Cycling an Aquarium

One of the earliest topics a new aquarium hobbyist needs to learn is how to properly cycle their aquarium. There is a ton of information on this...
  1. Jimmy Lee

    Jimmy Lee Well-Known Member R2R Supporter Build Thread Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2017
    Messages:
    673
    Likes Received:
    327
    Location:
    Euless, TX
    nice write up
     

  2. JakesReef209

    JakesReef209 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2017
    Messages:
    52
    Likes Received:
    42
    I feel like there's a lot of minutiae and painfully specific chemistry discussion going on when the real base of this thread came from newbies (myself included) trying to figure out if their cycle was going right. While all the comments are very interesting I think the best way for newcomers to gain knowledge from this is not by discussing complex theories about bacterial chemistry but by answering if the only perimeter required to monitor before adding fish is ammonia or if our strange nitrite/nitrate readings are a matter of concern or commonplace during a cycle? Correct me if I'm wrong but I find myself confused
     
    Brew12 likes this.
  3. Reef4Rose

    Reef4Rose Well-Known Member Build Thread Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2016
    Messages:
    90
    Likes Received:
    42
    Location:
    Houston
    Simplified, yes. In my experience of old, too many years ago, you added substrate with under gravel filter, power heads and off you went. The recommendation I read was to add a hearty fish that could handle the ammonia during cycling. Food was introduced and waste from the fish put the bacteria development in motion. Corals add in a whole new set of issues which apply to fish as well. Corals are much more particular about water peramiters than fish.

    When I set up my tank years ago there wasn't all the different choices available as far as clean rock, live rock and dry live rock. My post initiated due to 2 processes occurring similarly and simultaneously which is curing rock and cycling a tank. Cycling a tank may better be referred to as the establishment of your biological foundation. During this process enters biology and chemistry which needs to at least be understood at some level. Curing rock is clearing the rock of any biproducts it may carry that would be harmful to an established tank if just put in without curing. These byproducts being broke down in a new tank will get my biology going as well.
     
    brandon429 likes this.
  4. JakesReef209

    JakesReef209 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2017
    Messages:
    52
    Likes Received:
    42
    It seems the majority of my problem came from constantly re-dosing ammonia per dr Tims instructions. In his instructions it stated that it's "vitally important" to not let ammonia hit zero. So if my ammonia was under 1 ppm I would dose everyday back up to 2 ppm.
    But now being at day 30, I stopped dosing ammonia for 48 hours and am already seeing a slight decline in nitrite which is far more than I've seen this whole time. Once my nitrites get down to under 1 ppm I'll dose ammonia 1 more time and monitor the drop of ammonia and then nitrite in a 24 hour period and if it all checks out I'll do a 50% or so water change to lower my accumulated nitrates and then add my cuc
     
    Idoc likes this.
  5. Brew12

    Brew12 Electrical Gru R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor Partner Member 2018

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2016
    Messages:
    7,383
    Likes Received:
    10,145
    Location:
    Decatur, AL
    I'm a big fan of Dr. Tim and have read as much of his research as I have been able to find. I have to admit that I am confused by his recommendation of constant re-dosing. One of his earlier research paper showed that different strains of ammonia processing bacteria work better at 2ppm than at 0.5ppm. Since our goal is to have 0ppm it makes more sense to me to maintain lower levels of ammonia to encourage reproduction of strains more appropriate for our end goals. It isn't that the strains that work best at 2ppm don't work at 0.25ppm, they just aren't the most efficient at it.

    I think you have the right idea with your current plan moving forward. I also appreciate you reminding me why I created this thread in the first place which was to help people new to the hobby, not discussing advanced microbiology.
     
    JakesReef209 likes this.
  6. Xclusive Reef

    Xclusive Reef Well-Known Member R2R Supporter Build Thread Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2017
    Messages:
    461
    Likes Received:
    215
    So I ordered salifert tests and tested nitrites and nitrates. There is a hugh difference between api and salifert!!! On api I had constant reading on 5 ppm or over very dark purple. On salifert it’s between 0-.01 ppm ... how can there be such a big difference. I even had a different api test kit and it reads the same. Do salifert test read incorrect cause at this point don’t know what to trust.
     
