 7095 multicontroller, lighting is a Coralife 3 x 250w metal halide with a few LED's for dusk/dawn, ATO and water changes will all be with RO/DI water. Other gear; Ca reactor, chiller and similar will be added soon, if needed. I also have planned on having a 5-6" sand bed in the main display as I know I would like a Pearly Jawfish. I'm shooting for a peaceful community with wrasses from the Cirrhilabrus family as the centerpiece.
<<Sounds very nice>>
Do you think it I would be reasonable to use a combination of live and dry rock and live sand and non-live sand?
I am assuming that with a tank this size that the live rock (50-60% or something around 80 lbs) would still be able to cycle the tank appropriately, especially if taken slow?
<<Ah yes, for sure…I remember the days when we cycle tanks sans live rock>>
Would the other benefits, such as biological filtration and providing plentiful food items for some inhabitants, make this unwise?
<<No, not really…but do give ample time for the biota to develop and grow…the longer the better. I let my current 500g system (en toto), set up in 2003, run for seven months before I introduced the first fish. This is of benefit even when using “100%” live rock but is even more essential when seeding a dry system, in my opinion>>
Several reef aquarists in my local reef club have used dry rock entirely.
<<This does seem to be a growing trend>>
Although it eventually gets a nice cover of coralline algae and they have successful reef tanks, I know they are missing the many benefits of live rock.
<<The greater the bio-diversity in your tank the greater the benefit, agreed>>
But, I thought a mixture is something that might be considered as reasonable. Thank you so much for any information.
<<Is a pleasure to share>>
WWM is a wonderful resource and greatly appreciated, especially by newbies like myself who want to do things right and not make (many) mistakes.
<<We are happy to be of service, Kevin. Good luck with your new system… EricR>>
question about cycling 3/1/12
Hi I Have a ? /Cycling/Live Rock
Cycling with Established Rock/Sand
Tank Safe/Nitrogen Cycle/Live Rock
FOWLR Cycling, 1/19/10
Cycling LFS holding tanks
Is the cycle complete? 9/1/2009
Re: is the cycle complete? 9/1/2009
Dead Live Rock - It's dead, cannot cycle a
tank with it. 4/10/2009
Tank Breakdown... re-establishing SW cycling with dead live sand 11/11/07 Hi there, <David> I recently broke down a 72 gallon tank and stored the live sand in buckets. After s few weeks, <... stinky...> I set up a tank solely for the purpose of preparing replacement water for my water changes on a smaller tank that I have. I put in this sand after I washed it many times. <Oh, good> As expected, the readings were off the charts. I know all the fauna perished - however, I want to - at some point - reuse the sand. I am weekly changing 50% of the water in this tank - yet the readings have not dropped - am I not being realistic here? What should I expect? Should I just start fresh and throw this out? <Mmm, I would just add a bit... a few pounds, of live rock... and let this re-seed the sand> I am confused. <Mmm, more impatient...> Your advice is valued....and as always - many thanks for maintaining this invaluable source of info for a hobby that I love. Cheers, David <It is for you we endeavour to share. Ten deep breaths, long walks... let time go by here... with some LR added. Bob Fenner> Live Rock Cycling 5/11/06 Hello Again WWM Crew, Your help thus far has gotten me to where I am and I am ready to take my next step! I was hoping you could answer a few questions to help me do this. <<Woo Hoo! Off to the races! Will be glad to help out.>> I have a 75gal display tank with an overflow plumbed down to my basement into a 55gal tank converted to a refugium/sump. I have 1 inch of 50/50 live sand/aragonite in the display tank and 4 inches of the same in the refugium. The live sand has been in the system for over a month and there are definite signs of life. I have been curing 70 lbs. of previously uncured Caribbean and Tonga live rock for the past 2-1/2 weeks with my Aqua C remora in operation in plastic drums. There is no detectable ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate at this point. <<Sounds like a very nice set up! All sounds very good.>> This leads to my questions: Some of the rock still has a strong odor, is it safe to place into my system yet? Once it is in the tank, should I expect another Nitrogen cycle? <<Hmmm... Shouldn't still be all that stinky unless there is a lot of decaying matter still attached. I would go over the rock an carefully remove any dead or dying material (even using a toothbrush or small scrub brush in places). Afterwards, do a large water change... on the order of 50%. If you haven't been doing water changes, change another 50% in a few days. The rock should not cycle again after moving to the display.>> Will the tank be considered safe to add fish at this point or do I need to cause another cycle - perhaps using cocktail shrimp? (raw or cooked?) <<I would wait until you resolve the smell issue. The fact that you aren't getting any ammonia, nitrite or nitrate could just mean that it is being processed as fast as it is being produced. If there is enough stuff on your rock to stink... there is plenty to fuel the cycle. There is no benefit to using a piece of shrimp or other piece of rotting meat to drive a cycle.