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Twitch 03-19-2008 01:49 PM

He said it was cycled?
The 20L tank has been up and running for two weeks. I've had a major algae bloom in the tank and I figured I'd go ahead and take a sample of water in for testing (they do free testing at the LFS) to see where the cycle was at. Last week ammonia levels were at 1. He said my pH was low so I'm going to be putting in some buffer when I do a water change. He also said my salinity was high (I hadn't had a chance to put in fresh water this morning). So I'll be doing those two things today. Then I asked him about the ammonia. He said "Its fine." I asked what he meant by fine. More than 1, less than 1? He said "0. Ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates are at 0. Your tank is cycled." I told him I had an algae bloom and he said "You often see a big algae bloom when the cycle is nearing completion of is complete. So you are done."

I did have hermits in the tank to jumpstart the cycle. Would this have helped the cycle complete in 2 weeks? I want your suggestions, opinions, and advice. I don't think there are any other LFS around that do salt water testing so I'd have to buy my own test kit and those are expensive.

Cody 03-19-2008 02:16 PM

You should have some sort of Nitrates in a cycled tank. I would wait at least for another week. Since I take it you dont have a test kit, it will be hard to determine as the LFS is tying to get you to buy their stuff. I take it this is the same store that addvised you to add hermits and snails to your un-cycled tank?

Also, do you have all of your LR yet? I would try to get it in ASAP so you dont have to have another mini-cycle when you add more rock.

Twitch 03-19-2008 02:18 PM

I have 11lbs of it. I was told I could add it over time. Do I need all the live rock (all 20lbs of it) in the tank before adding inverts or corals?

Cody 03-19-2008 02:26 PM

It would be best to get all LR before adding any livestock since it probably would add another mini-cycle into a tank.

bettababy 03-19-2008 02:34 PM

Well, for starters, if ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate are all at 0, then there is no way that tank is cycled. A fully cycled tank will have "something" for a nitrate level... even if it's low.

Can you please provide us with more information about your tank?
What substrate is in it? (crushed coral or live sand)
How much live rock?
What type, make, model of filter are you running?
How often have you done water changes, and how much water each time?
Are there any animals in there now? What kind and how many?
If there are animals, are you feeding them, if so, what foods and how often?

When keeping a saltwater tank it's going to be important to have your own test kits for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, and calcium. These are the tests needed most often and on a regular basis. Knowing that your LFS isn't competent to help you, all the more reason... and keeping a tank of 5.3 gallons with animals in it, yet another reason for your own kits.
9 out of 10 things that can and typipcally do go wrong with a tank will show up in water quality. Testing is the only way for us to monitor the environment we've created in a box. Conditions in an aquarium are ever changing... water params can fluctuate in less than an hour. The smaller the volume of water, the faster the rate of change, and the more extreme it tends to be.

Can I ask what you're thinking of keeping in this tank? I can't think of much that will live in there long term. Even a shrimp goby needs at least 10 gallons. I have had experience with keeping nano's of less than 10 gallons... years of it... I finally stopped with anything less than 7 because it was too hard to keep it stable. Everytime there was evaporation, the water params jumped so much and so fast, there was just no way to keep it stable enough to support animals. It required daily water changes, and I wasn't able to find any corals that could stay in less than 10 gallons for longer than a month. Everything got way too big that fast. Corals if too close to each other, can sting each other, some more known for this than others.

Knowing the size of the tank, the situations that are unavoidable (like evaporation), and that you don't have test kits... that is kind of scary.

API puts out a set of test kits that include ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH for about $30. Calcium alone will run probably about $8 - $10.
If you want to keep a nano tank, especially one of that size, the test kits are something you need to have on hand, all the time. There is no way to make it work without them. I would strongly suggest letting the tank "sit" as is, running.. without animals... until you can obtain the proper test kits.
When the tank is ready for animals, the test results should read as follows:

ammonia 0
nitrite 0
nitrate 20 or less
pH 8.2 - 8.5
calcium 400-500

You might be better off considering a larger tank right from the start now that you have some information. A 10 gallon nano tank will allow you 1 fish, 2 if you're selective and diligent on daily water changes. Your selection for fish in even 10 gallons is still very limited, but at least when corals go in they have enough space to allow growth and compatibility between them without such risk of disaster.