  7. Brew12

    Brew12 Electrical Gru R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor Partner Member 2018

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2016
    Messages:
    7,383
    Likes Received:
    10,145
    Location:
    Decatur, AL
    When it comes to nitrite, I wouldn't trust either of them. I'm not going to claim to understand all of the chemistry involved in the tests but amines (ammonia byproducts) and amino acids can impact how these test read. The specific formula each manufacturer uses will be impacted differently causing them to read differently. This is just one reason I feel that nitrites should be tested for entertainment value only. Well.. ok... I like to test them to give me an idea of where my cycle is at too. I just don't worry about the results if they don't make sense.

    On a side note, I believe all nitrate tests work by breaking down the nitrates into nitrites and measuring them. If you are seeing unreasonably high nitrites it is probable that your tested nitrates will indicate higher than they actually are.
     
  8. Xclusive Reef

    Xclusive Reef Well-Known Member R2R Supporter Build Thread Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2017
    Messages:
    461
    Likes Received:
    215
    I was a little skeptical but at this point I do agree with your statement.
     
  9. Arr6

    Arr6 Member

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2017
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    4
    Great detailed post
     
  10. ViciousDlishus

    ViciousDlishus Well-Known Member Build Thread Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2017
    Messages:
    66
    Likes Received:
    6
    I feel like I'm stalled, nitrite hasnt dropped for some time. Should I do a water change?[​IMG][​IMG]
     
  11. Brew12

    Brew12 Electrical Gru R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor Partner Member 2018

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2016
    Messages:
    7,383
    Likes Received:
    10,145
    Location:
    Decatur, AL
    What are your nitrates at?
     
  12. ViciousDlishus

    ViciousDlishus Well-Known Member Build Thread Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2017
    Messages:
    66
    Likes Received:
    6
    Further info all dry rock, used shrimp for two weeks and removed. No further ammonia source used. Just recently started skimming. Used bio s at onset as directed, havent used for 30+ days. [​IMG]
     
  13. Bob The Reefer

    Bob The Reefer New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2017
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0
    Hi ... sorry for the thread hijack .... I have a cycling question

    About a month in to my tank build and have had live rock (wet from LFS) in for 2 weeks

    Have 0 ammonia and 0 nitrite but I do appear to have some beasties .... there is some macroalgae and some little crawley things on the beige rock along with some spots of purple corraline

    The purple rock is more mature and has I think apistasia .... also have some tiny flea like things on the glass.

    I guess that signs of life are good? Should I get rid of the rogue anenome?

    I've read 72 days is needed to fully cycle?

    20171019_181819_1508584677822_resized.jpg

    20171020_192951_1508584679411_resized.jpg
     
  14. Tony Thompson

    Tony Thompson Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2016
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    44
    Location:
    North East England
    Hi Brew12, really refreshing to hear someone in the hobby talk sensibly about cycling an aquarium. Great article. I also agree that we need to keep things as simple as possible if we are to eliminate any confusion.

    IMO using the word `CYCLE` is perfectly suitable for the purpose of this article. Of course we all know that the biological and chemical cycle within our aquarium is in constant motion. That is just the nature of nature and the temptation of the aquarist in making changes. The context I will use the word cycle any further discussion will be based on the completion of creating an environment within your aquarium that is able to sustain the animals you wish to keep without causing them any detrimental effect.

    I have a number of reef tanks, some that I keep as my DTs and some that I use to carry out experimentation. Having so many tanks to cycle I researched a method that would be both simple, relatively quick and most of all successful in creating an environment that would be able to handle my intended bioload.

    As a sustainably minded aquarist my particular method also involves using what I would compare as sustainable. So here is my personal method of `cycling` a salt water aquarium.

    EQUIPMENT USED (besides the obvious of aquarium, saltwater, return pump, water circulation , heater ect.)

    SENEYE MONITOR (buy, beg or borrow), IMO this is the perfect tool to monitor the progress of your cycle. Not only does it graph your Temp,and PH, it will also give you separate readings for NH3 (Toxic, Ammonia) and NH4 (Non Toxic Ammonium) As I understand the relationship between the two, in way of proportionality is relative to the PH of the water. The problem I can see with reagent hobby test kits is they only measure TOC (total ammonia content that why they are generally labeled NH3+NH4. May I at this time point out I am in no way qualified in Chemistry, This is just my personal understanding. If you are unable to obtain a seneye then any one of the hobby test kits will suffice.

