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FAQs on Establishing Nutrient/Biological Cycling in Marine Systems, Anomalies, Fixing 1

Related FAQs: Trouble/Fixing 2, 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

Beware of biocides... too change-able conditions...

Extended Nitrogen Cycle? - 04/10/06 I am currently cycling a marine tank without livestock. <<Good to know...I personally don't care for the alternative>> I started this on 07 January 2006, and it is still far from complete. <<Hmm...unusual>> The tank holds 250 liters of water after displacement (60 cm, height and width, and 100 cm length), <<That's "some" displacement.  More than "half" the volume of the tank by my calculation.>> and has a 10 cm deep sand bed made from 1 - 2 mm crushed marble, and 35 kg of white concrete sculptures (previously soaked in fresh and then salt water for four months and is pH neutral). <<No live rock/aragonite/Oolitic material?>> There is 100 liter sump under the tank, three chambers separated with baffles (a copy of Rob Fenner's design from this web site).  I am using a Deltec MC 600 hang-on protein skimmer on the side of the display tank that has been running since the first day.  There is 3 liters of JBL micromec sintered glass beads in the central (second) chamber of the sump.  There is also a Merlin fluidized bed filter connected to an internal pump in the sump circulating the water between the first and third chamber.   An internal Tunze Turbelle Stream 6060 pump is in the display tank (6000 lire/hour), and 3000/hr liter Pentair pump in the last chamber of the sump returning water to the display tank.  A Durso standpipe returns the water to the sump in an internal corner overflow (20 cm x 15 cm). <<All good>> There is NO live rock (not available in New Zealand), <<Ah!...now I understand...bummer>> and I have not used any bacterial seeding products yet. <<Might help>> Biodigest by Porbidio is available in New Zealand. <<I'm not familiar with this product, but likely not harmful at the least.>> I do not altogether trust live media from other established tanks (I have seen Ick in them.) <<A moot point if the tank remains fallow for about eight weeks from time of entry as the parasite will complete its life-cycle and die out in the absence of a host>> I tried to get an initial value of 0.5 ppm ammonia in my tank, and added crushed frozen cocktail shrimp to the tank.  It took about 20 shrimp in total over a three week period to get to this level. <<Seems like a lot of decaying shrimp to me>> The first detectable level of nitrite appeared on 16 February at 0.2 ppm (seven weeks later), the first detectable level of nitrate appeared on 20 Feb. at 5 ppm. <<I think your test kits may be suspect>> I continued to add one or two shrimp a week to keep the cycle going from the front end to support the Nitrosomonas bacteria that convert ammonia to nitrite.  There has been no ammonia detected since 01 March.  For the last five weeks the nitrite levels have been about 5 ppm, nitrates 20 ppm and ammonia zero.  The pH has remained at 8.3, temp 27 degrees C.  Other not so important parameters at this stage are calcium 320, KH 10.6, Alk 3.77, and Mg 1300, and salinity 1.023 , phosphate 0.5 <<That's a lot of phosphate...assumably from the rotting shrimp...else if not, you have another problem. The tank is topped up with three liters of fresh water each day, using dechlorinating solutions.  (By the way my freshly made up salt water contains no ammonia, nitrites or nitrates). <<These are the same test kits used to measure the tank?>> I was aware that cycling a tank without live rock and waiting for bacteria to fall from the sky can take up to 100 days, but this is a great trial of patience. <<Mmm, no...not in my opinion.  I remember cycling tanks back in the day when live rock did not "exist" in the hobby, and without using live "seeds", could be accomplished in 6-8 weeks routinely.>> I could just do a partial water change, but I thought that is defeating the purpose of establishing bacteria to manage this (pulling the food from under them).  At present the Nitrospira and Nitrobacter bacteria that convert nitrite to nitrate are at too low a level to complete the cycle (but they are there). <<As you state, the bacteria are present...I would remove as much of the shrimp as I could find and do a large water change at this point.  Let the tank run a couple days and retest.  If ammonia/nitrite/nitrate read zero (assuming you have fresh/reliable test kits), I would then add a small fish (fed daily) and continue to monitor tank parameters>> The high nitrite levels may be forestalling this. <<I don't believe so>> Perhaps caving in with the use of a bacterial seeding product may be appropriate, and withholding further dead shrimp from the front end of the cycle, or just waiting yet another month.  Do you have any suggestions for how I should continue to manage this long nitrogen cycle, now starting its 14 the week, about 100 days, and still counting. <<Indeed...try my suggestion...things just may need "shaking up">> All the Best from New Zealand...Mike Lomb <<Cheers from Sunny South Carolina...EricR>>

Crashed Bio-filtration, SW - 5/8/2006 PLEASE HELP! Well, after the puffer crashed my tank I lost EVERYTHING! <<Oh no.>> The puffer is now in a hospital tank but the problem I'm having is the ammonia level in my 110 gallon tank.  It is way off the chart.  The first day I did a 20 gallon water change; 2 days later did a 25 gallon water change and cleaned the filter for a second time with absolutely no change in the ammonia level.  My nitrites and nitrate levels are at 0 my ph is down to 7.8 but I'm assuming that's because the ammonia level is so high.  I have made sure there's nothing else in the tank only my live rock and sand. <<Do a series of large water changes to remove the ammonia.>> My ammonia level in my hospital tank is also spiked very high.  I don't know what to do at this point. <<In the hospital tank, you need to be doing large daily or twice daily water changes to keep the levels of toxins down for the puffer.>> Could my tank be cycling due to all the fish dying? <<The puffer crashed your bio-filtration, so yes it is re-cycling.>> Is this something that will go down after more time or is there something else that could be going on that I'm just not seeing? <<The tank will level out.  BE sure to add Bio Spira or fishless cycle to the intended bio-load before adding fish to your tank.  Lisa.>> Re: Crashed Bio-filtration, SW - 5/8/2006 I can not thank you enough! Thank you so much for having such a wonderful site that newbies like me can got to and get such wonderful help! <<You are quite welcome. Lisa. :)>> No nitrites - 05/16/2006     Hello, and thanks for all the great reading and help. My set up is as follows: 90 gal reef with 20 gal sump. 220 lbs of Australian gold sand (dreaming of a dusky jaw) and 115 lbs live rock. My equipment is 3 maxi-jet 1200's inside main tank and a PM bullet 1 skimmer in sump. I have no livestock at all, trying to cycle naturally.     My lighting is 2- 150w MH, 2-96w blue actinics with 4 lunar lights. My tank has been set up like this since April 13th, starting the process about a week before that. I believe I need a fan over my sump as my temp. goes from 80.4' to 82.4' during the course of the day. I only keep my MH's on for 6 hours, actinics for 10. I do have a built in fan under lights in canopy. From what I've read here I should try fanning my sump.      I recently (5 days ago)  finally had an ammonia spike of 1.0, this was quick-- basically waiting for weeks and then bam, here and gone. My ammonia is now 0. My nitrates are only 5-10ppm (I have only done 1 water change due to too many diatoms, 3 weeks ago) . I have not seen a nitrite reading at all. I know my test is working property as I cycled my quarantine just fine.     I presently have 2 clowns in my quarantine waiting, and I'm wondering--did I miss the nitrite spike? I test about every 4 days. I'm not sure how long I should wait.     Thanks I know this is ridiculously long, I truly appreciate it. Jill <<Jill:  How long have the clowns been in QT?  What is the SG of your tank and QT?  Before you add the Clowns to the main tank, I would make sure that they are healthy and eating.  It's a lot harder to catch a fish in a tank with a lot of rocks.  At this point, since you already have the clowns and you believe that your tank has cycled, you can consider adding them to the tank.  However, if you really want to play it safe and avoid introducing fish diseases into your main tank, you should QT the clowns for at least 6 weeks with at an SG of 1.009 measured with a refractometer.  While the clowns remain in QT, you can consider getting some snails, etc to add to the tank.  Best of luck, Roy>> Extended Nitrogen Cycle?  5/11/06 I sent this message 2 minutes ago, and then found that the spell checker changed words (names) that should have been left alone...sorry.  It seems WordPerfect mail takes too many liberties in its changes (changes words without telling you or asking you).   <<No worries mate>> I wrote before that I was having a slow start to completing a nitrogen cycle on my marine fish tank. This initial step is supposed to be the easiest part, but four months later (I started 04 January) it is still not safe to put any fish in it.  I have added the previous message I sent one month ago, and Eric kindly offered some advice. <<EricR here again my friend>> Here is a copy of the previous message one month ago... <<Thanks Mike...I've edited out the previous email to save space as it is already archived>> One month later... I did a 200 liter water change four weeks ago using Instant Ocean  Salt mix with tap water premixed with Tetra Aqua water conditioner to get rid of the chorine and heavy metals.  This also means turning off the protein skimmer for three weeks because the conditioner causes bubble storms. <<Indeed it does.  Have a look here ( http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water4maruse.htm) and try to discern a better method (aerating for 24 hrs, carbon filtering) for preparing your water...short of utilizing RO/DI or similar filtration>> I have not added any shrimp at all for 6 weeks (nothing floating around in there) and turned on the protein skimmer one week ago and it is not picking anything up (nothing to pick up). <<Mmm, maybe>> I initially used the Marine Master Test Kit to measure the water, and then ordered the Salifert Test kits to compare as they should be more accurate. I also added six amps of Biodigest by Presidio four weeks ago after the water change, added a PolyFilter in the tank and Seachem Seagel in the protein skimmer compartment.  Here are the results of the tests today: Ammonia 0 ppm Nitrite  2.5 ppm Nitrate 50 ppm The nitrite is down only because of the water change (from 5 ppm to 2.5), and has stayed at that level for a month, checked twice a week.  The Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Marine Master Test kit agrees on the ammonia and nitrite levels with the Saltier test, but underestimates the nitrates (checked three times). Freshly mixed salt mix measures 0 pp ammonia 0 ppm nitrite, and measures 2 ppm nitrate.  This cycle seems to be at a stand still, and I have no idea why. <<If it's not your source water...and not your test kits...then it is likely the substrate (marble chips) or the concrete "rock" in the tank.  Or maybe even the Silastic used to construct the tank itself>> This is not supposed to happen.  Have you ever encountered this problem from anyone else, and do you have any further suggestions? <<I think at this point you need to start back at square one and investigate each component before/as it is added to the tank.  Were this me...I would empty the tank and flush it out with clean water, refill with new saltwater "only" (all filtration systems running, e.g. - fluidized-bed filter, skimmer, etc., but leave off carbon/Poly-Filter filtration for now), then test the water after a week.  In the mean time I would place the substrate and "rock" in separate vessels with clean saltwater and a powerhead and test this water after a week.  If the tank water tests fine, I would then add the substrate (assuming all test were ok), wait a week, and test again, then do the same with the rock.  Also test your filter media (carbon, resins), and anything else you can think of that comes in contact with the tank water.  Hopefully this process of elimination will reveal the culprit>> All the Best.. Mike Lomb <<Cheers my friend, Eric Russell>>

08/25/2006 - Tank Cycling Problems Hi WWM crew! <Hi there EricS here> I have been reviewing the information on your Web site which has helped me figure out what I have done wrong clearing out a Cyanobacteria invasion and what I needed to do right, but now I am stuck as to where I should go next!  So I am hoping to get some one on one guidance. <Great start. Always refer to the web site first! Thanks much!> Here is the history - about a year ago, we set up a 30 gallon salt water tank which we enjoyed for about 6 months with no problems.  We decided to upgrade to a 55 gallon tank and for a couple of months had absolutely no problems.  The tank was set up with a Skilter Filter with a protein skimmer (that we weren't using at the time) and a wheel power filter. <My opinion on the Skilter is not a very efficient product for that size of tank they may work merely OK for a small tank.  But not for a 55.  Please look at the AquaC Remora or CPR Backpack for a hang on skimmer.  The BioWheel is merely optional when you have live rock> About 2 months into the 55 gallon tank, we began to lose fish - including a clownfish, a royal Gramma, a yellow tang, and a couple of cardinal fish (the first one and then one we got to replace).  These fish died at the rate of about 1 a day.  We had water tested which came back with normal results and the fish store said that we might have introduced an infection that affected our fish, but not our invertebrates (we had a couple of peppermint shrimp, a cleaner shrimp, a brittle star fish, and a variety of snails and hermit crabs).   <What did they exactly test for? What test kits?  Do get your own so that you can do these tests on a regular basis yourself> So we tried again with some blue/green chromis (started with 5) that began to die after a couple of days in the tank at the rate of one a day until we were down to just one.  After that one had survived for about a month, we decided to add some more fish and added a royal Gramma, a tomato clownfish, and a yellow and black fish that I can't remember the name. Around that same time we started to get this invasion of a red algae looking film that after some research I decided was Cyanobacteria.  The fish store suggested we add power heads to our tank and start using the protein skimmer.  We started the protein skimmer and added to 212 PowerSweep powerheads.   <More current is definitely a good suggestion.  Try to point the powerheads more toward the areas that have the Cyano.  I think you still need more current as this is a 4 foot tank.  I have a 75 gallon with 5 powerheads in it and a return so quite a bit of flow :)  You do not need that much but do add more and point them as directed to help clear the Cyano.  Do not use any medications. > We really saw no difference in the tank accept that the fish appeared to enjoy the current!!!  Our red slime invasion continued to get worse!  Then death hit once again and we lost our royal Gramma, the blue/green chromis, and the tomato clownfish.  I took more water to the fish store to get tested along with the a sample of the red slime.  The water tested fine and they agreed that the red slime is Cyanobacteria.  One thing I had learned was that we weren't doing correctly is our water changes - we have not been vacuuming the gravel at all, just collecting water off the top - so I think that the "junk" we built up in the gravel may have caused many of our problems.  So, the fish store sold me a gravel vacuum and some "medicine" for the Cyanobacteria. <Again no medicine.  I believe in natural methods.  Need to find the main culprit.  Cycling and lack of flow are most obvious.  A minimum of a nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia kit.  I like Salifert.  These kits will allow you to watch the cycle.> I have now learned that the "medicine" is more like "poison" as within 12 hours of putting it in the tank, we lost our yellow and black fish and our cleaner shrimp.  We are down to one peppermint shrimp, a brittle star fish, and two hermit crabs. So, what we have done now is a 20% water change using the gravel vacuum, thoroughly cleaned all components of the tank, and changed all the filter media.  I also created a "sea storm" prior to vacuuming by shaking every piece of live rock prior to removal so I could clean under each piece.  I must say, the tank looks beautiful this morning!!!! My questions to you are what do we do next?  My thoughts were that we may need to let the tank cycle again.  Will it be possible to add fish in the next couple of weeks if the water tests O.K.?  If so, what fish do you suggest we start out with this time?  Do we need to go back to the damsel fish for a while or can we start with some others?  Also, in the mean time, do we feed the brittle star fish at all or can she find enough to eat in the tank?  Our plan is to continue water changes on a regular basis as we did in the past, only using the gravel vacuum from here on out. <What are you using for substrate?  Your next steps are to purchase your own test kits so you know that the reagents are fresh and the test is of good quality.  How good is the water that you are using to mix with salt? What do you use to test your salinity levels?  Next fish could be the chromis again.  They are pretty hardy fish so do a couple more water changes.  Get your tests done by yourself.  And then try the chromis I think you will find better success with the flow pointed correctly to rid your self of the Cyano problem.> Thank you in advance for the assistance with these problems.  We enjoy our tank very much and don't want to give up! <Don't ever give up!!  You will continue to learn all the time.  Buy some good books to start with and always try to read online as much as you can. Good Luck! EricS> Kind regards Leslie

