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Please Help - Need Some Cycling Advise


King Detritus

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King Detritus
Hi - I started cycling on a 16G tank on 12/16 with Dr Tim's ammonia (suggested dose) and one and only bacteria. Nitrites shot up off the charts past 5 ppm. I did multiple water changes to get Nitrites down to 1 ppm (two 3G and two 7G changes). The nitrites have been stuck at 1ppm for 5 days now. What should I do? Wait, add ammonia, or bacteria? Not sure what to do as I'm afraid the cycle has stalled. I tried reading up on other forums, but only got more confused. I'm thinking my best course of action would be to add a small amount of ammonia (maybe 1/8 dose) to try and get going again. Any and all advice on this would be greatly appreciated! Thank you. 
 
 
 
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:welcome: to Nano-Reef.

 

My guess is that you dosed total ammonia past 2 ppm.  Less is better than more when dosing ammonia.  You are much better off dosing total ammonia to 1 ppm than to dose past 2 ppm.

 

Your cycle has not stalled.  If you are going by DrTim's instructions for establishing a fishless cycle using dry rock, simply wait for nitrite to come down before adding more ammonia.  No worries, it will eventually come down.  Then continue on as instructed.

 

__________

 

However, instead of using DrTim's instructions, I recommend that after total ammonia is between 1 and 2 ppm, to just wait until until it drops to 0.25 ppm before adding any more ammonia.  Don't worry about how long it takes (or even nitrite levels) the biological processes will continue even if the test results for a particular parameter doesn't appear to change every day.

 

Once ammonia is 0.25 ppm or less, you can dose total ammonia back up to 1 ppm again.  Repeat until your rocks can process 1 ppm of total ammonia down to 0.25 ppm within 24 hours.  Again, don't worry how many days or the number of times you dose total ammonia to 1 ppm, just keep repeating these steps until your rocks can process 1 ppm of total ammonia down to 0.25 ppm within 24 hours.

 

This process is designed to build up the biofilter on dry rock.  Afterwards, the bacteria should be able to handle a light bio-load without ammonia building up.  Some people simply add bacteria and call it good; however, I feel that building up the biofilter is a good additional step before adding livestock.

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King Detritus

Thanks for your reply. I was a little alarmed because I dosed the ammonia pretty close to the actual water volume, yet I got a sky high reading. I will hold tight until the readings drop. I'm thinking I may go with a 1/2 or 1/4 dose when it is time to add again to avoid another high reading. I also have Brightwell Aquatics Bacteria in the kit, but I'm not sure it would do anything now.

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brandon429

For a quick fix to your issue, post your full tank picture there and a brief description of your issue

 

The full tank picture is most important part, we already have your # of days underwater portion of the cycling equation

 

What your test kits read has no bearing on your cycle status, you aren't reading seneye ammonia

 

 

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Love the username! 

 

100% agree with Seabass; let everything alone. It'll sort itself out. Double-check the expiration date on your test kit, just in case it's off. 

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brandon429

No bottle bac cycles take 26 days + more open ended wait

 

Waiting longer can't make your tank safer for fish either. Those two details haven't been stated so far using old cycling science rules. New cycling science keeps your fish alive much better than old cycling science that's for sure. 

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King Detritus
2 hours ago, Tired said:

Love the username! 

 

100% agree with Seabass; let everything alone. It'll sort itself out. Double-check the expiration date on your test kit, just in case it's off. 

LOL thanks! BTW I just double checked the test kit and surprisingly good through 2025.

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King Detritus
50 minutes ago, brandon429 said:

No bottle bac cycles take 26 days + more open ended wait

Dr. Tim claims one week with one and only - but obviously not the case here. I'm not rushing, but want to make sure I'm not hindering the process either.

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King Detritus
9 hours ago, brandon429 said:

For a quick fix to your issue, post your full tank picture there and a brief description of your issue

Done! Thanks for the suggestion. 

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On 1/9/2023 at 9:45 PM, King Detritus said:

What should I do? Wait, add ammonia, or bacteria?

LOL...you are currently doing all three!!  Glad you're deciding to make a choice.  👍

 

The only advantage I see to jumping through all the hoops you're jumping through is if you need to add a large population of fish to the tank right away.

 

In theory these hoops grow a larger initial population of bacteria to handle a higher initial ammonia spike that comes with adding add the fish at once, as is typical.  (Don't do it tho.)

