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Coinee

My first (pico) reef

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Ever since I was about 15 years old, I've always been interested in salt water aquariums but I've never had the ability to own a large tank. And owning a large tank when you may move in a year or so is not something I want to deal with. I've own some small freshwater aquariums and stuff (I liked planted tanks), but I've never thought about salt water stuff being possible and anytime I thought maybe I could make a small tank, I'd see people saying "a small tank is impossible, it will always crash soon and quickly" in other forums, so I dismissed the thought. Then about a few months ago I found some with a pico aquarium and then found this forum and saw that a lot of reef newbies have had success with their pico reefs, so I just read stuff for a few months, then I bit the bullet a few days ago. I started my first pico jar now. Even a pico was expensive! Much more than fresh water since I needed better lighting, refractometer, higher quality water etc, but when this is successful, it'll be worth it!

 

I'll list what I bought for this below:

 

Equipment

Prices in Canadian dollars

Anchor Hocking Jar - $20

Red Sea Coral Pro salt - $45

Caribsea Livesand - $10

Caribsea Liferock - $30

Tetra Betta heater - $15

Brandless digital thermometer - $10

Brandless water pump - $10

Asta Mini Nano light - $60

 

 

I'm using distilled water bought from a local store.

 

 

December 15th

I added live sand, mixed water with Red Sea Coral Pro salt to measure 1.026 on the refractometer. Some stuff didn't arrive in the mail on Friday like I was expecting, so I didn't have my heater and a couple other items. So basically I just let the sand settle now.

 

I realized I had some of Dr. Tim's Ammonium Chloride, so I added enough to bring Ammonia to about 2 ppm. I put my small pump in and let the water circulate a bit and left it alone.

 

December 16th

I tested parameters today:

Ammonia - 2 ppm

Nitrate - 5 ppm

Nitrites - 0 ppm

Sp. Gravity - 1.026

 

I went to the LFS and bought some Caribsea Liferock after seeing the price of their Liverock and the size of it. A piece of rock is not worth $75 to me, I'd rather wait a bit longer. The Caribsea Liferock looked nice (oooo purple heh) and it wasn't too bad, plus with its marketing of "dormant bacteria", I figured I'd try it even if it's BS at least it looks nice. 

 

I got home and added the Caribsea Liferock.

 

December 17th

I received my heater in the mail today, so I added it to the tank. Temperature of the water is about 26.5C or about 79-80F. I got some Seachem Stability today since I was curious if it would work.

 

I checked my tank parameters again today just to see where it was at before I added the Stability:

Ammonia - 2 ppm

Nitrate - 5 ppm

Nitrites - 0.25 ppm

Sp. Gravity - 1.026

 

Interestingly enough 24 hours after adding the Caribsea Liferock, I am reading some Nitrites, this was faster than I was expecting. Maybe the rock has something in it, or who knows. I added a cap-sized dose of Stability to the tank.

 

Picture is a bit hazy since I kicked up the sand a few hours ago cleaning the glass because I'm too stupid to realize the streak on the glass was on the outside, not on the inside. 

 

 

20181218_000942.jpg

 

I have my light, I just haven't put it on the tank yet since there is nothing to benefit from it yet. I'm gonna make an ATO or buy one within a few days once I have everything set up. It doesn't lose water very quickly since the lid stays on mostly, so I'm not worried at this point since I have nothing living inside (besides maybe bacteria). Overall, my plans for the tank are to have a few cool beginner reefs and a couple inverts. If those survive for a couple days, I'm probably going to put a few tangs in because they look nice.

 

By the way, the red LED on the right side by the thermometer is just the heater's LED. It looks like there is a lot of sand but there isn't, the bottom of the jar isn't completely flat. The glass of the jar makes the rock look huge but it's actually pretty small in real life. Just watching this now makes me want a bigger tank, hahaha. If anyone sees any problems with what I am doing, please let me know and my tang comment was a joke, I am going to add things slowly and this will be a reef and invert tank only.

