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FAQs on Establishing Nutrient/Biological Cycling in Marine Systems 10

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, Cycling Products: By Manufacturers/Names: Bio-Spira, Cycle...  Chemical Feeding, Anomalies/Fixing 1, Trouble/Fixing 2, & Fluidized Beds, Undergravel Filters/FiltrationDenitrification/Denitrifiers, Ammonia, Nitrites, Nitrates, Phosphates, & Nutrient Export,

Related Articles: Establishing Cycling, Biofiltration

Purposeful organisms that stir the substrate are of tremendous use.

“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.>

Restart aquarium     11/18/18
I had a FOWLR aquarium running for years until Hurricane Sandy knocked out power for 2 weeks and everything died. Tank has been laying idle ever since, still filled with water, sand, and rock. Pumps, skimmer, lights, etc have not been turned on in 6 years. I want to start her up again. Any advice?
<Rinse the submersible equipment in a 50/50 solution of water/vinegar for a day or two; put the rock and sand for 24 hrs in water with 10% bleach, after doing this, just rinse and add dechlorinator, then you can reinstall the
tank. Wil.>

Two Curiosities (Cycle and Skimmer/evaporation)    3/27/17
Hello WWM Crew,
I am about a month into the set up of my new tank, and I have several curiosities that I am puzzling over. As you all are always here for me (and I REALLY appreciate that) I thought I would send them your way in the hopes that not only can you answer my inquiries, but also that they might perhaps help someone else as well.
First a little background. I have a 75 gallon tank with a 30 gallon sump. I filled the tank in late February, and on March 8 got 42 lbs. of really good live rock at a LFS that is about an hour and a half away. This stuff was well cured, large but light (very pours), and full of all kinds of life: sea stars, brittle stars, all kinds of pods and Mysis, sponges, worms, snails, clams, feather dusters galore. I took it home and stuck in the tank. The original plan was to put an additional 35 lbs. or so of (formerly) live rock (now dead) that I had in my tank four years ago that has been sitting in my basement dry in a 5 gallon bucket since. The plan was to let the old rock “feed” the new rock through the cycle period, and the new rock to fill the old rock with bacteria. However, I didn’t have time to put all the dead rock in and aquascape that day, so I just stuck the new rock in the tank for a few days until I was going to have time to do the rest. Having seen all the life on the new rock, I’m glad that I didn’t have time. Especially since on one of the rocks was a hitchhiking Kenya Tree Coral (it’s about an inch tall closed up).I didn’t even notice it until I was home. I had hoped to start the tank as a FOWLR, and eventually (maybe) move on to some soft corals. But I ended up getting thrust into the world of corals already. I didn’t want to go ahead with the original plan for fear that
it would kill the coral and a lot of the other cool life on the live rock. So, on the advice of a friend (who owns the LFS store where I got the rock) instead of going ahead and putting in all the dead rock, I am adding instead one or two of the rocks per week so that the bacteria can build slowly and handle all the dead stuff on the old rock. I have also washed them off really well—spraying them with a hose and also immersing them in water several times. All of the dead rocks except one are less than 5lbs. each and a few are really small. I’ve added four this way (less than 10 lbs. so far), and so far all is well.
<This is a good, workable plan; though I most often suggest and use old/dead rock under the new>
So now for the first curiosity. When I put the new live rock in the tank originally and left it for several days, I expected a brief cycle—it was well cured, but out of the water for almost two hours on the way home. But I never got one. For the few days that I left it in the tank by itself, I did “feed” it a small pinch of fish food every other day. In fact, I have had no evidence of a cycle at all—even putting in the four dead rocks so far (over the last two weeks).I’m not getting any ammonia or nitrite (which I didn’t expect to get), but I’m not getting any Nitrate either (and I have a brand new Nitrate test, and an older one too).It is just a standard Nitrate test (not a low level one), but it keeps reading 0—certainly not 5ppm (the next step up on the color chart).I would have thought that after having been in there three weeks that I would be getting some kind of Nitrate reading.
<Mmm; nope. You have a classic "balanced" aerobic/anaerobic setting currently>
I am getting some algae this week—some diatoms and a little bit of hair algae. I’ve had to use my lights more because of the coral. I did set up my skimmer (Aqua C EV-180) a few days after I put in the new rock. This is the first time I’ve used a skimmer (I didn’t have one before), but it was easy to follow the directions and install it. It didn’t skim anything at first (during break-in).It just churned the water, but after I put in the first of the old rocks it started skimming some dark gray water. It will slow down after a day or so, but then when I put another old rock in, it will produce some more.
<Par for the course>
So here are my theories on why I am not getting any Nitrates.1. The live rock is substantial enough (and the waste is still small enough even with the four old rocks) that the denitrifying bacteria in the live rock is removing the Nitrates as they are being produced.2.The Nitrates are being used up by the algae in the tank. In addition to the diatoms and hair algae, there are lots of coralline algae that seem to be growing before my eyes.3.The skimmer is removing a lot of the dead stuff from the old rocks before it can go through the cycle.4.All of the above. Thoughts?
<All three; but mostly 1)>
The other curiosity is mostly more of an observation. My skimmer, when it is producing foam greatly increases the rate of evaporation in the tank. In the period of time before I installed the skimmer, I thought I had the rate of evaporation roughly figured. This remained fairly constant while it was breaking in as well. But when it started producing foam and skimming the evaporation really increased. I'm losing a little over a half gallon a day. When I empty the cup and clean the tower, it loses the head of foam and takes several hours to build it back
up. During this time the rate of evaporation slows way down. I'm not losing that much liquid in the collection cup itself. It's evaporating more rapidly. I guess I was curious as to why this is the case?
<More surface area; more rapid evaporation>
Is it normal? And is this something that is common with all skimmers or just
the EV-180?
<Normal for all>
Again, thank you for always being there for me (and all of us).I have learned so much from your site and from the inquiries that I have sent in.
<Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Re: Two Curiosities (Cycle and Skimmer/evaporation)     3/28/17
Hi Bob,
<Hello Eddie>
I had a follow up comment to your responses to my email yesterday. I actually never got the email response, but I saw your comments in the daily FAQs.
<Bizarre... we respond directly to all. I don't like that you didn't get the msg. directly>
This may be because I accidentally sent yesterday's email through one of my work accounts. I'm sending this one through my personal email, which I have always used with WWM before. For your convenience I copied/pasted the email and response from the daily FAQs page below.
<Thank you>
Anyway, thank you for your response/endorsement of my plan. You said that you often suggest putting the old/dead rock under the new. I wanted to clarify that my plan is to do that very thing. Right now, as I add it a piece at a time, I'm putting most of the old rock in the sump. I have space reserved in there for a refugium that I haven't set up yet. I'm sticking most of the old rock in there. Once I get most of it in the system, then I will do my final aquascaping. This will involve (briefly) pulling the new rock out into a plastic tub containing system water (syphoned out for this purpose and to help prevent water sloshing out while I have my hands in there), pulling the old rock out of the sump and arranging it in the tank (I've already practiced this on a cardboard cut out and taken pictures of the way I want to arrange it),
<Neat; a very good practice>
and then arranging the new rock on top of it. I even have holes already drilled in the old rock and zip ties already inserted so that I can attach the new to the old.
Thanks again for all your help. I hope that your diving trip goes very well.
<Ah, thank you. BobF>

cycling issue      7/4/16
Hi crew,
I'm in the process of setting up my 150 gallon marine tank with 40 gallon sump. I'm familiar with the cycling process and understand its concept and how it works. I have a few questions that I can't really seem to find the right answer I'm looking for along with a few theories on why I'm not getting an ammonia spike in my tank. Unfortunately i was unable to
rinse the 140 pounds of dry sand that I added to my tank. {I also added 40 lbs of the AragAlive live sand to help with the seeding process.}
<Oh! Well; some times, some systems don't actually "see" ammonia and/or nitrite spikes; particularly if/when using items that contain nitrifying bacteria; as you've done here>
After I realized how much fine sand was staying in the water column I decided to buy a whole house filter with a 15 micron cartridge piped it into my sump then ran it with a maxi-jet 1200 and began the process of stirring my sand over the next two weeks to remove all of the sand that was to fine and stayed in the water column. This approach worked very well and all extremely fine sand was removed. Through this 2 week process various bug such as moths and what not made their way into my tank. I left them in thinking they could possibly start the cycling process for me. I know its not a shrimp or what not but don't see how it would not.
<My chief concern is the possibility that such insects might have sprayed w/ insecticides... but likely not much trouble here>
My question is when i stirred the sand over these two weeks the tank water would become cloudy as expected but as the sand was removed it began to look more like a bacterial bloom then that of sand and i was wondering if the cycling process had already begun.
<Likely so>

Did stirring the sand maybe increase the cycling process due to die off from stirring the sand?
I did not test the parameters of my water during the 2 week process. The reason I ask is because i put 2 decent size shrimp in my tank over 4 days ago and I am still not having any ammonia or nitrite spikes.
<Do you get a measure for Nitrate accumulating here? Again, your system may have cycled>
I tested both of these parameters twice a day for those 4 days. Could my tank have already cycled in the 2 week sand stir period and cause the issue of not getting spikes in ammonia from the shrimp?
<Yes; is possible. But I would hold off stocking till you see the NO3 gathering>
Having a hard time figuring this one out. Thanks for your help and happy Independence weekend.
<Ah, thank you; and you as well. Bob Fenner>

Cycling a new set up     3/27/16
Would you advise to keep lights on when doing this and also put algae into the refugium. From the start ?
<Yes; this and much more related is gone over (archived) on WWM. Bob Fenner>
Re: Cycling a new set up     3/27/16

Thank you for your time.
<A pleasure to share. Again; do avail yourself of the hundreds of thousands of queries/responses; several hundred articles and book segments, tens of thousands of images which are WWM. BobF>

cycling of saltwater aquarium; RO malfunction          4/7/15
I’ve cycled many tanks over the years but have never dealt with this particular issue before. I live in an agriculture state now ,but was a recent move. I have an ro filter hook-up for drinking water which I used to fill the tank after taking a sample to PetCo for them to test the water .I did not have testing kits yet. I was told all was well ,
so I went ahead and filled the tank, and began a fishless cycle. I added ammonium chloride to the tank, waited a few days to test with my new SeaChem test kits. I did not initially get a free ammonia level, but did get a total ammonia level of 0.5- 1.0. It’s hard to decipher the gradual color changes. Even though I figured it was too early to get any reading from nitrite, nitrate testing
<For browsers and you; I WOULD be adding some other "feeder stock"; likely at least a proteinaceous food AND a bacteria culture of use>

I did that along with ph and alkalinity testing. I was surprised to find the water testing positive for both nitrite and nitrate at 2 and 20ppm respectively so soon.
<Mmmm; again... some other source>
Long story short there is both the same numbers in the ro filtered water
<?! Should NOT be coming through an operating RO device>

I had coming from the tap. Now I have to try to figure out is this tank cycled once the total ammonia and nitrite levels go to zero?
<Should be>
It’s a 90 gallon tank and I’d hate to drain it and refill so I plan to use a product called az-no3
<A real product. I.e.; it works>
to get rid of excess nitrate that’s in the tank after cycle and before any thing living goes in and the get ro/di unit to do water changes from then forward.
<I'd look into adding at least an activated carbon contactor module to your string... that is, another step in your Reverse Osmosis tool>
Right now I’m getting sporadic free ammonia readings (sometimes 0.2 or so , sometimes zero) and a consistent total ammonia reading of 0.5 every few days when I test. Nitrite and nitrate still holding about the same at above mentioned numbers and I’m about 1 1/2 weeks into the cycle (which is still way early, I know and understand that). I just wondered if there is going to be a drop in the nitrite since it’s not being converted but pre-existing in the water?
<A few things else may be going on here... the source, type of nitrogenous (and other) compounds in your source water that are evidently getting past your RO... I really just urge what has been stated above. The addition of flake or pelleted food likely; AND a real aquarium-beneficial mix of microbes; ala Dr. Tim's, Microbe-Lift, SeaChem...>

I’m sorry if this seems like a silly question ( I’m not the best with chemistry) and wanted a second opinion on what to expect.
<Not silly; actually profound>
90 gal. corner bow
Aquamax cones protein skimmer HOB
Hydor 600 canister filter
2 Hydor powerheads for circulation
instant ocean reef crystals as salt mix
3 inch sand bed
no rock as of yet (plan to get life rock once cycled, has bacteria in it from what I gather)
<Oh! The rock can sub for both the food and bacterial additions... just a few lb.s
Thanks Gail
<Welcome; Bob Fenner>
Re: cycling of saltwater aquarium          4/7/15

