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Old 02-10-2012, 02:28 PM   #1
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Fishless cycling with ammonia only

Brand new to the hobby, did research and decided to try fishless cycling for a new saltwater reef tank.
I purchased a Red Sea Max 250, i have started my cycle 2 weeks ago(using dry sand and dry rock and ammonia only, did some further reading and found that some guys also use fishfood to create some sort of phosphate level, but i held off), had almost lost my patience when finally last night got the first traces of nitrites.
Anyone with much experience on this type of cycling? how long will the cycle last before nitrites back to zero? should i expect an algae bloom after which i can introduce a cleanup crew when the cycle is complete?( right now it looks like a sterile lunar surface)
and i've been wondering about the sand - will it eventualy turn into live sand or does one have to add some type of activator?
Any advise will be much appreciated
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Old 02-10-2012, 02:31 PM   #2
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Keep dosing your ammonia up to 4 ppm and everything will work itsself out in some more time. There will be a diatom bloom everything will turn brown shortly after that you can add your CUC. The sand and rock is coming alive as I type.
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Old 02-10-2012, 02:42 PM   #3
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thanks Erik, , will continue to be patient.
Will sand organisms such as Detritivores, Pods, ReefWorms, Plankton, Mini Brittle Stars and MacroAlgae start colonizing by themselves, or do i even need all of these organisms?
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Old 02-10-2012, 03:09 PM   #4
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They will all need to be physically brought to the tank to be in there and they shouldn't be in there until after your cycle is complete.

Dry rock, dry sand, etc will become live during the process of your cycle.

Are you adding in ammonia to keep your ammonia converting bacteria fed?
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Old 02-10-2012, 03:13 PM   #5
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hey scot, yes adding ammonia as soon as the level drops below 3ppm, i check every day, so when the cycle is completes and i have my algae bloom - now add the cleanup crew - should i add sand sifting snails as well and will they have enough to feed on?
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Old 02-10-2012, 03:22 PM   #6
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You will likely have a diatom bloom, but I don't know if anything eats diatoms. I'm sure something does, but the diatoms will disappear on their own. You want to try to avoid algae growth, and although you probably won't be able to there will be enough microalgae for the cleanup crew to sustain (providing you don't get too large of a crew). If you think they're not getting fed enough, you can add a spirulina wafer to feed them.

Sand sifting snails are good such as dwarf ceriths, ceriths, nesarius, and crabs are good too. There are also starfish, astrea snails, sea cucumbers and a bunch of other cleanup crew options. Reefcleaners.org has good options.
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Old 02-10-2012, 03:31 PM   #7
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so i shouldnt be concerned about them not having anough to feed since the're will be plenty micro algae present, is adding the cleanup crew sufficient to sustain my nitrifying bacteria or should i add fish at the same time to produce enough ammonia to keep the cycle active, dont want all the bacteria to die off again, ive read that the cleanup crew produces insufficient amount of waste and that's why they are not being used for cycling in the first place. also do you suggest adding the above mentioned organisms to the sand and how much benefit do they provide
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Old 02-10-2012, 03:36 PM   #8
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Yes, you should add fish soon after introducing your cleanup crew to keep the bacteria alive. Within a few weeks at the most, I wouldn't wait longer than a week. I would not dose ammonia after adding the cleanup crew. If you must dose something, add small amounts of fish food to rot to keep your bacteria colony established.

Your cleanup clew provides a ton of benefits, eating detritus, algae, and other stuff. This helps keep your water parameters good and your display looking nice.
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Old 02-10-2012, 03:50 PM   #9
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did not even think about using fish food with the cuc! thanx!
what about adding the worms, small brittle stars etc to the sand . is it necessary or is other sandsifters such as the snails, and sand sifting starfish sufficient.
after 2 weeks of cycling my water level has somewhat lowered, it is safe to add water right? as long as temp, salinity and ph is balanced with my tank water?
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Old 02-10-2012, 04:03 PM   #10
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The reason your water level lowered is because of evaporation. Salt does not evaporate, only water. You should not be topping off with saltwater. Did you fill the tank with RO/DI water, or conditioned tap water? If you didn't use RO/DI water I imagine you will be fighting a loosing battle with algae sooner rather than later.

As far as top off water, I would just add RO/DI water for top-offs. If you don't have an automatic top off then I'd probably at least try to match the temp. If you're using an ATO it won't be adding enough water at any given time to affect the temperature or pH of the water.
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