Trying my Luck in the Saltwater World
I want to try my luck in a salt water tank -- maybe a micro reef right now, I want to try getting some coral
and some fish that would fit,
just 2-3 at the VERY most
1 Damsel (if possible -- I heard you cannot keep damsel's in a 10g, and it has to be at least 30)[any suggestions?]
1 yellow assessor
1 clown fish (either black and white or orange and white)
1 Coral (anything that will grow and flail in the tank - hence I will be buying live rock)
Live rock (no idea how much -- but I want enough where the fish can swim around and not hide from me all the time)
I just need some guidance:
1 - how to mix salt? (how much salt per gal)-(also can I use tap water -- I've heard it should be okay)
2 - I heard by just perchasing a water filter and sticking it with some green plants for saltwater and some carbon, I can simulate the nitrification cycle)
3 - power heads (1 koralia nano should do for a 10 gallon right?)
4 - how much sand?
If this is your first saltwater tank I would personally not suggest doing a nano (micro) version. In terms of saltwater tanks it is generally easier the more volume of water you have. Usually it is suggested to start with something like 75 gallons or more.
If you do a 10 gallon micro tank you do not even need a filter. You would just do lots of water changes, and the live rock and live sand will filter everything. A 10 gallon though you would only have 1-2 fish tops.
As per water, it is not acceptable to use tap water. It contains metals and harmful contaminants in it. You can use distilled water from the grocery store, or buy an R/O system, which in my opinion in the long term is the cheapest route. Mixing salt is fairly easy actually. We use an instrument called a hydrometer or a refractometer to measure the salinity of the water. Acceptable salinity runs from 1.021 to 1.025.
The filter system you are talking about is a refugium. You usually grow chaeto which is a macro algae. But again if your doing a 10 gallon setup you don't need one.
As for sand it is recommended that you either have under 1" or 4"-6" of sandbed.
It seems you have a bit more planning to do in terms of what you want to do, and what you are ready for.
Please know that the smaller the tank is the harder it is going to be to keep stable, and a 10 gallon tank will not allow you 3 fish, especially not those 3 types. Saltwater functions much differently than freshwater.
I am not familiar with the koralina nano filter, so I'm sorry, but I can't offer you any advice with that.
Saltwater must be premixed when using for a marine aquarium. Directions should be followed for what is on the container of marine salt, as the amount used will vary slightly from brand to brand. A hydrometer or refractometer will be needed to measure the spg/salinity in the water, so should be one of the first things you purchase before setting up the tank.
Saltwater can be mixed in a rubbermaid container, a small garbage can (must be new and never have washed with soap or chemicals) and should have a powerhead and heater to mix and warm the water before use. Saltwater should be mixed for at least 48 - 72 hrs before using to make sure it is completely mixed and stable at the right spg/salinity and to be sure it is at the right temp to use for water changes.
I never suggest using tap water in a marine tank due to phosphate levels and heavy metals that are likely to be found in there and would be harmful to the tank & its inhabitants. RO/DI water is the safest to use for a marine tank.
With live rock, typically 1 lb per gallon is average. There should be enough live rock to keep the tank cycled and balanced, and to provide enough room for the fish to hide easily to avoid stress. I noticed you mention you don't wish or enough live rock so as to allow the fish to hide from you all the time. Its important to know that all fish need to have the abilty to hide to avoid stres, which causes illness. The more rock/decor in an aquarium the more secure and safe a fish is going to feel, thus it will not "hide" as often as a fish that is feeling out in the open and stressed all the time. That applies in freshwater and marine situations both.
The average amount of sand to use in a marine tank is 1 lb/gallon. So, for a 10 gallon tank, 10 lbs of sand would be standard.
In regards to the nitrogen cycle... just as with freshwater, a tank must be cycled. The nitrogen cycle is the natural breakdown of waste, and it cannot be avoided. In a saltwater tank, the nitrogen cycle will typically take longer than with the average freshwater tank.
Since keeping a marine tank is completely new to you, I am going to strongly urge you to do some reading, buy some beginner's books BEFORE you attempt to set up your tank. This is not a hobby where you can just throw things together overnight and call it finished. Its a lot mroe complicated than that.
