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FAQs on Establishing Nutrient/Biological Cycling in Marine Systems, Using Livestock or in its Presence

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, 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

By and large it's not advisable to use "macro" life to cycle, nor place such life during the establishment of cycling... Too stressful, and likely to introduce pests, parasites...

Quick Advice'¦Tank Cycling and Fish Introduction -- 07/9/08 Hi Crew! <<Hello Brian!>> Just need a quick piece of advice. <<Okay>> My new 120 gallon tank has completed the nitrogen cycle after four and half weeks. I am currently in the diatom bloom stage at this point and the water is a little cloudy in a few areas of the tank. <<'¦? A 'few areas?' Though likely a non-harmful bacterial bloom'¦I would expect any cloudiness to be throughout the water column. Perhaps your water circulation is not sufficient>> I added my cleaning crew two days ago and they have taken care of the rest of the raw shrimp I used to the cycle the tank with. At this point, is it ok to introduce a fish even though the water is a little cloudy? <<Probably'¦with close monitoring/testing. But why the rush? The longer this tank runs sans fish the better. And why risk introducing fish to a system that is not 'perfect?' At this stage of the game'¦>> I would like to add a fish while the bacteria population is large, but don't know of any complications with adding one during the diatom bloom. <<Adding fishes will lengthen any cycling processes at the least'¦and may even compound them>> The fish is a small hippo tang that is ready to come out of quarantine. Brian Jenkins <<Mmm, I don't really consider this tank large enough for a Hippo Tang (should have at least a six-foot tank). These fish are large (to 12' in the wild), very robust and very active'¦and seem especially prone to social and psychological issues from 'growing up' in 'too small' systems in my experience. But that aside, the Hippo Tang is not the best 'first' fish to add to a system that will contain less aggressive fishes'¦and certainly not to such a new un-matured and unstable system, considering their susceptibility to stress related afflictions. If you are determined to keep it, I would suggest holding off on adding this fish just yet'¦and in the interim, completing/reviewing your stocking list and researching each thoroughly to include compatibility and order of introduction. Regards, Eric Russell>>

Refugium Live Rock 5/10/08 Hello <Hello.> Thank you all for your help <Welcome, glad we can help.> I just have a quick question if you wouldn't mind. I have my 30g reef with a hang on overflow going into my recently set up 36g sq refugium. <A good size refugium, especially considering the tank size!> Through the wonders of Craig's list I recently came across a rather good deal on LR which I will be picking up tonight (1 dollar per pound if I bought the whole 200 lbs it is Fiji rock) so I will be getting 200# of rock. <<This is too much rock for this size system -Sara M.>> <This is very often the best way to get LR with the high attrition rate in the hobby.> I was thinking about putting all of the rock into a Rubbermaid container of an appropriate size and putting an overflow onto my refugium. So I would have my reef draining into my refuge and that draining into the LR container then pumped back into the reef. <Sounds great.> I was thinking with this much Lr I would be able to forgo all of my mechanical filtration. <I would at least keep a skimmer (mechanical filter).> I was already planning on retiring all but my protein skimmer but I was wondering if the skimmer would be necessary with that much extra water volume and LR. <A skimmer is technically never 'necessary', but sure does make a huge impact on your water quality. Even with the added volume and live rock a skimmer still gives you huge benefits. Using all of the above together will only improve your water quality that much more.> Oh and I have a Dsb in the refugium do you think I would get any added benefit putting one in the Rubbermaid or would that just be a dead zone to collect detritus? <Yes, more area for NNR.> I was planning on putting one or two extremely powerful powerheads in to try and not get any nutrient build up or dead spots in the Rubbermaid. <A good idea.> I know in the future I will be moving to larger tanks which Is why I am buying this now I figured it can't hurt. <It won't hurt, added LR and system volume are always welcome. Planning for a larger tank is a natural evolution of the addiction/hobby!> Thanks a lot for any ideas/ help you can give me. <Welcome, your plan sound fine. Have fun, Scott V.>

