Thanks for watching and welcome to the third episode of the Marine Depot SR-80 aquarium build video series.
We are going to talk about cycling your aquarium and why this is so critical to the success of your reef aquarium. We will also talk about placing live rock in your aquarium and go over some major do's and don'ts you want to keep in mind when aquascaping your tank.
When aquascaping your tank is important to remember you will be stuck with the layout for some time. Therefore, careful planning is critical to a functional yet appealing Aquascape.
With aquariums of the past, it was typical for hobbyists to cram as much live rock into the tank possible with the ultimate intention of increasing biodiversity and biological filtration. While this method of "rock piling" can be easy, oftentimes the result is often not functional or appealing by any means. Detritus is easily trapped in the massive pile of rocks and it is difficult to provide proper flow in and around the aquascape.
This is why more hobbyists these days are turning to a more minimalist approach when aquascaping. This does not mean you have to use less rock than the normal 1.5 lbs per gallon, it simply means to plan your aquascape carefully. You want to create structures that mimic peninsulas, pillars, caves and even arches in order to create a natural looking aquarium. When placing rock structures in your aquarium, you want to make sure the rocks are not touching any of the walls in your aquarium as this will make for easy cleaning and allow for ample flow in and around the rock work.
We used the AquaMaxx Dry Reef Rock for our tank as we want to start the tank completely free of any nuisance hitchhikers that may be found on live rock. This was my first time aquascaping with the AquaMaxx Dry Reef Rock and I was quite impressed. The pieces are very porous and when stacked, they hold together surprisingly well.
For sand, we used the Caribsea Dry Aragamax Oolitic Select sand which worked out great. For being a dry, sand it was surprisingly clean and I only rinsed the sand briefly before placing in the tank. Notice I added the sand after setting my aquascape as this will provide a bit more structural stability and give a more natural look to the aquascape.
After deciding on a nice layout, I utilized some the D-D AquaScape Aquarium Epoxy just for some extra strength. When using epoxy, be sure to thoroughly knead the epoxy until a uniform color is reached and apply immediately. It will take some time for the epoxy to harden so don't go moving your rocks right.
We pre-mixed our saltwater using the Red Sea Coral Pro Salt mix. These brute trash cans work great for mixing saltwater at home. I even installed a float valve so I can easily attach the RO/DI system and let the container fill without the risk of overfilling. I dropped in a pump and let the salt mix for 24 hours before adding to the tank. For some great tips and in depth instructions on mixing your own saltwater, we have a great video all about mixing saltwater at home and you can find a link in the video description below.
Finally, I added one vial of the Prodibio Bio-Digest bacteria supplement in order to jump start the cycle in the tank. I will add one vial per week until the cycle is complete. I also added a couple of flakes of fish food to provide a carbon source for the new bacteria that will start to grow in our tank.
Cycling a tank is an absolutely necessary step when setting up a new tank. This is true for not only reef tanks, but all types of aquariums. The reason this is so critical is because the nitrogen cycle is being established in your aquarium. The bacteria required to process organic waste in your tank is growing and establishing stable populations. If you attempt to add fish too quickly, toxic levels of waste will not be properly broken down resulting in hazardous water parameters for your fish and corals.
In order to know when your tank is ready for fish, you can perform a couple of simple water test. I would recommend testing for nitrite, ammonia, and nitrate once per week during the cycle. You will first see a spike in ammonia; you should then notice a spike in nitrite levels, and finally a spike in your Nitrate levels. Once nitrates are present in the aquarium water, your tank is ready for some animals. The amount of time it takes to cycle an aquarium can vary; however, the most commonly recommended time is about 4 weeks.
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