04-04-2010, 08:05 AM
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In a marine system with established live rock it is not at all unusual for the ammonia and nitrite to remain zero and never go up. Because of this we frequently talk about a tank "maturing", as opposed to cycling. You should watch for signs of a mature system.
You will notice that a diatom bloom hits after about 2 weeks. After a few days to a week it will go away naturally. As it does, you should begin to notice some coraline algae growth, assuming you have correctly monitored and adjusted both your alkalinity and calcium levels.
You should also begin to see a lot of life in your sand bed, and even on the glass of the aquarium. Look for coperpods and amphipods, which are very tiny microfauna that resemble little tics and worms. It takes a trained eye to notice them, but when you do hopefully you will see these populations begin to rapidly spread. A thriving population is an indicator of the maturity of a new system.
You will also notice that Nitrates begin to DROP. We would prefer to see nitrates level out at zero, but this may take several months. Don't get discouraged because you don't have to wait for this to occur before you add livestock, but recognize that dropping nitrates are a sign of a healthy and stable system.
These things are the key to understanding when a newly set up marine system is ready for livestock. The diatom bloom is the big early indicator, so be on the watch for it. Trust me, you will know it when you see it. Everything will take on a rust color almost overnight.
By the way, your calcium and alkalinity levels are not balanced. What exactly is your alkalinity testing at? (post in DKH if you would, because it is what we all use here for consistency.) What salt mix do you use?