01-05-2007, 08:38 PM
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The only time to run carbon in a marine tank is in fish only systems (whenever you want) or in a reef when something crashes. If you have a poisonous fish or invert die you'd run some carbon to absorb the toxin.
Your rock will definitely take a long time to color up, maybe even years. I have rock that has been in my tank for 1.5 years that is only now coloring up. Colorful sponges will take a long time and will only grow in pristine tanks. Coraline grows very slowly that is why encrusted rock costs more.
You say you don't know your PH or ALK. You must know it. It is crucial in a marine tank. You say you don't wish to add chemicals but want a reef. You'll have to get over that. Doing weekly water changes will keep your levels stable for the most part, but if you ever get heavy into coral then your coral will deplete your levels faster than you will replace it. You'll come to call it "dosing" instead of adding chemicals. It will become an important part of your reef success. PH should stay constant between 8.2-3. At 8.5 ammonia becomes deadly toxic. CO2 exchanges can quickly compromise PH causing to to crash out below 8.0. Your water will need buffers to keep it up at the required level. If your ALK falls below about 8DKH your corals will suffer. 9-11 is ideal. Calcium, CA, can be depleted by growing corals as well. CA should remain at 440-60ppm. Now we can get into things like magnesium levels. Mag and ALK work together to stabilize CA levels. It's a balancing act. You'll need to test the tank often to understand your tanks rythyms. After about 6 months of testing you can make educated assumptions as to how your tank runs, until you make more changes. Again many of these levels will stay constant with frequent water changes but due to the cost of salt mixes and or the time it takes to do a proper marine water change they are often neglected, and/or your tank may deplete certain aspects at different ratios and it will need additional supplementation to keep the ratios at proper levels. I hope I explained it well enough for you.
B Ionic (highly recommended)
marine buffers to stabilize PH when needed
magnesium flakes (may never need them)
Reef Advantage Plus from Sea Chem to replace amino acids.
As for lighting demands, you did not state your tank size. I can state that I run 10wpg over my 75g tank but that is only a relative figure. Wattage is a comparison based upon the amount of electric use, not efficieny. I, like USMC, really like my metal halides for the main lighting with power compact supplemental actinic. T5's are more efficient than MH and are great for small tanks. Only drawback is that you need many of them. Almost as much wattage as MH. So it takes several more ballasts, bulbs, reflectors, etc.... to compare them to MH. IMO for larger tanks they cost more than MH. For comparison, I'd like to see 500w on a 50g. Ok 2 250w DE mh would really do it up nicely. I'd add a single full length tube of T5 actinic for color. Cost, about $500. Now I'd be really hard pressed to fit 10 54w T5 bulbs into a 50g tank, but I did say they are more efficient so lets try 6 of them at 300w. Now to get a good quality 6 T5 bulb set up I'd be looking at about $450 or so. To me apples to apples, I'd rather spend an additonal $50 for the mh set up as I'd be getting more beneficial lighting and additional PAR (useable light) to my corals. Keep in mind that you'd probably run a few full actinic bulbs int he T5 set up for color, thereby reducing your useable Kelvin spectrum and lowering your actual wattage or Par value to the tank. Plus Mh have a pulsing effect to them that is considered life giving to the corals. It's a feeling of natural sunlight. Sure you can walk into a brightly lit room full of T12 flourescent bulbs but you can't get that feeling that you can lying around a park on a sunny day. That's the feeling your corals get under MH. The pulsing triggers growth. Mh also causes a shimmer effect in the water that also simulates natural sunlight and causes reef keepers to ooh and aahh in ways that flouro lighting does not. Now I'm not trying to talk you out of T5 as I did say that smaller tanks (60g and smaller IMO) they can do a terrific job.