What's new

Starting a salt-water /reef and fish tank - how to cycle it?

🐠 March TOTM Starts Now! 🐠
FishForums.net Tank of the Month!
Click here to enter!

Jan Cavalieri

Fish Addict
Pet of the Month 🎖️
Joined
Jun 2, 2019
Messages
935
Reaction score
329
Location
Topeka, KS
Since I didn't want to sink thousands of dollars into this I bought a 32 gallon Biocube (and am now sinking thousands of dollars on extras and modifications) - but I'm just about ready to mix my salt water. Since I am renting this duplex I didn't want to permanently alter the plumbing so I have a portable RO/DI system that I can temporarily connect to my kitchen tap (with a small adapter) and get supposedly 100 gallons a day (that sounds a little optimistic). I have BRUTE Rubbermaid trash cans. They are food safe and don't leach plastics into the water. I have the dry life rock (not live rock - not at $300 per 10lbs) which will in time supposedly work just fine. I built my reef and puttied and superglued the rocks where needed (never using superglue again - it is a nightmare to work wit) I'm also going to modify the back of the cube to make 4 chambers instead of 3. The first chamber will likely have a protein skimmer. The 2nd chamber has all my media shelves so I'm researching all the types of media I can add in there and it's quite a variety. Chamber 3 will have either a heater in it or a UV light or both. Chamber 4 is where the return pump is and it runs it up a tube with an impeller in it and pushed the clean water back out into the aquarium. . ( the original instructions have you put the heater in this chamber but I can't find one that will fit with the pump that is already in there - hence the reason for dividing this into 4 chambers. ) If I can put the UV sterilizer in chamber 4 that would be best but I don't think it will fit in there either, Oh the thing comes with lights. In all the reviews I read there have been no complaints about lights. It has clear and blue lights and a complicated timer that allows you to automatically adjust the lights from night into dawn into daytime, then turn it slowly into night. I'm terrible with timers but I'll deal with it.

I have two submersible pumps to increase water flow inside the tank and will probably get a wave maker but so far all the coral I'm interested in are pretty low to medium flow. so I may not want that much turbulence right now.

So here is my big question. Do I need to do a full cycle on this tank and if so how? I mean I will be starting with super pure water. No ammonia, no nitrites. Then I'll be adding a salt mixture that will add back in what I need in terms of minerals and such, it will presumably adjust the PH. So if I pour a bottle of bacteria in this thing and wait a week or so - won't it be ready for one or two fish and a couple of corals? I realize that salt or fresh water - you need that good bacteria but do you really need to cycle this tank with ammonia and everything like you do with a freshwater tank or just work on growing the good bacteria from a couple of bottles of it. (at least two different brands to hopefully get an assortment of good bacteria) , wait a week and start adding a couple of fish and some soft corals. I plan on getting a couple of nemo fish and eventually an anemonie. I'll eventually add about 3 more fish and things start going and then ask around on what to buy next. Oh and do you need to add a water conditioner like prime when your water should be well mixed I like a well-behaved tank. What other kinds of fish do well and are fibrant enough to be seen, but won't outgrow a 32 gallon tank. HELP?
 
two fish and a couple of corals?
If you use the above mentioned bottled bacteria, it would be completely OK to add a pair of clowns, or something similar.

As far as corals go, that’s really up to you. I personally added my first coral at 1 week (a small, cheap palythoa colony) and it’s still growing to this day.

I wouldn’t spend over $10 on your first coral, if you can find some for that cheap. Buying expensive corals at this stage is a huge risk.

Some easy beginner corals to look for:
  • Palythoas
  • Zoas
  • Ricordea Mushrooms
  • Rhodactis Mushrooms
 
Thanks for the advice. I've actually cycled a freshwater aquarium in less than a week after adding plenty of bacteria and the start and a little more at each water change. BUT I've had constant problems with white algae so thick you could barely see the fish. We removed everything except the gravel (which we probably should have also removed). The fish hung out in buckets. We cleaned and cleaned. It looked sparkling clear. Added more bacteria and then the DoJos Within a couple of days I had white algae again. So i wonder if I shouldn't have cycled this tank "normally". I periodically add more bacteria but if anything it makes it worse. That is why I'm concerned with not doing a proper cycle on the saltwater tank. I don't want to run into ;problems like I've had before, but I'll try the product you linked to - it's certainly reasonably priced.

