New Tank - What am I doing wrong?

It sounds like your tank hasn't gone through the ammonia cycle yet. I would follow the advice given here, go get a piece of raw shrimp from your grocery store and throw it in the tank. You will then need to test every day for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. If your ammonia test never goes over .25, its probably because its an API liquid test and its gone bad, which is a common problem. Either pick up a second kit, or have your LFS verify the results of your test.
 
+1 on cycling the tank and bumping the temp up

I also wanted to ask what you have in the tank for powerheads and water flow? I see two powerheads in the picture pointed down - do you get any sort of ripple across the top of your water? If you don't see any sort of cycle with the tank after putting the raw shrimp in, then it might be that your fish weren't getting enough oxygen in the water. Also, do you have any sort of clean up crew in your tank?
 
Did you purchase the tank new or was it used? If it was used, what was it used for?

Also, do you have any clean-up crew? If not, I'd recommend trying a few snails or a crab before risking another fish.
 
Thank you all for the information so far, I would like to post an update of the status.

After of course having a proper funeral for the fish, I went through the following steps.

Instead of the shrimp, I went with the ammonium chloride for the cycling. This was a preference choice because I would able to measure and record the in and outs. The tank was bumped up to 78 degrees on the heater and running a little warmer now. I also purchase another ammonia testing kit and it did verify my readings from my original testing kit.

So I brought up the ammonia to 1.5 ppm and it has now been roughly three days (when this evening comes). The ammonia has continued to hover at 1.5 ppm, and I have not discovered any nitrites or nitrates in my testing. This makes me believe that a cycle has never happened, which is disappointing thinking that nothing happened over the past four months.

To answer some of the questions I have been neglecting to answer:

Are you running carbon? No

Using drops or strips (ammonia test kit)? Now using both and confirm same results

What are you using to test salinity? Hydrometer

I also wanted to ask what you have in the tank for powerheads and water flow? They are two 1600 gph powerheads

Do you get any sort of ripple across the top of your water? Yes, the are ripples on the top of the tank. (Picture taken of ripples)

Did you purchase the tank new or was it used? New

Also, do you have any clean-up crew? No I was going to get some after my first fish or two were put into the tank and lived a few weeks.


The biggest difference since bringing the ammonia to 1.5 ppm is the outbreak of what I believe is cyano (purplish/red hair type) algae... and I'm talking about on an accelerated rate. Even for leaving for work and coming back after 9 or 10 hours later I can see a big difference.

Right now my general plan is to wait out the ammonia to decrease and check my nitrites and nitrates. When I can get my ammonia and nitrites to zero within 24 hours I have read that is when the cycle is complete. I am already preparing about 80 gals of RO/DI aged saltwater for large changes for the end of the cycle and remove the nitrates.

I have included some new pictures... you can probably compare them to the original ones and see a huge algae difference. Thanks again for any suggestions and information.
 

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USUALLY, brown diatoms on the sand and rocks are a normal sign of a cycle. I've gotten the red stuff on my sand concentrated in a patch which I attributed to something decaying in that spot. Green hair algae though... that's usually a sign of excess phosphates in the water. And the red stuff on the rocks... not sure. Where did these rocks come from? And your "highly cultivated" live rock? With all your troubles, and not knowing where it came from, I'm guess the rock ain't so live anymore and it's going to have to repopulate. Others will chime in with more advise on the algae but that's just my first thoughts.

Oh, and I would think about getting rid of the hydrometer and replacing it with a refractometer. They hydrometers are known for being inaccurate.
 
Not really related to the loss of fish. But it looks like the rocks might be sitting on the sand. If that is the case, you might want to think about removing the sand from under the rock and let it sit on the glass.. more stable. Also, some of the rocks seem like they are at risk of falling (hard to tell from the pic).. again just check to make sure everything is secure.

It is hard to tell from the pics, but some of the algea looks like it might be Bryopsis? again hard to tell, but some look like they have a spine or staulk.

good ID pages here:

Melev's Reef - Visual Identification

extensive searchable database

Image Search :: Algaebase
 
I'd turn your lights off - no need to have them on during your cycle (and given the amount of ammonia in your tank your cycle could last several weeks). Killing the lights should help reduce algae growth, and once your cycle is complete you'll want to add a decent sized clean up crew to help combat the algae (check out reefcleaners.org for good cuc packages).
 