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Welcome to the community @Coinee! 👋

 

Congratulations on your first pico reef jar, looks like you're off to a great start! I'm in the same boat with my pico jar, started just a few days earlier 🙂. What light and other equipment have you decided to use with your jar? I'm using an air pump and stone for circulation in mine, looks like you have a small powerhead in yours? I bet it's a lot quieter than this noisy air pump of mine 😄 

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Thank you @Christopher Marks.

 

I actually bought an air pump and circulation stone the other day online, so I am waiting for that to come. All I have in the tank now is just a small pump, which is pretty quiet but it does the job for the time being. I'm going to see if the air pump and air stone make much of a difference or not for me. 

 

In regard to lighting, I bought a Lumini Asta 20. A few people online have said it worked well for their picos and some reviews said they had good results, so I'll try it out, if not I'll probably end up looking for something else, but the light mark for corals is rough here in Canada. 

And as I said in my first post I will probably make an ATO myself or find one online if I see something interesting.

 

I'm really excited to get this tank cycled, I'm hoping that the Seachem Stability lets it cycle within 2-3 weeks instead of longer, but if it takes a while, so be it. I'm currently on holidays and now I keep looking at tanks telling myself if this goes well, I can always move everything over to a 5-8 gallon nano-type tank and get a goby hahaha. 

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Dec 18th

I added a half-cap of Seachem Stability today and checked salinity - 1.026

 

Dec 19th

I checked all parameters today and spilled some nitrite test solution in the process, man that stuff smells weird. 

Temperature - 26.4C

Salinity - 1.025

Ammonia - 2 ppm (it as kind of between 1 and 2 ppm, but I'd say closer to 2 ppm)

Nitrates - 20 ppm

Nitrites - 1 ppm

pH - 7.8

 

I added a half-cap of Seachem Stability after measuring parameters. Everything seems to be fine and ok. My only concern is the pH is a bit low. The mix of the water and salt before being added to the tank is about 8.2 - 8.4. Maybe the rock or sand is changing the pH a little bit?  Should I start dosing something slowly to bring the pH up to 8.2 or so?

 

I'm going to be adding an air pump and air stone in soon anyway, so I don't want to change any parameters until I have my "final system" more or less anyway. Plus, I'll wait to stop dosing Seachem Stability after I've run my cycle and see if maybe some sort of bacterial reaction from that or just cycling in general is lowering pH a bit. Hopefully, pH goes higher when my cycle is done and everything (which I think it should at least if my past experience is right).

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Do not dose anything for pH. That's just a temporary solution which you can overdose without knowing and then you'll have bigger issues. 

 

pH drops because of increased CO2 and less dissolved oxygen in the water. Adding an air pump/stone will help agitate the surface and could bring your pH up a bit by increasing oxygen levels. 

 

And honestly, from my experience, pH isn't too big a deal (unless maybe you are planning on having some more demanding corals SPS corals. Which I have never tried, so i couldn't tell you). As long as it's stable, it should be okay. I've been running my tank for a year now and my pH was at 7.7 on average at first. For some reason now-a-days, it averages at 7.9 or even 8.0. So I would say leave the pH alone and see what happens in the coming months. 

 

 

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3 minutes ago, paulsz said:

Do not dose anything for pH. That's just a temporary solution which you can overdose without knowing and then you'll have bigger issues. 

 

pH drops because of increased CO2 and less dissolved oxygen in the water. Adding an air pump/stone will help agitate the surface and could bring your pH up a bit by increasing oxygen levels. 

 

And honestly, from my experience, pH isn't too big a deal (unless maybe you are planning on having some more demanding corals SPS corals. Which I have never tried, so i couldn't tell you). As long as it's stable, it should be okay. I've been running my tank for a year now and my pH was at 7.7 on average at first. For some reason now-a-days, it averages at 7.9 or even 8.0. So I would say leave the pH alone and see what happens in the coming months. 

 

 

Yes, that's what I figured from my experience from freshwater stuff. My air pump and stone should be here on Friday (hopefully) and we'll see. Hopefully my pH ends up around 8.0ish after cycling and so on, which I believe it should. 