 

However, if adding a lot of fish at once is your goal, then using One and Only according to the directions is what you want to do....not all this mess.

 

Waiting (no ammonia, no bottled bacteria) works well too.

 

To quote Dr Tim:

Quote

Under normal conditions it can take 30 to 45 days for these bacteria to become naturally established in a newly set-up aquarium. [....]One & Only Nitrifying Bacteria accelerates the process so that you can set up a tank immediately.

Dosing ammonia, et al, (ie "fishless cycling") could be interesting, academically speaking....but it's definitely not necessary....maybe not even helpful in the bigger picture of a reef tank.

 

On 1/9/2023 at 9:45 PM, King Detritus said:

Not sure what to do as I'm afraid the cycle has stalled.

No such thing.

 

On 1/9/2023 at 9:45 PM, King Detritus said:

Not sure what to do as I'm afraid the cycle has stalled. I tried reading up on other forums, but only got more confused.

There's no answer out there, so that's expected.   Check out "Beginner to Breeder..." from Martin Moe as a great starter book that covers ALL the basics.  WAY less confusion.

 

On 1/9/2023 at 9:45 PM, King Detritus said:

Any and all advice on this would be greatly appreciated! Thank you. 

Hopefully this is working!  🙂 

 

21 hours ago, ardentpyro said:

How much surface area do you have for the bacteria sand, rock, etc?

I agree.   @King Detritus can you post a full tank picture?  And what are the tank's dimensions?

 

18 hours ago, King Detritus said:

Dr. Tim claims one week with one and only - but obviously not the case here. I'm not rushing, but want to make sure I'm not hindering the process either.

Dr Tim claims "immediately".

 

If there were any doubt as to his meaning on that word, later on the same page he says, "No wait needed." 😉  

 

As with most things, it is important to use this product according to the directions if you want it to work the way it's intended to.

 

He talks about the most likely gotchas here....

 

 

 

That said, I agree with Seabass – your nitrite test seem to suggest over-dosing of ammonia.  Too much ammonia can definitely retard the growth of your bacteria.  

 

If you look up "fishless cycling problem" on Google or even Nano-reef's search, you'll see how common problems are with this whole method (VERY)....and overdosing ammonia is one of the common mistakes.  I don't think it's a great method for the inexperienced.

 

He's got a video that talks about some of the gotchas with dosing ammonia:

 

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King Detritus
On 1/10/2023 at 5:54 PM, ardentpyro said:

How much surface area do you have for the bacteria sand, rock, etc?

@ardentpyro

I have 11lbs dry rock plus 7lbs live sand - those have been in the tank since 12/16. About a week ago I added 6 2" Marine Pure cubes into the mix. By my count, that is an excessive amount a surface area and figured I'd be better off in the long run with it.

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King Detritus
5 hours ago, mcarroll said:

I agree.   @King Detritus can you post a full tank picture?  And what are the tank's dimensions?

@mcarroll

See above for rock/sand/bio. For dimensions, it's a Waterbox Clear Mini 16G so it's 23.4"×11.8"×14.2"

 

Tank photos attached.

 

5 hours ago, mcarroll said:

That said, I agree with Seabass – your nitrite test seem to suggest over-dosing of ammonia.  Too much ammonia can definitely retard the growth of your bacteria.  

 

I hear you, but it has tested free of ammonia for quite awhile now, so I should be out of the woods on that.

20230110_212417.thumb.jpg.bc6e7573dd0dee8ae5a459b4f16a5811.jpg

20230110_212426.thumb.jpg.ea8e15cf4fc66930e92df85f0699fc03.jpg

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Between your dead rock and the live sand (bagged live sand ie CaribSea, or...?) you don't need any more bio-media or bacteria.  

 

You want your dead rock to be developing toward something "reefy" during this phase.  If the fake media in the back is competing with your rock for nutrients, that doesn't really help your tank progress, it actually holds it back.  This delay creates the time for pest organism to move in and proliferate.

 

More filtration beyond need actually seems to cause problems in a lot of cases.  There is no "more=better" equation at work.  I'd probably take out the bio-blocks.  They are intended more for a system that runs external bio-filtration, like a wet-dry filter on a tank or a pond filter.  When you have coral skeleton/dead rock and a significant sand bed, as you do in your tank, you have already filled this need.

