Saltwater tank - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 38 Old 02-08-2009, 09:25 PM Thread Starter
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Saltwater tank

I have two freshwater tanks up and running and have had a tank almost my whole life, but I have never had a saltwater tank. I have been on the fence about setting up a saltwater tank and have no I idea where to start, I feel like I am lost when it comes to saltwater setups. So i was wondering if anyone could help fill the gaps of knowledge that I have about saltwater setups.

My first question is: Are there different saltwater setups? I know there are saltwater and brackish type tank setups, but are there any other setup types besides reef? I am just curious.

Second: What size tank is best for a saltwater setup? I have a 46 bow in my basement collecting dust and I didn't know if I could use it or if I should use it for a south american freshwater setup. There were a few tank sizes I was looking at for this endeavor: the 46 bow, a 40 breeder, a 55, a 65, a 75, or a 72 bow; but I didn't if one would have better dimensions suited for saltwater tanks.

Third: What kind of equipment will I need? Like I said before I know freshwater setups and what they need, saltwater is a whole different beast to me so I am not really sure what I need.

Fourth: What would be the best resource to find information about setting up and controlling water parameters in a saltwater tank?

Fifth: Depending on the size of the tank, what kind of livestock could I use to inhabit the tank; including fish, inverts, and corals. Also, is there such a thing as a saltwater aquarium plant, I have been wondering that for a long time?

Thanks for all who decide to help out.
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post #2 of 38 Old 02-08-2009, 09:50 PM
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to start, saltwater is no where compared freshwater price wise. they say your better off doing a top of the line freshwater tank then a saltwater tank if money is an issue. yes there are cheaper ways of doing it, but things still will be expensive. i strongly recommend doing things right from the start to save on costs, livestock and headaches. so far, your doing good asking questions first. the next step would be research and lots of it. research is invalueable since you dont have experience, research is as close as you can get to it. it also would not hurt to join a local reefing club. my club is $12 a year and we have monthly meetings, group buys, buy/sell equipment and corals for fractions of the price and overall all share a similiar interest.
#1. there are fish only tanks (which seem to be failure), fish only with live rock (FOWLR) tanks, and reef tanks (corals) Just like how people in freshwater do biotopes, people in saltwater do to taking particular habitats and replicating them with those fish/corals. you dont have to do this but its an idea.
#2. out of all those choices the 75. if not, the 40 breeder. dont get me wrong all will work but the wider tanks seem to be easier to aquascape with live rock. keep in mind the larger you go, the more expensive things get however the easier water parameters get to maintain because of the stability of water volume. this is also a good reason to have a sump. find more about them here, i personally use a 46 bowfront at the moment so it would work but im not a fan of the bow for 2 reasons. first its hard to scrape the curve daily (atleast every other day) and more importantly it was hard to build a stand for to be able to fit a sump under it. i ended up just building a wood frame from 2x4s
#3. flow, powerheads create flow, the oxygen content isnt the same as it is in freshwater so flow is important, corals also need flow and lots of it. in any saltwater tank a quality protein skimmer is priceless. before buying one, find reviews and feedback as some are garbage and some are golden. this along with quality live rock, flow, sand bed,water changes, possibly cheato algae and carbon/phosban reactors will be your only filtration. in a reef setup a protein skimmer is just as important as lighting. the main 3 are power compacts (PCs), T5s, and metal halides. the equipment doesnt end here but these are the most important 3.
#4. anything and everything. read and ask questions. after reading and reading and reading and reading and reading ( i said that so many times because its truelly priceless ) you should be able to piece together true information from false. Heres a small article i wrote: but reading should not end here.
#5. fish, your going to want to decide if you want a FOWLR or reef. there are fish that are simply not reef safe. your going to have to learn which fish are compatible with which fish, their maximum size growth and what size tank they should be housed in some fish should strictly be avoided, territories, oxygen content... all comes into play. when you get to that step i suggest posting your stock your interesting in on here for someone to assist you. i really enjoy inverts and there are all kinds. hermit crabs, snails, sea cucumbers, shrimp, clams. . . corals- softies, LPS, SPS ( youll find out more about them as you go )
saltwater plants would be marco algaes. some you dont want, some are very pretty. some fish will just devour them so they are impossible to keep. usually they will just spring up as hitch hikers on liverock.