Hi Mr. Fenner,
Thank you for your quick reply and I have solved the mystery of the faulty water!
After receiving your email last night I decided to test the regular tap (unfiltered) and there were no nitrites and maybe 1ppm nitrate in that water, so I have to conclude that my filter was installed incorrectly or backwards!
If I hadn't decided to start up a tank and had not contacted you it may have been quite awhile till I noticed anything amiss. I will now contact the company and find out how to fix this mess along with the handyman who installed it and give him a piece of it. I may also have to drain tank after all if anything worse that nitrite and nitrate got flushed into that water.
<I'd just wait at this point... the little bit in there presently is of little consequence>
If they give me a breakdown of the chemical composition of the water and I'm not sure if it should stay or go I
may call upon your expertise to say yea or nay, if that's ok with you.
For right now until I have the facts everything will be in stasis. Thank you for possibly saving mine and my family's life, we are so very grateful you do what you do!
Thank you, Gail
<Very glad to be of assistance. Bob Fenner>

Re: Cycling      5/13/14
Hello Bob Fenner,
Thanks for the reply.
I have setup the aquarium as per plan, however I took about 10kg of existing live rocks from my nano tank and used a chiller (temperature is now 27-27.5 degrees C).
On the 4th day after setup, I tested the water parameters. They are as follows:
Ammonia = 0 (not detectable)
NO2 = 0 (not detectable)
NO3 = 5mg (I suppose the "borrowed" live rocks help seed the bacteria and accelerated the cycling. I also did dose BioTim and Biodigest for the Bio Pellets)
PH = 8.4
KH = 11dkh
ORP = 260 creeping up slowing until 312 (down later when I added 2nd batch of bio-pellet)
Salinity = 1.024
Although the NO3 is 5mg, I am reluctant to add any fish. I feel I should give more time for the tank to stabilize first; although not sure how long.
<Mmm, I'd place a bit of food; perhaps a small, hardy organism>
Questions if I may:)
I would really like a mandarin fish down the road. Objective is how to sustain a thriving pod population?
<There are a few approaches>
I have researched and concluded that the area per square feet of sand and rocks (rather than per pound per gallon) as a better guide to increase the opportunities for more pods to grow. At the moment I have about 30 kg (66 pounds) of live rocks (I prefer open spaces than packed corals/rocks). I believe many would say double the amount would be needed to sustain it. As such I plan to hammer away some new rocks and epoxy them into small rock rumbles and scatter them around the tank. I hope to add 10-20kg in total weight of these rock rumbles and 5-10kg in the sump.
<Mmm; I'd much rather have a sump/refugium... space there sans predators of any kind for culture>
Feeding it:
I read that copepods feed mainly on algae especially diatoms. I some concerns not sure if it is valid;
<Many smaller Copepoda species do>
diatom is a phase most aquarist go through, after which diatom though may be present isn't on a large scale. If I have not much algae in my tank (possibility nutrients strip dry from usage of pellet), would there be sufficient pods to sustain one mandarin?
<Can be done>
I have a less favored option: mini refugium either in the sump or hang-on aqua clear 110 with macro-algae present.
<This is the route I would go... with a DSB, RDP lighting and some macro-algal co-culture...>
Thanks once again
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Cycling / Maturation   11/17/13
Hello Everyone!
<Ms. B>
My name is Holly. I am new to the Marine Aquarium hobby. I setup my 55 gal. FOWLR tank on 10/20/13 with a Marineland Pro Series Emperor 400 Bio-Wheel Power Filter, and both a 550 & a 660 undergravel power filter with Aqua-Pure Phosphate filter pad in both and activated carbon cartridges in the 400. I do not have a protein skimmer.
<I would save up; get/use one>
 I'm using 2 18" Zoo Med Reef Sun 50/50 bulbs.
On 11/9/13, I added 2 Yellowtail Damsels, 2 Yellow Damsels & 3 pieces (approx 10#)  Live Rock.  And a tiny little crab-like being (Mr. Crabs) that snuck a ride home on one of the pieces of LR. Now I understand that PATIENCE is a must here, however, everything I've read suggest that by now I should be seeing a spike in the Ammonia at least.
<Mmm; maybe not... happens often enough that such set-ups are "instantly cycled" via their bit of live rock>
 I test the water daily at about 8 AM with an API Saltwater Master Kit. It tests for pH, ammonia, nitrite & nitrate. I keep the temperature at 75-77°F. And my sg remains at 1.023-1.025. My pH is a steady 8.2 with the exception of a drop to 7.8 on 11/13/13 that I corrected with a 10% water change.  Everything else is Zero and has not fluctuated at all.
The fish are doing quite well. Bashful, a Yellowtail hid a lot the first couple of days (hence the name) is out and about more now & Herbert his tankmate is doing well. Brutus a Yellow (and he/she is a brute) hid a bit the first day or so but now tends to pick on both yellowtails and a little on his tankmate Flo. Nothing major, just chases them off his "territory". No one except for Flo ventures to the right side of the tank (my pro-series is on that side).
Flo is my greatest concern. She/He is a paler than her tankmate and has been displaying some odd behavior. First she/he is a bit fatter than Brutus. She has dug holes in 3 places under rocks and kind of quivers and swims forward and backwards in & out of the holes. I'm thinking she might be a he and "really likes" his tankmate and is trying to make an impression on him/her, or she is filling up with eggs. The puffy belly (no dark spot) has me thinking along those lines.
All that being said, here are my main questions :
1) Why haven't my ammonia, nitrite & nitrate levels changed?
<Nitrate is due to start showing... patience...>
2) Is there a way to kick start them without hurting my babies?
<Well; it is safe to add products, bacterial cultures...>
3) Could the water change have slowed it down?
<Yes; but doubtful>
4) What's going on with Flo?
<Just normal damsel behavior>
5) Should I be worried about adding more fish? Can I?
<I would wait another month re>
My dream tank is "Finding Nemo". I plan to add a couple Ocellaris Clowns, a Blue Tang, a  Yellow Tang,
<A 55 is too small for the tangs; sorry>
 a Royal Gramma, a Four Striped Damsel, a Black & White Heniochus,
<And really too small for Butterflyfishes>
(which is a substitution to a Moorish Idol) a Pacific Cleaner Shrimp, and a Puffer (not sure which one, I like Valentini, Blue Spotted, Dogface & Porcupine)
<Only a Toby, sharpnose here... again; space>
 thought about a starfish like in the movie (Pink), but I'm having difficulty finding exactly what I want so may do without. Is there something I should be looking at? Anyone I'm missing? I don't think I have a lot of cleaners in there. I'm hoping to make it a Reef in the next 3-5 years. Would love to get some anemones and fancy corals eventually.
<... that word patience again... Enjoy the time for speculating, investigating your possibilities here>
Thank you in advance for your time. I know I'm asking a lot of questions.
<Thank you for sharing. Your sharp, inquisitive mind will serve you well. Bob Fenner>

Re: cycled WITHOUT a nitrate test?     6/13/13
Bob,..there are NO fish, as I'm cycling the tank.
Slight diatoms beginning to form.   Would this indicate a complete cycle?
<Yes; at least a completing one... I'd be adding a bit of protein daily here. B>
Thanks again!
Re: cycled WITHOUT a nitrate test?      6/14/13

Sorry Bob,.. but what? Add some protein?
<Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marcycseedf.htm
Are we talking about skimmers? Mine has been on since I set up.
PLEASE explain !
Thanks AGAIN!
Re: cycled WITHOUT a nitrate test?      6/14/13

Thanks for the link Bob,....unfortunately, I do not have another tank running, except the quarantine tank that is home to 2 damsels, a brittle star
AND  one large rock that was in the ORIGINAL tank,  that was destroyed by RTA.
So, nothing in this tank is good enough for my new set up, as I don't want any contaminates transferred.
Not the rock, not the filter media etc. Once the fish are out, all will be trashed and I'll start a new QT.
I'll wait a bit longer to be sure that the new tank is totally cycled, then transfer the above mentioned (oh so carefully).
Thanks for your time buddy!
<Welcome! B>
'what to do' at this point !!  SW sys., cycle – 6/24/13

Hi Crew!
I am at a loss as to 'what to do' at this point in my tank.
Brand new set up as of May 15th 2013
 DSB (160lbs sugar fine) 4 inches
 80lbs LR
 refugium with Miracle Mud and Chaetomorpha,

 Remora skimmer with bio bale
 hob Aquaclear w/ Chemipure Elite
48 inch Current USA 6x54W Nova Extreme Pro
T5HO 3-10k/3-460nm Actinics
3 very strong powerheads
RO/ DI water
The ammonia is at zero (as far as I can determine with this API test!)
I  do not have a test for nitrates/nitrites because my local pet shop only carries the 5 in 1 strips by API and I don't want that. And I don't want to pay shipping for ONE item,..(on line)
<Do you have Amazon Prime?>
so for now, I'm waiting till I need something else  to make it more cost effective!
So, with all that out of the way,....... diatoms began to show about 10 days ago.
I have not done a water change nor topped off the tank since set up. I was concerned that it may create another cycle?
<Not likely w/ all you have here... organism, mud, gear-wise>

I added 2 small Blue Chromis and a Brittle Star that have been waiting patiently in quarantine!
This is my third attempt to get this reef "thing" right! I don't want to make a move till I am certain it's the right one! And like I have said before, you guys are the only ones I trust,...period! It's a jungle out there, with such a cacophony of snake oils and opinions, doing something wrong scares me to death!
Thank you to all of you!
<Mmm, well... IF I understand what you're looking for here; you're likely fine cycle-wise... I'd commence w/ your stocking plan in earnest. Bob Fenner>
Re: 'what to do' at this point !!– 6/24/13

Thanks Bob,...I didn't realize I hadn't actually asked a question!
My question was;
Should I start with water changes?
<Yes I would>
But I think you answered that!
Secondly, "Amazon Prime" is $79.00 per year. No can do,...now.
<But... you get free shipping on Amazon... and use of their "Prime" video online... Even a cheapskate (family Rajidae) like myself has it!>
Thanks for your help.
See you!
<Cheers, BobF>
Re: 'what to do' at this point !!– 6/24/13
haha! I'll consider the Amazon Prime!
<Worthwhile... if you buy/ship much from them; will use the video... My sis and I don't have cable... but have a laptop/net hook-up a cheesy (but functional) aerial that brings in some hundred channels from LA, Netflix (7.99/m) and Amazon Prime... The Green Day song re motivation comes to mind.

Help, SW cycling, stocking  7/15/12
Hi crew of wwm,
I want to thank you first for a great site!
OK, here is my question/problem. I purchased a 35 gal tank because I wanted to start a saltwater aquarium. I got some books and read through every one of them. This January I started got it running and got all the necessary things  like filter, heater, water, etc. I have a Rena Filstar XP canister filter for it and seems to be doing well. Now here is where I wonder whats wrong. About 2 months after it started up I thought I would put a fish (blue Chromis) in to help the nitrogen cycle because it hadn't worked yet (I also have 21 lbs. of live rock).
<How do you know it hadn't cycled, did you test for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate?>
The next day the fish died and I don’t know why all of my tests conducted by API saltwater testing kit said everything was perfect. Now four months into it I tried putting another Chromis into it and it also died the next day.
<A Chromis is a poor choice here, they need large (at least 6) groups to do well and even then can be fragile at times.  Still without ammonia, nitrite, nitrate test results it's hard to say what is happening.  What did you do to start the cycle?>
It still says everything is perfect and I guess it still hasn’t cycled. Another thing is for about the lest month-2 months there has been a diatom outburst that hasn’t gone away, I also change my water weekly.
<Normal in a new tank, siphon it out with your water changes, with time more desirable life forms will out compete it.>
 Any help would be appreciated.

