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Featured Cycling new tank (or am I?)

Discussion in 'Reefs' started by Ade_S, Aug 18, 2015.

  1. Ade_S

    Ade_S Registered

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    Hi all,

    I'm setting up a new 450L system to upgrade my old 70L one.

    Water is in and heated. Salinity at 35ppm. Live rock (40KG from my LFS and a couple of KG from my old tank) is in, as is 25KG of new (non-live) sand, mixed with about 1KG sand from the old tank.

    I've not used anything to start the cycling as the LFS reckoned that any natural die-off in the rock should be enough. However it's been over 10 days and I've had no detectable ammonia or nitrite. Nitrate seems to be slowly creeping up but still only at 4ppm.

    The LFS (Maidenhead Aquatics at Shirley) keep the rock in the sump for their system so it's probably pretty mature already.

    Any thoughts? Do I just keep waiting? Do I seed it with some pure ammonia? Or is it ready to go?

    I'm in no great rush and could put some clean-up crew in with a bit of food as long as it's safe but don't want to treat any of them to adverse conditions.

    Cheers,
    Ade
     
  2. warby

    warby Registered

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    Some people including myself don't really see a spike in ammonia but end up with nitrate. You could if you want put a raw prawn in and let it decompose then see if you get a ammonia spike.
     
  3. jim_fitz

    jim_fitz Admin Staff Member

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    v happy to here you aren't in a rush
    i would always want to be certain you have cycled (wrong choice of word though)
    so would add something to ensure you have ammonia :)whistling:) and could save you a toilet flush haha (apparently the kids don't use lol any more)
     
  4. Bluez_01

    Bluez_01 Registered

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    I am also cycling a new tank, and brought some 35% ammonia food grade to feed the bacteria, I added 2ml for 270L water originally which put me a little over my comfort zone to be fair, but I am also adding Zeostart, so I wanted to make sure these guys had a feast waiting for them lol.
    This is not your first tank as you said, so you know it can take up to 6-8 weeks to cycle from scratch, however with LR in there you have a base to work from, but without food, the bacteria is going to die off, creating food for the others, but your kind of prolonging it that way if you follow my train of thought:

    You are killing off what you want to grow, to feed the rest, once they have food they will survive and multiply, however once all the food is used up, some will die off, creating food for the others.... we go around and around and around....
    The question is, will there ever be enough food to get the population to the stage that we need them to be at? sure we can have a fully "cycled" tank in a few weeks like this, but once you start adding fish and food, corals, critters, etc... is there enough bacteria in the system to keep up, or will we get a spike from the bio load we have now added...

    Somewhere out there, on the vast internet, there will be info on how much ammonia is used up in so many hours V the amount of bacteria we have in the system, or that we are going to add to the system, I don't think the boffins have logged just how much each fish or critter poops just yet to get an idea of how much bacteria we need exactly, but I don't think you can have too much of the stuff at the start, as long as the system can cycle it out within 12-16 hours, the balance will level out after that.

    So I would feed the tank ammonia, and work on say 0.5ml of 35% ammonia gone in 8-12 hours from adding it, obviously nites and the trates both at zero as well, then I would feel I have reached a "safe" zone to wack in the goodies.
     
  5. Ade_S

    Ade_S Registered

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    Yeah - I follow the logic of that. Certainly makes sense that the bacteria are going to need an external food source to avoid their population "plateauing", possibly below the level needed when I transfer the livestock from my old tank.

    I'm wondering about the shrimp method as a number of people seem to suggest that will provide nutrients, other than just ammonia, that the bacteria need.

    Ade
     
  6. Bluez_01

    Bluez_01 Registered

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    Well I am not sure on what exactly a dead shrimp releases to be honest lol, but I think the only thing bacteria need is ammonia for a start to get the first lot up and running along with some oxygen, their by-product feeds the others, I would say that it may release some nutrients in to the water as it decays, but I am not sure what exactly that is going to "feed" as not much can live in an ammonia environment, more so at the levels we are keeping it at for the initial stage of cycling.

    Once we start throwing in coral feed and fish food that nutrient level will come up anyway, there is the saying that the shrimp feeds the sand bed, but again in the space of time we are cycling the tank I doubt there is much in the way of life in there anyway, and if there is, it probably would have a hard time surviving in this environment anyway.

