Possibly changing from freshwater to saltwater, need help - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 7 Old 01-13-2011, 04:41 PM Thread Starter
Freddy's Avatar
Arrow Possibly changing from freshwater to saltwater, need help

I recently saw a nice picture of a Potter's Leopard Wrasse on the cover of the Drs. Foster and Smith Aquatics catalog, and it got me thinking again about changing to saltwater. I have a 90 gallon tank with an Eheim 2217 canister filter and a Marineland Penguin Bio-Wheel 350B filter on it. It also has a sand substrate, which I was told by my new LFS guy (the LFS is new, not the guy) is much better for saltwater tanks than gravel and that I would have had to change from gravel to sand if I didn't already have sand. I have been driven away from saltwater fishkeeping in the past because it seemed prohibitively expensive. I don't think I'll do a reef tank because it definitely is too expensive, but I was thinking of setting up a FOWLR tank. But I have a couple of questions.
The LFS guy said I only need a protein skimmer for a reef tank. He said I only need salt mix and live rock for a fish only tank. Do I need a protein skimmer for a fish only tank?
Also, how much live rock do I need for a 90 gallon tank?
Lastly, what are the expenses of things I don't have now? Excluding fish and food. I also already have a hydrometer. Expenses like salt mix, etc.
Thanks for any advice!

RIP fire eel
why did you think it was a good idea to keep going over the top of the tank
when you realized you couldn't breathe outside water?
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post #2 of 7 Old 01-15-2011, 08:35 AM
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hmmmmmm... I did the same as you. My best recomendation is take your time. Initial set up cost is pretty exspensive. Unless you're lucky and have tons of cash collecting dust... piece everything together slowly and do your set up one you have everything you need. Yes I would recommend a skimmer. Also consider a sump or refugium. A skimmer for that size tank may cost you around $200. Let me put it this way... my equip for my 20 long (most was DIY) cost around $500 and for everything including bulkheads overflows tubing and fittings sump skimmer heater plexiglass pump ect
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post #3 of 7 Old 01-15-2011, 10:46 AM
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Well first of all, Scrap everything that you have for FW now. Except the biowheel because that might come in handy later.

You will want to buy Live sand and create a 1-2" sandbed or a 4" sandbed but nowhere inbetween. As for LR you will want to get 1-2lb per gallon for a 90gallon tank that is $900+ but you can get some base rock(Dry Rock) to put a small dent in the price.

Expensive things are basically everything you need to start and DO NOT FORGET ABOUT SALT! I realized that salt isn't the cheapest thing and you need it to do water changes and if something goes wrong like ammonia spike or biowarfare between corals thenn you'll need to do large amounts of water changes.

I tell you now that this is anything BUT a cheap hobby. Also a coral reef tank wouldn't cost you anymore then a fowlr except you will need a nice lighting system for soft coral which I recommend you get because if you do set up a tank then you will want a reef once you start passing the coral in the stores.

Things you will need are but not limited to, Test kits, Live sand, LR, Light system, Overflow + plumbing + return pump, Protein skimmer. Also if you haven't already looked at the fish they are fairly expensive. Now don't be discouraged from the saltwater tank, If you have the time patience and money then it is a very rewarding thing to do. Also read up on the articles we have on the forum. Also I haven't alot of experience but the "experts" on this site aren't on much I am just telling you my experience and how you should plan this all out before jumping in. Also I am here almost everyday to help with what I can!


When life gives you lemons make some OJ
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post #4 of 7 Old 01-15-2011, 06:14 PM
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one thing pretzelsz didnt point out about the light is youll want a good like regardless of if you do or do not get corals cause 9 out of 10 times if you buy decent live rock corals come attached and with poor lighting will die off and can cause huge spikes in your water causeing even more water changes to be made.

if you plan to do just a fowler tank and dont wana do the 1-2 pounds lr you can do less to give the fish more swim space dr foster and smith have 40 pounds of lr for 200$ with shipping right to your door. as for a skimmer i went on e bay and got one for 30$ that can do up to 150g tank for my 75g tank and its been working just fine. if you look around and price stuff befor you but you can get a decent setup for fairly cheap and upgrade later. also check out craigslist proeple have tanks allready set up all the time in my area 75g and up they wana sell for 200$ with everything. with alot of people out of work and moveing to smaller places they need a quick buck ya know. again befor you buy look around and price stuff.
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post #5 of 7 Old 01-16-2011, 07:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Freddy View Post
The LFS guy said I only need a protein skimmer for a reef tank. He said I only need salt mix and live rock for a fish only tank. Do I need a protein skimmer for a fish only tank?
I wanted to address this portion of the question specifically. Lets pretend the situation is reversed and I said to the LFS guy that I want to set up a freshwater tank but not spend much money. Then he says to me, "you can do a 90 gallon freshwater tank for very little money, you don't even need a filter on a tank of that size."