I'm actually primarily interested in Zoa coral. Small frags are very inexpensive. Planning on adding a pair of clowns - but don't know what other fish to eventually add to this little aquarium. I don't want to get poisoned, I want peaceful fish only. Any suggestions (remember this is only a 32 gallon tank. I actually can find plenty of stunning coral online for $25 and under so I don't plan to spend much until there is something I want (like an anemone) that is more in the $50 range on up - but I'm waiting to see if these first coral make it before I do that. I look at the $500 coral and wonder what is the big deal - perhaps it's a status thing but I just want the reef to look pretty and I don't need $500 corals to do that. I have much better uses for $500.
 
You can cycle a marine tank (fish only, fish & live rock, fish & corals, corals only) by using ammonia and doing it in the same way you cycle a freshwater aquarium.

You can also use a liquid filter bacteria supplement (like the one listed above by PhoenixKingZ) and some live rock. You add a double dose of filter bacteria to a tank with some live rock in. Do this every day for a week or two. Add a couple of fish a few days after adding the first dose of bacteria. Keep feeding down to a couple of times a week and monitor ammonia and nitrite levels.
 
Thanks for the advice. I've actually cycled a freshwater aquarium in less than a week after adding plenty of bacteria and the start and a little more at each water change. BUT I've had constant problems with white algae so thick you could barely see the fish. We removed everything except the gravel (which we probably should have also removed). The fish hung out in buckets. We cleaned and cleaned. It looked sparkling clear. Added more bacteria and then the DoJos Within a couple of days I had white algae again. So i wonder if I shouldn't have cycled this tank "normally". I periodically add more bacteria but if anything it makes it worse. That is why I'm concerned with not doing a proper cycle on the saltwater tank. I don't want to run into ;problems like I've had before, but I'll try the product you linked to - it's certainly reasonably priced.
I have heard of some bottled bacteria that does that, but I haven’t read any reviews stating instant ocean does it.

It would definitely be worth a try.
 
I'm actually primarily interested in Zoa coral. Small frags are very inexpensive. Planning on adding a pair of clowns - but don't know what other fish to eventually add to this little aquarium. I don't want to get poisoned, I want peaceful fish only. Any suggestions (remember this is only a 32 gallon tank. I actually can find plenty of stunning coral online for $25 and under so I don't plan to spend much until there is something I want (like an anemone) that is more in the $50 range on up - but I'm waiting to see if these first coral make it before I do that. I look at the $500 coral and wonder what is the big deal - perhaps it's a status thing but I just want the reef to look pretty and I don't need $500 corals to do that. I have much better uses for $500.
Zoas are awesome - excellent beginner corals.

A pair of clowns is a good idea for your first saltwater fish. Easy to care for, pretty, and hardy. You can look into other stock (goby or shrimp) after the tank is a little better established.

—-

What coral was the $500 one? Corals range in price depending on species, color, and grade.
 
Oh there are a number of online coral websites and all they sell are frags ranging from $15 to $1899. I looked at the ultra expensive corals - can't determine what kind of coral they are - they resemble them all and some just looked tie-dyed - that was about it. Supposedly very rare and nearly always sold out. One of the coral websites shows you their huge room of flat tanks with varying water flows over them and hundreds or even thousands of frags. Online, they sell about 50 or so varieties. It's pretty impressive looking and I may buy my first frags from them (there are NO stores in my city that carry frags. Due to my oxygen needs I don't usually travel further than 20 or so miles outside of Topeka - which would get me to the cool college town Lawrence and the University of Kansas. Given that about 1/3 of their population either goes to or works at KU I have no doubt there are some decent salt water stores there - but besides not traveling, on many days I can only walk about 25 feet before I need a rest - so I am basically homebound. All my groceries and meds are delivered. I haven't been to our mall in over 7 yrs because there are no wheelchairs - since I get around fine at home without a wheelchair - plus I'm a widow so there is nobody around to push me (my late husband would have just carried me, bless his heart - he always took care of me). I have one daughter (married with a 14 month baby) that works between 40 and 60 hours a week as a Network technician, her husband works full-time from home as a sort of help desk person for the help desk and other staff - not the general public) Frankly I don't know what systems he supports. While they help me considerably - like moving my trashbarrels to the curb and back each week and having dinner with me every Sunday they are way too busy to take me to fish stores (and they have zero interest).
 