For a new 10 gallon set up, the things to expect to need are as follows:
Good filter, hang on is fine but be sure to keep everything well covered. Aquaclear and Aqueon filters work very well for saltwater provided they are maintained regularly to avoid damage from the salt/salt creep
live sand/aragonite sand
RO/DI water source/supply
test kits for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, and calcium
power head (for mixing water)
rubbermaid tub or garbage pail (for premixing saltwater)
siphon hose (for doing water changes)
When the tank is first set up, mix the water according to directions on the packaging. Hook up the filtration unit, heater, thermometer, and add the power head to help mix the salt quickly and thoroughly. Wait 48 hrs and then check spg/salinity with the hydrometer. Add more salt or more freshwater as needed until a target range of 1.023 - 1.025 is reached. Each additon of salt or freshwater should be given 24 - 48 hrs to mix before checking spg/saliity and then adjusting again if needed.
During this time the water should be heated to 76 degrees and hold stable.
Only after spg/salinity is in the right range, then add sand and rock. 48 hrs after adding sand and rock, again test spg/salinity, and then perform the following tests: ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, and calcium. The target calcium range for a marine/reef environment should read between 350 - 450. If the calcium is too low, you will need to purchase liquid calcium additive, which can be dosed in small amounts daily or weekly, depending on how much is needed... and then the level should be tested again after 24 hrs of each addition until the level stays stable.
Live rock will need time to cure and will do the job of cycling your tank. If you work with live sand the cycling process is likely to take a bit less time. Average cycling for a new marine tank is 8 - 12 weeks. This can go faster or slower depending on your specific conditions, and should be tracked closely with the test kits. At the end of your cycle, the test results should read 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, nitrate under 20, pH 8.2 - 8.4 and stable.
All of this needs to happen before adding any fish or live animals to the tank.
In a 10 gallon tank you will be limited to 5 - 7 blue leg hermits or 1 - 2 scarlet reef hermits
1 - 2 small snail species, such as astrea, nassarius, and margarita snails
1 small fish that stays small, such as an ocellaris clown or the yellow assessor (will need to pick one or the other, cannot have both)
1 smaller species of shrimp
coral options are limited and the amount of light & type of light over the tank will play a large part over which corals you will be able to grow. I can tell you that more than 3 different species of coral is unlikely to work in that size tank. Growth needs to be allowed for, and many corals cannot be too close to each other because they are known to attack each other, sting each other, destroy each other. Corals can be very territorial and each specific species has its own requirements. I can offer you some ideas of easy corals for a beginner with basic compaq fluorescent lighting... pulsing xenia, smoothe mushroom species, capnella, star polyps. Of planning to keep corals, especially in such a small tank, it is also a good idea to find an outlet ahead of time for over growth. When healthy these animals can grow and reproduce at a rapid rate, and if they get too crowded they will either harm each other or die. It is also a good idea to find some useful books and info about how to frag the specific corals you wish to keep, before you get them. They do not all frag the same way, and this will be important for keeping growth rates under control and not killing the animal in your attempts.
You can find some good information to read before starting if you go here:
SW Gen Index
Please keep in mind that the average 10 gallon nano reef tank will need daily or every other day water changes. Different seasons and weather conditions will affect a 10 gallon tank much more and much faster than a larger tank, thus things like evaporation, temperature fluctuation, etc can be hard to control.
Please do your homework well before you begin. I do not typically encourage a tank of less than 30 gallons for marine/reef systems for beginners.
Best of luck to you.
I would love a large aquarium, but no room so 10 gallon is probably my limit, maybe 14 at best
It sounds like you have your heart set on doing a 10 gallon tank.
I agree with both posters that this is indeed a challenge for even seasoned marine aquarists, let alone beginners. And I have heard on this forum (as well as other forums) that people with no fishkeeping experience are better off than people with Freshwater experience when it comes to starting marine tanks. All the kowledge you have about Freshwater tanks: forget it. It won't do you any good. For example, the basics for filtration in a saltwater tank are: Live Rock, Live Sand (preferably a 4-6" sand bed) and a Protein Skimmer (activated carbon will serve the same purpose in this size tank). The basic idea is this: Bacteria on the surface of the rock and sand convert ammonia into nitrites, then nitrites into nitrates. Anaerobic bacteria seeded deep within the rock and under the sand convert those nitrates into nitrogen gas, which leaves the system naturally. Filter pads that you normally use in freshwater do break ammonia down to nitrites, and nitrites to nitrates, but the process stops there. The system then becomes clouded with nitrates, which are a large contributor to nuisance algaes and also have an adverse effect on your buffering system.
Marine creatures are much more sensitive than their freshwater counterparts. As Dawn mentioned, large temperature swings (much more likely in a nano), large salinity swings (smaller tanks have faster evaporation rates) and water quality all become a huge issue with nano tanks. Reaction is not an option with a nano. Once something has gone bad, it's too late.
One Fish. Maybe a False Perc Clown, Watchman Goby or another small fish. But just one. Ten gallons is small for even one fish. With the corals and inverts, upkeep will be vital.
