Planning salt water for the first time
I've done freshwater for about ten years. Community tetras, killies, Tanganyika.
We have free and not set up a 100, a 50, and a twenty long. Cardinal fish seem to be good for beginners. We'd like pistol shrimp, warden gobies and some beginner's coral.
I'm planning on the 100 gallon with a skimmer in the twenty as a sump.
This sounds rather expensive. The LFS is mostly saltwater and outdoor pools. We've bought freshwater fish from them for two years and are happy with them and their advice. They give me a little store credit to take killies and butterfly pulchers off my hands. I wish I knew how to mail pulchers. I have a fifty and a twenty full of them.
I'd look for a skimmer on Ebay, use regular and wet sand, dry rock and wet rock, wait weeks for the new sand and rock to acquire the necessary bacteria and critters. I have two Odyssea 24" fixtures with 2 T5 tubes each. I'll replace the freshwater tanks with less expensive, standard lights. I have algae problems, anyway.
Begin with two Cardinal fish.
So, please advise me on the plan, from tank size to rock, substrate and fish.
Let me start off by saying how jealous I am of you!
So you will want to get at least 100lbs of live sand and 150 -200lbs of dry/live rock for your tank.
With a 100g tank your stocking options are pretty wide! (Again im so jealous!).
There's not alot of advice I can give you, i've only got a few months of saltwater experience under my belt.
You will want a power head though for circulation, keep that water moving!
Is this 100 gallon drilled for overflow? If not do you plan on drilling it? If not, what Siphon Overflow do you plan on using? I like the CPR products, the CS90 and I think that will fit your tank perfectly with 600 GPH flow rate.
The fact that you are using a sump means that you also need a return pump. I have used the Eheimm Compact+ pumps with success. You probably can use the Compact+ Marine. It has an adjustable flow rate so you can match the rate of your overflow box.
If you are using the twenty to set up your sump, you should baffle it off for bubble traps and the skimmer chamber. Read this: Understanding Sumps to get an idea of how to baffle it off.
When I start a tank, I generally set it up as follows:
I add the sand. I prefer a Deep Sand Bed. The anoxic (low-oxygen) region deep in the sand bed harbors anaerobic bacteria that converts nitrates to nitrogen gas that leaves the system naturally. It might not be for you if you are dead set on critters such as sand-sifting stars and watchman gobies, since it is reccommended that you don't have sifting creatures. They can deplete the population of microfauna if used in excess in a deep sand bed. You can read more about Deep Sand Beds from an expert in the field, Ron Shimek, here: Deep Sand Beds.
I add water. I use Instant Ocean salt mix, around a 1/2 cup to a gallon of RO/Di water. I use RO/Di because the salt mix will add all the trace minerals I need to the water. I also do not know what the metal content is of my water and corals can be extremely sensitive to this.
I add the rock. I prefer 1-1/2 lbs per gallon. I generally add about 10-20% of Live Rock and the rest Dry Rock. I do soak the dry rock in RO water before I add it to the tank and try to shake off any particulates that may be stuck to the rock.
I wait. I want a good population of copepods and amphipods, along with other micorfauna that benefits my system. The copepods look like little white fleas and the amphipods like little bugs. I also wait for coraline algae to start growing on the glass and dry rock. This coraline growth has a great demand on the Calcium levels in the tank, so I check that and add accordingly. Also, any nitrates in the system will have an adverse effect on Alkalinity levels, so I check that regularly and dose accordingly. I try to dose Alkalinity in relation to Calcium but sometimes early on in a system the two might not correlate as evenly.
After a month or so, I add fish. I would have been continuously checking Alkalinity and Calcium and dosing accordingly. I also check Nitrates, Nitrites and Ammonia to make sure that any cycling that may have occurred is over. I slowly add fish at this point, like one (or two if it's a pair) every week to couple of weeks, until my stocking list is complete.
For lighting, I have used every type out there. Right now, I am using LEDs, and I like them. I won't suggest a fixture, because mine is modified from a fixture I bought off ebay, and I haven't used any other model. I have used Current USA T5HO fixtures and liked them. I also used Metal Halide with success. Post links to fixtures you like and we'll let you know how they are.
Any questions, or things I didn't go over, just post away. :-)
Is special lighting needed only to keep coral?
What is the purpose of dividing the sump?
I always used a formula that comes to a penetrating wattage of at least a 1/4 watt per depth inch. I take the wattage and divide it by tank length (216w/48"=4.5). I take that result and divide it by the depth (4.5watts per length inch/18"=.25). This comes to a 1/4 watt per depth inch.
For illustration purposes, a 72", 3 x 250w HQI has 750 watts of light over a 150 gallon tall (72" L x 18" W x 28" D) would end up with .372 (about 3/8) of a watt per depth inch (750/720=10.4/28=.372). So in my estimation, getting that wattage to somewhere between .25 and .4 for a reef tank will help the animals thrive in this closed enviroment.
I would recommend LEDs for lighting if you don't already have a fixture. They are expensive ($500 average) but then you don't need to spend an addition $500 on a chiller that is required with non-LEDs fixtures. You also don't have to replace bulbs.
Also, deep sand beds in my opinion are the way to go
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I'm up to hermit crabs.
Odyssea lights and skimmer. I know they are knock offs.
A 30 gallon sump was all I can fit under the stand. It has a 1000 gal/hour pump, and there is an overflow box. If I stop the pump, the siphoning stops and the floor does not get wet. Starting the pump starts the siphon anew thanks to it's own small water pump.
Kent sea salt. The water has high Ca, and I keep the KDH at 10 with reef buffer. Live and base rock from the LFS
I've had water for a couple of months, the sump has been running for a week.
With the rock came various worms, a tiny starfish and a nickel sized crab that hides most of the time.
Some hard and soft coral frags given to me by the LFS out of pity.
I would like more live rock.
Perhaps I shall advance to snails next week.
The plan is six Pajama Cardinals, two pistol shrimp and their Gobies, a pom pom crab would be interesting.
Unfed Peppermint Shrimp might deal with aiptasia.
This all sounds good to me, I love a Local Fish Store that trys to REALLY help out the customer\hobbyists. Any pictures mane?
No, it's pretty ugly as yet. :-)
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