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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone,

I'm looking for some insight or guidance on cycling my tank. I'm worried I may do something wrong or stall the cycle if I'm not careful.
My setup total with tank and sump is around 100 gallons.

I have been dosing with old country ammonia and yesterday my ammonia was up at around 4 ppm, nitrites at 1 and nitrates at 4. I have tested again this evening and my ammonia is at around 0.35, nitrites at 25 and nitrates at 10.

So my question is, is this an indication that my tank is cycling? Should I be feeding it more ammonia to get it back up? Where would you go from here?

I put my tank together a few days ago so it hasn't been long but I have been dosing with seachem stability and my water temp is at 82 degrees.
 

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http://www.thetipsbank.com/marine.htm

and also

"The Building of a Reef (tank)

"Hi Eric, I was hoping you could help me to understand better what it means for a system to "mature" or "become established". Hobbyists (me included) are always saying not to keep that sps or this anenome for a least a year until your system has matured. What exactly are the differences between a tank which finished cycling a month ago and one that finished cycling 11 months ago? Does it have to do with water parameters being more stable? Does it have to do with natural food availability? Does "tank maturity" pertain more to those who utilize a DSB, because it takes 6 months for a DSB to become functional ?"

Tank maturity seems to be even more of an issue without the sand bed. The sand bed just takes some time to get enough nutrients in it to sustain populations and stratify into somewhat stable communities and become functional. So, here's the tank reason, and then I'll blow into some ecology for you. When you get a tank, you start with no populations of anything. You get live rock to form the basis of the biodiversity - and remember that virtually everything is moderated by bacteria and photosynthesis in our tanks. So liverock is the substrate for all this stuff, and also has a lot of life on it. How much depends on a lot of things.

Mostly, marine animals and plants don't like to be out of water for a day at a time...much less the many days to sometimes a week that often happens. So, assuming you are not using existing rock form a tank, or the well-treated aquacultured stuff, you have live rock that is either relatively free of anything alive to begin with, or you have live rock with a few stragglers and a whole lot of stuff dying or about to die because it won't survive in the tank. Some, if not most, rock exporters have a "curing process" that gets rid of a lot of the life to begin with and some of this is to keep it from dying and fouling further, but some of it would have lived if treated more carefully.

From the moment you start, you are in the negative. Corallines will be dying, sponges, dead worms and crustaceans and echinoids and bivalves, many of which are in the rock and you won't ever see. Not to mention the algae, cyanobacteria, and bacteria, most of which is dehydrated, dead or dying, and will decompose. This is where the existing bacteria get kick started. Bacteria grow really fast, and so they are able to grow to levels that are capable of uptaking nitrogen within...well, the cycling time of a few weeks to a month or so. The "started bacteria" products give me a chuckle. Anyone with a passing knowledge of microbiology would realize that for a product to contain live bacteria in a medium that sustains it would quickly turn into a nearly solid mass of bacteria, and if the medium is such that it keeps them inactive, then the amount of bacteria in a bottle is like adding a grain of salt to the ocean compared to what is going to happen quickly in a tank with live rock in it.

However, if you realize the doubling time of these bugs, you would know that in a month, you should have a tank packed full of bacteria and no room for water. That means something is killing or eating bacteria. Also realize that if you have a tank with constant decomposition happening at a rate high enough to spike ammonia off the scale, you have a lot of bacteria food...way more than you will when things stop dying off and decomposing. So, bacterial growth may have caught up with the level of nitrogen being produced, but things are still dying...you just test zero for ammonia because there are enough bacteria present to keep up with the nitrogen being released by the dying stuff. It does not necessarily mean things are finished decomposing or that ammonia is not being produced.

Now, if things are decomposing, they are releasing more than ammonia. Guess what dead sponges release? All their toxic metabolites. Guess what else? All their natural antibiotic compounds which prevents some microbes from doing very well. Same with the algae, the inverts, the cyano, the dinoflagellates, etc. They all produce things that can be toxic - and sometimes toxic to things we want, and sometimes to things we don't want. So, let's just figure this death and decomposition is going take a while.

OK, so now we have a tank packed with some kinds of bacteria, probably not much of others. Eventually the death stops. Now, what happens to all that biomass of bacteria without a food source? They die. Some continue on at an equilibrium level with the amount of nutrients available. And, denitrification is a slow process. Guess what else? Bacteria also have antibiotics, toxins, etc. all released when they die. But, the die-off is slow, relative to the loss of nutrients, and there is already a huge population, and yet you never test ammonia. "The water tests fine." But, all these swings are happening. Swings of death, followed by growth until limited, then death again, then nutrients available for growth, and then limitation and death. But, every time, they get less and less, but they keep happening - even in mature tanks. Eventually, they slow and stabilize.