Marine Tank Cycling 4/12/08 I have a 46 gallon salt water fish tank with a wet/dry filtration system that I started 40 days ago. I started with 8 damsels now I have 3. <Way too many damsels to start out or end up with in this tank. Damsels are good for cycling only if you want Damsels!> I started with tap water and mixed with salt. I have fake coral and dead rock as decorations. The water temp stayed around 80 degrees and I took the hood off about 4 days ago and now it hovers around 76 degrees. <Good.> I was told the tank would go through a spike and then level out in about 3 to 4 weeks but my nitrate and ammonia levels are still high. <Hmm, what do you have for filtration? Some dead rock sitting in the tank won't cut it.> I have also read you should keep either 1" or 4" inches of crushed seashells in the tank with nothing in between and I currently have 2.5" to 3". Should I reduce the amount of crushed seashells in my tank? <Yes, I would to less than an inch. Better yet, switch to a finer sand substrate. The problem with the crushed coral substrate is the accumulation of detritus. Be sure to at the very least gravel vac with your water changes.> I want to take out the fake decorations and add live rock and live corals. <The live rock will greatly benefit your tank. As far as corals, get your current problems sorted out and research regarding lighting, filtration, and water flow before you take the leap. Do also research the needs/compatibility of every coral or fish you add in the future.> I have read that adding cured live rock will cause further nitrate and ammonia spikes. <It can, truly cured rock will not create too much of a spike, if any at all. LR will also provide the filtration (combined with water flow around) required to get the ammonia and nitrite levels down.> Is it best to add all of the live rock in at one time or should I add little by little or does this even make a difference? <Add it all at once to your tank if it is indeed cured. If it is not cured you will want to cure it outside your tank, for the sake of the remaining Damsels.> Also should I wait until the nitrate and ammonia levels level out or should I do it now? <The sooner the better.> How many pounds should I add to the tank per week if I can add a little each week? <Add all you want now.> Thanks, Todd White <Welcome, good luck, Scott V.> http://wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_2/cav2i3/Live_Rock/live_rock.htm

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>>

New to SW, cycling, mis-stocking... great response  4/26/06 Mr. Fenner:   <Actually, Mrs. Bivens here tonight...Jodie Bivens.> I have a FO 55g tank that has cycled and my LFS suggested I put 4 new fish in it at one time!   <Please do NOT do this.  Even if the tank is cycled, adding four fish all at once in such a small tank is too much of an additional bioload (unless they are very small fish).  Odds are definitely stacked against these poor fishes.> He says he is a professional and has 30 years of experience and LR, protein skimmers and ozone are an absolute rip off and that you can't keep fish and inverts in the same tank.   <That is one big run-on sentence (on your part), and one big load of nonsense (on his part).  Live rock is invaluable in my opinion, as is protein skimming.  I've never used ozone personally, but then again I've heard many good things about it.  Keeping fish and inverts together?  That depends on both what fish, and what inverts, but TOTALLY do-able and very often beneficial.> I put in a flagfin angel, a Koran angel, a raccoon butterfly and a regal tang at once and within 48 hours the raccoon and the Koran were dead. <No kidding.> I have done 25% water changes every week since the cycle.  The flagfin, the tang and my original niger trigger are all doing (apparently) great!   <Did this guy tell you that housing two angels, a tang, a butterfly, and a trigger in a 55 was acceptable?  Let me tell you this:  It is most certainly not.  Seems your LFS is out to make a buck; that's it.> I am within 1mm of firing the &*&^%$#&(^ and never going near him again!   <I recommend that to you 100%> Am I CRAZY? <For putting all those fish together in a 55?  Yes.  Okay, okay, maybe not crazy but misinformed.  Pardon my snarkiness, but people like this "man" infuriate me.> Peacemaker <Peacemaker, let me parody a well-known commercial:   *Flagfin Angel = $60.00   *Koran Angel = $40.00   *Raccoon Butterfly = $35.00   *Regal Tang = $50.00   *Researching and saving innocent fishy lives = priceless> PS I have read your book and Tullock's book and they seem to be logical and reasonable.   <I agree; I see Mr. Fenner's book as my Aqua Bible.> This guy seems to think that He, his teacher and whoever are the only people who know anything about marine AQ's.  It seems to me that the more natural you can make an environment, the better.   <Absolutely.  If you were kidnapped and forced to live in a tiny box, would you want just a couple other people and nothing else, or your natural environment?  I sure hope my captors would provide me a couch, TV, and coffee!> They seems to think that the only thing natural in your tank should be the fish!  $500 worth of dead coral skeletons and a siphon tube overflow with no biomedia, just sponges just does not seem to be natural. BTW I am 58 yrs old, by no means a techgeek! <Peacemaker, please do your research.  You seem to have good intentions, and we'd like to see you succeed with your aquarium!  Bookmark us and read, read, read.  In the meantime, stay away from that LFS.  Cheerio,  Jodie>

