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Old 09-30-2005, 10:01 AM   #1
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Is SW bacteria harder to form then fresh?

First off I’d like to say how much I enjoy this site and all of the wonderful advice I’ve read

I just started my SW tank the first week of Aug and it seems like the parameters on the chemical tests haven’t changed in the last month.

Currently I’m showing:
0 Ammonia
2 Nitrite
20 Nitrate

This has been a constant for the last month and at about week 3 I saw a small increase in ammonia and my Nitrite spiked to 5+ but Nitrate has always hovered around 20.

I did a 30% PWC (16 gal, I have a 55 gal tank) after a month of cycling.

I only have 4 small damsels which have been doing great during the cycling, eating well and are very active, but I wonder if they are producing enough ammonia for the cycle process to complete. Also I started with 80 lbs of Carib-Sea Agra-Alive which I thought would help with a good bio base.

I even bought 3 1oz bags of BIO-Spira last Sat on the recommendation of my LFS and put in the tank but have still not seen any changes in the readings. The only thing I noticed was a change in color on the nitrite test which has me baffled. It’s a very slight light orange color instead of blue/red hues and at first I thought I had mixed up the Nitrate test with the Nitrite test but after checking I hadn’t. It’s been this same color for the last week.

I’ve kept African Cichlids for the last 8 years until I had to give them away to friends after I moved.

I had 6 of them all over 5” along with a 9” Pleco and my 350 never had trouble keeping up with the bio load. I don’t use a mesh with the 350 and change out my activated charcoal every 3 weeks. Currently I haven’t bought any LR but plan to in the future.

Any help on this subject would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 09-30-2005, 11:09 AM   #2
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I would say the lack of LR is the biggest factor in what is slowing down your cycle. LR provides a lot more surface area for the water to come in contact with initialy and the bacteria forms a little faster there (IMO)

doing a large water change during a cycle will prolong it, however if you're using live fish to cycle your tank it is often necessary. (for future reference, see our article on the Fishless Cycle) With only LS as a biofilter, and having done a large water change, I'm not surprised your cycle is taking a long time.

For options, see if there is a LFS near you that sells cured LR (if LR is something you want to add) you can add some cured LR to your tank and that will help move you're cycle along. Otherwise, it's still a waiting game. I would also take a sample of your water to the LFS and have them verify your readings. This will ensure that you're testing properly and that your test kits are not faulty (it happens)


Patience is your number one key to success in SW.
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Old 09-30-2005, 11:35 AM   #3
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Thanks for the reply BillyZ.

I do have tons of patience and unfortunately read about fishless cycling after 2 weeks of starting with fish

I have a LFS with cured LR at $2.99 a lb. Is 20 lbs enough to start out with? I really don’t want to invest more than $60 at this time as I’m not 100% sure I want to keep the tank SW. Is the Magnum 350 adequate for a fowlr set up? I plan on keeping around 6-8 small fish (less than 4”) at the most in this 55 gal.

I had thought about getting a Marineland Tidepool 2 but from what I’ve read on here they are NO3 factories and a waste of money. Since I don’t plan on going the reef route I’d hate to drop money on un-necessary equipment and my 350 with the 2 bio wheels has been able to keep up with a large BIO load in the past.

I had the LFS test my water last Monday when I first noticed the weird results of the NO2 test and they came up with the same weird color.(light orange/brown) We both use Aquarium Pharmaceuticals liquid test kit so that could be why. I’m going to give it another couple of weeks to see if it balances out.

Thanks again for your help.
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Old 09-30-2005, 11:45 AM   #4
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I should also say I’m totally confused on the reading of the NO3 test. When I test the tap it’s a very light blue which is 0 but this very light orange/brown color is something I have never seen using this kit for the last 8+years.

I was getting the usual red/purple color as the NO3 spike came and went and the only thing I have added to the tank since the spike is the BIO-Spira which after a week I wouldn’t think would still throw off the kit. I even bought a new bottle of NO3 test last Monday just in case.

Has anyone else seen this type of color using Aquarium Pharmaceuticals NO3 liquid test?
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Old 09-30-2005, 11:49 AM   #5
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sounds like you still have a couple of decisions to make.

