Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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-   -   Finally got a saltwater tank! (

dprUsh83 11-01-2006 10:33 PM

Finally got a saltwater tank!
I was browsing craigslist tonight and found a 40 gallon tank that I purchased for $75 bucks. All I have is the tank and the filter (a bio-wheel filter). I want to use sand as a substrate, but is it too much extra work? I know I need a protein skimmer, what else? I've poked my nose around the saltwater section from time to time, but now I'm here legitamitely! I was going to put in water and begin cycling now, but I want to do things correctly, do I need to have my substrate in first?

My fiance wants a clownfish (nemo fish as she says :roll:) so I need to start researching what is compatible. I'd definitely like a starfish as well. Looking forward to my next move! All help is very appreciated!

caferacermike 11-02-2006 01:05 AM

You don't need the skimmer yet. Right now I'd focus on getting a nice layer of aragonite gravel. Some say a trouble free 1.5" layer is good. Others say 3" plus up to 6" with some stirring critters makes a better sub. I've always leaned towards 3" myself. With that I'd add some water and a powerhead. You can then take your time buying live rock as you can afford it. Look for deals on craigslist from people tearing down a tank or run a wanted ad. Look to get it for $4 or less a pound "used". Expect $8 at lfs. look for Ocean homes etc. online for nice deals. I'd say 60-70 pounds would make for a really nice stable filter. Make sure it is good qaulity, light, fluffy, and very porous. Not smooth and heavy. In about 2 months your tank will establsih itself and a pair of juve clowns would make a nice addition. A pair of clowns, a nice anemone, some easy corals, a few inverts would make for a nice display.

bettababy 11-02-2006 02:41 AM

You'll want to get the salt mixed into the water before adding the sand. I work with live sand, the aragonite mixtures work well, but if the SPG isn't stable, you can easily kill any good bacteria culture the sand brings in. I would target a SPG of 1.023 for working with clownfish.
You'll also need a hydrometer or refractometer to measure SPG/Salinity. The first week will be spent with a bare tank of water getting salt levels to where they should be. If wanting to do "nemo" fish, I will suggest a reef tank? Starfish, anemone, clownfish, a few shrimp and a cleaning crew, and it could be beautiful... maybe another small fish or 2, depending on the species/sizes. Firefish (goby) are really sweet, as are some of the other small goby species. If working with anemone, watch the lighting you use. For a "nemo" aka ocellaris clownfish, you'll want a bubble anemone. Be forewarned, tank raised clowns don't always take to an anemone, many of them don't know what it's for. Wild clowns will understand it.
Anyways, water and salt, then sand and liverock. When I put my sand in, I try to do it right after the liverock is set, so to anchor the rock better with the sand. After this, another couple of weeks of watching and water testing as your tank cycles. Average amount of time from water to fish is about 4 - 6 weeks. Each tank is an individual, so some may take longer, some may take less.
Once you're cycled, go easy when adding animals, not everything at once. 1 - 2 animals every 2 wks is a good pace, giving the system a chance to stabalize after each addition without any severe spikes to harm anything. Or, in the case of snails or blue leg hermits, a dozen at a time for small stuff, turbo and other large snails, up to 3 at a time in a tank of that size.
Suggestions for starfish: brittle and serpent stars, linkia stars.
These tend to be good for beginners. Linkia stars eat algae, so you'll want to make sure there is a food supply for it before introducing in to a newer tank. Brittle and serpent stars will scour the sandbed for food, and will eat frozen formula food, once thawed and warmed to take temp.
Be careful which starfish you select, as some, such as chocolate chips, cushions, and a handful of others, are predators, and will eat fish if they get the chance. Cushion stars grow huge, so you'll want to shy away from those, that's another species shouldn't be sold on the open market.
Then, if lighting is proper, you could add corals...
If you're planning to use the hang on filters, the skimmer is a must, and you might want to consider protecting your wall behind the tank and filter so it isn't damaged by salt creep.
Salt creep is one topic I haven't seen mentioned, but it's something everyone will experience to some degree with a salt water tank. Because of the way hang on filters have a tendency to "splash" a fine mist of water, the water evaporates and leaves the salt behind. I have seen people's walls totally destroyed by neglected salt creep, to the point of having to replace the drywall. The 92 corner bow I just set up in a Dr's office has a sheet of plexi glass on each wall in the corner, and sealed with silicone where the pieces meet. This works well and is easy to clean, without blocking out the wallpaper behind it.
You'll also need a heater and thermometer. I suggest a good submersible heater, able to handle the salt content. EboJaeger makes a good one, but they're expensive. AquaEl makes a good one, but a portion of the price if you can find them.
When setting up your filter, remove your carbon. Carbon in a saltwater tank is used only to pull out meds if needed. Carbon left in the filter will deplete the tank of mineral content the animals need to survive. If you run carbon, be sure to dose regularly with trace elements, and to test for them frequently.
And, last but not least, a good set of liquid test kits for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, calcium, and KH. These will be most important, though you may find at some point there is a need for another here and there. These are the kits you'll want to have on hand for regular use.
Good Luck with it and keep us posted!
Let us know if you need more help.