Damsels, Cycling, and Algae - 05/20/2006 I'm in the process of starting up a saltwater aquarium for the first time.  After reading through some of your posts I see that I probably should not have followed the advice of my aquarium store. <Uh-oh....> I have two damsel fish and live rock in a 29 gallon tank in the cycling phase. I've lost 2 damsels.... and the tank isn't nearly cycled yet.   <Return those fish.  The live rock alone is sufficient for cycling the tank.  Get the fish back to the store before the conditions in your cycling tank kill them.> I have 2 issues.... 1 is brown algae which has appeared on everything.... sand, rack and tank.   <To be expected with a newly established system.  You'll go through some phases of different algal "blooms".> The other issue regards the fish themselves.  Every so often they tend to swim almost parallel with each other, leaning to one side and occasionally nipping each other.... <Damsels are HIGHLY territorial, and HIGHLY aggressive.  In such a small system, I do not recommend trying to keep damsels at all.  And again, since the tank is cycling, I would get them back to the fish store *pronto*.> One damsel is a deep blue with a purple tail.... the other is a brownish with a large brown vertical stripe ¼ from the eye.  Any suggestions on either issue?   <Just as above.  Also, you might want to take a read through a couple of good books that will help you along your way - "The New Marine Aquarium" by Michael Paletta and "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist" by Robert Fenner.  The former will help you start out, the latter will be an excellent reference that will be very worthwhile.  And, of course, keep using WetWebMedia.  There's a lot of great things to learn, here!> Thanks,  -Steve. <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Would Chaetomorpha help during tank cycling ?  5/29/06 Ohio Gozaimasu Crew ! <And good morrow to you> I have been thinking(<==always dangerous) <Less than always feeling> about how to bolster the cycle process in my AquaPod 24 tank.  My 'cured' LFS Fiji live rock went in last night after spending ten minutes each in a super-salinated (1.050) bucket followed by a distilled water soak.  Vigorous swishing and scrubbing left both buckets so nasty that half way through the 22 pound box I stopped and replaced the water.  Some of the obviously dead, decaying soft matter left me really appreciating the heavy neoprene gloves I was wearing while I scrubbed it off.  Right now the LR is simply sitting on top of the DSB and a PVC frame.  Aquascaping for esthetics will wait till the tank is properly cycled.  Having gotten all the LR into the tank I made sure that the heater, powerhead and skimmer were all working properly and went to bed. This morning I tested the tank's water parameters and found that 'shocking' changes had occurred overnight: Ammonia 0.2 (was 0) Nitrate 35 ppm (was 0) Nitrite 0.3 ppm (was 0) Phosphate 0.1 (was 0) pH 8.3 (unchanged) Alkalinity 5.5 (unchanged) Temperature 78 (unchanged) Salinity 1.025 (unchanged) Skimmer cup empty <All about right thus far...> Retesting late this afternoon the numbers were essentially unchanged. <The alkalinity and pH will drop soon... Nitrogenous compounds increase...> After spending the last 2 1/2 (very pleasurable) hours Googling my way around WWM you can imagine my relief to be reassured that these 'instantaneous' changes in water chemistry are completely normal as a new tank begins the cycling process. <Yep> 20 gallons of buffered and aerated water with a SpGr of 1.025 are at the ready while I monitor the ammonia and nitrite levels like a hawk.  Any readings above 0.8 ppm on either will trigger a change of  50% of the water, followed by re-testing twelve hours later. <Very good> Then, while fussing with the airstones and powerhead  trying to ensure even water flow, an inspiration struck.  I currently have the tank lights off because I subscribe to Anthony's advice that leaving them off will minimize the growth of nuisance algae during the curing process. <Some are of this opinion... I am generally not>   Two of my synapses shorted out and I thought "Nitrogen + Phosphate can be controlled using a macro algae like Chaetomorpha (which I was planning on adding anyway)". If I were to add a 5 inch clump of Chaetomorpha (sp) available for less than ten bucks at the LFS, and then started a 10 hour light cycle, would that help or hinder the curing process ?   <Maybe... it might "just die" or be overwhelmed by chemical changes, out-poisoned-competed by BGA et al.> Thumbing through my college Botany book it appears that these compounds which are toxic to the Kingdom Animalia would be ideal 'munchies' for a member of Kingdom Plantae. <Many, not all> Or so my 'reasoning' goes.  Any thoughts/observations ?  I certainly don't want to interfere with the establishment of viable cultures of Nitrogen-fixing bacteria but would really like to help ensure that the toxicity of the tank doesn't threaten the viability of the desirable organisms currently tenaciously clinging to life deep within the crevices of the live rock.  And, maybe, save a few bucks in salt mix and buffering compound. <Mmm, well... the most "trouble free" process involves darkened curing conditions, time going by... but all can be expedited, much life spared by monitoring, doing the water changes you mention... Worth trying the Chaetomorpha though> Sayonara, and thanks once again for being willing to do all the 'donkey work' involved in keeping up such a great site ! John <Eeee haugh! Bob Fenner>  