Is he telling the truth? The answer depends on what I want to keep. Suppose I only want to keep a school of 12 White Clouds along with some live plants. In this case, he is correct, but it sure would be a waste of a 90 gallon aquarium in my opinion.

This is the same situation. Can you do a 90 gallon saltwater tank without a protein skimmer. Sure. If you just want to keep a very small number of very small fish, you will be fine. You could add 40 pounds of dry rock, a power head, keep your existing sand, and change 10 gallons of water per month. This would be sufficient to keep 3 or 4 small fish the size of a Clownfish. Essentially, you could have a saltwater tank for about $200.

The problem lies in human nature. When I say "3 or 4 small fish", I really mean it. To suggest that a protein skimmer is not needed would be to defeat the entire purpose of setting up a tank to begin with, which is to actually keep some fish. The skimmer is what makes the marine side of the hobby enjoyable. It DRAMATICALLY reduces (eliminates?) water changes. It helps stabilize alkalinity, calcium, and pH. Basically, it maintains the water quality in such a way that we can keep a number of fish that make us enjoy the hobby.

For the record, I do think this is an expensive hobby. But if you are willing to utilize the internet and have some self control about the types of livestock you purchase, it does not have to be as expensive as this thread makes it sound. You can buy 80 pounds of dry rock and 80 pounds of sand for $240 from Marco Rocks The finest aquarium rock available, base rock, live rock, reef rock, marco rock, reef tank saltwater fish, live corals, Marco rocks, Fiji live rock, Tonga Live rock. Throw in about 10 pounds of live rock and you are set. My 180 was set up this way with outstanding results. You can buy a decent hang on skimmer, eliminating the need for a sump, overflow, and return pump. A decent skimmer will cost you a couple hundred dollars online.

Throw in test kits, supplements, and salt mix and for about $600 - $700 or so you can convert to saltwater.

By the way, I assumed that your sand is not saltwater compatible. We use a reef grade aragonite sand and I can't imagine any situation where you would have put that type sand in a freshwater tank.
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post #6 of 7 Old 01-18-2011, 05:45 PM Thread Starter
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ok, thanks for the input. I've decided to stick with freshwater fishkeeping for now. I've got a $1300 band trip coming up next year (Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade) and was trying to see if I could by any chance go to saltwater for <$100. I do have a little extra money and could put together a good, working, ghetto sump for cheap. But a protein skimmer, and the fish and corals and live rock and live sand, will be just too far out of my price range. But I will be exchanging my oscar and pleco for some nice tiger barbs and a peacock eel, as a compromise between my mom wanting "nice, pretty, schooling fish" and me wanting "cool, unique fish". I do want to see what the tiger barbs look like in my aquarium. It will be interesting to see once I get it all set up.
Unfortunately, nearest petsmart is a 25 minute drive from my house... and the only other lfs around that has any live fish doesn't have any peacock eels. Maybe barbs, but not as cheap as petsmart.
First wal-mart, then pet supplies plus, then superpetz... WHERE ARE ALL MY LFS WITH LIVE FISH GOING?!?!

RIP fire eel
why did you think it was a good idea to keep going over the top of the tank
when you realized you couldn't breathe outside water?
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post #7 of 7 Old 01-19-2011, 12:07 AM
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Where are u located? I kno of someone in boise, idaho selling a 90 gallon saltwater set up for $175. Includes all equipment, LR, LS, fish, corals, chemicals etc. I just bought a 55 gallon set up with all of the above plus tank and stand for $100 so like the other person said craigslist is a great place to look, because that's where I found mine and I also have a 10 gallon nano reef that I got pretty cheap already set up as well. You definately want to do lots of research b4 you start tho. Hope it works out the way u want and good luck :)
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