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Part 2: Water Changes During the Cycle


seabass

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The following is continuation of a previous experiment, Part 1: Water Changes During the Cycle, that I performed. The data indicated that water changes prolonged the time it took before the ammonia level started to drop; however, once it started dropping, water changes seemed to accelerate the process. Based on the data, I will be testing a new dual staged approach to cycle a new tank.

 

This experiment will test the soft cycle, classic cycle, and a new staged cycle method. The original experiment will be followed to help validate the first experiment's data (one container will receive water changes every other day, while another will not receive any water changes). In addition, after the ammonia level starts to drop on its own, a third container will also start receiving water changes every other day.

 

 

Objective:

Determine how partial water changes affect the time that it takes to establish the nitrogen cycle.

 

Design Variables:

• Distilled water

• Synthetic saltwater, mixed to 1.024 specific gravity

• Evaporated water from the containers will be replaced daily with distilled water

• 60lbs of live sand

• Container A will receive one gallon water changes every other day for the duration of the experiment

• Container B will get one gallon water changes every other day after the ammonia level starts to drop

• Container C will not be given any water changes for the duration of the experiment

• 60 Ocean Nutrition Formula One food pellets (initial ammonia source)

• 15 Ocean Nutrition Formula One food pellets added daily (ongoing ammonia source)

 

Outcome Variables:

The rise and fall in levels of the listed contaminants:

• Total ammonia (NH3/NH4+)

• Nitrite (NO2-)

• Nitrate (NO3-)

 

Measurement method:

For the duration of the experiment, daily tests will be performed on water from each container using API Ammonia and Seachem MultiTest: Marine Basic (ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate) test kits. Ammonia levels will be recorded from the API Ammonia test kit unless they read below 0.25 mg/L. The Seachem MultiTest: Marine Basic test kit will be used to measure ammonia levels that the API test kit indicates are less than 0.25 mg/L.

 

Test duration:

Thirty (30) days

 

Equipment:

• 3 five gallon buckets for distilled water/saltwater

• 3 Maxi-Jet 400 powerheads

• Container to mix saltwater

• Powerhead to mix saltwater

• ½" ID flexible tubing

• Distilled water from Walmart

• Instant Ocean synthetic salt mix

• 60lbs of CaribSea Ocean Direct live sand

• API Ammonia test kits

• Seachem MultiTest: Marine Basic test kits

• Refractometer/hydrometer

• Log book

 

Procedure:

• Throughally mix the 60lbs of live sand together

• Add 20lbs of the sand to each container

• Fill each container with 4 gallons of synthetic saltwater mixed to a specific gravity of 1.024

• Add a Maxi-Jet 400 powerhead to each container (operating for the duration of the test)

• Add 20 Formula One food pellets to each container (to support initial ammonification)

• Test and chart ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels in the water of each container daily

• Top off each container with distilled water everyday

• Add 5 Formula One pellets to each container daily (for ongoing ammonification)

• Perform 1 gallon (25%) water changes on container A every other day

• After the ammonia level starts to drop, change 1 gallon of container B's water every other day

 

 

Results:

newammonia.jpg

newnitrite.jpg

newnitrate.jpg

© TheReefFarm.com 2009. All rights reserved.

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Instant Ocean (IO) is not known for high ammonia levels, so the presence of ammonia in the newly mixed saltwater is a concern. If water changes add a fairly large amount of ammonia, it will likely affect the test.

 

I believe that all salt mixes contain at least some ammonia (although levels are typically less than 0.25mg/L). Today I will break open a new bucket of IO, and mix up another batch. Hopefully it will contain less ammonia.

 

At this point all containers are equal as the water came from a shared Rubbermaid Brute container.

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Day 1:

 

Still a little cloudy:

082009a.jpg

 

API ammonia tests:

082009b.jpg

 

Nitrite:

082009c.jpg

 

Nitrate:

082009d.jpg

 

Seachem ammonia sensors:

082009e.jpg

 

API ammonia test on a new batch of IO salt:

082009f.jpg

It looks like the new batch of Instant Ocean still has a measurable amount of ammonia. I'll test it again tomorrow before I do a water change. However, what do you guys think about continuing the experiment with IO, or should I switch to Petco's NSW (which shouldn't contain any ammonia)? I also have Reef Crystals salt mix that I could try. However, I suppose that most people will do water changes with mixes that contain some ammonia; so my thought is to continue with IO, just like the previous experiment.

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While I don't really like the ammonia in the water it will help as far as making comparisons to your last run if you stick with the same salt mix. One thing you could do would be to add small amounts of an ammonia solution to the containers that do not get water changes on the water change days so that it is a controlled variable.