Cannot cycle new tank with lionfish; recommend using "fishless" method instead   11/6/06 Hello all, <Well hello...> A quick question (this time I promise?). <OK, no problem...> I have been curing liverock for two weeks and it was partially cured before.  Once I am getting a zero reading on ammonia I will place into my new 200gallon setup and aquascape. <Good plan.> Bob Fenner's book recommends waiting 2-4 weeks before adding critters, but also mentions that some people use damsels to in the 2-4 initial stage. <Absolutely true; I personally think that using live fish to cycle a tank is cruel, however, and use only fish food, or a piece of cocktail shrimp.  It achieves the same end result and spares the fish any "unpleasantries"...> Is it safe to add my Volitans Lionfish during this 2-4 week cycle stage?  Brand new sand, cured rock, water, etc. <Absolutely not.  The lionfish are too delicate.  Again, though, in my humble opinion, there's no reason to use any live creatures to cycle a tank...do a search on "fishless cycle" on the 'net and you'll find lots of alternative methods that work just as well and don't harm any fish...> Thanks, <You're welcome.> Dave <Jorie> Re: Cannot cycle new tank with lionfish; recommend using "fishless" method instead   5/8/06 Thanks for the response. <You're welcome.> I thought Lionfish were like the 2nd hardiest fish offered in aquarium trade? <I've never heard this "opinion"; generally, Volitans lionfish do fine in a stable, well-established tank, but I've never heard them to be particularly hardy with respect to be able to withstand ammonia, nitrite and nitrate spikes necessary for cycling purposes...> Anyhow... So I will introduce ONLY cured liverock and will perhaps take some substrate and some of the water from my established fish/invert system to 'seed' my new tank? <Good plan; will likely speed the cycle a bit.> Maybe even use some of the liverock in my Fish/Invert sump and use in my new sump for this new system? <Also good.> Would you expect that I'd still have ammonia/nitrate spikes in the two to four week period after? <In a 200 gal. tank, I would expect so, yes...> Should I be introducing my lionfish then at two weeks?  Four weeks?  Or simply when I haven't detected any signs of ammonia or nitrate? <I always like to err on the side of caution, since I've done my share of "pushing the envelope", sometimes without good results; I would suggest not introducing any fish before the 2 week minimum period, and personally would side closer to 4 weeks, but in any event, not before the cycle has completed. In other words, not before the 2-4 week period, but possibly longer, depending on the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate readings in your tank.> Dave <Good luck.  In my experience, when cycling with live rock, at least you'll likely have neat "critters" (hitchhikers) to look at for the cycling period, as opposed to freshwater cycling, where you are literally staring at water for a month or so!  Enjoy your tank, Jorie>

Confused About Cycling, So Are The Fish - 01/04/2006 I would like to know how high the ammonia and nitrite will go during cycling before it starts to drop. <Will likely appear "off the charts" for most tests, but there's not a real definite number. What you'll see is a constant high and then quick drop.> I began cycling with 5 damsels in a 55 gallon tank. <Was this an advised method!? We are huge proponents of the fishless cycle here! You've just walked into the cannibals den and asked "What's for dinner?". Seriously though, please return these fish before they are forced to die miserably. You don't need them for this.> When ammonia levels rose to 1.0 they didn't last very long. <According to you or the fish!? This is a process in which, one feeds the other, feeds the other. Fluctuations in concentration are normal at the start.> Then I inserted 2 raw shrimp in the tank. How long should I keep the shrimp in there before I take them out? <See, this would have been a more fair place to start. You can remove now if you like (along with the fish). Once things are started, they will work themselves out.> I began cycling on 12/13/05 and today the test results are. Ammonia 2.0 ppm, ph 8.2, nitrite 0.50, nitrate 10 <Needs more time. This can take an average of 4-6 weeks, but that's not set in stone. These conditions will be detrimental to your damsels. If they don't die, you may just finish cycling to treat disease. I would return them or if you can't maybe the store will baby-sit for you while your cycle completes.> Thanks for you help..................Lou. <You're welcome, hope it's cleared some stuff up . - Josh> Why We Cycle Fishless - 03/09/2006 Hello, <Hi there Nicole.> I started a 15 gallon saltwater tank about a week ago and put in two damsels yesterday to help cycle the tank. <But why? They/you don't need this.> Both of the fish looked perfectly healthy yesterday and were swimming and eating... now tonight one of them looks like its about to die. <And probably will. Another unfortunate end to a beautiful animal.> It is swimming at the top of the aquarium and looks to be breathing really hard/fast. <Choking on its own waste.> It wont eat and is swimming strangely, also it has brown spots on it. The other damsel seems to be just fine. <Stronger...until?> What is wrong and will this affect the other fish? <Your tank is cycling. Many harsh realities that these fish are demonstrating. There is a chain of establishment that should be followed before ever adding livestock...as you have now witnessed. You need to read up on the establishment of biofiltration here. Very simple and you don't need fish for it.> Thank you! <Nanu Nanu. Whoops! I mean you're welcome (I just love that show).> Nicole A. Norins University of Colorado at Boulder <Josh, missing his friend Mork from Ork.>

Cycling Hi guys thanks for all the help so far. Not a question, just wanted to say I'm horrified people use fish to cycle their tank, I think its absolutely disgusting when there are other perfectly reasonable means of doing so outside of stressing, at best, to killing a fish or two! You can buy stuff in a bottle to put in over a week then cycle for up to 6 weeks or so and your ready to get started. I'm not a patient person but I managed to wait that long rather than kill fish to have it done earlier. I don't care if they are silly little cheap fish they didn't ask to be caught, taken away from their little lives on the reef and used for animal testing which is basically what it is. Disgraceful. You should push more humane methods of cycling tanks guys. Unless there is a very good reason for using fish that I am not aware of course. <Umm, we do. Please read here on our root web: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm and on to the many FAQs re (at top, links in blue). Glad to see there are patient, conscientious folks as yourself. Bob Fenner>

