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Coral Vue Hydros

Medium Nitrates level before anything else in cycle


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I have setup my Nuvo 16 2 days ago, got SW from my LFS, 16lbs of LR (which some pieces may be only half-cured according to the LFS guy), coral sand, with filter floss in 2 compartments of the media basket on 1 side, and the default media basket from IM (filter sponge, activated carbon, phosphate sponge) on the other side, with the powerheads on.


I did my first readings today: salinity 1.024, pH 8.1, ammonia and nitrites 0, but nitrates between 10 and 20 ppm. I rerun the nitrates a second time, still read higher than 10. I am waiting on the ammonia to kick in, but what could explain that the nitrates are running at these levels (although they are not alarming as yet)? Can it be from left over on the LR? Thanks

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Ok, first off I am only suggesting here, and trying to help, there are varied views on this but I do it and have no problems as you suggest, I have 9 fish, and crumbs ... 20-25 snails, 3 algae hermits, a green crab, a brittle star as well as corals in my 120ltr sumped.


Ok, my view, get rid of anything "sponge or floss" based, it creates nitrate, best rid of full stop, leave it to the live rock / sand ect to deal with, my nitrates are 1-2 now, be aware its near impossible to get a zero and a few even towards 10 plus isnt a problem really.


Keep in there carbon and a phosphate media, again though, no sponge types.


I know a lot of people with perfect massive as well as small reefs with nitrates that would make any mans eyes water :)


Give the tank a good 2 weeks at least, test throughout, your nitrates dont warrant a water change at all yet until you add live stuffs at least, let it all settle in.


You could get nitrates from die off off of the rock yes, anywhere in fact, just let nature run :)


Just a note, I dont know if you are, but API and the cheaper test kits can only be used as a rough guide literally, salifert or D+D deltec ones are far superior.


Cheers, Lee

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I think the question is; what was the nitrate level when you started? If they rose from 0 to 10, then the nitrogen cycle is working (ammonia is being converted to nitrite and nitrite is being converted into nitrate). The quantity of nitrate would suggest that dead organics on the rock are being broken down.


However, if you are not using RO/DI or distilled water, it's possible that the nitrate level started off high. You can test some newly mixed saltwater to determine if it is indeed nitrate free.


You are only two days into it; I'd wait a week without having detectable ammonia before I considered the tank cycled. If ammonia is still undetectable after a week, I'd do a large water change to improve the water quality before adding any livestock. Then, add livestock slowly (like a small cleanup crew, wait a week, a fish, wait another week). If you can detect any ammonia during this process, you need to slow down and let the nitrifying bacteria catch up.

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Thanks guys.


Thanks for your input Lee. I can understand why you say some people may disagree. I see your point with the filter floss giving up some nitrates. However, there were still some debris etc on the LR, so I put the filter floss in there in an attempt to get rid of the organic compounds that came with the LR. I changed it yesterday after only 2 days and it had a dark colour, seemed pretty used already.


When you mean no sponge type, is that just thinking about the filter floss? I also have kept the activated carbon sponge type (the one that come with the tank from IM) and the phosphate sponge (same, came with the tank). Are those what you would refer as sponges? Maybe I can try removing them and see what happens. I also have purigen and chemipure elite ready, but I was only planning to put those in once I get the CUC, once the cycle is done.


I didn't test the water at the start, so I am not sure if it has increased or is the same as the original water. I will keep checking and look if there is any evolution. I was still planning to do small (10-15%) weekly water changes. I know people argue about water change or not during the cycle; I figured that's what I am planning to do later on, so the system can get used to it right from the start. Worst case scenario water change just seems to slow down the cycle; and I'm not in a hurry.


I do use the API kit. That's the only one I could find in LFS here, we may have less choice in Australia than in US, but I will still check online for those superior kits you mentioned.


This was SW from my LFS. I have access to MilliQ water (equivalent to RO DI) to do the water changes, so hopefully the water should stabilize as I go with water changes.


Yes, I would not assume that the cycle is complete within 2 days, I will let it go a few more weeks and keep tracking the evolution.

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I see your point with the filter floss giving up some nitrates.

Floss (or any mechanical filter) isn't a problem unless you let it become a biological filter. Clean or replace it frequently and you won't have a problem.


When you mean no sponge type, is that just thinking about the filter floss? I also have kept the activated carbon sponge type (the one that come with the tank from IM) and the phosphate sponge (same, came with the tank). Are those what you would refer as sponges?