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Also, I'm not sure how you're measuring your pH. I'm guessing through a test kit? It fluctuates all day. Usually it's lowest right before morning starts, and then highest later in the day when the lights have been on for some time and photosynthesis is occurring at it's "highest rate". So if you do test it to follow it's progression over the coming months, make sure it's being tested at around the same time every time. 

 

 

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27 minutes ago, paulsz said:

Also, I'm not sure how you're measuring your pH. I'm guessing through a test kit? It fluctuates all day. Usually it's lowest right before morning starts, and then highest later in the day when the lights have been on for some time and photosynthesis is occurring at it's "highest rate". So if you do test it to follow it's progression over the coming months, make sure it's being tested at around the same time every time. 

 

 

Yes, I am using a test kit and I am aware of the fluctuations, I do all my tank stuff in the afternoon at the same time for consistency. Thanks!

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Dec 21st

I got the air pump and the air stones today, I added them in and removed the old pump. I'm not sure how much I like this since the sound of the bubbling from the air stone is a little loud when the bubbles surface and fizz a bit, where before with the other pump it was near silent. I'll give it a few days and see how much I can tune it out or if it keeps me awake at night.

 

Topped off the tank a bit today but not much has moved, still kind of dragging my feet on finding an ATO since it's a bit busy this time of year (and I'm bit lazier than usual). Still have stuck with dosing Seachem Stability.

 

Parameters:

Temperature - 25.7C

Salinity - 1.026

Ammonia - 1 ppm

Nitrates - 80 ppm

Nitrites - 5 ppm

pH - 7.8

 

Since I removed the old pump, heat has been coming down a bit so the temperature has fallen a little. pH seems stable as always at 7.8. The ammonia is going down which is good and I can see the tank progressing through the cycle relatively well. I'm not sure if using live sand, Liferock or the Seachem Stability sped this up much but this is happening quicker than expected. Maybe I will be able to get started sooner than I anticipated! That would be neat. 

 

I'm probably going to buy a hamster water dispenser and use that as my ATO like some people have done. I'm also thinking about getting a piece of glass or acrylic cut to make a better lid for the jar than what I currently have. Once I have the light, the jar lid won't work well since it is odd and won't allow as much light through as a flat piece of glass. I have some thinking to do about how I want things to go that way anyway. 

 

Does anyone have any recommendation for a CUC for the jar? I was thinking a shrimp, hermit and a snail. Any suggestions for reef safe inverts that would fit in the jar? Something that would be out and about a bit would be preferred. I figured I'd add those first after the tank is fully cycled before I add coral. I want GSP to be my first coral since it's difficult to kill, I want success my first time! But I have to find someone locally that has a frag of it, I figured I'd find a CUC quicker. 

I was thinking maybe one or two sexy shrimp and one or two hermit crabs. I'm not sure about what snail would be best for a reef of this size, though. 

 

Feel free to leave any comments about what corals or CUC you'd recommend or if you want to comment on my parameters, if you notice anything worth mentioning.

 

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Dec 22nd

I decided to keep the air pump and air stone since I don't notice the sound unless I actively pay attention to it. Temperatures are stabilizing around 25.5C/77.9F or so.

 

Parameters:

Temperature - 25.5C

Salinity - 1.026

Ammonia - 1 ppm

Nitrates - 160 ppm

Nitrites - 5 ppm

pH - 7.8

 

Nitrates are super blood red now on my test kit. Ammonia hasn't budged yet. Just added a dose of  Seachem Stability after testing.

 

Dec 23rd

Just added a dose of  Seachem Stability. 

 

Dec 24th

Decided to test again today.

 

Parameters:

Temperature - 25.5C

Salinity - 1.025

Ammonia - 0.25 ppm

Nitrates - 160 ppm

Nitrites - 5 ppm

pH - 7.8

 

Ammonia dropped a lot, it's possible that it's at 0 ppm but the colouring on it was a little in between 0 ppm and 0.25 ppm. Nitrates are still sky high and nitrites aren't changing any. pH seems to still be stable along with temp. 

