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Cycling a new Saltwater tank

You’re getting ready to start a new reef tank and don’t know where to start? Hopefully this blog will guide you in the right direction.

What is “Cycling a Tank”

When we get into this hobby some of us think that we can just add water to a tank, and then add fish. While some do this, this is not the correct way to start off a new tank.

Cycling a tank refers to the Nitrogen Cycle where beneficial bacteria start to populate inside your tank that allows breaking down of Ammonia(NH3) into Nitrite(NO2), and then into Nitrate(NO3). Once the you are able to add/introduce Ammonia into your tank and it processes it into Nitrate quickly (less than 24 Hrs.) then your tank is ready to have a bio-load slowly added to it.

There are many ways to cycle a tank, but I will focus only on a few methods to get you up and running.

Live Rock

Live rock is rock that has established bacteria either from another tank, or rock that has been harvested from the ocean and is kept live either by keeping it in saltwater tubs or stored wet by any other method. This method has pros and cons to it as the rock comes with lost of bacteria, and biodiversity, it can also come with lots of pest. While some overlook the pest, this is by far the most natural way to cycle a tank as no chemicals, or bottled bac is needed.

If you have a reefing buddy around, ask if you are able to put in some dry rock into their system for a couple of weeks as this will allow the dry rock to build up bacteria that can be added to your new tank. If you have many reefing friends around you, see if you can add your dry rock into multiple systems as this will guarantee you are getting bacteria diversity. Just keep in mind that if they have pest in their tank, chances are so will you once you put your rock in.

Bottled Bacteria

This method has come a long way as many companies now a way to help you jump start your cycle and can start adding livestock in as little as 2 weeks. Companies like Dr. Tims, Brightwell, Fritz and others have made it possible to harness all the Bac you need in a bottle that can be added to a new tank with dry rock. These products seed your tank with a balance of nitrifying bacteria that will reproduce and get your tank up and running quick.

Ghost feeding/Shrimp

This is a tried and true “ole school” method that till this day is still being used. This requires a raw dead shrimp to be added to the tank after it’s been filled with water and you allow the shrimp to decay for several days which will start the cycle. The shrimp is removed after you see an ammonia spike in the tank and allow the tank to settle down.

So there is the quick and dirty on Cycling a tank.

Here are some good articles to read up on

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