    BIO MEDIA. To be placed into my sump, or you could put it into any filter. In my case this is Marine Pure Spheres. This is to provide enough surface area for the bacteria to colonise. Please note I only use rock in my aquarium as a means of aquascaping and providing a structure for my animals to inhabit. My personal choice is the man made rock (Reel Reef Rock, from Real Reef Solutions). For me this keeps things nice and simple and clean. I will be certain I am not introducing any other living or dying organisms into my aquarium that I may later regret.

    BACTERIAL STRAIN. Live strains of Nitrifying Bacteria suitable fr a marine environment. In my case Dr. Tim Havanec`s One and Only Saltwater.

    AMMONIUM CHLORIDE SOLUTION. this is used to kick start the cycle of the bacteria and continue the colonisation of the bio media. If you don`t` want to complicate matters. I can suggest Dr Tims Ammonium solution, again this is the product I use.

    SUBSTRATE. This is a personal choice, I prefer to run bare bottom tanks, but if you prefer the aesthetics of sand then please just use some marine aquarium sand, in this case not live sand as this may complicate matters.

    ROCKWORK . man made rock suitable for a marine aquarium.



    METHOD. This is the method I use , I neither condone or condemn any other method, the choice is yours.

    ARRANGE YOUR ROCKWORK (Man made Rock) If you are adding substrate, then I prefer to add the rock first then the sand to overcome any possibility of borrowing animals de stabilising the rock structure. Make sure there will be good circulation around and through the rockwork.

    FILL THE TANK WITH SALT WATER. Filling your tank with correct salinity of aquarium salt water. This is an ideal time to calculate your actual water volume. Measure the amount as you add it to your aquarium. Once you have acquired the prefered level, this is the actual water volume of your aquarium with displacement of rockwork and equipment. I suggest you write this number down and keep it safe, In the future you can refer directly to that figure for any other dosing calculations. Bringing it up to temp. Switch on all of your equipment. I suggest you leave the tank run overnight just to check everything is working correctly, that the water is up to temp and any gases or interactions of the saltwater mix have calmed down.

    ADD THE BIO MEDIA. This can be added to your filtration device , in my case the sump. Follow the instructions on the packaging to determine the quantity required

    TEST FOR AMMONIA, This is your reference. you should be reading 0.0ppm or on a seneye around 0.001 ppm.

    ADD BACTERIA. IMO You might aswell use the whole bottle, I have no indication of shelf life once opened.

    WAIT OVERNIGHT. Not quite sure if this is necessary, its just a precaution I use. Do not run your skimmer at this point. Your skimmer if you are using one can be turned on after the first 24 hours of cycling.

    ADD ONE DROP of Ammonium Chloride per US gallon of aquarium water. Under no circumstances should you test your water and try and achieve the suggested 1.25ppm - 2ppm. Trying to acheive figures using hobby equipment can be very misleading. For now forget about the figures and just concentrate on the correct dosage.

    EACH DAY . record your Ammonia and Nitrite content and write them down. Then once again add 1 drop of ammonium per US Gal of water. IME after around 6 days the ammonia levels will fail to rise significantly on your seneye. They will drop back to level of 0.001 within 12 hours. The Nitrite and Ammonia levels on your test kit will read 0.0 and if you test for Nitrate you will have noticed a marked increase. Just to be sure dose one more time and check again the following morning.

    SLOWLY ADD LIVESTOCK. If after the next 24 hours your readings are still at 0.0ppm or 0.001ppm seneye. IMO you can now safely start to add the animals to your aquarium, Please take things slowely. IMO add one animal at a time. I suggest you wait between 7 -14 days before each animal is added. Try adding the smaller animals first, just so they can find there security. Never overload your aquarium with animals. Make sure you are sensible about impact that a particular species may have on the Bioload.

    These figures are not set in stone. Your figures may not exactly match those above. Don`t` worry about the numbers and just be patient. You are aiming for an end point where you have 0.0 pppm of both Ammonia and Nitrite in your tank. Keep monitoring these numbers on a daily basis until all your animals are settled in.

