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Old 04-17-2008, 04:59 PM   #1
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One Month In

20 gallon tank / Nitrite 0.2 / Nitrate 10 (low end) / Ammonia .25 / Alkalinity normal / Spec Gravity 1.023 / 80 degrees. 30 days into my cycling...

I have a brown stuff and now what looks like bright green algae on the sand. It's growing in patches all over the sand...ICK! It doesn't move with a swipe, you have to actually shift the snad for it to move. The Damselfish seems quite normal. Also, the glass is starting to get brown stuff on it.

1) is this growing mess normal?
2) should I change the water?...move the sand around?
3) I still haven't seen a nitrite spike, but the nitrate is up from 2.5 to 10.
4) I am getting collections of uneaten food at the bottom of the tank (despite my removal of as much of the food as the fish leaves uneaten when he's done feeding) Should I vacuum hat out or does it help cycle the tank?

Sorry for the dumb questions. Total newbie and happy to listen to your advice
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Old 04-17-2008, 06:48 PM   #2
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1- yes, for a new cycling tank
2- I would do a small water change. Try not to disturb the sand bed too much.
3- still cycling
4- cut way back on feeding so there is none that goes uneaten

Did your lfs recommend cycling with the damsel? That really isn't a good idea as there are ways to cycle a tank and not worry about possibly killing a fish in the process. Do you have any live rock in there?

Also, did you use tap water or RO to fill and start your tank?

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Old 04-17-2008, 08:03 PM   #3
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Old 04-17-2008, 09:47 PM   #4
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I agree, you may want to see where your nitrAtes are coming from.
What kind of test kit are you using?
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Old 04-17-2008, 11:32 PM   #5
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I agree, you may want to see where your nitrAtes are coming from.
What kind of test kit are you using?
I bought an expensive "Marine Lab" kit with all the necessary tests to track the cycle. So far, I haven't notice much of anything remarkable going on. The jump in nitrAtes is especially odd to me, considering that the ammonia and nitrItes have remained pretty level from day one. I am DYING to clean all that filth up! Especially the goo on the glass.
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Old 04-18-2008, 07:30 PM   #6
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You should see a spike in ammonia (then a decline), then nitrItes (then a decline) and finally nitrAtes (PWC will reduce this).
Did you use cured LR or sand from an established tank?
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Old 04-19-2008, 12:43 PM   #7
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I bought a bag of live sand from the dealer. And, yes, I am torturing a poor damsel to cycle my tank.
The algae continues to spread...ick!
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Old 04-20-2008, 11:35 AM   #8
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I don't put much trust in live sand, but you may have gotten a fresh batch that is actually live. This may be the reason for such low numbers.
Have you checked your source water?
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Old 04-22-2008, 11:10 AM   #9
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There really is no need for the damsel in there, its a pretty outdated method of cycling a tank. I have used raw, uncooked and unseasoned jumbo shrimp suspended to cycle all my tanks. Works really well and costs about 10 cents.
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Old 04-22-2008, 02:01 PM   #10
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As cccapt asked are you using RO/DI water or just tap water? If you are using tap are you using a dechlorinator? What ever the water source you are using test it for nitrAtes. With ammonia and NitrItes still showing in the tank the nitrates are more then likely coming from your source water.

If you only have one fish in the tank, feeding should be kept at a minimum. A pinch will work. Too much food and you will be battling other issues, like your algae...

