Responsible Tiny Tank Ownership....

Discussion in 'Contests' started by Picasso, Nov 12, 2010.

  1. Picasso

    Picasso Seahorse Whisperer

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    Deco Tank Participants,

    I'm really, really sorry to throw a wet blanket on everyone here and I'm very tired of being the witch that rains on everyone's parade. Evidently, our enthusiasm for stocking our Deco tanks is overshadowing the basic science of marine aquariums and the responsibility we accept when we purchase animals for our aquarium.

    The reality is, keeping a small tank is much more difficult than keeping a large tank. Smaller tanks have larger swings in salinity due to evaporation and topping off. They also do not have enough water mass to create a stable ecosystem so it is more important than ever to add animals at a SLOW pace.

    As much as I absolutely ADORE the participants of this contest, I can't jump up and down with excitement when I see irresponsible practices that will compromise the lives of the animals involved. In my opinion, that is exactly why the public is calling an end to the marine aquarium trade because of marine tank owners' irresponsibility. I love you guys but I don't love animal endangerment so please don't get offended- it's not at all personal.

    Here is a wonderful article about how to cycle and add animals to your tank:

    Cycling a Marine Tank

    By Karen Barber
    What is cycling?

    Even the most sophisticated equipment and additives available these days can't take the place of tiny bacteria in keeping our tanks clean and animals healthy. 'Cycling' is the process of introducing and establishing these essential bacteria.

    In a nutshell, all fish and invertebrates, including seahorses, excrete ammonia as a waste product. However, the ammonia is extremely toxic to them. Fortunately, there is a group of beneficial bacteria that can convert ammonia into nitrites, but nitrites are also toxic to our livestock. The good news is there is a second group of microbes that can convert nitrites into nitrates, which are not nearly as toxic. Accumulated nitrates should ideally be kept below 10 ppm, but fish and seahorses may show no ill-effects with slightly higher levels.

    To cycle a tank, these two groups of bacteria need to be present and established in sufficient numbers prior to adding your seahorses or other animals. Ammonia levels will rise, followed by a rise in nitrite levels as ammonia begins to decline. Then, as nitrite levels begin to decline, you will more than likely see a very slow and gradual rise in nitrates. The appearance of nitrates is a good sign that your various bacteria are making all the necessary conversions, however, some tanks with a significant amount of live rock, live sand, macroalgae, and/or are regularly maintained with water changes may never see nitrates accumulate.

    How do I do it?

    There are several methods people employ to cycle a tank, however, this article will primarily focus on two of them — live rock and the ammonia method.

    Prior to getting cycling underway, make sure your tank is up and running and your equipment is properly functioning. Circulation, aeration, and a stable temperature are essential factors for the health of your livestock long-term, as well as at the very beginning when you are establishing your bacteria colonies. It is also a good idea to turn your tank lighting on for several hours each day during cycling, just like you will when the tank is stocked.

    Cycling with live rock

    One of the best ways to cycle a tank is through the introduction of live rock. These are natural pieces found in the ocean and contain a multitude of life in and on them to get your cycling underway. Placing live rock into your new system jump starts the cycling process. Ammonia is produced as some animals on the rock die off and others excrete waste. In addition, the live rock also contains the beneficial bacteria groups needed to convert ammonia to nitrites, and nitrites to nitrates.

    The time it takes to cycle a tank with live rock varies on how 'fresh' the rock is. Rock recently harvested from the ocean (not 'cured') will have a great deal of life on it that will not survive the rigors of transportation and being removed from the ocean. This rock will have a lot of die-off that will trigger significant ammonia and nitrite spikes which can make the cycling process last a few weeks.

    There is also pre-cured live rock, which means that the vast majority of the die-off has already occurred before you receive it, however, further transportation can still cause smaller ammonia and nitrite spikes. Cycling with pre-cured live rock can still take 2–4 weeks or so.

    Then, finally, there is cured live rock. Fully cured rock that is quickly placed into your tank with minimal transportation time, such as from your LFS (local fish store) to your home, may 'instantly' cycle your tank. The beneficial bacteria groups are already there in good numbers with no die-off to trigger ammonia spikes of any significance. With fully cured live rock you may never see the typical cycling progression of ammonia —> nitrite —> nitrate. Your levels may initially read — and remain at — zero, even while you are slowly stocking your tank.

