28 November 2007

Setting up a CRS tank - Step 6

Cycling The Aquarium Tank

Step# 6
- I will let the aquarium tank run for 24 hours before performing 100% water change with de-chlorinated water to continue with the cycling. This helps to clear up some of the debris (if any) in the water.

Some aquarium shops will try to promote soil gravel that do not contain ammonia so that you could introduce shrimps into the tank just after three days. Without proper tank cycling, you will run into problem sooner or later. Always remember the importance of the Nitrogen Cycle that I have mentioned at the beginning of this article.

Tip# However, you can shorten the cycling time by using the following tips, but do not attempt to ignore the cycling process.

  • Aerating the water
  • Maintaining water temperature at 28-32 degree Celsius
  • Keeping pH around 7 (Typically the pH is lower when using soil gravel, you can buffer with coral chips to increase the pH.)
  • Using age filter media from another tank
  • Introducing commercial live bacteria, example Fritz-Zyme #7

Patience, Patience, Patience

As most of us do not have the equipment to measure the numbers of bacteria at home, we can only base our assumptions on other water parameters and judgments to know if the tank is ready.

Check for Ammonia every alternate days using a commercial ammonia test kit, you will notice that Ammonia will start to reduce on the first 7-14 days. Nitrite level will rise.

If you can recall what I mentioned in the Nitrogen Cycle, with the Ammonia gone, Nitrobacter will thrive and starts to convert harmful Nitrite to Nitrate. It will takes another 14-21 days to reduce the levels of Nitrite. Constantly check the presence of Ammonia and Nitrite, sometimes there will be a certain surge in Ammonia level. This is normal, you just have to wait for the tank to get cycled. There is no way we can measure bacteria at home without the sophisticated equipment. So do we know when the tank is ready?

Tip# Check for at least three consecutive days of zero Ammonia and Nitrite.

Once the tank is fully cycled, there will be a large amount of Nitrate presence in the water for the first occurrence. Perform a 100% water change with de-chlorinated water. After the first water change, make sure that Ammonia and Nitrite level remains at zero. Biologically, the tank is now ready. The rest is just water parameters that you need to control. For those living in the warmer climates, I suggest you use a chiller to control the water temperature. Since soil gravel is used, you will need to buffer the pH to prevent it from falling below pH 6.2.

Setting up a CRS tank - Step 5

Canister Filter and Filter Media

Step# 5
- Pro Hobbyists like to use canister filter as compared to other filter system. This is due to the fact that canister filter can provide the best biological filter system. A good filter system will maintain a balance in the Nitrogen Cycle.

Choose a canister filter that has a two to three times flow rate of the total water volume in your tank. For example, if the total water volume in your tank is 100 liters, choose a canister that has a flow rate of 300 liters/per hour.

The brand and type of filter media used in the canister filter is a closely guarded secret of many Pro Hobbyists. A typical canister filter has a few filter layers or chambers that the water will pass through in sequence; Mechanical, Biological and Chemical/ Adsorptive chambers. Water will pass through these chambers, get "purified" and return as clean water to the tank. Check the manufacturer user manual to find out the layout of the chambers in your canister filter system.

Tip# Soak and rise your newly purchase filter media before using.

Mechanical - Remove Particles

Mechanical filter media works like a mesh trapping particulate wastes as they pass through the filter chambers.

In this chamber, I use Mr. Aqua Ceramic Ring (S Size) at the bottom to filter large particles. Alternative you can use Eheim Mech Filter Media. Next I put a piece of Japanese mat on top to filter medium size particles. Follow by a cotton wool pad which filters small fine particles. You can use two pieces of cotton wool pad to further filter away tiny particles.

Biological - Encourage growth of BB

The Biological chamber is to provide the largest surface area for the Nitrifying Bacteria (Also known as Beneficial Bacteria) to grow and thrive.

In this chamber, I use Rein BioHome Sintered Glass filter media. You can use Sera Siporax as an alternative filter media if BioHome is unavailable. Sintered Glass has one of the highest surface area and is the most suitable media to house bacteria.

Chemical/Adsorptive - Remove Chemicals

The Chemical/Adsorptive chamber provides the removal of medications or additives and odor.

I will fill this chamber with 80% Mr. Aqua Ceramic Ring (M Size). This is to provide the additional bacteria colonies that CRS need. The remaining 20% is to fill up with Adsorptive media.

Tip# Pro Hobbyists add Active Carbon as an Adsorptive in this chamber. Not all Active Carbon is suitable, insist on only those made from natural ingredients. Remember to change the Active Carbon regularly as recommended by the manufacturer.

For Active Carbon, I choose Mr. Aqua Bamboo Carbon together with an additional cotton wool pad. You can use Sera Super Carbon as an alternative Active Carbon on shrimps. Please do not add any other Chemical/Adsorptive media besides Active Carbon. CRS are very sensitive to chemicals and you will most probably kill it.

Connect the canister filter to the tank and fill it with de-chlorinated water. Let the new canister filter run.

Setting up a CRS tank - Step 4

Aquatic Plants

Step# 4
- Some aquatic plants require strong light, fertilizers or high CO2 consumption. Luckily Crystal Red Shrimps do not require special or fanciful aquatic plants, they will thrive with simple mosses and driftwood. I do not use fertilizer in my aquarium tank, just a bit of CO2 at 2 bubbles per second. Some fertilizer can kill CRS, I rather not take the risk!

Tip# In order not to introduce any unwanted pests like snails, bugs, worms and algae into your aquarium tank, you may want to quarantine and observe your plants first. Some pro hobbyists used potassium permanganate disinfectant bath method to remove pests. I do not encourage the use of chemicals, I usually purchase my plants from reliable sources and use the quarantine and observation method.

Tip# Always wash and soaked the driftwood for at least two weeks before placing it in your tank. Driftwood contains tannic acid that will cause "brownish" water effects on your tank. Pro Hobbyists are very skeptical about using bog wood. Bog wood seems to release a kind of sap that will kill CRS.

Note# Some pro hobbyists will not recommend cycling the new tank with the presence of aquatic plants. The plants are introduced after the tank is cycled. Especially with gravel like ADA, GEX, MagicSoil etc, initial pH for these gravel can be as low as 4 which some plants may not be able to survive.

Noticed I used Amazon Swords at both ends of the tank, this helps to camouflage the ugly looking UGF pipes. Add anti-chlorine first before adding water to the tank. Next fill up the aquarium tank with water very slowly using an air hose. This is to prevent water from disturbing the gravel and the mineral rock powder.

With Magic Soil, the water looks clean even on first water top up. No dirty debris floating around. I had added a piece of driftwood with Süßwassertang plant (freshwater seaweed, in German) tied to it. You can create your own design by using different type of mosses and driftwoods.