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Old 12-26-2003, 07:04 PM   #1
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Strange Cycling...

Hey everyone. About a week ago, I got a 72gal. reef ready. Got it ready with about 55 pds of live rock including a mammoth (and very fresh) 45 pd show branch rock (I think that's what they called it). Then dumped 8 damsels in it. About half died within a couple days, and I left some of them in to try to kick start the cycling process. Somehow 2 days after set-up, the ammonia had gone off-chart (Over 6). Then somehow by Day 5 (Down to 3 damsels and pulled out the dead ones)-Ammonia: Off-Chart, NO2: Off-Chart, NO3: 20, Alkaline: Off-Chart, pH: 8.4, temp: 81. Then this morning-Ammonia: 0, NO2: Off-Chart, NO3: 200, Alkaline: 120, pH: 7.6, temp 81. Also, one of the smaller live rocks has grown quite a bit of brown algae seemingly overnight.

If this normal, or is my tank just cycling like it was on steroids?

Why the sudden drops in Alkalinity and pH, and is this OK? I read on here they should be higher.

And finally, when will it be safe, or is it now, to add more creatures to the tank. I had tried a few different foods to get them to eat unsucessfully, so there is a lot of food left at the bottom. Will some cleaner shrimp survive the NO3 levels? What else can I add at this point? And when can I add other invertebrates and what types? I would like to have anenomies in there, but I'll wait till it's stable since I heard if one of those go belly up, it'll kill the tank.

Sorry about all of the questions, but the rapid pace of this cycling has really thrown me a curveball and any help would be greatly appreciatied. This is my first time on this site, and it looks great by the way.
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Old 12-26-2003, 10:50 PM   #2
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I am not an expert but the ammonia will spike and drop and then the nitrites will spike and drop. Seems odd that it happened that fast though. Not sure why you have nitrates already but I'll let someone else comment on that.

Other thing is about the livestock. I used damsels for my first tank in 1995 because they LFS recommended it. Why 8 damsels though? Do you plan on keeping them- the ones that survived anyway? After coming to this site, the recommended cycle starter is either a raw shrimp from the supermarket or using un-cured LR as the starter. Definately do not add any more livestock until all levels are 0.

PH will fluctuate depending on the time of day. Lowest will be in the morning before the lights come on and the highest will be at the end of the day right before the lights go off.

Anemones seem to be recommended after a tank is up a year or so. Very hard to keep unless all is perfect.

HTH
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Old 12-27-2003, 12:34 AM   #3
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Thanks for the info... I kept 8 because I read somewhere to have about one damsel per 5 gallons. The obviously seemed excessive, so I went with 8. They were $2 a pop, so no biggie. But yeah, if those three have survived this, I am definately keeping them... I think they have earned it! And yes, you're right... I just checked the pH again and it's around 8.1 or 8.2. The alkalinity has also gone back up.

But yes, the rapid pace of this is baffling to me, not that I'm complaining. But I would really like to add something that will clean some of the brown algae off. That one live rock has completely changed color to brown, and the branch reef has a lot of brown spots at the top. Also small areas of a dark red "furry" looking substance. Both the brown and red have very small bubbles on them. My digital camera is on the fritz, but I'll post some pics of it for a better description once I figure out what's wrong with it. Does anyone else have any advice? It would certainly be very appreciated.

-Don
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Old 12-27-2003, 01:05 AM   #4
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A diatom bloom, aka brown stuff is normal. You just have to be patient. Once the ammonia and nitites hit 0, you can then think about a clean up crew or more fish. Most inverts will not tolerate high nitrates either but that should not be a problem yet.

What substrate did you use, DSB, CC? If you have a lot of uneaten food, you could vacuum some of that out.

1 damsel for 5 gallons? Never heard that one.
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Old 12-27-2003, 05:40 PM   #5
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I'm not sure about the substrate... I paid someone to set it up for me. But I did go buy a vacuum to clean it up a little. I also got a couple of little crabs. I was told they are fairly tolerable to my current conditions.
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Old 12-28-2003, 03:23 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bouch097
I was told they are fairly tolerable to my current conditions.
Actually at this point nothing is tolerant of your tanks conditions. Some are simpley surviving it despite the toxic levels. If possible returning these animals would still be in your and the animals best interest. Once the tank has properly cycled and the NH3/NO2 are zero and the NO3 is at a much lower level, then you could consider animal additions.

In the event that returning these animals is not an option then you should be doing daily or so water changes to keep these toxic elements in check and give the inhabitants a fighting chance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ellisz
What substrate did you use, DSB, CC? If you have a lot of uneaten food, you could vacuum some of that out.
Basically meaning is it sand, crushed coral and how many inches deep is the substrate?

Cheers
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Old 12-29-2003, 01:45 AM   #7
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Unfortunately, my LFS doesn't allow returns or refunds on saltwater fish, but I'll be sure not to add anything else until everything levels off. Here's an update though. In addition to the brown and red diatom blooms nearly doubling and an area of the substrate turning brown, green algae formed along part of the glass and quite a bit formed on the filter output hose in the tank. It almost look like moss or tiny little green stringy fibers attached to the glass. Is this much algae formation normal? Today is day 11 of cycling. Ammonia hasn't budged since it dropped back to 0. NO2 is still over 10, and NO3 is still around 80. I've been having problems keeping the water cool though. It's constantly been running in the low 80's, so that probably contributed to the algae growth, but this much? Should I be concerned, or should I just ride out the cycle until NO2 and NO3 settle down then clean it out? I still can't believe it's cycling this fast!
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Old 12-29-2003, 02:20 AM   #8
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Actually most of what you have described can be quite normal depending on the condition of the rock and amount of actual die off. Ammonia can spike and drop quite quickly but the nitrites and nitrates will not.

If your having problems with stable temp, try placing a fan to blow over the waters surface to increase evaporation and ensure the tank itself does not have a tight fitting lid. That will trap alot of heat and create low ph issues. The algaes are all part and parcel but the abundance could also be from whatever source water used for the initial fill. RO water should always be the preference unless you know exactly what analisys the tap water is... Diatoms, cyano, hair algae are all caused mainly by impurities and excess nutrient. As the tank ages and it becomes safe to add clean up critters, it should all come into line for you.

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Old 12-29-2003, 12:46 PM   #9
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Thanks for the quick response. I took the lid off overnight and it dropped to 78. Thanks for the info.
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Old 12-31-2003, 02:36 PM   #10
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Day 14: NH3-0, NO2- .5, NO3- 30. I'm guessing the cycle is getting pretty close to being finished and I'm thinking about adding a clean up crew for the huge amounts of algae I have on my LR, substrate and glass. What critters and how many would be sufficient for 72 gal tank?
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