The primary purpose of this thread is to demonstrate when to dose ammonia in a cycle and when not to. The secondary purpose is to show how you can cycle any aquarium (that requires cycling) without using test kits...because test kits err, and filtration bacteria mechanics are a science of submersion TIME and test kits merely indicate spikes and troughs in a graph so well known, that all cycling charts on google show pretty much the same time frame or number of days until nitrite always complies with ammonia performance. The reason there aren't a million varying google charts to match a million different reported cycles is because the aquarists have it wrong, not the years of study that produced the charts. Current views circulated around web forums unequivocally list ways an aquarist "stalls" a cycle...meaning to impede bacterial growth on surfaces. Hydrated surfaces...cycles don't stall with any common variance an aquarists imparts during a cycle (i.e. nitrite or ammonia spikes don't stop your cycle, withholding fish feed or raw ammonia never ever ever stops a cycle, it makes the surfaces revert to something called the unassisted time frame covered on subsequent pages) Ammonia vs no ammonia, when should I blast nitrogen (plant food) into my system as a new aquarium? when the rocks you bought were dry, kept on a shelf, with no living animals-we place those in water and add ammonia and bottle bac and wait, for the cycle to complete when you buy live rock that brings in life in any form, especially forms you can already see, we do not add ammonia, as that kills the life you paid $ for and the presence of the animals already means your filtration bacteria is in place this rock wasn't stored dry, it was stored wet in a vat marked "live rock" and there's little animals like starfish and crabs and algae and various corals attached or coralline if lucky, this rock doesn't need ammonia. It needs you to transport it home safely, with water, so that it doesn't start producing ammonia Testing: we don't need to test for nitrite, nitrate and even ammonia here but we talk about ammonia the most for a reason as the thread unfolds. I. you do not have to test for nitrite when cycling a reef tank, or when a reef tank is running and matured. to do so misleads the masses via test misreads, and comprises no less than 50% of stalled cycle threads (cycles never stall, they are predictable for the submersion times and boosts at hand, across tanks, anywhere) anywhere nitrite concerns you, the ammonia should have concerned you first as the nitrite is unimpactful to your tank. nitrite is the most not needed to know test param in all of reefing. For running tanks, nitrite testing isn't required because we ideally keep waste stores exported from the system vs letting them compile. When wastes arent well exported in the example it isn't the nitrite as the concern though some may be present to indicate the leftovers of an ammonia event. we manage ammonia in this thread, its the only param we need to know to cycle a reef tank. we do not need to know about nitrite, or nitrate, we will soon see. reducing test error points is a chief way we streamline cycling for the marine aquarium in our thread. We don't test for nitrite during tank cycles because nitrite complies with ammonia digestion within known timeframes, if you aren't testing imbalanced wastewater-- we can see from any online cycle chart. by managing ammonia directly, you manage nitrite directly even if you don't test for it to confirm. II. don't add ammonia to live rock. If you are dealing with live rock you withhold ammonia, not add some. Adding ammonia is for dry rock cycling. was the rock wet at your pet store, then wet when you brought it home? did it have live copepods on the rock in the morning on your tank walls? what about the tank holding it at the pet store, any pods or worms lying about on the edges? This distinction is critical in setting the boundaries for how you clean an aquarium, how you can respond to emergencies in the tank, and it's all related to how you think bacteria work in an aquarium. we don't add ammonia to live rock in a civilized society of new tank cyclers. Bringing home live rock from a pet store then adding a rotten shrimp to the setup is what this thread is trying to prevent, we want to convey rules of microbiology all tankers can use in setups, moves, deep clean, transfers, upgrades and downgrades and we will show how you can stop your reef from recycling anytime you want to do surgery on it for any reason. III. how you handle cycling impacts how you handle tank invasions and algae problems even though those two seem unconnected currently. they're completely intertwined, and what filtration bacteria will allow sets your action boundaries when responding to tank invasions or algae issues. By knowing what marine filtration bacteria will permit, you can control your tank in amazing ways. Cycling is about bacteria, not plants, so don't permit algae as part of a cycle, keep your new tank hand cleaned until maturation takes over. --If you are cycling a new tank of dry materials, and if you have access to an ammonia source and some bottled bacteria, and if you'll allow 30 days of saltwater submersion, you can forego testing altogether because any time we dose bottle bac and ammonia in a tank of saltwater and wait 30 days, it cycles, as a rule, based on well known depositional microbiology and we don't need testing to confirm it. It will always cycle by day 30 when you add any form of boosting, though various test kits and testers may see something different in the readings, what bacteria do on earth remains