So, I just had to share this story with an audience of people who would appreciate my emotions during this ordeal.
I spent about a month researching EXACTLY how I would have to set up, cycle, maintain, and basically keep my tank occupants healthy. I had a 55 gallon tank with a Coralife 65 protein skimmer and an AquaClear 70 a friend had given me for free. I set it up, spent just a little less that $700 on stand, 48 lbs of salt, 80 lbs of sand, powerheads, filter pads, and 40 lbs of dry rock to get it started cycling. I put in expired fish food from a previous tank to put in ammonia, and all was well for the week it was up. The ammonia was in a steady climb, with no sign of nitrite or nitrate. Then, my first mistake happened. There was a gentleman I had met at my LFS
that was disassembling his tank, and I offered to buy some fish off of him. Sadly, I didn't realize he was going to give me EVERYTHING in one day.
I ended up adding 2 Clownfish (A true and false percula), 4 green chromis, 3 hermit crabs, 3 snails, and 25 lbs of live rock, with who knows what hidden on its surface. I knew from previous experience that doing a fish-in cycle would be tough, and especially with inverts to boot, I had my work cut out. Over the next two weeks, my tanks endured off-the-charts ammonia and nitrite.
And yet they all lived! I saw them through salinity swings from 1.03 to 1.019. And yet they all lived! I did everything I could to help, reducing feeding to one-a-day, massive water changes, anything that wasn't just take them out and let the tank alone. And now, after 4 of the most stressful weeks in my 1 1/2 year of aquarium experience, my first SW
tank has finished cycling! 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and .5 nitrate. And through it all, I didn't lose a single bit of livestock! If anything, they thrived in the month I've had them. All of this is to say, my first saltwater tank was the most challenging and rewarding experience I could've wished for! Now, I can add the last of my livestock, and enjoy my tank WITHOUT worrying about cycling problems!