Reef Aquarium Diary- Part 5


Reef Aquarium Diary - Part 5 'easy like Sunday morning' 😴🙂


This is part 5 in a series <<go back to article 1 here if you need to.


marine aquarium tests essential

testing, testing, 123....456....

So up bright and early this Sunday morning,

Morning everyone!...oh yeah its only 6am no one is up at this time on a Sunday except me! 

Just put kettle on and eager to give the water on the new tank some tests to see how it measures up. 💧


If you have been following along you will know I'm currently running 2 tanks in our lounge - the old one which still has all the fish and corals in it ; and the new upgrade which has just finished cycling and is being prepared to transfer the livestock to.

Here's the results:

these are some of the most crucial tests for a saltwater aquarium - TEMPERATURE / PH / AMMONIA / NITRATE / PHOSPHATE / ALKALINITY.

with tests on the old existing tank for comparing.

note slightly low PH on both tanks is due to it being early doors before lights have came on.

Most interesting is the zero ammonia on the new tank, a good sign, that means the waste is being processed and converted into less harmful nitrite and then nitrate. This is despite me putting a whole bottle of DR Tims ammonia in the tank over the last week and a bit of pellet food too. Now do keep in mind that not all cycling would be this quick, this aquarium has received multiple biological supplements (microbacter7 and nitrifying bacteria) that have given the system a kickstart along with a fairly large amount of pre matured live rock being added to the sump.

sump reef tank

a quick look at the sump tank under the cabinet - this section shows the 2 overflow pipes (where the water from the tank overflows into the sump where it then gets filtered)

So it initially surprised me that the nitrate level was higher then new tank but that's normal, all that ammonia has been converted and this is the sign that bacteria are doing there job, the nitrate level should drop back down as the system matures further. I was little surprised at just how high the nitrate level was already but then thinking about it, once all the other rock enters the system, the skimmer is tuned on, the chemical media reactors are turned on and the algae starts to grow these levels should come down. Nitrate test kits can measure PPM (Parts per million) or MG/l (Milligrams per litre) - you don't need to convert these though as the values are exactly equal in either format which is handy! - for example 10ppm = 10mg/l.

Once nitrates are present, you know that beneficial bacteria exist in the aquarium. This means the 1st cycle has successfully completed but will continue to mature as fish, corals, food and additional nutrients are added to your aquarium. The nitrogen cycle as an evolving process.

**important note - even if you have kick started the biological process with bacterial supplements or seeding you would still want to take it gradually - If I wasn't transferring a ton of fully mature rock from the other system I would likely leave this tank running for several weeks before even adding the 1st fish or two! and keep testing all the time - even then you will likely see certain types of algae blooms - these are to be expected on any new tank and it takes 6 months or more before most tanks start to fully mature biologically. By the way I'm hoping with my cautious approach I might be able to avoid horrible algae out breaks on this new tank.we shall see!


Some feeding footage from this morning - note our large red squirrelfish, his name is 'Rocket' and you can see why here!


So I'm thinking parameters are very close from old tank to new and it would probably be safe to transfer everything across today if I wanted to - however I think I'm still going to take it gradually.

By the way I would never just catch the fish from the old tank and dump them in, all live stock will still be acclimated to the new water.
Either with a slow drip into buckets / tubs or sometimes I use a manual pipette to introduce new water 1 or 2 drops at a time.

Using home test kits: I always try and follow the instructions exactly for each test for accuracy. Also important is that between tests empty entire contents of tested water down sink, rinse with tap and then rinse with tank water several times - avoid contamination from fingers - and dont forget to wash the test tube caps too.

I am tempted to get everything out of the old tank so I can shut it down and free up the space; but why rush at this point when its taken so long.

By the way I have sent off for an ICP test to get accurate results on the old tank water parameters - the results will be very interesting, I would expect there to be at least some significant drop in certain elements of the seawater - we shall see!
As previously mentioned this tank is around 5 years old and it has never been dosed with Calcium or trace elements - although I maintained a fairly good weekly water change schedule and kept salinity stable - how does that effect the water over a long period? - can water changes alone replenish all those minerals? I hope to find out. Either way if I was keeping SPS hard corals then surely the calcium and alkalinity would be used up much faster and require supplementation - If I venture down that route I would still want to keep things simple - I have looked into calcium reactors and dosing pumps but to be honest I think straight forward Kalkwasser (lime water) would be my 1st thing to implement due to its simplicity.

My next step now is going to be getting the activated carbon reactor going, this will remove any pollutants that might have found there way into the tank during manufacturing and start removing some dissolved organics now that the initial cycle is complete. I will also add some phosphate remover to get those levels down a bit. So we are at the point where I can think about transferring some fish / rock /  corals over!....Exciting!



Good Information on reef keeping:
OLDSKOOL PIONEER - JULIAN SPRUNG - CHECKOUT HIS BOOKS ON MARINE AQUARIUMS - VERY INTERESTING - even the old 1990'S BOOKS IN THE REEF NOTES SERIES, they are letters from hobbyists with tank issues and Julian gives his advice.....

Julian sprung reef keeping

MODERN REEF KEEPING BRS TV Is an American YouTube channel - very in-depth and informative videos, excellent advise backed up by serious knowledge and independent test done by themselves - nobody does Reef Tanks quite like the Americans! Listen to these guys and you wont go far wrong keeping a marine tank. A bit geeky but then Marine keeping is .....and its also part of the fun of it. You also gain an understanding of biological and chemical processes that otherwise you would have no idea about!✍ OF COURE THERE IS PLENTYY OF MATERIAL ON YOUTUBE but BRS is my fav! 💙
bulk reef supply UK

If you want to just see some stunning corals checkout WWC (World Wide Corals) despite the name they don't ship to UK  - have a look here though at the amazing stuff that's out there


Give something back to mother nature - Good Causes:




as a fish keeper you can help nature and the environment by:

BUYING CAPTIVE BRED  / TANK RAISED where possible, researching needs thoroughly of any animal you intend to keep - only keeping known hardy specimens and not purchasing anything not suitable for captivity.

Through the beauty of our aquariums we can educate and increase awareness of the plight of the oceans - captive breeding products championed by aquarists may help save coral reef eco systems around the world.

Support conservation, nature and best practice where possible - respect the beauty of life.

checkout this great little book too: 

reef book - responsible marine aquarist mcs

Includes how you can be a more conscientious aquarist and shows behind the scenes in the aquatic industry.


fast forward to next diary part 6>>>>>>

Notes on Refugium's / Algae Filters:

So the principle behind a refugium is that macro algae (seaweed / aquatic plants) will use up nutrients in the tank and improve water quality, thus preventing other forms of undesirable algae bloom in your display. It has been proven that Refugium's or Algae filters can work extremely well to remove phosphate and nitrate and in some cases get these waste levels down to zero! That is impressive! couple that with the added benefit of keeping PH stable by using up CO2 and you have a great asset for your tank.

An important note though, if you want an algae filter to work properly you will want it to out compete the display tank in terms of lighting -so a cheap little low wattage bulb is probably not gonna do a great job - you will want something with sufficient par and in the right spectrum - you are better off using a proper plant growing light with some power or even a Kessil such as the Tuna Sun or H80, if you want to really make an impact on the nutrients a Kessil H380 is the don for larger aquariums running a refugium (don't forget you can pick up lights like this second hand and save a fortune if you are on a budget!) Other options include horticultural lamps, infact most grow lights will be suitable for algae growing. If you are going to go with a 'fuge' don't skimp on the lighting!!



The progress of the new blue tank will continue soon,thanks for stopping by...


NEXT REE DIARY Part 6>>>>>>