 

Since nobody replied to my question before:

 

Any recommendations for a clean-up crew for the jar? I was going to add a shrimp, hermit and snail.

I was thinking maybe one or two sexy shrimp and one or two hermit crabs. I'm not sure about what snail would be best for a reef of this size, though. 

 

Feel free to leave any comments about what corals or clean-up crew you'd recommend or if you want to comment on my parameters, if you notice anything worth mentioning.

 

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays to everyone that celebrates something. 

 

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Maybe like two trochus snails and a hermit. You definitely want to be careful with the clean up crew because a dead snail could be too much bioload for a small tank. I personally think snails are better because hermits tend to pick at stuff and kill snails when they're hungry. 

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I might skip the trochus in this size tank, out of concern it could starve. Try a couple cerith or astrea and a nassarius, and a small scarlet hermit if you want one.  The key is to start small and stock conservatively. I've gotten virgin nerites and dwarf ceriths from Gulf Coast Ecosystems before and liked them a lot.  Reef Cleaners also carries dwarf cerith and even offers kits based on tank size that could give you ideas. I also recommend a toothbrush and turkey baster as you will be a major member of the CUC. :wink:

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6 hours ago, mtgmichaelg said:

Maybe like two trochus snails and a hermit. You definitely want to be careful with the clean up crew because a dead snail could be too much bioload for a small tank. I personally think snails are better because hermits tend to pick at stuff and kill snails when they're hungry. 

Yes, I just want a hermit crab because they are neat. I just want something that won't be a pain to my coral or other inhabitants.

 

1 hour ago, Lula_Mae said:

I might skip the trochus in this size tank, out of concern it could starve. Try a couple cerith or astrea and a nassarius, and a small scarlet hermit if you want one.  The key is to start small and stock conservatively. I've gotten virgin nerites and dwarf ceriths from Gulf Coast Ecosystems before and liked them a lot.  Reef Cleaners also carries dwarf cerith and even offers kits based on tank size that could give you ideas. I also recommend a toothbrush and turkey baster as you will be a major member of the CUC. :wink:

 

That's a good idea. And yeah, I want to start small. I'm thinking maybe in a few months if this tank is successful, I'll upgrade to something around 5 gallons or so. Unfortunately, Reef Cleaners is a US company and I am not from the USA. I already have my toothbrush and turkey baster! Research made me realize the real value of a turkey baster hahaha

 

Thanks for the advice. Any advice on simple coral @mtgmichaelg @Lula_Mae? I was thinking getting started with some Zoas or GSP or something like that after the tank matures a bit after cycling. How long should I wait before adding the coral after the CUC or can they be added at the same time (though, coral and inverts at once seem like a lot to add suddenly)?

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The longer the better. Your tank will probably go through some ugly stage with algae first and it is easier to treat without coral. I’d also include ricordea and other mushrooms to your beginner coral list. 

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Those are all good starter corals, although zoas can be finicky sometimes lol. Just take it slowly and only add new things every few weeks to month. Ugly stages are probably incoming, as stated lol. Just gotta get through them!

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On 12/25/2018 at 1:21 AM, mtgmichaelg said:

The longer the better. Your tank will probably go through some ugly stage with algae first and it is easier to treat without coral. I’d also include ricordea and other mushrooms to your beginner coral list. 

Having the ugly stage show up now would be a nice indicator of progress. Yes! I will look into some mushroom corals and see what I like/find.

On 12/26/2018 at 7:37 AM, Lula_Mae said:

Those are all good starter corals, although zoas can be finicky sometimes lol. Just take it slowly and only add new things every few weeks to month. Ugly stages are probably incoming, as stated lol. Just gotta get through them!

Yeah,  I have read that zoas can be hit or miss for some people. I'd love to see the ugly stage start. I just wanna get some GSP now! I think it looks so neat, it's lucky that it isn't a typically pain to grow 😛

 

 

Dec 26th

Just tested nitrites to see if they moved...nope still at 5 ppm. Salinity and temperature are relatively constant as before.

