How to start up your reef or saltwater aquarium?
Start-up kit instructions:
Add Instant Ocean salt available from Aquarium Systems to the aquarium water, with salinity of 1020-1024 to begin with, at a temperature of 28/29°C to stimulate bacteria growth. Gradually increase salinity up to the third week, reaching a maximum of 1028. Keep the light off until the third week. You can however switch it on for a few hours a day to work on the aquarium or observe how it is developing. Even if your stones are not yet in position, working on the water is vital and you can start to add products to it.
Overdose the aquarium with Bactoreef and Microfauna Booster – double or triple the recommended dosage stated on the bottle, for 6 days, so as to cause cloudy or white-ish water = bacterial bloom. On the third day, you can add the bottle of live microfauna and meiofauna eggs.
Stones can also be added. Our live bacteria shun the light. They will enter inside the stones and make it their habitat. The skimmer is switched off.
Continue to add Bactoreef and Microfauna Booster, then revert to a normal dosage. Keep both the light and skimmer turned off.
Nitrates are at their highest level and will gradually decrease as products are added. Nitrites will meanwhile have already vanished after a few days. Unlike in freshwater tanks, nitrites are always present (in small quantities) in saltwater and reef aquariums. They cause no harm to the start-up process. Aquarium equilibrium requires their presence. Salinity can be increased.
Continue to add Bactoreef and Microfauna Booster, then revert to a normal dosage, as stated on the bottles.
The skimmer remains off.
The aquarium begins to be cycled; nitrates will continue to fall gradually. You can start to turn the light on for 2 or 3 hours per day. Leave the biofilm (white-ish yellow film or filaments, essential to the development of microfauna and coral adherence) to develop throughout the aquarium.
Continue to add Bactoreef and Microfauna Booster at a normal dosage. The skimmer remains off. Turn the light on for 2 or 3 hours per day. Lower the temperature to 24°C. One or more soft corals can be added. They will be your coral beta-testers. Add various snails. Check that they are actually alive (there is a high mortality rate in scavenger breeding). Even if you cannot see them with the naked eye, your aquarium is bursting with micro-particles and micro-algae on which they will feed. They will also help with continuity and sustainability of the cycle. Soft corals will also continue to enhance the cycle.
Continue to add Bactoreef and Microfauna Booster at a normal dosage. Start to light and skim your aquarium for a few hours per day. Algae may appear with the light. Reduce the intensity of blue and red LEDs to limit the algae. These colour spectrums are highly favourable to the development of algae and cyanobacteria. Algae growth can also be boosted by certain natural and synthetic stones that include minerals, silicates, metals and heavy metals in their composition. We advise you to use our cycled and started MarcoRocks stones, that contain no harmful organisms. The scavengers introduced in week 3 are there to eat algae, but if the algae are too long, the scavengers will leave them. If they get too large, scrub them off.
The aquarium is cycled, the microfauna appear between the end of the first month and the end of the second month. Microfauna can take more or less time to grow, depending on the aquarium. We can’t explain this difference in timescales; microfauna simply grows at its own pace.
You can gradually start to populate the aquarium. Ensure you do not feed the occupants to excess. Give them a very small feed once per day. It should be eaten in less than 2 minutes.
Your aquarium is now on its way to a successful future.
Some sundry advice:
- Salt: we advise an additive-free salt to start up your aquarium, such as Instant Ocean salt.
- Filtering: we recommend that water is not filtered over synthetic wadding or a micron bag for the first eight months after stock is added to the aquarium. Bacteria must take possession of the aquarium and freely circulate, they must not be confined.
- Minerals: there is no need to add magnesium or calcium for the first few months. If minerals must be added, they will be added only if they are entirely consumed by the corals. Otherwise, adding minerals can cause issues and ultimately benefit algae and cyanobacteria.
- Sand: we recommend additive-free sand, and not necessarily living sand. We prefer to avoid sand made of crushed or ground coral. It is crucial that the sand contains no NO₃, PO₄ or silicates.
- Bare bottom: Bare bottom aquariums are increasingly popular. They do offer significant advantages, although microfauna grow less readily in this environment.
- Since writing this article and given the issues in securing supplies of stones, and also the poor quality of products available on the market, we have imported MarcoRocks stones. Along with our European testers, we tested them for 3 years. We are now in a position to state that no better-quality product exists to build a reef and saltwater aquarium. We strongly recommend them not only for starting or restarting an aquarium, but also for settling tanks and refugia. We have MarcoRocks on sale. Already cycled and started in our own lab, all you have to do is position them in your aquarium.