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Old 07-15-2003, 06:05 PM   #1
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Tank cycling/testing delema

I've got some serious questions regarding the results I've been getting from my text kits (Red Sea) during my tank cycling.

A little background:

About 10 days ago I plopped a large, raw shrimp in my 46 gallon tank with about 40 lbs of live rock that had been sitting at the LFS for quite a while. Some of it had been in a customers tank and they sold it back when they moved away so about 20 lbs I guess could be considered "mature" (?) while the other 20 lbs had been in thier tank for about 2-3 weeks. There's about 5" of Argonite sand including a 15 lb. bag of commercially available "live sand".

My shrimp layed there for about 3 days slowly decomposing and then just completely dissapeared by the 5th day; no remnants at all.

I have been having a devil of a time with my test kits. My last test battery that I did about 30 minutes ago reads as follows:

Temp: 79 degrees.
PH: 8.4
Alk: Normal-High
Ammonia: .25 innitial reading, .035 after calculating PH and temp.
Nitrite: 0-.1 VERY hard to tell with the color chart provided w/kit
Nitrate: 0-2.5 VERY, VERY hard to tell with the color chart provided
Spec. Gravity: 1.021

The thing is, nothing has changed. It's been pretty much the same from day one. I am a little concerned (slight understatment) about what is really going on in there. I am assuming that I missed the Ammonia spike somehow. The ambiguity of the tests I've done doesn't help matters. When you get a color, repeatedly, that isn't really on the color chart it is difficult to tell what is truly happening.

My questions are:

1. Red Sea kits? Is it just me? They are all that are available around here but I'm not real impressed with them right now. Is there something out there that is better/easier to read?

a. Nitrite: I have constantly gotten a color that isn't on the chart. I get Blue. It's neither blue/green or blue/grey so it's just a best guess every time.

b. Alkalinity portion of PH/Alkalinity kit: There is really only 3 sections of the test color strip: low, normal and high. The same color (blue) is on both the normal and the high so I don't know what range I am in.

c. Nitrate. According to the kit directions for Nitrate, the results are scewed from Nitrite level readings, but I haven't gotten a real accurate Nitrite reading so I don't trust either.

Arrrrg!

I have no idea what's really going on. Should I just throw another shrimp (or two) in the tank and see what happens?

I have brown algea all over the bottom of the tank as well as my powerheads. I have some "spider web" looking things in some areas. I have bristle worms crawling all over the place. There are about 20 small feather dusters and I have even found some flourecent green mushroom looking things in there. There is a dead piece of coral that the LFS threw in because I liked the look of it and it's covered in green algea (that's where the mushroom (?) looking things are as well.)

Any help would be appreciated. You can have all my kudos.

Thanks!

Eric
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Old 07-15-2003, 06:35 PM   #2
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I doubt you would have had a massive ammonia spike from the dead shrimp in that little amount of time. Is there a chance that there is some hitch hikers on the LR such as mantis shrimp or something that ate the shrimp on you or crabs or something? That would mean that you had no real ammonia growth at all.
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Old 07-15-2003, 06:53 PM   #3
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My rock came with three surprises:

An Urchin we named Ursala
A turbo snail named Timmy
A limpid of some type named Larry (I want to get 2 more so I can have two Daryls and Larry .

The urchin and snail are in the quarantine tank but the limpid is poking around in the tank somewhere, I haven't seen him for a couple of days. I've spent a VERY large amount of time watching whats going on in there (I don't watch TV and I don't have internet access at home....it's great entertainment for my girlfriend and I) and while I doubt there is anything else in there I suppose I can't rule it out completely, but it's still highly doubtful to me.

Does anybody think I should throw a few more shrimp in there? I mean, I'm not in a big hurry.
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Old 07-16-2003, 09:51 AM   #4
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IMHO since you bought cured LR you will not experience a "cycle" in the normal sense. The LR you purchased came with its' full biological capacity and therefore is processing the ammonia from the shrimp. I would just add a little more LR (to get you up to 1 - 1.5lbs per gal). I would not add any more dead shrimp since IMHO you already have an established biological filter. Just wait a few weeks or so, until your ammonia and nitrites are 0, and continue water tests. When your ammonia and nitrites are 0 you can begin adding your livestock. I would just recommend adding 1 fish every 3 weeks or so to give your bacteria population a chance to adjust to the bioload changes.