Newly revived tank questions 7/10/12
Hello Crew,
I am restarting my 120 Gallon "Reef Ready" tank that has been down for a few years.  I have my Live rock, that has sat outside in the MN sun and snow for about two years that I am reutilizing.  I have rinsed it off, soaked in a light chlorine solution, about 5% or so, for three to four days, rinsed and soaked it in tap water for about a week, and changed the water on a daily basis, sometimes twice a day.  I left it in the sun on my driveway for about 8 hours to dry out a little, turning them over once or twice.  All looks good from what I can tell and smell.
<Should be fine to use now>
I have purchased about 60 pounds of live sand from the LFS.  Was told there is nothing live in the sand, but it is easier then getting the dry type and rinsing it off.  I also had about 30 pounds of sand from my previous tank
and spent about an hour rinsing this off as well.  I now have all the sand and my rock in the tank.  The salinity/SG is a little low according to my hydrometer.  Just below the outside "ideal" area on the scale.  I am working on bringing it up to a "good" level.  All in all, I think things are going pretty well with a "Dead" tank.
While working on doing this, I have also installed my power heads and heaters, the Protein Skimmer and return pump are going in the 30 Gallon sump I have.
Yesterday while I was looking at a few things, I have noticed some brown patches on my sand, some of the rock and front and sides of the tank.  I am thinking this is just patches of Diatoms and part of the cycling procedure, but my main thought is that if I haven't introduced any bacteria into the tank, no fish or food, where are these coming from. 
<The air believe it or not; your old gravel... only takes one>
If the live sand is not supposed to have anything actually alive in it, could it still be filled with some bacteria that could start the cycling process?
<Yes; this too is airborne>
I have also purchased some Prodibio vials from the LFS to help in the cycling procedure, but have not introduced them to the tank yet.  Not sure if they are needed, especially with the bloom I am already seeing.  Was also thinking about the DR Tim's One and Only to aid in cycling, but see about as many cons as I do pros for this product.
<Worth using just the same. I would; either>
Do you think the bloom I am having is the cycling process starting without me?
<Assuredly so; yes>
  What are your thoughts on the additive bacteria's mentioned?
Thanks and take care,
<And you, Bob Fenner>

MY TANK... ongoing, re reef set-up, Siporax use     2/10/12
The story so far sps dominant reef
This is what I have ordered.
 6'x2'x2' DT rimless euro-braced 70g sump
DaStaCo calcium reactor
Deltec 30/70s ext skimmer +self-cleaning head
4x Ai Sol 40/70 LED
2x Deltec E-flow 10 [32mm outlet]
4x Vortech MP40s
2x Return bulkheads 32mm
4x Overflow to sump 40mm
1x Fail safe  overflow to drain
RD/DI unit SpectraPure 90
LiterMeter set up as Scott at SpectraPure advises for auto top off and water exchange.
Live Rock
This is what I am undecided about: Siporax  in tower or canister bio-filter at high rate ?
<Not at a "high rate"... Likely there is no further benefit to be gotten by having more than 10-20 volumes of flow through this medium per hour... in fact, less is better in terms of denitrification>
 how high for aerobic activity and combined  with very slow flow 1 or 2 litres per hour passive bypass for anaerobes
<Oh! You're ahead of me as usual...>
DSB floor o DT
DSB the entire sump
<More the merrier>
Remote DSB
<Better for maintenance>
<A real plus>
Are you in general in favour of multiple filtration methods  and sometimes more than one of a particular type e.g. DSB and Siporax [when set up as low flow]
<Oh yes>
re: MY TANK, Siporax ap.     2/11/12

Dr. Bodo Schnell of Sera GmBh who manufacture Siporax states:
"The setup is pretty simple: The first step is mechanical filtration, e.g. sera biopur (clay tubes) or sera biofibres. The amount depends on the waste amount, practical values range from 0.5 liters - 1 liter. The main step is biological filtration with sera Siporax, and in this case I recommend about 4 liters plus a relatively slow flow rate (200 - 400 liters per hour).
After a few weeks (activation period) this will take nitrate values down considerably.
There is, however, another way: A separate slow flux filter in addition to the normal biofilter. This filter (a passive bypass system is OK) should then hold 2 liters sera Siporax, with a water flow rate of only 1 - 2 liters (no typing error!) per hour. This setup will produce virtually nitrate-free water."
There you have it. So its similar in function to the deeper layer of DSB..
The LFS  suggests using a tower rather than canisters and as the tank is not yet built that would be possible. None the wiser? Me neither
<Have added the quotation marks above... Yes to more Siporax (or other media for the purposes... aerobic and anaerobic digestion of nitrogenous et al. metabolites... And yes to slower flow rates, confining the media to a reaction chamber or not... but, as I've mentioned before, there is a need for alkaline reserve (carbonate, bicarbonate principally) and alkaline earth materials (principally Ca and Mg), and other rate-limiting materials (celebratedly Carbon)... to make all this work efficiently. Hence the suggestion of a fine DSBed of suitable material alone or in addition>
My thinking on it was that a Siporax system like this is accessible, simple to remove, and easy to maintain.  The product was born and died and has now been revived,  so always looking for lost causes I would give it a try if I could set it up right.
<I gather you're a "high tech" sort of guy; subject/susceptible to the influences of others to degrees, products that "flash"... I urge you to consider a more "biology", less technology approach, approaches... there are "many roads to Rome", but some cost a good deal more w/o granting a nice view, transit enroute. B>

Tank Fallow For Two Years/Nitrification Cycle 12/1/11
Good afternoon everyone!
<Hello Heather>
It's been some time since I've written in with a question, and I wouldn't be but I can't seem to find anyone that had had a case quite like mine on your site. I have a 55 ga. bow front, corner tank (marine). My last fish passed over two years ago and due to life happening as it does, I haven't kept up with any maintenance of the tank besides adding fresh water when it was getting low.
I have 50lbs of live rock (this is the reason I didn't tear it down, I paid too much for that rock, lol), and am running an Eheim 2215 canister (with a new bag of ChemiPure), two MaxiJet 500 power heads, and a newly installed Aqua C Remora.
I would like to get some critters back in there as I now have the proper time to put into it. :)
I did a 50/50 water change yesterday, and cleaned the Eheim as well as installed the new skimmer. What else can/should I do before it's ready for fish?
<Should be good to go.>
I'm sure it'll cycle again, so what's the best way to initiate this in my particular situation?
<Add one or two hardy fish such as a Yellow Tail Damsel.>
I'm still showing trace amounts of nitrates so should I do another water change, and if yes should I do it before or after the new cycle?
<Trace amounts are not a problem, and I would do another 50% water change in about a month and then continue on with regular maintenance and monitor nitrates as well as other parameters as the tank progresses.>
Thanks much!!
<You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)>
Re Tank Fallow For Two Years/Nitrification Cycle 12/5/11

Thanks James!
<You're welcome, Heather.>
As an update, I went to one of my LFS over the weekend to get my water tested as I found out that test strips actually have an expiration date (oops). They told me my nitrates were zero, pH 8.4, ammonia and nitrites zero, but my alkalinity was off the chart. So I bought some new test strips and a full testing kit by API.
I decided to test everything to keep a record of parameters and to try out the new kit, and it turns out the LFS did the test wrong, and my nitrates are off the chart as well (well over 140ppm).
<Mmm, is your kit measuring total nitrogen (N) or NO3?>
I've already done two water changes, a 50% and a 25%, and I know the alkalinity is my own fault as I was adding buffer to raise the pH using the old test strips as a guide. I have 20ga. of water at home cooking right now for another 50% water change to help the alkalinity, but I don't know what else to do to get the nitrates to come down before I add animals. Is my biological filter dead?
<Obviously not, nitrates are the end product of the nitrification cycle.>
I have the canister filter running with de-nitrate (added three nights ago) bio-media, and a new bag of Chemi-pure.
<Don't expect overnight results with De-nitrate or the AquaC skimmer.  It will take quite some time.  Personally, I find (newer product) Bio Actif from Tropic Marin to  work quite well in lowering nitrate in tandem with a protein skimmer.  May want to have a read here.
This product works much the same as the nitrate reducing bio-pellets but in a more natural way and without the use of a chemical reactor.  They don't spell this out in their product description but a personal conversation
with Tropic Marin proved this to be correct.>
 I also have my Red Sea Prizm skimmer running while the Aqua C is going through it's break in.
What else can I do to get the nitrates to an acceptable level?
<I would continue with a 25% weekly water change and preferably use a gravel cleaner type siphoning device where you will be able to siphon out debris in the substrate which directly leads to high nitrate levels.  I believe you will find this to be quite nasty in appearance.  If your kit is indeed measuring NO3, I would not add any fish until this gets down to at least 40ppm, and then only hardy fish.>
What about the alkalinity?
<Mmm, never told me what your dKH was.  In any case, water changes will gradually lower dKH unless your makeup water is highly buffered.>
Oh, and I use Instant Ocean sea salt mix. Thanks again!!
<You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)>
Heather Spacek
Re Tank Fallow For Two Years/Nitrification Cycle 12/7/11

Hello again James, and once again thanks for you expertise and insight!
<Hi Heather>
I did another 50% water change last night and retested everything five hours later.
<Too soon for some tests, wait at least 24 hours.>
The test kit I'm using (API) is showing my NO3 at well over 140 ppm STILL, and my KH at well over 214 (off the chart as I had to add 15 drops to turn the test water yellow, and the conversion chart only goes up to 12 drops).
I'm lost as to what else I can do. Nothing seems to be helping my water comeback to acceptable levels.
<There is nothing wrong with your dKH, you're not doing the math.  You need to divide the ppm (214)  of your reading by 17 and that will give you the dKH which in your case is a little over 11dKH and very acceptable.  The dKH conversion is what we are interested in. When you perform the nitrate test, do you shake the bottle of reagent 2 vigorously and promptly dispense the drops into the test vial?  Is very important to do this for an accurate reading.>
I've been toying with the idea of replacing all my substrate (crushed shell mix that I've been using for over five years) with a shallow sand bed possibly made up of live aragonite. What would be your thoughts on this?
<No need to buy "live", the sand bed will soon be live in this system.  And yes, I would do this.>
Would it help my KH and NO3 drop?
<It will likely lower your NO3 since you will be siphoning out all the accumulated detritus.>
Any other possible ideas?
Oh, and I've been running the Aqua C for a week now and have no foam as of yet, and the Red Sea skimmer is barely producing white foam..?
<The AquaC should be producing foam by now.  What brand/model pump are you using with it?  Also, if you have a foam filter on the feed pump, remove it as it will lower gph to your skimmer.  I would remove the injector access cap and clean as per the instructions.  It may be partially clogged with debris.  As to nitrate control, read here and related articles found in the header.
As always thanks much!!   
<You're welcome my dear.  James (Salty Dog)>

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>>

Cycling up new tank/Ammonia   1/31/11
Hi again WWM crew,
<Hello John.>
I'm starting up a new 28 gallon tank. Specs thus far:
150w MH lighting
M-J 1200/Accela stock power head, on Wavemaker
25 lbs. aragonite sand
45 lbs. Fiji live rock
3-part Filtration chamber - filter floss, carbon (to be replaced by Chemi-pure elite after cycle), Chaeto ball under lighting (after cycle) I wanted to preserve as much diversity on the rock as possible; I ordered it
'cured' from LA, two-day shipping. The plan was to use this rock to cycle the tank. In the face of two different schools of opinion on the issue of how best to preserve as many of the hitchhikers as possible, I elected not to scrub the rock; only to remove and large, clearly dead organisms.
<Pretty much what I do too.>
I expected a healthy ammonia spike but for the last four days the rock has been in the tank the ammonia has been steadily off the charts of my API test, over 8ppm. After a little under 24 hours the nitrite started
showing up and is now around 1.5 ppm. So we're cycling, but the nitrite is climbing very slowly. Not sure if there's a 1:1 linear relationship in converted ammonia / nitrite. I'm concerned that in trying to preserve the life on the rock by not scrubbing I'm actually causing more of a problem by nuking the rock with way, way too much ammonia.
<You are...in the territory distinguishing between normal curing and the ammonia killing off more than needed. The latter is happening at these levels.>
I've done two 10% water changes two days apart, and even after these changes I'm still enough above 8ppm that I can't detect the true value.
<You need to change much more, even 100% a day if need be for a few days.>
I'm trying to decide a course of action - time and effort not factors, just hoping to keep as much life as possible;
1. Remove/Scrub all the rock, flush the water, try again.
<Would help, but I prefer not to personally. You do lose more than needed doing this.>
2. Ride it out with 10% water changes every other day as I've been doing.
<You need more here.>
3. Ignore it and let the cycle do its thing.
<Well, what you will end up with is "cured" rock that is all too common.
So many LFS sell cured rock that show no life. They simply get live rock and throw it in a holding tank until it is bought. So much life on the rock is lost. We have all seen the bare white "live rock". It is live to
a point, but not the live rock we all wish to start out with.>
4. Increase the size and frequency of the water changes, trying to keep the ammonia within my testable levels.
<Yep, tis the route. As low as possible. A scale going up to 8 is ridiculous. There is no reason to be anywhere near that high!>
It would also be possible to start running the Chemi-pure and Chaeto now, though I have heard this isn't the best idea.
<You could, but it would just be a waste. You will need significant water changes anyhow. Do be sure to clean the filter floss at least daily.>
There's a ton of advice on WWM in this regard, but it seems there are differences in opinion as to the best course of action to take. All ears!
<Live rock curing is where many reefers diverge in opinion. Oh, do you have a skimmer you can add? Would be very beneficial here.>
Thanks folks,
<Welcome, Scott V.>
Re: Cycling up new tank/Ammonia   1/31/11