 

Dec 28th

 

Parameters:

Temperature - 25.3C

Salinity - 1.026

Ammonia - ~0 ppm (it looks between 0 and 0.25 ppm but the API test kit is a pain in the ass and I have experienced false positives with ammonia)

Nitrates - No point in testing since they were high last time and I still have high nitrites

Nitrites - 5 ppm 

pH - Didn't test

 

I wish the nitrites would start dropping off a bit. But in my experience with fresh water stuff, it takes a while and then suddenly randomly they are nearly suddenly all gone over night. Next time, I will start with a piece of liverock so I can skip or at least expedite this a little bit. But it's good to experience this slow crawl since it makes me appreciate things a bit more on this side of the hobby and encourages me to be slow since I don't want to crash and restart! 

 

I am thinking about remove the airstone again, I don't think it's any better than the pump I had. I preferred the pump since it made a relaxing humming sound more and I can position it for surface agitation and for flow for corals in the future. Then again, I am also thinking why didn't I just set up a 5 gallon tank instead heh. 

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Dec 30th

Parameters:

Temperature - 25.3C

Salinity - 1.026

Ammonia - ~0.25 ppm (it looks between 0 and 0.25 ppm but the API test kit is a pain in the ass and I have experienced false positives with ammonia)

Nitrates - No point in testing since they were high last time and I still have high nitrites

Nitrites - 5 ppm 

pH - Didn't test

 

Jan 2nd

Parameters:

Temperature - 25.3C

Salinity - 1.025

Ammonia - ~0.25 ppm (it looks between 0 and 0.25 ppm but the API test kit is a pain in the ass and I have experienced false positives with ammonia)

Nitrates - No point in testing since they were high last time and I still have high nitrites

Nitrites - 5 ppm 

pH - Didn't test

 

Ammonia seems to now be closer to 0.25 than 0 ppm. It's probably a test kit issue but it doesn't really matter at this point too much. Just waiting for nitrites to drop...

 

I haven't removed the air stone yet. I probably won't test anything again for a few days.

 

Happy New Year

 

20181230_023038.thumb.jpg.f36c03e786031741a01e93072a5fb4ad.jpg

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Jan 5th

I removed the air stone and replaced it with the pump again. It's a lot quieter and it makes the tank look like the water is shimmering, it's quite nice. It seems to disturb the surface enough without splashing water everywhere unlike the air stone. I am pleased.

 

Just out of curiosity, I decided to use some of the distilled water I have mixed with the salt I use to test ammonia and NO2 and pH to give me an idea of the baseline of this. I tested the TDS of the distilled water. It reads 1 ppm, which is appropriate enough given the margin of error. 

So, interestingly enough after doing the tests:

 

Ammonia was actually not at 0 ppm, it was closer to 0.25 ppm! So, this is just the quirk of the test kit (and some people on here have posted about this before and I have experienced the same with freshwater measurements using API test kits).

Nitrites were 0 ppm, as expected.

pH was actually at 7.8. However, the Red Sea Coral Pro says it mixes to a pH of 8.2 - 8.5, so this may just be the test kit being slightly off. 

When this kit runs out, I'll probably invest in a Salifert test kit since those are a bit more reliable.

 

I also noticed that my temp thingy is slightly off (about -0.2 to -0.3) from my temperature gun.

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On 1/5/2019 at 7:05 PM, Coinee said:

Jan 5th

I removed the air stone and replaced it with the pump again. It's a lot quieter and it makes the tank look like the water is shimmering, it's quite nice. It seems to disturb the surface enough without splashing water everywhere unlike the air stone. I am pleased.

 

Just out of curiosity, I decided to use some of the distilled water I have mixed with the salt I use to test ammonia and NO2 and pH to give me an idea of the baseline of this. I tested the TDS of the distilled water. It reads 1 ppm, which is appropriate enough given the margin of error. 