Brian
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Old 07-16-2003, 10:01 AM   #5
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I have the exact same frustrations with my test kits.

The first test kit I got only tested amonia/nitrates/nitrites between 0 and 1 or 2 ppm. Useless. There was no way to track the spikes.

So, then I got some single Amonia, Nitrate and Nitrite kits that went up to 5ppm (still not high enough to catch the nitrite spike, but better).

I've been testing my nitrites for several days now with the water reading WAY off the chart. I got some advice to only use 2.5ml of tank water with 2.5 ml of fresh stock water and then double my result from the test and that would give me a better approximation.

Does anyone out there have a test kit they could recommend? Perhaps one that has all of the tests we might need that is easy to use and read?

Thx,
Todd
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Old 07-16-2003, 10:28 AM   #6
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Salifert. I've been using Salifert Test kits for a couple years now, and find them to be quite accurate for hobbyist-grade kits. They can be on the pricey side, so I'm not sure if I'd invest the cash for the ammonia or nitrite tests. You should only need to test for these during the initial cycle, so buying a full test kit might be a waste. You could probably get away with either Aquarium Pharaceuticals or Seachem for the ammonia & nitrite kits.

Here are the tests I have, what I consider important, and what I think is nothing but a PITA (IMO).

Ca & alk = most important, and most used.

next in line of importance (IMO): Phosphate, Magnesium, Nitrate, Silicate.

Copper if you have a Q tank & medicate.

IMO, Iodine & Strontium tests are useless. I'm still waiting for the new version of the Salifert Iodine test - I'd like to see how good it is, right now, there isn't any decent hobbyist-grade Iodine kit out there.

AFA Strontium, I talked with Randy Holmes-Farely a bit about this at a Boston Reefers meeting back in March. He believes that there is no documented *evidence* that we should be dosing strontium.

HTH!
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Old 07-16-2003, 10:55 AM   #7
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I'm going to take a water sample in to the LFS here in town and see if they will run a test battery for me to see what levels they get. I bought the brand of kits they sell, Red Sea, so I am assuming that's what they use as well, but that's just a guess.

BrianH brought up a very good point and I had assumed that with the amount of sand I had in there that I would experience a "normal" cycle. I see another 20 lbs of LR in my immediate future, and it's on sale at the LFS the last time I was there. I had planned on getting some more anyway.

As far as the test kits go, I'm stumped. I've never used anything else than what I have and I'm limited to purchasing something different online. I bought individual kits for each test figuring that after some time a large "do-everything" kit would eventually become full of empty bottles and then I'd have to buy individual kits anyway. i couldn't find an expiration date on them, so that ruled that out.

I spent a good chunk of change on these kits but I don't mind starting all over with different ones but I'm hesitant because I'm afraid I could find something worse.
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Old 07-16-2003, 11:02 AM   #8
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I think Salifert kits are mostly mail-order, or at least, the LFS's around here don't sell them. I'd be willing to bet though, that well upwards of 50% of reefers use Salifert kits. I've seen surveys done in other forums where ppl have asked opinions on which test kits to buy, and 40 out of 45 posts say "Salifert".

Don't get me wrong though, these test kits aren't cheap. They run around $15.00 - $25.00 per test kit.

HTH,
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Old 07-16-2003, 12:07 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ReefLady
AFA Strontium, I talked with Randy Holmes-Farely a bit about this at a Boston Reefers meeting back in March. He believes that there is no documented *evidence* that we should be dosing strontium.
Just to further that discission a bit. Dosing strontium is indeed not very recommended. Water changes in most cases will be all that is needed to keep strontium at near correct levels.

A little known fact is that if strontium is continually dosed and does not get removed from the system either throught the incorporation of calcium carbonate skelaton or export it, will skew the results of most magnesium tests. When abundant concentrations of strontium are present (250ppm+), magnesium tests are not sensitive enough to decifer the two apart and will instead add the two componants together giving a false reading.

I have found many a time when trying to help someone repair alk/Ca imbalances that it was due to low mag and high Sr.

Cheers
Steve
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Old 07-16-2003, 12:09 PM   #10
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Thanks Steve, excellent information. I'm sending you some kudos (if I can figure out how!!)
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