caferacermike 11-02-2006 06:55 AM

Would like to add that linkia are about the most reef safe star avail. However you should wait at least a year before adding them. Most folks I've dealt with suggest they are bottom moppers and eat a fine detritus from an established tank. They seem to perish in newer tanks. You can addd sand stars to keep the substrate moving. Some serpent or brittle stars are ok. Stay away fromt eh large greenish yellow ones. They definitely get large enough to capture fish.

usmc121581 11-02-2006 08:02 AM

On what caferacermike said I have a blue linkia that is all over the glass most of the time, when I feed my fish veggies hell eat the left overs the night I feed them, but what till the tank is established. I have 2 sand shifting star fish but unless you have live sand also wait till the tank strarts to establish a little more so the star fish doesn't die from having no food. I also have a brittle star that is the greenish yellow one, when I got him last year is was about 4-6" long, he is now about 12' wide. He doesn't mess with my little fish (hopefully) I also feed him a whole shrimp once every few days so he doen't eat a live fish. He has ate my little fish but it was the chromis's that have died, or were going to die. Brittle stars are good to have because they go around the tank at night eating all the food that the fish didn't eat.

dprUsh83 11-02-2006 10:28 AM

Okay, first of all...thanks everybody! A lot of great information there. I want to put out what I've interpreted, because I know there is a chance I've missed a beat and it isn't what was being said. :P

The first thing I am going to do is add my salt/water, with an ideal salinity level of 1.023.

Once established I am going to insert my substrate, arganite sand. I now have a question. I have read online that some "sandbox" sands work at a fraction of the price. Are some of these arganite, or is this a sand that is worth paying the LFS prices? If so, no problem but I figured I should ask.

After that, I let my tank cycle 4-6 weeks. I won't go past this because I'll be sure to post more questions in the next 4-6 weeks! :lol:

I'm going to also install the thermometer/heater, which means up to this point all I will have is: Sand, saltwater, HOB Filter, Heater/therm.

Thanks, this is exciting entering a whole new ballgame with saltwater! :)

usmc121581 11-02-2006 10:46 AM


Once established I am going to insert my substrate, arganite sand. I now have a question. I have read online that some "sandbox" sands work at a fraction of the price. Are some of these arganite, or is this a sand that is worth paying the LFS prices? If so, no problem but I figured I should ask.
Don't do that most play sand contains silicates which is bad for your tank. A long time ago (I mean a long time ago) it was like that were you could go and buy play sand or whatever. Just paythe fish store prices. What you can do is mix live sand with the arganite sand instead of buying all live sand. But for everthing else. What I did was I bought trash cans and mixed the water in them, that way you can lay your substrate and then and the water because what bettababy said if right you can kill the micros that live in the sand if you add straight water. Then you will have the trash cans later on when you want to do water changes, you can make large quanity's of water that way.

dprUsh83 11-02-2006 12:05 PM

Well here is the good news and the bad news.....The good news is I've learned a lot and understand things more now that I have a tank that is ready to go saltwater. The bad news, in filling up this tank it became increasingly clear that it is in fact a 30 gallon tank. The mirrors in the back must have added more depth than I could tell :? I'm thinking, from what I've read, this is probably too small for a beginner, right? :( It wouldn't be a total waste, but definitely a bummer! I won't open the expensive bag of salt until I hear back from somebody who knows what is realistic and what is not. :lol:

usmc121581 11-02-2006 12:34 PM

You can still use it, but you will not be able to do as much as you orginally planned to do. I no alot of people that have 30gal. I have a 20gal setup for my kids. You will be fine.

bettababy 11-02-2006 04:01 PM

Agreed with usmc, 30 gallons is fine, you just have to temper what you plant to put in there. If you work with SMALL fish that STAY SMALL, you could still have 1 linkia starfish and 1 brittle starfish, just keep your maintenance up and don't overfeed the tank.
My first saltwater tank was a 29 flat back hex, and I did amazingly well with the right coaching and a lot of research. My first fish was a pink spotted goby, and he lived 4 yrs until another fish (supposed to have been safe) ate him. I cried for 3 weeks, and cried again when that other fish died in a fire a few years later. It's a matter of patience, understanding, and dedication. I currently have a 15 gallon seahorse tank with 2 gobys, 2 peppermint shrimp, 1 brittle star, 2 seahorses, and an emerald crab. I have turbo snails and nassarius snails in there to keep glass and sand clean. I do a water change once/month, top it off in between from evaporation, and I do regular water testing twice each month to make sure it stays stable. I spend a lot of time playing with them. This is the easiest tank I own, so can you thrive in 30 gallons? I would have to say yes, until you become as addicted as the rest of us and begin to expand into larger tanks later.
Also, on your list of things to do, once the salt is mixed into the water, I would still suggest adding the live rock before the sand, using the sand to help set/anchor the rock. Play sand is a no no now days as there is too much in it that's unhealthy for your tank.
And, yes, you can still keep a clown or 2 in a 30 gallon tank if you desire. Just stick to the ocellaris species, as they are the smallest and most peaceful.

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