Several tank planning questions : ) - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 12 Old 04-05-2010, 08:20 PM Thread Starter
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Several tank planning questions : )

Hi my name is Craig. I'm a recently graduating molecular biologist and now that I'm finally making money I might be able to finally afford the mythical reef tank : ). I've previously only done 20 gallon freshwater setups, but I've always leaned towards live plant setups that mimic natural filtration as best as I can. As I figure things I'd like to blast off a series of random questions. I'll be researching as I wait for answers but I'm curious if you guys will beat me to the answers, in which case, thank you.

Goals in tank: I'm very interested in corals and invertebrates. Standard cleaning crew fascinate me enough. Maybe serpentine starfish and tiger tail sea cucumber as well. Live sponge? For vertebrates I've onlly really thought about some sort of sand sifter or goby.

1) Tank size- a 55 gallon seems like a nice size to me. I'm honestly a little intimidated of the 125 gallon tanks, just from a simple standpoint of not being able to reach the bottom of the tank with my arm to attend maintenance. (i'm average 5'11"). My question is would the 125 be uncomparably more stable though? I wouldn't need the extra space for fish, just water stability.

2) Alot of the predrilled tanks come with a little sump. If I want a true refugium, would you add it next to the sump in the cabinet, or take the sump out and just replace it with the refugium.

3a) Not enough bioload? Given most of what I want are detritivores, should I really get at least a couple traditional fish to produce poop?

3b) Also i was told traditional fish provide movement in the live rock where power heads can't reach. If I don't any free swimming topside fish, will my reef be lacking here?

4) Bioballs- does the trickle water-air exposure environment provide a unique bacteria that consume nitrates better, or is this more for supersaturating this filter with the same old stander nitrogen cycle bacteria found in the rest of the tank. I ask because I read that this trickle environment is where most evaporation is lost, and with a large refugium I'm wondering if it is necessary.

5) Sand- a local friend told me if I have time to cycle it longer, just buy normal sand, not the live sand. That it would pick up everything eventually from the live rock I seed it with.

6) crushed coral- To help supplement calcium for the live corals and in the hopes that I wouldn't have to add as much regularly, I was wondering if I could mix crushed coral with the top layer of sand to help boost calcium levels.

7) Say I want to wait 10 weeks before the first corals, what percent of live rock would I need of the total rock in order for full rock to be live on schedule. I'm guessing I'll be looking at 120 lbs of rock based on pure gestimation.

8) Reverse Osmosis water- I like how you clever marine biologist limit phosphates to encourage coral growth while limiting algae growth, very clever. Still I have to ask the cheap guy questions, is RO absolutely necessary? Would I be drastically effecting my tank's good looks by not going RO water. I'm on well water in an agricultural area, so i'm betting my shallow well water has plenty of phosphates.

9) Last question is a megaquestion- To buy the initial setup to begin cycling sand and liverock, I need?.... drilled tank, sump, sand, live rock and dead rock, sea salt, refugium with sand but without algae (algae will be added when theres actually nitrates to eat), protein skimmmer, sump pump, powerheads, metal halide light fixture for later, syringe to control unwanted coral growth, heater. Some sort of auto refiller for topping off. Am I missing anything?

I haven't bought anything yet, looking to grab some bargains off Craigslist failures and 'move-aways'

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post #2 of 12 Old 04-05-2010, 08:39 PM
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just a couple things I would add to #9..
hydrometer, test kits, thermometer, liquid calcium and a buffer.
I have an RO hooked up under my sink. We added a really long hose to it that reaches across my living room right to the aquarium so its easy to add more water. I really like it. :) I put it under the sink when I'm done.
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post #3 of 12 Old 04-05-2010, 08:50 PM
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sounds like your on a good start, check out 75 gallons i like them more then the 125 and 55 because of its shape.

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post #4 of 12 Old 04-05-2010, 08:55 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks DY, glad to see a friendly response right off the bat : )

hydrometer, good catch

test kits, I have basic kits for freshwater already, is there anything marine specific that needs to be checked, can you monitor calcium concentration aside from general hardness?

liquid calcium- I hear good things about "pickling lime" sold in grocery stores for $4.95.

buffer? you mean like the standard pH buffers they sell? Ones I've seen suggest they're bad for plants, I guess a coral isn't really a plant though.

Thank you
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post #5 of 12 Old 04-05-2010, 10:42 PM Thread Starter
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Found Pasfur's previous article:

which answered my questions about buffer and calcium testing which arose from DY's recommendations.
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post #6 of 12 Old 04-05-2010, 11:07 PM
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get a refractometer, not a hydrometer. take a look on ebay.
as mentioned a 55 isnt the best due to its dementions, a 40 breeder or 75 gallon would make a better tank as they are wider and live rock is easier to place. personally i would buy a brand new 40 breeder ( so its scratch free ) and use your used 55 as a DIY sump/refugium combo. it is very simple to have a sump that includes an area for harvesting macro algaes. ofcourse a 125 will be more stable, as its double a 55. also keep in mind water volume is lost due to rock displacement. its good to go as big as possible for water stability, but also keep in mind the increased costs this will bring ( more salt, more lighting, more powerheads ... )
i would use the 55 gallon tank as a DIY sump to house your skimmer. you can also create an area for your algaes. heres a good quick read on sumps and a few examples:
Have you looked into what type of corals your going to keep? softies, lps, or sps? if your going to have a softies reef, i suggest keeping a few more fish then you'd keep in an all sps tank. this doesnt mean you can over stock but the slight nitrates seem to help softies thrive. i have seen coral only tanks as well as corals with shrimp/other inverts. i do suggest atleast 1 fish but if you do get one, choose wisely. usually a single fish in a tank calls that ITS home and only ITS home.
I have only ever seen a few single bio balls being used wisely on a saltwater tank once. The person used the 1 bio ball as a "screen" over a draining pvc pipe on a few pipes. The suction of the water kept the ball in place and the openings in the bio ball let the water pass through. Genius but even then this person was keeping up with keeping the ball from building up debris and thats what the problem is. Bio balls ( and any "freshwater filtration" ) should be avoided. "SETUPS THAT MIMIC NATURAL FILTRATION" is what your aiming for and honestly the only thing mechanical "filtering" should be a quality skimmer and the powerheads that are providing water circulation. A 4 - 6'' sandbed and enough live rock will work great and the refugium with macro algae will only make things better.
A saltwater sand will contain buffers and using crushed coral will just create so many nooks and crannies for detritus to settle which is exactly what you dont want and good water flow will help prevent gunk buildup. ( you basically want as little dead flowing areas as possilbe without creating a sandstorm ) Having the nooks is a similiar concept with using bio balls, you dont want this. Go with a 4 - 6'' deep sand bed, but your right it doesnt have to be live sand as the live rock will seed it in some time.
i do not fully understand question number 7.
you are going to want a RO/DI unit, from the first drip of water. phosphates just bring algae which is just trouble. avoid it with the simple solution, use RO/DI water. tap and well waters also can contain ammonias and chlorines, nitrates, copper and other metals, and so forth. use a RO/DI unit. your going to want liquid test kits for amm, nitrite, nitrate, ph, mag, cal, alk, and temp at the bare minimum. ( price doesnt always mean everything but keep in mind a quality test kit most likely means more accurate results ) i personally like salifert and API. your going to also want to make sure your skimmer is worth its weight in gold ( and this doesnt mean buy the heaviest skimmer ) Read online reviews, ask around and even look for yourself at how they are constructed. Some skimmers are just better then others and its just that simple.

another good idea is to look in your area for a local reefing club. these clubs are great for meeting new people with tanks, learning new things and even pick up some used equipment.
welcome to the forum, feel free to ask any questions you may have.
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post #7 of 12 Old 04-06-2010, 12:20 AM Thread Starter
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Great recommendations, thank you. That sump article was pretty interesting as well.

What is this macro algae "harvesting" that keeps getting mentioned. I thought I want the algae to stay in the refugium.

In addition, do I need to worry about the light producing bad algae down their where my cleaning crew can't get too.

for #7 i found the answer in Pasfur's 180 thread. He mentioned he only used 10% live rock to start with I think.

I don't know if I have to specialize lps sps or softies, but perferably I'd like to keep all of them. Mostly hard corals with 'tubed' soft corals dispersed. I like the softies that actively 'grab' the water with little hands. Following what my one friend in the area is doing, people advertise on craigslist will break you off a frag of one of their corals for $10. While most are probably generic pet store species, my buddy reported seeing some really cool rare ones. Basically what I'm getting at is I'll probably not know which corals till I see what I run into.

I haven't bought the 55 gallon yet. I'd like to watch the local market a little longer and be a little more selective. Maybe i can catch a failed hobbiest at the right time and get a mega setup for cheaps.

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post #8 of 12 Old 04-06-2010, 03:15 PM Thread Starter
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Might have found a tank for sale in the classifieds. I wanted to ask you guys about value and if I should be wary of using sand that has been sitting in the guy's garage in a dry aquarium.

55gallon /w stand and pre drilled with sump tank but no sump pump.

has 2-3 inches of old sand already present. has 30 Lbs of old rock.

500 watt Metal halide light fixture

2 powerheads and heater

I think i can get it for $320, is this a good/fair/bad deal? without brand names, just assess everything as random used equipment. I'm in no particular rush to buy a tank, they seem to be readily available in classifieds.

(i'm still intimidated of a 75gallon's size) and since I don't really want that many fish, it seems like a waste of huge tank. )
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post #9 of 12 Old 04-06-2010, 11:00 PM
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unless there is two 250 watt halides ( =500 ) then ive never heard of a 500 watt halide fixture or bulb for that matter. it could be a no name brand or a hydroponics halide that im not familiar with but again unless its 2 separate bulbs its usually 75, 150?, 175, 200? 250, 400, 600, 1000 watt bulbs.
personally, i wouldnt buy this. its a fair deal, ( your basically paying for the light fixture ) but keep in mind its going to need two new 250 watt bulbs which can be pricey, the sand sounds suspect. sand can be washed but you just never know and id hate to see you invest so much into a tank to find there was something in the sand.
personally i dont see whats so intimidating about a 75. its 4 feet long, just like the 55 only a 75 is wider. if a large tank really is something intimidating to you, i suggest a 40 breeder. personally i find a used 55 gallon tank would make a better sump, lets say for that 75
and i know i already mentioned this but any luck finding a reefing club? this is something worth looking into.
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post #10 of 12 Old 04-07-2010, 03:40 AM
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Originally Posted by conwayscience View Post
(i'm still intimidated of a 75gallon's size) and since I don't really want that many fish, it seems like a waste of huge tank. )
I think a 75 is better than a 55, pretty much the same hight and width just like 6 inches deeper which I think would really come in handy with the space lost from all the rock. I'm just saying think about it, you dont wanna really get into this tank and wish you had a bigger one.
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