Please continue to read.
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post #3 of 38 Old 02-10-2009, 05:57 PM
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I just want to emphasis the importance of Live Rock and Protein Skimming for a FISH ONLY marine aquarium. The availability of live rock and dropping prices of protein skimmers have made successful saltwater aquariums widespread. Before live rock and protein skimming, marine aquariums were EXTREMELY difficult. Today, they are not hard at all. You have a lot to learn, that is for certain. But with knowledge comes success in the marine hobby, and the knowledge is at your fingertips on the internet.
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post #4 of 38 Old 02-16-2009, 07:55 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the input thus far.

I have been trying to do as much reading and gathering of information as I can, I think my brain is in overload right now. I still have many questions that I either can't find the answer to or haven't read anything about yet. It almost makes me wonder if I will ever find all the information I will need to do this and do it right so that I don't hurt any fish or other living organisms. Hopefully I will get it all right.

I do have a few questions to ask if anyone is willing to help:

1. Does anyone know if you can buy a 120 gallon with an overflow and is already pre-drilled. If not there are 3 other sizes that I am interested in: a 72 bowfront, a 75, or a 90 gallon. I know these three can be purchased with an overflow and already pre-drilled. Onefish, I know you suggested against the bowfront because of the stand, and I appreciate your suggestion, but for me that is not a big deal because I am a cabinetmaker by trade and was planning on building my own custom stand for whatever I go with. From what I gather these sizes are some of the most common sizes for larger reef tanks, so if anyone has any other suggestions please feel free to let me know.

2. I am having trouble understanding saltwater levels and everything that goes into the chemical levels of saltwater. So does anyone have a good understanding of them who could possibly explain them? Or does anyone know of a good resource that it easy to understand?

3. Also, I kinda want to set this up for my little girl because she loves her little ten gallon she has in her room. She also loves Finding Nemo, it is one of her favorite movies, and I know I want a pair of clowns, corals, a few other fish, snails, and maybe some shrimp. I would like to have a yellow tang, or a naso tang, but I know my little girl would be very disappointed if there was not a pacific blue tang in there because Dori is her favorite character. I remember reading somewhere that pacific blues have to be in extremely large tanks to thrive and live their full lives, is this true or would they be okay in any of the tanks I listed. Also, would the other tangs be okay as well? I know I should probably get a goby to move sand around, but I am not sure what kind though. Also, can anyone else recommend any other fish for the size tanks I have listed, like I said before this is kind of for my little girl so if I can incorporate as many fish from that movie as I can the happier she will be, but I know that a lot of those fish will not work in any of these tanks.
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post #5 of 38 Old 02-16-2009, 08:16 PM
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If you go with a 120 gallon then I think you will be ok with the Kohl Tang or Yellow Tang, or both. I am reluctant to purchase any larger growing Tangs in a tank this small, because you are still pushing the minimum limits for the amount of space these fish need. I would say absolutely NO to a Naso Tang, and a 50/50 MAYBE/PROBABLY on Dori. Dori is a very hardi fish and would probably be ok, even if she feels a little cramped for space. (Dori, aka Blue Tang, aka Hippo Tang, aka Regal Tang, aka Paracanthurus hepatus)

You can buy almost any tank pre drilled. The normal charge is $100 extra, including overflows. Just ask the LFS to have it ordered. For tanks 6 feet in lenght, this would include 2 overflows.

I'm not sure I understand question # 2 above. There are over 400 (?) different trace elements, minor ions, and major ions that make up "saltwater". The biggest long term challenges are maintaining stable pH, alkalinity, and calcium levels. Various other things impact these, such as phosphate, magnesium, and borate.
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post #6 of 38 Old 02-16-2009, 10:00 PM Thread Starter
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Okay I completely forgot that there was something else I wanted to ask. I there any kind of rule of thumb about how big a sump should be compared to the main tank? I was wondering so I can try to get a ball park figure about the tank costs.
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post #7 of 38 Old 02-16-2009, 10:25 PM
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Originally Posted by fishdad1 View Post
It almost makes me wonder if I will ever find all the information I will need to do this and do it right so that I don't hurt any fish or other living organisms. Hopefully I will get it all right.
although you may not find every piece of information to set up a saltwater tank i think taking the time to do enough research to find just about all of it you can is very important. months of planning and understanding how to set up, run and maintain a tank will equal success. its much better to do it right from the gate and have a gorgeous setup for years to come then setup now, ask questions later (which usually results in headache and money down the drain) i think your doing good so far, asking questions and reading.

