Marine Aquarium Cycle

Discussion in 'Beginners' started by viper357, 8 Nov 2010.

  1. viper357

    viper357 Admin MASA Contributor

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    Cycling your marine aquarium.

    One of the hardest and longest things a marine aquarium hobbyist will encounter is the cycle of a new aquarium. The excitement and anticipation of starting a new tank is often met with disappointment when finding out you now have to wait 4 to 6 weeks for your new tank to cycle. In this article I will highlight the common processes involved with cycling a new aquarium.

    To start off you have your tank, you add salt water, substrate and live rock. You will also have your heaters, pumps and any other equipment plugged in and running, once all of this is done you now have to sit back and look at a relatively empty tank for a month or so. This is, however, one of the most important aspects of starting a tank because if you rush this process you may end up killing fish and corals and ultimately give up.

    Patience is key in setting up a marine aquarium, we all hate it but we have to do it.

    Here are two graphs which explain how the cycle works and the different elements involved. Please note that the time-lines are just a guide as each tank will cycle differently, but you can count on a rough period of 4 to 6 weeks. You will know your tank has cycled once your ammonia and nitrite levels have spiked and they both read 0 on your test kits.

    14b2362a1bcf46.gif

    14cd7e7c919d47.gif


    Here is an example of how I set up my nano tank.

    The basic tank with lights and in the black filter box is the heater and a circulation pump.
    149b37858cb2d8.jpg

    Here the tank is filled with RO (Reverse Osmosis) water and salt is then added, you can see the salt laying on the bottom of the tank. It is vital that you use RO water to start the tank and also for top-ups as tap water is not suitable and can lead to huge algae problems later on. There is also a circulation pump added which aids in the salt being dissolved. You can also see the tank is not filled up to the top, this allows for the water level to rise when the sand and rocks are added.
    149b6cc5ed9881.jpg

    At this point you need to take at least 24 hours to allow the salt to dissolve, you also need to bring your tank up to temperature (about 25 to 27 Celsius). Measure your salinity, (ideally with a refractometer). Your salinity needs to be about 1.025 to 1.026. If it is too high then add some RO water, if it is too low then add some more salt and allow it to dissolve.

    Once the salt has dissolved and the tank is at the right temperature you can then add your substrate. This needs to be very fine sand (sugar grain size or smaller). You can use various shop bought sands like coral sand, aragonite and so on, or you can use sand collected from the sea or a real cheap way to go is to use playsand, very cheap but needs to be washed lots and lots of times. In this tank I used a mixture of caribsea aragamax aragonite and playsand. Your substrate needs to be about 2 to 3 cm's deep to allow for worms and other creatures to populate the sand, this also provides food for the many creatures you will have in your tank. Once the sand is in, your tank will more than likely look very milky, leave it overnight to settle, once the water is clear you can then add your liverock. I rushed it a bit and put rock in straight away, this was not one of my brightest ideas (I have many of those :p) as the dust from the sand settled onto the rock and I had to clean it all off.

    You get different types of live rock, cured and uncured and from various locations around the world where it is harvested from, Kenya, Fiji, Indonesia etc.

    Here is my milky tank shortly after adding substrate and rock.

    149b6cc9603236.jpg


    A few hours later it is starting to clear up.
    149b6ccd232bad.jpg


    A few more hours later and it was looking lovely :p by the morning it should hopefully be crystal clear. Now this is where the hard part comes in, waiting for the tank to cycle, the long wait, periodic testing of ammonia and nitrite, waiting for the toxic levels to disappear. Hang in there, you'll get through it.
    149b6cd6495431.jpg

    After a couple of weeks you will more than likely notice some brown algae forming on the rocks, sand and glass. This is called diatom algae and is quite normal for a new tank and can occur in tanks well up to a year old. Grin and bear it, it does go away after a while.
    149c2141a02a1d.jpg

    A couple of weeks further in and you may start getting the dreaded green hair algae creeping in, this is also normal in some tanks, wait for it to get quite long and then pull it out, you may have to do this for a couple of weeks but it will eventually go away. You can reduce your lighting hours to only 2 or 3 hours a day to help stunt the growth of this algae, but you will win the battle. :)
    149cb45eb285d4.jpg

    So there it is in a nutshell, now I know there are many variations of cycling a tank and various other methods such as the zeovit method which allows you to cycle a tank in something like 7 or 14 days, you can try this method but it is a specialised method and needs to be followed to the tee, you also need special equipment and additives to use this method.

    One thing I would recommend using, although not essential, is Seachem Stability or Prodibio BioDigest or Bioptim, these add beneficial bacteria to your aquarium and can help establish the biofilter, I have used both of these with no ill effects. There are also many new products entering the market such as Microbelift and Brightwell Microbacter7 but I have not used these products so cannot comment on them, but they do have some very good reviews. Research all products carefully before using them.

    Before you add any of these or any other products to your tank, ask for advice on the forum, there is a huge amount of knowledge and experience on the forums and the guys are only too happy to share their experiences and advice with you.

    So......now what? Tank cycled? Yes? Cool....