Not really related to the loss of fish. But it looks like the rocks might be sitting on the sand. If that is the case, you might want to think about removing the sand from under the rock and let it sit on the glass.. more stable. Also, some of the rocks seem like they are at risk of falling (hard to tell from the pic).. again just check to make sure everything is secure.


I put all the rock in the tank before the sand, so the structure is secure on the glass (except maybe a few non-load bearing pieces).

Yes, the piece on the top left is unstable and is going to be moved, I have left it there because of some reorganization I did. Thank you for the heads up :D
 
I noticed the reflection of some sunny windows in a few of your pictures, direct sunlight seems to make algae grow like crazy. Where my tank is, I have to cover 1 side of it with cardboard for a few months when the sun is at that perfect angle.
 
I'd turn your lights off - no need to have them on during your cycle (and given the amount of ammonia in your tank your cycle could last several weeks). Killing the lights should help reduce algae growth, and once your cycle is complete you'll want to add a decent sized clean up crew to help combat the algae (check out reefcleaners.org for good cuc packages).


Thanks, I will turn off the lights.
 
I noticed the reflection of some sunny windows in a few of your pictures, direct sunlight seems to make algae grow like crazy. Where my tank is, I have to cover 1 side of it with cardboard for a few months when the sun is at that perfect angle.


There is no direct sunlight against the tank, but my entire house has plenty of ambient light from the windows and design. Those reflections are at least 35 feet from the tank, and there is a back porch that has the roof overhanging, so even those windows do not direct sun from the sunrise or sunset.
 
Here is an update:

On January 8th I dosed the ammonia for the fishless cycle. On January 19th my ammonia levels were reading <0.25ppm, and since then I have been dosing just enough to keep the bacteria happy. Within 12 hours my ammonia is being processed and showing no traces. At this time the nitrites are peaking, and based on what I have read that nitrites portion could take about twice the time, which leads me to around February 11th I should expect the nitrite portion of the cycle to be completed.

I am still curious as to what happened during the past four months, I seem to be the polar opposite of the person who mixes the salt and puts the fish in on day one. My personal life was very busy during that time so I suppose I didn't have the time to be impatient for the tank.

Anyways... once the cycle is complete and verified with dosing, I plan to do some major water changes to reduce the nitrates, and then look at getting some cleanup crew to go to work and then eventually one or a pair of clown(s). I do plan to use Prime on my water change on the side chance something could be in the water after the RO/DI. I have also added a media reactor that has active carbon and Phosban to remove any impurities and help control any algae nutrition.

Things seem to be on track.... now it is only a matter of time.
 
Glad you are back on track :)

I also wouldnt add the prime to your water change water. If you have any need to do that after the RO/DI filter, your filter is broken.
 
+1 Hannah! I would also stop dosing ammonia at this point - your tank cycle is fully under way and you don't need to keep adding ammonia to the tank!

And sounds like you have a very a solid plan once your nitrites reach zero, glad you are back on track!
 
Another Update...

To keep this thread updated, today marks a new day for establishing life in the tank. Roughly three days ago my cycle completed, and two days ago I did a very large 90% water change because my nitrates from the cycle were very high ( > 100ppm). Water parameters at this time are as follows:

0 ppm ammonia
0 ppm nitrites
< 10 ppm nitrates
8.2 pH
1.0235 salinity
77 Temp (F)

Today after 2.5 hours of drip acclimation I have introduce the following:

Initial Cleanup Crew:
3 Turbo Snails
4 Blue Leg Hermit Crab
3 Trochus Snails (FYI these guys are awesome)

Fish:
Two Ocellaris Clownfish

I feel like I have done everything possible by cycling the tank (3ppm ammonia into nitrate within 24 hours), adding the extra media reactor, maturity the saltwater for the exchange, and drip acclimation, and plenty of additional research/patience.

Hopefully I will only have one more update for this thread and that should be most of these creatures make it through the end of the month and are in excellent shape. Thanks again for all the advice everyone has given me, it has been appreciated especially when you start to doubt what to do next.
 
very cool...ya know just because you got it all fixed and everything doesnt mean you have to leave us...
 
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