Oh dear Colin - thank you for telling me I can cycle this just like a freshwater tank. That's my plan with the addition of adding lots of bacteria to hopfully cut the time down to a couple of weeks. I also just got my 90 gallon freshwater tank yesterday - this will be for my 4 DoJo loaches (I might get one or two more or maybe a cool goldfish. These fish all like similar cooler temperatures (around 50-70 degrees) while most of my freshwater fish are more comfortable at 78-82 degrees, I need to find a fish that won't be stressed out by the DoJo toddlers who (when the water doesn't have white cloud algae) are like a pod? of dolphins both acrobatic and graceful until they hit their heads on the walls of my 50 gallon tank - which is the reason for the 90 gallon tank. BUT I don't want to risk taking any part of anything from their aquarium because of the white cloud - its not supposed to be contagious or treatable and no bottle of any substance gets rid of. I've now had it off and on for over a year, Usually I get a reprieve right after a water change for at least 3-5 days - which tells me it's due to overfeeding (I'm usually guilty of that but damn there is NEVER any food left over and I've cut their food load in half and no change to the whitewater) or it's due to a dirty tank (we do a 70% water change every Friday - but today is Saturday and it already has white cloud and I haven't even fed them yet).

Here is another interesting thing - one day about 6 months ago I had a large number of Rainbow fish living with the DoJo's. Seemed to work out fine (other than the frequent white cloud issue) and one day, the Rainbow fish started dying off so I grabbed a big net and scooped them all up at one time and put them in my Gourami tank. About a week later I had white cloud alge in THAT tank - as if the rainbow fish brought it over with them. Did a water change and have never had white cloud again in that tank - and THAT is the tank where I tend to overfeed because NONE of the fish in the tank eat at the top of the aquarium - the Rainbows seem to eat in the middle and the Pleco's are only bottom eaters and they take FOREVER to eat - I feed them pieces of algae wafers which they love but they will also eat flakes. Anyway - no white cloud algae.

So my conclusion about the white cloud crap is that it's being caused by the huge load of waste generated by the 4 DoJos (I've had a couple of deaths). So a 50 gallon tank with a HOB filter cannot handle their waste and if you ever have seen a DoJO poop it's a curious event, They have multiple water bladders and I swear this HUGE (like 5 inches in diameter) cloud of water mixed with poop comes out of their back end. There are some semi solids mixed in. So it's like they poop comes out and at the same time they empty their rear bladder filter. So I'm hoping the 90 gallon will be able to handle that level of waste - which rules out adding a goldfish since they poop as bad as the dojos. So - anyway out of superstition and that one incident of white cloud algae after moving the rainbow fish - I want to start with new substrate, a new canister filter with all new media. This means cycling that tank with the help of bottles of bacteria. Hopefully the 90 gallons can handle the waste levels of 4 dojo and the white cloud will be gone for good.

The dojos just sleep all day when their water isn't clear - they are obviously NOT happy plus I've had 2 deaths in the last year of what looked like perfectly healthy DoJos. Of the 4 I have left, one is curiously only about 6" long and very skinny. He is growing in length but at a snails pace - he doesn't join in other DoJo games. He just sits at the bottom of the tank. They don't hurt him, he is allowed to sleep next to them - they usually all sleep curled up with each other - and he eats just fine. He's just a genetic runt, The other 3 range now between 12"-16" inches in length and as big around at least the size of a quarter - but one is massive and is easily twice that fat. One of them frequently displays a behavior where she shrinks herself up to about 6" long. You wake her up and she just expands like an accordion to her full 12". When she's shrunk down to 6" size she is as big around as a 50 cent piece. These guys eat HUGE volumes of food where ever it is and take food by my hand. One in particular likes to bite me up and down my forearm and it's actually starting to hurt a tiny bit - before it was just a funny tickle. I could go on forever - they are just amazing fish - I've never seen or read anything like them. That's why I'm spending about 1K between tank, sand and canister filter on them. They can live 20 years or so. They are about 2 1/2 yrs now.

