Our understanding of what "cycling" a saltwater aquarium means has always been full of holes. Factually, we understand the nitrogen cycle and preparing the aquarium to process ammonia but have never fully dissected what comes thereafter.  We labeled this the ugly stage and, until now, have only theorized with anecdotal evidence about why it happens and what we can do to overcome it. 

Ryan and the BRStv Investigates crew have been on a 10-month journey to investigate the biome of a saltwater aquarium and how we as hobbyists can produce a healthy biome that ultimately allows us to overcome the dreaded ugly stage. 

What is Biome Cycling?

  • Biome Cycling: A comprehensive term that goes beyond the nitrogen cycle and considers the growth of all the organisms, big and small, that show up in an aquarium and will influence the overall health and stability of the enclosed ecosystem. 

Under the microscope, there is an all-out war that occurs in an aquarium. Bacteria, biofilm, tiny crustaceans, algae, cyanobacteria, diatoms, worms, and various other microorganisms are constantly competing for resources and space. When the undesirable organisms win the battles, we call it the ugly stage. When nobody dominates and all of the organisms live harmoniously, we achieve stability and call it a healthy biome. 

The ultimate goal is to develop a system or approach for biome cycling that knowingly produces harmonious balance and stability, eliminating the "hope and pray" approach we have so ignorantly become accustomed to. 

Biome Cycle Series

Through our Biome Cycle series, we follow twelve different Red Sea Reefer 170 aquariums over the span of 6 months each with a slightly different approach to biome cycling. We observe the tanks visually, under a microscope, and through eDNA testing using AquaBiomics to find which of these approaches can beat the ugly. We intentionally introduce pests and explore how pods and other organisms compete with undesirable organisms in the aquarium to find ways that create redundant protection against pests.