Top 10 Fixes to Turn the Nasty, Brown Stage of Your Saltwater Tank Cycle Around!
1. Be Patient
An ounce of patience is worth 100 lbs of cure in the way of the ugly phase. It's hard to swallow when it happens but the ugly phase is temporary and most things will clear up naturally on their own. So long as your take the proper steps to mitigate the nuisances, they generally will not stick around.
2. Turn The Lights Off
Without light, algae and other photosynthetic pests cannot survive. Simply keep the lights OFF for the first 4-6 months and this will dramatically decrease the severity of the uglies. Once you start adding coral, use the acclimation mode to slowly ramp up the output.
3. Use Acclimation Mode
When you're ready to add coral, the tank will need light, and acclimation mode slowly ramps up the intensity of your lights over an extended period of time. This approach tends to be much better for coming out of the ugly stage when you start to add coral. A sudden increase in light from 0% to 100% overnight tends to instigate nuisance algae blooms.
4. Tangs To Eat Algae
Tangs are incredibly useful algae grazers, even juvenile Tangs work great, and having more than one is certainly better. In small tanks, just understand you will have to re-home the fish when they grow larger.
5. Clean-Up Crew For The Sandbed
Snails and crabs are most effective when it comes to cleaning your sand and especially handling leftover food and detritus.
6. Wipe Out Cyanobacteria
Cyano is one of the more annoying pests that can plague new tank owners and don't let it get out of control. Should cyano show up, immediately take the steps to kill it off before the problem gets worse.
Learn More with BRStv: 5 Minute Saltwater Aquarium Guide - How To Solve Cyanobacteria Problems
The dreaded "dinos" are another pesky slime that is often confused with cyanobacteria but is much harder to control. Should they show up, don't wait and take action.
Learn More with BRStv: The Dreaded Dinos! What To Do About Dinoflagellates
8. Consider Bacterial Solutions
A regular dose of beneficial bacteria has been known to mitigate a variety of common problems that occur during the first few months of cycling a new saltwater aquarium. Consider using one of these bacteria solutions on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to build up the biome in your tank.
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9. At Least Check Your Nutrients
While there is no magic bullet, nutrient imbalances are most certainly a big contributor to pests and nuisances. Test your nitrate and phosphate on a regular basis to get an idea of whether your nutrient levels are remaining stable, falling, or rising.
10. Consider Adding Copepods
Small microfauna such as Copepods can be highly effective scavengers in your aquarium and improve biodiversity. They also provide a very natural and healthy source of food for fish!