Complete cycle & nitrate problems  10/26/06 Hi, <And to you> I am having a cycle & nitrate problem; any thoughts would be appreciated. Tank - 29 Gallon (35 lbs of live rock in tank) Sump filter - with 18 pounds of live rock (no bio-balls) 60 pounds of live sand and 20 lbs of crushed coral <Not much room for water!> Protein skimmer - rated up to 100 gallon tank <Mmm... your mileage may vary...> Return pump 500 gallon/hour Sweeping power head for additional water movement 135 watt PC lighting Tank startup date - August 31, 2006 Ammonia  - Somewhere between 0 and .25 (in between color for 0 and .25) PH - 8.2 Temp: 78 Nitrates  - .05 were previously at 0.2 Nitrates - have been high since the tank was started. Over 50 ppm first week and have been over 50 ppm ever since. With one test (one that will give high range results) kit I'm getting readings of 100 to 200 ppm. <Yeeikes! Some appreciable die-off...> Water changes seem to have very little effect on the nitrate levels, may bring the level down slightly, but is usually back up within 24 hours. No dead livestock in tank - 2 fish one clown, one damsel, three hermit crabs, six snails, and a sally light foot - eat and look fine (but I do not overfeed - food is consumed within 15 seconds). Nitrate levels at least 50ppm (to the top range of most kits). I have had the LFS run the same tests with their test kits - nitrates over 50ppm (that was the top range on their kits). Overflow and sump filters cleaned regularly. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Jackie <Mmmm, is your sump/refugium illuminated? Do you grow macroalgae there? I would. Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner> Alkalinity high, Ca low - ph stuck 8.0   2/25/07 Wife and I have new 75g tank set up and cycling. 2 weeks old. 20g sump and ASM G2 skimmer Trying to monitor levels and do what is necessary to get water chemistry right while cycling tank <Okay> 100# Kaelini live rock uncured originally I think <Yes... is a "Walt Smith" Fiji product... named after one of his and Deb's daughters... have been out collecting... seen the process there for cleaning...> Instant Ocean with RO/DI water 2" aragonite sand bed Here are latest water tests pH - 8.0 can't seem to get it up to 8.3. <No worries... mostly the affects of LR curing...>   Initially was around 7.8 We have added 4 tsp (80g dosage) SeaChem Marine 8.3 buffer on about 4 different days, raised pH to 8.0 but no higher <Is fine> temp - ranges from 78-81.  do I need more fan to stabilize this better or is this normal? <Is fine as well> actinics(4-65w) on for 8hrs with MH (2-250w) on for 6hrs <Would extend once rock is cured> Ammon-0 spiked to high of 8.0 and dropped Nitrites -test .5 today , spiked as high as 5.0 Nitrates - had spiked as high as 80 now hovering at 20 last several days. Is our cycle about to finish?? <Mmm, yes, likely so> My Alk is at 14 dKH today up from 12 last several days. <Less of the alkalinity buffer to add...> Calcium is at 280 up from 240. <More of the alkaline earth to add...> The only thing we have added is about 4 daily doses over 2 weeks of SeaChem buffer to try and get pH to 8.3 and about 3 doses of Oceans Blend 2 part liquid to try to raise Calcium. <Stop the former, continue the latter> All this at recommendation of LFS They said don't worry with water changes yet, just let cycle complete. <About right> No livestock at all.   Pretty coralline on live rock bleached out to pure white initially,  but now appears to be coming back in some places Last several days have a little green algae starting to form on rock and glass.  Looks like single strands about 1/2" long. Today noticed white minute particles floating around.   Thought it may be micro bubbles, but don't believe it is air. Also first time noticed a light film on surface of water in one side of tank.  Redirected Powerheads and seems to be getting better but not completely gone.  No film had been seen in previous 2 weeks. Skimmer running from day one,, poly in filter section. I want to raise Calcium up, LFS said use 2 part mix. <Is one route... see WWM re> We have added about 2-3 dosages of 2 part mix, not sure of what dosage to use, we added 15ml of each part. <Just keep measuring, recording the results of what you add...> This has raised Calcium from 240 to 280, but also Alk from 12 to 14 dKH Can I use only Calcium part of 2 part mix?? <Yes> As I think my Alk is beginning to get to the high side, right?? <Yes... I would leave off boosting it beyond 12dKH> Thanks in advance for your help; Butch <Enjoy the process. Bob Fenner>

Tank not Cycling!  -- 03/09/07 Hey Bob <Brandon with you tonight.> I would just like to thank you and the crew for all the work you do helping us marine novices. <You're welcome, we were all novices once.>   I've been cycling my 130 L (I think about 30 gallons) with 6 Kg (13 pounds) of LR. My LFS recommended no substrate; they seemed to think that LR would be enough to cycle it.  <Live Rock is not technically what cycles the tank.  There are bacteria on the rock that have to grow in order for the Nitrogen cycle to start.> I'm running a JEBO 180 hang-on Skimmer during the day (not at night cause the thing is really LOUD). I have DIY in-built wet/dry filtration system and an extra power head for circulation. I've had my tank up a running for about 6 weeks now and it seems like my test results never change.  <Are there fish in the tank?> 0,5 mg/l NH3 0,1 mg/l NO2 (Hard to tell it, might just be 0. I find it hard to read the colour chart.) 0,0 mg/l N03 (Again hard to tell, as the colours for 0,5 and 10 look the same.) pH 8.2 SG 1.026 Temp 26 (79) Seeing these results give me the impression that it's hardly even started cycling.  <I had a recent issue with NO2 that I think is applicable here.  I could not seem to get the NO2 to drop in my tank for anything.  I have had the tank running for a year.  I wound up removing all the live rock, and vacuuming the gravel very thoroughly.  This did the trick for me.  I would try this.  Something that you are not aware of could have died under the sand.> I was just wondering when it was time to start panicking that it won't cycle.  <It will cycle eventually.> Also with my last couple of tanks I noticed that when they were cycling that there lots of little critters moving around but in this tank there doesn't appear to be any.  <The ammonia might be too high.  I would be looking for dead critters at this point.  Could be built up organics in the water too.  Run the skimmer 24 hours a day for about a week and see what happens.  8-10 hours is kind of a long time to leave the skimmer off.  Perhaps you could sell this one and get an AquaC Remora.  These are pretty quiet.  I personally like to run my skimmer in the sump.  I would vacuum the substrate very well, even up under the rock.  I know that it is not generally recommended to do this, but this is a special case here.  The bacteria will grow based off of available food.  The caveat of this, is that sometimes there is so much available food that the bacteria can't grow fast enough to dispose of it all, and you will experience a sort of lag.  I have had great success with trying to cut the amount down.  It seems that the bacteria catch up rather quickly when you do this.  Try it out, run the skimmer, and after about two weeks you should have better numbers.> All I'm getting is lots and lots of algae but this has slowed down because I'm only running the lights for 4 hours a day instead of 7.  <If there are no fish, I would not even bother with the lights.  The algae are growing because of an excess of nutrients.  There is a possibility that this rock was not properly cured as well.  It happens sometimes.  To cure the rock run the tank fallow with the lights off for about four weeks.  After that you should be ready to cycle.> I purchased the LR rock from the same LFS as my other tanks and did exactly the same thing as my other tanks. Thanks for the help <I tossed a lot of ideas at you, I hope that one of them helps.  Brandon>

Nitrifying Bacteria Wipe Out? (Heater Breakdown)  3/16/2007 Hello to all, <Hi.> Need to ask one question on the bacteria, I've recently lost a marine aquarium to a heater malfunction. Of course it stayed on instead of off. Like they usually do. <Sorry to hear that, recommend going with two heaters next time, lower wattage. There is still a risk but if one goes awry again...it's less likely to cook a tank since it's not as powerful....and less likely two will go down simultaneously.> My question is how high a temp. can the bacteria take before dying? <Unless the tank literally boils for a sustained period of time, it is not likely you will kill all of the bacteria. There will however be a die off and it will take time for them to procreate and return to optimal levels.  Think of it as restarting your nitrogen cycle.> Thanks so much for your answer. <Of course.> Jim  Jesko <Adam Jackson.>

Tank Moving and Cycling -- 5/1/07 Hi ya'll!! Love the site! <Hey there! Thanks!> I'm a newbie to saltwater and am asking this question for more for my own edification than anything else. <ok> I just mixed water and salt mix in my 75 gallon tank.  I added 60lbs of live sand and 72lbs of live rock.  Within 24 hours of doing this, I had a tank-filter hose leak bad enough where I had to break down the tank, move it, pull up the carpet / padding and have to have the carpet pad replaced and the carpet replaced. <Eeek!  That's not fun.> My questions are (1) now that I've setup the tank in a temporary location, I'm presuming that I will use the test kit to determine if the cycle has finished and perform a water change as needed to get the levels down just like it were in it's original spot? <Yes.  When your ammonia and nitrites are back down to zero, it is cycled. If they do not rise much, you may want to add a tiny bit of fish food to get it going. If it is well cured live rock, you may not see any cycle, and readings will stay at zero. Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm > (2) When I get ready to move the tank back it's original position, will it need to recycle b/c the live rock will exposed to air, albeit a short time, again b/c of the breakdown process? <No.  If you just remove it all to containers while you move the tank and setup, you should not have any appreciable loss of bacteria.  Don't leave the rock out of water, just set it in the containers of water.  Buy some Rubbermaid stock if you are planning on being in this hobby for long -- we keep them in business.  Hee!> Is there anything else that I need to worry about or can do to take preventative measure - or am I just extending the time before I can get fish and inverts by doing another move? <This should not slow you down.  It is just very inconvenient.> Many thanks in advance! <Welcome. Alex>

Cycling and ph and Alkalinity Levels Hi Crew, I'm in the process of cycling a new 12 gallon nano tank.  This is my third tank but I never tested alkalinity until after the cycling was finished on the other two.  Anyway, with the new tank, water went in on 9/1, live rock in on 9/3.  I'm cycling with the live rock and some food scraps (flake food and a little krill).<Add a few hermits to eat this stuff and let them produce the waste.>  The pH has been at 7.8 since the beginning but Alk is 5.6 mEq/l.  When cycling, should a person attempt to adjust either of these parameters or just leave it alone until the cycling has stopped? <I would not worry about these parameters until the tank is fully established.  Do 10% water changes weekly.> Ammonia, nitrite, nitrate are elevated, which I expected.  I have the proper stuff to raise the pH but I'm not sure how to lower the alkalinity.  Advice on lowering the Alk, please. <Leave the Alk where it is, the lower ph during cycling will gradually lower the Alk.  Don't worry about these parameters right now.  James (Salty Dog)> Richard

Saltwater Cycling - 10/9/05 Hey Crew, <<Hello>> I have a question, ok a lot of questions about my 75 gallon tank cycling, the thing is that it isn't. I bought 79 lbs of LR from FFE, 45 lbs of premium Fiji, and 24 lbs of Tonga branch. The rock has been in there for 2 weeks and nothing has happened, also I have been aggressively skimming with my SeaWorld Systems skimmer, but throughout the two weeks haven't even produced one full cup of skimmate. <<That must have been some good live rock and sand. You will not see skimmate unless there is something to skim. With no bioload you would expect no skimmate.>> The water is crystal clear and here are my parameters: pH: 8.2  Nitrate: 20 Nitrite 0 Ammonia 0 Alkalinity 11 dKH Calcium 400  What do you guys think is going on? I also have a 1' live sand bed, no affects either, I have double checked with other test kits, and wouldn't it be strange if all of the tests were funky? Lastly, the water in my tank is evaporating at the speed of light! Every day I put in about half a gallon of freshwater, because the water is low, and the salinity is high 1.026 (refractometer measured) I like to keep the salinity at 1.024. I have 3 chromis and a twin spot goby in my QT (Eclipse 12 good qt?) I was wondering if I could put them into the main tank yet? <<That would be up to you. You could try forcing another cycle, but the fact that there are nitrates present shows that a cycle has occurred. To check the balance of your system you just need to feed the tank for a few days or throw a cocktail shrimp into the tank. Any decaying organic matter will cause an ammonia spike which should be followed by nitrites that are quickly converted to nitrates. In our closed systems the cycle usually ends with nitrates which need to be removed through water changes or a refugium/deep sandbed. I would not be afraid to add the fish to your tank, but to be 100% sure you may want to run a test cycle as I mentioned above.>> Thanks for all of your hard work and dedication, Clare  <<TravisM>> 

