looking for advice - not going well


I am in Raynham
SO, I set up my brand new Reefer E170.
Seeded with dead rock and live sand.
Cycled for about 3 months.
Turned lights on running skimmer
Had diatom bloom and some dark green algae but nothing much

salininty 1.024
temp 76-78
PH 8.3
ammonia 0.01
NItrite 0.0
Nitrate o.o

Put in cleaner package from reef cleaner org. had about 70% doa, put rest in tank looks like they all died.
checked water params again still looked good.

Tried 2 bangaii cardinals. One dead in less than 24 hours other missing presumed dead because I have not seen it in tank for 24 hours.

What gives? What should I test, try, replace, do?


Acro Garden, BRS Sponsor
BRS Member
Since you have ammonia, you need more live rock to mature the tank. Depends on what type of dry rock you use, some dry rock can leach tons of junk in the water.

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don't beat yourself up too badly things die for everybody it's part of the game unfortunately. there are things that you can do to help mitigate losses. To Me 3 months seems like a long time from startup to adding your fish how did you start your cycle and when you finally got your numbers in line did you keep feeding your tank? I'm definitely not an expert but my assumption is once you have your bacteria populations in your tank they need something to feed on to maintain themselves. having said that your tank cycle might not be the problem at all. your tank may be perfectly fine as far as cycling goes. sometimes fish die when you get them from the store. It's important to slowly acclimate new fish to your tank water parameters, usually by drip acclimation. But doing a perfect exclamation is no guarantee simple fact is the process of selling fish, moving them from different locations is very stressful and a fair number of fish succumb to this. Give it a couple of days that second Cardinal maybe just hunkering down for now till he gets used to your tank. Just take your time wait and see you don't need to rush to do anything at this point keep us posted good luck kurt

Andy V

Well-Known Member
BRS Member
Based on what you wrote, the only problem could be ammonia, assuming you measured everything else properly. You should not have any ammonia.

Cycling a tank this way requires a constant supply of food for the bacterial population to survive in sufficient amounts to support more bioload.

I've cycled tanks with dead rock and dead sand using ammonia to start the cycle and feeding fish food for bacterial growth. This took a week. I put in small fish one or two at a time over a few weeks. No deaths.

Did you cycle the tank correctly? You should have seen ammonia rise and then drop, while nitrite increased. Eventually ammonia drops to 0, followed by nitrite. And nitrates typically don't build up enough to be testable when cycling your tank this way, so usually you never see any.

If this did occur and now you have ammonia again, it most likely means that you over-loaded the tank too quickly, but if you put in cleaners first, that is doubtful.

Cleaner packages dying could be because you didn't acclimate correctly, same for fish. But we don't know if the deaths caused the ammonia, or the ammonia caused the deaths. My guess is the ammonia caused the deaths because just putting in cleaners is a very tiny bioload that should not have caused problems even with a minuscule bacterial population.


I am in Raynham
Thanks for all the feedback

With regards to the rock. I used live rock I saved from a 180 tank I had running for a about a dozen years that got taken down to expand my home office. SO I know the rock is good.
I used 80# of carib live sand. Used red sea mature reef kit and Seachem stability bacteria.

I did use some flake food to feed the tank, but small amounts.
I am using a brand new set of Fluval test kits to measure everything and I have calibrated by refractometer with RODI water.
I assumed that the current ammonia spike is from the combo of the snails and crab plus the one missing fish dying off in 24 hours.

acclimation was flota bags to equalize temp and then 1/8 cup tank water every half hour. till tank water volume was 2 to 1 and then release.

I think that covers everything.


Well-Known Member
Staff member
BRS Member
That is a slow acclimation. Depending on how long they were bagged before you started, a long acclimation process can let ammonia from waste during shipping become dangerous (once you open the bag, the fresh air converts the waste produced during shipping to a more toxic form).


Well-Known Member
BRS Member
Did you add any organics to kick start the cycle?
Cause it sounds like the cycle just started when you had some things die.

You should not have any ammonia spike. If there was a lot of die off then you might have a slight spike then right back to normal again.
The feeding of "small amounts" of fish food might not have been enough to maintain a robust bacteria colony in the tank.


Well-Known Member
BRS Member
Just thinking thru some of the above...

I don't think it was ammonia. If you are saying ammonia killed the fish, then the tank had to have ammonia in it before he introduced the fish. The rock and sand is enough to cycle the tank...and it should be done in 30 days. If the tank cycled, then it should be fine... If it cycled, then starved and need to re-cycle, then there would be no ammonia in the tank and the fish shouldn't have died in 24 hours. If you add water then immediately add fish, the fish will die when the ammonia builds up, but it will take a week. It won't happen in 24 hours.

As Dong noted, rocks can leach bad stuff. I have had this happen. But you say that isn't the issue because the rocks were in another tank. I still think that by sitting and drying out, things can happen... But adding to the above, if you used rock from an old tank, I find it highly unlikely that there weren't enough organics on that piece to start a cycle. Cycling a tank isn't rocket science.

It seems likely that there is something else in the water that is lethal. My guess would be that the rocks from the old tank were contaminated. For example, if they were stored for a long time, something like bug spray could have gotten on them. Or something died in/on them and left a poison/toxin. I have also heard (unproven) that chemicals could be in the tank as part of the manufacturing process.

Maybe run carbon in it and see what happens. The carbon won't interrupt the cycle and may improve it...lots of surface area...

Best of luck.


I am in Raynham
no I am still struggling with stuff. I am getting green hair algae and some green algae growth. Few snails survived did some water changes but I am not sure what to do at this point. DO I add another fish and see what happens? More snails?


I am in Raynham
ph 8.o
ammonia .3
nitrate nitrite zero??

Could the ammonia test be bad!?

Even if it was coming from the rocks. I've done several water changes that should have lowered it by now?
I wouldn't add anything at this point. either you're not getting an accurate ammonia reading or your tank is cycling again. Keep testing and see what happens. Just for an accurate time frame did the fish die about the time you originally posted or did it happen before that and then you got around to posting?


I read more than I post
ph 8.o
ammonia .3
nitrate nitrite zero??

Could the ammonia test be bad!?

Even if it was coming from the rocks. I've done several water changes that should have lowered it by now?
That could be from the fish you never found

Have you tested your source water?

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