    Thats it, I hope I did not fail to mention anything obvious, please feel free to comment if I did. This is just the start of your fantastic hobby. They are many more hurdles to overcome but don`t` forget to enjoy the experience and gain some knowledge along the way.
     
  15. Brew12

    Brew12 Electrical Gru R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor Partner Member 2018

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2016
    Messages:
    7,383
    Likes Received:
    10,145
    Location:
    Decatur, AL
    I think your cycle is going fine. The drop in ammonia and increase in nitrates are the best indication that your cycle is on track. You can pretty much ignore the nitrite readins.
     
  16. Brew12

    Brew12 Electrical Gru R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor Partner Member 2018

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2016
    Messages:
    7,383
    Likes Received:
    10,145
    Location:
    Decatur, AL
    Nope, if you have that much life you are fine to start slowly stocking fish. The live rock you added is doing its job keeping you from a long wait. And there is no hard and fast rule as for time. I wouldn't add anything delicate for 2 or 3 months, but the entire reason people use bottled bacteria or live rock is to reduce the cycle time.

    The anemone is up to you. I would get rid of it, but that can actually be a challenge depending on the type.
     
  17. Brew12

    Brew12 Electrical Gru R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor Partner Member 2018

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2016
    Messages:
    7,383
    Likes Received:
    10,145
    Location:
    Decatur, AL
    This is a fantastic write up. You should really think about adding some pictures and submitting it as an article. I think some beginners would really appreciate the information.

    I did see one issue. Dr Tims ammonia chloride changed their dosing to 4 drops per gallon. Not sure why they changed the formula but it has caused confusion when people don't read the directions on their particular bottle.
     
    Tony Thompson likes this.
  18. Tony Thompson

    Tony Thompson Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2016
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    44
    Location:
    North East England
    Hi, again Brew 12, thanks for the compliment. Unfortunately I wrote the post on the fly. Reading through it I have now noticed some syntax errors. I don`t` seem to be able to edit it. Never mind I think people will still get the jist of things.

    I am not aware of new dosing methods of the Ammonium Chloride, maybe it has been diluted for some reason. In any case I think users should be advised to follow the manufacturer's instructions.

    I attempt to be a sceptical aquarist as well as a sustainable one. I find it quite strange and a little sad, that some people are still using live fish or dead shrimp to start a cycle, stating that bacteria in a bottle is snake oil and waiting months to complete a cycle. I agree that the old methods are still as effective as they where all those years ago. However keeping live animals in an aquarium involves the sciences, Chemistry, Biology and a little Physics.

    Knowledge from qualified people like Tim Hovanec and his published work in marine micro biology. Danna Riddle, Randy Holmes and a host of other experts in their field, help us to explore the science behind the methodology. IMO This should drive us to improve upon old methods and provide new choices, that are more precise, less destructive and more efficient.

    Best wishes from across the pond. Tony Thompson.
     
    Brew12 likes this.
  19. MBX5

    MBX5 Well-Known Member Build Thread Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2016
    Messages:
    98
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Arvada, CO
    6253C03F-4B53-4602-B78A-7CA80E3DA914.jpeg I’ve cycled tanks in the past but this one is puzzling me. Test show Ammonia 0 Nitrate 5 and Nitrite 0. The tank has been up for about a week. New CaribSea live sand and BRS base rock. The rock was sitting in a Brute candy with heater and pumps for about 2.5 years. No algae is showing on the rocks of any kind. Any chance this cycled that quick? Should I wait another week and test more? No rush to get this stocked as I have other tanks going.
     
  20. Brew12

    Brew12 Electrical Gru R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor Partner Member 2018

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2016
    Messages:
    7,383
    Likes Received:
    10,145
    Location:
    Decatur, AL
    It is possible.

    This could be why. If the rock had any ammonia source in the water it could have been loaded with bacteria in a dormant stage. All it took was a little food to get it working again.

    I would want to know more about the ammonia source you used to start your cycle. It looks promising but I wouldn't feel comfortable calling it cycled. If you dosed your tank to 1ppm using pure ammonia and now have those numbers, I would say you are ready. Otherwise, I would want to add another ammonia source or at least wait to watch nitrates rise more. Just my opinion.
     
    MBX5 likes this.
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page

Loading...