How much live rock do you have in the tank and what kind of filtration are you using?
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Old 05-01-2008, 09:27 AM   #11
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You mentioned uneaten food. Never over feed. Left over food will always cause you porblems. The slime algae could be controlled with a product called "red slime algae remover". But please make sure that is what you have before you use it.
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Old 05-04-2008, 01:54 PM   #12
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Hey guys...just to say you are all soo great for being so helpful. I don't get on this site as often as I need to....so here's an update:
20 gallon tank / very small everything, but it's working great...small power head, about 8 lbs of live rock, one inch of live sand substrate, certainly a filter, heater. I had a damselfish for my cycling (sorry! I took that advice from the pst store guy), and I just returned it. Today, I added the live rock and a sculpture, along with a plastic plant. I know this is all backwards, but it's where I'm at
I'm going to let my tank adjust to the live rock (and vice-versa) for a couple of weeks.
The problem is RAMPANT algae. It grows in hours, not days! I will stir the sand and catch the loosened algae in my net (tedious work) and within 4-5 hours, it's back! How do I stop this algae from devouring my sand and making my tank look disgusting?
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Old 05-09-2008, 11:44 PM   #13
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I wanted to update here about a week later...I just added some more cured, live rock, for a small total of about 11 lbs. in my 20 gallon tank. That is all the rock I intend to place in there. I want to leave my tank nice and open for my future fish to swim freely and I jsut plain like the way it looks with the setup I have.
I took sample readings today and I got:
Ammonia 0.25 - close to zero
Alk normal
NitrIte 0.05
NitrAte 2.5
pH 8.0
Temp 80 degrees
As you can see, I've added the add'l rock today, and I also moved hte powerhead to the far right, next to the plastic plant and set it up so it hits the surface and shoots diagonally across the surface.
I'm 7 weeks into this "cycling" and honestly, I stopped testing for about two weeks in the middle there for business travel and just plain laziness. The highest my nitrAtes got was 10.0 (although I'm confused because my test kit says that the same color sample is "low range" 10 and also "high range" 50...no idea what that means!) So I might've had a nice nitrAte spike already, but I can't say. It was either 10 or maybe 50! I'm so confused. Anyway, I almost bought some hermit crabs today just to have something living in my tank. I'm growing impatient. Is it adviseable to add a few hermits in there? Do they need food?
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Old 05-10-2008, 12:02 AM   #14
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NO... don't add anything. You still have ammonia and nitrites, and until they're at zero, the tank is still cycling. Granted... the levels are very low, but they're still there. In addition, you just added rock. Even if it's cured, there's still the possibility that it could create a little mini-cycle, so I'd just sit on your hands a little bit longer. Just curious though... what type of test kit are you using that can measure 0.05ppm of nitrites? Or is that a typo?

Also... just to clarify - you mentioned a nitrate "spike". You most likely are not going to see a nitrate spike. Nitrates are the final byproduct of the ammonia/nitrite/nitrate cycle and nitrates are removed during water changes. During a cycle, you will see an ammonia spike, followed by a nitrite spike, and a slow gradual increase in nitrates. Unless you have a lot of live rock and/or a deep sand bed (from the looks of your picture, you have neither), you probably won't see that quick of a decrease in nitrates... unless you've been doing water changes during your cycle. The additional anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that doesn't need oxygen) in a deep sand bed finish of the nitrogen cycle by converting nitrates to nitrogen gas which bubbles out of your tank. But I'd think your tank is too young to have that aspect of the cycle going on.

When you do add crabs, they'll just eat the leftovers that your fish don't eat, and well... their poop, too. But I wouldn't add them yet.
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Old 05-10-2008, 12:16 AM   #15
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Thanks Kurt. On your advice, I moved the powerhead and turned off the bubbles. I intend to add another one to the left side over there and set up that "X" shaped water movement. Although, I have to say, between the one powerhead on the right and the filter which empties to the extreme left, I have a pretty good surface movement. I'm not adding anymore LR....it's just plain too expensive for my budget. That is all I will have. maybe in years to come, I can add more. Right now 11lbs will have to suuffice.

I will wait until I see zeros on those NitrItes and Ammonia at zero. I use a Marine Lab 5-in-1 test kit by Red Sea. It measures everything and I just measure the color readings off a card for each parameter. It was pretty expensive actually, and I am hoping it lasts me awhile. Any idea why the NitrAte card has two columns , one for high range, and the other for low range for the same colors? For instance bright orange says both 50 AND 250 (???) Which is right?

