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Old 02-14-2005, 01:52 AM   #1
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Curing live rock

I asked these questions on another forum site (I was tempted by the dark side), but didn't get any feedback (maybe it's too many questions to try to tackle), so I thought I'd ask here.

I've read a lot of information about using live rock that seems contradictory and hoped someone could explain it all to me. Here's my understanding of it with lots of questions thrown in:

1. Mail-order LR will have a lot of die-off when shipped, so it will create an ammonia spike when added to a tank. Thus, you need to cure it rather than put it in an establish tank - i.e. cycle it in another tank/tub/trashcan. Ok...but isn't LR a biofilter - why doesn't it have enough bacteria on it to filter the ammonia from the die-off? Or did the bacteria also partly die-off, being nitrogen-starved during shipping, so they need time to build-up? Also, if you leave the LR to cure too long, will you actually lose a lot of the bacteria again, because after the die-off there's not much waste being produced?

2. If you start a tank with a bunch of uncured LR, do you still need to add hardy fish or throw in a dead shrimp to cycle it, or will it cycle itself with the dieoff?

3. LR taken from an established tank can be placed right into another established tank. No need for curing as there's been no die-off?

4. I've read some places that you shouldn't put LR, at least high quality LR, in an uncycled tank, or you'll kill off much of the biodiversity during the ammonia spike. Ok, this makes sense for LR taken from an established tank, but if it's shipped LR, due to die-off it's going to go through an ammonia spike whether you put it in your uncycled tank or cure it in another tank, right?

5. Is there any way to avoid the ammonia spike in uncured LR, such as putting only a small amount in a large, established tank? Does the skimmer in your tank help pull out waste from the die-off before it breaks down, unlike curing it in a trashcan?

6. Also, does any of this apply to live sand for a DSB? Is there significant die-off when it's sitting there on the LFS shelf? Is it better to just get Southdowns dead sand, and then buy some live sand innoculant or scoop some sand from your friend's tank with a DSB?

Whew, if you're here, thanks for reading my tome of a post. I appreciate your help clearing up my confusion.
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4 Harlequin Rasbora
3 Clown Loach
2 Pearl Gourami (m/f)
2 Siamese Algae Eaters
Rotala,Vallis,Crypt,Ambulia,Watersprite
Physa and Malaysian Trumpet snails
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Old 02-14-2005, 02:48 AM   #2
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Yes, that is a lot of questions...

1) I would assume that the bacteria on the LR are likely to be weakend/killed in the transport process, just like other life on the rock. The faster you can receive it, the more likely you can simply add it directly to an existing tank with little impact.

2) Uncured LR will cycle a tank nicely on it's own. Nothing else required.

3) Think of the ocean as another existing tank. Same thing. The only issue is how long it takes to make the transfer, and the conditions of the transfer.

4) I agree with the first statement. The uncycled tank is deadly to anything you put in it, including life on the incoming LR. Yes, if the rock has suffered a lot of damage in transit it is going to produce a lot of ammonia wherever you put it...in the tank or in the curing tank. If the tank has any existing filtration, then the tank is the better choice for preserving the life on the LR. Placing the LR in the tank, however, might be harder on any existing stuff in the tank.

5) Yes, this works. It isn't your skimmer so much as the well established bacterial load that the existing tank has. As soon as the rock produces ammonia, existing bacteria more quickly ramp up to deal with it.

6) Sorry, no comment on the sand.
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Old 02-14-2005, 07:35 AM   #3
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6: "live sand" in a bag is a waste of money. buy southdown, and get a few cups of sand from a good healthy tank.

Regular water changes will help keep your LR healthy. All you really need to check for is the Amm levels. Dieoff can overwhelm the bacteria filter

In theory, LR bacteria die off in a super clean tank, but I think there will always be enough things dying to keep one baceteria of each kind alive. In a few hours or days, one bacteria will be trillions, in the right conditions. I
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Old 02-14-2005, 09:54 AM   #4
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Quote:
I've read some places that you shouldn't put LR, at least high quality LR, in an uncycled tank, or you'll kill off much of the biodiversity during the ammonia spike. Ok, this makes sense for LR taken from an established tank, but if it's shipped LR, due to die-off it's going to go through an ammonia spike whether you put it in your uncycled tank or cure it in another tank, right?
I considered this point at length and decided to cycle my tank with only the sand in place in the tank and sump. I thought that any spike from the CURED LR added after cycling would be minimized due to:

1) the presence of bacteria in the new LR, and
2) the biofiltering capabilities of the fully cycled live sand.

I'll be adding LR after the 26th of Feb, so I'll let you know. (I have two small pieces in now from an LFS who gave me a good price - I was hoping that the LR would help me with the nitrite portion of the cycle, since ammonia is now 0. I'm worrited now about a small blue mushroom coral that hitchhiked on the LR!!)

