Once a reef tank gets fully running and salted, the first order of business is to kickstart the biological cycle. In a typical fish aquarium, fresh or salt, cycling pretty much only pertains to developing the bacterial, biological cycle but there are many more ‘degrees’ of cycling in a reef tank.
In addition to the bacterial cycle, the phases of a reef aquarium biological cycle also pertains to the succession of microbes such as diatoms and dinoflagellates, algaes like simple dusty green, hairy, and crustose coralline algae. But another phase to consider in the cycling of a reef tank would be the meiofauna, the ‘pods’ like copepods, amphipods, mysis shrimp, and whether we like it or not, the ragworms and bristelworms that are important to the long term balance of all reef ecosystems.
Despite having biological starter cultures of optimal aquarium bacteria that can manage nitrogenous wastes in a matter of days, we still see reefers who think they are ‘cycling’ their reef aquaria for up to three months or six months, but I personally feel that this is incorrect. Instructing new reef aquarists to wait three months or more for their tank to cycle might be erring on the side of caution, but it certainly dissuades potential new reefers from starting up a reef tank.
It’s also somewhat disingenuous for hundreds of coral vendors to set up instant coral holding tanks back when we used to have coral shows and aquarium conferences, but then turn around and tell newbies they need to wait a fraction of a year to add corals to their tanks. Our method of beginning the biological cycle in an aquarium is not necessarily all that unique, it borrows a little from all the common methods, but altogether it’s not necessarily preached that you technically don’t need to cycle an aquarium for corals, not the way you do for fish.
In our latest video we discuss how we approached starting the cycle of the new authentic Australian style reef by both adding some bacteria juice, adding one pair of fish, one indicator coral, and a handful of Stomatella snails which are the real capsules of reef ecology that haven’t yet been well recognized in the reefing world.