Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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Lemeshianos 07-08-2008 04:44 AM

Choosing the right equipment
I would like anyone's help on how to choose the right equipment for a 55 gallon reef aquarium.

First of all I will give the dimensions of the tank
Tank Length = 48 inches
Tank Width = 16 inches
Tank Height = 17 inches

There will be a 30-40 gallon sump/refugium along with the main tank, so I should add this water volume when I'll be calculating water circulation, heaters, chillers, etc?

1) What should be the glass thickness and should the bottom glass be tempered glass? What difference will a tempered glass make?

2) Given that the tank holds 55 gallons and sump another 30 gallos with just water inside, then how much live rock and substrate should I use? The rock will replace water so the water volume will decrease. How do I calculate the rock/substrate volume, to find the final water volume.

3) How do I calculate the flow from the tank to the sump? Is there a formula, that based on the overflow holes I can calculate the volume of the water that flows to the sump, so I can match that flow with a pump?

5) There must be water circulation in the tank which is achieved with pumps and/or powerheads. What is the ratio of tank volume to powerhead volume that I should have in mind.
Do I use the tank volume without live rock, with live rock(less) or with live rock and the sump volume(more) to calculate this?

6) Heaters. What is the ratio of Watt and tank volume. Again as above, what water volume should I be comparing?

7) Lighting:
If I use this PC fixture, what corals,anemones etc. could I keep given the depth of the tank is around 16-17 inches.
I don't plan to keep any clams.

Pasfur 07-08-2008 05:50 AM

I think you are getting to worried about water volume. If for no other reason, when you say that you have a 55 gallon reef, then other hobbyists understand that you have water displacement with live rock. And our recommendations of what pumps and what skimmer to use are based on the experience we have in similar sized aquariums. However... the simple solution is to monitor the volume of water as you fill the tank.

The lighting system you ordered is great. You should be able to maintain almost any corals you want, with the exception of clams and SPS corals.

As to water movement, my 37 gallon tank has 2250 gallons per hour of water flow. However, more important than exact gallons is the placement of your live rock and placement of pumps. You have to eliminate dead areas of water flow and have the proper output of current directed properly to provide the corals with the flow of water which they require. Some corals will want very little water flow and some will want to be in the middle of a hurricane. Coral placement based on water flow requirement and lighting requirements (depth) is extremely important. Water flow is also important to prevent detritus from accumulating on the substrate and rocks. Excess detritus buildup can lead to increasing phosphate levels and algae problems, so in essence water flow fights algae growth. I would think your aquarium will have a minimum of 3 power heads in addition to the sump pump.

I like to use 2 heaters, each at 3 to 4 watts per gallon. If one goes out, the other kicks in longer. If one gets stuck, the other does not kick on. It is just an inexpensive place it safe technique.

Lemeshianos 07-08-2008 07:12 AM

I'm still puzzled on how can I figure out how much the water flow will be from the tank to the sump. How can I monitor the flow? The overflows are on the top of the tank so I'll have to fill it completely to start the overflow. And how long will the overflow go? A few seconds to a couple of minutes?

Given your circulation you have 60gph for each gallon of water in your tank.
I take that you have quite a variety of marine life that require that much circulation. Do you think if I go with 50gph for each gallon I'll be fine as long as I don't have any dead spots?
I can buy lower gph powerheads, to have more powerheads around the tank and maybe one strong one for the place I'll put a coral or something that'll require that strong circulation. What do you think?

I'm definetely buying 2 smaller heaters instead of a big one. I don't want to come home one day from work and find a nice fish soup.

I've calculated glass thickness from
for 48 inches length and 18 inches height 9 milimeter is the minimum thickness. I'll probably go with a 1cm in thickness glass.

Are there any specific silicon specifications I should look for besides being aquarium friendly?How thick should the silicon layer be or something like that?I read this paragraph in an article and didn't quite get what it says

The calculations that follow expect the glass to be supported around its perimeter on all four sides. The calculation is the same regardless of whether the perimeter join is in compression or tension. Typical all glass aquariums have all their joins in either tension or shear or both. This method of construction relies 100% on the strength of the silicone holding it together, and is also the weakest join type when using silicone. Steel frame aquariums have the silicone under compression. The silicone is not required to have any strength for this type of aquarium and serves only as a sealer and packer.
I was thinking originally to make a metal frame around the aquarium to keep the glass together as a safety mechanism, but I read that glass has a much lower coefficient of linear expansion that most metals. So during winter a metal frame will put additional pressure on the glass.

Pasfur 07-08-2008 07:37 PM

I can't offer any help at all when it comes to making your own aquarium. Sorry. I can tell you that Martin Moe has a chapter on the topic if you can find his book "Marine Aquarium Reference, Systems and Invertebrates." Most libraries carry the book. It is a blue paperback.

You seem to be confused by the overflow. The process starts with the sump, not the overflow. Follow me here. You have a pump in your sump. You plug the pump in and this causes water to enter your aquarium. As the aquarium fills, the excess water "overflows" back into the sump. The amount of water that overflows will depend on how fast water is being pumped in. In other words, how much pump would a sump pump pump if a sump pump could pump pump?

Lemeshianos 07-09-2008 01:29 AM


So I guess I worry to much over nothing.
The from sump to the tank flow depends on my pump. Obvious but just want to do all my homework before taking the big test.

Just one more question.
Either than providing a circulation and having the ability to pump water back in the tank(calculating the head loss, etc.), is there anything else that I should have in mind when choosing a pump?

Because I can either buy 1 Eheim 1262 that is rated 900gph and will add to the circulation I need (along with some hydro coralia powerheads)
or I can get 2 Eheim 1250 rated around 320 gph(or 1260), keep one of them as a backup unit incase one fails and buy some more hydro coralia powerheads to add on the circulation.

Pasfur 07-09-2008 06:05 AM

I would personally go for the 900 gph pump. Most sump pumps will have a rating that includes head loss. I like to turn the tank over at least 8-10 times per hour.

Lemeshianos 07-09-2008 08:49 AM


As for the substrate:
My tap water is high in various metals and chlorine.
I will install a RO/DI unit and was wondering if i should rinse the sand with that water or if the tap water will do?

And how do you go around rinsing the sand?
Should I put some sand in buckets and run water to make the fine dust rise and overflow out of the bucket?
If I use RO/DI water it won't have enough pressure to clean the sand.
And if I use tap water would I risk contaminating the tank with heavy metals and chlorine?

Pasfur 07-09-2008 05:33 PM

I would rinse the sand with tap water, but it could be up for debate i suppose.

Yes, the only way to rinse sand is using a bucket. It takes forever and then some.

Cody 07-12-2008 09:11 PM

I rinsed mine in Tap. It does introduce a lot of phosphates into your system, but I had nothing else. I would do that, unless it is live sand. Live sand should not be rinsed.

Oh, and get a RO/DI unit as fast as you can, or if you can. If not, get water from your LFS.

Cody 07-15-2008 10:10 PM


Originally Posted by GuppyPower
Live sand???

What??? I've been teaching science all these years and I thought sand came from rock (an obviously "dead" substance). What in the world do you feed live sand? How do you tell what sex it is? What is the legal drinking age of live sand?

Live sand is agaronite sand seeded with beneficial bacteria. This eventually happens to all sand when placed with live rock, as the rock will seed the sand. Very helpful in a marine habitat.

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