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Old 07-08-2010, 01:22 PM   #1
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Is this normal?

My tank had been sitting dormant for well over a year. Lights off. When the water would drop a couple of inches in the tank, I'd top it off with tap water. I know... tap water is horrible. On May 29th, 2010, I finally decided to re-establish my tank. I changed out the existing dead coral rock with larger pieces that had been sitting in my closet for years. I used less rock, therefore I had to add about an additional 10-15 gallons of water. Unfortunately, I added tap water with conditioner added. I added 3 fish to start my cycle. During the first two weeks, I had also upgraded my filtration and lighting. I replaced my HOB Emperor power filter with a wet/dry. I added the bio wheels from the old filter to the bio ball compartment in order to keep whatever bacteria colony that had started to grow. I also upgraded my lighting from standard fluorescents to 216 watts of T5 lighting. For the first few days, I was running the lights 12 hours a day, but now I run the lights 8 hours a day. After I put the new lighting in, I noticed brown algae starting to grow on my coral rocks. Within a few days all of my rocks were covered in brown hairy algae. There was some on the glass and the sand as well. I ended up going to my LFS and buying a white bag made of fine filter material. I vacuumed the rocks so the dirty algae water flows through the bag and traps the gunk. The problem is that the brown algae continues to grow back full strength within a few days, and I have to repeat the process. I threw in about a dozen nerite snails to try to clean up the algae, but they like to hang out at the top of the tank near the water level. I check my water parameters every 2 to 3 days. Ammonia is at 0, nitrite has been fluctuating between .5 and .125 for over 2 weeks now, and my nitrate levels have been off the charts for about a month now. I top off the water in my sump every 1 to 2 days with RO/DI water since the tank has been established. I haven't done a single partial water change yet, because my LFS says to wait until the nitrites hit 0. I feed my 3 fish once every other day sparingly; maybe about a dozen small pellets.

Question 1:

It's been almost 3 weeks since my ammonia hit 0. Is it normal that my nitrites still haven't reached 0 yet? How long should it take?

Question 2:

Why are my nitrate levels through the roof? Should I be concerned, and how can I control them?

Question 3:

Is the brown hair algae a normal thing? If it is, how long will it last, and what can I do to control it without having to vacuum the rocks every 3 days?

Question 4:

Is my tank stocked enough? Would adding more bioload help or hurt my cycle?

I've been putting my heart and soul into this tank for over a month now, and it still hasn't fully cycled, and the algae is such an eye sore. Am I just being impatient, or is there a serious problem with my setup?

Thanks in advance for all your help. :p
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Old 07-08-2010, 01:33 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tank-u View Post
Question 1:

It's been almost 3 weeks since my ammonia hit 0. Is it normal that my nitrites still haven't reached 0 yet? How long should it take?

Question 2:

Why are my nitrate levels through the roof? Should I be concerned, and how can I control them?

Question 3:

Is the brown hair algae a normal thing? If it is, how long will it last, and what can I do to control it without having to vacuum the rocks every 3 days?

Question 4:

Is my tank stocked enough? Would adding more bioload help or hurt my cycle?

I've been putting my heart and soul into this tank for over a month now, and it still hasn't fully cycled, and the algae is such an eye sore. Am I just being impatient, or is there a serious problem with my setup?

Thanks in advance for all your help. :p

First off... What size is the tank?


Q1: IMHO I wouldn't have put any fish in there until you NitrItes were 0. But to answer your question (at least in my experience) it took me 4 weeks to fully cycle my tank

Q2: Your NitrAtes are through the roof because you haven't done a single water change in the course of your cycle. Thats what is feeding your hair algae. They grow and feed off of NitrAtes.

Q3: You can get rid of hair algae a couple of ways. Reduce feeding, reduce lighting, and do more water changes. That should clear it up in a few weeks.

Q4: Do not add anything else to that tank until you get your parameters under control. Am 0, NitrItes, 0, and Nitrates around 10 or so. And they stay that way for at least a week.


If I were in your shoes this is what I would do:

What kind of fish are in the tank now? I would take them out and QT them for the time being. Reduce your lighting to 4-6 hours a day. Do a major water change now. Probably 30-40%. Then another 15-20% in 4-5 days. Get your water parameters in order asap. By doing that you should reduce or eliminate your hair algae completly. After your Am and NitrItes are 0 and your nitrates ae under control, acclimate the fish back into your tank. Hope that helped.



I'm sure the other guys will chime in as well with their thoughts
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Old 07-08-2010, 01:41 PM   #3
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And welcome to AA!
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Old 07-08-2010, 01:43 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tank-u View Post
Question 1:

It's been almost 3 weeks since my ammonia hit 0. Is it normal that my nitrites still haven't reached 0 yet? How long should it take?
When I've cycled, nitrites seem to hang one for quite a while then just suddenly overnight go to zero. What you describe doesn't really sound abnormal. All cycles are different. Seems to me a cycle can take anywhere from 4 weeks to 8 weeks. Just depends...

Quote:
Question 2:

Why are my nitrate levels through the roof? Should I be concerned, and how can I control them?
Well... the tank sat "dead" for a year and when you started it you didn't replace the water or tear it completely down. AND you used tap water of unknown (to us) quality. No water changes for a year most likely means that water was pretty darn nasty to start with. That also explains the algae growth you're seeing now.

In hindsight - which doesn't really help you now - you probably should have totally stripped down the tank and replaced the water.