One last note:
If money for test kits is such an issue, maybe saltwater isn't something you should be doing right now? Saltwater tanks are expensive, there is no way to avoid that. Even with someone like me or herefishy, or some of the others around here, people who have been doing the fish thing at home and/or professionally for 10, 20, or more years... we know a lot of tips and tricks to save money, but saltwater is still an expensive hobby. It's expensive to start, and expensive to maintain. It can also be very time consuming. If you think about it... if you spend the money to do it right, get everything you need, make it work... you'll save a lot more money in the long term because you won't be plagued by problems which need more supplies to fix and death which is inevitable if not fixed quickly.

Cody 03-19-2008 02:40 PM

Dawn, 20L is as in a 20 gallon long tank, not 20 liters.

bettababy 03-19-2008 03:28 PM

Ok, sorry about that... too many abbreviations to keep up with them all.
Ok, that changes only the fact that it will be easier to keep stable and easier to find animals... but the need for water test kits for all of the listed is the same, and the need is still just as great.

Twitch 03-19-2008 07:31 PM

Thinking back, he only said ammonia and nitrites were at 0, so I'm taking another sample of water back to the store tomorrow to get it tested for nitrates. If he says thats at zero then we know where we stand, if not, then we'll go from there.

What substrate is in it? (crushed coral or live sand)
Live Sand

How much live rock?

What type, make, model of filter are you running?
Millennium 3000

How often have you done water changes, and how much water each time?
The tank has been running for 2 weeks. I did a water change at the one week mark as was recommended to me (10% change, 2g) and plan on doing another water change tomorrow (10% change, 2g)

Are there any animals in there now? What kind and how many?
Around a dozen hermits, 2 snails, and one itty bitty starfish that was a stowaway on one of the empty shells I brought home for the hermits. It was recommended to me to get the hermits to jumpstart the cycle (I know now not to do this so please don't badger me on this.)

If there are animals, are you feeding them, if so, what foods and how often?
I am not feeding any of the hermits. They have been feeding off the algae that is growing in the tank.

Also, I can afford a test kit. I only mentioned it being expensive because I figured it would be easier to just get the tests done for free since I have to go in there anyway to buy salt water for water changes and fresh water for top off. If you really think it is a big need for me to have my own test kit then I will go out and get one tomorrow and test the water myself and post the results here.

As for what I hope to keep in the tank. I'm not sure as I have not done research into what will live comfortably in the tank. I hope to keep a goby and some corals. Once May comes around, I may be upgrading to a larger sized tank anyway. Possibly a 55g. It all depends on what i find that I like and what size tank it requires. I don't want to keep a lot of fish, so only one or two. I want inverts though so I'll be doing more research on them soon.

bettababy 03-19-2008 10:44 PM

It sounds like you have a grip on the situation, and yes, I do truely believe that the test kits are that important. It isn't uncommon for something to go wrong during the night, or even on a holiday weekend, when pet stores are closed. Now that you have the forum to help you, which is 24/7, having those things on hand will make all the difference. Once you understand the water quality better, what each of the test results means, how to detect problems, etc., those test kits will save you a lot of worry, hassle, and also save you the trouble of misinformation from the LFS. There are also times when you'll need to test the source water as well as the tank. This is much easier to do at home when you need to compare and decide what to do from there.

When you get your test kits, you'll want a liquid kit. Test strips are useless and a waste of money. Not everyone knows that yet, so I had to throw it in just in case. The strip tests are known to be extremely inaccurate, and that means they could cause a lot of harm and expense later for you. Next to the digital meters, the liquid kits are known to be the next best for accuracy.

Twitch 03-20-2008 11:53 AM

I will get the API salt water test kit from Petsmart when I go there today and I'll test my own water and post the results tonight.

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