Sponges are also mechanical filters. Although some people let them become biological filters. Like Lee stated, your live rock is the biological filter and you're better off not introducing additional bio-filters. These other filters you mention are mechanical, but are intended to be chemical filters. Keep them clean and you shouldn't have a problem.


I was still planning to do small (10-15%) weekly water changes. I know people argue about water change or not during the cycle;

It's possible that the cycle is already established. If that's true, water changes aren't a problem.

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I have suggested all sorts to my local fish centre, He is a marine only specialist, and maintains outside of the shop, and has done it for over 20 years very successfully, including filter flosses and pads and the like.


Now I'd trust him with my tank only being 120 ltrs, as do all his clients with absolute monsters, he cringes literally when you suggest any pads and the like, and has strongly suggested to me to use only a powerfull skimmer (I have the Skimz SM163 LOL), carbon only to the recommended dose and definitely no more even slightly under, and Rowaphos, thats it, which I do.


I clean my substrate where I can get to every / other day and my rock work, I use a little section of silicone airline, with a section of rigid on the end, blowing down the silicone end and moving the rigid end in the tank to blow all the crap off / out of the rocks and sand, yes it takes time, but I dont mind that.


If you have any pads / floss ect with life in them, of course use them for value purposes, but me, Id run them out and get rid of them total.


Personally to me, i'd rather keep as much crud out of the tank than harbour it in floss ect, even for tiny amounts of time between changes.


Thanks for the agreement there sea, but as long as your quota of live rock / sand is in the tank and you dont overstock with an insufficient skimmer, nature will see you right :)


Cheers, Lee

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So it has been a week now, and still no ammonia. There has been a small increase in nitrates, 10ppm 2 days after setup, 20ppm 4 days after setup, and this remained stable with 20ppm again today, 6 days after setup. But no ammonia.


I have done a first water change, about 15-20%, just to keep the nitrates in check.


How long should it takes for ammonia to pick when you have LR in there? I have seen people pushing the cycle with shrimp tail or others. Is that needed sometimes? The tank does look stable, a bit of coralline seems to be starting to cover the 2 large LR (I have 2 other LR which came covered with it already).


I also have a critter in there, hiding in some holes of the rock, it looks like tiny octopus tentacles from the outside, white/beige with horizontal black stripes, only a few cm long and very fine tentacles

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I doubt you'll see an ammonia spike. However, it's not required to have an established biofilter. The presence of nitrate indicates the nitrifying bacteria are doing their job. I'd do a 50% water change to get the nitrate down to 10 ppm before adding a small cleanup crew. Definitely don't add a dead shrimp to try and get an unnecessary ammonia spike.


The critter is a micro brittle starfish (a welcome hitchhiker).

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Me personally, I bought extra cured live rock and bagged with water live sand, I never saw an ammonia spike at all, the chap at the centre said I wouldn't as its top grade.


I cant answer for yours, but to be honest, i'd leave it a week, then introduce your clean up crew, leave a couple of days, then add 1 or maybe 2 tiny fish, again though, keep in check of the main ammonia, nitrite and 'ate, i'll stick my neck out and say you'll be fine :)


But as with any cycled tank to start, go very careful on any additions of fish to start off, my tank was setup late December, over this time literally to a week ago I built my fish stock ( I have a massive CUC for the size of mine too aswell as corals), I now have 2 clowns, cleaner / flasher / banana wrasses, 2 gobies, and 2 wreckfish (anthias) in a roughly 120 litre sumped tank, the tank itself is 24" long x 18 wide and 12 deep, made to measure.


I would be leaning towards now, your water source to start "could" be suspect, or indeed again your test kit reading.


Me ? my nitrates are between 1 and 2 fluctuating, but then I far overskim with a Skimz SM163 to beat it before it gets to nitrate, I clean the rocks and sand daily / or every other.


Cheers, Lee

If your at all worried, nip a bit of water to your local store for testing, at least to reassure yourself :)

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Ok, 2 weeks in, I have been testing the water (API kit) about every other day, with weekly water changes. Ammonia and nitrites have always been 0, and nitrates are stable at 20ppm. I have got few HH, 2-3 micro brittle stars in the LR, and a spionid worm.

I have kept filter floss in each chamber, but replace it about 3 times a week so that it doesn't capture the organic materials to let it decompose. No algaes appearing as yet, the water is clear, everything appears stable.


Should you expect a diatom bloom or any other algae frenzy before assuming the cycle is over? It seems my LR may have been well cured, which could explain the lack of ammonia spike.