Upgrading to a bigger tank 12/1/04 Hi, I have been using your site as an extremely useful tool for information ever since I setup a saltwater aquarium 8 months ago. <Good to hear!  Glad you have benefited.> I currently have a small 10 g aquarium with 1 yellow tailed damsel fish and 2 percula clowns. The aquarium is cycled and all 3 fish get along well. The blue damsel sometimes attempts to pick on the percula clown, but she takes care of herself and the smaller clown fish.  We recently upgraded to a 55 gallon aquarium, and are planning on adding these 3 fish and some more fish to it. We plan on keeping a fish only tank. <55 gallons is much more appropriate for the fishes you listed.  Kudos on the upgrade!> - Could you suggest 2 fish we could use to cycle this new aquarium, keeping in mind we will be adding the yellow tailed damsel and 2 clown fish we have already eventually to that tank? <I don't recommend any fish for cycling.  When you add newly acquired live rock, the die off on the rock will produce more than enough ammonia to accomplish the cycle.  Please spare any fishes the stress of this process!> - We were thinking of getting the 3 stripe zebra damsel and one green Chromis. Will they get along with our existing fish? <Single green Chromis rarely thrive and will certainly be bullied by the other damsels you plan on keeping.  Most damsels (other than Chromis) are exceedingly aggressive and mixing more than a couple can be quite volatile.> - Keeping in mind there will be 6 fish eventually (our existing 3 fish, 2 new damsels which we plan on using for cycling and maybe 1 yellow tang), will the aquarium be adequately stocked? Thanks in advance, Seema <Certainly the question should be "will the tank NOT be overstocked.  I would say no, but a 55 is tight quarters for any tang.  If you are looking for an appropriate yellow fish, there are several gobies and blennies that fit the bill and will be much less cramped in your tank.  Best Regards.  AdamC.> Cycling new tank I was referred to an article about adding ammonia to a tank to speed up the cycling process, but it still didn't really answer my question. Is it possible to cycle a 90 gallon tank to the point where I could order and add about 3 small fish (2-3inches) at the same time? <With a 90 gal. Tank?  Certainly.> I want to take advantage of Liveaquaria's prices and their  arrive-alive/stay alive guarantee, but if I can only add one at a time the shipping rate defeats the purpose. <Yes, I frequently face the same problem :) > Someone at LiveAquaria suggested that I cycle it with about seven damsels then remove them before adding new stock, but I do believe you when you say that removing them could be a pain. <It's more than just a pain.  Why torture the poor damsels?  If it isn't cycled enough and only Damsels will survive, then it isn't ready for Damsels either.  I believe in your last post you mentioned having 75 lbs of live rock.  That will cycle your tank.  Keep an eye on the water quality and do frequent water changes when needed.  Watch for the initial spike in ammonia.  It should fall back off as Nitrites rise, then Nitrates.  At that point, do your water changes and bring the Nitrates down.  With a 90 gal tank three small fish should then be fine (although I would recommend adding hermit crabs and snails first.  Will help keep it clean as well as help further establish the tank) , and you wont even have to catch them again later.  Just be patient, keep an eye one the water quality, and be prepared to do plenty of water changes.  After adding the fish, continue to do the same.  You don't want any surprises by finding Ammonia off the scale after not checking it for two weeks! > Any other suggestions. <Do you have a skimmer?  If you don't, add one.  Otherwise, just patience.  Scott V. > Blue Skies, James Smith

Cycling process hey guys again <Hi Mike> I just started to cycle my 50 gal set up with 3 damsel fishes (1 yellow tail, 2 3spot dominos) and within 24 hours the 3 spot dominos are dead, and I think the other is next because it looks like his breathing is very labored. I checked my spg and it was fine yesterday (1.022) but today with the fish dead, it moved up to 1.024. I was just concerned about the hike in spg over night, and was wondering if that could be the reason the damsels have died. and what are other possible reasons for them to have died? the fish looked fine at the store where I got them. if everything checks out right, should I continue to buy more fish for the cycling process? and when? thanks again. mike <Likely ammonia and nitrate killing your fish. SG should not change except through evaporation which should be replaced. They could have been stress/diseased at the store, but do test your water right away. It is more than worthwhile to have your own reliable test kits for common fish wastes. Cycle tank and stabilize before placing any more fish. New live rock and sand? Likely that and fish or LR/LS waste is the culprit. Do check out the WetWebMedia.com site on stocking marine systems. I also suggest a really good book as it will save you untold heartache and money. The Conscientious Aquarist by Bob Fenner is a good choice. Craig>

