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Old 07-21-2012, 07:22 PM   #1
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Tank wont complete cycle

Ok here is the deal, I have been what I would have considered an advanced aquarist, but got out of the hobby completely about 5 years ago and have been tankless for 8 years. My daughter convinced me to set up a tank for her clownfish she go in her marine biology class. These were tank raised ORA clowns.

I set up a 20g long aquarium the last weekend in April.
-20 long tank
-HOB initially I used bio-material froman old wet/dry filter now it is a DSB/refugium with some chaeto and a few small mangroves with a clip on power compact lamp
-AquaC Remora skimmer w/maxi jet 1200 pump
-ATO
-(2) 450gph koralia pumps and (1) koralia nano run with a tsunami wave maker
-approx 40lbs of live rock (I believe it was cured, but possibly it wasn't)
-2" of (bagged) live sand
-CSL Prism pendant (2) cfl actinics and a 250w 20K metal halide (haven't run the metal halide, only the actinics)

All hardware is the same as I was using 8 years ago when the power went out for days, the tank died and everything was put in storage, pretty much as is, tank wasn't cleaned out. Upon setting it back up I tried to use one piece of previously lr from the old tank it, all decorations and tank and equipment were bleached, for several hours then rinsed out, but since everything had been dry for 8 years....it wasn't scrubbed.

Week 1 I began putting small pieces of fish (frozen cod from the grocery store) to the tank. After 4 weeks I tested, readings appeared to be all 0s. I let my daughter bring home a hermit crab, almost immediately the ammonia, nitrites and nitrates soared, as in off the scale unreadable.

I went to the LFS, got some salt and did a 100% water change. And since school would be out in a week and the LFS would not take in the fish, I got some prime and once the fish came home we started dosing every other day and testing. Never occurred to me the API test kit would not read the water dosed with prime. After another 3 weeks the levels still would not come down and 2 of the 3 clowns had died, the other seemed unphased, I stopped dosing the prime and began doing some water changes several 25% pwc's over the course of a week.

That has been about 3 weeks ago, and the ammonia has been stuck at approximately 0.7mg/l according to my new ocean systems test kit,(probably not any more accurate, but easier to read) and 0.3 mg/l nitrite and the nitrates are off the scale which tops out at 100mg/l, ph is 7.8.

Last night the last clown died, got sucked into the skimmers power head. I'm about out of ideas, this tank has been up and going for going on 3 months and the cycle still has not finished.

There is coralline algae growing on the rocks that had none when I put it in the tank, and I have had a diatom bloom as well.

Please offer any suggestions on what I should do to get this thing where I can get this tank back on the right path.
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Old 07-21-2012, 07:41 PM   #2
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Something is def wrong... hard to believe a small hermit would cause a spike if it was cycled. If your readings were 0 after 4 weeks, it sounds fine...all the rock and sand was in the tank for the cycle?
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Old 07-21-2012, 07:47 PM   #3
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No, about half the sand was in the tank to begin with i added more when I set up the dsb, the hob dsb was filled with wet/dry material. When I switched it to a dsb/refugium I left the filter material in there for a couple of weeks before pulling it out.
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Old 07-21-2012, 09:19 PM   #4
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I would do a 100% water change and start the cycle over with pure ammonia. That way you can monitor the levels better and you can dose more accurately.
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Old 07-21-2012, 09:30 PM   #5
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I would do a 100% water change and start the cycle over with pure ammonia. That way you can monitor the levels better and you can dose more accurately.
Do they sell pure ammonia that has no additives at Walmart or some other popular chain store, any specific brand? I've never done straight ammonia and don't want to screw it up.
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Old 07-22-2012, 01:40 AM   #6
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when i started my tank about a week ago, i bought my water and the guy at my lfs was more than happy to give me a baggy of live sand from a healthy established tank, and also some ammonia for free, to help jump start the cycle. he says he does that for everyone who is just starting out. i would check with your lfs
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Old 07-22-2012, 08:33 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by reefrunner69

Do they sell pure ammonia that has no additives at Walmart or some other popular chain store, any specific brand? I've never done straight ammonia and don't want to screw it up.
I've heard that Ace sells the ammonia.
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Old 07-22-2012, 08:46 AM   #8
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Welcome back Kevin. Good to see you are back in the hobby. I personally dont think you`ll get a better cycle with pure ammonia. An ammonia source is an ammonia source. I`m wondering about your test kits. Have you had your LFS test your water to verify your results. Are you using Tap water?
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Old 07-22-2012, 10:59 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by melosu58
Welcome back Kevin. Good to see you are back in the hobby. I personally dont think you`ll get a better cycle with pure ammonia. An ammonia source is an ammonia source. I`m wondering about your test kits. Have you had your LFS test your water to verify your results. Are you using Tap water?
I have had the (not so) LFS test my water, which agreed with my results, and I have purchased 3 different test kits which all seem to agree, at least the results are close enough for hobbyist level results.

No tap water for me, my tap water is pretty nasty. I started the tank with distilled water, and was purchasing RO water from the culligan station at Walmart until I got my RO/DI installed a few weeks ago.

I have tested the RO water as well as the distilled water as well as the RO/DI water and all test 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite and 0 nitrate. One thing I thought was funny, once mixed with the salt mix, it does test positive for about .5 - 1 ppm ammonia with my API test kit, this seems to be common with most salt mixes though and that amount should be metabolized pretty quickly by a healthy biological filter.

I tend to believe I overloaded it with the fish pieces in the beginning and that using the prime retarded the process, but what I don't understand is why the ammonia level is staying the same, rather than going up or going down. There should be movement one way or the other, to my way of thinking. The levels have been constant for the last 2.5 to 3 weeks and there was a fish in the tank which was fed every 3 days. There are tube worms and life on the rock which has gone unphased, and even in these conditions coralline algae has begun to grow. There is some nitrifying bacteria in the system and apparently a tremendous amount of ammonia has been metabolized because the nitrates are off the chart, the ocean systems test kit goes to 100ppm nitrate and the API kit goes to 160.

I was thinking the same thing on the ammonia source, my son works at a seafood restaurant, and I had him bring me an uncooked shrimp last night. My intentions are to prepare some water and do a large water change, removing and rinsing all the rock and vacuuming out the sand and tossing the shrimp in there and start testing.
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Old 07-22-2012, 11:02 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Brandyn85
when i started my tank about a week ago, i bought my water and the guy at my lfs was more than happy to give me a baggy of live sand from a healthy established tank, and also some ammonia for free, to help jump start the cycle. he says he does that for everyone who is just starting out. i would check with your lfs
My LFS will sell you fritzyme turbo start 90, or some such thing. When my daughter brought home the clowns...she brought home a cup of sand from the tank.
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