We are not against you soing a nano. We would prefer if you get a little experience with a bigger tank first. We're just looking at the best interests for the fish involved...
There are really good pre-made nano tank systems with saltwater filtration, and lighting built right into the tank. They come in various sizes usually 12, 24, and 29 gallons. Check them out maybe it is what you are looking for.
Top Pick Mini/Nano Aquarium Kits
You might want to google the 29 gallon biocube... I am running one so if you'd like a pic of one just check my photo album here...
That has turned out to be the easiest tank I own. You would still be limited to 1 - 2 very small fish species.. but the care and maintenance would be a lot easier, and easier to keep it stable.
Just a thought...
what exactly do I need to be successful?
I want to just get maybe 3 fish -- 2x clown fish and a small damsel
am I going to be able to get some inverts for cleanup? what about anemonies or corals for the clowns, i want some color too
I just need the basics to get setup
also I need to know, gravel vacuum ? ever needed? am I going to need to disturb the sand since in fresh water it's recommended, I don't know about salt?
a lot of things are just maintenance related, but I just need the info to get the basics straight.
Here's what I know and what I found so far, if possible fill in the blanks? (This is taken into consideration that i'm throwing all my knowledge of freshwater out the window first -- so these are all as though I first started)
1. Need either x < 1" of sand or 4" of sand for the tank. (question: live or just normal sand is preferred?)
2. Need live rock to get this tank cycled(1lb per gallon) - 4 week process or more. (question: how much water changes are necessary and while it's doing a fishless cycle, how can I tell when the water is good for changing?)
3. For the fish stated in the tank, are they compatible? I want some inverts for cleanup as well (any recommendations?) and also 1 coral, nothing more than 1. (basically what would be the most I can put in here all included, and still be successful if I keep up with the waterchanges?
4. I know i'll be making more frequent water changes, i'll be buying all hang on back protein skimmer, I know there will need to be some filtration, is there anything else that I can use to help the filtration and also water movement? I was thinking with the hang on back skimmer, I'd also use a aquaclear filter.
lighting, I know i'll be using some type of compact florescent 50/50 daylight with actinic
anything else do I need to know before taking the plunge? I understand how hard it'll be, but i'm pretty determined, but not without the right info -- I did that with my freshwater, and I spent too much.
any info on equipment, routine, etc would be greatly appreciated. You guys are one of the best, that's why I came here.
I'm currently setting up a 15 gallon nano with the help of several local experienced fish keepers.
I'l be running a thread on the process imminently (the live sand bed, powerheads, heating and lighting is all done and I'm picking up all the live rock on tuesday) so if your in no particular rush you might as well just follow that?
A gravel vacuum shouldn't really be necessary as you'll have huge flow in the tank, disabling detritus from accumulating essentially. Anywhere from 15-40 times the volume per hour is recommended for a basic reef, depending on the type of corals you plan to keep.
There is no real limit on how many corals you have in the tank like you have with fish, as their bio load is virtually non existent. You just need to keep the essentials in check, such as lighting and calcium.
A skimmer is a nice touch, but actually not terribly necessary with the small volume of water. If you keep your changes up (30% ish a week) there's no real need for one. Having said that I plan to have a skimmer, algae scrubber and possibly a refuge too. Though the latter two, if not all three could possibly go out the window.
Live sand is definitely preferred. With the size of the tank, there's no point skimping. With larger tanks, a mix of live and regular aragonite sand works well as the live seeds the "dead".
Your filtration is the live rock. Believe it or not it's there for more reason other than to look pretty, which is probably why it's so expensive.
Power compacts are a popular choice for nano's.
Inverts (other wise often known as a clean up crew) are highly recommended. Things like turbo snails to clean the glass are sensational, as they all but eradicate manual glass cleaning.
Anemones are actually very hard to keep alive for extended periods from what I hear and clownfish do NOT need them to survive as there are no natural predators in your tank. A long tentacle toadstool or a hairy mushroom might be better options.
In my opinion all you need to be successful with a nano reef is:
- Good lighting (not bright to the eye necessarily, but bright in the right areas of the spectrum)
- RO water at the correct salinity (any traces of copper etc will destroy corals very quickly. Who knows what pipes your house water has com through!?)
- 1lb+ of live rock per gallon
- Live sand bed. Preferably under an inch or between 4 to 6 deep, but I have only heard this discussed on this forum and while I respect everybody's opinion on this forum, I feel a bit of bandwaggoning is at play..
- Patience and attention and sensibility towards the tank (this is by far the most important!!)
I'l link my build thread when it's up.
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