I've tried to post this twice in the last week and both times something happened before or when I clicked on submit new thread, so here goes #3. Let's hope 3 times is a charm tonight. I have things to update anyway, so no biggie. I am cycling a 10g tank with the hopes of adding a few corals at some point in the future. My reason for starting the tank now, however, is because I also hope to use this tank to raise brine shrimp, so at the moment any questions I have will be related to that. The tank has been set up for 2-3 weeks, with 16# of Reef Subtrate (http://http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?pcatid=16765) mixed with enough regular aquarium sand to make a sand bed about 2" inches thick in the front and 3 - 3.5" in the back. It is currently running with an Aqueon QuietFlow holding a filter sponge from another tank as media, and an Azoo 11 sponge filter with a Whisper 10 pump, both rated for 10g. Initially I was only using the Azoo for additional water movement, without the sponge. In addition to the substrate, the tank has 4 fake corals that were in another tank for a month or so (but freshwater, so not helping to boost the salt water bacteria needed, unless there is a bit of an overlap of bacteria), a chunk of lava rock which has been in various tanks over the last few years, most recently in my brackish tank, and several other rocks with relatively rough surfaces. There has been no light on the tank, other than ambient room light, except for a few days when the tank had brine shrimp in it, and that wasn't much, just a 25w incandescent mini spotlight. I haven't yet decided what to do for lighting in the future. I put my colony of brine shrimp in it after it had been running for 1-2 weeks, and unfortunately they all died within a few days. They were being pulled into the intake on the HOB filter, and adding a prefilter sponge didn't help, because it still pulled them up against the sponge. So I turned off that filter and added the sponge to the Azoo filter. Didn't help, because, as I said, they all died within a few days. I did get several nets of them to feed my other tanks over that few days, so not a total loss. The best thing about adding the brine shrimp, however, was the huge addition of ammonia produced by their waste products and then the bodies of the dead guys. The ammonia went off the chart high. So now, after at least a week of no brine shrimp and with me feeding the tank with a pinch of brine shrimp food or fish food every day, here are my stats for last Tuesday, 3/31/14: Temp (F): 80 SG: 1.024-1.025 pH: 8.2 Ammonia: .25 - .50 ppm Nitrite: still off the chart Nitrate: 5 - 10 ppm Phosphate: 1 – 2.5 KH: 12 and today, 4/6/14: Temp (F): 80 SG: 1.025 pH: 8.2 Ammonia: <.25 Nitrite: ≥6.0 Nitrate: 5 - 10 ppm Phosphate: ≤ .25 KH: 10 As you can see, the ammonia is almost gone - still a tinge of color change in the test tube, but not as much as to reflect .25ppm, and the nitrite is still very high, measuring at 6 or more ppm. The contents of the water plus Nitrite reagent in the test tube is a noticeably lighter, more transparent color than it was, so it does seem to be coming down. Nitrate has stayed about the same, and pH seems to be pretty stable so far. Questions: Should I expect nitrate to go up and then back down like the ammonia and nitrite? If so, how far back down does it need to come? Is it's current level of 5-10 ppm OK in the long run? Phosphates - Not sure what caused the higher phosphate reading last week, but it has definitely come down since then. Tested the phosphates on my tap water tonight, and none showed up at all, which was good news. Should it be 0 eventually, and if so, how do I go about that other than using a phosphate lowering supplement? I have some liquid stuff that brings down phosphates in my other tanks, but don't know if it's good for salt water tank. KH: I think it was 8 or 9 when I first tested it a couple of weeks ago, but not sure because I didn't write it down. Not sure why it was up to 12, or what has brought it down to 10. I know the final "OK" level will depend on stocking, and I'm not planning on doing any stocking yet, but should I be concerned that it went up and is heading back down? Is this normal for a cycling saltwater tank? KH on the tap water runs about 5-6, by the way. I know I can't add any corals (or fish, but I'm not planning on adding fish anyway) until the nitrite is down to 0 and nitrate does whatever it's going to do before stabilizing. What about other things, like macroalgae and cleaner snails? Should I wait for the cycle to complete before adding those, or can they go in sooner? Since the substrate is pretty chunky rather than all sand, do I need/want sand sifting snails, or not? Live rock/dry "live" rock/other rock: I will be building up my rockwork before adding corals. I've done lots of reading about live rock versus dry rock, and have found listings for "dry live rock" on various sites. It seems to me that I need at least some actual live rock that has the various coralline algaes, tiny crustaceans, etc., that tend to come with the live rock. I can get it locally (from the pet store that takes my young adult livebearers when they are big enough to sell) but they charge $7.99/# which seems high to me, based on what I've seen advertised on the internet. I live within a half-hour or so of the Puget Sound, which is, of course, salt water. Would it be good, bad, or neutral to go to the shore and pick up a few rocks from the water's edge? Would that rock have any of the good critters and/or coralline algae, even though the water is much colder here than around reefs? If I get some of the dry rock available from various places, that isn't going to lead to the development of the algaes and other critters without at least some live rock to seed it, right? If I were to add live rock from whatever source to my tank now, would it restart the cycle? I know that it tends to have a die-off during shipping if obtained from farther away, but what if I got it from a local store or the beach itself and kept it in salt water until I get home with it, a matter of a half-hour or less? And, last but not least, does anybody have any ideas how to filter a tank without killing a brine shrimp colony by sucking them up into the impeller or sucking them up against a sponge hard enough to damage them? I was wondering if mechanical filtration is necessary at all, and I know the live substrate/live rock is the biological filter, along with macros to keep other algae from growing and to help consume whatever remaining nitrates are in the tank after cycling. I have AquaClear HOB filters on several of my other tanks, and I always find multiple snails in every part of the filter when I do a water change; I've found live fish fry (guppies and platys) in the main body of the filters as well. I usually set the flow at the lower rate, thereby causing some of the water to bypass the impeller, and I assume that is why the snails and fry haven't been chopped up on the way through. This leads me to think that brine shrimp would also survive the trip. If I used an AquaClear filter without the filter sponge, and something inside the tank to give good water flow in other parts of the tank, would that be sufficient for filtering once I add macros and corals? I'm sure I have lots more questions, but this is enough for now. Let's see if I can actually get this thing to post this time.