My tank just doesn't want to finish cycling
Hi, this is my first post. I had joined another saltwater only forum but realized it was mainly for complete experts. Plus I have a freshwater tank too. But anyway....
I set up my 55g DT with a 10g sump almost 7 weeks ago. Checking my params and stuff all the time. Got my ammonia spike and everything like normal, but in the last 2 weeks I've been stuck with very low nitrites and ammonia.
My Nitrites and ammonia are both reading about .15 ppm and they've been stuck like that for two weeks now. They just won't freaking zero. I havn't really been checking my nitrates lately because it's kind of irrelavent if I still have trites, but last time I did check they were around 15-20, nothing special. KH is normal, around 250. Calcium is oddly pretty high, but not dangerous at all. Been doing 15% water changes weekly. I've got around 40 lbs of live rock now and getting more soon, and I've got a standard wet/dry system (which I built) with a Prizm skimmer running. Not using RO water yet because I'm not doing live corals until I get a massive tank, and a place to put it for that matter.
I cycled the tank with a cinnamon clown and a fully acclimated green spotted puffer that I had in a 10g tank for a few months. I gave the puffer away to a friend though because I want to be able to keep a clean up crew alive. Oh, and I also have a chocolate chip starfish which was also in the 10g. I did add the nutracycle stuff when I first set up the tank to try to speed up the process, but seven weeks later, I'm still seeing nitrites.
The clown and starfish are very active and happy, no problems with them. But I do want to get a CUC asap as I'm seeing a lot of algae and detritus collecting on my sandbed now. I don't want to add them until at least my nitrites are zeroed though, so I'm stuck. UGH.
Anyone know what might be causing this situation where I'm kind of in limbo? I understand saltwater takes a little longer to cycle, but 7 weeks is a bit much IMO, and the fact that I've had the same params for 2 weeks seems odd.
Oh and my name's Duncan
What are you using for source water? Is it tap water? What kind of media do you have in the wet/dry? What kind of substrate do you have and how deep is it?
You say calcium is pretty high, what is that number, exactly?
Have you tried testing with a different kit? Maybe the kit you are using is bad or old?
Have you been adding the rock over the course of the seven weeks? Or did you add it all at once? Where did you get the rock?
I am sorry if I bombarded you with questions, just want to know a little more about your system.
Welcome to the Forum!!
The wet/dry now just has foam, carbon, and an amrid substrate. I thought about putting those ceramic ring things in that are in most canisters, but I'm not EXACTLY sure what they do, so I didn't bother.
And I actually just bought a ton of API test kits because I found out my test "strips" were giving me inaccurate results. LOL they were telling me my ammonia was like 3 ppm or something, which it was only about .5 ppm at the time. But yeah, my test kits are basically brand new, and I've heard good things of API.
I got my rock on two seperate occasions. I work at Petco, so that's where I got it. But I purposely ordered the rock and got it before it even touched our systems. Our crappy corperate setting doesn't even allow us to have QT tanks or Curing tanks or anything, so everything I get is going to be scooped up before it hits the Petco systems. I've already had quite a bit of die-off but it seems to be growing again.
My calcium is 500 ppm. It was really low before so I added a few doses of Kent calc suppliment to try getting more coralline, I didn't watch the levels and they got too high. But 500 isn't too bad so I think it'll be fine.
The rocks can still be curing, or maybe something living in the rocks died off in the last couple of weeks...Did you add the second batch of rock before the ammonia and nitrite spike?
About that wet/dry system. A marine system does not need this type of filtration. The foam will act as a detritus trap and since the detritus is not processed biologically, it will break down and turn into phosphate and nitrates. As you feed your tank, uneaten food will be trapped and break down into nitrates and phosphates. The main idea of filtration in a marine aquarium is: Live Rock (1-1/2 to 2 lbs per gallon), Live Sand (4"-6" deep), and a protein skimmer. The Carbon in the wet/dry will also help to break down organic acids, as long as it is cleaned regularly.
API are a good brand, I use them regularly with success.
Oh, and I forgot to mention I didn't do live sand, although I'm regretting it now. I just have a plain fine grain sandbed now that's about 2.5 ". Is it too late to add a bag or two of live sand? Stuff is expensive.
I actually bought a small cleanup crew today at work. 5 nassarius snails, 2 ceriths, and 5 hermit crabs. I acclimated them over about an hour and a half and they're looking pretty good now. The nassarius guys are already burrowing and collecting gunk, snorkals out and all. The hermits are climbing around on my rock. It's like a jungle gym of ocean creatures. :-P
Also forgot to mention my water flow situation. I only have about 450 gph at the moment, but I ordered 2 K4s last night and they should be coming some time next week.
Maybe I'll post a pic of my tank tomorrow if anyone's interested.
Try a product like Prime. It breaks down ammonia in the tank. It is a quick fix, so you will stil need to find the source of ammonia in your tank. Have you been feeding excessively? You said you have been doing water changes... did you do them while the tank was cycling? If so, this could be prolonging the cycle. What about diatoms? If you are just now getting them, then the tank is probably just now finishing its cycle. As long as the fish seem okay, and the tests don't come back any higher, you will probaby be fine. Did the sand you used have any chemicals in it?
