This thread is for cycling science and the goal is to have a single thread be able to meet the needs of saltwater tank cycling in a repeatable manner using visual biology and in a way different from other cycling threads- so that every tank complies. Google searches reveal little consistency among cycling threads and articles including when to use ammonia to cycle and when not to, how to know when a cycle is done for each kind of rock we use to start tanks, what to do when early algae arises, and which parameters are important to know when cycling a marine aquarium. The number one thing we don't do here is react to a low level ammonia reading from an entry-level kit. Every extended cycle thread on the planet starts that way, and by starting oppositely we will see how to gauge a completion date using alternate means. For the crowd who must test, use salifert ammonia + any other brand you like, post a double reading taken by each five hours apart. Most readings taken this way vary greatly, which is why we won't be using testing to cycle a good portion of tanks here...there are other ways. If you are a new tank cycler who has early algae blooms, consider large tank correction threads you can search that we built to 100 pages are collections of keepers who simply left an invader in the tank on purpose, watched it take over, and never acted directly on the algae and now catch up rules the day. Be opposite--> When you see algae, make it gone by acting directly on the algae as a target, not by retro acting on your water params. A friendly challenge exists for you to link us here any algae challenged tank example that didnt involve purposefully leaving the algae in the tank to takeover. It's the strangest phenomena in reefing...we watch our tanks slowly succumb. 98% of problem tanks you'll see online can be headed off by altering one single design approach-farm no invader Your algae removal work lessens and stops as purple coralline and coral flesh take over. Expect early gardening to be proactive... you'll win against invasions every time. If you ever lose a tank to any invader, non removal will be the cause, not a phosphate reading. of course algae is expected in a cycling tank...but don't seed yourself unnecessarily. Do dandelions in a yard favor more dandelions? Why did our grandmothers always dig them out at the root? take out your rock and kill algae, your bac will survive any practical run at a target. Treat that one spot as future tank loss and you'll never lose a tank to any invader. If you can't remove rocks, drain the tank to access an invader in the air for precision scraping and then spot treating with a cleanup dab of peroxide. Require it to be gone. We find it best to make an aquascape accessible and modular if possible, for removal cleaning periodically. There's hidden success for the keeper who maintains a reset button in keeping rocks that can simply be lifted out for cheat cleaning as required by age of tank. This access allows for full cleaning which makes the tank ageless-we think reef tanks can have indefinite lifespans. Some of us run very old models The last cycling article I read online said to put cocktail shrimp in the tank so that bacteria have feed, so why the title of this thread? Old cycle materials never told us that established bacteria don't need our help, won't die without our additions, and that a much better (precise, non algae fueling) method than gaining ammonia from rotting meat exists for the times bacteria weren't established right from the start. The point of this thread is using life forms you can see in the aquarium to guide cycling if you bought live rocks and replace test kits where possible. True live rock has growths, pigments, reds and greens and purple and white areas...maybe even live hangers-on When testing is required, use salifert brand ammonia testing to reinforce your API readings...provide two numbers for the params so we can see the spread between kits if any. If API cannot be verified by salifert we should leave out the API info for this thread, our cycles will not depend on how close a yellow is to a green hue nor a purple to a blue. Choosing when to start a tank based on biological allowance has nothing to do with how long you should take before starting to identify leaks, get electrical components installed and verified and quarantine fish This thread is about the microbiology of the cycling aquarium, how bioindicators tell us what kind of cycling to employ, and when vs when not to use raw ammonia in a system. The benefit of that knowledge is pure tank control: move one, clean one, mix one, rescape, rescue a tank and prevent a cycle if possible in each case by linking examples of each event ideally. After reading you will always know when your cycle is done, with finality, and you will know when to use ammonia and when not to, this is the full intention of the thread. Top pics are group A, the unverified gray no visual life barren rocks. This is where dr Tims and other bottle bacs come into use, and rotting shrimp or (much cleaner and workable) raw ammonium chloride dosing. Your end goal for these rocks is to make your system be able to digest a 1 ppm ammonia down to zero within a 24 hour period, 30-40 days after starting the fishless cycle method you can search out very easily at maximum. It's quite easy to speed cycle in two weeks, rescue runs need this speed at times results can be earned within two weeks of a fast-paced fishless cycle using accurate ammonia testing and multiple bottle bac additions...but typical time is a month for group A rocks We don't spike ammonia in tanks that have life you can see stuck to the rocks and moving around--group A rocks don't have this life. pods, worms, snails crabs come with group B rock below. Group A rock tanks have water and a bunch of wet gray or white rocks, no pods worms or snails, they lack the obvious visual life (and by extension bacterial life) of purple/aged rock. There's