    Once the tank is processing though (towards the end of the cycle), then I would certainly consider feeding the bed with something to try and help that kick start up as well.
     
  7. Ade_S

    Ade_S Registered

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    Thanks and sorry for not replying to the above - have been on holiday.

    OK - so I'm now wondering whether it's actually cycled. This is the history and current position...

    Live rock went in 3 weeks ago. This was from the sump at the LFS so should be pretty mature. I put a couple of fist sized bits of rock from my current tank in at the same time.

    Sand went in a few days later (not live sand) and I put a few cupfuls of sand from current tank in too.

    After 2 weeks of seeing no ammonia (ie a week ago) I threw in a couple of small frozen prawns in a mesh bag.

    I'm still seeing no ammonia or nitrite - checking on a new set of test kits and with my Seneye confirming 0.001 ammonia. However nitrate is slowly creeping up - currently at 5mg/l.

    So I'm wondering whether the live rock was sufficiently mature when I bought it that any ammonia is immediately being converted to nitrite and then immediately to nitrate.

    Can I ask for anyone's thoughts please? Do I carry on waiting? Do I put another couple of prawns in (current ones seem to have decayed a fair bit and were pretty small to start with)? Do I transfer some of my CUC and/or a fish (then slowly add the rest of the livestock over the next few weeks)?

    My only other concern is my pH. In my old tank it was a little low (varying between 7.7 and 8.1) whereas the new tank is a little high at around 8.6. Same salt mix so I can only put it down to better aeration and less algae producing C02 (particularly at night).

    Cheers and sorry for the long post!
    Ade
     
  8. Bluez_01

    Bluez_01 Registered

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    Hi Ade, Hope you had a good holiday! I definitely would not add any stock yet, until you know 100% for sure you have a cycled tank, as this is just a time bomb waiting to go off if you do.
    Your theory holds water (excuse the pun), but its a 50/50 if that is happening, the issue I see in all fairness is that you do not know how much ammonia is going in / being produced in the tank, therefore its hard to say for sure what amount is being converted.

    I would get some food grade ammonia, (non-scented) I am using 35% food grade on my cycle at the moment, all told my tank holds around 270L`ish I am now at the stage where I can add 1mil of this ammonia which takes the reading up to 0.5 or just over, and within 12-18 hrs it is back to zero again, so I am now confident that the first set of bacteria are established and ok, my nitrites are through the ceiling as you can probably imagine, running around 4.0 I would say, so I am waiting on these guys to get sorted out now to bring that down. Nitrates are high as well, and I did my first water change yesterday of around 20L to just remove some of this to help the nitrite guys get sorted out (they slow down in high nitrate levels).

    But to sum it up, I would get some food grade ammonia it costs around £4 ish for a bottle that you will only use a 1/4 at most during the whole cycle, then its pretty much bin fodder, but it will clarify 100% for you where your system bacteria stage is at, and give you an idea of what to do next.
    If adding ammonia the tank converts it over a day, and the same with the nitrites, then your good to go, as for the PH, I would not be overly concerned with a reading of 8.6 it will slowly drop as the system settles and gets established, however make sure your not getting big "swings" day/night, if you are then you will need to look at getting it balanced out a bit better, but for now, I would not worry about it, main thing is to see where the cycle is at, and take it from there mate.

    Bluez.
     
  9. Ade_S

    Ade_S Registered

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    Think you're spot on there. There's no way to be certain it's cycled unless I know there's a certain amount of ammonia in there. I'll try your idea with some bottled ammonia to check whether it's being processed.
     
  10. Ade_S

    Ade_S Registered

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    Ok - think that was a good call, Bluez, though I may have gone overkill somehow and now have way too much ammonia!

    I put 9ml of Jeyes Kleen-Off ammonia (9.5% strength according to other forum posts, though the bottle doesn't actually state the strength) in on Friday eve, which my Seneye reported took me to 0.11ppm NH3. It was starting to drop slowly by the morning (0.1ppm) but that seemed too low a level to cycle the tank, so I figured I'd aim for 1ppm. That's 10x the level so I added 90ml.

