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cal1112333 02-21-2009 01:36 PM

Do I even need a skimmer?
Hey all still learning what I can so I can switch my 40 gallon tank to a reef tank. As you may know I already have a post asking more about lighting, and in that post I was recommended to get a skimmer. Instead of asking about skimmers in my already question heavy post about lighting I made one here.

So here is what my tank is going to be like (most likely) 3' wide 20" tall and 1' tall (at work now and dimensions from memory this IS a 39 gallon tank so ignore my dimensions if they're incorrect)

My filtration is an EHUM canister filter rated to 66 gallon tanks (17 gallon overkill already)

and after more research will chose probably 1 or 2 small power heads

Will use 40lbs live sand, 20lbs live rock, I want alot of inverts and SOME fish (about 3 or so)
What I do think I want so far:
watchman goby+pistol shrimp pair
emerald crab
blue legged hermits
decorator crab
a cleaner shrimp (probabally a skunk cleaner)
several electric scallops (about 3)
1 solitary firefish
LOTS of coral, will have about 7watts per gallon

What I would enjoy, but need to do more research
a breeding pair of clownfish and a host anemone

I clearly don't have many aspirations for fish and am dedicating the tank to the inverts that I have always wanted and had such a limited selection with freshwater. I would like more fish if you have some cool ideas for me.

I had it explained to me that skimmers take out the waste produced by fish and is used to max out your bioload easily and safely. BUT with a low fish load it is a more natural (and in some others as well as my own opinion) better to use the natural filteration of the live rock/sand. This eliminates most suppliments that you need to make to replace the trace elements that protine skimmers remove, because they are allowed to remain in the tank until used, and are replaced automatically with water changes anyway.

So do I need a skimmer in a 40 gallon tank with minimal fish but much invertabrate life? What benefits do skimmers provide that would make me want one one anyway? And do I have enough sand and rock to easily get away without one?

Kellsindell 02-21-2009 02:40 PM

The Canister filter needs to go, unless you are going to run carbon actively. When using a filter like a penguin or ehiem ect, then "17g overykil" as you put it, isn't really over kill. It's actually still not good enough. You'd prolly need something more like 30g stronger then that because of the bio-load difference from FW to SW. The reason you don't want the canister is becasue they are nitrate traps and cause many issues. You can check other threads and you'll read this over and over again

You really want to get a skimmer. It's your failsafe if anything happens in your tank and it'll reduce some of the work by the hobbiest, but if you don't want to get one, then in a 40g breeder tank with 2lbs per gallon of LR and a DSB and weekly water changes (10-15%) will keep you from needing a skimmer. If you aren't going to have this then your chances of success are really slimmed even more-so. You improve your chances of success with a skimmer, but in a 40g it's not needed as much... but don't fully wright it off.

cal1112333 02-21-2009 04:39 PM

The plan with the carbon is use about a 3 inch layer inside my filter as part of the media. This would be replaced entirely about once a month (or less if reading stay good for longer. Would this be enough carbon to make it work? I can easily add more.
Would you GREATLY recommend a sump? I wanted to use what I already had and will be pushed back much farther if I would need one. And I must have been given bad information on stocking, how much LR and Lsand would you recommend i get?

onefish2fish 02-21-2009 05:55 PM

no canister filter.
i suggest a QUALITY skimmer. not only will it help to keep nitrates down it will also help improve oxygen content.
if your planning to keep corals your going to want good flow in the tank with minimal dead spots.
i would prefer to see you get a crocea clam over a scallop as ive heard they only live about 6 or 7 months in most cases. if you have proper lighting the clam IMO would be the way to go.
your going to want about 1-2 lbs per gallon of some quality pourus live rock.

cal1112333 02-21-2009 07:03 PM

Thank you very much on the clam suggestion. I will be getting atleast one, as many as three. I wanted the scallops though for their bio-luminescence. I guess I'm about to do a Google search for some reef safe bio-luminescence additions. But suggestions for more of those would be awesome.

As far as LR goes;
Live Rock Direct from Source - Manhattan Reefs
No matter how often I look Bali CULTURED (concrete based) Live Rock looks awesome, and although I do not want 65 pounds of it that seems to be what i should get (this will be the volume of about 80 pounds of other live rock). Correct me if I am wrong (not just a phrase, I am only now becoming confidant enough in myself to make such comments. but could easily be wrong) but live rock is valued as a natural filter because of the life on/in it, therefore the weight of the rock is not important, the surface area is. Therefore this bali rock per pound is more valuable than almost any natural LR available. Not to mention it looks sexy as hell (best one astetically IMHO on that site).

To avoid opening a 3rd post will also ask about live rock: Is this a good (if not the best) choice for live rock? I do not have my heart set on anything and would rather have quality everything than cut any corners. And especially if I don't get a surface skimmer (for sump systems, correct?) then I will need top quality rock and sand. Which reminds me, whats the best place and type to get the live sand? I dont really care about fine, or crushed or whatever, however I do want my animals to be digging and whatnot (reference my pistol shrimp and goby pair).