 

BTW, "more=better" is only true for tank size, water flow....and I think that's about it.  (Even the second one can be debatable.) 😉 

 

I like the tank so far!   I'd just run that filter empty for the time being - pretty good flow source.  "Someday" you might upgrade and replace the filter with a protein skimmer and a regular flow pump or two.

 

IMO your tank is probably ready for some livestock IF you're willing to start small AND take your time.  A small snail or two would be a great start.  A hermit can be entertaining, but you'll have to feed him once a week or so to keep him from snacking on the snails....there won't be anything for a scavenger like him to eat otherwise.  If possible, making sure the snail is significantly larger than the hermit will help protect the snail....but you don't want large snails at this phase....not even one.  So a small snail and an even-smaller hermit would be OK.  Or just one or two small snails alone...less drama.   Give it a week or two after adding them to see how things go.  You can use that time to decide what you're going to add next.  Could be more CUC if there's some algae growing.  Could be a coral if you're going in that direction.  Each time you add something, add only 1 or 2 (one is usually better) and wait a week or so afterward to monitor the item you added AS WELL as the effect it has on the system....so you can make adjustments if needed.  If possible, wait to add fish until last...also add them slowly, smallest first, with a good wait in between each one.

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King Detritus
8 hours ago, mcarroll said:

There is no "more=better" equation at work.  I'd probably take out the bio-blocks.

@mcarroll Wouldn't more bio media = greater surface area = more room for beneficial bacteria = greater ability for the tank to break down waste = increased stability? The reason I say this is I have a small tank and stability is critical in nano reefing. I'm hoping to boost my biological filtration to prevent crashing later.

 

9 hours ago, mcarroll said:

I like the tank so far!

Thank you.

 

9 hours ago, mcarroll said:

IMO your tank is probably ready for some livestock IF you're willing to start small AND take your time.  A small snail or two would be a great start.  A hermit can be entertaining,

I think if I stock it soon I would start small - like copepods and/or a few small snails...after a 50% water change and a splash of nitrifying bacteria just to be 100% sure.

 

9 hours ago, mcarroll said:

You can use that time to decide what you're going to add next.  Could be more CUC if there's some algae growing.  Could be a coral if you're going in that direction.

The ultimate goal is soft/LPS corals and one clownfish. I want a modest nano with mid-range upkeep and the most stability I can squeeze out of the system. 

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I am cycling a tank right now too... I am not confused though as I never test my cycles haha! I may be confused if I did tests though! 

 

I put some old filthy dry rock I had sitting outside for a year in a bucket... in my tank... I dosed a random amount of tims ammonia...  and a random amount of leftover biospira....then waited... my tank had a bacterial bloom half a week later (weeee!) and a few days after it cleared up... I did a large water change and removed some nasty tea colored debris from the water since my rock was filthy!!

 

I then added some macro algae and two live rocks with lots of pods, starfish, worms, dusters, sponge, etc... I can see the stars alive.. and a aiptasia pest nem (rude!) is alive so I guess the water is habitable for those little critters. I figured it would be since the bloom cleared up on it's own. This is also when I first turned on the light. It has been a few days since that and I am just how seeing the diatoms show up (brown rocks). I will let them get a little worse and then toss in the CUC. For me.. diatoms or algae signal CUC time. I won't put fish in until I see pods and life in good numbers moving around. Mostly because the fish I want will benefit from live snacks and algae. I don't plan on coral in this tank but hardy coral generally ends up in my tanks before fish. 

 

Tanks tend to cycle regardless of what we do. Bacteria are resilient little suckers!

 

Your scape looks great btw!!

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Bio-media that you can fit into the filter area of a tank like this is negligible in area compared to your live rock, and has a tendency to accumulate gunk. If you're stocking enough that your tank desperately needs the amount of bio-filtration living on that filter media, you're overstocking. 

 

"Algae = tank ready to start stocking" seems like a good rule of thumb. Definitely wouldn't want to add any snails right now, since, as I'm sure you can tell, there's nothing for them to eat. Same goes for copepods. A hermit could go in now if you fed every day or so, since you can manually feed the lil critter. 

 

Alternately, if you can add 1ppm of ammonia and have it go down to no or almost no ammonia in 24 hours, that's a cycled tank. The test is in that, not in the nitrites, which IIRC aren't concerningly toxic in saltwater. 