Finner, Fenner, To-may-to, To-mah-to, and Getty Lee? - 12/11/2005 Q. for Finner <Thought my surnames sake was for draining swamps/fens... but maybe...> Hi Mr. Finner. I several questions about what is going on with the cycling tank of Sea In The City. Marcye said you had been helping her while I was away on vacation. I have the "I gotta know why attitude" when it comes to aquariums. To get to the point Macye said the tanks started to drop Nitrite a couple of days after she added the old carbon you suggested. I suggested a 100% water change <... such large scale changes should be avoided in almost all situations> and adding about 50 lbs of seeded live rock. She did the 100% water change and added about 10lbs of uncured live rock. Since she added uncured live rock I would expect it would take some time to fully cycle and the old carbon seeded the bacteria to help bring down the nitrite. Does this sound correct? <Mmm, a possibility. The wholesale water change could kill most all microbial life...> I also thought that she was in a cycle freeze just like a former aquarist had problems that came up in Julian Sprung's Reef notes Volume 1 page 58. I had seen this once before when an aquarist put 7 damsels in a 35 hex with a Millennium 1000 filter and feed like there was no tomorrow. They went 2 months with high nitrite and high nitrate. After doing 100% water change and cleaning the gravel it broke through with the cycle. Then placed 3 damsels in 3 days later and cut back the feeding. After that everything went like clock work. Have you ever heard or seen this before? <Yes> As I said before I got to know more about this. Thank you for your time and tell Anthony Getty Lee said "Hi". Russell <Will do... BobF, quizzical> <<Uhh, does Anthony know Getty Lee??  -Sabrina, wishing she were working on these FAQs in HI and listening to some Rush....>>

Re: Q. for Finner  12/13/05 Looks like I crapped out on the time frame. Sorry. <No worries> The reason for the big water change that I understood was to get rid of all the nitrite ions that could not be converted from the lack of water volume. <Mmm, but... these are easily "replaced"...> Since nitrate had show up in such high amounts would that not show the second bacteria (after Tim Hovanec research I'm not sure what to label it) was present? <Should, yes> I agree 100% water change or any water change is the worst advice normally for a cycling a tank. From what I have seen and read a high level of nitrite and nitrate would be the only case for it. Is this the right thought? <IMO/E, yes> What have you seen to correct this? <Sequential large (25 percent or so) water changes are often best> Thank you again for your time. I forgot to give you congrats on Aquarist of the year! My friend Eric R. always talked about getting a chance to dive with you. Until his last dive at 240 ft. Russell <Ahh! Bob Fenner>

Re: Q. for Finner  12/13/05 Why do you think the 25% or larger water change works? Thanks again Russell <... please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner> ... Ongoing Rambling re Mar. Cycling  12/16/05 A frozen cycle is when you are starting a new tank and get stuck with high nitrite and high nitrate. <Oh...> Even waiting (over 2 months) does not seem to bring the levels down. I must not have made this clear before. I thought we had been talking about it the whole time. I understand you have many questions asked everyday and I do tend to ramble with so many questions. <Am not quite "with it", having just returned from a long trip and traveling. Ten hour days trying to catch up are adding to my lack of competent ongoing comprehension> Here is a quick recap. "I also thought that she was in a cycle freeze just like a former aquarist had problems that came up in Julian Sprung's Reef notes Volume 1 page 58. I had seen this once before when an aquarist put 7 damsels in a 35 hex with a Millennium 1000 filter and fed like there was no tomorrow. They went 2 months with high nitrite and high nitrate. After doing 100% water change and cleaning the gravel it broke through with the cycle. Then placed 3 damsels in 3 days later and cut back the feeding. After that everything went like clock work. Have you ever heard or seen this before?" >>>><Yes> Thanks Russell <There are a few sets of circumstances that will "freeze" the establishment of bio-geo-nutrient cycling in a captive aquatic system... One is simple poisoning by too much chemical substrate (ammonia, nitrite...). Bob Fenner>

Overcoming a lock in the establishment of cycling  12/17/05 There are a few sets of circumstances that will "freeze" the establishment of bio-geo-nutrient cycling in a captive aquatic system... One is simple poisoning by too much chemical substrate (ammonia, nitrite...). Bob Fenner> What have you found to help break this frozen cycle? Your persistent aquarist Russell <Large serial water changes as mentioned, use of chemical filtrants, addition of new cured live rock and sand, altering water chemistry back toward the "middle", massive addition of bacteria cultures. Gotcha. Thank you again for all your help. I don't see how you have time to get to everyone. Russell <I key quickly. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Tank cycled   12/28/05 Hi guys. I just did a Nitrite test and it amazingly it showed 0 mg/l. It is hard to believe because I have only started the tank a little over week ago. Could this be true? <Yes> My only answer would be the dilution/pollution theory. The tank is a 175 gal. with a 5" sugar size aragonite (sand was put in at the same time) with 185lbs of live rocks. Sump is  60 gal. with a Remora  and a Berlin skimmers that have been producing copiously. I have an upstream 40 gal. refugium (bare bottom) with a day old addition of Chaeto <With cheese that goes crunch? Oh, likely Chaeto> run with a reverse daylight regime. The other refugium, 50gal. (downstream) houses 4-5" of coarser reef floor aragonite and live rocks. This will harbor pods and other cryptic life that will grow. <Sounds good> Since I don't want to rush into things, I want to play the patience game, <A good one> like 3-6 months before adding any corals. I would like the pods in all the tanks to flourish to give the coral and fish a head start. I was wondering when I should start seeing  pods multiplying? <Look closely... they're there> At this time I am not seeing any or maybe the are too small for the naked eye. Are there any in my tanks or they just all died in the transport and transfer? <Some are undoubtedly there... will multiply as your system changes, matures> Should I add a culture of them from IPSF? <Could if you wanted to> Can I add an invertebrate Algae pack and detritivore kits at this time. <Yes> How much do I need. While I wait for things to sprout out of the live rocks do I need to feed all the tanks in any way? <Some folks advise this... I for one> Also I've been using filter socks in the sump while cycling and I was wondering if I still need them. <I would continue to use these...> Without them I think it will give detritivores something to munch on. <Plenty there otherwise, nonetheless. Bob Fenner> Yeah I know... instant SW cycling  01-03-05 I got my wife a 75 gallon aquarium for Christmas (I'm new to this stuff). <Great present.> Read about the cycling process and stuff on the net. <Good start.> I purchased the recommended amount of reef sand that said no waiting, only have about 25 lbs of live rock so far put in a couple damsels to help the cycling along, put in a yellow tang and a purple lobster( free with the setup). <Wow, you should immediately find a new fish store as that is the most irresponsible thing I have heard a local fish store sell and suggest in a long time. You would be wise to immediately return the fish and the invert. There is no such thing as an "instant" cycle and fish should never suffer through the ammonia spikes involved with a cycle.> Problem is I read somewhere I could start putting in the cleaners like crabs, and shrimp, snails, etc after only 1 week, ordered them along with a couple starfish, I can handle losing some of the others <That is a very poor way to look at the life of your pets. Sure they are less attractive and cost less than a starfish, but you ripped them from the ocean and should do your best to care for them.> but really don't want to lose anything especially the star fish, well the stuff that said no waiting is causing me concern cause the livestock will be here tomorrow and my tank is still cycling, I do water quality tests daily while its getting started and I'm getting fluctuations, <That is a cycle fighting to happen.> all my toxins are right now at the highest I've seen them and not sure if they won't keep rising. <They will, until they peak and the cycle happens. Expect 4-6 weeks.> I now realize patients would have been the smartest thing <You are correct.> but I'm down to do whatever to make it through this successfully any help would be great, have a separate tank with low levels but its only 10 gallons of just saltwater, never cycled either just a water change tank with heater and simple filter. I have about 75, 1 per gallon, critters coming. <You should never force that large of a bioload in an established tank, let alone an uncycled tank.> My parameters are as follows, ammonia (1 ppm), NO2 (.75 ppm), NO3 (5-10 ppm), ALK (2.7milli eq/liter), and a pH of 7.8(wish it was higher but don't want to raise toxic ammonia), 1.023 Sal, with a temp of 77. Understand if ya laugh at me but please help. Have BioZyme, StressZyme, StressCoat, AmQuel. Trying not to use it cause I don't want to screw up anything. Have added portions of each within instruction reason. <You are in a situation that too many individuals find themselves in. Your best bet is to find a friend or to hold your items until your tank is ready. Even better call the company that is shipping them and have them hold your order. As you already know your tank is going through a cycle and that will kill your new pets. You will want to get all parameters up to par before adding anything to your tank. Ammonia, Nitrates and Nitrites need to be ZERO. Your pH needs to be between 8.3-8.4 with as little fluctuation as possible. If you are using a quality salt your water parameters should level off well once the salinity is correct. Your salinity needs to be 1.025-1.026. Your temp should be between 78 and 80 degrees with no fluctuation. Again, you need to take your time and let your tank stabilize. Only failure happens quickly in this hobby. Use the next 6 weeks while your tank cycles to read up on the proper care for a reef aquarium and it's inhabitants. Travis>  

Waiting For The Tank To Cycle!   1/13/06 Hi! <Hi there! Scott F. here today!> I love your website and these FAQ's have been a real help so far but I have a question that I can't seem to find an answer to and was wondering if you might be able to help? <That's why we're here!> I am cycling a new 90 gal tank... It has about half live rock and half Tufa.  Carib Sea aragonite for sand.  It has been up and running for 7 days.  Temp is at 78, SG is 1.025 and ph is at 8.2.  I used Seachem's pH marine buffer to raise it from 7.9. On the first full day the tank was up and running, I added Bacter Vital to start the cycle.  I was told this is one of the better ones to use and I had followed the directions. <Good. always follow directions with any additive> My question is this... On day one my ammonia was 0.25, nitrite and nitrate were at 0.  Then on day three my ammonia and nitrite was 0 but my nitrate was 5.0. The last four days the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate are all reading 0. Did I miss something?  I am waiting for my Nitrate to go up but it hasn't moved.  I talked to an employee of the aquatic store I deal with and she said that I should be able to add some Chromis-which is what I would like to start with in about a week.  Is this a good idea yet? <Every tank cycles at a different rate. If you added a "bacteria in a bottle" product, you really need to add something to feed the bacteria. I'd throw some frozen food into the tank to break down and provide a source. I personally do not cycle tanks with fishes- I prefer to "feed" the tank to get the cycle going. This might be why you have yet to see a meaningful ammonia or nitrite reading in the tank...Nothing is really going on yet. Keep feeding and give it some time. Test every two or three days.> You will have to forgive me as I am very new at this...but after everything I have read, I was under the assumption that my ammonia would rise, then nitrite, and then they would fall as my nitrate raises. <Yes- but you need a source of ammonia, hence my recommendation to use some frozen food, and the store employee's recommendation to try some fish.> Also, I have been keeping a close eye on my sand and live rock for changes. It appears as though the red coralline is more prominent and much of my live rock has turned almost a yellow/orange color. <Nice to hear. You will notice changes in the flora and fauna in your tank over time; it's constantly changing and fascinating to watch.> What's my tank doing????? Has it cycled and I missed it or is it taking its time? Thanks so much! Theresa <Well, Theresa, it's hard to say, but I'd hazard a guess that it hasn't really cycled yet. If you stay at it, and provide an ammonia source, you'll see ammonia and nitrite rise and peak in a relatively short time. be patient! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.> Re: Cycling A New Tank   1/17/06 Thanks so much Scott! <You're very welcome!> I will try adding the frozen food to see if that will get it going.  One quick question though, if I do that, should I also turn off the skimmer until the tank has cycled? Cheers, Theresa <Good thought about the skimmer, Theresa- but I'd leave it on. I've always done this and never had any problems! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Ammonia spike from live rock rearrangement?   2/14/06 Dear WWM Crew, <Jill> I am most grateful for your web site. I am very new (2.5 months) at maintaining a saltwater tank. I have been able to find answers to almost all of my questions on your site along with  Robert Fenner's book and have not had any major problems  until now. <Let's see if we can help you fix...> My 55 gallon hex tank was set up on Dec. 6th. with live rock, live sand,  and 4 striped damsels. I have a trickle filter with sump/bioballs. underneath.  The tank cycled by mid January.  My current stock is 5 Chromis, 2 clowns, one brittle star, one red serpent star, one coral banded shrimp and a dozen hermit crabs, (I returned the damsels to LFS as they were very aggressive). All of my "numbers" until today have been good.  S. G. 1.024, ammonia, nitrates zero, pH 8.0 - 8.23. Tank temperature maintained at 79 degrees. 4 days ago, I rearranged my live rock, during the process, I shook the rock so the crabs would fall off. A huge amount of debris from the rocks clouded the water. I am embarrassed to say I had not turned off the pump while doing this. I turned off the pump and did my usual weekly 10% water change.  Water cleared fairly well and things seemed ok. The next morning  the return water jets were very slow. I cleaned the filter on the pump, it was full of debris. It solved the problem: water return was fine. Yesterday I did another !0% water change.   <Good> This morning I had a small increase in ammonia, not quite to 0.5.  Went to LFS  and asked my contact there, who has seemed fairly knowledgeable,  if the debris would have "damaged" the good bacteria on the bioballs. <Assuredly yes> He said no, that the debris wouldn't hurt anything, and  sold me Kent ammonia Detox. <I would not use this> By the time I returned home in one hour,  the ammonia was in the danger zone on the test strip. I added the ammonia Detox slowly per instructions on the bottle, to the sump until the strip showed a bare trace. My question:  would the debris and resultant clogging of the water jets have upset the balance and the tank is recycling? <Yes... a lack of flow, oxygen, the release of organics...> I am not sure what to do next and would greatly appreciate any advice. Fish seem fine, active, and eating well. <Just "keep on keeping on" really... these sorts of issues, problems are "self-regulating" for the most part. Happily you have good discipline in setting up, stocking, maintaining... All will be fine> Thank  you very much for taking the time to read this lengthy email. Again, I think your site is one of the best I have seen and appreciate your efforts. Sincerely, Jill Phillips <Certainly welcome. Bob Fenner>

