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Old 01-14-2010, 08:34 PM   #1
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Live rock/Base rock startup question

Alright,

For those that are not familiar, my wife and I are about to begin setup of a new 120 g SW tank. We're aquiring parts as we go so they can be paid for with cash.

I've been pricing LR and it seems pretty expensive, but it seems the way to go. Ideally, I'd like to purchase a bulk amount of base rock with about 50-75 lbs of so of LR to help seed the base rock. This still leaves about 175 lbs worth of base rock with no filtering properties.

Since we're not at the point of adding livestock for a while, I was thinking of just cycling the rock and letting it seed itself.

I've search through the forum, but couldn't find a clear answer on how long this might take.

Does anyone know?
What would I need to do to keep the bacteria happy until I decide to add livestock? (This might be as long as 4-5 months from now)
Is there any way to speed up the spread from the LR to the base rock?
How do I know it's finished spreading?
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Old 01-14-2010, 08:47 PM   #2
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Okay, that a good idea. The only way to know that your bacterai is working is through a water test. You have to monitor your amonei\nia and nitrite levels. I don't think you need 50-75 #'s of liverock to seed your tank. You will have to wait the cycle no mater how much LR you add. Add the base rock and say about 30 to 40 #'s of liverock and go from there. There is no set time limit on the time it takes to cycle a tank. there are to many veriables involved. You will have to test and retest to answer that Question. Remember that nothing fast happens't in a saltwaster tank and you should be good to go.
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Old 01-14-2010, 08:49 PM   #3
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"Live" rock is only "live" because it harbors the bacteria that turns your ammonia into nitrites, and then into nitrates. After you've cycled a tank, all your rock is effectively "live" - even if you started with 100% base rock. As you add more fish, your bacteria population will increase to deal with the additional bioload and the rock will become even more "live". Cycling can take anywhere between days and 1-2 months - it all depends on if you start with any bacteria initially (fully cured "live" rock), and what your ammonia levels are through the cycle. Plan on 2 months if you want to play it safe.

Now as far as "live rock" meaning "...with coralline algae and hitchikers", that's a different story. As long as you have some rock with hitchikers or coralline to start with - like you're planning - the stuff will eventually spread to the other rock. As far as the coralline algae goes, depending on your water parameters, you should start to see it spreading to other areas of your tank within 3-4 months after the cycle is over.
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Old 01-14-2010, 09:31 PM   #4
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but you are going to have to "add" amonia at the beginning of the cycle right? So that your bacteria have something to eat. Thats why they say to put a dead shrimp in it so that your ammonia levels spike and the bacteria to change it to nitrates/nitrites can grow. please correct me if im wrong
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Old 01-14-2010, 10:08 PM   #5
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I understand the basic process of cycling and what it does. What I don't know about is after the initial cycle is complete, if I don't add any bioload to it, is the bacteria self-sustaining? Or does it need something to feed on (ammonia)?

I guess my thinking was that if the rock wasn't covered with Coralline then it wasn't truly "live".

Like I said in the first post - we're in no rush to get fish in the tank until we have acquired all our goodies. I just figured that whilst we get the goods, I could at least be building a bacteria population by cycling the tank and letting it run empty.

Has anyone else taken the "buy lots of cheap base rock and seed with just a little live rock" approach? If so, how did it go over?
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Old 01-14-2010, 10:51 PM   #6
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I have a 125 that I have about 80 pounds of rock which about 30 of that was live rock when added. After 3 months I noticed it spreading to the base rock.
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Old 01-14-2010, 11:10 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbadd99 View Post
I understand the basic process of cycling and what it does. What I don't know about is after the initial cycle is complete, if I don't add any bioload to it, is the bacteria self-sustaining? Or does it need something to feed on (ammonia)?

I guess my thinking was that if the rock wasn't covered with Coralline then it wasn't truly "live".

Like I said in the first post - we're in no rush to get fish in the tank until we have acquired all our goodies. I just figured that whilst we get the goods, I could at least be building a bacteria population by cycling the tank and letting it run empty.

Has anyone else taken the "buy lots of cheap base rock and seed with just a little live rock" approach? If so, how did it go over?
good question. I just dont know, but logic would say you hafta feed the bacteria something. Right?
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Old 01-15-2010, 12:27 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by redneckgearhead View Post
good question. I just dont know, but logic would say you hafta feed the bacteria something. Right?
My thoughts exactly... That's why I ask those who know
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Old 01-15-2010, 12:52 AM   #9
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Well after it's finished cycling, you could just get a damsel or two to just keep the bacteria going. They're only like $5.00 at your LFS and just eat flake food. Then at least you can look at something besides rock while you wait to make the big plunge into corals and such.
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Old 01-15-2010, 01:01 AM   #10
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Yup... if you don't add fish right away, then you're going to have to keep adding something to create ammonia. Most folks sprinkle fish food in their tank every few days. Only problem though is that you're just not going to know how much to sprinkle.

Just my opinion, but there's no real reason to start up the tank that early if you don't intend to stock it for a while. No reason to give the bacteria you've built up a chance to die off.

Here's what my "perfect" startup plan would be - if you had all the time in the world...

1. Get quarantine tank set up and throw in a cocktail shrimp to cycle.

2. Once quarantine tank is cycled, fill up the display tank with salt water and add your rock, and then your sand bed.

3. Give you display a couple days to clear up and then add a cocktail shrimp to start the cycle.

4. Go to LFS and get your first fish and put it in the quarantine tank.

5. Let display tank cycle, all the time checking ammonia/nitrite/nitrate levels.

6. If the display cycles quicker than the minimum 4-week quarantine period, then keep the bacteria in it alive by adding a pinch or two of fish food every couple days.

7. After the tank has cycled (assuming it's longer than 4 weeks) transfer the fish from the quarantine to the main.

8. Go to LFS and get your cleanup crew, and your next fish! Put cleanup crew in display and fish in quarantine.

Basic point is that you really want to get your quarantine tank cycled first so you can have a fish in it while your main tank is cycling. If your main tank takes longer than the normal 4-week quarantine period, no problem... your fish can just hang out longer in the quarantine tank.

And don't tell us a quarantine tank isn't in the budget... we know you're springing for LED lights on this bad boy!
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