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Old 01-24-2004, 04:17 PM   #1
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shrimp cycling and undergravel filter

After keeping a fresh water tank for 15+ years I've decided to convert my All Glass 40L tank over to salt water and had a couple questions. i've read the article and numerous posts about cycling with shrimp and was wondering if the same thing could be done with other ocean life. I'm thinking specifically of a few clams or muscles, mostly because I'd rather look at clam shells than decomposing shrimp while the tank cycles. I'm only a couple miles from the ocean so getting it fresh out of the water is certainly not a problem.
The other question I had was in regard to the undergravel filter that I currently have in the tank for water circulation. Is it a problem to leave in? I'm planning on a sand bottom (already found that at Home Depot) and I have a Fluval cannister for filtration and additional water movement.
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Old 01-24-2004, 07:19 PM   #2
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Welcome to aquariumadvice.com!

Most people shy away from undergravel filters.

(just for recap...) They suck waste/gunk/detritus into the gravel bed. As this decomposes, it creates a nitrate factory, so to speak, and saltwater fish are very sensitive to nitrates. In freshwater, where the fish are less sensitive to nitrate, it creates a good zone for bacterial growth. Plus I'm not sure how well it'd work with sand anyways. If you're using powerheads on it, disconnect the undergravel from them (removing it from the tank, of course) and just use the powerheads themselves.

As for the shrimp/clam/mussel thing...most people use the shrimp because it's already dead. No need to kill a lot of life to start a tank, so why not start with something already dead? If you wanted to do it, I don't see why you couldn't. You basically want -something- non-toxic rotting in your tank to kickstart the cycling process.

It's up to you if you want to continue with the fluval. Many canisters also trap debris and detritus in them, creating (yet again) a nitrate factory. In can be useful if you have to run some carbon, or for bacterial growth. I certainly wouldn't recommend buying one, but since you have it, you may as well use it. If you run it empty, just for circulation..it's just an expensive powerhead If you DO keep sponge/foam materials inside, be sure to rinse them (I'd like to recommend weekly) with _tank_ water (or other dechlorinated saltwater...but why waste new water). This will clean gunk off, so less rots, helps clean the water of large particles, and by rinsing and removing the gunk i talked about, it keeps nitrates from going too high. If you try this, and nitrates are too high (while I'm on that subject, get a good test kit!) just empty it and use it as a circulation device.

About the test kits...
You'll want one to test Ammonia, Nitrate, Nitrite, pH ... Calcium and Alkalinity are an added bonus especially for reef setups. If you add anything else, you'll need a test for those too to ensure you're not overdosing. You should also have a salinity tester. A DeepSix Hydrometer is like $7 and will test for salinity pretty well.

I'd also recommend reading the articles section thoroughly, they're all very good reads, and ask any questions. There are tons of nice knowledgeable people here. I learned everything I know from them.
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125 gallon saltwater: 55gal sump, 4 Blue-Green Chromis, Purple Tang, True Perc, Firefish, Royal Gramma, 5 Ricordea, Bubble Coral, 15 Pulsing Xenia, Green Star Polyps, Deresa clam, Green-Tip Torch Coral (about 11 "heads"!), Orange Montipora Cap, Purple M. Digitata, Green Slimer Acro. Yongei, 3 Orange M. Digitata, Pink&Green Acro. Millepora
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Old 01-25-2004, 06:38 PM   #3
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If detrius happens, so to speak, wouldn't it be better to get it to a location where it can be removed like a filter? I guess I also don't understand why pulling water through the sand is a problem. Won't gunk just settle and decompose there anyhow thereby producing nitrates? I would think that getting it down and out to where a filter can get it would be a good thing. I am so confused!!
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Old 01-25-2004, 08:46 PM   #4
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You'd have to remove it on a daily basis from the filter.

It's sand...the undergravel may end up shooting sand out, as it weighs a lot less than gravel.

Yes and no. You should have plenty of snails (and if you like, shrimp) that eat detritus. Nassarius snails and peppermint shrimp both eat detritus. If it is IN the sand, the little buggers can't get to it, and it produces excess nitrates.

For clarification, this is the setup I had in mind. It's how I'm doing mine, and how I was recommended by more than 3/4 the people I talked to. A sand bed of about 3-5" allows for removal of nitrates by the zones at the bottom of the sand. If you have one pound of LiveRock per gallon of water, with adequate circulation (about 7-10 times turnover: so for a 20 gallon tank, you'd want enough powerheads to have their combined total pumping 140-200gph) and a protein skimmer. A protein skimmer removes dissolved wastes before they can be broken down into ammonia. If you remove this before the bacteria get to it, there's no ammonia, and as consequence, no nitrite and no nitrate coming from the particles the skimmer absorbs. How these work is really interesting (I think, but I'm a huge dork) and if you want that explained, I can do so later. So my ideal setup would be:

3"-5" sand
1.5pounds of liverock for every gallon of water
about 7-8 times the capacity in turnover (so for a 10 gal, 70-80gph)
a nice protein skimmer like an Aqua C Remora.