Quote:
Question 3:

Is the brown hair algae a normal thing? If it is, how long will it last, and what can I do to control it without having to vacuum the rocks every 3 days?
See previous answer. As long as those nitrates are off the charts, you're going to have algae issues, even with vacuuming every 3 days. Massive water changes (like 75%) at the end of the cycle will get those nitrates back to a reasonable level.

Quote:
Question 4:

Is my tank stocked enough? Would adding more bioload help or hurt my cycle?
Personally, I don't like cycling with fish. It's cruel on the fish to subject them to the toxic compounds generated, and totally unnecessary when you can do the same thing with plain old fish food or a cocktail shrimp from the grocery store. All you need is something to rot to create ammonia... it doesn't have to be fish waste from live fish. Sooo.... I'd say you're overstocked at this point!

Quote:
I've been putting my heart and soul into this tank for over a month now, and it still hasn't fully cycled, and the algae is such an eye sore. Am I just being impatient, or is there a serious problem with my setup?

Thanks in advance for all your help. :p
Cycles are fickle things and it sounds like you're nearing the end, so just be patient. Regarding the algae... my gut feel is that because of the high nutrient water you had during the cycle, you're in for a tough battle. I wouldn't necessarily say there's anything wrong with your setup, it's just that you probably shouldn't have started with year-old stagnant water.

One easy thing to do though, is kill the lights. You don't need (or want, in my opinion) lights on during a cycle - it just fuels the algae. As long as you don't have any coral, there is no need for lighting. Killing the lights for the rest of your cycle might be enough to kill off the algae, and give you a fighting chance.
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Old 07-08-2010, 02:08 PM   #5
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Thanks for the advice so far. 55-gallon tank by the way. My inexperience is why I added fish. I didn't realize that I could cycle a tank without liverock and without fish. My bad. I will kill the lights until it has finished cycling, but should I do a partial water change even though the tank hasn't finished cycling? My LFS says to wait, but I want your opinion. Will a PWC slow my cycle down even further? If you do recommend a PWC, how much water should I change out? I have a 55-gallon tank, but it's not all water. There's about 2 or so inches of sand, and there's a bunch of rocks, so I'm not sure of the exact amount of water in the tank. Please advise.
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Old 07-08-2010, 02:13 PM   #6
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Do a PWC asap. If your NitrAtes are off the chart I'd say do a 30% today and another 20-25% sunday/monday. PWC help a LOT during the cycling stage of your tank. I'm not sure why your LFS would say otherwise. Dont "kill" your lights though. Just only keep em on for 4-6 hours a day till the algae is under contoll\
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Old 07-08-2010, 02:21 PM   #7
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Personally, I wouldn't do a water change. Normally, when people cycle with fish, they will do water changes to keep the ammonia levels down to a "reasonable" level to help tilt the odds in the favor of the fish that they will survive. It's a Catch-22 though... the water changes help the fish survive by lowering the ammonia, but it will prolong how long the cycle takes. In your case, you say your ammonia is at zero and you nitrites are nearly zero. I'd just ride it out. You can deal with your nitrates later.

Not sure why CEverii wants to keep the lights on, but there are always differing opinions. Fish don't need the lights to survive. They eventually will want a normal lighting schedule, but a 4-6 hour schedule isn't normal to them so you might as well leave them off. Just my nickel's worth.
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Old 07-08-2010, 02:28 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Kurt_Nelson View Post
Personally, I wouldn't do a water change. Normally, when people cycle with fish, they will do water changes to keep the ammonia levels down to a "reasonable" level to help tilt the odds in the favor of the fish that they will survive. It's a Catch-22 though... the water changes help the fish survive by lowering the ammonia, but it will prolong how long the cycle takes. In your case, you say your ammonia is at zero and you nitrites are nearly zero. I'd just ride it out. You can deal with your nitrates later.

Not sure why CEverii wants to keep the lights on, but there are always differing opinions. Fish don't need the lights to survive. They eventually will want a normal lighting schedule, but a 4-6 hour schedule isn't normal to them so you might as well leave them off. Just my nickel's worth.

Arent high NitrAte levels bad for the fish? If they are indeed as high as he says, I would be worried about that doing harm to the fish hes got in there.

And as far as the lights go. 4-6 hours really IMO wouldnt make much of a difference from elaving them off. I just think it would mess up their feeding schedule more if you flick them on just to feed, then back off for 23 hours. My fish dont eat in the dark so maybe you're will.
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Old 07-08-2010, 02:29 PM   #9
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Thanks Kurt,

Since I'm so new at this, my fear is that changing the water will just prolong my nitrites reaching zero. They keep fluctuating between .5 and .125, but they just won't go to the cyan color I'm waiting for. So nitrates are more of a nuisance than a major problem? Will through-the-roof nitrates harm my fish, or do they just promote brown algae?
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Old 07-08-2010, 02:44 PM   #10
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Yeah... high nitrates are bad for fish. But without knowing what the levels are, we can't really draw any conclusions there. My thinking is that they've been in there for over a month already (if I'm reading the post right) during the cycle, so a week or so longer probably won't hurt them more than what they've already been through. I'm guessing the nitrates were sky-high from day one. But you're right CEverii... if you were only concerned about the welfare of the fish, a water change to reduce nitrates would be good. But then again, they're being used to cycle...

Regarding the lights, I didn't think about feeding. Good point. Guess it depends on whether or not the fish will eat with room lighting. My fish will eat any time of the day as long as they're not asleep!
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