Also, I did a 20% PWC last Sunday. Maybe that's messing up the numbers? No idea
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Old 05-10-2008, 12:34 AM   #16
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Any idea why the NitrAte card has two columns , one for high range, and the other for low range for the same colors? For instance bright orange says both 50 AND 250 (???) Which is right?
Looks like it's a dual card because you can alter the amount of reagents you put in to change how sensitive the test is. Here's the directions I could find for it...

  1. Clean a test tube by rinsing it with water to be tested.
  2. Fill the test tube to the 5 ml mark with water to be tested.
  3. Vigorously shake the Nitrate Reagent A for at least 30 seconds and add 5 drops to the test tube.
  4. Add 5 drops of the Reagent B.
  5. Add 8 drops of Reagent C.
  6. Cap the test tube and shake gently for one minute.
  7. Wait five minutes for the color to develop, and then shake again.
  8. Compare the color with the color scale by holding the test tube in a vertical position, about 2" from a white background.
  9. Read off the ppm value on the right hand LOW RANGE side of the color scale that is closest to the sample in the test tube.
  10. Should the result be more than 50 ppm, repeat the test using 1 ml water sample diluting up to 5 ml with distilled water or reverse osmosis water and read off the ppm value on the left hand HIGH RANGE side of the color scale.
  11. Clean the test tube and stopper with tap water.
Pay attention to step 10. If you're following the directions up to this point and find the color is greater than 50ppm, then follow step 10 and redo the test using only 1 ml of tank water. Then fill the tube up to the 5ml mark with pure water and repeat from step 3. When you get to step 9, use the "high range" instead. Those instructions definitely could be a bit clearer.
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Old 05-10-2008, 12:45 AM   #17
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Thanks again man.
The direction IN the kit say nothing about shaking again after the 5 minute wait. Odd.
You know, I've just discovered that the pet store I bought that kit from charged me another $20 than the online price I just saw!!! Hmmm. Anyway, the fish were similarly priced. I want a percula clown amd ybe one or even two other fish, but no more. I wanted to keep the damsel (I got atttached), but I was worried he/she would be too aggresive after two months alone in the tank.
Do online dealers make sense for livestock? How on earth do they ship a critter that stays alive????
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Old 05-10-2008, 02:14 AM   #18
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Yeah... expect to pay 2x the online price for hardware/test kits/etc at your LFS.

Regarding online purchase of livestock... personally, I always try to buy livestock locally. That way I can see the fish, see how it's behaving, and pick the exact one I want. Most LFS will order in whatever you want if they don't have it. I've ordered fish online though, and even though the outcome wasn't good, I'm pretty sure it was my newbie fault. I've ordered corals online before, with great success. But again - I only do that if I absolutely can't find what I want locally.

Fish and coral ship just fine, surprisingly. Shipping them to your door is really no different than how the LFS gets them - boxed up in little baggies of water via Overnight Delivery.
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Old 05-10-2008, 01:58 PM   #19
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I agree with Kurt. I buy 98% of my dry goods online, mostly from drsfosterandsmith.com, thatpetplace.com, premiumaguatics.com and a few other places like ebay, the prices are a lot more cost effective. I also like to buy my livestock locally (with the exception for my clean up crew), now my LFS no longer sells SW fish so I am kind of stuck driving 1+ hours to look at fish or ordering online.
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Old 05-10-2008, 03:57 PM   #20
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Thanks guys for the good advice.

Okay, so today I added another powerhead. hard to see, but it's on the lower left of the pic, submerged behind the tiki hut. I placed it there thinking that the other one is on top (to the right of the first pic) agitating the surface (and pretty well). I'm not sure if this makes any sense at all, but you can imagine a counter-clockwise rotation of water in the tank if you look directly at it. Does this make sense?
I also added some plastic plants to obscure the view of this grey box from the front.
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