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How to Cycle a 24 Gallon Salt Water Tank

The nitrogen cycle is the life support system of an aquarium. The cycle is a chain of chemicals and bacteria that are responsible for keeping the aquarium free of organic waste. Without an effective cycle, the tank becomes a toxic soup of chemicals that will harm or kill the inhabitants. To get a new aquarium ready for fish, it is essential to biologically mature the filter by encouraging the growth of highly specialized bacteria in the filter system. This process is vital for the safety and welfare of all aquatic animals.The salinity refractometer , aquarium refractometer or seawater refractometer is a important tool.

1. Set up the tank with marine sand, filter, heater and thermometer. Add any additional equipment that you wish to use, such as power-heads and protein skimmers. Set the heater to a temperature suitable for the animal species you wish to keep. Do not turn any equipment on yet.

2 .Fill the buckets with RO water. Slowly add marine salts, pausing often to check the specific gravity with the refractometer. Adjust the mix as necessary to reach the desired salinity and specific gravity for the species you wish to keep.

3 . Fill the tank halfway with RO water. Slowly add marine salts until you have reached the salinity and specific gravity required for the species you will be keeping. Mix well during the process and pause often to check the specific gravity with the refractometer.

4 . Add any live rock or hard-scape you may wish to use. Ensure all hard-scape and rocks are secure and will not tip over when the tank is filled.

5 . Add the saltwater mix from the buckets. Pour carefully to ensure you do not disturb the sand or rock. Use the method in Step 2 to mix more salt water if you need to top the tank up.

6 . Check that all décor and equipment are set up correctly. Turn the heater, filter and other equipment on. Ensure that all is working.

7 . Leave the tank to adjust to the correct temperature. This may take several hours. The light on the heater will turn off when the heater's thermostat reads the correct temperature. Due to poor calibration on some submersible heaters, you may need to re-adjust the temperature to which the heater is set. If you have time, test the calibration on the heater before you set the tank up, using a bucket of water. Always use a thermometer to check the actual temperature of the tank.

8 . Fill the medicine dropper with the ammonia solution. Place a few drops into the tank and allow it to mix for 10 minutes. Test the water with the ammonia test kit. You need an ammonia level of 4 to 5 ppm (parts per million), so add more drops or dilute the water as necessary to achieve this.

9 .Test the water for ammonia after 24 hours. If the ammonia level has dropped below 4 ppm, add enough drops of ammonia to raise it again.

10 . Repeat Step 9 until the ammonia level is dropping to 0 ppm after 24 hours. This shows that the filter has developed a robust colony of bacteria that can quickly process a high level of ammonia, showing that the cycle is progressing.

11. Test for ammonia and nitrite every 24 hours. Add ammonia as necessary to keep levels at 4 to 5 ppm.

12. Once the ammonia and nitrite levels are both dropping to 0 ppm after 24 hours, start testing every 12 hours and begin testing for nitrate.

13 .Once the nitrates are rising and both ammonia and nitrite are dropping from 5 ppm to 0 ppm after 12 hours, your tank is cycled and the filter contains robust bacterial colonies. Maintain testing and ammonia addition until you are ready to add fish. Do a 90 percent water change before adding fish and test the water to ensure ammonia and nitrites are 0 ppm and nitrates are under 20 ppm.

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