- Basically, a new system starts out with no bacteria.
- Bacteria eat waste.
- To create bacteria, we have to create waste.
- To create waste byproducts (ammonia) add hearty livestock.
- For saltwater aquariums, add uncured live rock.uncured live rock releases more waste and provides a place for good bacteria to grow. Some people use small fish or inverts,but using uncured live rock seems to cycle faster.
- For freshwater use small fish to cycle the tank. Probably not a good idea to use expensive fish. Also you should not use aggressive fish as they will become stressed enough until the tank gets balanced.
- Ammonia is a byproduct of waste. Ammonia is deadly to livestock.
- You will see a high ammonia spike. This is great! That means cycling has begun.
- As the bacteria multiply in your filter system, they convert ammonia to nitrite. Nitrite is also highly toxic but not as deadly.
- Ammonia comes down, nitrite goes up.
- Bacteria convert nitrite to nitrate. Nitrate is the least toxic.
- Ammonia and nitrite comes down. Nitrate goes up.
- To get rid of nitrate, you must do a water change – no more than 20%.
- The end goal is ammonia at zero, nitrite at zero, nitrate < 30 ppm, pH between 8.1-8.4, For salt try to keep your specific gravity between 1.020 – 1.025 . (specific gravity range varies slightly with livestock types SEE BELOW)
NOTE: Tank cycling may take 1-8 weeks.
Remember to add livestock slowly. As livestock is added, it creates waste which creates ammonia. You need to allow bacteria to catch up and multiply to keep your system balanced.
- Live Rock Cycling: (Wikipedia: “Live Rock”)
- Once cycling is complete and the live rock is cured, there should be no more die-off or smell.
- Also, waste from your protein skimmer should be greatly reduced.
- Use an instrument called a hydrometer to measure specific gravity.
- Salinity is the measure of total salts dissolved in water. Salinity has an indirect relationship to specific gravity.
- Specific gravity should be between 1.020-1.022 for fish-only aquariums and 1.023-1.025 for reef aquariums.
- pH is the ratio between hydrogen ions and hydroxide ions.
- The goal in saltwater aquariums is to have the pH between 8.1 and 8.4.
- Over time, pH tends to fall due to natural processes. To prevent this drop, we must maintain the system’s alkalinity.
- Alkalinity measures the buffering capacity of seawater.
- Buffering capacity is the seawater’s ability to resist lowering pH caused by a natural process called acidification.
- We measure alkalinity on the dKH (degree Karbonate Hardness) scale. dKH should be between 8 and 12.
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