Starting a saltwater tank - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 7 Old 05-08-2009, 03:28 PM Thread Starter
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Starting a saltwater tank

I'm thinking of creating a saltwater/coral tank sometime in the future. And I have a few questions...

1. I'm thinking of starting out small cause I know saltwater can get expensive..... What are the opinions on the Oceanic Bio-Cubes. I'm thinking of getting the 29 gal. Would this be a good aquarium to use for coral?

2. Also how come there is no board for "general saltwater" like setup, maintenance, etc????
Anyone have any links of stuff I can read to familiarize myself with how to setup a salt aquarium? I'm assuming it has to run a cycle just like freshwater, but I want specific details of what I need to do and such.....

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post #2 of 7 Old 05-08-2009, 03:30 PM Thread Starter
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(just posting cause I forgot to subscribe to the thread for email notification)
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post #3 of 7 Old 05-08-2009, 08:14 PM
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Originally Posted by RandallW20 View Post
I'm assuming it has to run a cycle just like freshwater.
This is what makes saltwater such a difficult transition. Even the most simple assumption is incorrect. Yes, you have to have bacteria that consume ammonia and nitrite, but the cycle process is the least important concern when it comes to the maturing process of your aquarium. Also, the cycle does not determine when you should consider the aquarium to be stable and ready for fish.

Additionally, you have additional bacteria present that consume Nitrate, provided you set the aquarium up correctly.

The best advice I can give you is to read some of the "build" threads on this website. Here are some good ones to check out:

I would also spend a lot of time on this website reading the monthly magazines. Pay careful attention to the "Tank of the Month" columns:
April 2009 - Volume 8, Issue 3 - Reefkeeping Magazine

You will want to own a book called "The Reef Aquarium" by Jullian Sprung and Charles Delbeck. In fact, you should buy the entire 3 part volume.

You should also consider subscribing to Aquarium Fish Magazine, Aquarium Fish International, and Freshwater and Marine Aquarium Magazine.

Finally, I will leave you with this. The basics of a marine system are Live Rock, Live sand, protein skimmer, water flow, and lighting. There is nothing from your freshwater background that will help you with these topics. You are starting from scratch. Additionally, you will be testing regularly for pH, alkalinity, and calcium, and Nitrate, at MINIMUM. The alkalinity and calcium relationship is probably the single most important topic of education that you will want to understand clearly for long term marine success.
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post #4 of 7 Old 05-09-2009, 08:08 AM Thread Starter
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Cool, thank you Pasfur. That's some good info ;)
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post #5 of 7 Old 06-01-2009, 02:08 PM
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But cycling is for both fresh water and salt water.

What did you mean by difficult transition? From fresh to salt or from none to salt? lol
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post #6 of 7 Old 06-01-2009, 07:19 PM
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Originally Posted by amushroomtree View Post
But cycling is for both fresh water and salt water.

What did you mean by difficult transition? From fresh to salt or from none to salt? lol
I think it is much easier to do a saltwater aquarium without any freshwater experience. In the freshwater hobby you learn a lot of bad habits. To make it worse, you can ignore most of what the experts tell you and still be very successful. In short, the fish are very easy to keep and even big mistakes are usually easy to overcome.

In saltwater this is not the case. You have to listen and make a big effort to learn WHY you are having success. Problems in saltwater occur over long periods of time, usually several months, and wipeouts sometimes occur overnight. Sick fish almost always die, and generally the disease spreads.

I find that most freshwater aquarists who switch to saltwater also try to incorporate as much of their equipment as they possibly can. The problem is that nearly EVERY piece of their freshwater equipment is completely useless. They often ask around, talking to dozens of people. They then listen to the person who tells them what they want to hear, rather than listening to the successful hobbyists who are telling them what actually needs to be done. Which of course means starting over with different equipment.

Finally, on the subject of the cycle. Yes, you have to cycle a saltwater aquarium. But due to the Live Rock, this process is extremely quick and often only lasts a few short days. The cycle is not an indicator of the ability of a marine aquarium to sustain most fish. There are other indicators which are much more important, such as the precence of copepods and amphipods, the passing of a diatom bloom, and the predictability of alkalinity and calcium. These indicators are a much more accurate way to determine the health of a marine aquarium, and are what the experienced hobbyists mean by the word "mature".
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post #7 of 7 Old 06-13-2009, 09:52 PM
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Good information so far. I'll add two things.

You mentioned keeping corals. Unless you are satisfied with zoas, palys and mushrooms, you are going to have to add alkilinity, calcium and magnesium testing to your list. The balance of those three is important... if one of the three is out of whack, you can dose the others all you want and things won't find a natural balance.

Second, I'd recommend going as big as you have the space and budget for. Reason being, larger tanks are easier to keep stable. Water parameters (mostly) change at a slower pace and give you time to catch issues before they become crises. Also, simple things like evaporation are a larger problem to the husbandry of a small tank as opposed to large ones. Salinity stays more constant in the face of evaporation, etc.

OK, so I lied, three things. Go ahead and decide what kinds of corals you intend to keep. This way you'll only have to buy lights once instead of doing a bunch of upgrades.

Research, research, research some more and then make your move... on all aspects from tank choice to livestock. And take to heart the old saying that nothing good happens fast in a reef tank.

I'd also recommend joining your local reef club, even if it's not all that local. The Atlanta Reef Club has been the best group of people I've ever dealt with, and I would guess most reef clubs are similar. They'll be glad to help you with your system, probably all the way up to a house call or two (I had a couple of those) and tank-sitting while you are on vacation.

Best of luck to you!


Last edited by B Castle; 06-13-2009 at 09:54 PM.
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