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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
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.
Thanks
Gary
 

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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.
 

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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?
 

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luckie8 said:
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?
no need for a cheap filter, the live rock should be the biofilter before and after cycling.
 

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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.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
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.
Thanks
Gary
 

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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.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
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?
Thanks
Gary
 

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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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Most marine dedicated stores will have giant vats full of RO water, both freshwater and saltwater. If you don't happen to have a store nearby, you would almost have to make your own as shipping costs would be prohibitive.

In the long run, it is a money saver to have a system of your own, but a lot of people find the good units expensive enough that for the short term health of the checking account, it is better to buy water and save up. I'd ask around here and get some opinions on what is a good system and what systems to avoid. Also remember to price the filters, and get an average life span (in gallons) so you have an idea of how much you'll be spending per year. It'll still be cheaper than buying RO, but it will be expensive.

But... as my friend who works in the credit department of Capital One says, expensive is in the eye of the card holder.
 

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Rumply has been doing a wonderful job of guiding you so I will just leave it at that.

About asking for more opinions about RO I will chime in. Using RO guarantees you have a starting point with your tank. It means you know EXACTLY what you put into the tank with your hands. If you end up with an algae outbreak you know it's not from the water supply. This hobby works the best when we know and control our outcomes.

For example.

A sudden outbreak of algae need attention.

First, always check your source water for unannounced contamination. Well with RO you know your source water and unless your membranes broke you no longer need to worry about source water.

Second, did something die? Visually check the tank for missing fish. No missing fish or large inverts? OK then on to the third check.

Three, are you overfeeding?

Fourth is your skimmer and other such business in good order?

The less steps you have the easier to maintain, get it? So with clean source water you eliminate a HUGE amount of the guess work. And in general a few good water changes with clean water can help clear a tank up quickly.

Good RO units are not cheap. Cheap RO units are not good. You get what you pay for in life. If you have a local shop that sells it for $1 for 5g then that's great. It just might be easier and cheaper to buy it. That's what I did for 2 years and was extremely happy doing so. With rising gas prices and longer work weeks it proved cheaper to buy my own unit. I bought a 300gpd $700 unit. I can tell you that it now takes 40 minutes to fill a 5g jug instead of the 2 minutes it used to take at the LFS. In 40 mins I could fill 50g of water and shop. I certainly miss the convenience and speed of already having it at the shop. But I just bought a large container like at the shops and can now fill a jug in a few minutes time but my RO unit works like crazy to refill the main container.

If shopping for a RO unit buy a RO/DI unit. Produces laboratory grade water. Should have 0TDS, total dissolved solids. An RO unit can run a discharge of 5-30TDS before needing to be replaced. The deionization resins take it to 0 and hold it there. When shopping for a unit make sure it uses DOW FILTECH membranes. The 75gpd membrane is the most efficient. It produces the cleanest water. The 100gpd membranes (such as mine) produce more water but it has a higher TDS. A good DOW filter runs about $50. You should also get an HMS dual inline TDS meter. They tell you about the status of your filters. Otherwise it's just a guess as to whether they are working or not. If you buy an RO only set up place one probe on the intake side of the RO and one on the "clean" side discharge. Most say to install one on the home supply side, why do it like I say? Because the membrane is the most important part of the system. Who cares what you put into it? You care about what comes out. So sure it might be fun to to place the first TDS meter at the supply and see it drop from around 400TDS to 4TDS at the jug side but then you are also measuring the sediment filters as well as the RO membrane. So when the 4TDS at the "clean" side begins to creep up do you replace the filters or the membrane? When you first start the unit up with the TDS meter installed as I say, write the input TDS on your sediment filter with a marker. When it begins to creep up it is time to replace the sediment filters. This saves and extends the life of the membrane to years instead of months.

If you buy a RO/DI unit place the meters at the intake and output of the DI cartridges. Any increase going into the DI and you need to replace the sediment filters and possibly the membrane. Any increase at the output and your DI resin is spent and needs replacing. This way you monitor the output from your membrane and your resin. Chances are your resin will need to be replaced at a ratio of 2:1 of your membranes.

Please check out Buckeye Field Supply for the best online information about RO/DI units. They also sell an economical RO/DI unit for $125 and that's a great deal including the DI resin and a Filmtech membrane.

http://www.buckeyefieldsupply.com/showproducts.asp?Category=167&Sub=166

It's only about $20 more then the RO only systems.

read the "more info" PDF as the units do not come supplied with connection and drain hardware. As they put it, each system is unique. I recommend the option to remove the cold water hose from your kitchen sink and add the quick tap and extra valve. Get the drain saddle as well as it makes a convenient waste disposal port.

Other options. If you have a laundry room the Y adapter is an easy choice and you can put the discharge hose right into the same open drain your washer goes into.

If you have a freshwater tank do as I do, I drain out 75g of water from my 125g fresh tank and run the "waste" line to the tank. The "waste" water is actually cleaner then my tapwater and has been treated for chloramine by my carbon sediment filters. I actually kill 2 birds with one stone. Better for the environment and easier to justify in my wallet.

These guys are hands down the best I've ever met. I bought my unit from somebody else used and I'll tell you they got onto an online forum and completely walked me through the entire system until I found a torn membrane. Super nice and friendly people.
 
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