    To cycle your tank with live rock, an effective amount to start with is 1 pound or more of rock per 5 gallons of tank volume. If you plan on utilizing live rock as your chief method of filtration, approximately 1 pound of rock per gallon of water is ultimately recommended.

    Please note that you should NEVER add uncured live rock to a stocked, established tank. Either cure the rock in a separate container, or make sure to purchase FULLY CURED live rock with a very minimal transportation time from your LFS to your tank.

    After adding live rock to your tank for cycling, test for ammonia and nitrite daily or every other day with test kits available at your LFS. With rock not fully cured, you will see the typical cycling progression. Then, once ammonia and nitrites test at zero for several days in a row, the tank is considered cycled. The time frame for this to occur can vary widely. Factors such as the quantity and condition of the rock, as well as overall tank health and stability (circulation, temperature, aeration, etc.) will directly influence the time it takes for the bacteria to sufficiently reproduce and colonize. Testing is the only way you will know what is going on with your tank.

    Cycling with the ammonia method

    Another method of cycling a tank that is increasing in popularity, is using 100% pure household ammonia. Instead of utilizing ammonia-producing organisms to start the cycling process, the ammonia method involves directly adding bottled ammonia along with a starter culture of bacteria.
    The ammonia must be clear, unscented, 100% pure, and with no additives. However, you may find typical household ammonia to be mostly water with an actual strength of only 5–10%. Since the concentration may vary, you will need to experiment a little to find the right amount needed to cycle your tank.

    When using the ammonia method, the necessary bacteria can be introduced to your system a couple of different ways. If you have access to an established and healthy tank, obtain a small amount of sand or gravel or even used filter media. This can then be placed in the tank to be cycled and will provide a starter culture of bacteria. Another option is to use a commercial preparation of bacteria, such as Hagen's Cycle, to introduce the nitrifying microbes.

    After the tank has been set up and the bacteria have been introduced, begin to add the ammonia. If the tank is on the smaller side, start with only a couple of drops. Let it circulate in the water for a short time, and then test for ammonia. You want to raise the ammonia level to about 1–2 PPM Continue adding drops of ammonia and testing, while keeping track of how many drops total it takes to get to 1–2 PPM

    Once you've reached the desired level, you now need to wait for the bacteria to multiply and do their job. It may take several days to a couple of weeks for your ammonia test to register zero. Once it does, add the same number of drops of ammonia again. Keep repeating this many times, each time waiting until ammonia reads zero, until finally the ammonia test goes to zero within 8–12 hours of the addition of ammonia.

    When the tank is able to clear the ammonia within this time frame, that means that there are large numbers of bacteria present. At this time, test for nitrites. If nitrites are present, perform 3v4 more ammonia cycles to further establish the second group of bacteria. If the nitrite test reads zero, perform a very large water change and then you can begin slowly stocking your tank.

    It's been suggested that elevating the temperature of the tank to the mid-80s F during cycling with the ammonia method can have beneficial effects. Just make sure that there are no animals in the tank being subjected to this temperature extreme (and ammonia), and also make sure to lower the temperature again prior to stocking.

    Also, tanks with low alkalinity may experience pH spikes with the addition of household ammonia. These spikes may also hinder the growth of the necessary bacteria. To counteract the problem, use a good buffering product prior to cycling with ammonia, and perform a large water change after cycling (prior to stocking) to get pH levels back on track.

    What about cycling a tank with fish or other animals?

    Several decades ago, when people were first setting up marine tanks, the conventional method of cycling was to use a hardy fish or other animal to introduce ammonia into a new system. However, by using live animals you may be introducing a parasite or pest to your new tank. In addition, the animals are being subjected to toxic ammonia and nitrite levels, which is unnecessarily cruel. When there are other safer and gentler ways to cycle a tank, there is no need to use live animals.

    When can I start stocking?

    Once your ammonia and nitrite levels are at zero, whether it be from cycling with live rock or several cycles with the ammonia method, you are close to being able to stock your tank.

    If you used a skimmer during cycling with live rock and/or did not have extreme ammonia or nitrite spikes, you will probably only need to perform a standard 10% water change prior to stocking. If you did not use a skimmer and/or you registered significant ammonia and nitrite levels with a lengthy curing/cycling process, you will need to perform a more significant water change, such as 50–75%.