Wacky SW tank cycling 1/8/05 Guys I need help. <join the club, bubba... I still suck my thumb. Oh, wait... you meant help with your aquarium! My bad... please continue...> I have my tank trying to cycle. I can't seem to get the ammonia up and nitrite down to actually start the process. Is it safe to add pure ammonia to help give the cycle a boost? <very dangerous with livestock in the tank when you are metering the dose with mere hobby grade test kits. A pot shot at best. Not recommended mate> I have 5 damsel fish and a few Hermit crabs. I placed them in when my nitrate, nitrite and ammonia was near 0, now nitrites are up to the middle of the test card and ammonia will still not register. <hmmm... several possibilities here: 1) did you use a water conditioner that says it neutralizes chloramine? If so, it interferes with some Ammonia test kit readings (Nessler's reagent) I have very hard water here in the mountains. I have tested with the kit first but with no readings. 2) it is possible that your live rock was somewhat cured and went through little to no ammonia spike. Poss. Is there a way to test for the bacteria? 3) different bacteria have established and displaced the more desirable/typical nitrifiers. Nitrite converters may have been displaced by something else... even harmless but not helpful bacteria. What do I do if this is the case? 4) your tests kits are inaccurate (easy enough to check against the LFS or another hobbyists kits. Use a different brand/reagent kit to be sure.> Everything I have read is not really happening here. I have live Fiji rock, was not cultured, live sand and water from a well in the mountains. Hope this will help answer my question. <do chew on the above starting with confirming the quality of your test kits and also test your raw, untreated freshwater source. A helpful and inexpensive solution is the addition of a sponge filter (I really like Hydrosponge brand). This can cycle a tank fast and be left hidden in the display for future use in your quarantine tank when needed. And you must know that for marine aquaria... you need(!) to quarantine ALL new livestock without exception, my friend. It is critical for long term success (all plants, algae, fishes, corals, snails, rock, everything wet!). Anthony> What exactly is a Hydrosponge? Well I guess I can look up online. I just want to make sure the tank is doing what it is supposed to as not to kill anything.

Could it be cycled already? Greetings, wonderful fish gang! <Salutations fellow aquarist!> I'm setting up a 75 FOWLR aquarium.  I got it December 10th, filled it with RO water, <And synthetic salt I take it> added about 80 pounds of "live" sand, (the kind that comes in an air-tight bag,) 100 pounds of sugar sized CaribSea aragonite, and about 25 pounds of liverock from a 4 and a half year old established tank.  I never saw a spike in ammonia or nitrites. <You might not> About 10 days afterwards, I took my 2 year old Eheim 2026 loaded with all the Eheim recommended media from the established tank and placed it in the new tank.  Still no spike.  (The established tank now has its own brand-new 2026.) Nitrates also measured at 0.  There is no skimmer, as I'm still waiting on the new D&D Terminators to be built.  (That sumpless kit looks COOL.  Wow.) <A good route to go> 5 days ago, I added 45 pounds of "Premium Fiji" live rock from Drs Foster and Smith, and another 30 from the LFS.  The ammonia and nitrites immediately spiked to .5ppm and 1.0ppm respectively, and took 3 days for them to both go down to 0. <Quick!> Today I measured nitrates at ~15ppm. So, my question is, has the tank cycled this quickly? <Seems so> I have no shortage of patience; could I do any harm waiting a few weeks to make sure?  Will the bacteria be able to sustain itself in the meantime? <Better to indeed wait... as a general rule with aquariums I would state, "When in doubt, wait"> Is there any way that I can definitively verify that the tank has indeed cycled, like drop in a cocktail shrimp and see how quickly the resulting ammonia and nitrite spikes are taken care of? <Yes, you could do this... better with a sub-sample and some exogenous (liquid, "cleaner") ammonia of low, but measurable concentration...> Would a water change be called for to bring the nitrates down, and if so, how large of one? Thanks! - Chad <Just wait... the nitrates should rise, then drop without further addition of nitrogenous/biological material. In your "spare" time, take a read re biological filtration, nitrates... on the marine root web of www.WetWebMedia.com Bob Fenner>

Confused about.. S/W Question Hi Jeff here with a quick question for whoever has the time to answer. <Hey, Jeff. Mike G here> I have a 55 gal salt tank 6wks old approx 40 lbs of live rock 1 Sebae clown, 1 peppermint shrimp, and some crabs and snails. All was well levels all zero except Ammonia at .25ppm, so we did a 20 to 30% water change two days ago salinity dropped to 1.018 (alarm Bells were screaming at me) so I mixed more water and have brought it up to 1.020. I ran the tests and came up with the following, SG 1.020, PH 7.8, Nitrite .25ppm, Nitrate 5ppm, Ammonia .5ppm. This seems very bad to me did I just cause my tank to re-cycle if not what is going on, and what can I do. <I don't think "re-cycle" is the best term to use, as it appears that your tank never fully cycled in the first place. From your email, I am inferring that you have a somewhat fuzzy understanding of the Nitrogen Cycle, so I will do my best to explain it to you. Ammonia is a compound toxic to marine life, and is also produced by marine life through bodily functions, such as respiration and the passing of feces. Decaying organic matter also produces Ammonia. Certain beneficial bacteria consume Ammonia and convert it to Nitrites in the process. When a tank is first set up, there are no substantial colonies of the said bacteria, so the Ammonia level quickly rises. As time goes by, these bacteria will build their populations up to colonies large enough to effectively convert all Ammonia to Nitrite on an as-produced basis. Nitrite, though much less toxic than Ammonia, is quite a deadly compound itself, and approximately 1ppm of Ammonia would convert to somewhere in the neighborhood of 2.5ppm Nitrite, so you could imagine it builds up rather quickly. The Nitrite is converted to Nitrate in much the same way as Ammonia into Nitrite, except a different species of bacteria is responsible for the said conversion. Nitrate is nowhere near as toxic as Ammonia, and pales in comparison to Nitrite. However, around 2.5ppm of Nitrite will convert to approximately 6ppm of Nitrate. So, you can see, as the cycle is going on, a lot of Nitrate is produced. Nitrate is the "end product" of the conversions, and there is no aerobic species of bacteria that consumes it. However, things like plant life, macroalgae, sand beds, and water changes will all help absorb Nitrates, emphasis being placed upon water changes. What I am getting at is that, if your Ammonia was originally at .25ppm and Nitrites and Nitrates at 0ppm, than the Ammonia-converting bacteria were still building up a significant population. Later on, you say that your Nitrites and Nitrates increased, which is typical of the Nitrogen cycle. Your tank seems a bit heavily populated for so early in the cycle, so I would advise you to just wait out the cycle. However, if any of your livestock seems to be reacting adversely, action should be taken accordingly. Hope this helps, and good luck> Thank you for you time I know you get questions from dummies like me all the time, Jeff <The only dumb question is the one you fail to ask. :)>

Ammonia... Hi Crew, <Mario> I have had my new system running since Jan. 16, 2005. <Just a few weeks back> I have been testing the water for the past week and the ammonia is at .25 to .50, the nitrite is at zero and the nitrate at 0 to 5.  Because the ammonia is above zero I would do a 25% water change each time. <Mmmm, I would wait on water changes... till the ammonia, nitrite are past 1.0 ppm... hopefully you don't have livestock present> My question is should I continue to change the water at these levels or let the cycle process continue? <Uhh, please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm and the linked files above> If I do not continue to change the water will the ammonia over time go down to zero and then the nitrite will begin to rise? <See the above> If this will be the case (ammonia = 0 & nitrite > 0), only then should I start doing the 25% water changes again, until the nitrite drops to zero?  <See the above> Is siphoning the waste from the bottom during each water change a good idea, will it slow down the cycle proceed? <See the...> Do you recommend I only siphon the waste when the tank is cycled or during each water change? <See...> Your insight on what I should do next is greatly appreciated.  Thanks, Mario D. <Your diligence in studying is likewise thanked. Bob Fenner>

- Tank Move and Cycling - Hi Guys- Unfortunately, I had to move my tank to a new location in the house due to poor initial planning on my part.  <Happens.>  Since I was breaking down the tank anyway, I thought that it would be a good time to get the tank drilled and add the Oceansmotion 4-way that I've always wanted, but it added quite a bit of time to the move, i.e. 5 days instead of probably 1. My question is whether it is typical to have a new Ammonia/Nitrite/Nitrate cycle after the move?  <It's not atypical - really depends on how much original water you were able to use... how much of the biological life was lost during the move, etc.>  The tank has been up for 2 days and my parameters were: Day 1: (24 hours after move) NO2: 0.025 NO3: 1.00 NH3: 0.3-0.6 (in-between colors on test kit). The kit is a bit dodgy, i.e. Hagen, and bought a JBL for future tests.  Added Seachem Prime (max amount) to try and detoxify the nitrite as suggested by LFS Day 2: NO2: 0.1 NO3: 2.00 NH3: 0.25-0.5 Did 20% water change. Waiting to see what the parameters are today!  I sent in a previous question prior to the move about keeping the live rock wet during the process. You suggested to keep wet at all times and if left for even a period of an hour out of water, the decaying process will have begun.  <True.>  Up until the aquascape phase, I did continually keep the rock submerged with a heater, circulation pump, and light. However during the aquascape, it took, a bit longer than planned due to gluing, tying, etc... rock together for quite amazing formations, i.e. over 24hrs in the end!!! My LFS, who graciously helped me with the move and redesign, said that leaving the rock exposed is not such an issue as you guys had suggested since our live rock here in NZ isn't quite the same as in the US.  <Huh... don't why it would be "different" in that way - it may hail from a different place, with slightly different life forms, but the basic functions of it would be the same.>  That is, all our rock comes in to the country and must remain dry for 3 weeks. Therefore, we basically always start out with dead rock, cure it and then dump it in our tanks. However, the rock that I was using had been in my tank for well over a year and exposed to rock that comes in with corals, etc... and thus, was quite live in terms of bacteria, little critters, etc... I think that this time of the rock being dry substantially added to the spike that I am experiencing now, but my LFS says that this is totally normal in every move (which I think is probably due to the fact that they are not strict about keeping rock wet as much as possible).  <I agree with you, not your LFS.>  Not only that, but they said that it is most likely going to be worse in my case since we used about 30KG less rock with the new aquascape and had to completely rinse the sand due to the long timeframe of the move.  <Huh... well, you should expect an ammonia spike, but expect it will resolve itself quickly - within a week or two.> I have had to move the tank on two other occasions (in which I made sure to keep everything wet) and had no new cycle. Another difference from the previous moves to this one is that I was able to use much more water from the previous tank, i.e. approximately 75% instead of only 20% as in this case.  <Patience... this will all work out in the end. Try to hold off on the water changes for a little while so the cycle can complete.> Thanks for your help, Steve <Cheers, J -- >

- Tank Move and Cycling, Follow-up - Thanks J. <My pleasure.> I know it all will be fine in the end, and patience is certainly a virtue in this hobby. However, I just wanted to know how much of a factor leaving the rock out of the water played on this outcome since this was the real bone of contention during the move.  <Well... that and rinsing all your sand, which most certainly HAD been live before that. But... in the case of your live rock... the fact that it was dry and dead once doesn't mean that once it is live, that leaving it out in the air will somehow make it different from other live rock. Your assertion that the rock being dry for even an hour is going to losing some of the life living in it is a correct one.>  Being a LFS owner, I am sure that he will give this advice to others and if it was in fact a major contributing factor, then I want to let him know to take better precautions with the rock, sand, etc... in the future.  <You can tell him if you want, and for the record I do think he is mistaken in his opinion, but... it's been my experience that many folks don't take well to having their long fought for opinions second guessed by "some guy on the Internet." If he gives this advice to your friends, straighten them out directly - even show them our emails. But as for trying to straighten this guy out... well, it's your call. I've been spending the last month trying to help a friend/store owner realize that Kick-Ich is worthless and will lose him customers... people just get things set in their heads and won't let go.> Thanks again for everything. Your (as well as the whole crew's) advice has been invaluable in my progression in this hobby. Cheers, Steve <Cheers, J -- >

Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate Oh My! Hi all, <Howdy> Great Website, I really appreciate the vast database of information you have available here. <Welcome> After many years of great success keeping freshwater critters I have recently migrated to the saltwater side. I enjoy Scuba and after a couple of years diving in the Atlantic on vacations, I wanted to try bringing some of that beauty into my home. I had an empty 29 gal tank sitting around and my son said, "hey dad, will you set that up in my room"? I said sure, what kind of fish do you want? Being 8 years old and loving the Great Barrier Reef display at the Zoo, guess what he said? Yep, I want a Nemo! <Happens> After reading a lot of your setup FAQ's I went to the LFS and got all the stuff and setup a 29 gal salt tank. Its been up for 4 months now and we only lost one Chromis during the cycle and I think he was weak to begin with. Since we used lots of live rock before adding the fish, we never saw an Ammonia spike and the tank is doing great.  Well then I got cocky! I thought, this is easy, I'll convert my 55 gal African tank over to salt. So I sold all the fish, dumped the UG filters, and bought a Wet/Dry with Skimmer. Setup the tank with freshwater first and ran everything for a week with no substrate in the tank just to make sure it was all functioning properly, so far so good. I added the salt and 60# of reef sand (40# regular sand, 20# aragonite w/ bacteria). Here is where it all starts to go wacko. Thinking that, since I added all those bacteria, I should be able to add a couple small damsels during the cycle. One week into the setup my ammonia went up over 1.2. <Mmmm, you didn't move some of the water, substrate from the 29?> So, going the "dilution is the solution to pollution route", I did a 20% water change and went out and bought a Nitrite, and Nitrate test kit. 3 days later the Ammonia was again up over 1.2 and Nitrite was in the danger zone as well, with some Nitrate.  I did another 20% water change and just retested tonight and it looks like a never ending battle. The fish seem fine, they don't seem to care. <Thus far...> I know that since I'm producing both Nitrite and Nitrate that the cycle is taking place, but I expected the ammonia to start falling and it hasn't.  Should I continue to do water changes or quit messing with it and let it finish cycling? <Mmm, stop feeding (if you are) and let time go by... w/o water changes, sans livestock in the 55 (move all to the Nemo tank> Hind sight, I should have bought LR but funds are growing thin so I tried to get away with the Aragonite instead. I expected the 55 gal tank to be easier than the 29 but since I didn't use LR I've got a mess on my hands.  What to do? <Move the Damsels, switch some of the water, gravel twixt the two tanks... patience. Bob Fenner>

Re: Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate Oh My! And Dura back in biz Thanks for the quick response. Moved the damsels last night, they seem to be ok with their new tank mates. Nobody seems to be arguing anyway. <Okay> I think that I will forego the substrate exchange between the tanks. The 29 has crushed coral and I've used reef sand in the 55. They won't look very good mixed. I could get a mesh bag and use it inside the Wet/Dry with some of the crush coral, couldn't I? Before my first e-mail, I did take one of the filter pads out of the power filter on the established tank and put it in with the filter pad on the wet/dry. I don't know how much help that was. <Should> Does the AragAlive reef sand fall under the same category as most other products that claim to cycle the tank faster, or is there really a benefit to using it?  <Not much> I thought that the bacteria needed a bio-load to keep it alive; otherwise I never would have added the fish so soon. <Bingo> On another topic, I read the WWM article about lighting that discusses the use of a product called Vita-Lite by Duro-Test. I would like to try these, but the company went out of business for a while and the bulbs are not available at retail stores. I've called the manufacturer, Duro-Test and they have a min order of $85.00. Ouch. I found a website http://www.naturallighting.com/ that sells them... <Ah! Glad to find the co. is back> ... but I'm not sure that I can get enough wattage over a 55 gal tank to do as well as compact fluorescents, or maybe the newer T5 bulbs. The 55 is deep enough that I'm concerned standard fluorescents are not going to be enough, full spectrum or not. Do you have any thoughts on this subject?   Again, great site, and nice chatting with you Mark <If you want/need more intense lighting, I would go with CF's, T-8's, T-5's... in low to higher order. Bob Fenner>

Ammonia... killing off one's biofilter Mr. Fenner, Thanks for all your help in the past. <Welcome> I have been battling ammonia the past couple weeks, and I lost a lot of fish.  <Mmm... what are fishes doing in such water?> I seem to have gotten it under control today. I have had my tank setup for about 6 months. I suddenly got a tremendous (off the scale) ammonia spike that I could do nothing to fix immediately.  <From?> I don't understand. I'm thinking I might have somehow caused new tank syndrome. I did replace my CPR BakPak skimmer with an ETSS reef devil, but the downward spiral started a couple days before that. I did keep my biomedia from the old skimmer and put it in a ventilated container and floated it in my sump. I don't know if that would do any good anyway. <Should have> Somehow, I think I killed off all the beneficial bacteria. <I agree... or overwhelmed the system with proteinaceous material... did someone toss in a bunch of food... might an animal have died and you not caught it?> I was reading all the posts and I think it was from excessive vacuuming of the DSB. it was so dirty though. I wanted your opinion on this observation: Immediately after 2 ammonia spikes settled down, the deep sand bed was covered in a rusty brown substance. That's what I vacuumed away. Is there any correlation between this "stuff" and the ammonia level going back to zero?  <Yes... the brown stuff are likely diatoms, other algae... that need the ammonia to be gone, nitrate (product) to flourish> It's just odd that the sand is white, and my ammonia is through the roof, and then finally the ammonia is gone, and instantly the sand is brown. Well, I still have 1 dogface puffer and 1 striped damsel left, and I don't want to go vacuuming if its gonna finish them off too. I'm really surprised they made it. My ammonia scale only goes to 2, and it was definitely way over that! <Yikes> Also, what do you think about Chemi-clean?  It's supposed "removes disease causing red Cyano bacteria, oxidizes trapped organic sludge and sediment. Chemi Clean also clarifies aquarium water to crystal clear and promotes ideal enzyme balance."  <... not a good idea... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/maralgcidefaqs.htm> I started having the troubles when I added this in conjunction with B-ionic Calcium Buffer, and Ruby Reef Kick Ich. <Oooohhhh... This is the source of your trouble... you actually killed off your nitrifiers...> I think maybe it all had some unknown effect. <Yes, for sure> I read something on your site about one of these effecting pH, which might affect ammonia? Thanks for your time, I read your posts daily. B. Robinson <The "Clean" product... kills microbes... including your beneficial bacteria... the "kick" product does nothing (but flavor food), the B-ionic is a fine product (for pH, alkalinity). More study, less chemicals my friend. Bob Fenner> 

Nitrogen Cycle Fails to Start - 9 Mar 2005 I found your e-mail on Wet Web Media, and was trying to find an answer on early cycling of my marine tank (I also have your book).  <Okay> My set up is 210 litre tank (60 x 60 x 60 cm), with synthetic salt mix (tab water pre-treated with conditioner to neutralize chlorine and chloramines). <I see> 3 cm of crushed marble substrate (no buffering there, looks nice), 2 Via Aqua Canister filters, 6.5 litre capacity each, 1000 litres/hour circulation. One has only bioballs, the other filter wool, ceramic noodles, and outflow inline with a Merlin fluidized bed filter.  Tunze TurBelle internal circulation pump (6000 litres an hour), Deltec MCE 600 Protein Skimmer (rated for 450 - 700 litres), Jager 200 watt heater. <So far...> I have made some rock from white cement + crushed marble and coral sand (22 kg) and that will need to soak in water for at least 6 weeks to remove the pH lime effect. <Good> Later when it is safe to put them in the tank, I wanted to get a small live rock to sit on the cement rocks to make it live over time. Macroalgae does not fall from the sky (micro does). The tank set up would then have redundancies in filtration (but that may not be a bad thing). <Well stated> For now I wanted to cycle without fish. The Fluidized Bed Filter came with a packet of ammonia crystals, and I also added three cocktail shrimp (2 cm long). The water smelled bad in 48 hours, and removed the shrimp bits. I have added two "bottles," of StressZyme over the last three weeks, water temperature 25 degrees C. <Okay> My present external system for now should be a real nitrite >> nitrate farm. <Perhaps... in a while> Testing after three weeks, I have nothing to show for it. Ammonia levels are 8 ppm, nitrite zero, nitrate zero, pH 8.2 I have a sterile tank, which is lethal to all marine life. <Yes... and the ammonia... is actually way too high... principally at fault here for forestalling cycling> I have read the bacteria will grow quicker with a higher temp, so I have set it to 30 degrees today (can turn in it down later).  Bacteria are supposed to just fall from the sky anyway (in time). <Yes> Is this just a mater of more time, and wait, or is the high ammonia level acting as a disinfectant? <Ahhh! Bingo! As they say in the States> Do you have any suggestions? All the Best from New Zealand. Mike Lomb <Yes my friend. Do execute a good sized water change (perhaps 3/4) or add a bit of mitigating filter media, conditioner to render the ammonia concentration less than 2.0 ppm... and try to keep it there... or lower... Otherwise... it is "a matter of time"... or something that can be sped up... Have you read this? http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm re Establishment of nitrification in marine systems? It might give you solace to review others (the linked Related FAQs above) experiences... It reads as if you "Know what you're doing" and have a nice set-up here... all that is really needed is a bit more time... and possibly diluting the ammonia. Bob Fenner> 

Strange cycling question/ confusion Hi, <Hello there> Sorry to bother you with a strange question, <I like strange questions> ...but I am looking for a bit of advice, I have a 20L tank that I am currently cycling (fishless) or trying to. I have 18 Lbs. of live rock, originally I placed the rock in the aquarium but was a pain to clean in there with the die off, so I moved to a lg Rubbermaid container until ammonia & nitrites (approx. 2 1/2 weeks) both read zero, then added to tank. The rock has been in the tank now for a little over a week, there are some new types of algae stalks sprouting out of the rock & some diatoms (which is normal w/ new tank), the coralline algae looks to be growing too. I have read that some tanks sort of instantly cycle... <Yes... mostly larger volumes> ...my question is: The highest the ammonia had ever reached was .50 & nitrites were .10, and only for a day (actually it was the 2nd day after the rock was added) then they both went to zero, I tried adding some fish food to maybe speed up the ammonia spike & it only went up to .25 then back down. Can you point any advice my way? <Mmm, nope... You're doing fine... this system is likely "semi" cycled... better to wait a few weeks before starting your initial livestocking> By the way the site & the books are the best! They have gotten me through confusion with my 150, the LFS around here really don't know much or give you half a** advice. <Mmm, perhaps they will read, learn as well... through your suggestions. Bob Fenner> 

Recycle 7/11/05 We have a 72 gallon saltwater tank containing live rock with coral and several fish until today.  Yesterday we went from a bio-wheel filter to a canister filter and now all of our fish but two are dead.   <Well, I think I know what happened. The Bio-Wheel played host to the majority of beneficial bacteria in your aquarium. When you removed it, you removed all of them, then you added a sterile canister filter. No more bacteria resulted in nothing to metabolize Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate. This caused a spike, and killed your fish.> Are there any steps can we take to save our last two a clown fish and cardinal fish, they are not looking so good.  We do not have a quarantine tank. We tested our water and had the fish store test our water (everything testing acceptable) right before the change and now everything is out of whack.  Any help would be very appreciated. <Well, I would advise you either: a) Ask your local fish store to hold your two fish for you while you re-cycle your tank, as you will have to. (Pretend it is a brand new aquarium, just set up). b) Purchase a live bacteria product to re-seed your tank. Bio-Spira is high on my list of favorite aquarium products, and would serve your cause wonderfully. Put it on one of the filter cartridges in your canister filter so that water passing through the filter will be "treated" by the bacteria. I have found that, when working with Bio-Spira, it is always best to buy a size 2-3 times larger than they recommend, as, when I go with their recommended dosage, it never works out. I suppose a great deal of the bacteria perish when in the tank or were already dead in the pouch.> Thank you, Brandie Emmett <Best of luck! Mike G>

55g marine aquarium stubbornly refuses to completely cycle  8/30/05 Hello,     I'd like to begin by conveying my appreciation for the information I've been able to obtain from this site.  From my earliest thoughts of setting up a marine aquarium, I have searched and read (re-read) articles and FAQs on all aspects of marine aquaria that I've so far dealt with. Its brought me to a point, a year later; that I am proud of.  It began with just thoughts and ideas, and with good information to lead me, I've turned them into something hugely fascinating and satisfying for me. <Ahh, thank you>   Now on to my question and setup details .. I put together a 55g marine aquarium about 6 months ago. It has a 4" DSB of fine aragonite sand (Arag-alive variety), 25g sump with Aqua-C Urchin skimmer producing a quarter cup of skimmate a day.  45lbs of live rock which I cured before setting up the tank 6 months ago. 4x65w PC Flo's for lighting (2 10,000K & 2 Dual daylight) Turnover is around 30x total volume per hr. Temp is constant at 79 deg. Salinity also steady at 1.023. PH holding at 8.2. Weekly 10% water changes with aged, circulated & aerated tap water. The problem is, from the beginning; there has always been ammonia and nitrite present according to my "Marineland reef" tests. Ammonia at .5ppm, then down to .25ppm and holding for months at that reading.  Nitrite almost always at .1. I made sure that the live rock was fully cured before I set up the tank, and I've smelled pieces of it recently, there doesn't seem to be any die off.  There is only one fish, a false percula clown, for the past 3 months. He is doing fine so far as I can tell. I also have a spaghetti finger leather coral, which appears to be in decent shape after a month in there.  Shouldn't the tank be at a more advanced stage of cycling by this point? <Yes... and I suspect it is... that your trouble is with the test kit> I've measured Nitrate at 2.0, but it hasn't been more than that in 6 months. Basically the readings are holding low but its still annoying and frustrating that they are present at all. The only thing I have come up with recently is that the tap water I am using, while aged and circulated, still has too much chlorine/chloramine and is killing any nitrifying bacteria as fast as it is produced. <I discount this> I know that cycling can take quite some time, and patience is key, but I'm starting to wonder if it will ever happen for my tank with the current methods and water that I use.  I can't really afford a R/O unit right now to take care of the possible chlorine issue.  What do you recommend to give the cycle a push? My sincere thanks in advance for your thoughts and your time. Chris Carey <I would look into other test kits... Please read on WWM re... and possibly add some live macro-algae here. Bob Fenner>