There is a lot to discuss on this, so lets break it down. I will go by the assumption that you do not have a faulty test kit.
First, saltwater does not take longer to cycle. In fact, when you are using live rock as your primary source of filtration, complemented by a protein skimmer and sand bed, marine aquariums will cycle much faster than freshwater systems. These cycles often occur in less than a week, and can even be skipped completely on systems with experienced live rock.
The big reason you are having such difficulties is that you are using your aquarium to cure the live rock, rather than curing the rock in a separate container, or better yet buying rock from the LFS after it has already cured. Don't confuse curing with cycling, as these are entirely different things. The die off that is occurring on the live rock as a result of shipping is what we refer to by curing. By curing live rock inside your display tank, you are doing the same thing as you would be doing by throwing a dead fish into a freshwater tank every day or two.
One factor that is causing your rock to cure for so long is the poor quality protein skimmer you are running on this tank. The Prism Skimmer line is horribly ineffective. Don' t feel bad, almost every one of us in this hobby has used this skimmer. The advertising around the product is awesome, and it has a large enough price tag that it is easy to believe it is a good skimmer. Unfortunately it does not perform up to the standards that you would need for curing live rock. In your case, you are going to need to do a few large water changes to help this curing process along.
Another factor that could come into play for you is trace element depletion. It is very possible that you have a lack of molybendium, which is needed by the bacteria to multiply and thrive. The excessive amount of biological processing of nutrients in a tank curing live rock could cause this. The best way to replenish trace elements in a marine system is with water changes. You do not want to use a trace element supplement, because you do not know how much to add, because you can't test for these trace elements. Doing a large water change at this point will help you greatly, say 15 gallons today, and another 15 gallons tomorrow.
I am also concerned about detritus buildup on the sand. It has only been 7 weeks. Where on earth is this detritus coming from? I hope you actually mean that you are seeing a diatom bloom, which is a light coating of brown algae. A diatom bloom would be a normal step in this maturing process of a marine aquarium.
Now, lets talk about the important stuff. I am very concerned about this, because you work at a LFS and are in a position of influence. The experiences you have with your tank will influence dozens of customers, as you provide your guidance and advice. You have a responsibility to educate yourself and learn about marine systems and how they work. By responsibility, I mean ethics. You are in a position of power, realize it or not, and you should feel some sence of accomplishment when you help someone become successful.
That being said, your choice in filter systems is very poor. Wet dry systems are not used in the marine hobby. You should step back for a minute and visit some of our aquariums, by visiting the "Pictures and Videos" area of this website. You will not find a single experienced marine aquarist who uses a wet dry system. These sytems have a very poor long term track record, and can cause massive problems 12 to 18 months into the life of a marine aquarium. You should be using live rock, sand, and a protein skimmer, as your ONLY forms of filtration.
As for the skimmer, I know it's not a good one at all. Problem is my old skimmer (the seaclone, UGH) shattered when I dropped it down the stairs like three weeks after I set up the tank. The Seaclone was given to me by a guy at work for $20. Point is, I didn't want to wait a week or two for a good one to come in the mail. And once I've bought all my basics (more LR, CUC, any other loose ends I can't think of right now) I'll save up some money and gradually upgrade all my gear, starting with my skimmer. The wet/dry will be replaced with a refugium once I have all my LR and everything is stabilized.
I am getting diatom bloom, but what I'm reffering to as detritus may just be rock die-off. And it's probably not nearly as bad as it looks since I have fine grain bright white sand. Everything, and I mean everything shows up on this sand.
Regarding me working at a pet store, there's actually a funny story associated with that. Our main fish guy who's been fishkeeping for 20 years actually just left the store because he wasn't being provided with proper resources to maintain saltwater, and other major factors, but that's just retail work drama. Anyway, I was going to take his place because nobody else in the store even remotely knows how to properly maintain an aquarium and explain things to customers, let alone in saltwater. That is, until I started setting up my SW tank and realized my manager doesn't know ANYTHING about fishkeeping. He's one of those "I know everything" types though, and when I approached him about the terrible advice he was giving customers about saltwater, I was basically shut down for the "fish guy" spot because 1. He knew I wouldn't be selling much because people are turned off to the hobby when they realize how steep of a learning curve there is, and 2. He doesn't like being told he's wrong. Moral of the story is: the more I know the less impact I'm allowed to have at my store. I know it's BS, but I do need money. Drama aside, I do indeed get great satisfaction from teaching newcomers the basics about the hobby, but unfortunately my ability to pass knowledge along may become more and more limited.
Just ask me any other information you may need. I did check my cycle-related params this morning, and although it's really tough for me to distinguish these colors, I believe I'm seeing:
Ammonia: .15 ppm
Nitrite .1 ppm or less
Nitrate: 20 ppm on the dot
It's really hard to tell because I don't know which form of lighting I should trust when I'm looking at these colors. My crappy house lights (and there are REALLY crappy) give me totally different results then when I hold the test tube up to sunlight, and my florescent lights in the aquarium give me different results than both. WTF!
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