Thanks Scott V.,
<Happy to help out!>
I did some testing mixing a new batch of saltwater with tank water; looks like an 80% water change will get me to at or near 2 ppm or so - assuming that it's a linear thing the tank has been at or near 10 ppm for a two to three days. Any odds that there's a chance of saving some life, or at that level am I pretty sure to be fighting for dead (albeit cycled and bacterially stocked) rock?
<Oh, there is assuredly some to save. Once all that is going to die is dead your levels would drop quite quickly. Just to confuse you even more I will throw out another method! Some I do know prefer to throw 80% of the rock in and let the die-off happen without any intervention. Then once the tank stabilizes add the remaining 20 to add what may have died off in the first addition. Pros and cons though. Keeping all that you can in all will inevitably lead to more biodiversity. In addition it will take time for the initial 80% to repopulate with anything that was killed off. But it is easier to add "pre-cured" (yours does not appear to be truly so), kill it to the point of much "pre-cured" or dead rock with some live rock. Because of the poor pre-cured rock in my and many areas I do advocate for uncured rock, which with levels this high I do suspect is what you actually received, to maintain all the biodiversity you can.>
Re: Cycling up new tank/Ammonia   1/31/11
Thanks again Scott V.,
<Welcome, again!>
Excellent. Have the ammonia down between 2-4ppm tonight, another 90% change tomorrow to keep it low and will keep up with it at that level. I ordered an Eshopps HOB to skim it out which should be here by the end of the week.
<All towards the right track. A skimmer will be a great addition. Both for now and later!>
The possibly pre-cured rock is probably my fault. LA is very good with giving you what you ask for,
<and not, especially with LR.>
and I asked for a lot of life and diversity - they probably sent very nice pieces that had a lot of die off in 48 hours out of the water.
<With true cured rock you will still see some die off. With your ammonia levels I'll bet it was raw rock. Not a bad thing. With your work now you may end up with better rock than much of the cured (read: mostly dead) rock that is slopped out there.>
I'll let ya know how it turns out when the cycle wraps up.
<Please do. I hate "cured" rock. There is no definition of the term that is followed. Heck, a guy can put dry rock in a tank for a few days and call it cured live rock! Caveat emptor!>

Water Tests: New tank setup and interpreting results Establishing biological filtration 1/9/2010
Hello again Crew,
<Hi Gary>
Just another quick question. I have just set up a 40 Gallon FOWLR system, with the equipment listed.
JuweL Vision 180 with internal filter removed.
24 Pounds of Live Rock.
20 Pounds Coral Reef Live Sand.
Lifeguard FB 300 Fluidized bed filter. <Will become a nitrate factory in time>
Protein Skimmer with a needle wheel venturi pump flow rate: 1850 L/H.
Wave Maker 6000L/H Powerhead.
Wave Maker 3000L/H Powerhead.
MaxiJet 600L/H Powerhead
Now for my question, I started everything up on Thursday 7 Jan 2010 and I have just done my first full water tests.
Ammonia 0.0
Nitrite 0.0
Nitrite 0.0
PH 7.2
Now I know my PH is low but I did think my other results would be a lot higher, is there any reason for this or will all of a sudden they rocket?
<Well, if there is nothing in the tank to produce ammonia, the cycle will not start. The easiest way is to add a pinch of fish food every couple of days until you start getting test results: Do read here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm >
Also with the equipment I have I was wondering how all the detritus is removed with no Canister filter set up. I do have one but I wanted a minimal set up and didn't also want anything that could cause high nitrates as these have been called nitrate farms before, or is it the job of the clean up crew when added and my maintenance regime.
<I would use the basic filtration pads that came with the tank to strain any solids out of the water The clean up crew and the live rock should take care of the rest.>
Thanks In Advance
<My pleasure, welcome to the hobby.>

Cycle Start -- 1/8/10
Hi. <Hello, Paul! I'm Matthew.> After a 20 year break I have decided to get back into the hobby and am setting up a new 29g Nano-cube. After setting up and running the system with fresh water to test for leaks, etc, I added
1.5" of live sand and filled the tank with salt water. I used dechlorinated tap water on the recommendation of the LFS.
<Could be good or bad. Where do you live and what is your water quality like? My local water is high in nitrate, phosphate, and sulfate, and off the charts in Total Dissolved Solids. I prefer RO/DI.>
The tank ran like this for about 1 week at which time I checked for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. As expected, all readings were zero. I then visited the LFS to pick up some live rock and discuss how to kick off my cycle. I bought a small amount (6 lbs) of rock <Was it live rock? Was it cured?> and placed it in the tank. I wanted to start with a small amount since I've never dealt with live rock before and wanted to get an idea of how to work with it. The LFS recommended I buy some flake food to add to the tank in order to help start the cycle, which I did. <How much, how often?> The tank has been running for 6 days since adding the rock and food. I've checked ammonia and nitrite a few times, but everything still reads zero.
<Are your test kits new and not expired?>
Is this too little bio-load to start a cycle?
<I wouldn't think so. Might take a bit longer. You could always speed it up by adding a raw grocery-store shrimp. That ought to give you a pretty decent ammonia spike.>
 How should I proceed?
<Keep checking regularly. Be patient. Cycles can take up to 4-6 weeks. Don't rush the addition of livestock.> Should I add more live rock?
<This depends on what you want to keep, as well as your personal preference. Your live rock is your main
source of biological filtration, so more would probably be better. A decent suggestion is somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 pound of live rock per gallon of tank water.>
 The only other development of note is a brown algae bloom
<Most likely brown diatom algae. See
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/brownalgcontfaqs.htm for more information.>
which appeared 2 days ago. The only other data I have is my pH is reading low at 7.8 <A bit low. I would raise to 8.1-8.4>, and my specific gravity is a bit high at 1.025
<Not really too high at all, in my experience. My LFS sells their salt water at 1.025 specific gravity regularly.>. Thanks for your help, and sorry if this has been asked before.
<You're quite welcome. Always glad to help. Ya'll come back now, ya hear?>

Cycle Start 1-17-10
Hi. <Hi.> I just wanted to do a follow-up to my e-mail from last week concerning my cycle. Regarding my local water quality, the only information I could find reported total nitrite/nitrate of 0.1 ppm and TDS of 72. I live in Colorado and most of our water is from snow melt collected in reservoirs. <Lucky you!> The rock I added was cured live rock, and I have since added more bringing my total to 12 lbs. Regarding the flake food, I added roughly 1 tablespoon the day I added the live rock, and followed it with another tablespoon 2 days later. Per your suggestion, I also added a raw shrimp about a week ago which was devoured by something overnight, probably the bristle worms I have seen occasionally. <You're probably right. Must be of fair size to consume a full shrimp in an evening.> I checked the date codes on my test kit and everything is from mid-2009. <Good.> I also had the LFS check my chemistry and they confirmed my zero readings. <Also good.> One thing of note is a crop of long, hair-like, brownish algae appeared last week on one piece of rock and quickly began to spread to all parts of the tank. <Algae at least indicates the water is habitable. Algae won't grow if there are no nitrates and/or phosphates in the water. It COULD be that your algae is utilizing all of the available nutrients, hence the zero readings across the board. Its possible, but not very likely with this young of a tank.>
I scrubbed the walls and turned the lights out for 3 days and it has receded. <I might let it grow for a while, it is a great nutrient export.
Snails and hermits could make a feast of it, if you're planning on adding clean-up crew.> This is in addition to the brown diatom outbreak which has also receded. <A sign of progress.> In spite of all this I am still reading zeros across the board for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. <Sounds like you might have had REALLY good, fresh, cured liverock, so you had no noticeable cycle.> I've been able to boost my pH to 8.0 through treating some Aiptasia with Kalkwasser, and my water temp is 79 degrees. <Both sound pretty good to me.> I intend to build up my live rock to about 24 lbs, and concurrently add a few small fish once I cycle. Candidates include clowns, cardinals, gobies, etc. I'm still not sure why I am not seeing any signs of a cycle three weeks after first adding live sand.
<Could have been a mini-cycle that you missed in the first week.> My LFS suggests adding a damsel which I could return if ammonia spikes. They wonder if I have already cycled and if the algae is masking nitrates. Do you have any suggestions on how to proceed? <Yes. I do. I'm not a fan of adding fish to a tank before it has cycled completely. It's rather cruel to the fish to make them live in a tank that you know will get worse before it gets better. The fish also stand a greater chance of meeting death, which is both unfortunate and costly. I personally would wait. Give it a few more weeks, make sure everything stays at zero, do a few water changes, and then start thinking fish.> Right now I'm inclined to wait. Thanks again for your help. <You're quite welcome. Matthew.>
Hi. <Hello, Paul! I'm Matthew.> After a 20 year break I have decided to get back into the hobby and am setting up a new 29g Nano-cube. After setting up and running the system with fresh water to test for leaks, etc, I added 1.5" of live sand and filled the tank with salt water. I used dechlorinated tap water on the recommendation of the LFS. <Could be good or bad. Where do you live and what is your water quality like? My local water is high in nitrate, phosphate, and sulfate, and off the charts in Total Dissolved Solids. I prefer RO/DI.> The tank ran like this for about 1 week at which time I checked for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. As expected, all readings were zero. I then visited the LFS to pick up some live rock and discuss how to kick off my cycle. I bought a small amount (6 lbs) of rock <Was it live rock? Was it cured?> and placed it in the tank. I wanted to start with a small amount since I've never dealt with live rock before and wanted to get an idea of how to work with it. The LFS recommended I buy some flake food to add to the tank in order to help start the cycle, which I did. <How much, how often?> The tank has been running for 6 days since adding the rock and food. I've checked ammonia and nitrite a few times, but everything still reads zero. <Are your test kits new and not expired?> Is this too little bio-load to start a cycle? <I wouldn't think so. Might take a bit longer. You could always speed it up
by adding a raw grocery-store shrimp. That ought to give you a pretty decent ammonia spike.> How should I proceed? <Keep checking regularly. Be patient. Cycles can take up to 4-6 weeks. Don't rush the addition of livestock.> Should I add more live rock? <This depends on what you want to keep, as well as your personal preference. Your live rock is your main source of biological filtration, so more would probably be better. A decent suggestion is somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 pound of live rock per gallon of tank water.> The only other development of note is a brown algae bloom <Most likely brown diatom algae. See
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/brownalgcontfaqs.htm for more information.>
which appeared 2 days ago. The only other data I have is my pH is reading low at 7.8 <A bit low. I would raise to 8.1-8.4>, and my specific gravity is a bit high at 1.025 <Not really too high at all, in my experience. My LFS sells their salt water at 1.025 specific gravity regularly.>. Thanks for your help, and sorry if this has been asked before. <You're quite welcome. Always glad to help. Ya'll come back now, ya hear?>  

Re: Maybe mistake...
How would I establishing cycling asap??? 10/2/2009

<? What? Use WWM: http://wetwebmedia.com/marsetupindex2.htm
scroll down to bio-filt. and read. B>

Re: Predatory tank, cycling...  10/2/2009
Ok. I have abandoned the whole oak n brass shipwreck theme. I just built a series of caves and shelves out of rock, granite and sea shells. Over a week ago I made the switch over and did a 50% water change. Now I am battling ammonia levels. The only "live" things in the tank is the LS, LR (in the sump and overflow), and some vegetation (do not know the name. Got it from one of our LFS who had it in their refugium) what could I be over looking, to cause such high ammonia levels?
<...? Same as last querior: http://wetwebmedia.com/marsetupindex2.htm
scroll down to bio-filt and read>
Thanks Cooper
P.S. Tank is 120g I upped my sump to 65g. Water started cycling about 7 weeks ago.
<Don't write Coop. Read. BobF>