Cycling <quarantine> Question  9/1/05 Hi Guys, We set up a 20 gallon hospital tank using 15 gallons from our display tank and mixed 5 more gallons to complete the fill. (no substrate and 2 pieces of baseball sized live rock from the main display tank) Even though the water came from a cycled tank (5 months) does the Penguin 200 power filter also need to cycle? Thanks, Brad <Possibly... sometimes moving all produces a "check" in bacterial metabolism, die-off in populations... the only way to "tell" is experience, testing. A good idea to have more cycled filter media, water ready... Bob Fenner> Smell my Finger?  No.. Smell my Tank! >Hi, I'm got a big problem, and I'm hoping you can help. I've asked everyone else in my city, and gotten so many different answers. >>I'll give it my best, Susan. >After years of running a 30 gallon long marine aquarium with an undergravel filter, power head, Fluval canister, protein skimmer, I decided to buy a 36 gallon corner aquarium for a certain spot in my living room. >>Ok. >I transferred all my existing items into the new tank, including the existing crushed coral substrate and some of the water from the old tank, as well as about 20 gallons of freshly mixed Instant Ocean. The ammonia/nitrite spiked a bit the first day then dropped. >>Ok, this indicates that there was loss of nitrifying bacteria. >The nitrate then spiked really high. >>Alright, this would indicate the end result of this spike.  Unless you have a good amount of live rock or other means of denitrification, this is to be expected.  Your foam fractionation helps by pulling organics that would otherwise decompose, but right now you're trying to find a balance. >Within two days of the change, however, the aquarium has become really, really cloudy and smells like eggs. >>Ok, Susan, there are two "egg smells", and one of them is rotten eggs.  If THIS is the smell you smell, you released anaerobic pockets with the move is my guess.  At this point, LARGE (as in complete, 100%, total, ENTIRE) water change(s) are necessary.  I would be surprised if anything that requires oxygen for its life processes has survived this. >I've never seen anything like this.  Four days after setting up the aquarium, all of the nitrite, ammonia, nitrate levels are within safe ranges, but the cloudiness and smell remains. >>The cloudiness (could we call it milkiness?) is free-floating bacteria.  They've clearly got plenty of nutrients to use (thus the "safe range" readings), or they wouldn't be there.  We really like to know a few things, though, specific to water tests; those are test kit brand, tests performed, and specific readings.  If the kit is a year old or more, then I would suspect veracity of readings.  If it is a cheap kit, then again, I suspect veracity.  If it has been stored in humid, or non-temperature controlled environs, again, suspect veracity.  If you smell rotten eggs, I would suspect you have anaerobic conditions.  You don't mention maintenance regimen, nor whether or not you've changed/cleaned the media in the canister.  Begin a regimen, but do not change out everything at once.  Do a complete water change, then wait a week.  Then clean part of the canister, wait.   >Also I had only two damsel fish, two star fish and a hermit crab in the tank, and everything has since died except the hermit crab. >>Ah, a shame.. I didn't think much would survive. >I've asked every fish store in town, and gotten a variety of different answers. One guy told me to just leave it alone and it would eventually clear itself, but that's driving me crazy. >>That smell cannot be ignored as a sign.  What he's thinking of is "new tank syndrome", not at ALL uncommon in situations as yours, but it never demonstrates the stink.  Without the smell, I would agree with him. >I can't stand to look at it, and it breaks my heart to kill fish. >>Indeed. >What can I do? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Susan >>As above.  Now, specific instructions regarding substrate, at this point, do NOT vacuum it when you do the w/c.  I would remove the crab to a bucket or some such with fresh water (matched for temperature, pH - pH is VERY important - and salinity).  Then get to work on the tank.  I'll suggest SeaChem tests, they're here in the U.S. and most tests have good availability.  Make sure the skimmer is working properly (I would think you'd know whether or not it is since you've had it all this time).  Then, once you get the situation squared away, begin a fishless cycle.  This is done with a small bit of raw shrimp or similar seafood, placed in a bit of old pantyhose and left to decompose.  Test as usual, watching for the progression of spikes and drops, and once you're at zero ammonia and nitrite, you're cycled and ready for fish.  Marina

Smell my Finger?  No.. Smell my Tank! Follow-up > Thank you soooo much for your response. >>You're welcome, Susan. >Since I couldn't stand to look at it that way, I decided to take the whole tank down and start over, do a thorough cleaning and replace the undergravel filter with live sand and live rock, etc. I will let you know what happens. >>Please do, I hope this does the trick.  Marina

System Under Siege?  Hello  <Hi there! Scott F. with you today!>  I've been flippin' through TCMA like crazy and I thought I would just ask the question to you guys.  <Sure>  Well, I started up my 55g again bout a year after moving.  Had 50 pounds of what used to be LR then I ordered a 45lb.  box from the Drs. It was pretty decent rock. I had the major die off then the tank cycled super fast. I skimmed a little while cycling. After checking water specs everyday finally all systems go. It took maybe 2 1/2 weeks to cycle. Couple days after I added a coral beauty (lots of green algae survived the rock and tank glass or wouldn't have gotten him). He was great- loving the 4-5 inch sandbed and all the rock work. Oh, I also run the Prizm skimmer and it works pretty good in IMO, but it's the only one I've had, so I'm no expert. But I took out the clogged filters (activated carbon) to replace when I realized I was out, so I left one in and replaced with filter floss. Problems began. The water is cloudy- looks like smoke rolling around.  <yuck!>  I do a water change 1 week. My CB has the beginning signs of stress and maybe I'm paranoid, but I thought I spotted a little ich on his fins, and I can't seem to keep the ammonia away around 10ppm.  <Yikes! HAS this tank fully cycled? Detectable ammonia in any system at any stage is indicative of either an immature biofilter, or serious problems in the husbandry department! You must get a handle on what's causing the ammonia immediately!>  SIGH. He eats all day long from the rocks and the glass and he eats all that I feed him.  <Well, at least he's eating at 10ppm ammonia!>  So you see the bottom of my tank looks like it is being taken over by black worms. I siphon his waste out as much as I can get, but that is a lot of rock and I can't get behind it. Anyway, I thought that amount of rock and skimmer would be enough filtration. So what is the problem, and how can I fix it? Hope you can sort through my panicked scribblings and help me.  thx Mike  <Well, Mike, it sounds like there is something seriously wrong with the biological filtration in this tank! Ammonia will be undetectable in a system in which the tank has fully cycled, and will generally not manifest itself unless some major disruption has occurred. My advice is to utilize aggressive chemical filtration (activated carbon/Poly Filter), work the skimmer hard, and possibly utilize one of the commercially-available "bacteria in a bottle" products to help "kick start" things again. This is a very serious situation, and you need to get a handle on things right away. Keep testing the water as you go. You may also need to modify your system a bit, providing more circulation (fish waste should never accumulate like you're describing), and serious review of your husbandry habits (like feeding, etc.). React quickly, don't panic- but mind the basics, and all should work out! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Tank failure, quick cycle needed Good morning guys, well have had my 55 up and running with great success {due in large to great advice from you}. Then it happened. I noticed that my top cover on my acrylic was separating went to the LFS and bought a 100 gal Sea clear tank and live rock and sand. I set this tank up to get it cycled with a 404 2 powerheads and  a CPR dual Bak Pak. That was about a week and a half ago. then just when you thought it could get no worse, I went to visit some family when I got the call that the 55 had a massive failure and emptied on the floor.  My mother in law put all the sand she could get out of the tank as well as the live rock and put it in the new tank. Now here is the scary part. I had a lemon peel, long fin banner and tomato clown as well as my clean up crew that she put in the tank as well. What should I do? ammonia is going down ( almost 0} nitrites are at  1 and coming down as the nitrates are starting to show activity. what do you think. I put another 404 on the tank and the CPR is pulling brownish foam the fish seem ok ( but I'm not swimming in the water so I'm not a good judge.) any advise will be greatly appreciated. <I'm sorry to hear about all of this. Unfortunately, there's not very much that you can do (unless you plan on transferring all of your livestock to your pet store to hold). I would recommend doing 25% water changes every 3-5 days which will help with some of the elevating levels of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. You may also want to add an airstone to the aquarium which will aid in adding oxygen to the aquarium. Overall, water changes will help the most in this situation. Make sure to monitor all of your livestock closely and make sure none of them show any signs of stress. Good luck! Graham.>

Prolonged Nitrite Cycle? Hi, <Hi there! Scott F. with you today!> I have a 90 gallon tank. An Emperor 400 bio-wheel filter and a Fluval 404 canister filter. A 165 gph power head  for aeration. 220 watt power compact lighting (I leave on for 10 hours a day). A 400 watt heater. And crushed coral for substrate I have setup this tank in early December with help from my LFS. I used 9 damsels to cycle my tank. Everything seemed to be going well. By early January my ammonia levels were at 0ppm and my nitrites were high (2-5ppm hard to tell with my test kit) nitrates 0 ppm. My damsels at this time were very active and eating well.  Shortly after I had a good amount of green algae in my tank and thought it was a good sign that my cycle may be complete. When I tested again my ammonia was 0 ppm, nitrite 2-5 ppm, and nitrates 40ppm. I brought a sample of water to the LFS and the confirmed my readings and said my tank was still cycling and the nitrites must be on there way down.  They did not recommend me to do a water change. <I agree I would wait until the nitrite readings are undetectable before executing a water change> So I waited. In early February I lost 3 fish (heavy breathing, possible white spots). Once again, I brought a water sample to the LFS and I still had the high nitrites (they measured it at 4ppm) no ammonia and my nitrates were 40ppm. They said the cause of death of the fish was stress due to the high nitrites and I should not worry about treating the tank for parasites. <Well, I'd tend to agree...Unless you see signs of a parasitic illness, there is no need to treat for such a malady> This morning I lost another 3 damsels.  I noticed that they lost most of their color and their gills were red.  The other fish are sluggish and color is fading.  I did a 25% water change today.  My readings were 0 ammonia, 2-5ppm nitrites ( I need a more accurate kit) and nitrates between still at 40ppm. I have not read another article pertaining to my current problem. It seams to me with all the articles I read that my nitrites should be dropping (almost 2 months since its peak) especially that I have a considerable amount of nitrates (the tank did start out with no nitrates so I am ruling out my tap water).  My water temp is consistently 78°, SG 1.021. Any help will be appreciated. Thanks, Jeff <Well, Jeff- hard for me to be 100% certain what is causing this cycle to take so long to complete. Lingering nitrite levels are a sign of an immature biological "filter". Sounds like something is interrupting the maturation of the system. Are you doing anything which could be killing the beneficial bacteria in the system? Any medications, household chemicals, etc? The symptoms you describe sound like poisoning of some sort- either metabolite (i.e.; chronic ammonia/nitrite) or a toxin, such as a chemical of some sort. Do re-visit your husbandry techniques, equipment function, etc. There is a logical answer for this anomaly. Do some more digging and you will find it! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Water & Live Rock Questions - Still abound >Thanks Marina, >>Most welcome, Devin. >My understanding was that I could cure live rock in a new tank as that would help with the initial cycling process, is this not the case. >>Well, this is partly why I sent you to search our site.  You see, cycling and curing are two *different* processes.  The rock must cure, that is to say, you must get it through the consequent die-off of all creatures in situ upon shipping.  That is all the icky stuff you're seeing.  In order to prevent *further* die-off, I recommend water changes, as I'm a very frugal (read: CHEAP) woman, and want every bit of what I paid for. >I thought curing live rock in the tank would help the cycling process? >>The live rock already has nitrifying bacteria.  The "cycling process" is the culturing of nitrifying bacteria.  So, in the presence of CURED live rock, what you are in fact doing is growing LARGER cultures of nitrifying (and deep within the rock, denitrifying) bacteria.  High ammonia will kill off a good deal of these colonies, another reason to keep a lid on it. >Based on your comments, I will progress with a water change in the next couple of days.   >>At least, depending on your test results.  If your ammonia is high, I suggest aggressive water changes and skimming, along with scrubbing that dead crud off you'd mentioned. >I also plan on adding some more rock this weekend, I just wanted to add it slowly.  Should I scrub the rock in the tank, or take it out and scrub the white spots off?  You mentioned to try to avoid killing the bacteria on the rock, how do I avoid killing it, I assume by doing frequent water changes? >>Um, cure all at once, I really prefer doing this in large trash cans (actually hate using tanks for this - I have scratched more glass and created more messes than I can count by curing in the tank).  Scrub off the white and black and STINKY areas.  Really use your nose to determine these areas.  Don't rinse in fresh water, use salt water, though.  And then, (this will become your new mantra, my friend), when in doubt, DO A WATER CHANGE!  Rare are the occasions when I will tell you not to do a water change, or when performing one *won't* help. >What about my sand bed, do I need to vacuum it in small portions as well, I'm afraid I will just suck up all the sand. >>Ah yes.  In order to safely vacuum a sand bed you will need an extra long vacuum tube, as well as a means by which to restrict the flow coming out of it.  These are a real pain in the patootie to maneuver, but will go a long way towards keeping more sand IN the tank than sucking it out.  I'm talking about 3' long or so. >Thanks again for your input.  Devin >>Again, glad to be of help, and please do search the site!  You'll really be amazed I think.  Marina