    As mentioned earlier, since the ammonia method may cause problems with pH, a very large water change, approximately 90%, will be necessary following the use of this method, prior to the introduction of animals.

    When ammonia and nitrites test at zero, nitrates are <10 PPM, pH is between 8.0–8.4, water changes have been performed, and equipment is functioning properly, you are ready to start stocking your tank.

    Try to keep nitrates at 10 PPM or less. If nitrates are high or continue to climb over time, more frequent water changes and/or the addition of macroalgae will help bring them down. If your pH is below 8.0, add a high quality buffer to raise your alkalinity and pH.

    How do I stock?

    Patience is a virtue with marine tanks, and stocking too many animals too soon can have disastrous effects. Start with a very small number of animals (acclimated properly), and test the water daily for several days after introduction for any ammonia or nitrites. If ammonia and nitrite levels consistently read zero, continue to to wait for at least two weeks before adding any new animals to allow time for the bacteria to multiply and effectively handle the new load.

    If you ever find your ammonia and/or nitrite levels approaching .4 PPM or greater in a stocked tank, you will need to act fast. Diluting the toxins in the form of one or more large water changes, adding more bacteria (live rock, 'seeded' media, commercial products, etc.), the addition of macroalgae or a chemical filter to absorb the toxins, or temporarily relocating the animals to another tank are all effective ways to handle an ammonia or nitrite spike.

    Do I need to test after cycling is complete?

    Even after cycling is long over, it's a good practice to periodically test for the presence of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, especially after adding new livestock. Equally important is knowing your tank's pH range, and making sure that it stays between 8.0–8.4. (Your pH will typically be lower in the morning before your lights come on, and higher in the evening just after the lights go off. )

    Catching a potentially serious problem early and taking immediate steps to correct it can help prevent a lot of heartache.



    Here is a link to the article:
    seahorse.org - Cycling a Marine Tank


    Catherine
     
    Picasso, Nov 12, 2010
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  2. Picasso

    Smitty

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    Whew...that was a lot of reading, but thanks for reminding us all of the importance of what we do. :)
     
    Smitty, Nov 12, 2010
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  3. Picasso

    Bifferwine I am a girl

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    As far as I'm concerned, if your tank has cycled, you can add corals out the wazoo. Corals don't add to the bioload as they produce very little if any waste. Easy corals like softies and LPS are more tolerant of swings in parameters than fish are.

    If you don't believe me, ask Yote how his LFS sets up whole tanks systems that people order. They use fully cured rock, fully cured sand and old water from another system. They completely stock their tanks with corals, inverts, and fish all in one day. Now that is a bit extreme, but it can be done. If your tank has cycled, and your rock, sand and water are mature, then I see no reason why you can't add corals. We see it all the time on here -- people that used cured rock skip a cycle.

    This article is a good reminder on the basics of cycling a tank. So thanks for posting it.
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2010
    Bifferwine, Nov 12, 2010
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  4. Picasso

    tankedchemist

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    So... to reiterate the point biff and I both made in our build threads & this article makes above, we used full cured rock and sand with minimal transportation times. Also, I didn't add any fish or inverts that weren't already in my rock; just a few corals, which, as Biff noted, don't generally contribute much to the nitrogen cycle. In addition, I've had ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate readings of 0 for 9 days. how much longer would you like me to have no nitrogenous compounds before adding things? especially things that don't even produce waste? Just curious what, in your view, is necessary for a "full cycle" to occur.

    While I appreciate your concern, I think you need to keep in mind that every tank is going to have somewhat differing water chemistry, and therefore, differing requirements for the amount of time it takes to establish stable water parameters. I'm not saying these tanks are fully matured at his point-- just saying that they can (and at least in my case, are) be fully cycled by 12 days into the contest.
     
    tankedchemist, Nov 12, 2010
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  5. Picasso

    Picasso Seahorse Whisperer

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    I've read a lot. What you are saying is contrary to the information I'm getting. You have much more experience on this issue than I do and I will certainly yield to your wisdom but I will not act like the townspeople in "The Emperor's New Clothes" if something is different than all the information I've received, I'm going to notice and I'm going to question the practice. That's how I learn.