Treating Ick before the initial tank cycle ends Hey crew! <Hey back> I can't say enough about the informative site!  Is there such thing as "too much" information.  When I get home from work I sign on and read and read and read.  However, I have run into a problem and am not sure of what to do.  This Saturday will be the second week of the cycle on my new 29 gallon marine tank.  I initially started the cycle with three small damsels, of which one died within 24 hrs, one got stuck on the intake of my power head on like the 6th day.....whoops, (I forgot to turn it down!) and I noticed last night that the last one left (a domino) has what looks like ick.  I noticed yesterday when I got home from work all of the tiny white spots on it, even on his eyes.  He has been a real trooper swimming about like nothings wrong....I was kinda shocked!  We'll I leave the light on overnight, and all but a couple are gone this morning!  What's up with that?  Is this ick?  If so, should I treat or just buy a couple more damsels and let the tank finish cycling?  I called the two local pet stores that contradicted each other.......one saying treat the tank now b/c ick will breed in the substrate and the other saying let the tank cycle, then take the fish out, and the Ick will die within a couple of weeks having no host to feed on. (I don't plan on keeping the damsels anyway)  We'll, I was actually gonna keep them until they started nipping at the stuff I am wanting to put in the tank when it matures.  I'm trying to learn all I can about marine tanks.  I hope the initial cycling is the hardest part, cause this is kinda frustrating.  Thanks in advance for your help! <The damsels are not necessary to cycle a tank. Really a rather barbaric process and an waste of life. The domino may  have ich. It needs to be removed to a hospital tank and treated. See here and the blue links at the top of the page for more http://www.wetwebmedia.com/parasiti.htm. Do not treat the main tank. Never. Only treat diseased fish in a hospital tank. Let the tank fallow (no fish of any kind) for at least 4-6 weeks. Raising the temperature (80-82) may help. This is the only way to break the cycle of host/parasite. Don>

New Tank With Clowns - 07/11/05 Hey this is Donnie, awesome site by the way. <<Thanks Donnie...Eric R. here.>> Ok I just converted my freshwater tank to a saltwater on about 9 days ago, my protein skimmer and Corallife lunar light will be here tomorrow. <<Super>> It has 20lbs of live sand and about 7lbs of live rock, I put in 2 damsels (blue one, and domino) about 4 days ago to start cycling it, then today I added 2 orange/white clowns. <<Sorry to hear this... It's my opinion fish should NEVER be added to a tank until fully cycled.>> The pet store said my nitrate, nitrite, ammonia, and ph (8.2) were good. <<Did they know you just converted 9 days ago?>> They seem to be doing fine right now and they sleep on top of each other.  Everyone in my tank gets along and eats formula one pellets.  Do you think that if I keep testing my water (SG, NITRATE, NITRITE, AMMONIA, PH) and keeping everything in check they will do fine?   <<Please do get your own test kits and monitor your water quality and relocate the fish if ammonia/nitrite show anything other than "zero."  If this is the case, wait until the tank cycles to reintroduce the fish.  Maybe have a look through our archives...here's a good place to start: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marineSetUp.htm>>

Cycling New Tank Dear Bob, Can I cycle my new 125 U.S. gallon tank using liverock and 10 - 12 green Chromis. <No, just use the liverock.> I don't want to see an empty tank for a few weeks? <It is that or a very good shot at a tank full of dead/diseased fish. Your choice. -Steven Pro>

Cycling without fishes HI again, thanks for the replay :) I have two more questions for you : 1.The ammonia in my tank drop to zero but the nitrite did not I know it takes longer time) But in the main time there is no any source of ammonia for the bacteria. Is that OK? <there is always a source of ammonia in a stocked tank... it is just that after the cycle, the bacterial colony have grown large enough to keep it to zero> SORRY, but there is no fishes in the tank. Just like rock covered with algae. should I add some flake food for keeping the bacteria alive <that should not be necessary. It wall not help you keep fishes any better. Just go slow with adding any new fish after the cycle is complete. And be sure to Qt all new fish separately for 4 weeks before adding them to your display. This is critical for long term success. Best regards, Anthony>

Re: Filtration of Saltwater, Tang question JasonC, <<Hello again.>> Thanks for responding. When I put the tank together, I started out with four Damsels and a live rock 3 months ago. No discouragement from the LFS in doing so. <<Not really a surprise... some stores are only in it for the money, not realizing that by insuring your success, they will gain a lifelong customer. A store in my area recently sent a person home with one damsel per gallon. Not exactly smart but good for the cash register on that one day.>> Needless to say, the live rock started the cycling faster than normal so the Damsels didn't have time to adjust and died within 2 days. The tank sat empty for almost a month until the ammonia and nitrite levels were 0 so I assumed the tank had completed cycling. At that point I added the false Perc and the yellow Tang, they've been fine for six weeks now. Is it possible that the water change I did has caused the tank to start cycling again? <<Or the swapping out of the bio-bag, which I am thinking houses part of your biological filter. By doing so, you force the bacteria colonies to re-establish. As for your live rock... I don't recall you mentioned this before - how much do you have?>> I only changed about 5 gallons. Is there anything I can do with the main tank to save the fish and eel? <<You can wait it out, and if you are lucky the fish will be fine. You could also ask the store where you bought them to hold them for you while you get things back on an even keel.>> Would a large water change (20 gallons of RO) help or hurt? <<I wouldn't recommend this - a water change in the main tank will stall the re-establishment of the biological filter and thus extending the stress on your fish.>> I don't have another tank to move them to other than bagging them and taking them back to the LFS for safe keeping till the water levels get back to normal. <<Perhaps the best option at this juncture.>> Steve Barker <<Cheers, J -- >>