Check, check, testing! >Thanks Marina, for all your responses.   >>You're welcome, Devin.  Our goal is to help folks succeed. >I'm sure with your help and the crew I wont make as many mistakes as I would have normally made:) >>Let's hope that's the rule. >I have been testing my water, and recently about 15 days after the tank was set up, ammonia and nitrite is down to 0, and nitrate is around 10-20.   >>Well then, if you know that you already had spikes in ammonia and nitrite, then I would say.. YOU'RE CYCLED!  You now have sufficient colonies of nitrifying bacteria to handle the current waste load.  Remember, as this is important, there will only be colonies sufficient to process what's available.  Think: lemmings. >I will plan on doing my first water change this week as I am now also starting to get some brown algae (I will try to find a source of RO/DI water so I don't continue to encourage the brown algae). >>This is VERY common, so much so that it's normal.  At this point, you may prefer to let it starve itself out.  If it's a "dusting" all over upper surfaces, you've likely got a diatom bloom.  Sometimes water changes can make the situation worse, and at those times I advise no w/c's, and reduce or eliminate lighting for a little while.  Just remember, this is *very* common with new tanks.  As for your water source, if it tests clean of phosphate, nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia in the form of NH3+, then it should be fairly clean. >Thanks again, hope you have a great weekend. Devin >>I hope so too!  I should be getting my Kiehl's Creme Hair Groom with Silk today!  Marina

The Endless Cycle? (Nitrite Cycle Problems) Hey how's it going? <Doin' great! Scott F. here tonight!> I have a question for you. I set up a 46 gallon tank with about 50 lbs of live rock. It seemed to cycle right away (2-3 days I had a nitrite jump then drop off). <That's unusually fast...Keep monitoring, just to be on the safe side.> I decided to remove the water and sand after a week to put some PVC under the rock then put the sand and water back in. Since then, the ammonia has stayed at .25 while the nitrites and nitrates are at 0. <Ammonia has to peak and return to zero first, with nitrite beginning to peak shortly before the ammonia declines.> After about three weeks, I had the water tested at a LFS and he said it was acceptable, so I took home two clowns. Two weeks later, same readings. Is this out of the ordinary? <Well, it seems to me that the tank did not finish cycling. It's hard to say for certain, though, unless you monitored the tank every few days during the process to see "where you were" in the process.> My system is Emperor 400 filter (should I remove the bio wheels) CPR Bak Pak 2R protein skimmer      2 RIO 900 PUMPS THANKS JEREMY <Well, Jeremy, I'd be sure to monitor the ammonia and nitrite on a very regular basis during the process. Be sure to avoid interrupting the process with water changes, substrate replacement, etc., as these things can wreak havoc with the cycle...Be patient, and hang in there! Regards, Scott F.>

Re: QT, Biological filtration Gone? I just e-mailed you earlier about the Clown Trigger scenario. I also asked about the QT. I took my Maroon Clown out. My NO2 is now above 1.6 and my NO3 is above 50. <Way too high! I would dilute the nitrite immediately with a fifty percent water change, or move the livestock from this system> But NH3/4 is still 0.0. I re-vacuumed the inside of the whole tank and a 20% water change. <Not enough. You need to get and keep the nitrite below 1.0 ppm> I also have a spare skimmer that I have on my 55 for helping to get my 125 going when the time comes. I put it on to see if it could help. Did the Formalite kill my Bio? <Yes, very likely> was it the days it ran without anything in it prior to starting the treatments? <Possibly a contributing cause> Why is the NH staying at 0.0? <Perhaps some of those initial nitrifying microbe populations are intact> The Formalite's box and web site said it was not harmful to your Bio system? <Not so> Like I said earlier the tank was a 10gal with water from my 55, a spare filter with one of my bio-wheels from my 55, and bare bottom. After running a few days all parameters were a mirror of the 55. How can it go so bad so fast? <Formalin/Formalite is a general biocide... it kills all life... on contact. Bob Fenner> Ammonia/ammonium so VERY VERY confused... Hi! <Hello there> I am very confused about ammonia and ammonium..   <Let's see if we can unconfuse you> I have a 55gal Fish Only Salt Water tank that has been running for about 3 months..  Last complete test results were: nh3/nh4 - .15ppm (.018 toxic), no2 - 0 , no3 - 5, Alk - "high", sg - 1.023, ph - 7.4   Temp 78. <Stop! Your pH is too low... should be at least 7.8... if not in the low 8's... Do you use natural seawater?... and you have detectable ammonia? After three months running? Something is awry here... perhaps your test kit/s are bunk... perhaps you have inadequate filtration, dying live rock, some dead animal....?> This was with 2 damsel fishes, and two hermit crabs. The test was done 4 days ago.  That day added a med. Yellow Tang, a small Clown, and a small Blenny (probably too much at one time, right?). <... you should not add anything while your water chemistry is this far out of whack> I figured this was safe because "toxic ammonia - nh3" was so low.   <Mmm, should be zip, nada, zilch> I tested total ammonia last night and came up with about .3ppm total ammonia.  All the fish seem to be very happy, and I am not feeding them very much.   <... I'd have your water tested elsewhere, or try another test kit> Now, my confusion.  I know that ammonia is harmful to fish and ammonium is not harmful. <Well, not nearly as toxic let's say> I have read in some places to do a water change if ammonia reaches 1ppm..  Is this nh3/nh4  above 1ppm or just nh3?   <Actually either... the state of ammonia is largely pH dependent... at higher pH, most exists as ammonia... more toxic, at lower pH, as ammonium, less toxic> Now then, I have also read that over .1ppm ammonia is toxic to fish. <Can be...> Does this mean just nh3 or is this nh3/nh4? <Ammonia, not ammonium... all else being equal (pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen concentration... other co-factors>   If I do the calculation, my total "toxic" (NH3 I am assuming) is .037ppm (.3 x .122)(ph 7.4). Am I doing this correctly or??  Also, should I lower the temp of my tank so that ammonia is not as toxic?  (Ahhhhhh!!  So many variables!!) :-) <None of them important. Now, what IS important is to have none of either ammonia OR ammonium, as in making sure your system is completely cycled and has a sustainable biological filtration function per the bioload and feeding of the tank.> I guess really what I need to know is, at what point (biased on ammonia tests) do I really need to worry? And at what point biased on the ammonia test do I need to do water changes?   And is it nh3/nh4 I need to worry about or just the ammonia calculation? <You need to worry at the point of ANY detectable ammonia... whether it is NH3 or NH4OH... it IS trouble> One other quick question.  Last night, I also started to notice Cyanobacteria growing..  A quick Google search returned all the ways to treat it,  It is not necessarily a bad thing is it?  All the descriptions I have read about it sounds like it is a good thing (oxygenates the water, removes nitrates...) but everybody wants to get rid of it..  Why? <Blue Green Algae are indicative of less desirable circumstances in a system... not toxic of by themselves in moderation... think of your system as a system... this is what you need to address, correct. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bluegralgae.htm> And last quick question related to Cyanobacteria,  is it really important to test for po4?  Would a high level be dangerous to the fish? <Not especially important to measure soluble phosphate... but useful as a tool for detection of whether this is a source of water quality troubles... Put another way, do you want, need to test for things that are of no particular consequence... unless they become possibly important?> As you may can tell, I am very new at this (marine life that is) and have always wanted to try.  Your site has answered many many of my questions and I would not have been able to keep my first two fish (the Damsels) alive with out it! Thanks! Jared <You obviously have a good (curious, systematic, open) mind... Keep studying here, cut way back on feeding, look for sources, reasons why your system has not cycled completely... Do NOT add any more life till you've corrected the ammonia source issue. Bob Fenner> Lazy Nitrobacter? Hi "Crew", I have just set up a new 90gal reef tank (40# live rock, ~80# "Aragocrete" rock), 30gal sump, SeaClone skimmer (I know I know), no inhabitants yet.  The tank has been up and running for about 3 weeks now.  I have been testing NH3+, NO2-, and NO3- daily (Seachem Marine Basic kit), and when I look at my values, they don't seem to follow the pattern I see on graphs of a cycling tank published in books and such.  The ammonia "spike" was more of a nub (peaked at 0.5mg/L), even though there must have been loads of ammonia coming off the LR.  The NO2- peaked at 10mg/L about 10 days ago, but has plateaued at around 5mg/L.  NO3- peaked at about 15mg/L, but has since the tank started growing algae (reddish-brown -- diatoms? or Cyano?, and just in the last day or two green algae is growing on the rocks) the nitrate has come down to ~2.5mg/L.  Now I had expected to see a higher nitrite spike, but figured my LR must have good cultures already.  If that was the case though, then shouldn't the nitrite be lower - like zero by now?  Are my Nitrobacter loafing? or is there some influence/nitrite source I have overlooked.  I should also say that until the end of September I am stuck using treated tap water to mix my salt (instant ocean). I did not find nitrite in the tap water.  Can you help me understand what is happening?  Are my tests inaccurate or could something commonly found in tap water/ Amquel interfere with the tests?  I have searched the site and didn't turn up anything yet.  I will keep looking though.  Thanks for all of your much needed and much appreciated help!  Nick <your test kit could be suspect, but I would bet you just need a little more time. The general, accepted thought is that it takes a minimum of 27 days for new ammonia to make it all the way to nitrate>

Is it Cycling, or WHAT? >Hey Crew, Hey yourself, Rick.  Marina sloggin' it tonight. >I need some reassurance, >>You're a nice guy, you're smart, and darn it!  People LIKE you.  Howzat? >...my semi reef 55 gal. corner overflow with 65 lb. "live" rock and 60 lb. "live" sand, no fish or inverts, sump, EV-120 skimmer. >>It is inanimate.  Don't expect it to like you. >Circulation is just over 500 GPH. I'm worried, this aquarium seems to not be cycling.  It's been almost 2 weeks and the Ammonia levels are still off the scale.  Nitrate is 2.0 PPM, >>I think you mean nitrite (NO2), yeah? >...nitrate is 10 PPM or less.  pH 8.2 and temp 78*F.   >>Believe it or not, it IS cycling.  What the "cycling" term/process means is that you are actually culturing bacteria.  You are culturing TWO species of bacteria, Nitrosomonas, and Nitrospira.  These bacteria are the bacteria of nitrification fame (or infamy, however you view it), and oxidize ammonia into less toxic compounds, those being nitrites and nitrates respectively.  So, if you had sky-high ammonia readings with *no* nitrite or nitrate readings you would be inclined to wonder, what is happening here?  But!  Since you've GOT high nitrite readings and relatively low nitrate readings, this means that you are indeed in the midst of the cycle (which, by the way, can often take 6-8 weeks, especially if you're combining the curing process with it--curing while cycling can lead to a huge die-off of the critters in/on the l/r, which in turn leads to sky-high ammonia readings.. you get the idea) as evidenced by the fact that you ARE getting nitrite and nitrate readings.  So, no worries!  Just WAIT. >I think I still have some die-off from the rock.  I hope the Rock and Sand haven't died. Big power failure here and no circulation for 9 hrs. >>Aaahh!!!  Yes, you're probably getting die-off from the rock, which will include a loss of your nitrifying bacteria.  Water changes on an enormous scale would have been the only way to prevent this (and it's a good way to preserve MUCH life found on good quality live rock, too). >Is my live rock history?  Rick >>No, but we can be sure that plenty of the life is.  However, do know that it WILL bounce back.  Do a couple of 50% water changes to bring the ammonia levels back down so you won't experience so much loss, then let it continue to cycle.  You'll be golden (barring any power failures!).

Nitrite Stall Hiya Campers :) <Geez Mom, another five minutes, yawn....> While I'm not personally experiencing this atm, I have read a number of posts on different forums about the subject. What I never seem to read is what actually causes it (other the conversion process can stall due to "non optimal" conditions), or what works best to stop it. Why do tanks sometime stall at the nitrite conversion part of the cycle, and what are the ways to deal with it? <A bunch of chemical and physical factors can result in a "physiological check" in the development of, or ongoing biological cycling... a sudden temperature or pH change for instance. Best to use pre-mixed water of matching properties, make sparse, small changes of water in newly set-up systems... Bob Fenner> Thanks :) Allison