How to kick start the new setup? Bio. filt., & through-put/hole options  6/11/09
Hello there - This is Sunny from NJ
<Hello, Sunny CA here.>
I am setting my first marine tank (have kept FW Cichlids for 4 years now).
After about 3 months of reading (This is a great site and lots of wealth !!) here is what I narrowed down to for equipment.
<Ah, good first step, research!>
150 Gallon RR TANK.
<Do have a good look here first:
These "reef ready" tanks generally use 1" bulkheads and are hard to consider truly RR!>
Pro clear 400 refugium/sump (42X16X16)
ASM G4 plus skimmer.
External Pump - Blueline BlueLine 70 HD rated at 1750 GPH
I will start with FOWLR and then add coral slowly.
Everything goes under the tank.
What I am confused about is how to start this setup initially. I mean, should I load the refugium with MUD ( 5 - 6 inches I guess?) and put the micro algae (Chaeto) in the fuge and then fill water and cycle everything with live rock?
<The Chaeto is not particularly delicate, but I would not add it until the rock is cured.>
I am not using bio balls. I plan to start with 75lb rock in tank and 25lb in fuge. Can I cycle everything together?
<You can, desirable IMO.>
I was planning to use BIO Spira (have used in FW with great success) for speeding cycling. If I use BIO Spira will that harm the micro alga in fuge?
<No, but it is completely unnecessary with the addition of the live rock.>
How do I start placing rocks in tank? I have read different things about this. Should live rock go on bare bottom of the tank and live sand around it or should I lay down live sand and then add rock on top of it?
<Either can work, but if you are going to have a deep sand bed it is good to support it some how, critters can and will dig causing the rock to shift and tumble. In this case you will want to place some of the rock in contact with the bottom. Some even just build little PVC feet to hold the rock.>
How deep should the sand be? I have read about gas pockets in sand if too deep?
<1" or less or 3" or more. DSBs get a bad rap, don't be afraid of them.
See: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm and the linked files above.>
I will upload the plumbing design in my next post.
Sorry for the long email, but I don't want to screw this up :-)
<No problem, better to do it right the first time!>
Love the site and love the fishes ....
<Thank you, Scott V.>

Re: How to kick start the new setup? 6/12/09
I actually got the tank already. AGA 150 gallon drilled tank with 2 overflows. What are my options now?
<Well this is likely 1" overflow drains, so your first option is 600 gph total or less, but this leaves no
redundancy. The other option is 300 gph or less, which would leave redundancy. Another option is to
drill for larger throughputs within the box, on the back wall. See:
http://reefercentral.com/Videos.html Scott V.>

Tank cycle, SW  4/2/09
<Hi, Jessy here>
Hey guys. I just started up a 40 gallon salt water tank about 10 days ago with about 2 inches of live sand and about 20 lbs of cured live rock, and 3 blue damsels. I also added some sort of bottled product that is suppose to enhance and speed up the process (I forget the name of the stuff, got it at a local fish store) I just did my 1st tests of the water today and the ammonia and nitrites are next to 0, and there are a little bit of nitrates.
Also, algae is growing on the glass, sand and rocks. Is it possible my tank has cycled already?? I thought it took like 2-3 weeks? Thanks, Jeff.
<Yes, if you started your tank with live sand and cured live rock, you may have completed the cycle already. But, that does not mean your tank is ready to stuff with livestock. Leave your tank mature a bit and gather "good" bacteria so it can handle a larger bio load. Keep testing, don't add anything to the tank until the nitrates are gone, and then begin slowly.
Regards, Jessy>

Re: Tank Cycle 4/25/09
So it would be ok to add a few hermits and a few snails, just to help with the algae, but don't load it up with fish yet?
<Sure, a few will be fine, but be wary of adding the insane amount of hermits many advocate. They are and will be predatory to the extent that their size allows. Scott V.>

Aerobic bacteria 3/25/09
I have a question about my current set-up and where I like to go with it.  I currently have a 75g reef set-up to include SPS, LPS and clams, and of course fish. The tank has been running for 4 years. I currently use a tide pool 2 overflowing into a 40 gallon trashcan, and a Eheim 2 canister. My trashcan has oversized Lego's for the anaerobic bacteria, and the tide pool has the aerobic bacteria.
<The wheel?>
I would like to switch everything into a 55g drum
<Sounds like you will be increasing your head loss here, pumping out of the bottom of the drum??>
without the aerobic wheel. Question is how detrimental will this be, and is there anything I can use to help the process. I have a plan in place to include the wheel in the drum, but it is going to be a pain in the dairy air.
<Not quite sure I'm understanding your system, "tide pool 2 overflowing into a 40 gallon trashcan, and a Eheim 2 canister", where is the water being pumped back into the tank from?  Then you say "without the aerobic wheel", and then "include the wheel in the drum".  Need to know which way you are going for sure, may be confusing to readers.  A little better explanation please.>
Thanks, I appreciate any help.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Re: Aerobic bacteria 3/25/09
James, I'm currently traveling, and I will send a picture of the setup.
<Just seeing the tank will help me in answering.>
I guess the bottom line is can I remove the aerobic wheel from the system without causing a major problem with my system since I have both a aerobic source and a anaerobic source independent from one another. I do have a picture I included of my tank, of course for your viewing pleasure. Sorry for the confusion.
<With your live rock present, removal of the wheel shouldn't cause any problems with regards to denitrification. Nice looking tank by the way.>
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Re: Re: Aerobic bacteria 3/26/09
Thanks for the compliment.
<You're welcome.>
I worked very hard to get the tank to where it is. And so you know, all the corals and polyps in the tank where all aquacultured frags, except the clams (wife's obsession).
I will get you the picture of the filtration later tomorrow. Have a good day!
<Not necessary now, but you can send if you like. James (Salty Dog)>

Cycling / Filtration
180 Gal System Setup\Cycling\Stocking  FOWLR   3/17/2009

Hi Marine type Guru's
<Hello Jon>
I'm very new to the Marine hobby, so please bear with me if I'm asking silly questions.
<No such thing as a silly question.>
I did do some searching but could not find exactly what I was looking for, so I apologize if these questions have been asked many times before!!
I am in the process of setting up my first attempt at a Marine FOWLR aquarium.
<Welcome to the hobby\insanity!>
I have a 180g tank with a 40g homemade sump; I have a mag 12 main circulation pump and a mag 9.5 running an AquaC EV150 skimmer. I have 2 Hydor Koralia 4 powerheads. Lighting is Current USA SunPaq 36 inch 96 watt X 2.
<Sounds like a nice setup, though you may find that you need more light down the road.>
When I get the tank stable and ready for livestock I was hoping to have the stock list below.
2 Volitans Lions
1 Dwarf Fuzzy Lion
2 Moray Eels (Snowflake and Zebra or similar)
1 Porcupine Puffer <I am not wild about the idea of mixing puffers with Lionfish, as the Lions usually get beaten up. Please read here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/puffercompfaqs.htm >
1 Cow fish <Not a fan of these, have been known to take out entire tanks..
Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/boxfishes.htm >
1 Cherry Grouper <Variola sp.? >
In late Feb this year I filled the tank with water to check out the plumbing was watertight, then added salt and left it running. On March 2nd I put in 60lbs of live rock, and then about a week later added 3 salt waterized Mollies, then on the 14th I added another 80lbs of live rock. I've ordered another 50lbs of GARF Aragocrete, so as soon as that shows up I'll add it to my tank, so I should end up with a little less than 200lbs of Live Rock.
I've been checking my Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate and PH levels since the 7th Mar. All the levels other than PH appear to be reading 0 (PH is at 8.4)....My questions are, is this normal for the cycling to take this long to start detecting some Ammonia?
<With all of the live rock, it is likely that the tank is cycled already>
Does the set up as I have it seem OK for my intended stock levels or would you recommend more filtration? If so what would you recommend??
<Setup sounds fine. Although with such large fish, more water movement couldn't hurt. I do encourage you to re-examine your stocking plan.>
Thanks in advance
WWM seems like a great source of advice
<On behalf of Bob and the rest of us, Thank You.>
Thanks again
<My Pleasure.>

Re: 180 Gal System Setup\Cycling\Stocking 3/17/2009
Thanks for the input Mike
<Hi Jon, my pleasure.>
Bit of a bummer about the computability issues with Puffers and Lions!.
My home made live rock from GARF came yesterday, so I added that to my tank, I now have just a little over 180lbs in there, about 135lbs of it was ready cured from mature setups. Strangely enough the tank still looks like it could use another 30 - 40 lbs!
< I know the feeling, but do remember that the fish will still need some swimming room.>
The reason for my note is, I checked my levels last night just after adding the GARF rock, and I have a 0.25 Ammonia reading!!
<So it did take a little while. It will be interesting to see what it is later this evening.>
Nitrite and Nitrate still at zero but PH is now gone from 8.4 to 8.2, is this the beginning of my ammonia spike?
<Indeed it is, the pH drop is a little extreme. What is your alkalinity reading?>
Or do you think, as you said in your reply, that as I have used established Live Rock that the tank has all ready cycled?
<With cured rock, it should take no time at all to cycle; but since you are getting an ammonia spike, it is not completely cycled yet.>
What should my PH levels be doing? With Ammonia present should they be going up, down or staying static?
<The general trend is gradually decreasing pH, but with enough alkalinity, it should remain very stable.>
When my tank is completely cycled and stable, what are acceptable levels?
<Ph 8.2 - 8.4, Ammonia: 0, Nitrite: 0, Nitrate < 20ppm, Alk: 6 - 8 deg dKH.>
At what test readings should I do water changes at?
<Ahh, Once everything is nice and stable, 10 - 15% water changes every week. Lots to read here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/maintenance/maintindex.htm >
Thanks in advance.
<You're welcome>

Re: 180 Gal System Setup\Cycling\Stocking: Cycling Starts, Diatoms, and Aiptasia. 3/18/2009
Hi and thanks again Mike
<Hi Jon>
I took my readings again last night - still the same @ Ammonia - 0.25 Nitrite - 0 Nitrate - 0 PH - 8.2
<The system is still cycling>
What is, and how do I check alkalinity?
<Grossly oversimplified, it is the ability of the water to resist a pH shift to the acidic range. Do read here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/alkalinity.htm >
Is that the reading I get off my hydrometer? <No> I checked that and it was reading 1.018, but I have no idea what that means!!
<Your hydrometer measures the amount of salinity in the system. You will
want this around 1.023 - 1.026 More information here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/spg_salinity.htm >
Also, noticed another development last night, I'm getting a lot of brown colored algae and I'm suddenly noticing a lot of Aiptasia anemones, I had noticed about 4 or 5 on the first lot of LR I put in, but I notice last
night, I now have loads of them! Are the algae and Aiptasia anemones a normal problem with a new setup? And how do I control it??
<Diatom algae (The Brown Scum) is very common in new setups. More information here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/diatomfaqs.htm Aiptasia is a very common pest. You are seeing a population explosion because there is an abundance of nutrients in the tank there is a ton of information on the site regarding the control of these. Start here:
a.htm and follow the links on the top of the page.>
Thanks for your help!!
<My Pleasure>

New Tank/Live Rock/Cycling 3/12/2009
First I got to say that your website is great and has been very informative.
<Glad you find it useful.>
But I do have a question about a few things. I must add that I'm just getting started in the saltwater hobby and I am on line a good part of everyday looking at different resources to better educate myself.
<Excellent to hear.>
Any ways here is my story so far...
About three weeks ago I purchased a new 29 gallon tank along with a bag of Carib-Sea (I think was the brand name) live sand and a large 8 to 9 pound live rock ( Fiji rock I believe) with an Eheim canister filter and a small powerhead. I setup the tank with tap water that I treated for chlorine and
added the salt to get the salinity right.
<Did you mix the salt water in advance, or did you mix it in the tank and then add the rock? Salt water should be made at least 24 hours in advance. Adding live rock to freshly mixed salt water can kill whatever life may be on the rock.>
I am pretty sure the live rock I bought was uncured (it was light colored without any growth on it).
<Probably so.>
Well now I am reading that I should have pre-cured it before adding to my tank.
<When adding to an existing system, yes. On a new system with no "life" in it yet, it is useful for starting the nitrogen cycle without having to add fish.>
About a week later I picked up another small piece of Caribbean live rock maybe a pound or so that was covered in growth (tiny little feather dusters as well as other things) and added it as well as another small piece of Fiji rock that was covered with coralline algae and added both to the tank with the other rock. I picked up a few hitch hikers (a tiny white star fish and a tiny little snail). Everything seems to be okay but the purple coralline is turning white and the larger rock was getting covered with brown algae so I have been leaving the lights off.
<Conditions are probably not the best for growing Coralline Algae yet. Do read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/corallinealg.htm and here:
Is the uncured rock going to hurt the other stuff in the tank? I also added a friends blue Damsel fish for about two days and it did fine as well and I noticed when I was taking the damsel out and had to remove the large rock that it has a foul odor.
<The rock is still getting some die off. Put the rock back in and let the tank cycle. The foul odor will disappear soon enough.>
Up until a week ago I had been testing my water parameters with an API saltwater kit and was getting good readings myself but I took a sample to my LFS (about an 1 hour and 15 min drive) and they said my nitrites and nitrate levels were still really high and to leave my tank alone so I ordered one of their kits ( a Hagen master kit) and returned the API kit because I thought it may not be any good.
<Really? I've always had good luck with them, but ok, as long as you are testing.>
I was getting ready to add my first fish and everything but until I get the kit I ordered and can check my water again I will hold off. Anyways I guess my main question is will the uncured rock mess up anything during the curing process and should I wait any longer (if my water tests are okay) to add any livestock?
Definitely do not add any livestock until the nitrogen cycle is complete.
Ammonia and nitrites need to be at zero before it is safe to add livestock>
Here are a few pics. Thanks for all the work you put into your web page

