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Hannahhhh

Cycling with a fish, pros and cons

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Hannahhhh

I started my new reef tank earlier this week (a fluval evo 13.5) and I added live rock, live sand (about 1.5 inches), and premium reef saltwater that my LFS mixed up for me. I’ve also been adding fluval cycle concentrated biological booster at the rate they suggest for a new tank. I have some questions regarding cycling. A lot of the videos I have watched online suggest first adding live rock, sand, and water, the next week adding a clean up crew, and then once the cycle is completed to add fish. However I’ve spoken on the phone with three of my LFSs and all three have told me to start my cycle by adding a fish. There is a lot of conflicting information out there, I was hoping that you guys could weigh in and give me some pros and cons with each option. If I decide to cycle with a fish, can I add a banggai cardinal fish?

Additionally, when can I add coral?? This tank is primarily for coral, i'm just adding a fish or two for fun. A lot of articles that I have read say that I can add my coral now if I want, and that they won't be impacted by my tank cycling. Is this true? Lastly, if anyone has some suggestions on easy to care for corals, i'm always happy for more suggestions.

Thanks so much!

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timeconsumer

Cycling with a fish is an older method. It works fine, and the fish usually survives if you choose a hardy one. The problem is that it is a bit inhumane because ammonia can burn their gills. This is why it is not really recommended anymore. Either way I definitely wouldn't say it's a responsible decision especially in a small tank like that. You'll be much better off by adding a small amount of food (a couple of pellets) once per week for a few weeks.

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jservedio

There are no pros to cycling with a fish, only cons. If you choose something simple like clown fish, while they may survive, you are looking at well over 10 years of lifespan that you stand a good chance of cutting short just so you can have them a few weeks earlier.

 

Also - no coral until you are fully cycled. There are exceptions to this rule, but they only apply in very specific scenarios that come with considerable risk and none of them involve a fish in the tank.

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Hannahhhh

Thanks guys for the responses. So when should I add some inverts?

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bomerst

You can add them as soon as the tank is cycled, just be careful not to add to many!  You will see an algae bloom pretty quickly after the cycle is done, and its tempting to load up with more inverts than your tank can support to try to clear it out.  Patience is the key to success in this hobby!

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RustyRocket

Hey congratz for starting a new tank! It is definitely a rewarding experience, and you're doing exactly the right thing by researching, asking questions and going slow. Great start. 

 

This is just my personal take on this, so feel free to do more research and make your own judgement call. I feel like there is a bit of missing information to posts which just states fish cycling is bad or inhumane without any preface. 

 

Firstly, for you specifically from the information you provided:

As you are starting with Live rock (assuming cured - meaning all the life that came on the rock in transit has died off and what is left is not going to decay anymore and produce high levels of ammonia.) and Live sand means you have a actively viable population of bacteria in your system which can handle ammonia. In your case, I would recommend if you buy some test kits to monitor ammonia and Nitrite, to make sure there are none of those in your tank, feel free to go ahead with the Banggai. Continue to test everyday for the first week with the fish and taper off in later weeks to make sure ammonia and nitrite is undetectable and you would be fine. Feed light for the first two month. Keep up with water changes and if you do detect ammonia and nitrite, do large 50 to 70% water changes when you do. The bacterial population would catch up to be able to handle with the additional ammonia quickly (as long as you have a sizable amount to start with on your live rock). You can also buy bacteria in a bottle like Dr.Tims as insurance to dose as added insurance. My opinion is that if there is a viable bacterial population (whether live rock or from bottles), this process is similar to moving a tank or doing a tank transfer or setting up a display tank at shows, where a tank can be set up almost immediately, so I would not hesitate to do it. The inhumane part, is where someone would assume a new reefer would not have enough experience to correctly and diligently test and change water and to such reduce the amount of fluctuations the fish would have to go through and thus make a unnecessary stress on the fish. 