New tank continuing to cycle Hi Crew, <Howdy Louis, Don here tonight> As always, thank you so much for the hand holding!   <No problem.> I have a 55 gallon salt tank that has currently cycled very nicely with about 70 lbs of LR from  Florida.  Things have started to proliferate on the rock including green algae.  Don't know if you would consider them Macros, but I don't think so.  No real developed leaf structures.  Maybe really tiny ones.  They are more grass like.   Chem levels at this point are: Ph = 8.2 Ammonia = 0 Nitrite = 0 Nitrate = 10-15 Calcium = 325 Alk = 4 SPG = 1.023 Temp = 76 deg f <I would like to see the SG 1.025 and Nitrate 0 if you are going to keep sensitive corals> These reading have been constant for at least a month.  I have a 4+ inch deep sand bed of Southdown sand from Home Depot with 20lbs of Gulf live sand, about 1/4 - 1/2 inch, spread over the top of the Southdown Sand.  SeaClone style skimmer in sump producing very dark gunk and not a whole lot, but definitely bubbling over the cone.   <You should fill a cup that size 4 or 5 times a week> No fish or coral at this point.  Lighting is a Corallife 4 X 65W PC fixture, 2 actinics and 2 10,000K's.  Actinics on 12 hrs a day, 1 hr before the whites and 1 hr after the whites, whites on for 10 hrs.  Return from sump is a Rio 2100, and I have two Hagen 402 powerheads mounted in each top back corner of the tank pointed toward the front center. <Ok> About 8 days ago I added  30+ lbs of the listed 70 lbs of LR from the Gulf of Mexico (FL).  Very minute ammonia and nitrite spike that lasted a day or two at max.  I did have my Magnum canister filter running with carbon to combat and stink that might have occurred during the cure.  The readings above are as of last night.  Do we think the newest LR is done at this point or is the carbon keeping things at bay? <I would give it another week or so> I guess my biggest concern at this point is the calcium and Alk readings.  I am pretty new to both tests and do not really understand them.  Especially the Alk reading.  I believe the calcium reading is a bit low and do not know if the Alk reading is acceptable in terms of other factors or itself.  Can you shed some light on them for me?  What can you suggest to boost my calcium levels at this point given the described system?  Is Kalk solution drip the only option and my best choice, especially as a novice?  And what of this alkalinity issue?  Any suggestions and practices you can offer? <The easiest way to do this is with twice weekly water changes with aged water that has been buffered and supplemented  to bring the calcium and alkalinity levels you want. 350-450ppm for calcium and 8-11 dKH. I use Instant Ocean and get 350ppm calcium and 10 dKH each time and just go with that.>   Are my Nitrate levels a concern at the described levels?  They seem to be pretty steady but have not seen zero since the tank began 45 days ago.  Besides water changes what else can I do?   <Religiously clean the magnum filter or just get rid of it. Do you have any sponge anywhere? If so, this must be cleaned regularly as well. The upper layer of sand in your pics looks pretty coarse, you might try lightly siphoning that to rid and accumulation of organics. Better/more skimmate production will help as well.> Do I need to be concerned if they are at least stable at this  level?   <You want nitrate at 0 for corals> Thought DSB and green algae were supposed to help rid these nitrate levels.  If you take a look at my tank pics here:   http://wetwebfotos.com/Home?actionRequest=userview&userID=2242   you will notice things are growing.  Some green hair algae are getting unruly.  I have not added any cleaner critters yet and plan on doing so soon per your prior suggestion of Astrea, Trochus and Nassarius snails.  Was waiting for final LR to cycle.  I guess at this point the only thing to combat the hair algae is to harvest and dump it?  Am I correct?  What else can you suggest? <Siphon and remove manually is best for now> Not planning any fish until end of August.  I am leaving for a 20 day vacation on July 2nd and with a quarantine period planned for every fish, not to mention care issues while I am gone, I do not want to add any further variables here. <Good call> Do you think the tank will be ok as is for the 20 days I am gone?  I obviously have someone checking and doing water top offs, but that's really it.  Anything else I should think about or I am overlooking while gone? <Mix up the water and see if your sitter can do twice weekly 3-5G water changes.> I think that's it for now.  Always know the appreciation level is immeasurable.  I brag about you guys to everyone!!!!! <Aw shucks, thanks!> Louis Rizzo

Nitrate in month old tank I set up a tank for a friend (saltwater- 75 gallon with 75 lbs of uncured live rock). natural seawater was used. the person left the tank off (no pumps running) for almost a month. now the nitrate is plus 80. Question how can the ammonia be processed into nitrate so quickly and then remain at such a high level.  is it because of stagnant water, not enough denitrifying bacteria can be established? Not enough oxygen? <All the above. Yes, yes, yes, and finally yes. Time to do some large, successive water changes, get the water moving, oxygenated, fire up the skimmer... Bob Fenner>

Sick fire fish (new tank syndrome) Hello, I have a 20 gallon tank with two fire fish and some live rock. The tank is not new, but it's new to me; it was a gift from a friend of mine who had the fish for a year before. She brought it over to my place with 10+ gallons of cycled water and I added the rest. <One note for you, the water is not cycled. The liverock is where the beneficial bacteria are located. The water is merely old and what the fish are used to.> I'm new to salt water, but have been monitoring the tank closely. Two days ago, I came home and the tank was covered with brown algae (with some green weed like stuff on the rocks). I changed 2 gallons of water and decided I would purchase a hermit crab and snail this weekend. Tonight I came home and the littler fish (Ginger) was gasping for air at the top of the tank. Every once in a while she'll dart around the tank like a maniac and then hide under a rock. Her fins are all ragged. The bigger one (Fred) looks fine. Nitrites are between 0.25 and 0.5, Ammonia is at 0.1. <There is your problem.> I know these aren't ideal levels, but I didn't think they were lethal? <No, that is indeed a problem and could be lethal.> Any other ideas what might be happening with Ginger? <No other ideas necessary, you have discovered your problem. Now you need to go up with a solution. Please read what we have concerning the nitrogen cycle and new tank. Your tank seems to have undergone a loss of nitrifying bacteria due to the move. I would also strongly urge you to pick up a great book by Mike Paletta called "The New Marine Aquarium." -Steven Pro>

Help......Am board (bored? Let's call him "Woody"... oh cycling) Hi Mr. Bob, <<Hello, it's JasonC this time...>> I know you are a very busy man. So I will try to be short. Here is my problem : My new tank is about 100gal and there is about 100 pounds of Live Rock. My tank is 3 months old and I sill have this problem with Ammonia, it just wont drop to zero. Its 0.1 all the time. I tried to add *Cycle*, nothing happened. Am board. I have no fish ( just live rock ). I used different test kits. In fact the dealer came to my house the other day and test my water it was 0.1 . Some one is telling me that I should add fish to provide ammonia source for the bacteria ( he think that 0.1 ppm is too little to feed 100 pounds of LR and the bacteria stop growing or some thing like that ). Would you please tell me what to do ? I don't want to wait longer. <<Well, Ahmad, a couple of things come to mind. First, most test kits don't measure down to one part per million very well, so 0.1 really shouldn't be a concern. I would also be curious to see if you have any nitrates [NO3-] as the presence of these would indicate that you have a complete nitrogen cycle and are capable of housing fish. You could quite likely at this point house something from the durable batch of fish, and surprisingly... Neon gobies are tougher than they look, I'd try placing one or two of these. Lastly, I realize you've waited a little while but... patience is a valuable virtue when keeping marine tanks. Cheers, J -- >>

Re: collapse of biological filter. Dear Bob, Yes well, crashing the tank is alive and well in NZ. I finally got rid of all the ich in my main system - chelated copper - did a great job, but also took out my biological filter. What now??  <Re-seed, time going by...> Its currently a fish only system, and I've done a big water change to drop NH3 levels, but because I use AmmoLock I can't really tell what my NH3 levels now are. I use Aquarium Pharm tests, and I know they give a false reading for NH3 once AmmoLock is used. My test kit is currently reading 4, yes 4ppm NH3, but there the AmmoLock...So, given that AmmoLock is in the tank, what is the 4ppm a reading of? NH4 and NH3 combined? <All of the above> Or is it just a wacky numero that tallies with nothing? All the fish still look happy, no ich, all swimming in a solution of AmmoLock sea water and Cycle at the minute...Only problem is the test reading keeps rising to say 8ppm until I do a big H2O change to get it down to 4ppm again, but as I say, this is with AmmoLock. So now what??? Any ideas? Return all fish to dealer and recycle tank? Any help appreciated. Regards Miriam <Leave the fish out of this water till the ammonia is zero. Please read (perhaps re-read) here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm, and the FAQS beyond... and consider adding a bit of live rock, macro-algae... and a short vacation... to let all settle in. Bob Fenner>

Lingering Nitrite Robert: I have been reading the FAQ's & Articles your web site so often, it inspired me to buy your book. <Glad to hear it. I will pass along the compliment to Bob. You are talking to Steven Pro now. Anthony Calfo and myself are filling in for Bob while he does some traveling.> I have a 10 month old reef tank with a NO2 problem. The stats are as follows: 110 Gal oceanic Emperor Skimmer UV sterilizer 75 LBS Live rock Oceanic Wet/Dry NO2: .14-.15 S.G. 1.20 PH 8.1 NH3 0.0 CA 470 Temp 78 NO3 20 ALK 2.5 I have 375 watts of compact lighting for 10 hours per day. Water changes : 20% monthly. Last change 2 weeks ago. I have a mild diatom problem so I reduced the lighting period to 8 hours and it seems to be better. I am using a Salifert test kit for the Nitrate at the 10X precision mode. My LFS suggests something may be amiss with my wet dry. I opened it up and found the balls to be moist with no particular slime on them as he suggested. I did notice the plate above the balls wasn't really distributing the H2O well so I adjusted it to make it a little better. I also took the discharge for the UV and fed it into the distribution plate to send its discharge through the balls again. Any Ideas? <There are a few possibilities. Sometimes UV's are capable of converting nitrate back to nitrite. You might want to try bringing your nitrates down close to zero and/or removing the UV for a while. See if things change. Also, do be sure to check your nitrite test kit against another tank or test kit to verify the results.>

Cycling Question Hi Bob- <Steven Pro this evening.> I've been referencing your site for 3 months now. Really useful information. I have a quick question with regards to cycling. I've had my FOWLR 55 gallon tank up and running since Nov 26, 2001. I have a wet/dry filter and two power heads. Water temp is always at 79-80 degrees. I initially cycled the tank with 5 damsel fish <Way too many fish> and 11 lbs. of live rock. <Way too little liverock> After some damsel death (unfortunately) the water was reading fine. After a month (Dec 27), I added a tomato clown and a Lunare wrasse. Both are doing fine. I waited another month (Feb 1 ) and I added a clown trigger. Two weeks later added another 10 lbs of LR. After adding the trigger and 10lbs of LR the Nitrite and Nitrate have gone through the roof. The Nitrite are over 1ppm and the Nitrates over 100ppm. <It sounds like you exceeded your biological filter capacity.> The fish seem to be OK and the Ammonia is at 0 - .25 ppm. I know that the cycling process has started because of the presence of Nitrates and the low Ammonia. I've been feeding once a day. Can you give me some info on how I can get the Nitrites down? It has been 2-4 weeks since the rise. <Please read some of the articles and FAQ's on biological filtration, establishing biological filtration, cycling a tank, etc. -Steven Pro> Thanks! Bill

Re: general questions that you may know... okay, but that just leaves me to ponder this - if I do stop feeding my fish and the ammonia and nitrites go to zero. When I start feeding them again wont the ammonia just go back up again?? thanks, Nellie <if that happens, it is a clear sign that the biological filter is flawed or inadequate. Simple diagnosis. kindly, Anthony>

Re: general questions that you may know... ah-ha, that make sense. thank you very much for all your time, I appreciate it. best regards, Nellie <very welcome, best of luck to you. Anthony>

Tank isn't cycling?!? Hi There, my new virtual friend! <Hello. Steven Pro in today.> First, I apologize up front for what I fear will be a long message. Current Tank parameters: 20 gal hex, 9 lbs LR, 20 lbs LS, started 2/14/02. Currently Contains: cleaner shrimp, sarong shrimp, Halloween crab, 3 tiny blue leg hermit crabs, 2 Astrea snails. History: Started with 4 damsels, of which 3 died by the end of the cycle for various reasons (1 don't know, 1 was constantly attacked and weaken to death, and 1 I killed because he was inside a piece of rock that I took out to clean but didn't know he was in there). I added a Rusty dwarf angel that has died, I think due to ammonia poisoning because his mouth was swollen and he wouldn't eat. So now I'm fishless (and will be until I can fix my tank). <An all to common story/beginning.> My cleaner shrimp and sarong shrimp have both molted twice, and the crabs once. They seem to be doing OK. Sometimes out, sometimes hidden. Always eating (except the day after they molt). All my inverts were added after what I thought was a cycled tank. They've all been there for at least a month. I was using the Dry-Tabs test kit during cycling. I'm really not sure that I ever had good water quality - the colors are hard to read. Today I bought the Red Sea Marine Test Kit and I'm still confused as to the reading the different colors. Anyway, over the last 10 weeks I have changed my water at least 20 times, anywhere between 10% and 40%. Was this wrong? <This does interfere with the cycling process, but sometimes you have no other choice, like when you are fish cycling and are attempting to save your animals. Far better to cycle with just liverock and not risk the fish.> Was I not to do water changes during the cycle period? Anyway, the ammonia is somewhere between 0.25 -0.50, the nitrites are also somewhere between 0.25 and 0.50, and the nitrates are between 20 - 40. I am not exact about the parameters cause I sometimes can't tell the difference in the colors, and I'm not color blind nor intoxicated, just personally think the color system sucks! <Yes, can be difficult to read. I like the Dry-Tab kits. The ammonia can be hard to read sometimes, the difference between yellow and green, but the nitrite is unmistakable, clear or pink.> I have only used purchase RO water, from the initial fill to all changes since. For some reason, no matter how many water changes I do, these numbers stay about the same; one goes to the low end, another to the high end, only to switch at the next test time. I am sooooooo confused. <Both ammonia and nitrite are produced constantly. Your tank is "cycled" when as soon as ammonia or nitrite are produced, they are converted to nitrate.> I sent an email a couple days ago asking about the biology of the water. My thinking was that if I just let it sit and "cycle" it would right itself. But according to the answer I received, I'm not so sure that this is what will happen. <Water by itself will do nothing, but your tank can cycle with water and liverock.> So now to my question(s): Should I stop the water changes until the system fluctuations subside? <Since you no longer have any fish, I would stop the water changes and wait it out. Do keep an eye on the levels, watch the reactions of your inverts, and be prepared to perform a water change for their benefit.> Should I continue to do water changes? Was my tank ever cycled in the first place, or did I not read those stupid colors right? <Sounds like it never completely cycled.> Digest version: What should I do to get this tank right? <See notes above and have some patience. Everything will be ok in time.> Thank you sooooooo much!!!! Debra <You are welcome. -Steven Pro> P.S. I see that you attend many trade shows and would love the opportunity to say "Thank you" in person. I am in the Chicago area and see that there is a Backers trade show in October. First, is that open to the public, and second, will you be there? <I think you need some sort of professional affiliation to attend the Backer shows. I think we are all going to MACNA in Dallas-Fort Worth.>

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