01-18-2009, 08:46 AM
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I assume you are asking about the basics for setting up a marine aquarium. With very few exceptions, I believe that all marine systems, be it fish only, fish with inverts, or a true reef, should be set up with a similar system.
I would recommend a 3'' to 4'' layer of aragonite sand for the substrate. This amount of sand will allow for denitrification to occur, resulting in long term Nitrate (Nitr-a-te) levels of near zero.
I would always include live rock, which is a natural method of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate removal. The amount of live rock will vary by density. I suggest looking at some pictures on this site to get an idea of how much rock and what your display will look like. As a horrible rule of thumb, you will have between 1/2 pound to 2 pounds of live rock per gallon of water, based on density of the rock. Live rock also brings with it all sorts of microscopic life that will populate the sand bed. Additionally, these small life forms create an environment which is more natural for the fish, greatly improving the chances of long term success.
Finally, for "life support" you will have a protein skimmer. This is where you want to invest your money. The protein skimmer removes organic waste directly from the aquarium. This helps to stabalize ph, increase oxygen levels, and allow for more stable calcium and magnesium levels. The benefits of a protein skimmer can not be overstated and every marine system should include a skimmer.
Finally, you do NOT want any other method of biological filtration. Nearly ALL artificial man made forms of biological filtration will cause a buildup of Nitrate, phosphate, and process organic acids in such a way as to deplete carbonates from the buffer system. In other words, all freshwater filtration systems should remain on freshwater aquariums. No biowheels, no bioballs, no undergravel filters, no trickle filters, no sponge filters, nothing of the sort should be used on a marine aquarium.
Last edited by Pasfur; 01-18-2009 at 08:49 AM..