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Are you heating the water? Cold temperatures will slow down cycling.. It's summer over there though I suppose, might not be too problematic.

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Thanks, I will continue to use IO (like in the previous experiment). I feel that this will support the original experiment the best. Plus, water changes with synthetic salt mixes will normally introduce ammonia. Using ammonia free saltwater would be a good variation that somebody else might wish to run.

 

Azzah, I'm not using a heater, but found (in the original experiment) that the containers should establish their cycles within the allotted time period. However, the temperatures will likely vary slightly from the first run.

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Day 2:

 

The containers are becoming less cloudy:

082109a.jpg

 

Seachem nitrite and nitrate tests:

082109d.jpg

 

API ammonia tests:

082109c.jpg

 

Seachem sensors:

082109b.jpg

It turns out that the new batch of Instant Ocean has a lower level of ammonia than the first batch. I feel that this will be good for the experiment.

 

Day 3:

 

API ammonia tests:

082209a.jpg

 

Seachem ammonia tests:

082209b.jpg

I can see the bottom of the test containers today. Also, the ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels appear to be rising a bit.

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Day 4:

 

Containers:

082309a.jpg

 

API ammonia tests:

082309b.jpg

 

Seachem tests:

082309c.jpg

The ammonia spike has begun. Also, today was the second water change for the soft cycle container.

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Day 5:

 

API ammonia tests:

082409a.jpg

 

Seachem nitrite tests:

082409b.jpg

 

Seachem nitrate tests:

082409c.jpg

Although ammonia appears to be higher than 1.0 mg/L, it appears to me that 1.0 mg/L is the closest match. At this point, the water changes appear to have the biggest effect on nitrate.

 

Results:

newammonia.jpg

newnitrite.jpg

newnitrate.jpg

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Day 6:

 

Containers:

082509a.jpg

 

API ammonia tests:

082509b.jpg

 

Seachem nitrite tests:

082509c.jpg

 

Seachem nitrate tests:

082509d.jpg

Today was the 3rd water change for the soft cycle container.

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Day 7:

 

Ammonia test for the soft cycle container:

082609a.jpg

 

Ammonia tests for the staged and classic cycle containers:

082609b.jpg

 

Nitrite and nitrate tests:

082609c.jpg

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Excellent idea for a follow up experiment. I'll be following along!

 

Those powerheads should add a little bit of heat. It's better than nothing.

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Thanks fewskillz! I feel that it is more important that the temperature of the containers be as close to each other as possible than to maintain a more constant temperature in each (that may vary slightly from bucket to bucket) with a heater. Plus, these trials cost enough without the additional expense of heaters. ;)

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Thanks Bamato, I'm glad that you are following along!

 

 

Day 9:

 

Ammonia tests:

082809a.jpg

 

Nitrite/nitrate tests:

082809b.jpg

 

Test results:

Ammonia (NH4+), soft cycle container: 1 mg/L

Ammonia (NH4+), staged cycle container: 2 mg/L

Ammonia (NH4+), classic cycle container: 2 mg/L

 

Nitrite (NO2-), soft cycle container: 0.5 mg/L

Nitrite (NO2-), staged cycle container: 2.5 mg/L

Nitrite (NO2-), classic cycle container: 2.5 mg/L

 

Nitrate (NO3-), soft cycle container: 1 mg/L

Nitrate (NO3-), staged cycle container: 2 mg/L

Nitrate (NO3-), classic cycle container: 2 mg/L

 

Clarification:

This experiment is about the effects of water changes on the nitrogen cycle and not about cycling new reef tanks with food pellets. The food pellets are simply a source of ammonia for the experiment.

 

Live rock would normally provide the ammonia required to cycle a new reef tank (which is what I recommend using). The initial 20 food pellets simulate dead organic mater on the newly introduced live rock; while the 5 food pellets added daily simulate the rock's bio-load.

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Day 10:

 

API ammonia tests:

082909a.jpg

 

Test results:

Ammonia (NH4+), soft cycle container: 2 mg/L

Ammonia (NH4+), staged cycle container: 2 mg/L

Ammonia (NH4+), classic cycle container: 2 mg/L

 

Nitrite (NO2-), soft cycle container: 0.5 mg/L

Nitrite (NO2-), staged cycle container: 2.5 mg/L

Nitrite (NO2-), classic cycle container: 2.5 mg/L

 

Nitrate (NO3-), soft cycle container: 2 mg/L

Nitrate (NO3-), staged cycle container: 5 mg/L

Nitrate (NO3-), classic cycle container: 5 mg/L

 

Although ammonia in the soft cycle container looks to be slightly less than 2 mg/L, it appears to be closer to 2 mg/L than to 1 mg/L.