In situations where an individual start with dead rock and dead sand, and no bacterial product added in a sufficient dosage, (so where there is little to no viable bacteria to start with),  it is advised not to start with fish, as it is extremely hard on a fish to endure the length of time for the bacteria to go from near 0 to catch up to handle the bioload (amount of ammonia produced by the fish respiring and from the food). In the future when you add your second fish or if something dies or even if you overfed, there will be ammonia produced beyond what is capable for your bacteria to handle but you'll have a good amount of bacteria to grow to handle the extra. You starting to see the pattern here? The key is bacterial diversity and population :)

In terms of clean up crew and coral. Ammonia destroys the hemaglobin contained in red blood cells which effectively suffocates  the fish. Coral actually don't have a hemaglobin based respiratory system and isn't affected by ammonia as sensitively to fish. So in comparison its safer to add corals first than for fish, from a nitrogen cycle perspective. Jake Adams did an experiment on this on his youtube channel and you can read about it here: https://reefbuilders.com/2018/04/20/ask-reef-builders-3-how-long-should-i-cycle-a-reef-tank-before-putting-corals-in/. Corals are more sensitive to other parameters such as salinity and chemistry which is something else you'll have to monitor this is for another time and thread. For beginners I would suggest Zoanthids which are colourful but some do contain palytoxin so research on that and treat them with respect. Another would be leather corals, when they are happy, they swell up big and fluffy which is always rewarding. Both are easy to care for and forgiving for mistakes. For clean up crew I would grow it as the demand for algae removal increase. When there is no ammonia and nitrites, start off with 2 or 3 critters of your choice as you start seeing algae grow in your tank. In 2 weeks or so if you still see an increase of algae, add more. If you see less algae, I would hold off on adding. Extra clean up crew will starve if there is no supply of algae and will die off, creating ammonia spikes.  For decorative inverts, I would treat it similar to a fish. 


Sorry for the long post, again this is my personal take, so do with the information as you will. All the best with the tank, post some pictures for us in the community to see. Maybe this would be a budding tank of the month to come :)

 

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Hannahhhh

Thank you for the very thorough response! So in your opinion, if there is no ammonia and nitrite in my tank, I’m ok to add in a fish? Then if and when they show up after I’ve added my fish, I do big water changes and add the fluval concentrated biological booster at the same time? Just wanted to make sure I understand your instructions properly. Thanks again!

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RustyRocket
49 minutes ago, Hannahhhh said:

Thank you for the very thorough response! So in your opinion, if there is no ammonia and nitrite in my tank, I’m ok to add in a fish? Then if and when they show up after I’ve added my fish, I do big water changes and add the fluval concentrated biological booster at the same time? Just wanted to make sure I understand your instructions properly. Thanks again!

Yeah, you got it. No ammonia and nitrite and you have a a large source of bacteria population which sounds like you do with your live rock. Then it should be able to handle a small fish and light feeding load. Remember though, if your live rock has been sitting in the tank for a long time with little ammonia source the bacteria count will drop. Keep up with water changes, and do them correctly and monitor with test kits or the seachem Ammonia monitor, then you'll need a major screw up or a sick fish for you to fail. 

 

Give you an example: (Order of magnitude for the sake of demonstration)

We know the bacteria multiplies by binary division. So 1 turns into 2 identical. If this strain splits every 20mins. 

1) If you start with 2 bacteria (Dead rock and dead sand), then in 5 hours you will have roughly 65,000 bacteria

2) If you start with 200 (Live rock and live sand), then in 5 hours you will have over 6,500,000 bacteria chewing away at the ammonia. 

The requirement for no ammonia and nitrite is that your fish isnt going into a toxic environment to start off with. Also if you've added nothing and there is some present, that means there was something that has died off since you started the tank, maybe a few pods or sponges whilst you were transporting your rock etc. So best to test before hand. All the best!

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Clown79

Cycling with fish is cruel and an old method.

 

 

Depending on the liverock you got will depend if you even have a cycle.

 

Cured liverock(from an established tank and rock has life on it) will not cycle, sometimes a spike if you allowed it to dry a bit.

 

Regular liverock from a large vat of water in the store with no lights on it, no life in the tank, no life on the rocks, will go through a full cycle which can be a week to 6 weeks.

 

 

The best way to go from here is testing ammonia and nitrate daily. Once there is no ammonia present and you have nitrates, a waterchange is performed.

 

Test for another week. If all is good and nitrates are at acceptable levels, you can add a fish or start with a few snails and hermits.

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