Starting Out

Home Up Your Salt Water Fish Superstore

The most important period of time with a marine tank is the startup.  You must cycle the tank before beginning to add valuable fish or corals. 

I started out by placing 20 lbs. of reef sand and 20 lbs. of live rock in the tank with a Whisper Power filter, one Hagen 402 powerhead and a SeaClone protein skimmer.  I let this run for 2 weeks, then added 1 blue damsel, a domino damsel and a couple of hermit crabs.

You want to select hardy and inexpensive fish to begin with as they will start the ammonia/nitrite/nitrate cycle.  The usual recommendation is damsels. This took about an additional 4 weeks.  I know - impatience sets in, but try!

This really is the most crucial time period.  Concentrate on the live rock and the lifeforms that are blooming on it before your eyes.  Test for ammonia, nitrite and nitrates every few days.  You will notice that the ammonia levels will peak and drop off, as will the nitrite levels.  The nitrates will begin to rise as the nitrite levels drop off.   Once the tank is showing no signs of ammonia or nitrite, you may begin to add fish and corals.  But remember - add them slowly - a massive addition of livestock will cause ammonia and nitrite to rise again - something you want to avoid.


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