no pods and mini stars crawling around the vat of group A rocks at the pet store Pick up a group A rock from your pet store and look how barren it is at this current stage. If they sell that to you as live rock then it needs to have been submerged a minimum of 45 days before I'd trust it untested to provide aerobic filtration. The live rock that shows up ready to go, with living inclusions/growths and we treat it like a living organism, is group B rock. Group B rocks Bottom pics are cured live rock with months/years of coralline and fanworms and calcifications, colors, growths, pigments, textures, smells...the nitrifier-verified, group B rocks. Group B rock has attributes you can spot from across the room *the hallmark of group B rocks is that the living growths and pigments take longer than bacteria do to adhere as colonies on the rock surface exposed to the currents. Any rock that has accreted organisms is full up completely on filtration bacteria... these communities deposit on marine substrates in a sequential order always. Bacteria first, and last, given no meds dosed. We know the bacteria are there because we can see growths that took months or years to produce long after initial filtration bacteria mixed in with world biota would have taken hold. Applying raw ammonia to group B rock is counterproductive, it's stressing animals we were charged top dollar for, to verify a group of organisms we can already see are there plain as day. we keep ammonia away from group B rock because we don't want to cause a loss cascade. Group A rock got dosed to 1 ppm, nothing delicate to kill on that kind of rock Group B rock we handle like a living organism, it's a collection of them indeed. One can forego the entire wait time of biological cycling by using coralline covered rock or coralline spotted rock and caribsea wet pack sand and transporting it home in a reasonable way Do people who set up aquariums at massive aquarium conventions show up three weeks before the event to cycle? No, they skip the cycle and house twenty thousand dollars of bounce mushrooms just fine. If those tanks weren't taken down, they'd continue living just like any other reef but they skipped the initial cycle due to simply relocating already cycled materials, like when we bring home purple live rock from a pet store. We aren't advocating rushing, we advocate being exact in your cycle based on the substrate you paid for, the microbiology at hand, and not adding ammonia to living organisms when ammonia articles say it stresses them. group B rocks show up at your home fully loaded with bacteria/feed reserves for bacteria, opposite to common thought-those bacteria get food even if you don't add it. First aquarium myth of filtration bacteria shattered.... Aquarists don't sterilize high surface areas within an aquarium by withholding feed, we ascribe too much weakness to bacteria but microbiologists don't. Pick up and examine a group B rock up close, you can likely count several clear associated life forms on first peek and more will be littered and moving around the actual holding tank. Pods, worms, algae growths, small crabs indicating the busy nature of group B rocks. Coralline and fanworms are best to verify bacterial presence, because they take months to accrete to a rock and it always occurs long after bacteria took up initial residence. **group b rocks smell like the ocean out of water... .25 leaking rocks smell bad just a little and .5 sustained free ammonia from the source is obvious. The actions the reefer takes when dealing with type A or B rocks are polar opposite, what we do to cycle live rock is opposite of what we do to cycle dry rock. Once the bacteria are established on rocks, only meds or extremes will kill them * not ever moving between aquariums* and this sets the stage for our unique cycling thread here and why starting a tank with live rock and sand is very different than starting with dry substrates. Keep in mind that when you move live rocks between tanks using any reasonable preservation method, say an old tank vs a new one, or your pet store back home to you, your bacteria doesn't die, it actually stands to get a boost (if dieoff occurs this is feed) You can kill the live rock bacteria by introducing it to any extreme such as temp, desiccation or true drying, and meds, and it takes something that pronounced to kill them. *of any life form in your tank at any time, bacteria as a community are the toughest and most resilient and adaptive to any change, any cycling thread needs this opening frame of reference. How Many parameters do we need to measure in cycling: 1 This thread only requires managing a single common cycling parameter, not three, for both kinds of rock. just ammonia, it's the dangerous one of the common three cycling params. We don't need to know about nitrite and nitrate given ammonia behavior and known submerged time. One parameter cycling is much easier... These three params behave in a linked and predictable manner, search for any online cycling chart where ammonia termination by day 40 also yields nitrite termination--->notice this trend for aquarium cycling charts across pages. That's a rhythm we can cycle with, using no test kits if that's handy. Someone I respect greatly remarks on single point testing (not needing nitrate or nitrite testing in cycling) here: http://reef2reef.com/threads/nitrates-disappeared-mid-cycle.251059/ This link literally says quit testing for nitrite, the great time waster http://reef2reef.com/threads/nitrite-spike-in-qt.252455/ Post#8, persistent false nitrite reading from a non-api kit, a high quality kit: http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2604106 any of the tanks from above would have been an "extended cycle" thread if we based the cycle completion upon debatable low level sustained nitrite readings. In this thread, we'll ignore nitrite readings, since nitrite follows ammonia digestion per all online cycling charts.