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1 hour ago, King Detritus said:

@mcarroll Wouldn't more bio media = greater surface area = more room for beneficial bacteria = greater ability for the tank to break down waste = increased stability? The reason I say this is I have a small tank and stability is critical in nano reefing. I'm hoping to boost my biological filtration to prevent crashing later.

As folks mentioned already, you are just underestimating the amount of surface area of your rock and sand bed.  You are covered! 🙂 

 

And as I said already, this is not a "more=better" kind of thing.  

 

Most things in this hobby don't go that way, although I did think of one more for the list:

 

More bio-diversity is always better than less.   This is actually where your ecological stability comes from.

 

 

1 hour ago, King Detritus said:

I think if I stock it soon I would start small - like copepods and/or a few small snails...after a 50% water change and a splash of nitrifying bacteria just to be 100% sure.

Large water changes can be a bad thing, especially if they aren't needed.  Just make sure you don't cause your nutrient levels to drop too far – nitrates and phosphates are major nutrient building blocks for ALL of the life you're trying to grow on your rock, including the bacteria and future corals.

 

Healthy levels for a new tank would be ≥ 0.05 ppm for PO4 and ≥ 5 ppm for NO3.    "≥" means "greater than" – so more than these levels is FINE.  Less is NOT. 😉 👍

 

1 hour ago, King Detritus said:

The ultimate goal is soft/LPS corals and one clownfish. I want a modest nano with mid-range upkeep and the most stability I can squeeze out of the system. 

Those are excellent goals.  👍

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Seeing the picture of your tank, it has more than enough surface area.  You have nothing to worry about.  The bacteria will be able to multiply to an appropriate number based on the bio-load.  Additional surface area won't result in more bacteria, as the amount of ammonia input will determine the populations, not the surface area of the rock.  Past estimates of the amount of rock needed to support a typical bio-load were almost always too high.  Believe me, you have more than enough rock to support the bacteria which will be needed to process the ammonia produced by a fully stocked tank.

 

While dosing more bacteria won't hurt anything, it is totally unnecessary.  First, the bacteria populations become established on the rock, so water changes won't affect the biofilter.  Next, the populations adjust to the bio-load, so there will already be enough bacteria present; you won't need to add any more.  The bacteria populations will automatically adjust as the bio-load increases.  That's why we stock our tanks slowly, because this allows time for the bacteria populations to adjust to the new amount of ammonia production.

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I hate bio media. It seems it is best for catching crud, slowing flow through chambers and releasing aluminum into the tank. 
 

It was created to make your wallet smaller lol 🙂 not run your tank better. 

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Yeah, I always assumed that bio-media was designed for tanks without any live rock.  You know, like a kid's freshwater fish tank that has some gravel and maybe a couple of aquarium decorations in it.  It just isn't needed for a tank like this (no matter how the bio-media companies market their products).

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King Detritus

Just jumping back in here for a quick tank update. I've been testing nitrite every day with the API test kit. It's sitting at around .5 to 1 ppm. It's a little hard to tell. Edit: Also tested nitrate. There's definitely some present, but it's below 5 ppm. So I guess that nitrite is slowly processing and definitely trending down. 

 

If anybody has any recommended test kits, I'd appreciate it. I know Hanna makes good ones. I purchased the salinity tester but the screen broke almost instantly when I tried to put the battery. I'll probably stay away from that one, but might consider getting the nitrate or phosphate kit eventually. Also, looking to get an ATO soon.

 

Thanks to everybody for the comments, suggestions, and encouragement!

 

On 1/12/2023 at 10:59 PM, Tamberav said:

I am cycling a tank right now too... I am not confused though as I never test my cycles haha! I may be confused if I did tests though! 

 

@Tamberav Thanks for sharing for your experience. I appreciate it. I hear you, maybe I should be testing so much and trusting nature to do her thing!

 

On 1/12/2023 at 10:59 PM, Tamberav said:

Your scape looks great btw!!

Thanks again. I spent about a week playing with the rocks, breaking them up, and of course exposing them back to together. Lots of good videos on YouTube by BRS TV, the late great Jake Adams, and surprising enough the Queen of Reef has some decent scaping videos. I like natural scapes and the rock on the right has a circle arch the fish can eventually swim through.