Adding good life/bacteria, SW cycling gen.  09/27/2008 Hello All, <<Hello, Andrew today>> I have a 55 gallon tank with a 15 gallon refugium. <<ok>> I had a fight with red slime in my refugium so I decided to wipe down the sides of it and didn't have a chance to change the water until a week later so all the brittle stars, feather dusters and life on the live rock had disappeared. <<oh....i would say this is all due to the algae going into the water column>> I was wondering if I lost all of the good life/bacteria that was in the live rock and sand? <<I would not you have lost the life, no>> Also would like to know if I would have to start all over by adding new sand or just replacing it, the same goes for the live rock? <<I see no reason why you would have to start over again, just clean up and water changes should suffice>> At the time I took all my fish back to the LFS, except for my cleaner shrimp which passed. So from then on I did a lot of water changes to bring the system back. <<That was the best course of action, in my opinion>> It stood running for 3 months with out anything in it when I tried to put a frag of blue bottom polyps. <<ok>> Most of it was impulse too see if my tank was really ready according to my LFS but, it was not so I returned it back to the store were it passed. <<Hmmmm....what exactly happened to the frag? and what are your water readings for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and phosphates? >> I did add a six lined wrasse and a royal gramma about two weeks ago and the six lined was acting strange as if it ate a bristle worm that didn't agree with him so he passed away, but the royal gramma is doing fine. <<I would suggest a possible unstable system and advice not to anything else until all water param.s are correct>> So I don't have an idea of what my next step is, do I add or start over? <<Scrub all down and clean, huge water change, monitor for mini-cycle, allow tank to stabilize and then slowly start to add life back>> My levels are, Ph 8.4 SG 1.024 Cal 320 N03: 0 N04: 0 I am also dosing with Kent Marine part a & b every week, planning to switch too Purple up. <<Stop dosing these, there is no need. Trace elements will be replenished from water changes with a good quality salt mix>> Thank You Ramon Tampa, FL <<Thanks for the questions, hope this helps. A Nixon>>

Re: New Tank, Livestock Additions, 9/18/08 Thanks...crazy question..when will I know it has cycled? I have tested my water and nitrate, trite, ammonia, ph are all normal. Thanks again Mike <0 ammonia and nitrite, and some nitrate.> <Chris>

Brown algae in cycling tank, 9/18/08 Hello, and thank you for the great advice your website has provided to me so far. <Hi> I have been cycling a 120 gallon tank for approximately 4 weeks. We have had live rock in the tank for about 2 1/2 weeks (73 pounds) within the past week we added some bleached white rock in the tank as well (probably another 25 pounds or so). We are noticing a brown film on some of the white rocks, and just tonight when we came in I was shocked at the amount of algae on the walls of the tank. <Probably diatoms, or perhaps Cyanobacteria. Simple organisms that are first to colonize barren areas.> We remove the algae from the glass every day with a Mag Float. The algae on the glass is brownish , and there is definitely a brownish color on the white rocks, as well as on the aragonite bottom (in patches). <Can take over a tank quickly if allowed to. Control through nutrient limitations.> The water is reverse osmosis, and tests fine. We only noticed pH was 8.4. We have not begun doing water changes on this tank as of yet. There are a dozen blue damsels and one scooter blenny in the tank at this time, as well as a couple of corals and feather dusters. <Too much life too fast, and the blenny will likely starve in a new tank. This is also contributing to your algae growth by supplying lots of what the diatoms need to grow.> The fish have been present for a couple of weeks, the corals about four days (probably a mistake for putting them in this tank too soon). Calcium is about 400. The Skimmer we are using is an ETSS Evolution 500 powered by a Mag 9.5 as recommended. The lighting is two 150 W halides and four 54 water 460 T5 Actinics (Outer Orbit Pro). We run the halides 10 hours per day, and the Actinics 12 hours per day. We do not have any snails in the tank at present. Is it time to introduce them, and can you please suggest species and how many of each. <Depends on what you intend to keep in the tank. Turbos, Ceriths, Nassarius, and Astraea snails are generally all ok for aquariums.> I know that I have thrown a lot at you at once, but we greatly appreciate and highly respect your advice. <No problem.> Best regards, Jeffrey <See here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/gastropo.htm and http://www.wetwebmedia.com/diatomidfaqs.htm for more.> <Chris>

Upgrading question, Cycling 8/21/08 Hello, <Hi> Fantastic site. I have learned so much here, it is like aquarium college. <Fortunately the entry requirements are quite low and involve beer.> Quick question about my upgrade. I currently have a 45g FOWLR tank with 10g sump/fuge. 50lbs live rock and 6" DSB. Just 2 clown a Sixline wrasse and clean up crew for fish. I am upgrading to a 150g. Is it possible to do a swap directly to this bigger tank. I will be adding 100 lbs. more rock immediately and a little more down the road. And of course more substrate. MY tank now is very established, 6 years or so. But is the volume too much to switch over? Will I just have to cycle the new tank and wait to move everything to their new home? Thanks so much! <With this much new rock cycle the tank first, you will almost certainly get an ammonia spike which you obviously don't want to expose your livestock to.> <Chris>

Cycling new tank 08/06/2008 Hi. <<Good Morning, Andrew today>> I added 25lbs of cured Tonga rock to my startup 30 gal to cycle. After five days, ammonia readings were at 0, with a spike in nitrates. Naturally diatoms bloomed. So, I performed water changes, which eventually brought NO3 down, and then went out and bought a cleaning crew (snails/hermits) packaged for my size tank. <<Just be careful with these so called "packs" of cleanup crew. They are usually vastly over estimated and some usually will die due to starvation>> The tank is now immaculate, but I can't help feeling things have moved too fast. Despite the seeming cycling of my tank--in one weeks time--should I have added herbivores so soon? I much appreciate your advice, thanks. <<Maybe, yes, adding all this cleanup crew now maybe a little much as there is not really much of a food source for all of them. Always best to add clean up crew slowly, in small amounts, based on needs.. If you have used fully cured live media, the Tonga rock, then its very possible that the tank cycled in this short period of time. The same has happened to myself. Moving forward with this tank, stock it VERY slowly, to ensure that it can keep up with the bioload and adapt as needed>> <<Thanks for the questions, hope this helps. A Nixon>>  

Re: Setting up a new tank 05/31/2008 Many thanks Andrew! <<Hello again Andrea>> Just one thing for my peace of mind. You suggested: "<<Your best bet is to cycle the tank by adding a small - medium sized raw (uncooked, no preservatives) shrimp or prawn, wrapped up in fine mesh material, drop this in the tank, and monitor the water. This will rot away and produce the much needed ammonia. When the ammonia reaches 4ppm on the test kit, remove the wrapped up carcass as its job is done. This is one of the spikes which is commonly referred too in cycling. When the ammonia spikes, nitrites starts to be generated which will convert the ammonia, and cause the ammonia to drop back down to zero. Now, the nitrite will spike and then nitrate will start to form, which will convert the nitrite and take the nitrite level down to zero. Finally, nitrate will spike, and eventually fall down to around 5 - 10ppm. At this point, when its stayed this way for a week, your cycle is done, and you can do a nice large 50% water change. That's the cycle in a small nutshell>>" We followed your suggestion - added the raw prawn (actually it was just the head because the prawns my hubby brought home were huge!) and 12 hours later I almost had a nervous breakdown when I got up and noticed the tank had gone hazy. I'm hoping that's normal. It has a slight rotting smell to it too - again I hope that's normal? <<He he he....Yes, its normal>> Is there a rough guideline to how long this spike will take? Like ... I would worry we may need to vacate the family room ... :o) <<It will probably take about a week for the ammonia to get up to 4ppm on the test kit.>> Regards Andrea (total novice) South Australia Re: Setting up a new tank 06/02/2008 Thank you again Andrew ... what a legend! The ammonia this morning was at ... well 2.0 or 4.0 depending on what the light is like. So we're getting there. The pH has changed from 8.2 to 7.8 ... is this normal as the ammonia rises? <<I would not worry too much at all about pH for the time being. This will more than likely be rectified when a large water change is carried out after the cycle. Even then, if that does not rectify it, then there are plenty of methods to be used to sort the problem out>> I've been prowling the site and there's lots of info there but I'm loaded with questions I just don't seem to get a clear answer on... so I'm coming back for more. <<Ok>> WATER CHANGES Do I follow a routine water change while I am waiting for my tank to finish cycling or is this something you do when the cycle is done? <<Don't worry about water changes till the cycle has finished, then do a nice 50% water change>> TESTING I'm afraid I have a little trouble making a clear decision on the 'colour' I am seeing. If it's obvious, that's fine (say a blue versus a lilac colour) but in determining some of the colour variations on the colour cards, I worry that I may not be judging it accurately enough. I've been known to drag my test tube and chart from room to room, light to light ... I mean seriously, this may turn me into a nervous wreck yet. For example, the ammonia reading from 2.0 to 4.0 is fairly similar ... How precise do I need to be? What about people that are colour blind - is there an alternative? <<Certainly not something to stress too much about. What i do, when i test, is either use the brightest light in the house and stand directly under it, and match liquid to card, or rest the card and the vial on a white window area and let bright day light shine on it.>> Ahhh...and another thing ... what's the general preference - the test strips or test tube test? I've already broken a test tube! <<Liquid test kits, certainly. The strips are very very inaccurate>> And! Is there a digital device that can give a numerical reading available? I know you can buy pH testers but wondered if there was one that did all? (this would certainly help my stress levels! :o) <<Not that i am aware of here in the UK, might be different where you live. Check places like Bigalsonline.com , marinedepot.com or drsfosterandsmith.com >> PROTEIN SKIMMERS Okay - I have one of these all in one tanks (25 gallon) and remembering I am a complete novice, do I need a protein skimmer? What would be the best type for my tank? <<It does depend on the hood / canopy. Is there room for a hang on the side skimmer? Maybe look and see if they sell a special one to fit your all in one perhaps?>> (My plan is 2 dwarf or medium sized sea horses (dwarf would be my preference but I am told they can be hard to get here in AU). I was also planning a Shrimp Goby or two ... maybe a star fish. <<They are hard, full stop. I would recommend you not get these until you have some good knowledge foundation under your belt. No issues with the shrimp goby...star fish, no..>> ADDITIVES Of the millions of additives, nutrients that there are for sale, what are the basic essentials or must have emergency 'potions' that I should have on hand to keep my sea horses healthy / alive? <<None. All the trace elements you need will get replenished when you carry out your 10% per week water change. The only time this may change is if you add a lot of hard / stony corals to the tank, and you will have to add calcium etc>> LOL I think that was about it. I do apologise for all the questions. <<Its no problem>> Regards Andrea - South Australia <<Thanks for the follow-up. I hope this helps to clear a few things up for you. Good day. A Nixon>>