About the only thing potentially alive in packaged live sand are bacteria, but they are the essence of the cycle, and i used a mix of LS and aragonite sand with a couple of dead shrimp. I'm at day 17 now, with ammonia now at 0 and nitrates somewhere between 2 and 5 on my color card. Nitrates are at about 50. Hagen test kits.

BTW: when I use a Seachem test kit, I get different (off-the-scale higher) numbers for the nitrite/nitrate test results. It's frustrating to try to match colors when the ranges are so far apart (my nitrite color chart has 2.0 and 5.0 as adjacent colors).
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SG 1.024, temp 79.5, pH 8.4

Livestock I added:

1 skunk cleaner. 12 hermits: red, scarlet, blue. 15 or so assorted snails. Discosomas, Ricordia, Rhodactis mushroom corals, chaetomorpha (sump), 1 feather duster, Montipora digitata, Montipora capricornis, Montipora hispids. assorted zoos, Xenia, Kenya tree coral, green Sinularia, green star polyps, branching hammer coral, bubble coral, Devil's hand leather. Yellow chromis, purple firefish.

Hitchhikers: the usual suspects :crabs, bristles, urchin, mantis shrimp (now in exile in mantis tank)

List of possible/likely newcomers:

Feather duster. PJ cardinal, Bangghai cardinal, Firefish goby, Clownfish, Neon goby, Yellow watchman goby, Orchid dottyback. Various corals.
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Old 02-14-2005, 10:52 AM   #5
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Wow, thanks for all the advice. Things are a lot clearer. In summary, if you're starting a new tank, it sounds like you should add your dead sand and base rock, if using it, and then add your LR slowly, using lower quality rock first. Try to keep shipping time low. Don't buy "Live sand in a bag." Try not to add any sensitive fish/inverts until you're done building up your LR, but no need to manually cycle the tank before you do so (e.g. no need for aggro damsels). This last point in particular is contradictory to most everything else I've read online, but it makes total sense to me.

So, if I'm doing this slow process of adding LR, when is the best time to add a clean-up crew of snails and hermits?

Where do you guys prefer to get your LR? LFS, online, craig's list (of course, friends with too much )?

Also, any one tried out live sand activators, like this: http://www.ipsf.com/#anchor47277
Of course, a friend with a healthy DSB is probably better.

Thanks again for all the advise.
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Rotala,Vallis,Crypt,Ambulia,Watersprite
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Old 02-14-2005, 12:00 PM   #6
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Quote:
if you're starting a new tank, it sounds like you should add your dead sand and base rock, if using it, and then add your LR slowly, using lower quality rock first
I've read this, but that's not exactly what I or others I know have done - they cycled with sand and shrimp first (including a bag of live sand), then added the bulk of their cured LR all at once. (I violated the sequence a little bit by adding a couple of pieces of LR from the LFS. I was on my way home from a meeting of the local reef club and couldn't help myself!!!!) )Also, I think that bagged LS may contain bacteria that kick start the cycle, but is unlikely to contain the critters we all hope for on new LR.

The most highly recommended LR on this board seem to come from LR.com, with an abundance of life and minimal ammonia spike on placement into main tank, although I personally have not used them yet.

Remember, a stable biological filter base is an asset when adding new life of any kind, and putting live fish into an uncycled tank is now considered too cruel to contemplate.
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30 gal standard 55 lbs LR, 60 lb live sand, 10 gal sump/refugium. Urchin skimmer, mag7 pump, 3 x 96W PC combination 10,000K/actinic bulb, 2 blue LED moonlights
SG 1.024, temp 79.5, pH 8.4

Livestock I added:

1 skunk cleaner. 12 hermits: red, scarlet, blue. 15 or so assorted snails. Discosomas, Ricordia, Rhodactis mushroom corals, chaetomorpha (sump), 1 feather duster, Montipora digitata, Montipora capricornis, Montipora hispids. assorted zoos, Xenia, Kenya tree coral, green Sinularia, green star polyps, branching hammer coral, bubble coral, Devil's hand leather. Yellow chromis, purple firefish.

Hitchhikers: the usual suspects :crabs, bristles, urchin, mantis shrimp (now in exile in mantis tank)

List of possible/likely newcomers:

Feather duster. PJ cardinal, Bangghai cardinal, Firefish goby, Clownfish, Neon goby, Yellow watchman goby, Orchid dottyback. Various corals.
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Old 02-15-2005, 03:39 AM   #7
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I always say to treat your really high quality, expensive LR with the same care that you would treat a fish. Just as you can't expect a fish to survive being placed in an uncycled tank, don't expect your expensive LR to survive either.

Clean up crew.... add them when there is something worth cleaning. I suspect that would be as soon as the tank settles down after the LR addition. If you are lucky, the LR has more than enough stuff in it to keep them busy. (My shipment contained 2 hitchhiking hermits)

I think the really good way to do this is to load up your sump (if you have one) with the cheap LR that the LFS sell. Cycle the system in advance of the real rock arriving.
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