Pasfur 02-21-2009 07:51 PM


Originally Posted by cal1112333 (Post 174208)
Correct me if I am wrong but live rock is valued as a natural filter because of the life on/in it, therefore the weight of the rock is not important, the surface area is.

You are correct. It is a silly fact in this hobby that people recommend live rock by the pound. When you consider density, it is not the number of pounds that is important, but the surface area the rock occupies. ;-)

Lets move back to the subject of the protein skimmer, because you appear to be having an honest conversation about running a marine aquarium without a skimmer???? Please tell me that you have moved passed this idea and have decided to purchase the highest quality skimmer that your wallet can afford.

Bottom line. The marine hobby has become widely successful BECAUSE OF THE PROTEIN SKIMMER. This single piece of equipment is the most important decision you will make. Every living animal in your aquarium will contribute to the buildup of organic wastes. In fact, because you want a lot of corals and low fish, you have the need for a larger and stronger skimmer, not the other way around.

The canister filter is NOT by any means an adequate method of filtration in a marine system. Everything about canister filters makes them high risk. The carbon aggressively removes trace elements when placed inside a forced water flow system. Additionally, the monthly exchange of carbon causes continuous changes in the clarity of the water, causing rapid changes in light penetration that risks burning the corals. Moving on, the filter pads quickly catch organic waste, resulting in biological breakdown of the organics and increased Nitrate and Phosphate levels. This in turn causes strain on the carbonates in the buffer system, causing more rapid drops in calcium and magnesium.

This entire process is extremely well documented. The hobby spent the entire decade of the 1980's having this debate. Today it is difficult to find any serious marine aquarist who does not consider the protein skimmer to be the guts and glory of his or her success.

cal1112333 02-21-2009 09:20 PM

Insightful. Thank you! (protein skimmers are one of the few parts that I can find on the cheap) I wanted to avoid a skimmer because I wanted to avoid a sump, and I wanted to avoid a sump because of an obvious lack of a fail safe system. In essence I am afraid that the drain into the sump will exceed my sump pump's pump rate. And if this does not occur, I am afraid of the skimmer not keeping up with the pump (resulting in the pump running dry, being loud and may cause the pump damage)..... The only thing that I can think of that would prevent sump from flooding a slow draining sump pump is the water level of the tank dropping too low for the siphon. In which case this would need a manual restart (if not manual at least a mechanical restart) (maybe this can be accomplished by some sort or suction applied to the apex of the siphon's feed?) But considering I think I figured out how it might work they probably already work, risk free of flooding on their own.

I would stay up and read up on them but I have work after about 6 hours of sleep before work tomorrow (and thats if i count myself as asleep right now). So if someone could either explain it themselves or link me a detailed explanation to save time searching tomorrow, or ill just Google it and sift through the crap.

Thanks again to all you expert aquarists who are taking the time to help me LEARN about reefs instead of just arrogantly regurgitating information. Thats why I'm still here ^.^

onefish2fish 02-21-2009 09:44 PM

i wouldnt go with a cheap skimmer(quality wise), put thats my personal opinion, but keep in mind expense doesnt always mean quality but if you want a good one plan on spending some cash.

as for skimmers being in a sump you can get ones that hang on the back of the tank but then you have clutter. sumps are great for hiding clutter, keeping bigger skimmers, and adding more water volume.
as for the overflow failing you can either drill the tank (which would be the best bet) or use an aqualifter which is a pump that sucks air constantly from the overflow to keep it running always, even when the power fails and comes back on, it will restart the siphon.

Pasfur 02-22-2009 07:19 AM

It is not possible for water to enter the sump at a faster rate that the sump pump pumps. Physics prevent this.

It is possible for an overflow to break syphon, but the risk is minimal with the new high quality overflow boxes. CPR makes some units, which when used with the aqualifter pump, are virtually fool proof.

For your tank size, there is nothing wrong with a hang on skimmer. Here are a couple affordable options that are a decent quality:

Coralife Protein Super Skimmer 65 Gallon Aquarium Reef - eBay (item 290297637327 end time Mar-01-09 17:32:07 PST)

Seaclone Protein Skimmer 150 - 25 in. high | Venturi Models | Protein Skimmers | Aquarium -

AquaC Remora Protein Skimmer w/Maxi Jet 1200 pump - eBay (item 350168399267 end time Mar-20-09 21:19:10 PDT)

As you look around be sure to ask before you buy. There are many many models on the market that are junk, such as the Prism, Vista Jet, Skilter, etc. These units are good for nothing larger than a 10 or 20 gallon tank.

cal1112333 02-24-2009 11:04 AM

2 questions:
can you use a pump to power your skimmer with a return into the tank or will I need 2 pumps?

1000 GPH AQUARIUM/POND/SUMP/FOUNTAIN PUMP FREE BRACKET - eBay (item 350168689041 end time Feb-26-09 12:09:24 PST)
and does this look like a good deal on a return pump? or is that too much pumpage for an overflow box with only 600 gph flow?

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