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Old 03-21-2008, 02:12 AM   #1
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Newbie Lost and With Questions

Hey everyone,

I am excited to join the community here and I hope you can all extend a hand of help for the complete novice that I am

I have just started my cycling nad I have my poor volunteer Damselfish gasping for air on day three, as the ammonia levels are now nice and high in the tank. First things first, I have a small 20 gallon setup, with special coral gravel lining the bottom. I have the bio filter with wheel, the power head, and the heater with thermometer. I have about a million questions to ask and I hope I don't come off as too lost, but here goes:
1) is there any way to "help" my poor little damsel ease it's pain as it goes through the change from toxic ammonia to toxic nitrite?
2) How long should I run the power head each day?
3) Should I turn up the oxygen content of the power head, or should I use it as purely a "water mover"?
4) I have some small shells I collected on a Caribbean beach. Is it a good/bad idea to drop these dozen or so shells into the tank as it cycles? Is it ever a good idea?
5) do those test strips you stick to the inside of the glass to measure the chemicals really work, or am I better off with the testing kit I bought?
6) I've heard horrible things about the damselfish and any new inhaibtants I might add in 6 weeks or so, once I cycle the tank. This limits my intention to add clownfish, which I am told is NOT compatible with the damsel. What fish CAN I add later?
7) live rock vs. plain rock vs. ornaments. This question will make you all laugh, but I have no idea what the advantages, disadvantages of each may be. I see live rock is SUPER expensive. When can I add it, if I do at all?

Gosh, I have about a dozen more questions, but I feel as the new kid on here, that I should spread my questions out a bit. Mostly, I wish I had used live rock to cycle my tank, as I feel horrible about torturing my poor damselfish as it looks like it's in high stress right now. Would adding the shells move the process faster? I slipped in another question...did you see that?
Anyway, long post. I hope you guys can help me. I have many,many more questions!
Thank you!!!!!!!!
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Old 03-21-2008, 02:36 AM   #2
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1. Yes... take it back to the LFS and cycle your tank fishless. Read this here...

Cycle your salt tank

2. All day, everyday.

3. In SW, oxygen comes from surface agitation, not through the introduction of bubbles into the water. Ditch the air tube.

4. Bad idea. You just don't know what has contaminated them.

5. If you're talking about the things that stick inside the tank, I *think* those are only good for freshwater. You're better off anyway with the test kits. (Not test strips.)

6. After you take the damsel back to the LFS and cycle the tank properly... anything that's compatible with a 20g tank. That pretty much limits you to smaller clowns, gobies, basslets, or other appropriately small fish.

7. You should've added it already. If you add it later, and it's not fully cured, you will cycle again. Live rock will be your best bet.

Sounds like you should take the damsel back, spend a few weeks reading and researching, and start again. You're not too far along at this point to stop and regroup. You'll be much happier in the end without the crushed gravel substrate, and using live rock for your biological filtration instead of the biowheel.

Take a look at the "articles" section here...

Articles

... and keep asking questions!

Welcome aboard!
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Old 03-21-2008, 02:46 AM   #3
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Thanks Kurt...a simple raw shrimp rotting will do? That is SOOOO much more humane. Just when it seemed my damsel was acclimating to it's new place to live, it started struggling. The ammonia level jumped quite a bit in just three days. Then is has to survive the nitrite poisoning! Not a humane at all.
I will visit my local shop tomorrow and ask if I can swap the damsel for a piece of live rosk instead (?) Mush more expensive, but I want to spare the fish if I can.
Thank you so much! I have a ton of other questions too
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Old 03-21-2008, 02:49 AM   #4
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You're looking for 20 to 30 lbs of live rock to really serve as a good base for your biological filtration. You're aren't going to get much rock in exchange for a damsel! The LFS might give you a pebble!

In a 20g, I'd only use a 1/2 a cocktail shrimp. Yes... it'll do just fine!
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Old 03-21-2008, 02:54 AM   #5
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You're looking for 20 to 30 lbs of live rock to really serve as a good base for your biological filtration. You're aren't going to get much rock in exchange for a damsel! The LFS might give you a pebble!

In a 20g, I'd only use a 1/2 a cocktail shrimp. Yes... it'll do just fine!
HA HA HA! No, I understand about the live rock pricing, BELIEVE ME! A $9 damsel gets you a laugh in exchange, not a rock

So I can use live rock AND a shrimp? Or does the live rock do it all by itself? Warned ya! I am loaded with questions, but mostly because I am so excited to take up this hobby. I've wanted to do this for years.
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Old 03-22-2008, 01:29 AM   #6
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So I can use live rock AND a shrimp?
Think we need to back up a bit.

"Live rock" is just rock that has been colonized by different types of bacteria that will convert ammonia to nitrites, and nitrites to nitrates. Any rock that is cycled in a tank will become "live rock."

Folks will also talk about "live rock" as rock that is teeming with life that you really can't see. This rock will have sponges, corals, worms, and all sorts of zooplankton living in it that won't really become apparent until months after it goes into your tank. Many people term this rock as "live" also. It's confusing... I know. But when we normally talk about "live rock", it means housing bacteria and being useful as a biological filter.

People will talk about "die off" from their "live rock". What this means is that if the rock that WAS teeming with life is left out of water for too long, a lot of the critters will die and start decompose. Also... if the ammonia levels in the tank go too high during a cycle, that will also cause those critters to die off. This "die off" will provide an ammonia source that will kick start the cycle. That's why people often talk about using uncured live rock to cycle their tank - without a shrimp.

Personally... I like throwing in an ammonia source (either the shrimp or fish food) with whatever type of rock you get - even cured live rock that is supposed good to house fish with from day one. If you truly do have a good bacterial population, then shortly after you add the ammonia source, you should see an increase in nitrates... with no spike in ammonia or nitrites. With this scenario, you've insured yourself that you really are good to add fish.

But if you add an ammonia source, and you see an ammonia spike, then you weren't ready. Ride out the cycle, watching for the ammonia and nitrite spikes, and when both those parameters measure 0ppm then you're ready for a couple 30+% water changes to reduce your nitrates and you can add fish.

So the short answer is "yes"... you can use live rock AND a shrimp to cycle. But if you use cured live rock, in theory, you don't need to. But I'm kind of a "better safe than sorry" type of guy so I like the shrimp method no matter what.
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Old 03-22-2008, 02:46 PM   #7
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But when we normally talk about "live rock", it means housing bacteria and being useful as a biological filter.
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Old 03-26-2008, 04:44 PM   #8
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AAAGH! There's light brown "stuff" on the live sand starting to grow!!!! It's spreading like a gooey blanket....WhAT IS IT????????
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Old 03-26-2008, 04:53 PM   #9
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If it`s powdery then its diatoms and they will go away.
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Old 03-26-2008, 04:54 PM   #10
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If it's truly "gooey" and is sheet-like, then it's probably cyanobacteria. If it looks more like brown rust, and can be blown around like dust, then it's diatoms.

Diatoms normally show up during/after a cycle and will eventually burn themselves out. Snails will also eat them up quick. Cyano is not normal, and is from too many nutrients in the water, and/or poor circulation. It can be siphoned up, but if you don't address where the excess nutrients are coming from (overfeeding, too long of a light cycle, not enough water changes, etc) it will just come back.
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