What exactly do I need?
I was thinking about doing a nano style tank but I think I want to do a little bigger one instead. I am either going to do a 38,55 or 75 gallon tank. Now I have no idea what I need or where to start when I do get to do this which should be in the next month or so. I am wanting to do a tank with a reef and all eventually maybe just not to start.
1. What kind of filtration do I need for this to be successful?
2. What kind of lighting do I need for the reef?
3. Do I need live sand to start or better yet what exactly is live sand?
4. How do you stack live rock so it does not fall and bust the tank?
5. How do I cycle a saltwater tank and how do I do and how often do I do water changes?
I am sure I will have more questions but I just cant think right now. Any and all suggestions are much appreciated.
1 Your live rock and live sand are there to provide a lot of the filtration, but many recommend/demand a protein skimmer to finish up the work and remove stuff your bacteria can't get to and can't handle... can be either hang on back or if you decide to have a sump it can go in there. Not really considered filtration so much, but "cleaner crews", shrimp, crabs, and other inverts, are commonly used to recycle leftovers that make it to the bottom. Also of course are the macro algae in the refugium if you have one, or in the tank (or both). Remember though, herbivores like tangs don't give a fish's tail if the macro algae are hard at work making it a better world for them to swim in, they just see lunch.
2.Lighting for a reef or lighting for the non-reef you mentioned you may start with? If you are going to start with Fish only with live rock/ sand (FOWLR), you can get away with lower lights... florescent tubes on a timer even... cause it is all about making it look nice... course the fish do need light as a rhythm cue to keep happy... but not as a food source. When you move into corals and inverts like clams that have algae that live symbiotically with them, you are going to have to move up the food chain of lighting so to speak... ending with hard corals requiring super bright (and expensive) lights (metal halides). Luckily, lighting is usually pretty easy to upgrade as you move along (just expensive), so if money is a factor, get what you need for what you have, and upgrade along the way.
3. Live sand is.. well... sand that crawls out of the tank and beats on your cat in the middle of the night. Unless you have a really tight tank top secured with 1 inch cold iron chains or a baseball bat, I wouldn't recommend it...
Yeah... so... anyway... live sand is sand that is full of more than just crushed coral and minerals. It can have all manner of little microscopic critters runnin around in it.... most importantly of course are the host of bacteria that help your tank denitrify, as well as various other microorganisms. Want a better answer? http://www.reeftectonics.com/livesand.htm . Basically any sand that is in a cycled aquarium is going to end up "live", especially if you have "live rock". Having it from the beginning just helps to get things going faster.
4. Carefully. No.. honestly.... carefully. Remember, if you set it on the sand, and get fish that burrow, they are going to manically seek out weak spots and topple your rocks. They then sit on top of the newly created mess and look all superior. If they had middle fingers.. well...
Anyway.. there are various adhesives made for aquarium use that bond underwater and can help.. especially in making bridges and such. Make SURE they are nontoxic and safe for aquarium use. Some people will use inert material or larger base rock to create the basic form, then put the liverock on specific points. If you are successful with the reef, it'll all be coated in coralline algae anyway. It is also cheaper than buying all live rock. The key, any way you go, is to put the big stuff at the bottom and try to create bottom heavy shapes... wider at the bottom than at the top. You'll know you're doing it wrong If stacking your rocks reminds you of that episode of the Brady Bunch where the kids are building a house of cards to decide if they are going to buy a tent or an oven with their green stamps and the dog rushes through and... errrrrr... yeah.... you get the idea.
And if you are aquascaping with live rock, keep it wet.
5. If you are planning on going with live rock for the initial set up, the natural die off from some of the organisms in the rock will provide the ammonia kick start. Some use fish food, a nice fresh piece of shrimp, or anything organic. Then just sit back and wait... and wait... and wait... Don't worry... it'll pay off... a stable cycled tank teaches the lesson of patience and slow is always better at all stages of the SW aquarium ride. Just remember to keep your hands and arms inside the car at all times. Test weekly, and watch for the typical cycle stages.. Ammonia spike.. Nitrite spike.. nitrate spike. Once nitrates fall to near or at 0, you should be done. Water changes are done really as needed... watch your levels during cycle. You are going to get spikes.. but too much ammonia or nitrites for too long may actually kill off the bacteria you are trying to get to grow.
Now... I'm quite sure others will swoop in and correct me and augment the above with more detailed info... but that's my contribution.
I was going to cycle a tank with LR/sand and powerheads and no filter. But now that I realized that during cycle I might need a biofilter to keep the amonia level, nitrate and all that stuff low enough for the bacteria to start multiplying.
Can I jut get a cheap power filter for cycling the tank considering I will use a good skimmer and powerheads once the tank is fully cycled with LR as a bio filter?
Thanks Rumply that helped alot.
If you are diligent with your testing and don't overload the tank with lots of new arrivals, you should be able to see that the levels won't rise faster than the bacteria can multiply. Where people get into trouble is having too much money and not enough knowledge and patience. They go out and load up on fish and dump so much in at once that the bacteria don't have a chance. It is perfectly acceptable to sit and watch the rocks grow for a few months. That way when you finally get around to adding algae, watching it grow will seem like winning the lottery. Your friends, however, will most likely host an intervention... or a exorcism... depending on how long you sit in front of your tank, and how often you cackle to yourself.
Well by the look of how expensive the live rock and the live sand is and all the tank and skimmer and all else I will need then I definately wont be in any hurry on adding the fish and coral to start making it look pretty. I already have a 90 gallon heavily planted freshwater tank that I mess with about every day so it wont kill me to watch another one get to where it needs to be before adding what I want.
Once again thanks for the help. Now I just need to sell a couple things so I can come up with the rest of the money to start this thing.
I find in this hobby, spare organs are a good bet and should be a decent start.
Really though... I would put down a base of non-live rock and add live rock as a seed.. it'll all turn live given time. Same with sand. Put down good quality sand and go see if you can talk a LFS or a friend into giving you a cup or two of live sand to jump start. True, the cycle speed won't be as fast and the tank won't be as pretty at first (it'll be ... well.. wet rocks..), but it'll get there, and you save money. Others here have posted about good base sand... usually certain types of play sand available at home despot, wallyworld, etc.
Something else I was wondering about was the water. Do I have to use RO water or is there anything you can do to tap water to make it work. I really dont want to buy an RO system if I dont have to because I will have enough money in everything else that I really wont have the extra to spend on it. So will tap water work with treatment or can you buy RO water somewhere?
I've had such bad luck with the quality of the water where I've lived that I gave up and just got in the habit of buying RO water.
However, I have seen experts put forth that if you have decent water (no added nitrites or ammonia) you can treat it to remove chlorine/chloramines and put it in a large container with circulation and let it sit, tinkering with it to match pH and specific gravity/salinity of your main tank. Fenner specifically goes over this method in his Conscientious guide. As I remember though, he was talking a week or more of sitting.
However... I have also seen many many many first hand accounts of why it is a bad bad idea.... and the weight of evidence seems to suggest RO.
Maybe it is simply because using tap is such a long process that people generally don't give it enough time and bad things happen.
That said though... remember I gave up on city water long ago... so I'm in the RO camp outta habit at this point. It is expensive, but I can tell you it is the safe bet.
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