    People are focusing on their own tanks, I'm the only person that has brought up these points. If you're going to be upset with someone, be upset with ONLY me, don't bring the innocent into this.

    Believe me, Biff, when I tell you, I really didn't want to offend or upset you. I've stood up for you many times in the past and consider you a worthy addition to my friends. I have a soft spot when animals are endangered needlessly and I'm concerned about the animals, which includes the corals and inverts. If you're doing things properly and I ask you about it, you shouldn't be threatened or feel personally attacked, you should explain it. This board is about educating people in a non-threatening environment. I can disagree with something you do and still love you. If you've got reason to act contrary to general knowledge I want to know why and to learn, not be lectured about my ignorance. You may have good reason to think you can "add corals out the wazoo" but I have read in many places, including this forum, that adding slow is the only way you can properly accommodate the new additions whilst keeping healthy parameters for your tank's inhabitants. You may skip your cycle but you will have die-off even with established rocks, sand and water, it will affect your chemistry. You may know a way to compensate for this but I don't and I would LOVE to hear and understand how! Like I said, I'm not judging you, only trying to point out that this is not standard.

    Finally, I do think we have a responsibility to explain when we break from normal, established tank practices. There are a LOT of newbies in this contest who are starting with newer rock. What's going to happen to their tanks? I know I can look at my tank and know if the numbers are off before I do an official test, so can you, can they? You've got wisdom that they don't. Of course I would copy you and wonder what happened when my tiny tank crashed and I've killed a bunch of animals. All I'm saying is, if you've got reason to break with standard safe tank practices, explain why you can do it. Otherwise, you're setting a bad example for those who do NOT have the experience that you've got.

    Catherine
     
    Picasso, Nov 12, 2010
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  6. Picasso

    Picasso Seahorse Whisperer

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    Amanda, I agree with you 100%. This is important to keep in mind.

    Catherine
     
    Picasso, Nov 12, 2010
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  7. Picasso

    Bifferwine I am a girl

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    Sorry, I edited my post while you were responding to it.
     
    Bifferwine, Nov 12, 2010
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  8. Picasso

    Jason4

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    I'd have to agree with Bifferwine and Tanedchemist on this one. I plan on pulling everything from my main tank. It should be finished in an hour.
     
    Jason4, Nov 12, 2010
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  9. Picasso

    dcantucson

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    I agree with what Sarah, Amanda AND Catherine are all saying. Anytime you add things too quickly there are risks. I just took a huge risk by adding 6 Tangs all at once to my Zero Edge restart. Sometimes these risks pay off and sometimes they do not.

    At least if Biff's tank crashes, there will be time to restart it so this approach may indeed pay off. In saying that I do firmly believe that if Biff thought doing what she has done was really that risky, then she would not have done it. We could try to accuse her of being a lot of things, but one thing we can't accuse her of being is irresponsible when it comes to reef keeping. She always stands up and offers advice that is sensible and honest. There is no reason we should question her sensibility with her own Deco tank. Of course this is just my opinion. :)
     
    dcantucson, Nov 12, 2010
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  10. Picasso

    Picasso Seahorse Whisperer

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    You are right, David. You are very right. Biff does offer sound advice and is extremely knowledgeable. Maybe I shouldn't have used the word "irresponsible" in terms of practice or knowledge. There are about 6 people on this board that I really listen to and Biff is one of those 6. I tried to say in my original post that I respected her knowledge and my implications that she was acting irresponsibly toward her tank were unwarranted.

    That being said, I do think we have a responsibility to point out when we break from normal practices why we are doing it. ESPECIALLY if someone with the reputation for knowledge is doing something that could be dangerous to a newbies tank. So, Biff and Tanked, I was wrong to call your tank practices irresponsible. It was the late and I hadn't slept much so my intention for the post was not worded correctly.

    One thing you said, David, did reverberate with me. You said "There is no reason we should question her sensibility with her own Deco tank." This is something I have on my personal mission list of things to work on. How can I learn without questioning, how can I question without making the questionee feel threatened or that I'm disagreeing with them. Why do we feel that our person is being judged simply because someone is questioning us? I WELCOME constructive feedback of all types. When someone questions me I think more about what I'm doing, when someone points out something I may have overlooked I learn from it. I ask questions all the time and I often get in trouble because of it. I understand what happened in this case, I can see where I mis-worded but often simple inquiry's are taken as a sign of hostility.