Nitrate isn't a big concern for a FO tanks as nitrate isn't harmful to fish unless the levels get really high. if you're going FOWLR, with enough LR and semi-regular water changes, NO3 shouldn't get too high.

some general practices we promote here are 1.5 to 2 times your water volume in pounds of live rock. for a 55 gallon tank, 75-100 pounds are what most go for. one way people cut costs in LR is by getting primarily dry base rock, then seeding it with LR. In other words, if I were setting up a new tank today, and need 100 pounds of LR, i would probably get 60-70 pounds of dry rock, and 30-40 pounds of actual LR. this saves a LOT of money but you end up with a full 100 of LR once the dry rock acquires the same bacteris and algaes etc.

For water flow, we generally suggest 10 times water volume in GPH. This should be from more than one device, sump returns, hobs and powerheads all count. The intent is to keep the water column moving at all times. Eliminate dead spots without having really strong current in any one area. Also, directing the different currents so they intercept helps create a more chaotic water flow and prevents collection of detritus matter in valleys and pits in your LR.
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Old 09-30-2005, 11:56 AM   #6
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I'm not familiar with that brand of test kit, nor have I ever used Bio-spira so I can't confidently comment on your situation with the NO3 tests. What does the biospira list as active ingredtients? The orange color isn't represent anywhere on the results chart? YOu could try contacting the manufacturer of either the test kit or bio-spira, look em up online, and see if you can find anything out from them.
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Old 09-30-2005, 12:19 PM   #7
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Finding base rock at the LFS is kind of hard as most only sell the lr around here. I’ve found a couple of good places online though so I think I will go that route.

BIO-Spira is only purified SW and live bacteria so I wouldn’t think it would have an effect on the test results but I’ll check with the manufacture. Orange/brown isn’t a color anywhere on that test so I’m at a lost.

I have two ph pushing 300 gph on each side of the tank along with the 350 which does 350 gph in the center totaling 950 gph so water movement is strong with little dead spots.

Thanks for your advice on the lr/base rock I kept thinking I had to drop $$$ on lr from the start but stupidly didn’t realize that base rock would turn to lr eventually. Just sitting in the tank is enough? You don’t have to “seed” it with anything?

Lastly do you have to cure base rock for a couple of weeks like lr? Can you just rinse it off and put in the tank?
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Old 09-30-2005, 01:55 PM   #8
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I wish I could be more help with the BIO-Spira issue, i've just never used it.


There's no need to cure base rock, I would just give it a rinse under fresh water to remove any dust or other junk as it tends to not be stored or shipped very carefully.

You don't "have" to seed the base rock, and it will become populated with all the necessary bacteria for your nitrogen process, however you really should have more than just the bacteria. The algaes and micro-fauna (worms, pods, etc) and macro-fauna (sponges, feather dusters, etc) really do a lot to round out your "life support" so to speak. IMO, the closer you can get your tank to being a chunk of the ocean floor, lifted up and put into your tank, the less problems you will have and the less you'll need to rely on maintenance and equipment to keep the tank stable. (note that this is my theory on fish keeping and may differ from many other opinions you get.)

My advice, would be to figure out how much you are able to spend on rock. use 50% on base rock and 50% on LR. this usually will give you a 60/40 split on base/live rock.
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Old 09-30-2005, 02:20 PM   #9
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I was looking at the link you poseted about the BIO-spira. It doesn't really say (that I saw) what type of aquarium it's intended for. The nitrifying bacteria from FW to SW is quite different, IIRC. The only thing I saw was a testimonial saying the "tried it on several freshwater systems..." did your LFS say it would work on a SW system?

I just found this, it states there are seperate FW and SW versions of the BIO-Spira, which makes sense to me. did you get the SW version?
http://fishstoretn.com/bio_spira.html
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Old 09-30-2005, 02:25 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BillyZ
(note that this is my theory on fish keeping and may differ from many other opinions you get.)
Sounds good to me I'll get the base/lr and see how my bio-load works out. Thanks for all your help
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