You cannot build a house without good foundations, the same goes for a saltwater tank. Before rushing into it, take your time to let everything settle in. This process is called the startup cycle or nitrogen cycle. But what is the nitrogen cycle and why is it necessary? Simply put; because you need to boost the bacterial population that will act as a natural filter later on and this process takes time.
There are other ways but I will give you a bit more information about the startup cycle if you work with live rock.
This article is a part of The Nano Reef Blueprint, if you’re interested to know more? Check it out, by clicking here.
The nitrogen cycle in short
During the transport of live rock, some of the organisms and life living on and in the rock will die. When this happens, ammonia is formed. This is toxic to fish and other life. After some time when bacteria have a high enough population, they oxidize ammonia to nitrite, another toxin. This mostly happens around the first or second week. When this nitrite peak occurs, you can expect a lot of brown algaes to pop up, conveniently known as the brown algae phase. When you think it can’t get any worse, think again 🙂 No worries, this is completely normal and part of the process.
Take a look at my tank during this phase, it wasn’t always a looker. 🙂
When more beneficial bacteria develop, after about 3 to 4 weeks this nitrite will be converted to nitrates. Resulting in lots of green algaes or, (yup) the green algaes phase. Nitrates are not toxic, unless in high amounts.
Give it another 2 to 4 weeks to let the tank balance out and you are good to go! To get rid of all the green algaes, we can add a cleanup crew to the tank about 6 to 8 weeks after the initial startup.