New Tank and Cycling with a Lionfish? Dear Bob and Co., <<Hello, "and Co" here...>> I have been in the hobby for about 3 years now and have a well established 75 gallon FO tank. I am about to start up a second tank which will be a 125 gallon FO. I know about tank cycling but am interested in the possibility of using a Lionfish (Red Volitans) to cycle. <<I wouldn't recommend this. Cycle with live rock... much better, lower impact.>> The new inhabitants will include the Lionfish, a Harlequin Tusk, Lawnmower Blenny, Large Angel (probably an Emperor), Kole, Naso and Regal Tangs. <<I'm not convinced this tank is large enough for this entire list.>> Any thoughts on the cycling idea? Bob mentions it in "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist". BTW, I read the website every day just like the newspaper and am very thankful for what you folks do! <<glad you enjoy it.>> Howard Cushnir Jacksonville, Florida <<Cheers, J -- >>

Questions about Cycling a Tank with Fish Jason, <<Hello...>> I originally put 3 blue tail damsels and 2 domino damsels. This tank has been setup for almost 2 weeks now. The first yellow tail died w/n a day or so. it was never healthy from the start. I lost a domino end of last week and today I lost another domino leaving the population to 2 yellow tails. Should I be concerned? <<Well, yes and no. On the one hand, you've chosen one of the longer ways of cycling a tank - with fish - and in this method one has to expect some mortality. On the other hand, when one introduces a sick fish to a closed system, often the thing that made the fish sick stays in the tank long after the fish is gone.>> I've checked nitrates/nitrites/ammonia and ph with no noticeable change in ammonia or nitrites. Temp has been a little high due to the climate right now (82-84 during the day). I'm trying to get this down but I also need to leave the lights on also to get some algae and bacteria growth going. <<the fish need a regular light cycle too - how long are you keeping the lights on?>> this is the primary reason for such high temps. <<I thought it was because of the weather? Do tell. Cheers, J -- >>

Cycling with Fish. Redux. Hi Bob, I am writing to you not about myself here. But a general question about newbies and cycling with fish. I am beginning to think this has it's place.  <This? Referring to...?> My reasons are as follows: New folk are often in a hurry. They want to see some fish in the tank. Maybe it is not the purist way to go as obviously LR will do just fine. Perhaps it is not even quite humane as I am sure it isn't so pleasant. But here's the thing: New folk will often make the mistake of putting inappropriate critters in the tank and end up losing more livestock than if they had just started out with fish in the first place. In the best of all worlds, nobody would be impatient and understand immediately that this is about the destination more than the final point, but such is not the case. <Never discount human behavior... you will lose> Right now on WWF we have a guy, and if he recognizes himself it's ok as he isn't exactly alone, who really wants to start. (I recognize a bit of myself when I started too!!) I think at some point we should just say, ok, "Just get _____ fish and watch him closely. And do the tests." A clownfish or damsel or neon goby perhaps? Though we shouldn't recommend something that wouldn't be welcome later. A damsel can be an impossible thing to catch. <Nothing is impossible to catch. Bob Fenner> --des/Jane

New Start-up: Fish to aid in cycling ? Hi Bob, I won't go into all of the praise that you seem to get from many other aquarists . suffice to say Thanks. <Thank you> I am just starting what will ultimately be a full reef set-up. A 130 Litre tank with a sump holding about another 60 L, Air-powered fractionator, and power filter (mechanical only) in the sump, with under-gravels spanning the whole tank up top. Dual 30W Fluorescents light the whole thing up. (1 x 50/50 daylight/actinic blue, 1 x 10000K Daylight) I have just added 4 Kg of Live Rock to kick the whole show off and was wondering if it would be pertinent to (catch) add some local fish of whatever sort I can land from my local rock pier (Gold Coast, Australia). <A few of us are off to visit you next month... Brisbane up to Lizard, north of Cairns... No to adding the local fishes here> I fully expect that these poor soles will die in the cycling process, but will the added Ammonia speed the cycling process, or just leave the LR to do it's thing. Note that the LR is "fresh", covered in various corals, worms, and even some things that look anemone like. <Nice. Just leave the rock in... perhaps a pinch of some dry food every day... this will do the job... w/o the risk of possibly adding pests, parasites. Give here a read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm> Thanks in Advance, Glenn. <Be cracking a tinnie with you later. Bob Fenner>