    Seneye was reporting exactly 0.5ppm for the last 3 days which seemed odd (you can see where this is going!). Turns out that's the maximum NH3 level that The Seneye reports... Just tested it with my Hagen test kit and it's off the scale. Bright blue colour so well over the 6.1ppm that the test kit goes to!


    Wondering if it's worth doing water changes to bring it down to a sensible level (2-4ppm?). It'll take a few days to do that as total water volume is about 430l and my RO unit produces about 5l per hour. Guessing that I could just wait for a massive bacteria colony to form and process it all, though I'll have to do a big water change to get rid of the resultant NO3 anyway.

    For info, NO2 is now up to about 0.5ppm and NO3 is around 15ppm.
     
  11. Bluez_01

    Bluez_01 Registered

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    Hi Ade, Sorry for the late response, been away in rainy Vegas skeggy over the bank holiday weekend, well we live and learn on these things, you seem to have opt`ed to learn the harder way, but hey! no major long term damage, so all is good... kinda.

    So I am going to work up to the point before you overdosed, 9ml of ammonia took you from 0 to estimation guess of around 2.0ppm but over the course of the night, half of that would of probably been consumed and converted by the looks of things, then you slapped in the 90ml which sent the figures in to the sky.

    Not sure what you have done between your previous post and up to now, but if you have not done any water changes I would advise to just hold off for now, the ammonia NH3 will drop and your nitrites No2 will come up, as it being converted, basically you have a large feast on the table for the bacteria and it will take a little while to get thru it, :)

    The reason why I am saying hold off on the water change is because high`ish NH3 is not a major issue on the cycle, so doing a water change now will only probably kill off some of the free floating bacteria you have in the tank that is looking for a home, let the first lot of bacteria get boosted up from this, you will have more than you need in the end of the conversion, but at least you know that once you start to stock the tank you will be fine on the ammonia front until it levels off (die back of NH3 bacteria).

    No2 on the other hand is the one you need to keep your eye on, high levels of this (5.0pmm + ) will slow down the reproduction of No2 bacteria (yup strange I know), to help this set of bacteria they need a good dissolved oxygen ration in the water, so air pump with a stone will help this a long over a week or so, temp ideally should be a little higher than normal running temp 78-80 is pretty good I found.

    Make sure UV and skimmer is off during this period, as both will remove/kill off bacteria that is in the tank if its free floating looking for a home, hence the air pump above helps speed this bit a long, if you are planning on running a No3 Nitrate reactor, now would be a good time to start thinking about setting it up, as the process continues a long, your No3 will climb and by the end of it, it will probably be in the 40-80ppm mark, this is when you will need to do the big water change to get this down ready for the stock to go in, or if you are running a reactor this can be gaining the No3 bacteria as its getting to that stage, depending on which way your going, you can start to add your carb feed as well for the reactor (I use vodka) which will get the hardest and longest bacteria set a chance to start to populate up. (Thanks to Chippypah for clarification on that part).

    I would suggest you dont add anymore ammonia for now, but keep testing it, once the ammonia hits 0, wait 3 days and then add say 20ml to give it some food, this will produce more nitrites obviously as it converts it, but the ammonia will probably drop to 0 over night almost due to the large population you will have, again wait 3 days before repeating this, test the nitrites as this will slowly but surely drop, in the end this will hit 0, at this point you then do the 24 hour test, add your 20ml of ammonia, and within 24 hours both ammonia and nitrites should be at 0, your then good to go basically, check your nitrates at this point, and if its above say 10ppm do a water change or two to get it below this, but try not to get it to zero, as you still need nitrates in the system for your No3 bacteria to feed on while they are getting up to population.

    Add corals/fish.... simmer and wait, enjoy your well earned marine tank... ;)
     
  12. Ade_S

    Ade_S Registered

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    Firstly, thanks again for the lengthy post - really appreciate the advice!

    By the time I read this I'd done a 20% water change to try (unsuccessfully) to get the ammonia back into the range that my test kit can measure. As you advised, I turned off the skimmer, added an air stone and set up my reactor (using bio pearls). That was about 3 days ago and things are starting to look better.