Setting up a new tank, Cycling, SW    6/22/08 (Sorry to bother you but I sent this last week - thought I would try again because I can't see where there's been a reply) <Thank you for this. We reply directly to all... I don't recall seeing this> - BTW, the test results are still the same as they were when I sent the email below (14th June) ...I'm wond4ering if I may have a bio-filter problem?) Regards Andrea - South Australia Many thanks to the wonderful advise from of Mr Nixon in recent replies --- Andrea from Australia here (once again) needing some reassurance from you wonderful people. Just an update: I am cycling a 25G all-in-one type aquarium with the hope that I may some day soon have a couple of seahorses. The tank was in its 2nd week when Andrew was able to assist me in getting the cycling process moving a little faster with the addition of a raw prawn. The tank went hazy and a little on the nose - Andrew reassured me that was normal. All seemed to move along from then when the ammonia moved to what I thought looked like the 4.0 range within about 6 days and that was when I removed the prawn (as suggested). Tank is clear again and smells fine. All this was almost 2 weeks ago. What I am not sure about is that not much has happened since then. I test every 2nd day. The ammonia result seems to be hovering at that same 4.0 level. I guess it's *possible* that the result is getting a tad less dark (green) but it just seems to be pretty much the same. The nitrite and nitrate seem to be at a standstill too. I assume these won't change until the ammonia does? <Mmm, yes. And there may well be so/too much ammonia here for establishment of nitrification to occur> Question - should I be seeing some changes to ammonia levels by now? (note the tank has now been cycling 6 weeks) <Likely so> The other thing I wondered was ...well it would help me if I could compare the test from the one I did a couple of days ago ... just to reassure myself that something is happening. How long can you keep the test for reference - or is it really a case of the '5 minute' use-by time? <Should be dumped, the container rinsed, let to air-dry> Another dumb novice question - is that 5 minute test time fairly strict ... in other words, should I be using an alarm to base my results on? LOL I'm so sorry ... but this colour testing does my head in. <A general rule... gives time for reactants to mix> I have also noticed these brown spots forming (have looked into archives and think it is diatoms). They started as little spots on the white pebble and they're growing daily and spreading to other items in the tank quickly. Based on the WWM info, I see these are normal and not really harmful right? <Correct. Actually a sign that "things" are progressing> They are multiplying rapidly though. Because the tank is cycling, I've been leaving the lights on 1/2 overnight (for no real reason other than its a handy night light when going for a glass of water at night - didn't think it would matter). My confusion stems from - some comments suggest leaving lights on and letting diatom grow itself out ?? Others say limit light. I guess that depends on whether you have inhabitants does it? What's my best plan of action? <To proceed as you have been. The lighting is fine> I'm just a bit worried I could end up with a diatom plaque. Given that they are still at a level where the glass isn't covered yet, can I control this to a manageable level now or is it best to let them go? <The latter> We have used plain tap water - and I read WWM comments about the link between silicates and diatoms. I have no idea if they exist in our Aussie water or not - I'll have to look into that but the question now is, should we be running our water through a filter system anyway ... this would be when I get to a point of doing water changes? <I would not fret re for now> Gosh this is really complex stuff. I'm glad I started basic. I'm so sorry to bother you about these mundane questions ... I did try to find the answers but it seems like I need some hand holding here. :o( Regards Andrea South Australia <I'd allow the ammonia to drift down, try to be patient for now. Bob Fenner>

A few questions..... SW cycling, stocking a small SW sys., reading 5/17/08 Hi my name is Jackie and thank you for taking your time to read my questions. <Welcome> About three weeks ago I started my 38 gallon tank with 17 lbs of cured live rock (will be getting more soon) and 20 pounds of live sand. I also started a 18 gallon quarantine tank. I began to feed my tanks fish food to get them cycling. My quarantine tank almost immediately started to get ammonia with a set up of a sponge filter and one cured live rock and the cycling process is now by the nitrite. However, my display tank, refuses to cycle. I waited two weeks putting food every day I only got a reading of .025 ammonia and after that nothing. <May have been/become "ready cycled"... happens> The display tank has a wet/dry filter with activated carbon (hang on the tank not sump), 400mph powerhead and heater (my protein skimmer is not working and I'm going to get a new one). <May not be much to skim... I'd hold off for now> I tried taking off the wet/dry filter thinking the carbon had something to do with it and kept feeding the tank and still nothing. The other day I plugged my wet/dry back in because the tank was getting messy and I took out some of the food in the tank. Another method I tried was getting some water from the quarantine tank into the display, but still nothing. What am I doing wrong that my tank isn't cycling? <I do believe this system IS cycled...> What other methods can I try besides sticking a poor fish in there and hoping for the best? Also, the bag that my live sand came in says that it "instantly cycles tank" with beneficial bacteria. Could that be the cause? <Much more likely the live rock...> Another question that I have refers to livestock. I mainly got this tank because I wanted to keep false Perculas in the tank (two of them to start). They are my first fish I intend to get as soon as my quarantine tank finishes its cycle. I started wanting to keep two , but I am having a hard time on not getting more. I wanted to add two orange ones and as soon as the tank gets used to the bio load of the fishes add one or two black false Perculas or adding one or two true Perculas. I have read that keeping more than a pair depends on your tank size. Would you recommend this in a 38 gallon? <I would stick with just two> If you don't recommend this what other fishes can I slowly add to my tank over time? <Too many to list here... and not a good approach to generating a stocking list... take your time, keep reading... enjoy the process/hunt> I was thinking of two purple firefishes and a school of chromis? <This system/volume is too small for these> Is there enough space? <Ah, no> One thing I am worried about and this was a stupid mistake on my part since I was in a hurry. I brought a water conditioner for my water and by the time I added it to my water.... I realized that it was Tetraponds...is this going to affect my livestock? <No, not adversely> If so, what can I do to correct the problem? Do I buy another water conditioner and put it in the water? <Pre-mix and store your new water... no need, use for any such conditioner/s> My final question is there anything that is vital to the tank that is missing? <?!> I am getting a 65 gallon protein skimmer, 20 pounds of live sand and about 28 pounds of live rock? My wet/dry filter is just for a 40 gallon do I upgrade as soon as I get the money? <I'd keep reading, save your money> Sorry to ask you so many questions. I have no one else to ask these questions to. Thank you for taking your time to read my questions and have a nice day. <Read on my friend; you're doing fine. Bob Fenner>

Cycling and reading 4/26/08 I started my 75g salt tank four days ago and tested it. I was following the directions and it said to remove it. <What? A test strip?> So I did. Then I saw the next day that there should be ammonia in the water for the cycling process. <Yes.> Now I tested it (a day later) and of course the ammonia is gone. Will it come back or do I have to add something to restart the cycling process? <You will need something in the tank to cycle it, what depends on the type of tank. Live rock, food, a piece of shrimp, or a small hardy fish all can get the process started. What to do based on your system and filtration is posted throughout WWM. A little research and reading is needed. Good luck, Scott V.>

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>

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

What to do with a sick damselfish in a small tank that's cycling 01/11/2008 Hi, <<Hello, Andrew here>> My new 65l tank is in the third week of its cycle (unfortunately, not having researched this hobby adequately, I was persuaded that the damselfish method would be ok -reading your site I realize this is not really the case). <<Glad to see this is realised>> I have 2 blue damsels and 1 blue/yellow damsel. The blue/yellow was never the most vigorous but for a week or so he has been floating around at the surface and not really eating, his eyes are cloudy and quite suddenly white areas have developed around his gills and head. I'm pretty concerned and wonder how to treat him at this stage of tank cycling - the other 2 fish are very strong and eat well. If I was to hospitalize this fish in a separate tank what water should I use? Can I buy special ready prepared water? <<Its not just water you need, you will need a cycled tank to move the poorly fish too. You best course of action is to catch the fish, and take them back to where you brought them from. Then add a raw (uncooked) shrimp or prawn as your ammonia source, instead of the fish, and cycle correctly. This way you don't harm the fish any more than they have been, and you wont be stuck with semi aggressive fish after the cycle>> What would I do with the other fish if this is a parasitic infestation - would I need to stick them in yet another tank? <<As above, you need a cycled aquarium to move them too, which you don't have. Take note from my comment above regarding taking the fish back to a store and get some store credit for them>> Any help would be appreciated, thanks, Sean. <<Thanks for the questions, A Nixon>>

Species of Nitrifiers in SW and Fresh 11/25/2007 Dear Crew, Just wondering whether the good bacteria in freshwater systems is the same bacteria in saltwater systems. <That's a far more complicated question that you might think. In one sense, yes, they're the same bacteria. However, they have different relative roles/importance in different environments. There's really no "light reading" on this, but you can try this if you're feeling ambitious: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=168074> Cheers, Andrew <Best, Sara M.>

CALL FOR PAPERS International Conference on Nutrient Recovery from Wastewater Streams - 11/20/07 May 10-13, 2009 - Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada Closing the loop for nutrients in wastewaters (municipal sewage, animal wastes, food industry, commercial and other liquid waste streams) is a necessary, sustainable development objective, to reduce resource consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Chemistry, engineering and process integration understanding are all developing quickly and new processes are already coming online. A new "paradigm" is emerging, globally. Commercial marketing of recovered nutrients as "green" fertilizers, or recycling of nutrients through biomass production to new outlets such as bio-fuels, is starting to happen. This conference will bring together the various waste stream industries, regulators, researchers, R/D and process engineers and commercial managers, to develop intersectorial understanding and joint projects for phosphorus and nitrogen recovery and reuse from waste waters. Abstracts are solicited in particular in the following areas: § Phosphorus and nitrogen recovery from different wastewater sources § Process design and plant integration § Marketing and use of recovered nutrient products § Struvite, K- Struvite and calcium phosphate precipitation § Ion exchange nutrient recovery processes § P-recovery from biosolids incineration ashes § Leading-edge research and innovative technology In addition, there will be an Open Session, devoted to "new thinking" for this emerging paradigm, in concert with an expert panel discussion. Dr. James L. Barnard (2007 Clarke Prize) will be the Keynote Speaker and will address the audience during the Plenary Session, on the opening day of the conference. The Conference Programme will also offer visits to phosphorus recovery installations (Ostara/UBC struvite recovery process) recently commissioned in municipal sewage works in Edmonton, Alberta. ABSTRACT DEADLINE: March 28th, 2008. Please send abstract submissions to (2-page single-spaced maximum, with additional 2 pages of tables or figures): Venue West Conference Services Ltd. Conference Secretariat - Nutrient Recovery, 2009 #100-873 Beatty Street - Vancouver, B.C. - V6B 2M6 - Canada Fax: 604 681-2503 - E-mail: mmori@venuewest.com This conference is hosted by the Department of Civil Engineering of the University of British Columbia (UBC) and chaired by Dr. D.S. Mavinic, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UBC. Sponsors include: a.. The University of British Columbia (UBC) http://www.civil.ubc.ca/pcwm/ b.. Global Phosphate Forum www.phosphate-forum.org c.. The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) www.ciwem.org d.. Ostara Research Foundation (ORF) www.ostara.com

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>

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> Question on cycling 11/5/07 Hi there again! <Hello, Scott V. here.> As so many people comment, I am overawed at the experience of everyone on this website - and I greatly appreciate the efforts you put into answering everyone's questions. So with that in mind, I have some questions that may be variations on a theme - but I haven't found the other variations. So, ye of the great font of knowledge, please don't despair with me...I feel I can learn, sometimes in this field I just feel like there's an amazingly steep learning curve and get overwhelmed...at which point ya'll usually help me feel better about it. <Sometimes its easy to feel overwhelmed, we're always here to help.> I know I just wrote earlier tonight on a friend's tank, but I have also been busily reading your various FAQs on cycling. I am working on upgrading my 29-gallon tank (established for just over 3 years, many corals and a few fish and other livestock, generally doing well) <Good to hear.> to a 92-gallon tank, and was wondering you could help with several things, both that I think I figured out (hopefully properly) and that my LFS told me. For what it's worth, I will be selling my 29 afterwards as an "already set-up and cycled" tank (hopefully just in time for Christmas), so I am also trying to time all this with the holidays (I know, shouldn't be a consideration, but it would be nice to sell the old tank before Christmas...lets me get new things for the new tank:-) ). About 2 feet from my 29-gallon I have set up a 92-gallon corner tank (no sump or refugium yet; I am hopeful for a lovely Christmas). After filling it with about 60 gallons of RO/DI water and SeaChem salt (spec. gravity 1.024), I added a total of 160 lbs. sand to it over the course of a week (trying for a DSB, 40 of these pounds were packaged Live Sand). That last day (the day I added the LS) I added a 25 lb. cured LR (a lovely calcified piece of dead Elkhorn that has become a LR). I also cut up a big raw shrimp (sorry, didn't have any cocktail shrimp), and have been using 2 MaxiJet 1200's (tank is only about 3/4 full, giving it room for everything else to be added) for water circulation. I am hoping to hang the light this coming weekend (will involve my husband, and free time in my schedule), but I have had my heaters running. The temp is averaging 78 (dipped down to 70 today when my heater went on the blink), ammonia is around .25 (has been the same for 3 days - but the shrimp pieces have not complete disintegrated yet), nitrates and nitrites are 0, specific gravity is 1.026, pH is 7.8 (no light), and alkalinity and calcium are running high (off the Salifert test kit's scale). I have a Tunze 9010 skimmer, but have not installed it yet - makes no sense to do so yet, right? <I would pull out the shrimp pieces and start to run the skimmer. The live rock (you will need more for a tank this size) will provide the biological filtration. It is more of a question of curing the rock rather than cycling the tank. The shrimp will just increase ammonia levels and kill beneficials on the rock you wish to keep.> My question is: My LFS seems to feel that if I move everything from my current tank at the same time , I should be able to do so without the new tank necessarily needing to cycle before I put it in. <Depends.> This would include moving some of the current tank's sand. However, everything I have read makes me think that I do need to cycle the new tank first because of the amounts of new sand involved. Or do I have this wrong, since I am actually transferring the entire contents of an existing tank (minus most of the DSB) to the new tank? Personally (based on what I have read), I am thinking I need to continue cycling and see if I can get the tank to actually do a complete cycle. <If you take the contents of your existing tank and put it in your new tank the only thing that would change is the container in which you keep the rock and livestock. The thing that you may have to wait on is the curing of the rock. If the rock has some die off you will need to wait until ammonia and nitrites are undetectable to transfer everything over.> Would it make sense to add the water I pull out of my 29-gallon tank to the 92-gallon tank when I do my next water change? <I would use freshly mixed water here. > I have an extremely full 29-gallon, so I have problems getting at much of the sand (I would like to use it to seed the new tank further) unless I siphon it out at the water change...the best I can do is move one piece of LR right now (has no corals on it). <I would use some of the sand to seed your new tank and wait to transfer everything else all at once. The rock in your 29 is providing your filtration.> As long as I move all my LR and my livestock at the same time when I do move it, should it cause the bacteria imbalance I keep reading about that comes with too quick stocking? <No, your filtration (rock) is moving with you.> I ask because the LR already supports all the current livestock, so the bacteria load there shouldn't be any different <Exactly!>- or is my comprehension wrong after all? Also, can I pick my LR up out of the water if it goes traveling all of 2 feet before going back in...I sometimes get the impression from the FAQ's on this site that LR should never be exposed to air (I know it's the case with sponges...will other items on the LR really die off that quickly?). <It will be fine for the transfer from tank to tank.> As usual, I can't decide if I am overanalyzing this matter or just worrying needlessly. However, I like my tank and fish, and don't want any of them to suffer - no matter how much my tang is eyeing the new tank and begging to move :-) . <Yes, he will appreciate more space.> Thanks again in advance for all your inputs - I really enjoy reading your website, and am impressed with the vast amounts of knowledge revealed in all the answers. I must also admit it's interesting to see sometimes how opinions have changed on things just in the past 2-3 years, as techniques and equipment continue to change. Thanks again for your help, Kerstin:-) <Things do change fast with new discoveries and techniques. Please read http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_2/cav2i3/Live_Rock/live_rock.htm and live rock FAQ's for more information on curing your new rock. Congratulations on the new tank and good luck, Scott V.>