 

On 1/12/2023 at 11:25 PM, Tired said:

Bio-media that you can fit into the filter area of a tank like this is negligible in area compared to your live rock, and has a tendency to accumulate gunk.

@Tired I understand that. I'm going to run filter floss on the left and bio on the right to prevent that. I will likely remove some out to make way for carbon or GFO. I have another tank that I may set up as quarantine or to cycle the remaing dry rock at some point. I figured I'd move some bio over there and be better off for it.

 

On 1/12/2023 at 11:25 PM, Tired said:

"Algae = tank ready to start stocking" seems like a good rule of thumb. Definitely wouldn't want to add any snails right now, since, as I'm sure you can tell, there's nothing for them to eat. Same goes for copepods. A hermit could go in now if you fed every day or so, since you can manually feed the lil critter. 

@Tired I've heard the algae comment before on videos I've watched. I have left the light off all this time and only turn it on when working on the tank or the photo I posted because I really like looking at the tank! I plan to feed the pods with phyton until the system is growing enough to feed the whole CUC.

 

On 1/12/2023 at 11:59 PM, mcarroll said:

As folks mentioned already, you are just underestimating the amount of surface area of your rock and sand bed.

@mcarroll Understood. Like I said before I understand this overkill. I described above partly why I did it. Also I figured the ones in the tank could support more pod life. Any tips for increasing bio diversity in the tank?

 

On 1/12/2023 at 11:59 PM, mcarroll said:

Large water changes can be a bad thing, especially if they aren't needed.  Just make sure you don't cause your nutrient levels to drop too far – nitrates and phosphates are major nutrient building blocks for ALL of the life you're trying to grow on your rock, including the bacteria and future corals.

@mcarroll I said the 50% water change because I was concerned with the nitrites. Everyone keeps telling me not to worry so much, as long the tank can cycle ammonium and the nitrates don't go crazy. 

 

On 1/12/2023 at 11:59 PM, mcarroll said:

Those are excellent goals.  👍

@mcarroll Thanks. I'll add one more. I'd like this tank be as much of a sustaining ecosystem as possible, which is why I want to add pods.

 

On 1/13/2023 at 12:23 AM, seabass said:

Seeing the picture of your tank, it has more than enough surface area.  You have nothing to worry about. 

@seabass Music to my ears! LOL. Seriously, I did think it was a little rock light at 11lbs.

 

On 1/13/2023 at 12:23 AM, seabass said:

Additional surface area won't result in more bacteria, as the amount of ammonia input will determine the populations, not the surface area of the rock. 

@seabass This is helpful. Thanks.

 

On 1/13/2023 at 12:23 AM, seabass said:

While dosing more bacteria won't hurt anything, it is totally unnecessary. 

@seabass Based upon the feed back received, I'm abandoning the idea of adding more. I had it on hand in case I did that, or as a boost when I added the first fish. Sounds like overkill for what I'm doing.

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29 minutes ago, King Detritus said:

If anybody has any recommended test kits, I'd appreciate it. I know Hanna makes good ones.

Salifert is a pretty good brand for just about everything.  However, Hanna does make a good low range phosphate test kit, which I recommend.  And personally, I like API for ammonia (but Salifert or another brand will suit you fine).  Truth is, you won't test for ammonia much after the cycle has been established.  You might want to read my testing article:  https://www.nano-reef.com/articles/beginners/water-parameters-what-to-test-and-when-r40/

 

 

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Whoa that sucks it broke immediately. I have the hannah alk, phos, and high range nitrate and those are all pretty good. 
 

stay away from hanna calcium, magnesium, and low range nitrate. 

For salinity I use the veegee refractometer, it is expensive but lab grade. Doesn’t drift all the time like the cheaper ones. I just bought a new bottle of salinity calibration solution to check to and wooo.. it’s still right on point and I don’t think I have calibrated in over a year and a half. 

 

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growsomething

Just to add my $0.02 of experience, I filled all 3 rear chambers of my Nuvo 10 with rock rubble with the thought that more is better.  If it wasnt for trapping so much detritus that could be true, but it does in fact trap a lot of detritus, and 3 years in seems totally unnecessary.  You can always take it out if you find that to be true, so I wouldn't worry about it, although everything the others are saying about it is true.

Nice looking tank!

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