One the biggest misconceptions that get precipitated in this hobby in my opinion is the notion that in order to properly cycle a aquarium, we need to build bacteria levels to a massive level in order to insure the future survivability of the organisms in our aquarium. We typically do this by performing what is known as a hard cycle. We build ammonia to toxic levels within the aquarium and then wait for bacteria populations to build up in order to convert ammonia into nitrite and then eventually into nitrate. We then do a massive 50% water change and then we're good to go.
It has always seemed rather strange to me, that after spending all that money to acquire premium LR
, that we then proceed to expose the same to toxic levels of ammonia and consequently eliminate much of the life that we just paid top dollar for.
Consequently, I personally am a fan of the process known as soft cycling. Put simply, consistently test and doing water changes during the cycling process to insure that ammonia levels never rise above .5ppm, thus insuring the maximum survival of all that life you've paid top dollar for. below is an article written for another forum by a friend of mine on the process of soft cycling the marine aquarium. Some of you may recognize the user name.
Originally Posted by spanko
Now let’s talk a little about uncured rock. Rock taken right from the ocean, whether from an established reef or from an area that has had dry rock dropped into it with the goal of establishing it as live rock. This uncured rock comes to the retailer fresh from the ocean and is then shipped to local fish stores or in some cases direct to the aquarist with all of the life and the subsequent death on it. Some fish stores may turn it into cured rock hoping to get the higher price that cured rock demands. Or they may sell it as uncured rock. Some aquarists may put it directly into their aquarium to “cycle with” or they may cure it outside of the tank so that they can use it later. Some may cure or use it to cycle their tanks as noted above in a hard cycle where no consideration is given to how high the ammonia and nitrites get. This hard cycle kills off some if not most of the life on the rock they paid a premium to get. Remember it is less costly than cured live rock, however it is more expensive than dry rock that can be used in our tanks and just seeded with a pc. or two of live rock.
Soft cycling is a method by which the attempt is to retain as much life as possible on the nice live rock you paid a premium for. It starts the same as a hard cycle, get a glass box, add some substrate if desired, add the live rock and the saltwater. Here is where things change though. During a soft cycle the aquarist is advised to run the filters, skimmers, lights. He\she is also to monitor ammonia on a daily if not twice per day basis and if the ammonia is shown to rise to a reading of .5 they are to immediately perform a water change. And every time thereafter when they see a reading of ammonia at .5 boom, another water change. Keep the skimmer cup emptied, Keep the filter floss, pads etc clean. Do everything they can to keep ammonia below that magic .5 reading. Because you see. Live rock contains ….. er…..well…..life. And in a soft cycle we are trying are hardest to keep that life……um……live! You would be amazed at the life that will flourish under these conditions. Sponges, feather dusters, snails, plant, corals, worms, pods etc. etc. etc. all of the things that we are trying to replicate in our small glass boxes. All for a little more work and a little more expense, to get closer to a small system that more resembles the ocean that it originated in.
Soft cycling is not for everyone. Some of us require a more antiseptic looking reef tank. But for those of us that wish to observe life as it exists, both the good and the bad, soft cycling may be something that you want to look into on your next, or even first setup.
Thank you for reading, I hope I have given some a little information to think about.