Hi. I'm new - I've had FW systems for 10+ years and want to start a SW, a reef tank with corals (probably soft) and inverts. I'm planning on a 55 gal tank. But I'm still in the research phase, have just made lists and begun to compare systems and prices.
I am really interested in the Berlin System using live sand, live rock, powerheads and a protein skimmer. But I am finding contradicting info on whether or not an additional filter with a sump is needed.
The Berlin system is very interesting to me. I personally don't think it is as effective for smaller tanks. (for the most part the larger the system the less sensitive your overall tank structure is going to be)
The Berlin system is a fairly accurate reproduction of an actual reef floor (alot better than sand on glass), and for that reason, I like it.
With that said, unless you have a small tank occupancy it defiantly wont hurt. You could throw a little Eheim canister on there for 60 bucks. Or you could go all out with the sump tank but the live rock should keep up on the filtration as long as your bio load is not out of control.
Today's reefers tend to mix it all together to take advantage of all the good parts of the different systems and attempt to avoid the pitfalls of each system. Some people are saying we've entered a such a state of clean tanks to almost be sterile. In such tanks color and growth can actually be impeded.
The typical tank over 40g is set up like this.
Sump. (mainly as a place to put the skimmer)
skimmer, best if in sump as proteins float and a sump will draw top water to the skimmer.
large return pump in sump for small tanks external for larger than 100g.
the rule of thumb is 1lb of good live rock per gallon and 1 lb of aragonite sand per gallon.
internal flow of about 20-30 times the tank volume using streams like Hydor Korallia, Seio, or Tunze.
This can provide an excellent start. You can always get much more fancy like:
a refugium with a deep sand bed of 6" or more. A fuge gives a place for controlled and harvested algae growth and that of micro-organisms that benefit the tank.
Phosphate reactors to help lower phosphates.
filter socks full of carbon to help remove large debris (mechanical filter)
UV filter to fight off baddies.
Ozone generator to scavenge molecules and bind them together forming larger particles that a skimmer can remove.
Each tank is different, each budget is different. I've seen over complicated systems with poor maintenance fail and I've seen tanks that should crash thrive. The most important thing is patience. After that it revolves around how hands on the enthusiast is. If you keep an eye on a simple tank it will perform as well as you maintain it.
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