unchanged. the tediousness of testing all three params isn't needed in cycling if you aren't in a rush before 30 days, it can cause massive confusion when test kits misread or titrators mistitrate (how you actually run the test kit) *the greatest error in cycling collectively alongside unverified ammonia testing in my opinion is when people make assessments on the very final stage water, weeks after all the ammonia rotting etc, accumulates. no normal month's running would ever present such a stress-so change the water then test the clean condition after a day or two. It will not be stacked with strange nitrite readings though you shouldn't torture yourself by testing for them but will do anyway The only thing needed to begin a cycle is to add water. by preparing in contaminating ways, we complement all the starter cultures and supports required for a slower but still complete full cycle. all it takes is hydration as soon as we add any rotting shrimp, or bottled bacteria etc these boosters move up the cycle to a universally known date, about 3-4 weeks. whatever the rot water shows in 4 weeks doesn't matter, clean out the tank and refill then run a digestion test for ammonia, which indicates solely what surfaces can do now vs the bacteria dosed to the water column. We need duration time to guide a cycle, no need to rush beyond 3 weeks typically. Everybody has a month and half... and in 1.5 mos everybody's tank will cycle given any form of boosting we commonly use. Its nice to know a cycle proceeds when we create things with contaminated water...its not some finicky process that awaits an aquarist action to begin. post #6 below tells you how to cycle group A rock tanks in 30 days using no test kits. for those testing nitrite even after the first paragraph, we often see trace levels leftover after 30 days only because the keeper was ballparking ammonia levels or they spiked to 2 ppm a few times. Followed closely, the cycling in post #6 accounts for endpoint metabolites and that's why we do a nice water change at the end in most systems, to start fresh and save room in the water for the actual bioloading that entertains us. To begin a cycle, you need only add water and wait. that's natures adaptation already in place. to speed up a cycle, add some cheat ammonia and some bac. The reason knowing that is important is because it eliminates the concept of a stalled cycle, aquarists don't cause stalled cycles without adding medication that directly kills bacteria. you are either cycling with boosts, cycling without boosts, or using already cycled materials if you are reading this thread with the intention of cycling a marine aquarium. even unassisted cycles where you just add water and wait will work, that's how we got through the 80's and before in fishkeeping things just took longer. There are four main types of tank cycles, what you are attempting is one of these, and each version does something different with ammonia: 1. fully cured live rocks, transferred live from pet store or seller, to home: gets no ammonia, we don't want to kill small bugs. keep it underwater for the transfer where possible. See this example of live rock skip cycling: https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/do-i-have-ammonia-pic.517195/ 2. all dry materials, this gets the ammonia + bottle bac to cycle ranging between 2 weeks and 30 days, since there are no bugs/pods/worms to kill on dry rock. 3. mixed cycling where both live and dry materials are present at the start. due to rule #1 above, we can add bottle bac harmlessly, and discern the ratios of living material before we boost with ammonia, ammonia kills the small organisms on live rock that make it cost more than dry rock. 4. uncured ocean rock its plant base will be massive on the rock, it will look amazing, and since your whole tank doesn't look that way now we can only expect uncured rock to dieback and match what you can currently sustain. some even pre-remove these growths via reef surgery before adding to the tank. expect this rock to produce ammonia, we sure don't want to give it any. try and suppress ammonia production from this kind of live rock as it cures our systems are tough enough to handle all kinds of customization from cycling approaches, what we're reviewing here is accuracy in ammonia provisions for the sake of applying real world microbiology to your tank... so that you are free to keep it cleaner than you normally would, and freer to act upon tank invasions knowing your bacteria can handle the approach. we use known submersion times to predict when a cycle is ready, we are unreliant on test kits to cycle reef tanks in this thread. They merely confirm what our timelines w already show Cycling has nothing to do with letting green hair algae show up and you hope it goes away Cycling has nothing to do with letting cyanobacteria overtake your tank for any period of time, cycling has no ugly phase, because you can't see the bacteria that cycling hopes to implant on your rocks and sand. do not start out your tank with unrinsed sand (cloudy). its not that its harmful, its that sand (including live sand) is ideally pre-rinsed before use, so that it cannot cloud, and you are freer to clean your tank better than normal. clouding sand makes people hesitant to act. this is a six page thread on sand rinsing, tank transfers, tank cleaning and restorations for proof: https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/t...ead-aka-one-against-many.230281/#post-2681445 Algae and cyano can come on strong anytime, unrelated to cycling we can see in problem algae threads, so don't begin your new tank down an invasion