So, interestingly enough after doing the tests:

 

Ammonia was actually not at 0 ppm, it was closer to 0.25 ppm! So, this is just the quirk of the test kit (and some people on here have posted about this before and I have experienced the same with freshwater measurements using API test kits).

Nitrites were 0 ppm, as expected.

pH was actually at 7.8. However, the Red Sea Coral Pro says it mixes to a pH of 8.2 - 8.5, so this may just be the test kit being slightly off. 

When this kit runs out, I'll probably invest in a Salifert test kit since those are a bit more reliable.

 

I also noticed that my temp thingy is slightly off (about -0.2 to -0.3) from my temperature gun.

pH will also fluctuate by time of day.  Someone with more sciency knowledge could enlighten you better lol.

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I have done some minor tests and stuff here but I'll just report my latest test from my spreadsheet.

 

Jan 11th

Temperature - 25.8C

Salinity - 1.024

Ammonia - 0 ppm

Nitrites - 5 ppm

Nitrates - 20 ppm

pH - 7.8

 

Nitrates have dropped a lot from before but nitrites aren't moving. I added 2 ppm of ammonia to see how much clears in 24 hours. Then tomorrow I'm going to do a water change since according to Dr. Tim, the high nitrites can stall the cycle. I'm going to try to get the nitrites under 4 ppm tomorrow and see how things go. 

 

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So last night I added 2 ppm of ammonia. Today I measured 1 ppm ammonia (24 hours later), so the tank can clear out 1 ppm ammonia in 24 hours, so that's good. I did a large water change today to remove the majority of the remaining ammonia and reduce the level of the nitrites to get the cycle clearing. 

 

So since I can clear at least 1 ppm ammonia in 24 hours, I'm almost good to go (as long as nitrites and nitrates are in control and not too high). So, I can add one or two things to the tank soon (based upon research I've been reading). 

 

For people panicking thinking I am going to add a bunch of things with high ammonia and nitrites: don't, I won't add anything until ammonia is 0 and nitrites are at least under 4 ppm. I was talking to a guy and he is getting rid of his saltwater setup and he might give me a mushroom coral since he doesn't want to bother selling it. That will be next week probably.

 

Feel free to yell at me!

 

 

Edit:

 

Forgot to add params about an hour after water change

Temperature - 25C

Salinity - 1.025

Ammonia - 0.5 ppm-ish

Nitrites - 0.5 ppm

pH - 8.1 (was between 8.0 and 8.2)

 

Time to leave the tank alone for a little while and stop messing with it unless it needs top offs!

 

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Jan 14th

Temperature - 25.8C

Salinity - 1.026

Ammonia - ~0.25 ppm (probably 0 since even freshly mixed salt water tested at the same colour)

Nitrites - 5 ppm

Nitrates - 20 ppm

pH - 7.8

 

I have no idea why but nitrites are back up to 5 ppm despite there not being a lot of ammonia in the tank and ammonia never testing high except when added. I can't help but feel maybe the test kit is wrong. I'll be picking up some new tests on the weekend anyway so I expect salifert tests will be more accurate (hopefully).  pH is back down to 7.8 so it seems that is where it wants to settle always. 

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Try doing a big water change and dosing again maybe?  Sometimes nitrites over 5 can slow the cycle down or stall it.

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2 hours ago, Lula_Mae said:

Try doing a big water change and dosing again maybe?  Sometimes nitrites over 5 can slow the cycle down or stall it.

I did do like an 80% water change when I changed it on Saturday. It may just be my inability to read the shade of purple or my test kit being mean. 

 

Edit: I mixed 50% fresh salt water + 50% tank salt water and the purple looks like around 1 ppm. Maybe I just can't read purple lol.

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8 hours ago, Coinee said:

I did do like an 80% water change when I changed it on Saturday. It may just be my inability to read the shade of purple or my test kit being mean. 

 

Edit: I mixed 50% fresh salt water + 50% tank salt water and the purple looks like around 1 ppm. Maybe I just can't read purple lol.

The colors can be hard to distinguish!

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