A Good Fish to Cycle With... <<JasonC here.>> Thanks for the tips. While I was there at the LFS I was informed that the snowflake can be used to "break-in" a new tank. Is this accurate? <<perhaps, they are pretty tough, but I'm not sure I would recommend it myself.>> I was also told that I can use damsels to cycle the tank but I do not want to go to all that trouble of getting them out down the road. <<smart thinking. There are a bunch of fish you can cycle a tank with and you can also cycle it with live rock.>> I am not able to get live rock in my area so I think I have to cycle my tank with live fish. <<ok then, any chance I can convince you to get a box of live rock shipped to you? Will be well worth the investment.>> Will the marine Betta or dragon wrasse be strong enough to do the job? <<I wouldn't choose these either.>> If not, what would you recommend other than damsels? <<neon gobies - check them out at http://www.wetwebmedia.com/neongobies.htm >>  Thanks and have a good weekend.  <<Yourself as well. Cheers, J -->>

Question about Cycling & Diatoms Hey guys, I've written you before as I was setting up my tank, I now have a question about the cycling of the system. Background: I have a 92 Gallon tank, 90 pounds of live rock. 4-5 inch sand bed, 901 Hagen Powerhead, Sea Clone Skimmer. constant 79-80 degree temperature, Salinity/Gravity 31/1.022, PH: (after a week when the ph dropped to 7.8, I placed a small amount of crushed coral in as a buffer and it is now 8.2), Ammonia, Nitrate and Nitrite are mentioned later., Lighting: (1) 36 inch 20K (1) Actinic (both on 12 hours a day), I received live rock 2 weeks ago and placed it in the tank as well as a 20lb bag to seed the 4 inch dead sand bed. (I, of course, placed the rock directly on the glass by the way, due to a statement I saw on your site re burrowers. :) ), I placed 4 damsels in the tank 4 days later. I lost the first Domino the next day which lead me to believe that it was due to the inevitable, not something I did, since all others are still alive, eating, and "active" almost two weeks later. <Possibly due to shipping trauma.> My Ammonia levels spiked then returned to zero, like you said would happen. The Nitrates and Nitrites are still relatively high, but I'm being patient about that. <Are you getting good skimmate from the SeaClone? I prefer to have to empty me collection cup of a dark material similar to coffee several times weekly. This is good for nutrient control.> My question is: I have seen an almost rust-colored algae covering the live rock that has appeared in the last two days primarily under the light fixture although the rock is about 8 inches from the surface of the water. My gut feeling is that this is good since something is growing and the powerhead seems to be helping the growth. But I have recently ran across someone that has had a tank for a year with this rust-colored algae covering the tank, and they actually think it's "Ugly", and try to get rid of it. :) Is it something I should worry about? Or should I just enjoy the tank and leave it alone? <This sounds like diatoms. These are almost inevitable in new tanks and usually run their course and disappear after a month or two.> P.S. I apologize if this topic is mentioned on the site somewhere, I just haven't found it. Brian Zimmerman <Don't worry about it. Glad to be of assistance. -Steven Pro>

Cycling with mollies I am going to start a 150 gallon saltwater tank and I heard that you can use black mollies to cycle a tank (cheaper than damsels and less aggressive) Is this true or just a rumor??? thanks. <true if they are acclimated very slowly, and while they have some merits... cured live rock will ultimately make any argument about the "best" starter fish somewhat moot. I strongly recommend live rock for most any installation. Anthony Calfo>

Re: cycling fish You mean cycle with just live rock??? Or have some in there? <When you add fully cured live rock to a tank, you bring in a nearly ready and stable colony of living biological filtration.. less starter fish are necessary and the break in period is more gentle. Live rock is recommended for all marine aquaria. Do read more about its merits in the archives of articles and FAQs of WWM. kindly, Anthony>

Dead Fish Two of my domino damsels have died while cycling my tank. Ick got the best of them. My question is should I leave them in the tank to help in the cycle or shall I remove them? <Always remove all dead fish immediately.> The rest of the fish are fine, 3 yellow tails, two 3 stripe damsels. Thanks for the help <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Algae in a cycling tank Hi Bob, Anthony, Steve, Anytime I need to know about Aquaria your site is the first I go to! You guys do a huge service to the hobby. I started a 80 gallon reef tank a month ago. I put in the water and sand from the Atlantic Ocean. Luckily I live in Florida! Then 2 weeks ago I put in 90 pounds of live rock. I am using a wet/dry, a Red Sea Berlin Classic Skimmer, a Custom Sea Life 9 watt Double Helix UV Sterilizer powered by a Rio 200 running 24/7. My readings are- Ammonia .50 Nitrites .25 Nitrates 5.0 PH 8.2 Calcium 450 SG 1.026 There is algae (green and red) starting to grow on the rocks and sides of the tank. I can clean the sides of the tank but how can I get the algae off the rocks? <You don't want to. That is a major portion of the "live" in liverock.> Are my readings too high to support a clean up crew? <Yes, please wait until ammonia and nitrite are both zero.> If it is ok to get a clean up crew, what would you suggest? <Stay away from hermit crabs. Use a variety of different snails; Turban, Astrea, Cerith, Nerites, etc.> Thanks for the excellent web site! John <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

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