that is fine if you enjoy the bowfront by all means go for it. your tank is meant to be your tank, so if this is what you enjoy then that is your preference. it is a nice tank for viewing but as ive stated the stand comes alittle tricky. its not to bad of a deal to build one, just more difficult then your regular old rectangle box stand. out of the suggested size tanks you mention i personally would avoid the 90 because you stated you wish to keep corals. the 90 can work but it is a deeper tank and lighting then becomes issue. a standard 75 is the same dementions as a standard 90 except the 90 is taller. which brings me to another question, what kind of lighting are you planning? what kind of protein skimmer? out of all the equipment you can have these are prob. the 2 most important things for a reef tank. dont forget other things like flow are important too.
have you decided what kinds of corals you wish to keep? choosing your stock list of fish is important too as you will want to add certain fish before others.
the sump should be as big as you can fit under the tank or next to it, for example i currently have a 46 gallon display with a 40 breeder sump. when i was building the sump i new i was upgrading soon so i decided to build a sump once. the extra water volume on my system has been great. dilution is the solution to pollution. are you planning on building the sump from a tank yourself?
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post #8 of 38 Old 02-16-2009, 10:28 PM
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there is no "rule of thumb", per se, on the size of a sump relative to the main tank. The closest I'll suggest is as big as you can fit under the stand :).

If you have a refugium in the sump, then the refugium should be at least 10% of the display volume, the more the better. So thats a rule of thumb, but not for the overall sump of course.

Really, the main thing that will determine the sump size, is being sure you are able to store your equipment in it (thats one of the two main advantages of a sump, the other being increasing the total water volume of your system). For example, your protein skimmer will have a certain footprint, and you'll need to be sure your skimmer chamber is large enough to hold the skimmer and pump (if its an in-sump skimmer and pump). If you have carbon or phosban reactors, be sure there's room to mount them. Etc... You want to make the return pump section large enough to be able to withstand some evaporation and still have your pump submerged (again assuming its an in-sump, and not external, pump).

That might have just confused you more, but hopefully it helped!

"To an optimist, the glass is half-full;
to a pessimist, the glass is half-empty;
to an engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be"
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post #9 of 38 Old 02-16-2009, 10:34 PM
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your also going to want to take into consideration alittle extra volume in the sump to be able to take water that flows back down the plumbing and an inch or so from the display due to a power failure or pump turn off.
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post #10 of 38 Old 02-17-2009, 09:06 PM Thread Starter
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Again, I just wanna thank you guys for helping me out with all of this info. I feel like my head is about to explode with all of the stuff I have been reading lately.

Onefish, I apologize that I honestly can't really answer you on all of your hardware questions, because I am so new to saltwater tanks that I haven't gotten that far into researching yet. So I honestly don't know what kind of lighting, skimmer, or other mechanical equipment I would like to use yet. I have just been trying to focus on understanding everything, and how it all works together to benefit the tank, as much as I can before I start deciding on products. I still haven't fully figured out everything about a sump and its parts all work together yet. I just don't want to rush into this and screw up, because this is going to be a big investment and rationalizing this spending to my wife is going to be a chore in of itself. Oh and boy is it fun to try to explain to a spouse, who has no interest in this hobby besides "ohh that fish is cute," why I want to spend the money on such a larger tank, and why I need such a large tank for that matter, plus the sump tank and everything else.

I haven't even thought about corals yet I am still working on equipment and why I need the things I need. I must admit that I have been thinking about a livestock list, because like I said this is for me and my little girl. I would like to incorporate as many of the Nemo fish as I can just for her benefit, because that is what she identifies with being aquarium fish. So here is my list thus far, please keep in mind that I am new to saltwater and am still learning so it will most likely change as I learn what works.
2-Ocellaris clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris)
1-Regal Tang (Paracanthurus hepatus)
1-Royal Gramma (Gramma loreto)
?-Skunk Cleaner Shrimp Pacific Cleaner Shrimp, Scarlet Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis)
1-Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens)
?-Perhaps a variety of snails
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