Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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starcollector 10-31-2006 10:06 AM

Cycling new saltwater
My boyfriend started a small saltwater tank in an old 20-gal I had lying around. I know nothing about saltwater, but we are learning together. He just set it up 2 days ago, and he has live rock, live sand, and a couple of damsels. Can I help him speed up the cycling process by putting in some gravel from my freshwater aquarium, or will the salt kill that bacteria? I wasn't sure if it's the same bacteria needed or not. Thanks!

JouteiMike 10-31-2006 12:25 PM

No I wouldn't. To my knowlege different types of bacteria grow in fresh and saltwater, they need certain conditions to thrive.

caferacermike 10-31-2006 05:38 PM

No. And you shouldn't have put the damsels in so quickly. 2 days? You should sit back and relax for at least 2 months.

Am I just trying to be harsh? NO. I'm going to fill you in on the secret that the lfs neglected. The entire purpose of live rock and live sand is to grow microfauna. This can be anything from bacteria to "pods". Your damsels will eat any new emerging pods that exist. You will slowly get an increase in bacteria but your tank will never get pods. copepods, amphipods, and decapods are all extremely important detrivors and food items. They will stir the gravel and eat detritus (crap) that finds it's way into tiny little holes int he rocks. They will help stir the substrate. They are very important. Any that came in on the rock work have been eaten by the damsels at this point.

OK for some more informitive schooling. The damsels have a good chance of dying in the next 2 weeks. You don't yet have a cycle you have a "sterile" tank. As wastes begin to add up you will not have the proper amounts of bacteria and ammonia and nitrite will build up in the tank instead of being converted to a less toxic nitrate. As this happens the fish will succomb to deaths by those 2 toxins. If you had a 50g or larger the fish may be able to survive. In a 20g if they did it would be purely luck.

Next. Damsels are about the most negative fish you can put in a tank. In fact if they do survive I'd expect one to kill the other in a small tank like yours. They will be able to set up territories in such a small tank. Each new addition (and I'd pick only 2 of my most favorite 2-3" fish for a 20g) will probably be killed by the established damsels. I'd try and take them out at this point and retun them for credit. When it's time a nice small goby (tiger, fusa, diamond, firefish, yellow head jawfish), clown (oscellaris, skunk, true perc, or a really nice saddle), or 3 or 4 bangaii cardinals or pajama cards would make nicer tank mates. The cardinals would generally need a larger tank but since they prefer to pack up and don't swim would do nicely. A 20g would also make a nice sea horse tank without any other fish.

So sit back and watch the rocks. When you find yourself being entertained watching almost microscopic critters swim around it's time to begin adding snails and hermits. After that fish. My timeline would work like this. Setup the tank. Test, test test, after one month add about 5 hermits. I'd add a hermit and a small snail (astrea, cerith, or nassarius) once a week for another month. And by hermits I mean small ones, under an inch, not the giants that some lfs carry. Once your "cleanup crew" is established it's time for a fish or 2. What type of substrate and what type of rock did you use? I'd go for a 3" bed of aragonite or southdown (sugarfine) and make sur eyou have quality rock as you won't have much. getting high quality and extremely porous rock will do you much better than dense smooth rock in a 20g as you won't be packing in hundreds of pounds.

trreherd 10-31-2006 08:16 PM

She said he already has live rock, live sand mike.
And by the way star collector live sand is already seeded with bacteria
And yes puting freshwater bacteria in saltwater will kill them(its called osmosis)

starcollector 10-31-2006 11:39 PM

Thanks for the advice. I know with my freshwater hobby the frustration of constantly conflicting information. Saltwater seems so complicated to me. We've been researching the internet (not always reputable) and talking to people (also not always reputable), and just trying to glean whatever we can from it. So your input is greatly appreciated.

I am aware of the cycling/biological process, by the way. :-) I've done it many times with freshwater tanks over the years. We had read and been told several places that the bacteria needed a source of ammonia in order to begin cycling (as with freshwater), and that fish or inverts provided that. Are you saying that the live rock and sand will release ammonia on their own, or did I misunderstand?

If we remove the damsels, will the "pods" you mention grow back? Or are they likely gone for good? Thing is, Mike was going to put a little tiny $0.99 hermit crab in, and then we happened by a fish store, where the clerk informed us the best thing was damsels. So in they went LOL. I will pass your info on to my boyfriend (also named Mike), and we'll go from there.

Thanks so much for everyone's help, it really makes a difference (at least it has on the fresh boards; I'm new to the salt board)!

caferacermike 11-01-2006 07:00 AM


Originally Posted by trreherd
She said he already has live rock, live sand mike.
And by the way star collector live sand is already seeded with bacteria
And yes puting freshwater bacteria in saltwater will kill them(its called osmosis)

Please go back and thoroughly reread my post. I in fact state that there is already rock in the tank hence my comment "So sit back and watch the rocks. " And my question "What type of substrate and what type of rock did you use?"

Apologies accepted.

I was trying to HELP explain how everything works together. Also TR just dumping in live rock and or live sand does not make an instant marine tank. A lot of thought needs to be put into it. That's why I asked Star to elaborate.

The live rock and live sand will indeed cycle a tank for you as their is life forms on the rock. Again I'd like to state that your little damsels might make it but they will have the tendency to kill anything you add to them. When you are tired of that and want to remove them you'll pretty much need to remove teh rock work to catch them, thus stirring up the tank and causing yet another mini cycle.

Could you please tell us what type of sand and rock you got? Removing the damsels will allow the pods to grow back. You want those little guys fully established before adding fish or you will need to build a refugium for the tank. We'll talk about them a little later. We should also hear about your filtration methods, lighting, and future needs or wants for this tank.

trreherd 11-01-2006 02:21 PM

mike-(Apologies accepted)
:shock: Oh wow thanks

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