    Ammonia now seems to have dropped to zero (both my test kit and Seneye agree on that!). N02 and N03 both sky high at >3.3ppm (max of my test kit) and around 70ppm respectively. So feeling more positive now and continue with the waiting game.

    I've read a little about vodka dosing but not come to any conclusions about how much and what bacteria it helps. Is it for the N02 -> N03 bacteria? Do you have any advice on how much to dose, please? Total system volume is approx 430L minus 40KG live rock.

    Lastly, I think I've worked out why I overdosed the ammonia. The Seneye reads the free (toxic) NH3 whereas my Hagen test kit measures the total NH3 & NH4. When I added the initial dose I used my Seneye to measure it and got a reading of 0.1ppm NH3. At 8.5 pH I think this would equate to a total ammonia of around 1 (actually about what I was aiming for initially, though I hadn't realised the Seneye and test kit were measuring different things. So, assuming I only had a tenth what I actually has (and wanted) I put 10x the amount in, taking me to an estimated 10ppm total. Hopefully that mistake has simply boosted my bacteria levels and this will help others avoid the same confusing (to me!) situation...

    Cheers for now! I'll post again to report on how things are going.
    Ade
     
  13. Bluez_01

    Bluez_01 Registered

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    *Indepth and very long post.... lol*

    Hi Ade, Glad things are starting to look up for you, at least we know now that you can convert ammonia so thats a step in the right direction, next we have to wait for the nitrite bacteria to get established, I am guessing by now you may of seen a slight decrease in that, if not it should be any day now I would guess, mine didn`t move for 8 days, and I was wondering if perhaps I didn`t have enough air going in to the tank, then over the period of the holiday (3 days) I returned to find they had hit zero, strange things this bacteria stuff...

    I did the 24 hour test, and hey presto the tank showed zero on both accounts, though my nitrates were high (as expected), so a 50% water change got them down to an ok`ish level, but not what I would ideally of liked, but as stated previously I didn`t really want zero on nitrates just yet, as I need that to feed the last bacteria... (The nitrate bacteria).

    Now before I go any further, there is no scientific statement as far as I can find that states that a carbon source helps this to grow/live, (In theory it states this will work) however it has been tested by many many many people that keep marines and they have all said/stated that they have seen the N03 and P04 levels drop, however like most things, there has been different carbon sources used, vinegar, sugar, vodka. So I am by no means saying vodka is the best thing to use, as you have other choices, but I personally use vodka.

    A little information before I get to dosing, so you know what you need to do/have, and what to look out for, and then you can make a decision from there.
    Firstly, You must have a good skimmer, this is paramount! when you start to dose the carbon source, the bacteria is not like other bacteria that lives in rocks, sand etc... as you would think, this bacteria is more free flow living, some will get attached to rocks/sand etc... but the majority of it will be in the water flowing around the system, therefore as this bacteria eats/converts the N03 & N04 it becomes a blob of bacteria that is loaded up with this stuff in it (though its pretty microscopic, so you won`t really see it) this is where the skimmer comes in, as this removes this bacteria along with the N03 & N04, which in turn removes it from your system.
    If the skimmer is not pulling this out, then what will happen over time is this bacteria will die and release the N03 & N04 back in to the water, hence why its important to have a good skimmer. The skimmer will start to make/export more gunk, normally more of a stench smell to it as well, this happens once the bacteria colony has started to take hold and doing its thing.

    Dosing carbon is not a quick method, and will not work over night, so don`t expect miracles instantly, in fact in all honesty don`t expect to see hardly anything for about 10 days or so, even then it will be a gradual thing and you probably won`t have the exact balance right for about 3 months, but don`t let this put you off, as once you have gotten it right and sorted, you should not have any issues with nitrates again.

    So now you have the idea of what we are trying to do, lets look at why many choose vodka, as mentioned you can use vinegar, sugar, we use vodka in comparison to other spirits/carbon sources as vodka is more pure in composition. Vodka is mostly water ethanol: no additives, no flavor added, etc.... So you can buy vodka with is normally around 40% proof, and as long as it has no added flavor then it should be fine to use. (home brands etc... are ok as long as the above applies, which is normally cheaper)

    The dosing Instructions:
    I copied this sometime ago and I can not remember where it came from, but I have it saved in a .txt on my computer, so I do not own the rights to this, but its pretty much the same principle all across the internet for dosing.

