Originally Posted by JohnnyD
Day 1: Getting about 30-32 gallons DI water from the store and adding it to the tank. Let water sit in tank with a powerhead running for a day or so
Day 3: Add salt and let sit for another 2 days or so, then test salinity
Day 5: Buy live rock from LFS, add sand, dry and live rock to tank
Couple questions: should the live rock be placed under/on top/ or mixed in with the dry rock or does it not matter? also, when should I start running my skimmer and start a lighting cycle?
You have things pretty well in place. I agree with the others here that there is no reason to allow water to age. Just put the RO in your tank, add salt, and allow power heads to run for a couple of days. On day 3 or so, assuming you have the correct salinity, I would add the rock and sand.
When you add rock, use some dry rock for the bottom pieces. Any areas of live rock that are under sand will have some die off, so you may as well prevent this by having dry rock as the base. Then build on top of this with your live rock and additional dry rock. When you create your live rock structure:
1) visualize areas where the corals will be placed.
2) allow for open space between rock for good water circulation.
3) try to minimize the contact points between rock and sand.
4) use cable ties to secure the rock when needed, to stabilize the entire structure.
As you have already pointed out, the biggest key is patient. Your ammonia and nitrite will go to zero very quickly, because of the live rock. This does not mean your system is mature. You will want to wait longer, watching for a few signs that the tank is stable:
1) the diatom bloom will have come and gone.
2) copepods and amphipods will flourish, and be visible on the glass and in the sand bed.
3) Nitrate will begin to DROP, approaching zero.
4) coraline algae will begin to spread.
As to your other questions. I personally run the protein skimmer from day 1. The same with the light cycle.