    Now you can start thinking about adding livestock, add a couple of snails, hermit crabs if you want and then start stocking with fish and corals, but SLOWLY. Add a fish or two then wait a week or two before adding any more livestock, this allows the bacteria and your biofiltration to adjust to the added bioload in the tank. Don't ever stock a tank too fast.

    Have fun and enjoy your marine aquarium. Please feel free to ask any questions or add anything I may have missed.
     
    Last edited: 18 Jan 2017
    Haffy, Russel, NicoleneC and 9 others like this.
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  3. magman

    magman

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    Many thanks Dean, that is part one, maybe part two is a list of fish/corals and when you can add them, eg chucking a manderin and nemmie in on day one, lights, flow etc,

    I have a friend in Richards bay who is also about to cycle a tank soon, I think he is waiting for water or a plumber, something like that, but I will forward this link to him, he is a member on MASA and may find this link useful.......
     
  4. LCornelius

    LCornelius Moderator

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    Great post Viper,

    Is there a twitter, or FB button?
    Would love to tweet this post!
     
  5. OP
    viper357

    viper357 Admin MASA Contributor

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    Thanks guys. Feel free to do your own articles, about anything. ;)
    Yip, near the very top of the post you will find the Facebook Share and Tweet buttons, look for this - tweet.png They should be on every thread, so tweet away. :)
     
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  6. nepellew

    nepellew

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    Ya i think that will be a great idear Magman and thanks so much for the write up helps us nebies alot
     
  7. LCornelius

    LCornelius Moderator

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    Thanks Viper, I should have wiped the crap from my eyes :)
    Once again, excellent post!
     
  8. Mekaeel

    Mekaeel Moderator

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    Nice one boss!
     
  9. RiaanP

    RiaanP Moderator

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    Now, to automatically sent this link to every person that registers on MASA.
    Or have this page as the default nex page to display when a person registers.
     
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  10. Boegie

    Boegie

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    Thanks, very easy and well done article.
     
  11. Neil H

    Neil H Moderator

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    Nice article Viper !
     
  12. seank

    seank

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    :lol::lol: Just saw this now. Magman, there is a list of fish etc:

    http://reefmaniacs.com/hl/Starting with Marines.htm

    Easy Soft Corals For Your Reef Tank - Marine Aquariums of South Africa

    Btw Dean, very nice read, never saw this thread:thumbup:
     
  13. Dewald@Dorry

    Dewald@Dorry

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    Nice cycling introduction Viper. If I can just add my quick 2c. I find it works wonders to cycle a tank without lights. This prevents most forms of algea build-up.

    Every single customer that has cycled their tanks for 6 weeks without light units did not have any form of algea. The small downfall is that you loose some of the caroline algea and other live forms that requires light you might have on the live rock.

    But like you said.., there is many ways to skin a cat!
     
  14. seank

    seank

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    The love to hate thread, well almost there. Keep on looking at this thread to see if my diatom algae colour looks better, compared to the pic you posted
     
  15. KeeganP

    KeeganP

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    :whistling: Update time...! :yeahdude:
     
  16. Aquamatix

    Aquamatix

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    Awesome! As a complete noob I have so many questions. I've been trolling this forum for weeks now, gathering valuable information from people such as yourself. One of the questions I had pertained to cycling my new tank (which should arrive on Friday!), but your post has clearly answered that.

    One other question I have would probably require a diagram or such: What does each item in the average marine aquarium do? But not just the obvious hardware - also things like fish (what does their excrement, for instance, do to your tank - what filters it out, etc). Also, what causes nitrites and nitrates to go up or down and so on. I know most of these questions are answered in various ways on the forum, but a nice, clear post such as this one would help a lot of people, I think!
     
  17. NabeelV

    NabeelV

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    Can anyone help clarify this, "my tank has been cycling now for 2 weeks and a friend told me to add some fish food to the water to speed up the process"

    does this actually work?
     
  18. Tobes

    Tobes Retired Moderator

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    Anything that is dying or decomposing in the tank will cause ammonia, then bacteria converts it to nitrites and then to nitrates. Only when you can control nitrates with water changes and it stays stable for a week or so then the cycle is finished.
    The nitrogen cycle takes time, depending on how much die off is in the live rock - up to 6 weeks. Some say you can also add a whole dead shrimp (the ones you buy from a grocery shop) to decompose. It will not speed up the cycle, the same with food. It still needs to break down and go through the process.
    Patience is the key here - you cannot speed mother nature up, she can come back to bite you :p
    Some reading for you on starting a marine tank in my signature - great info ;)
     
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  19. Tremayn

    Tremayn

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    @NabeelV this only causes harm to the fish and can lengthen the cycle. Rather just sit back and relax
     
    Last edited by a moderator: 26 Nov 2015
  20. Steve1975

    Steve1975

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    thanx for this post, my tank is busy filling with ro water, nice to get an idea of what to do next. i know now to wait for the dust to settle b4 adding live rock!! Did not realise this b4!!
     
  21. Steve1975

    Steve1975

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    do you need to run your skimmer during the cycling process??
     

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