What's left? A tank with limited denitrification (because its slow and aerobic things happen fast) and a whole lot of other stuff in the water. Who comes to the rescue and thrives during these cycles? The next fastest growing groups...cyanobacteria, single celled algae, protists, ciliates, etc. Then they do their little cycle thing. And then the turf algae take advantage of the nutrients (the hair algae stage). Turfs get mowed down by all the little amphipods that are suddenly springing up cause they have a food source. Maybe you've bought some snails by now, too, or a fish. And the fish dies, of course, because it may not have ammonia to contend with, but is has water filled with things we can't and don't test for...plus, beginning aquarists usually skimp on lights and pumps initially, and haven't figured out that alkalinity test, so pH and O2 are probably swinging wildly at this point.

So, the algae successions kick in, and eventually you have a good algal biomass that handles nitrogen, produces oxygen through photosynthesis, takes up the metabolic CO2 of all the other heterotrophs you can't see, the bacteria have long settled in and also deal with nutrients, and the aquarium keeper has probably stopped adding fish for a spell because they keep dying. Maybe they started to visit boards and read books and get the knack of the tank a bit. They have probably also added a bunch of fix-it-quick chemicals that didn't help any, either. Also, they are probably scared to add corals that would actually help with the photosynthesis and nutrient uptake, or they have packed in corals that aren't tolerant of those conditions.

About a year into it, the sand bed is productive and has stratified, water quality is stable, and the aquarist has bought a few more powerheads, understands water quality a bit, corallines and algae, if not corals and other things are photosynthesizing well, and the tank is "mature." That's when fish stop dying when you buy them (at least the cyanide free ones) and corals start to live and grow and I stop getting posts about "I just bought a coral and its dying and my tank is two months old" and they start actually answering some questions here and there instead of just asking questions (though we should all always be asking questions, if not only to ourselves!).

So, ecologically, this is successional population dynamics. Its normal, and it happens when there is a hurricane or a fire, or whatever. In nature though, you have pioneer species that are eventually replaced by climax communities. We usually try and stock immediately with climax species. And find it doesn't always work.

Now, the "too mature" system is the old tank syndrome. Happens in nature, too. That whole forest fire reinvigorating the system is true. Equally true on coral reefs where the intermediate disturbance hypothesis is the running thought on why coral reefs maintain very high diversity...they are stable, but not too stable, and require storms, but not catastrophic ones....predation, but not a giant blanket of crown of thorns, mass bleaching, or loss of key herbivores.

This goes to show what good approximations these tanks are of mini-ecosystems. Things happen much faster in tanks, but what do you expect given the bioload per unit area. So, our climax community happens in a couple years rather than a couple of centuries. Thing is, I am fully convinced that intermediate tank disturbance would prevent old tank syndrome.

My advice on starting tanks is to plan the habitat you want. Find the animals and corals you like. Learn about the tiny area of the reef you will try and recreate, and do not try to make a whole coral reef in one tank. Then, purchase the equipment required to emulate that environment. Then, add the appropriate types of substrate (sand, rubble, rock, whatever) and wait long after "your tank water tests fine" before you add fish and corals. First, add herbivores and maintain water quality. Water changes, carbon, skimming, alkalinity, calcium. Keep the water of high quality, even for things you can't test for. Wait a few months and enjoy the growth that will happen. Then, add some of the species that you plan to keep….invertebrates and corals. They help create the environment, and also photosynthesize, add biodiversity, stabilize nutrients, etc. Then….then….add fish. The fish will have a reef as their new home. They won't be stressed by this variable bouilllabaise of water and a strange habitat that keeps changing as things are added or die. They will have a stable tank with real habitat, and then the original concept you imagined will have happened.
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
That first link had some great info thanks. A lot of it I had already read in other forums and websites but what's the deal with the long article after? I understand the die off and what's causing ammonia and all that. I'm just trying to understand the readings specific to my tank and if I should take action aka provide more ammonia for bacteria to eat OR let the ammonia go back down to 0 and let my other readings go down.

I have no intention of putting anything in my tank prematurely or within the next 2-3 weeks if not more. I just want to make sure the readings that I'm seeing is within reason or I should be acting on them in some way.