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Day 11:

 

083009a.jpg

 

083009b.jpg

 

083009c.jpg

 

Test results:

Ammonia (NH4+), soft cycle container: 1 mg/L

Ammonia (NH4+), staged cycle container: 2 mg/L

Ammonia (NH4+), classic cycle container: 2 mg/L

 

Nitrite (NO2-), soft cycle container: 1 mg/L

Nitrite (NO2-), staged cycle container: 2.5 mg/L

Nitrite (NO2-), classic cycle container: 2.5 mg/L

 

Nitrate (NO3-), soft cycle container: 1 mg/L

Nitrate (NO3-), staged cycle container: 5 mg/L

Nitrate (NO3-), classic cycle container: 5 mg/L

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Day 12:

 

API ammonia tests:

083109.jpg

 

Test results:

Ammonia (NH4+), soft cycle container: 1 mg/L

Ammonia (NH4+), staged cycle container: 2 mg/L

Ammonia (NH4+), classic cycle container: 2 mg/L

 

Nitrite (NO2-), soft cycle container: 2.5 mg/L

Nitrite (NO2-), staged cycle container: 5 mg/L

Nitrite (NO2-), classic cycle container: 5 mg/L

 

Nitrate (NO3-), soft cycle container: 5 mg/L

Nitrate (NO3-), staged cycle container: 10 mg/L

Nitrate (NO3-), classic cycle container: 10 mg/L

 

Results to date:

newammonia.jpg

newnitrite.jpg

newnitrate.jpg

 

This was the 6th water change for the soft cycle container. The ammonia level on the staged and classic cycle containers now appears to be closest to, but less than 2 mg/L.

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Footnotes for people who are at work and can't read all this?

Summary:

The first post describes how the experiment will be performed. Subsequent posts are mostly test results up to this point. I've included a lot of pictures to give everyone a feel for how the trial is progressing.

 

The goal of this experiment is to determine the effects that water changes have on the cycle. This is a followup to a previous trial which indicated that water changes delayed the decline of the ammonia spike. However, once the ammonia level started to go down, water changes seemed to speed up the decline.

ammonia.jpg

The data from the first trial suggested that a hybrid method might result in shorter cycles than either a classic cycle (no water changes) or a soft cycle (water changes throughout). This staged cycle allows the ammonia to spike and start its decline before any water changes are performed. However, once ammonia starts to decline on its own, water changes are performed to improve water quality (by speeding up ammonia reduction, plus diluting nitrite and nitrate).

 

This experiment repeats the original trial to help support its results. It also tests a staged cycle, along with the soft cycle and classic cycle methods. My hope is that this trial will show that a staged cycle method will shorten the cycle process, especially when cycling with uncured rock (which typically takes more time).

 

As you can see below, I am reading slightly higher ammonia levels during this 2
nd
trial. Also, it appears that water changes are keeping the ammonia level lower than the other two containers (which wasn't the case during the experiment's first run).

newammonia.jpg

 

This trial is almost to its halfway point. If it follows the first experiment, then ammonia levels will start to fall this week. This is the point where we get to see the effects on the staged cycle container. Stay tuned, it's just getting interesting.
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Day 13:

 

API ammonia tests:

090109a.jpg

 

Seachem nitrite and nitrate tests:

090109b.jpg

The ammonia level in the classic cycle container appears just slightly higher than the level in the staged cycle container (and a just a bit higher than 1 mg/L). Note that neither has received any water changes up to this point.

 

Also, the ammonia level in the staged cycle container appears to be just starting to drop. Tomorrow, I'll determine if I will start water changes on this container.

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Day 14:

 

API ammonia tests:

090209a.jpg

 

Seachem nitrite tests:

090209b.jpg

 

Seachem nitrate tests:

090209c.jpg

 

Water changes:

090209d.jpg

 

Test results:

Ammonia (NH4+), soft cycle container: 1 mg/L

Ammonia (NH4+), staged cycle container: 1 mg/L

Ammonia (NH4+), classic cycle container: 1 mg/L

 

Nitrite (NO2-), soft cycle container: 2.5 mg/L

Nitrite (NO2-), staged cycle container: 10 mg/L

Nitrite (NO2-), classic cycle container: 10 mg/L

 

Nitrate (NO3-), soft cycle container: 5 mg/L

Nitrate (NO3-), staged cycle container: 20 mg/L

Nitrate (NO3-), classic cycle container: 20 mg/L

 

The ammonia levels of all 3 containers were basically identical and matched 1 mg/L very closely. In addition, I performed the 7th water change on the soft cycle container and the 1st water change on the staged cycle container. Note: I have been shutting off the pumps during water changes to minimize the disturbance of the sand bed and food particles.

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