Now my sob story for the 100th time. So time for whoever to move on to somebody else's post that is actually posting about fish. I unfortunately won't live much longer (they've been telling me I've got 5 yrs left for the last 15 yrs) but now I'm really starting to feel it - my lungs really have deteriorated after that last episode of pneumonia - so I have lists all over the house and computer files and lists of passwords for my daughter should I die or have to be hospitalized for a lengthy time. I have to wait until December for my next CT scan even though the pulmo doctor saw 8 polyps in the upper lobe of my right lung. He strongly believes they are just pockets of inflammation that will disappear by December. If they don't then we go the lung biopsy route - he says that I'm at high risk for a lung collapse with that procedure but it would be the only way they could determine if I have lung cancer. He said as bad as my lungs are, a collapsed lung would either kill me or at least hospitalize me for 6-10 months. I cannot breathe even 1/2 as well as I did before the pneumonia and that was from May. I've got my O2 turned up to 4 (its supposed to be on 2). I'm sure I'm depressed but the fish, my cat, and all the stray cats (and racoons) keep me really happy and functional (with the help of no less than 22 different medications) Not to mention my first grandchild and my brilliant daughter. I think the raccoons are living in a very old small shed in the backyard that I don't have the nerve to go into. I still have a bucket of toys my last dog played with and one by one they are disappearing. Today I looked outside and the biggest toy has been pulled half-way in to the shed and the rest of it is too big to fit - so I'm sure that's the Racoons. Mom and dad had 4 babies early in the year - haven't seen mom or dad again but the babies come to my house to eat cat food every night. They will also peer in just like a human would - see me and then knock HARD on the patio door. I have little raccoon handprints I wipe off constantly. I love them too even if they do eat about 40 lbs of cat food a month. When my husband died I filed a wrongful death lawsuit (he slipped on ice in an area that should not have had any ice - hit the back of his head and burst a large blood vessel in his brain. He was on 3 blood thinners at the time and lost all control of his left side. He would wake up nearly daily and call me by name and tell me he loved me so I kept refusing to allow them to turn off life support for 2 weeks until 3 of his 4 children plus my own child ruled strongly against me and his oldest son and two doctors insisted it was hopeless he'd ever even be able to eat except through a tube in his stomach. Even though he could speak and knew who I was - I don't get it. But the business settled with me out of court for about $225,000. My lawyer kept 30%. I paid off what little debt I had and bought a car with cash and put the rest of it in investments (oh and kept about $6,000 for myself). My investments are making me about $10K a month. I have only spent about $1,000 out of the $6,000 because I get so much money from disability and from my pension as well as a small part of my husband's - so I've got nearly 50K a year to live off of and zero debts and super cheap rent. (I did have to sell my house for what was owed and had to pay 3K in closing costs). I made $4,000 in an estate sale of most of my furniture since I was downsizing from 3000 sq ft to 800 sq ft. Before I was my old neighborhood's President and we had quarterly meetings and guest speakers etc - so I lost all those friends since I'm clear on the other side of town now. I'm really really lonely - can't you tell? And terrified about what will happen to my cat and my fish should I have an extended hospital stay or die. My cat is 14 but appears in perfect health - I intentionally got an older cat with the hope they would not outlive me. She had been adopted out a few times after being given up by her owner at age 8 who had her declawed at some point - which explains why she bites since she can't scratch) She was shy, terrified, and hissed and bit any person that came near her. After two weeks of living under my bed - coming out at night to feed, she just one day started sleeping by me in bed and sitting next to me during TV time, and trying to type on my computer. Only two other people have actually seen her because she hides so well when we have visitors. So she is now my shadow. I am afraid they'll end up euthanizing her if something happens to me - just as she finally found somebody to love again. LIFE IS NOT FAIR. What will happen to my stray cats and the racoon family that relies on my food every day? My daughter refuses to take her because she already has two cats with claws that don't get along with each other much less another cat. I guess the world will keep turning without me. In the scheme of things I'm not important and neither is my cat. I know I'm nuts since I've never cared for cats or fish at all until now - I'm a dog person.
 