path. keep it cleaned, manually, and as it matures your work will lessen. Cycling is for nitrifying bacteria and its completion measure is the ability to digest 1 or 2 ppm ammonia in a given system within 24 hours. maturation is the process by which we incorporate or not incorporate various organisms we can actually see in our tanks. we term a tank 'cycled' when it is able to sustain the target bioload for the tank without registering free ammonia. Google searches reveal little consistency among cycling threads and articles including when to use ammonia to cycle and when not to, how to know when a cycle is done for each kind of rock we use to start tanks, what to do when early algae arises, and which parameters are important to know when cycling a marine aquarium. **do a google search on the kind of ammonia test kit you plan on using. if it comes back as constantly misreading, consider that in your cycle, prepare to assess ammonia another way. THIS IS THE False AMMONIA test kit section, read these before your first ammonia test https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/1-month-of-cycling-high-ammonia.299601/#post-3666878 API ammonia was totally unuseful in this cycling question example. reading was all over the place, his fill levels are well above the marked line/all that matters in titration chemistry. False API#6027 https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/ahhh-ammonia-spike.328633/page-3 and https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/0-5-ppm-ammonia-bad.464063/ and https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/ammonia-present.330174/ When testing is required, use salifert brand ammonia testing to reinforce your API readings...provide two numbers for the params so we can see the spread between kits if any. https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/still-having-ammonia-issues.330213/#post-4103674 hobby grade ammonia test kits can have errors due to prep or the actual kit that cause false positives...false levels reported/ learn to consider that early on in tank cycling. some kits will not show you when ammonia is zero, relying on testing for cycling isn't as good as relying on biology/fact we shall test here. 8/21/17 https://www.nano-reef.com/forums/to...quaforest-bio-s/?tab=comments#comment-5555617 how were .25 readings affecting that cycle progression? Ideally we are about to use biology and not API testing to deem that tank a skip cycle tank....all group B rock to its finest. API false positives are well known, we want to reduce API ammonia testing where possible in this thread, and use alternatives http://reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?p=25124555#post25124555 http://reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2645161 8/11/18 https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/ammonia-problem-need-some-help.437767/#post-5013599 The point of this thread is using life forms you can see in the aquarium to guide cycling if you bought live rocks and replace test kits where possible. True live rock has growths, pigments, reds and greens and purple and white areas...maybe even live hangers-on. the tank the live rock came from will have pods, rocks with other verifiable life forms, these all indicate the presence of filtration bacteria because these animals take much longer than bacteria do to adhere to the surfaces of the rock verifying test kit accuracy at reef2reef: https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/h...e-of-ammonia-spike.454807/page-2#post-5123217 Choosing when to start a tank based on biological allowance has nothing to do with how long you should take before starting to identify leaks, get electrical components installed and verified and quarantine fish This thread is about the microbiology of the cycling aquarium, how bioindicators tell us what kind of cycling to employ, and when vs when not to use raw ammonia in a system. The benefit of that knowledge is pure tank control: move one, clean one, mix one, rescape, rescue a tank and prevent a cycle if possible in each case by linking examples of each event ideally. After reading you will always know when your cycle is done, with finality, and you will know when to use ammonia and when not to, this is the full intention of the thread. Top pics are group A, the unverified gray no visual life barren rocks. This is where dr Tims and other bottle bacs come into use, and rotting shrimp or (much cleaner and workable) raw ammonium chloride dosing. Your end goal for these rocks is to make your system be able to digest ~ 1 ppm ammonia within a 24 hour period, 30-40 days after starting the fishless cycle method you can search out very easily at maximum. It's quite easy to speed cycle in two weeks, the 30-40 day time frame we use here is for extra measure and that's always enough time to pass an easy digestion test. results can be earned within two weeks of a fast-paced fishless cycle using accurate ammonia testing and multiple bottle bac additions...but typical time is a month for group A rocks We don't spike ammonia in tanks that have life you can see stuck to the rocks and moving around--group A rocks don't have this life. pods, worms, snails crabs come with group B rock below. Group A rock tanks have water and a bunch of wet gray or white rocks, no pods worms or snails, they lack the obvious visual life of purple/aged rock. There's no pods and mini stars crawling around the vat of group A rocks at the pet store Pick up a group A rock from your pet store and look how barren it is at this current stage. If they sell that to you as live rock then it needs to have been submerged