>> How long should I wait until I can a few fish (pair of clowns) after all looks good? <<After the stink is gone, you should be fine to move the rock to the display and start adding animals. I guess I should concede that the "stinkiness" of live rock is quite subjective. If I unloaded my tank right now, my wife would say it stinks to high heaven, but I would say it smells like the beach. Whether or not you find such smells pleasant or objectionable the difference in odor between living things (even unpleasant ones) and the stench of decaying organic matter is usually instinctively clear. Your rock may be just fine now.>> I have reviewed most of the articles available on your regarding tank cycling and live rock but I am having trouble piecing it all together for my situation. Thanks again for doing what you do. You have been there every step of the way. Andy <<Every circumstance is different, so the posted articles don't always have all of the answers. That is why we are here! Best Regards. AdamC.>> Live Rock Cycling part 2 5/15/06 Thanks AdamC!! I have been doing 100% water changes every 2-3 days. <<Awesome!>> I have been scrubbing the rock during most of the water changes. Many of the pieces do not have that odor. On some of the pieces it is evident and I cannot see any decaying matter, but I expect it is "inside" the rock where I can't get to. Nevertheless, I will keep curing until I cannot detect the decaying odor on any of the rock. I have been patient for this long, what's another few weeks? Thanks again for your help, this clears things up! <<Glad to help. I am guessing that you are being overly cautious (which is better than being cavalier!). Unless the odor is strong, and as long as no ammonia is present, you can at very least move the rock to the display and get it aquascaped. After giving it a few days or so to settle down after being moved, you should be fine to start slowly adding animals. Best Regards. AdamC.>>
Cycling A SW Tank With Dead "Live Rock" - 01/04/2006 Hey Hey, <Hello Angelo.> First off, your site is the BEST on the web for saltwater help and tips! <Thanks for the kind words.> I'm new to saltwater tanks. I bought a whole setup from a friend, 55gal, rock, lights, heater, protein skimmer, 2-powerheads and sump. <1-2 more powerheads will be a good future purchase.> Thing is that the "live rock" had been sitting in a big bucket for about a year in his basement so it's safe to say it is now dead. Now I've read that you can cycle a tank with just rock (no sand, no inverts, no fish etc.) without any light (because using light would grow unwanted algae). <In this situation you're rock won't import the bacteria to jump start the cycle so I would fill (substrate, rock, Etc.) and run the tank. The cycle will happen regardless so just give it time. Can toss in some food to start things or if your friends tank is in good shape (matured, disease/medication free) perhaps he will allow you a scoop of sand (or a few gallons of "used" from his next water change perhaps). > Is this true, that I can cycle a tank with just rock? <Can cycle a tank with just water.> I've been told to rinse, rinse and rinse the rock because it's been sitting out for a long time and scrap off anything that looked biological on the outside of the rock. <I wouldn't bother. This stuff can get you started also.> Now once my tank gets a stable temp of 78, stable SG of 1.020-1.025 <You realize this fluctuation can't be considered stable, right?> and stable pH of 8.1-8.4, <Nor can this one.> can I add the dead "live rock" to start the cycle process? <Yep, and you don't even have to torture any fish. Good stuff!> Will the dead rock give off enough ammonia to start the cycle? <If it does in fact have old life crusted on, it should.> And at the end of the cycle, what should the Nitrate level be? <What you're looking for is when the ammonia and nitrite become zero (after they've peaked).> Please help. <Hope I have.> Any other tips or advice you feel like sharing would be greatly appreciated <Just the above.> Angelo <Josh.> Tank Start Up Bob: <Ben> Just thinking out loud here, please help. <Will try> Trying to wrap my mind around the startup concept of adding live sand in the DSB's (Tank and Refuge) and a portion of the overall total of live rock that will eventually enter the aquarium. What bothers me is that the LS and LR will be sensitive to ammonia, nitrite, nitrate etc. and in the process of building up a good population of bacteria the LR and LS will be stressed with some micro and macro organisms dying off. <Yes> Why can't I take it real slow and dose the tank with a pharmaceutical grade ammonia and add bottled bacteria from a reputable vendor. <You can... and even skip the exogenous ammonia> In theory I should be able to build a strong bacterial base which would be augmented with doses of LS and LR once everything is at ZERO or very close to ZERO. My