    Dosing Instructions

    1. Your first step is to test your system’s NO3 and PO4 levels. Do not try this method if you don’t know this!!!!!

    2. Estimate the net water volume of your system. The water volume is the sum of the aquarium volume, the sump and refuge minus live rock displacement. It is ok to underestimate the net water volume but it is risky to overestimate it.

    3. Start with 0.1 ml of vodka per 25 gallons (100 L) daily for the first three days.

    4. Then, double the daily dosage to 0.2 ml per 25 gallons (100 L) for days 4 to 7.

    5. On week two, add an additional 0.5ml to the daily dosage, regardless of the aquarium volume. Always test your system’s NO3 and PO4 levels. If your NO3 and PO4 levels start to drop during that 2nd week, maintain the current daily dose. If your NO3 and PO4 do not drop, add an additional 0.5 ml of vodka to the daily dosage on week three. Add 0.5 ml to the daily dosage every week until your NO3 and PO4 start to drop.

    6. When your NO3 and PO4 levels drop near undetectable levels, cut your current dose in half. This will be your daily dose.

    7. Keep dosing vodka every day (the dose on point 6) and keep monitoring your NO3 and PO4. If levels become detectable again, increase your daily dose by 0.1ml per week until the levels start to decrease again. Your NO3 and PO4 levels will eventually drop back to undetectable. This will become your new daily dose.

    NB: Those instructions are for 80 proof vodka only (40% ethanol by volume).


    Now before you go tipping vodka in to the tank and giving everyone a mass party, there are a few important things to keep in mind.
    Firstly, the amount your putting in initially is very small, in fact you will probably wonder why this tiny amount is going in, as it won`t do anything at all, there are two main reasons for this, first you are allowing the tank to adjust to the carbon source that is now entering the tank, corals, fish, rocks, sand, has probably never had this stuff before, so it needs time to adjust and get use to it, secondly you don`t want to overdose the amount at the beginning, as this may course a mass algae bloom, along with a dramatic O2 depletion in the tank, meaning things will go south very quickly.

    Corals (more so sps) can burn on the tips initially (go white), however this is normally only temporary and they will recover and grow as normal once they get use to the carbon source, you may see "white stringy" bacteria initially, this is the bacteria, however this normally indicates that you are probably adding too much vodka too soon, and you are getting an outbreak of bacteria, it would be advised in this case to drop back 1 or 2 dose amounts to allow the bacteria/tank to settle, before moving forward again.

    Watch your corals closely, any signs of stress to corals, drop the dose back 1 or 2 and allow them chance to adjust to it. keep an eye on your fish as well, if you notice they are coming up and popping the surface more than normal, this could be an indication of O2 depletion, so add more air, or open the skimmer up a bit more to allow more air from that to oxygenate the water.

    I personally use a dosing machine to add my vodka, it is fed in to the reactor directly on a "Y" piece, as the reactor has no oxygen/air crashing around in it, the only oxygen it gets is from the water, and the feed to the reactor is placed in a dead calm area with very little turbulence, this is personal choice.

    I do a "pre-mix" in a container, I mix 5ml of vodka to 1 litre of R/O water, (In all honesty, this is because I am lazy and I don`t like messing around everyday dosing) I started off by having the pump run for 2 secs on setting 2, which is works out to be 0.2ml, (NOTE: This is a diluted mix not pure vodka) the reactor is a recirculating reactor, therefore most of that dose stays in the reactor for about 2 hours or so, before its completely flushed out in to the tank.

    I now have the dosing at 15 secs, twice a day, (morning and night), each week I increase the time by 5 seconds, keeping to the same "pre-mix" as mentioned above, once I start to see the nitrates start to drop, I will halve the dose time and monitor the tank for a week or two and see where they are at, if they start to rise again, I will increase the time by 5 seconds, if they remain at zero I shall decrease the the time, until I see an increase, in the end I will get the exact amount of time needed to keep the nitrates at or around zero, I prefer to have them showing a bit, rather than none at all showing.