There is so many different ways documented on cycling I just wasn't sure. If I follow the article on here it says to keep the ammonia up but other articles say let it go down and the add more ammonia so I was looking for some insight on what others thought or experienced
 

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Hey Ivan, so after you put in the ammonia, what you should read is this:

ammonia up
nitrites no change or little change
nitrates

next day:

ammonia down
nitrites up
nitrates a little up

the day after:
ammonia down to 0
nitrites down
nitrates UP

when you see that, means your tank's cycled. it may take more than a day in between each of the three phases.

it's better to let everything cycle for at least a month in your tank before adding say, mollies, or get one or two cheap yellow tail damsels (the least aggressive damsel). the rocks you got from me are very porous, some had a little bit of coraline, and already seeded. they will seed your other rocks in a week or so.



above is graphical illustration, though the number in "days" depends on how much live rock you've got versus the ammonia you added.

as for adding more ammonia, maybe each week, add a small amount, and keep testing after wards how long it takes your tank to cycle through that ammonia. It should be getting faster to get to 0 reading for nitrites.

amount of nitrogen bacteria you have in a tank depends on the amount of bioload that is going to be in a tank. If there is no bioload, the bacteria will fall off. (but mind you, as algae and sponges inverts etc. grows on the live rock bioload is growing in the tank but not visible to you).
Each time you up the bioload, the bacteria numbers will adjust, and tank will go through a mini cycle. that's why you want to stock up slowly, enough stock that your bacteria load can handle at a time.

so you can go either way, it should be fine!
 

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damsels are a really bad idea...I use to own a yellow tail and it killed 4 clowns that were twice it's size.

Just let the tank do it's thing. Make sure there is alot of algae on the glass and rocks then buy some snails to eat the algae.
 

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damsels are a really bad idea...I use to own a yellow tail and it killed 4 clowns that were twice it's size.

Just let the tank do it's thing. Make sure there is alot of algae on the glass and rocks then buy some snails to eat the algae.
lol well yes it is true they can be aggressive. get the mollies then. and go from there.

I'm not fond of snails bec. they can get into your skimmer and break the impeller, etc.
 

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if you know someone that can give you some substrate from a well established aquarium, like a handful of sand from the bottom of their tank, you can cut down on the length of time a cycle take dramatically.

Nothing else would change. You would still use water tests to watch and verify the process.

I give out a handful from my oldest system to anyone that needs it but I am located in Trenton Ontario. The faster you can get the sand and water from the one tank to the next the better as the bacteria starts dying off relatively quickly once the water flow stops. Faster than 15 minutes is best but even if it takes you an hour it will still benefit your cycle.

It would be great if you could arrange to be there to pick up the sand when they were doing a water change so you could grab that as well. Using 50% aged water from an established tank along with a few handfuls of muck I've cycled tanks in a few days.

Of course you need to get this from a relatively pest free system and different people have differing opinions as to what constitutes a pest.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I did add live sand to my setup as well as 40lbs of live rock from Bayinaung

Thanks everyone for the great info
I'm going to take readings tonight and see where the water is at.
 

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No, don't do it! rocks you got from me are enough. you will thank me later. codepods and other inverts will come naturally as you add the quarantined macroalgae and chaeto. patience. Hey did you post pics to the aquarium?
 

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Rock that is kept in a bucket with a heater and powerhead isn't "Live Rock" due to the beneficial bacteria not being able to sustain life. If you have nothing for them to eat then it will die.

This is the main reason once you have finished a cycle you need to add some type of livestock to keep the cycle going. If you don't add anything to keep the cycle going then anything in the tank that might be beneficial would die off and you would start a new cycle.

This is why I say you should get other peoples tanks. Unless Bayinaung can guarantee that the Live Rock you bought was truely "Live" from a established tank and not a bucket or bin.

You can always come over my house and pick some rubble up and some sand. I'm at Warden and St. Claire
 

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Rock that is kept in a bucket with a heater and powerhead isn't "Live Rock" due to the beneficial bacteria not being able to sustain life. If you have nothing for them to eat then it will die.

This is the main reason once you have finished a cycle you need to add some type of livestock to keep the cycle going.
That's why I said add some mollies! and that's what I did! Now the rocks will grow the algae and microscopic organisms and that adds to the bioload but it's painfully slow. add mollies. then give them back to the fishstore after a month. it's worth the small $.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I haven't posted picks yet but will be soon. Right now I've been focusing on fine tuning and making sure my tank cycle goes well.

I added some chaeto and my nitrates and nitrates came down to 0 in like 2 days and my ammonia also came down to 0. I pumped my ammonia back up to 4 ppm to make sure it comes down at a reasonable rate. I'll take some readings tonight and let you know as I just added the ammonia yesterday
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I see what you're saying altcharacter and I can't see it hurting the process by adding something that would be loaded with beneficial bacteria. I may take you up on the offer but in the meantime I'll keep dosing ammonia when it gets to near 0 so that bacteria has something to feed on
 
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