thinking is that with as few as possible living things going through the cycle, more will survive and less will be stressed and the introduction of LR and LS will produce minimal ammonia spikes if any. Your thoughts? <Your thinking is correct here... the only "downside" is the added amount of time to "really" livestocking. Bob Fenner> Thank You, Benjamin New larger aquarium set-up 9/5/05 Greetings Staff. <Hello Dean> I have a question that I hope you can help me with. <Shoot> I am in the process of setting up a new 180 gallon marine tank. I have had it running for about 2 weeks. Originally I filled it with approximately 50 % seasoned water from another tank and a few cups full of seasoned crushed coral (substrate) and the balance of water I mixed fresh. I have been measuring the usual components but have not experienced an ammonia spike. Will I or should I get a large reading of ammonia or will I need to feed it further with something? <You need to feed it. Add a couple of hardy fish. You probably won't experience a spike since the crushed coral you added should have a good starter culture.>I have about 80 pounds of fully cured live rock on hold at the LFS and will add about 50 pounds from another tank that I have. Is it better to add the rock now or should I wait until my new tank has fully cycled on its own ? <I would add it now and also, no lighting for at least three weeks, preferably four. We don't want nuisance algae to take hold during start up.> Thanks for all of your help. All the members of the crew have been very helpful to all of us marine enthusiasts and it is very much appreciated. <Thank you, James (Salty Dog)> Dean Fowler Live Rock Cycling <Hello! Ryan with you> My tank has been running for just over 2 weeks now and I was told that since I setup my new Aquarium with Cured Live Rock/Live Sand, it cycles in like 5-10 days. <It may, but it's always better to over-shoot. Give it at least 3 weeks to stabilize.> ( I have a 29gallon Acrylic tank with a Corallife 130w (65w white, 65w Actinic), 100w Heater, SeaClone 100 skimmer, Fluval 2 Plus Underwater Filter, Aquaclear 301 power head, 40lbs Live Rock and 40lbs Live Sand ) I talked to the Store where I bought my stuff to start the tank, and told him that the Ammonia was at 0.50 as well as my nitrites at 0.50 and he said I should do a 15% water change. <I'd wait until fully cycled> I said that I thought you were suppose to wait for the Tank to cycle (4-8weeks) before you did your first water change. <Yup> He said since I used the cured Live Rock/Live Sand my tank should have already cycled. I have read that until your tank cycles you will get above normal ammonia, then above normal nitrite, then above normal nitrate, then it is cycled. Help me out here, what is the deal, is my tank cycled and I should start doing weekly 10-20% water changes. <What are your reading to date?> My Brown algae kicked in around day 4 and was kind of there for like 3-4 days but is gone now, and the tank is actually doing well with the exception to this ammonia/nitrite thing. Heck I got a Dwarf Flame Angel and a Bicolor Pseudo that are doing really well as well as some snails/cleaner shrimp and 4 hermits with a Sand Sifter Star. <Whoa! Don't you think you should make sure it's cycled before adding all that livestock? Now that I get the picture, it seems like you a re-cycling. By adding all that bio-load in a short period of time, you've maxed out the available resources for processing waste. You need to be very mindful of your nitrite and ammonia- they could easily stress your livestock. And be extra light on feedings until everything pans out.> They are all swimming and eating well, I take out the extra food they do not eat or miss and am only feeding them like 1/4 part of a small frozen Mysis Shrimp cube. I was reading that until a tank is well established you will get these small Ammonia/Nitrite amounts until the Live Rock/Live Sand Biological environment gets established. <Please read> http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm http://wetwebmedia.com/feeding.htm I am new to the Saltwater realm coming from 10 years of freshwater, and have read a lot of different opinions as well as listened to the opposing two fish stores I shop at. I think I bought a good starting setup for a Reef Aquarium and just want to make sure I can get this started well so I can start putting more Inverts/fish in my system. I know I should wait like 4-6 months before I put Corals in my tank, but I want to get some inverts and fish established first with a stable system. ( Dwarf Flame Angel Might peck at hard and soft corals, but they say that only 2 in 10 peck at hard and soft corals. My wife liked him so I am taking the 80% chance that he will not.) <You're already pushing things- A Flame Angel in a tight fit in a 29 gallon. The smaller a tank is, the more likely he is to "sample" your corals. Please go very slowly, and check out Mr. Fenner's portion of CMA on smaller systems. It should be very helpful in your new project. Good luck! Ryan> Thanks,
