Marine Tank Cycling Log

20 Oct 2019 – Start

And so the long and boring journey of cycling a new tank began.

Water pump running. Wave pump running. I left my lights and protein skimmer off. There’s no need for light at this point in time, and there’s no bio-load for the skimmer to skim as well.

I did not use carbon, phosphate removal, or Purigen at this point in time. They can come in later.

I used fish food as my source of ammonia. Market shrimp is just too messy and you may not know what comes with the shrimp as well.

I actually used 4~6 small pallets from my freshwater feed. Dropped it in and forget about it. They disappeared and went out of sight for the next few days.

21 Oct 2019 – Day 2

Only after one day ammonia began to register. I purchased a bottle of bacteria in liquid suspend and added twice the recommended amount. Hopefully they can speed up the cycling process. It is documented that marine tank cycles longer than freshwater.

Immediately ammonia is detected only after one day.

22 Oct 2019 – Day 3

On the second day bacteria bloom in water had occured! That’s more than a good sign that there is nutrients for bacteria to grow.

29 October 2019 – Day 10

I have been added double amount of recommended liquid bacteria steadily for 10 days. Ammonia is between 1~2 ppm. Nitrite has been detected and off the scale. Nitrate is little.

added another piece of dry rock and rearranged the rocks.

I have also added another 2 kg of dry rock as my initial purchase was not enough. I also purchased some rock crumbs.

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I have also turned on my Bubble Magnus QQ1 protein skimmer. My research tells me that the protein skimmer requires a run-in period of a couple of week.

Upon switching on the Bubble Magnus QQ1 I am faced with a problem. Nothing happened. ? The impeller was spinning but there is just no movement of water.

After searching frantically online for solution I realised that you need to prime the skimmer to create a siphon effect! You cover the air-hole and watch the water gets pumped slowly wave by wave into the skimmer. When you start to see water level rising within the skimmer release your finger and wah lah!

Immediately I was confronted by another problem. The QQ1 is generating millions of bubbles and releasing it back into the tank, making the tank look like soda water. ?

If you are reading this because you also bought a QQ1, don’t worry at this point in time. The fine bubbles will go away in time after the QQ1 has run-in and there’s sufficient bio-load in the water column. ?

Added Surface Skimmer

I noticed that my setup has a problem with surface debris/film build-up. This was because I did not have an overflow-box, which would have sucked the surface film into the sump below. I had a top-mount sump!

And so I went into my stash box looking for a surface skimmer. I had four surface skimmer which I used for my planted tank. I picked the Eheim Skim350. It used to suck my shrimp and fishes into it so I chucked it aside. But now it served its purpose to the full! Not only it sucked the surface film, it also serve as another wave pump and oxygenate the water! ?

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30 October 2019 – Day 11

The bacteria bloom has ended and the water was clear once more ?

2 November 2019 – Day 13

The water has started to smell bad, a expected and this was also documented in numerous forums.

Ammonia is now at 1ppm.

Nitrite has come down to 5ppm

Nitrate has spiked up to 20ppm or more.

All good sign that the tank is in mid cycle.

6 November 2019 – Day 18

Ammonia is between 0 and 1ppm.

Nitrite is also between 0 and 1 ppm.

Nitrate at 40 ppm.

13 November 2019 – Day 25

First sign of diatom appearing, signalling the end of cycle in sight.

16 November 2019 – Day 28

Ammonia 0 ppm

Nitrite 0 ppm

Nitrate exceeds 160 ppm


28 days of waiting. Nothing beats waking up to perform a water test on a cycling aquarium and found that ammonia and nitrate had 0 reading and the nitrate reading was off the roof.

And it’s a Saturday ? WATER CHANGE! My other freshwater tanks had to wait, this has priority over others.

So I took out 50% of the water and painfully mixed 40+ litres of saltwater. But Nitrate is still above 40 ppm.

I did more water changes the following few days to bring nitrate down to 20 ppm.

Nitrate and Phosphate = Algae

From the freshwater planted tank side, we have the luxury of ignoring phosphate and nitrate, because the plants will take care of them and the plants need them.

In saltwater tank, these two parameters MUST be removed/exported one way or another or your tank will be overrun with nuisance algae. For a FOWLR tank you can have nitrate around 20 ppm. No problem. Phosphate must be zero. If you want to go reef, then nitrate must be less than 10 ppm.

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Marine tank cycling is quite similar to freshwater cycling. The phases are the same. But in marine tank you cannot add plants to help with your nitrate and other parameters.

Water changes costs money, a lot more money and time. For freshwater I would just add Safe to tank and add water directly to the tank. Done. I can perform 50% water change plus basic cleaning for 450 litres of various tank sizes in under 2 hours. But for marine tank, to prepare salt mix and change water took 2 hours. Maybe I will get better as time goes by or when I can setup a saltwater reservoir to speed things up a little.

Did I mention saltwater is messy? The table where the tank sat was sticky with dried saltwater. The floor was sticky to walk on. My hands were sticky as well. Just messy.