Oh there are a number of online coral websites and all they sell are frags ranging from $15 to $1899. I looked at the ultra expensive corals - can't determine what kind of coral they are - they resemble them all and some just looked tie-dyed - that was about it. Supposedly very rare and nearly always sold out. One of the coral websites shows you their huge room of flat tanks with varying water flows over them and hundreds or even thousands of frags. Online, they sell about 50 or so varieties. It's pretty impressive looking and I may buy my first frags from them (there are NO stores in my city that carry frags. Due to my oxygen needs I don't usually travel further than 20 or so miles outside of Topeka - which would get me to the cool college town Lawrence and the University of Kansas. Given that about 1/3 of their population either goes to or works at KU I have no doubt there are some decent salt water stores there - but besides not traveling, on many days I can only walk about 25 feet before I need a rest - so I am basically homebound. All my groceries and meds are delivered. I haven't been to our mall in over 7 yrs because there are no wheelchairs - since I get around fine at home without a wheelchair - plus I'm a widow so there is nobody around to push me (my late husband would have just carried me, bless his heart - he always took care of me). I have one daughter (married with a 14 month baby) that works between 40 and 60 hours a week as a Network technician, her husband works full-time from home as a sort of help desk person for the help desk and other staff - not the general public) Frankly I don't know what systems he supports. While they help me considerably - like moving my trashbarrels to the curb and back each week and having dinner with me every Sunday they are way too busy to take me to fish stores (and they have zero interest).
Buying online is definitely a good option for you.

Here are some of my favorites to buy from:




 
Thanks for the recommendations. I'm looking for clown fish right now as well - everybody is out of the classic "little Nemo" style. Should I cycle the tank with one or two of the clown fish. The idea of cycling a tank with fish bothers me a lot but I realize working with sea water is a very different experience than freshwater.

Do you believe I still haven't started cycling this. Once I got my protein skimmer connected in the back (small area) I am loath to disconnect it but it must be done to cycle the tank. Mainly I've been busy with doctor's appointments, ongoing pneumonia and the loss of 3 of my 4 poor DoJo.

My preference would be to go to an online store that sells freshwater, saltwater and corals so I could get what I need shipped at the same time rather than being eaten alive by their shipping costs = haven't found one yet where 2/3rds of their stock (including nearly everything I want) is out of stock. I'll just suck it up and pay the postage - guess it's all going up a the first of the year so better do it now. I do wonder how/why one fish store can ship me 6 fish overnight for $49, another one for $29 and a third one for $79. Of course it's the $79 store that has the most in stock LOL. Guess they really don't want to sell anything.
 
Thanks for the recommendations. I'm looking for clown fish right now as well - everybody is out of the classic "little Nemo" style. Should I cycle the tank with one or two of the clown fish. The idea of cycling a tank with fish bothers me a lot but I realize working with sea water is a very different experience than freshwater.

Do you believe I still haven't started cycling this. Once I got my protein skimmer connected in the back (small area) I am loath to disconnect it but it must be done to cycle the tank. Mainly I've been busy with doctor's appointments, ongoing pneumonia and the loss of 3 of my 4 poor DoJo.

My preference would be to go to an online store that sells freshwater, saltwater and corals so I could get what I need shipped at the same time rather than being eaten alive by their shipping costs = haven't found one yet where 2/3rds of their stock (including nearly everything I want) is out of stock. I'll just suck it up and pay the postage - guess it's all going up a the first of the year so better do it now. I do wonder how/why one fish store can ship me 6 fish overnight for $49, another one for $29 and a third one for $79. Of course it's the $79 store that has the most in stock LOL. Guess they really don't want to sell anything.
Don’t cycle your tank with fish, it’s cruel and not really that effective.

Have you considered bottled bacteria? I used Instant Ocean Bio-Spira, and cycled my tank in 3-4 days.
 

Most reactions

Back
Top