Good old live rock is not so easy to find these days but there are a couple of places that do sell aquacultured rock. I have had great experiences cycling tanks with live rock so I wanted to use it again for this build. The plan was to start the cycle by simply placing the live rock in the display.

 

To prepare for the cycle I made a ton of RO/DI water, enough to fill up the tank and sump. It was a good dry run to see if there were any leaks in the plumbing. Once I was certain there were no leaks I added enough salt to reach my target specific gravity of 1.025.

 

I then flipped the switch on the heater to warm the water up to 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

All of this was done before the rock arrived to make sure the rock could be cycled inside the tank versus a Rubbermaid tub. I have used a Rubbermaid before and it will certainly get the job done.


Accelerating the Cycle

However, I wanted to speed things along and run my protein skimmer to remove as much organic waste as possible before it could break down and release nitrogen compounds. Rinsing the rock in fresh salt water also helped on this front, although there was minimal die-off since the rock was shipped in water.

 

Cycling Reef Tank

 

Cycling the rock in the tank also made it easier to do the necessary water changes. I performed three 30% water changes over the first three days to try and get ahead of any potential ammonia spike.

 

I began testing for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate after day three and fortunately I had zero ammonia, a great sign. Nitrite was tested a few times over the first week and it was only .1 ppm. This was another good indicator that the cycle was progressing quickly.

 

Nitrate was 25 ppm after day three and by the end of the first week it was down to 10 ppm. Essentially, the tank had cycled one week after the rock was added. This quicker cycle is one of the benefits of live rock versus dry rock, which takes much longer to cycle. Plus, with live rock you do not have to add any dead shrimp or bacteria boosting products like you would with dry rock.

 

Cycling Reef Tank

 

Elevating Bacteria, Naturally

To increase my population of nitrifying bacteria, I added some hermit crabs after day seven. After the tank was two weeks old I introduced four Green Chromis. These fish are hardy and are a great addition to a young reef tank.




 

Soon after I added a Yellow Tang, Tomini Tang, Sailfin Tang and Yellow Eyed Kole Tang. These herbivores would hopefully keep certain types of algae in check.

 

Cycling Reef Tank

 

Final Thoughts

Overall, the cycle was quick and went very smoothly without any fish loses. Ugly stages are very common with young reef tanks but they can be minimized with some patience. In other words, don’t rush to add corals right away. Let things settle in for a months to allow the tank to find its equilibrium. Nothing good happens when things are rushed along with a reef tank.

 

 

Shop GHL/Royal Exclusiv/Reef Octopus/Pax Bellum Equipment

 

 

If you would like some help with a new tank build, including help designing a custom aquarium, or help re-configuring your current setup then you can visit this page for more information. And if you are looking to add some equipment, I do sell GHL, Pax Bellum, Reef Octopus Calcium and Kalk Reactors and Royal Exclusiv products, including Dreamboxes, which is the equipment I use and recommend.

 

As for additional insights and information, please explore my many other reef tank and SPS related articles as well as my YouTube channel. For an even deeper dive into reef tank care you can check out my Reef Keeping Master Class. This online course is an immersive and one of a kind educational tool designed to help reef aquarium hobbyists build and maintain a beautiful SPS reef tank. The course is a series of video presentations with some supplemental video from my YouTube channel. There are also quizzes to help students retain and understand the information presented in the course.

 

Need some frags…..I can help with that as well 🙂 Please visit my SPS Frag store to see what is available.

 

Happy reef keeping!