Cycling question -- 10/20/07 Hi, <Heya Jon!> I'd be most grateful for your help. I have a 40-gallon marine system that has been cycling for 2 and a half weeks. The tank contains 15kg good quality cured live rock, live sand and a filter that was previously cycled for 6 weeks elsewhere. After week and a half I was advised to add 2 zebra hermits to aid cycling. <Awwwww!! One of my pet peeves, NEVER EVER add livestock to a tank to speed up the process! It puts the animals through a lot of stress and possible death. It's not required, especially in your case with already cured live rock, live sand and filter.> Here's my question: ammonia remains at 0.5ppm, nitrite 0 and nitrate trace. pH 8.2. Does this suggest that the tank has cycled and I should do water changes to reduce ammonia? Or should I just leave alone? <Based on what you started with, I would consider it almost complete, I'd wait a bit longer and see if there are any changes in the levels, if not, do a water change and call it done. Take a look at this article for a good explanation on tank cycling, http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/filtration/biological/biofiltr.htm. Good Luck - Brian Griffin>

Re: cycling question  -- 10/24/07 Hi, <Hello again, Jon!> thanks for your reply, really helpful (I know nothing!). <You're very welcome; I think you probably know more than you think you do.> I'm still in the same situation, test readings the same. I've done a 20% water change and ammonia remains where it is. <When you say the readings are the same, exactly what is the nitrate reading? Did it increase or stay the same?> The tank has a 3-stage filter (one unit for heater, one for filter media, one for return powerhead/pump). <What type of filter is this, there is a chance that it is too small for your aquarium?> Could this be the problem (should I be cleaning the filter media), or should I do continual water changes to try and resolve the problem. <Actually for a 40 gallon aquarium, 15 kilos of live rock is sufficient as a filter all by itself, provided you have ample flow with the use of powerheads.> Also, if its relevant, I have got brown algae growth and what I think is hair algae, many thanks for your time! <What type of water did you use to fill your aquarium? Tap water or RO/DI? Type of lighting? Photoperiod? Your algae bloom is typical for a start-up aquarium, but I need more details to get more specific. Get back with me with answers for my questions and we'll go from there, until then just hold tight. -- Brian Griffin>

Re: cycling question 10/25/07 Hello again, I have an update. I've just found 2 small crab claws in the tank and have a vague recollection of a small crab when a piece of live rock went in. could this be the source? <That would make sense, although your filter should take care of any ammonia in your tank. I would highly suggest that you add a couple of powerheads (Maxi-Jet 1200 should work) to your tank. Place them in opposite corners, pointed towards each other. Good flow over your live rock will allow you to remove your mechanical filter, which will always be a source of nitrates. Keep me posted -- Brian Griffin>

Bacteria In a Bottle (Addition of Bacterial Cultures) -- 09/19/07 Dear Crew, <Hi there! Scott F. in today.> Further to my queries, do I need to dose beneficial bacteria on a weekly basis (as stated on the bottle) or it'll multiply on it's own according to the nutrient load? <That's correct. The bacteria population will generally grow in proportion with the increasing bioload. However, the "bacteria in a bottle" products are helpful for "jump starting" your system, or for the occasional "kick in the pants" when you add more animals. On the whole, I'm generally not in the habit of adding these cultures on a regular basis, although it would be interesting to see if there would be any additional benefits derived from such regular additions.> Lastly, I'm using crushed corals to buffer my pH but how long can CCs stay effective? Thks. in advance. <Hmm...good question. You really simply have to measure your alkalinity and pH regularly to determine any trends in this area. Substrate can certainly dissolve over time, but I think that the best way to buffer an aquarium is through regular additions of buffer preparations, Kalkwasser, or even a calcium reactor. Lots of information is available on these items on the WWM site.> Regards. Alan <Glad to be of assistance! Regards, Scott F.>

Medication /bacterial supplement recommendations, Bactinettes/Nitrification, successful use of Cuprazin for Crypt and Velvet    7/25/07 Hello all. Apologies in advance for the stupidly long email. <No worries> I have written to offer my recommendations on a few products I have used recently whilst treating for ich/whitespot and velvet in my saltwater setup, and also a European bacterial supplement I have used and found to be very effective. <Ah! Thank you> I recently caused a near-wipeout of the nitrifying bacteria in my reef tank by medicating (for whitespot AND velvet) with the so-called reef-friendly Octozin by Waterlife. I have learned my lesson the hard way, and will never medicate in my display tank again. <Alleleujah!> Luckily, I did not lose any fish, although my torch coral and a few shrooms are still recovering, fingers crossed. My main concern was the loss of bacteria; ammonia spiked at about 2 mg/L and I didn't see much conversion to nitrites/nitrates, for obvious reasons. An avid reader of your site, I was desperate to get my hands on some Bio-Spira or similar, as Hagen's Cycle was having little effect. However, we in Europe cannot buy Bio-Spira, or certainly not by conventional means. I had seen some mention on UK websites of a product called "Bactinettes" made by the German company Soll (or Soell). These are small, 3 mm diameter gelatinous spheres, which apparently house nitrifying bacteria. They are suspended in a fluid containing ammonia, amongst other nutrients, to keep the bacteria happy! Bactinettes can be used in both freshwater and saltwater setups, although more and bigger 'doses' are required for saltwater. They must be stored at 4ºC for greatest efficacy. In some reviews I have read, when these bacteria are not kept chilled, they quickly become ineffective, so make sure your retailer is storing/shipping them correctly! <Noted> Upon receipt, you are advised to drain the surrounding fluid from the spheres (very important step, because as I mentioned the fluid is nutrient-rich), place spheres into a media bag, and place bag directly into the filter. In my case, I didn't have any type of filter that would be suitable, so I wedged the bag into my live rock, and aimed a powerhead obliquely at it in order to create some circulation. The idea is that the spheres 'dissolve' over a few days, releasing bacteria which then colonise your filter/live rock, and begin their metabolising miracles! To give you an idea of how many packs are required: my tank is 200 litres. I bought 6 'portions' of Bactinettes: 2 portions were inserted on each of days 1, 3, and 9. I must add at this juncture that I am in no way connected with this company - I just wanted to pass on my experience to other Europeans who may be looking for a bacterial supplement product which works. I should also say that I think there is no substitute for patient and natural cycling; however in my case I did not have the time (clock was a-ticking!) or capacity to do this, and I was terribly worried about my livestock. My water, within one week, during which I also saw a heavy nitrite spike, is now down to undetectable levels of ammonia and 0.1 mg/L nitrite, and counting. The nitrate load is being taken care of with a Deltec MCE 300 skimmer - also a wonderful product! The Bactinettes have been a lifesaver for my fish. I'm not going to say where I bought them from, as I'm sure everyone has the capacity to Google search, and they are available from at least one online retailer in the UK, and elsewhere across Europe. I'm not expecting you to endorse the product without having used it yourselves, and it is no substitute for less desperate and more 'natural' measures! As I said, I just wanted to share my experience - this worked for me. I am going to recommend that my LFS gets some in, although I will hopefully never need to use them again! By the way, I can also recommend Cuprazin (Waterlife) as a hospital-tank only treatment for whitespot and velvet. It brought my clowns back from the brink. I have spoken with the chemist who devised this medication, and he claimed that as well as the ubiquitous Copper Sulphate, Cuprazin also contains Malachite Green and Formalin (in what levels I do not know, but they seemed to be effective without causing any nasty side effects), and it could therefore be used as a broader spectrum treatment than CuSO4 alone. In my case, it solved a medium case of whitespot within 3 days, and a severe case of velvet within a week. I continued treatment for 15 days, at a copper concentration of approx 0.5 mg/L, in a bare-bottomed 10G hospital tank with a few pieces of PVA guttering for cover, and an bubbly airstone, heater and pump. Every day after feeding I removed 10L water by siphoning from the bottom to collect any parasites/waste, and replaced with a 'new' 10L water, to keep the ammonia levels down. On replacement of the 10L water, I added 10 more drops of Cuprazin to compensate for that which had been removed in the 'old' water. The idea is that 1 drop Cuprazin 'treats' 1 litre of water. Cuprazin is chelated, and I was worried that adding this amount every time I did a water change would mean a build-up of copper to toxic levels, but it seemed to keep my 0.5 mg copper/L constant and steady. I would definitely recommend the use of a Salifert or similar test to keep an eye on this, however. I also carried out two sets of freshwater dips, well aerated and pH and temperature adjusted (days 2 and 3), which resulted in huge amounts of mucus being expelled from the gills of both fish, and many of the whitespot parasites dropping straight off the skin of one of the fish. I managed to keep my clowns happy and calm in these dips for 17 minutes on the first try, and 10 minutes on the second attempt. I did not add Methylene blue to the freshwater dip as I was worried that this would be one chemical too far! I cannot stress the importance of good aeration, temp and pH matching in freshwater dips heavily enough. These factors, in my humble opinion, are what makes or breaks the dip, and the fish! The velvet parasite was more resilient to these dips, but was soon taken care of by the Cuprazin. I tried to keep the temperature in the hospital tank fairly high (27/28ºC) and the specific gravity fairly low (1.020) during treatment. After 15 days, I continued the water changes for a couple of weeks, just without adding any more Cuprazin. Bingo! Happy, healthy clowns! Many thanks for listening. I hope I've managed to give someone some handy advice! Lisa, UK. <Thank you for writing... so completely and clearly! Bob Fenner>

Cycled?? SW 7/28/07 Thank you all for your site. It has taught me a lot. <Good> I am curious about the possibility of my tank being cycled. For a little background: I have a 29g FOWLR (only about 3lbs of LR then, lots of base rock), I completely restarted the whole tank over again due to an ich problem. <Seems a bit drastic but ok.> The ONLY thing I kept from the first go around was my LR. I also added a few more pounds of LR for a total of about 8lbs. The tank has been running again for 22 days. With a pH of 8.2, my Ammonia and Nitrites have been 0ppm the WHOLE time. My Nitrates were at 0 the first two weeks and at 5-10ppm the last week. (My 2 fish are in my QT tank, so there are no fish in the display to supply ammonia). <The LR will provide some.> I have added bacteria culture, fish flakes and even fish waste to try to get the ammonia to spike. Nothing. I was really thinking I would see my ammonia start to climb by now to start the cycling. Is it possible that the tank is cycled? <Seems like it has.> I really was not expecting that for weeks to come. I am starting to see brown algae growth on the sandbed also. I am seeking your professional opinion, because after hours of reading on your site I just can't come to my own conclusion on what's going on (cycled or not?). <The nitrates would seem to indicate it has cycled.> I would hate to keep my fish in a tank fighting ammonia if I have a cycled tank they could be moved to! <Need to let the old LR be fallow at least another couple of weeks to be sure the ich is gone.> Thank you so much in advance for any advice!!

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