    Once you achieve the magic zero number, you will need to start to increase the food in the tank, as there will be very little in the way of nutrients in the tank, I use reef energy A & B in the old tank and have had great results from it, but there are other makes out there that do the same type of thing. I use reef energy as it the same make as the salt I use, so I know its safe to mix it with it.

    You should be able to feed reasonably heavy, but don`t allow too much to build up on the sand/rocks that is not eaten by something over night, if you have things remaining in the tank after this amount of time, then it may be wise to try a different food or add a "flavor" to it, garlic etc... to try encourage things to snap it up.

    You should hopefully by now be running a ULN system, your corals should start to color up like never before hopefully, and you should get good growth, algae should be very limited if any at all! happy days!
     
  14. Ade_S

    Ade_S Registered

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    Thanks again for all that info. That's starting to make sense now. I've not yet started the vodka dosing but think I'll need to as my nitrates are still at least 50ppm (my eyes are struggling to see the difference between 50 and 100 on the test kit but guess that's academic really since both are much higher than I ultimately want.

    It's also making a great food source for the algae that's taken hold - my live rock looks like it has a lawn over it, but that does at least allow me to see how the flow is in the tank, with 1-2" algae strands waving everywhere (every cloud has a silver lining and all that!).

    I think bacteria are getting there, but not quite ready yet. I had ammonia down to 0 and NO2 to 0.1 after the original feast I gave them. Then put another 20ml of ammonia in on Thursday eve. That took ammonia levels over 6.1ppm again, which was down to zero within 24hrs. NO2 is taking a little longer to fall - after a day it was 3.3ppm and now (two and a half days after adding ammonia) the NO2 is at 0.3ppm.

    So, it's falling, but not quick enough - looks like it's taking 3 days to process the NO2 (though again that was quite an ammonia feast I provided).

    Now, quick question on the vodka / nitrates, if I may. I was planning to illuminate the sump and grow chaeto in there, to stabilise pH overnight, act as a refuge for pods and soak up Nitrate. Would you recommend still vodka dosing, or should I wait to see how that goes? As mentioned, I've set up my reactor with bio pearls already and that's been running for about 10 days.

    Cheers,
    Ade
     
  15. Bluez_01

    Bluez_01 Registered

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    Hi, glad things are starting to take shape, if you are using pearls/pellets I would hold off on the vodka as they should have there own food source within them. So I would see how it goes for now.
     
  16. Ade_S

    Ade_S Registered

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    Thanks that's sort of what I'd guessed after reading the pack

    Will see how it goes, then.

    Cheers,
    Ade
     
  17. leopardshark

    leopardshark Registered

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    Ade your tank is still stabilising... I'd feed light unless their is some reason you can't i.e fish require lots of feeding eg butterfly fish...

    It will settle down it will take some time... Your fish is creating more ammonia than your bio filter can process .. You could, if you wanted top it up with some atm colony marine. Or you can just wait until it catches up.. Sorry i don't want to be preachy

    Hope it stabilises get rid of the nitrate by water changes for now....

    Goodluck
     
  18. Ade_S

    Ade_S Registered

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    Hi Leopardshark.

    That's not preachy and all advice is welcome!

    At the moment there's no livestock in the tank (all still in my old one). I've just been feeding ammonia occasionally as per Bluez_01's advice, which seems to be getting me there. As you say though, I don't think it's finished cycling yet as NO2 is too slow to drop after I add ammonia.

    I will feed relatively lightly once the livestock have been moved to their new home but certainly not at that point yet.

    Cheers,
    Ade
     
  19. leopardshark

    leopardshark Registered

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    Oooo I see dosing ammonia will work but in a fw system you have to do a 30/40% water change and those rules apply too to sw system the only difference is that ammount of a water change when your cycling is counter productive..

    Do you have a sump?

    If so I'd be setting up Cheatomorphra aswell as the carbon reactor...

    Aswell as perhaps running a sotchïng oxydator... For added oxygen ...
     
  20. Ade_S

    Ade_S Registered

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    Yes - expecting you have to do a big water change or two once it's cycled to get nitrate down.

    I will have chaeto in my sump but can't put it in until I've moved the livestock as I'll be reusing the lights from my old tank to illuminate the sump.
     
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