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Coral Vue Hydros

Shrimp Cycling


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I've read a decent amount of information related to cycling a new reef tank using a raw shrimp to jump start the ammonia, but I have a question:


At the moment, my tank is only water and LS, though my LR should be arriving any day now. My ammonia levels (just checked yesterday morning) are 2.0ppm, and I have yet to see any Nitrites or Nitrates. It has been cycling for about a week and a half, and I dropped the shrimp in there a day and a half ago. Should I continue letting the shrimp do it's thing until the LR arrives, then remove the shrimp? Or should I just pull it out now? Or leave it in once the LR arrives? Or have I made some terrible mistake?


Thank you all for your kind advice in advance :D

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Once the ammonia spikes, the shrimp has done its job and can be removed. You get the ammonia from the bacteria beginning to break down the shrimp (organic material). It'll probably be mushy and gross now, so get it with a fine net rather than your hands. Plus, it probably reeks. Haha


The LR will probably have some die off that will aid in your cycling and maybe even spike the ammonia again. You can take the shrimp out now.

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Ammonia -> Nitrite -> Nitrate.


The bacteria that converts one to the next lives in live rock and live sand. Ammonia is the most toxic and is consumed by the bacteria to form Nitrite. Then the same happens to convert Nitrite to Nitrate. Nitrate is the least toxic is is removed via water changes. The bacteria needs to grow and populate the sand and rock. Leave the shrimp in there or take it out, get your live rock, and keep testing. Once you have 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and an amount of nitrate you do water changes. The idea of cycling is to get enough bacteria that ammonia and nitrite are converted to nitrates as soon as possible.

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Haha yeah I had to get some scented candles going in the room, it's pretty unpleasant. Awesome though, I wish I'd planned ahead a bit better with the LR situation so my tank would be farther along to allow some stuff to survive, but I'll know better next time.


Admittedly, I jumped the gun with buying the tank and LS so I've had to play catch up with my research and forum browsing.



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Keep the shrimp in there until the live rock arrives. You need something in there to feed the bacteria. The live rock will have enough die off from shipping to provide an ammonia source until the tank is cycled.

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I had almost no ammonia going with just the LS after almost 2 weeks, so I figured dropping that raw cocktail shrimp in would get it going while I waited for the LR to arrive. I suppose it was a bit pointless, but I'll be pulling it out tonight, as the LR should be arriving tomorrow or the day after.


I read somewhere that the LR should be added, ideally, about halfway through the cycling process, so my original thinking was to at least jumpstart the cycle a bit before adding it.

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First off, the cycle should be always focused on your rock. The nitrogen cycle always is occurring, even in tanks with "0 ppm" ammonia. The only difference is that the ammonia being produced is being converted faster than it can be detected.


As tasha said, there is no real point to have any ammonia source right now, so take it out. Next, you should really consider using pure ammonia (or ammonium chloride) rather than the shrimp because decaying flesh can favor disease-causing bacteria.


Why do you need an ammonia spike in the first place? Remember, there are no significant ammonia spikes in [healthy] natural reefs. These spikes occur in captive tanks because die-off/waste from the live rock (due to transportation stress) overpowers the filtration capacity. Thus, many stores will "precycle" (i.e. "cure") the rock before selling it to customers. If you then try to force another ammonia spike while using cured rock, you're both defeating this precycling process and wasting money since cured rock is more expensive than uncured.


If the die-off/waste is below capacity, then there is no big worry. The thing is that you don't know how much ammonia you need to add because that depends on your final stocking levels. What I mean is that if you add too much, then the filtering bacteria populations have an artificial boom that can't sustain itself once the ammonia additions stop, leaving you back at square one.

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  • 1 year later...

lakshwadeep, hello!

I am starting my first nano reef. I am planning for a long cycle as I went the dry rock route.

I have an aqua medic blenny 21 gallon/80 liters all-in-one tank (with skimmer; powerhead; lights and filter basket).

Currently I am soaking my dry rock in the tap water (my RODI unit has not arrived yet) after 12 hour vinegar bath. I had planned to soak it few days more in RODI water and put in the tank.

From there I was thinking I could start my cycle: add seachem seagel+phosguard to fight phosphates coming from the rock (if any) and add a shrimp to help ammonia to build up. I am ok with waiting for several weeks until my dry rock will start to become live and good bacteria develops.

Would you think this route will work or you would still suggest to get pure ammonia and do something else different (I am not in a rush; i already have dry rock and i don't want to get live rock for sure)?


thanks in advance,


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