Cycling a saltwater aquarium

Cycling vs curing saltwater aquariums.

I recently was asked a questions about cycling a saltwater aquarium that I felt should be shared. One of my readers (new to the hobby) is setting up a 92 gallon conner aquarium but did not have everything he need to get the aquarium up and running. His goal was to get the ball rolling before he had everything need to setup the saltwater aquarium.


I am getting ready to cycle water for my 92gal. The tank still isn’t ready to be setup but I want to get the water started. I am getting a 55 gal drum and my plan was to cycle 55 (roughly) gal of water with about 90 lb. of dry rock, with a heater, pump and I was going to toss in my current tanks dirty filter pad (to help start the cycle). I am wondering if cycling about half of my water is ok or if I should cycle all 92 gallons worth?

Thank you for your help.


Like most new saltwater aquarium hobbyist Alan is looking for ways to speed up the process. This can often set hobbyist up for failure and frustration. Allen seems to have confusing cycling and curing, which should be done separately. below is my response to Alan.


When cycling a saltwater aquarium, bacteria is growing on the surface area in the aquarium, such as the rock and sand. The process you are speaking of sounds more like curing live rock, than cycling a saltwater aquarium. Which is extremely beneficial when starting a saltwater aquarium. Starting with dry rock or even live rock, it would be beneficial to cure it before placing it in your aquarium but I wouldn’t use the water for filling your 92 gallon up. After your rock is “cured” I would discard the drum water. Water used for curing rock can be loaded with dissolve organics, nitrates and phosphates, which can throw your water parameters out of whack.

Curing rock can take a month or two and sometime even three, this should give you the time needed to finish setting up your saltwater aquarium and get it cycled. Be sure to test your water parameters and when the reach acceptable levels you’ll know its safe to use your rock.

A word of caution, nothing good happens fast with saltwater aquariums.

Best regards,


I thought this could be useful for newer hobbyist or folks considering getting into the hobby. If you have any question please feel free to ask I’ll do my best to answer or at least get you pointed in the right directing.

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