Now if I'm reading this correctly, you have a 10gallon tank. Saltwater is very difficult in such a small tank, and it's usually recommended for advanced/expert _saltwater_ aquarists. Fresh and salt are nothing alike. I thought there's be plenty of similarities when I got into it, but I was way wrong. You'd be better off with a larger tank to start out. The larger capacity makes water chemistry more stable. pH and temperature and salinity, etc. will fluctuate far more in a 10gal than say a 100gal. Does this clear anything up? I hope so, but if not, just ask. HTH!
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125 gallon saltwater: 55gal sump, 4 Blue-Green Chromis, Purple Tang, True Perc, Firefish, Royal Gramma, 5 Ricordea, Bubble Coral, 15 Pulsing Xenia, Green Star Polyps, Deresa clam, Green-Tip Torch Coral (about 11 "heads"!), Orange Montipora Cap, Purple M. Digitata, Green Slimer Acro. Yongei, 3 Orange M. Digitata, Pink&Green Acro. Millepora
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Old 01-25-2004, 11:48 PM   #5
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Thanks, it does clear up a lot. What would you define as a lot of snails or shrimp? I'm likely to end up with some of both. I'm glad to see the peppermint recommended as I really like them. BTW the tank is a 40 gal, I can't imagine doing salt in a ten.

I'd have to agree with you on the protein skimmers, not that you're a dork but that how they work is interesting. I know that I may need to get one to do this right but I'm dreading the expense, although not as much as the expense of 40-60 lbs of liverock. That expense may tube the whole project if it ends up being absolutely essential.

I haven't decided yet as to whether or not I'm going to put in a deep sand bed. I've personally never much cared for how they look. The tank, while it is 4 ft long is only about 18" tall so it would end up being a large percentage of sand. I've done sone reading here about everything from DSB to no substrate which I also don't think I'd like. How much does what you recommended change if the sand is only a couple inches deep and there is significantly less that 1.5 lbs of LR per gallon?
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Old 01-26-2004, 01:11 AM   #6
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You're going to need more opinions on this one. I'd probably get a CPR Bak-Pak 2...as it has "Bio-Bale" material for added biological filtration, that will make up for the slight absence of high amounts of LR. This will cost you around $130 (from marinedepot.com). You can find cheaper places, if you look. I'd really recommend at the _VERY MINIMUM_ 20lbs. LR. It's not a cheap hobby...I've been buying parts for mine and setting things up since September The DSB is up to you, really, and you can find/ask for advice on tanks without a DSB. You may want to research peppermints, as I'm unaware of aggression issues with them. So you'll want to find out to see how many you can put in a 40gal. Added bonus to them, they often eat Aiptasia. You'll need to ask someone else about a "rule of thumb" for snails/gallon. I'm just going to start with about 72 snails, 48 blue-legged hermits and 5 peps...but I've got a 120. So I hope I've helped you some, and the things you still need to find out:

1. More opinions on the skimmer I mentioned
2. Behavior of peps and how many you can have
3. Number/type of snails you need
4. A good place to find cheap, quality LR. (I've got some LiveRocks.com rock begging me to buy it...and I'll have it here in about 2 weeks. Heard great stuff about them, and 20lbs. would only cost you somewhere around $100 w/ shipping)

So remember, learn as much as you can, and save your money. Doing it right the first time will save you a TON of money in the long run. =]
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125 gallon saltwater: 55gal sump, 4 Blue-Green Chromis, Purple Tang, True Perc, Firefish, Royal Gramma, 5 Ricordea, Bubble Coral, 15 Pulsing Xenia, Green Star Polyps, Deresa clam, Green-Tip Torch Coral (about 11 "heads"!), Orange Montipora Cap, Purple M. Digitata, Green Slimer Acro. Yongei, 3 Orange M. Digitata, Pink&Green Acro. Millepora
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Old 01-26-2004, 07:17 PM   #7
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well i got my live rock from liveaquaruia.com. i bought 36lbs and got nexted air for 1.19 per lbs i think it came out to like 150 or so for 36 lbs. it was vary nice rock and the people were vary nice. hope that helps.
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