I have been thinking of adding my CUC next week: 1 Trochus, 1-2 cerith (no nerith because I decided I was not up for chasing escaped nerith across my office, and no astrae because trochus appear as a smarter option without the tipping over), and 1 red leg hermit to start with. Probably add a nassarius once detritus build up in ten sand bed in a month or so. Are those few snails ok to start for a 16 gal? Should I wait to get some algae growth before adding any CUC?


The tank is still clean and water clear, but I assume it's not really the 2 micro brittle stars and the spionid word doing such an amazing job by themselves.

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I'd just bring the nitrate down to 10ppm before adding a cleanup crew. This would require a 50% water change (with 0ppm water).

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I have tossed some fish food in there today, to hopefully trigger some ammonia/nitrites, since the only thing I saw after 2 weeks of cycling with LR is 20ppm nitrates, so let's see what happens. If I only get nitrates after a few days, then I assume it may be ok to start adding the CUC.


Did a 40% water change last Friday, and now I successfully brought down those nitrates to 5ppm. I also tested the water I use (millipure lab water) and as one would expect for lab water, nitrates are 0, so it doesn't come from the water used for water change.


I have noticing some of the nice red/pink coralline is vanishing from the LR, and the LR becoming more grey-whitish colour. Should I put on some lights (I am not yet using the 2 Skye led 8w)? I have read losing the coralline during the cycle is quite frequent, but I just hope this nice reddish colour comes back later. The risk of using the light is triggering some algae breakouts I guess. What would you guys suggest?

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Siphon out the food, and replace that water with fresh saltwater. There is no need for an ammonia spike... period. That just means that you've managed to overwhelm your biofilter. Adding food is just going to polute your water. Nitrate is a result of the biofilter already working (for the incredibly small bio load that you have). Just add livestock slowly (small cleanup crew, wait a week, small fish, wait a week...).


Yes, I would start a normal light cycle.

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Thanks seabass. I went ahead with the feed following others' recommendations, but I have syphon the feed out now, and performed another 40% water change to try to keep the nitrates down; they are between 5 and 10 ppm when I measured today.

I have also turned the 2 skye LED light on. It gets easier to see that some algae are actually growing, although they are small for now. I have an Halimeda growing, and a small other one which almost look like Bryopsis, so I removed it.

I will check that the water parameters remain stable, performed another water change Saturday and introduce a start of CUC.

I was thinking to add 1 red-leg hermit, 1 trochus and 2 Cerith. Does that sound like a decent starting team?

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I have now added a CUC since last Sunday: 1 Trochus (it is quite big, 3.5 cm diameter, but it was the smallest one of all at the LFS), 2 small ceriths, and 1 hermit. Two days later, they are moving actively around the tank.

I have noticed a lot of small white organisms sticking to the glass sides. They are all about 1-2 mm, attached by the stem to the glass, and a fan-like features at the other end moving with the current. Is this an outbreak of aiptasia? There are probably about 100 of them on one side of the glass. I am reluctant to scrub the glass (I never had to do it yet since setting up 3 weeks since it was always clean with no algae). I also read that if you scrub or destroy aiptasia that way they will just multiply from their fragments, making the problem worst. I have removed manually 2 aiptasia-like creature that were bigger, about 4 mm, but those smaller guys will be impossible to remove manually one by one.

I also have white bugs, not even a mm in size, with a white dot and the rest of the body transparent, who runs quickly across the glass. Not sure what those are, they look like tiny bugs

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The white bugs are just pods (you want those). Can you take a picture for us, of what you think are the Aiptasia anemones?

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sorry for the quality, just got the phone handy to take pictures and load them.


It is hard to get a good picture as they are less than 1 mm anyway.


If those were aiptasia, I didn't notice any 2 days ago, so that would be quite a quick outbreak; there are probably 150 of those tiny things mostly on one side of the glass


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Thanks seabass. Hydroids seem as much bad news as aiptasia, from what I have found. I guess the 3 options are: Bryozoa, aiptasia or hydroids.


How can you tell one from the other? From what I found it seems hydroids have more of a brown color (?). But I guess it seems aiptasia can also have different colors depending on the lighting. The characteristics for those guys are that they all appeared in less than 2 days, are all on one side of the glass, and don't seem to be anywhere else such as on the rock or back wall. Would an aptasia outbreak occurs that fast?

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No I haven't seen an Aiptasia infestation happen that quickly. And what I can make out from the picture, it doesn't appear to be Aiptasia.


Bryozoa looks like a possible match. I don't think it's anything to get too worried about, and I would consider scraping them off the glass.

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