The Light At The End Of The Tunnel... HI Guys, I just wanted to say thanks a lot to Scott F for the good advice and here is an update as to what is going on in the tank now. <Glad the response was helpful to you!> The ammonia levels have dropped quite a bit ( Almost undetectable) I think I gave some misleading information about how long I have had my tank going. I have had it for approximately 3-4 years, I had to move (lots of fun, with anemone's and lots of live rock!) So I had to take it down and then set it up again but kept 1/4 of the water and had all the original sand and stuff. <A good technique!> So it is kind of established, the live rock is covered in algae, green hair and purple calcareous. I think that it really helped the tank bounce back from that dosage incident that happened. I was really happy to see the tank stabilize and I did not lose a single fish. <Excellent!> I did lose one Turbo snail who did not acclimatize well to my tank. I can deal with that with all things considered. The next issue to deal with is getting that phosphate down and controlling the green algae. <Another battle- but one that is relatively easily solved with some simple techniques!> Thanks again Scott I really appreciate the good advice, you guys help so many people in this hobby every single day. You should get an award or something. <Ya know what? Just knowing that we've helped out a fellow hobbyist through a frustrating situation is a reward in itself!> Cheers! J* <Continued success, J. Regards, Scott F.>
Cycling with liverock I will try to be brief. <No problem> I am brand new to this stuff, at least to marine. I have started the set up process with used tank and accessories from an individual who upgraded to larger. I have set up a plenum with "live" sand, at least that is what the bags said. About 60 lbs of live sand, 20 lbs of aragonite, and 20 or so of "substrate/ gravel". Using the equipment below, I let the sand settle and run for two days. Now the fella I bought the equipment from said I needed to get something in the water otherwise I would "loose the sand". On his suggestion I ran out and got a half dozen damsels and a dozen hermits. 72 hrs later still all tests are quite good and livestock are hanging in. Everything I have read suggest I should be cycling with LR right now. My question is this, is it ok to put some in (100 lbs), it is supposed to be fully cured Fiji. Should I expect a large enough spike to kill the little livestock I currently have? <Any ammonia or nitrite will stress the livestock. It is preferred to add liverock and cycle the tank with this. If you decide to keep the livestock use water changes when necessary to control the ammonia and nitrite. Yes, you can add the rock now. Hope this helps, Don> What I have; 100 gal tank two 14000 k MH : on for about four hours/ day four compact actinic : on for 12 hours emperor power filter/ BioWheel three power heads Berlin HO skimmer I will be converting to sump after I gather up all the remaining items.
Cycling tank with live rock >Hello crew, you guys are great! >>Greetings, Marina here. >I have couple questions to ask if I may? Getting ready to fire up my 120 gal tank FOWL. Can I just add 120lbs of cured premium live rock to bare bottom then add 1" of CaribSea special blend aragonite sand about 2mm to quickly cycle my tank provided the ammonia and nitrite are 0 with a hint of nitrate? >>(Scratching head here..) Are you asking if the sand will cycle your tank? Or are you asking if you can cycle the tank with the sand in it? Or are you asking if you can cycle with the live rock in the tank? Are you adding one inch of sand (1")? Or 2 millimeters (mm)? >Also I plan on leaving my lights on 3 hours and the rest off to cut down on algae but gain coralline. >>I see no need to worry about lighting during the cycling process. >Should my skimmer be on at this time? >>Yes. >Or at what stage should I fire the skimmer? >>Ok, since I'm not sure what, exactly, you're asking, I'll just jump in and give my suggestions. First, IF the rock is really cured then yes, you can go ahead and put it in your tank (assuming you're also positive it harbors no pests such as Mantis), then add the sand to the desired depth, then add some raw shrimp to begin a cycle. If the rock is really well-cured, then it should quickly handle the ammonia and nitrites, and the sand will become seeded during this process. Since you haven't mentioned it, I'll suggest you look up information on site about refugiums, deep sand beds (DSB), and natural nitrate reduction. Good schtuff. Should you decide to run a 'fuge, then you may decide to not run the skimmer, but during cycling it's a good idea. I hope this helps, and best of luck! Marina
Live Rock! (7/2/03) Can I use fully cured live rock to cycle my tank? or do I need to get partial cured and let the cycle occur? <Fully cured will be just fine it just speeds up the process.> I have a 120 gal FOWLR tank to start up. and also when is a good time to start the skimmer?<Right away!> if fully cured rock start it with substrate early? also will a white full spectrum and a blue actinic be ok for the live rock? <What kind of bulbs are they, if they are just SO I would upgrade to VHO or add a couple more bulbs. Cody>