a minimum of 45 days before I'd trust it untested to provide aerobic filtration. The live rock that shows up ready to go, with living inclusions/growths and we treat it like a living organism, is group B rock. Group B rocks Bottom pics are cured live rock with months/years of coralline and fanworms and calcifications, colors, growths, pigments, textures, smells nicely...the nitrifier-verified, group B rocks. Group B rock has attributes you can spot from across the room, those details mean it has a full complement of filtration bacteria. you do not need to cycle it by adding ammonia. https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/tampa-bay-saltwater-live-rock.245819/ group B skip cycle rock macro shots, hitchhikers in tow: https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/what-is-this-thing-crawling-all-over-my-live-rock.309762/ that is a thread from a business that makes its money shipping group B skip cycle rocks across the country. when you get these, you do not add ammonia ever, you try and prevent them from producing their own ammonia from shipping stress. *the hallmark of group B rocks is that the living growths and pigments take longer than bacteria do to adhere as colonies on the rock surface exposed to the currents. Any rock that has accreted organisms is full up completely on filtration bacteria... these communities deposit on marine substrates in a sequential order always. Bacteria first, and last, given no meds dosed. Applying raw ammonia to group B rock is counterproductive, it's stressing animals we were charged top dollar for, to verify a group of organisms we can already see are there plain as day. we keep ammonia away from group B rock because we don't want to cause a loss cascade. Group A rock got dosed to 1 ppm, nothing delicate to kill on that kind of rock Group B rock we handle like a living organism, it's a collection of them indeed. Do we add raw ammonia to a bag of fish while we float them in the tank to equalize temperature? One can forego the entire wait time of biological cycling by using coralline covered rock or coralline spotted rock and caribsea wet pack sand and transporting it home in a reasonable way Do people who set up aquariums at massive aquarium conventions show up three weeks before the event to cycle? No, they skip the cycle and house twenty thousand dollars of bounce mushrooms just fine. We aren't advocating rushing, we advocate being exact in your cycle based on the substrate you paid for, the microbiology at hand, and not adding ammonia to living organisms when ammonia articles say it stresses them. **group b rocks smell like the ocean out of water... .25 leaking rocks smell bad just a little and .5 sustained free ammonia from the source is obvious. ***if you are reading here due to possible out of control sustained ammonia in a tank of live rocks, your house smell should be the number one motivator** if you have claimed 1-4 ppm free ammonia for days on end, and your house doesn't smell so bad you can't sleep, and the tank isn't cloudy water, doubt the test. accurate testing will reflect in ways we can see or smell regarding ammonia in the cycling reef tank. The actions the reefer takes when dealing with type A or B rocks are polar opposite, what we do to cycle live rock is opposite of what we do to cycle dry rock. Once the bacteria are established on rocks, only meds or extremes will kill them * not ever moving between aquariums* and this sets the stage for our unique cycling thread here and why starting a tank with live rock and sand is very different than starting with dry substrates. Keep in mind that when you move live rocks between tanks using any reasonable preservation method, say an old tank vs a new one, or your pet store back home to you, your bacteria doesn't die, it actually stands to get a boost (if dieoff occurs this is feed) You can kill the live rock bacteria by introducing it to any extreme such as temp, desiccation or true drying, and meds, and it takes something that pronounced to kill them. *of any life form in your tank at any time, bacteria as a community are the toughest and most resilient and adaptive to any change, any cycling thread needs this opening frame of reference. How Many Parameters must we know to Cycle a marine aquarium: We don't need to know about nitrite and nitrate given ammonia behavior and known submerged time. One parameter cycling is much easier... nitrite is dealt with above and below, and nitrate is important for algae management. when you have ammonia reduction via living biosystems, nitrate is always made though your tests may or may not show it. sometimes its uptaken or gassed out before you measure it anway, don't concern with nitrite or nitrate testing in the reef aquarium if you want the most reliable method to close out a cycle. Someone I respect greatly remarks on single point testing (not needing nitrate or nitrite testing in cycling) here: http://reef2reef.com/threads/nitrates-disappeared-mid-cycle.251059/ This link literally says quit testing for nitrite, the great time waster http://reef2reef.com/threads/nitrite-spike-in-qt.252455/ Post#8, persistent false nitrite reading from a non-api kit, a high quality kit: http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2604106 any of the tanks from above would have been an "extended cycle" thread if we based the cycle completion upon debatable low level sustained nitrite readings. In this thread, we'll ignore nitrite readings, since nitrite follows ammonia digestion per all online cycling charts. Changing the way you see cycle testing is the first step in becoming an efficient tank cycler.