    Finally, why am I doing this? Why am I being a wet blanket and sucking all the fun out of this contest? Because I had a tank crash over the summer and it was devastating to me. If anyone could have said or warned me about anything that would have made me avoid the crash I would have appreciated it considerably. You've got to understand this feeling. What if someone pointed out the problem with those valves to you instead of giving you a "thumbs up" on your system? If my questions, if my raising this issue helps someone re-think their plan for their tank then it was worth it.

    Maybe I'm wrong, but to me the fun is in learning together, brainstorming together and exploring new frontiers in the marine aquarium hobby. If I'm just supposed to enthusiastically slap someone on the back each time they do something to their tank, then I'll pull out of this contest right now. I'll give my love, my support and my compassion unconditionally, if you want my praise you'll have to earn it and I expect the same in return. Praise is given too freely in our society, love and understanding isn't given enough.

    I'm a short-timer in this contest so it's no skin off my back and no hard feelings if you want me to bow out now.

    C
     
    Picasso, Nov 12, 2010
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  11. Picasso

    dcantucson

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    Of course NOT! That's silly. I know that you are coming from a place that's good and so does everyone else. You have every right to question, and you're right that is how we learn. I think the real problem is the written word on a forum. I really think that sometimes we react to the written word before we really think about the person who wrote it. Who is that person and what are they really trying to say? What is behind it? I think if we we sitting around a table having coffee discussing topics such as this, then we could easily understand one another and 99.9% of these miss interpreted things would never happen. :Cheers:
     
    dcantucson, Nov 12, 2010
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  12. Picasso

    tankedchemist

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    First, thanks for your apology, C. I didn't mean to make you feel attacked, so I hope that none of my words did that. There's no need to leave the contest, in my opinion.

    Questioning people's choices is not only encouraged, but a necessary and vital part of this forum. however, I think the problem occurred because there were multiple posts (at least 2, one on biff's build thread and one on mine) where you posed the same question, and then you started a thread, all before anyone got a chance to answer your questions posed in the build threads. That's what upset me about the whole thing. Please give me a chance to answer your questions before you post a thread about what I'm doing wrong. :)

    Cath, I value your input AND questions. Don't leave the contest over something this insignificant-- a petty argument shouldn't reduce the fun in these neat little tanks.
     
    tankedchemist, Nov 12, 2010
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  13. Picasso

    tankedchemist

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    not for me... I like text way better, because it gives me one more layer of filter between what I think and what I communicate. Then again, I think most people struggle with written communication, whereas verbal communication is much harder for me. We're all different though. The down side of text, though, is lack of inflection. Sometimes I use a lot of smilie faces to compensate for that. maybe when we question people's choices we could put the friendly little fish :question: haha... I'm kidding. that's probably not necessary.
     
    tankedchemist, Nov 12, 2010
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  14. Picasso

    Picasso Seahorse Whisperer

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    This is so silly, now we're standing in line to apologize.....

    I didn't feel attacked at all, not in the least. Your words were fine. I don't like being the little boy in the "Emperor's New Clothes" nor the townspeople. (I guess it would suck more to be the Emperor?) I was just saying that I don't want to ruin other's fun because I know I'm going to be moding my tank in a way that will disqualify me so I can go now with no problems....

    gaaaaaa, anyway, Yes, I love you guys, yes you love me..... let's move on.....

    C
     
    Picasso, Nov 12, 2010
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  15. Picasso

    dcantucson

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    Okay ....... but could we have a group hug first? :lol: :mrgreen:
     
    dcantucson, Nov 12, 2010
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  16. Picasso

    tankedchemist

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    no. I don't like people touching me. They have bacterias. :mrgreen:
     
    tankedchemist, Nov 12, 2010
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  17. Picasso

    Picasso Seahorse Whisperer

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    Oh, you had to see this one coming:

    [​IMG]


    I'm in the middle!

    C
     
    Picasso, Nov 12, 2010
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  18. Picasso

    Dana42078 Dana

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    lol but kinda gross...ew
     
    Dana42078, Nov 23, 2010
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