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Possibly Starting A Saltwater/reef Tank? Lots Of Questions!

Discussion in 'New to the Hobby Questions and Answers' started by pokegirl1332, Mar 24, 2015.

  1. pokegirl1332

    pokegirl1332 Mostly New Member

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    alrighty here goes,
     
    I've had freshwater tanks up till now for quite a while, I'd say a few years 3 or so give or take, had all types of freshwater fish but now want to expand. I have an unused and good 55g tank with led lights (day and night setting (don't know if that matters)) I'm good friends with the workers at my lfs and last time I was kinda curious what makes a saltwater tank work so I asked a million questions and got a bunch of answers but still not completely 100% clear on everything, so rather be safe than sorry on this expensive adventure I figured i would ask all of you experienced fish owners out there for some advice and maybe you can clarify my questions, I'm not a clueless baby but there is a lot i don't know about saltwater!!!
     
    how to start it? I know i need live rock and live sand and mixed saltwater but maybe you can explain in a bit more detail?
     
    what kind of filter I need? currently with the tank there is a Marineland Penguin BIO-Wheel model 350, do i need a different filter? if so what kind?
    (sounds stupid asking a few of these but want to be really cautious)
     
    how and when to introduce what types of fish, invertebrates and/or coral?
    I have definitely fallen in love with a few saltwater fish for different reasons (i know not all of them can coexist peacefully so I'll have to pick a favorite or favorites) I really really love the flame angel more than anything, it has special meaning to me so if i could get one I'd love to but if it means trouble I won't. I also love clown fish (of course who doesn't),  powder blue tang (tanks too small anyway, just love it's look), lots of different types of saltwater angels, and just mainly very colorful and bright fish like the azure damselfish or yellowtail damselfish, or various types of anthias. I KNOW that all of these don't coexist peacefully so i'm just asking for fish suggestions based on what i like, or which of these could coexists. Also my boyfriend said he really liked colorful shrimps, seahorses, starfish and eels, Idk if any of that would but I really like the idea of starfish if that's at all possible (PLEASE nothing extremely venomous)
     
    going with the fish I would like to have I would love some colorful corals, I know that they can be harder to care for than fish and take years and years to grow but I really love the idea of a living coral tank, even if it was just coral and not fish for a long time but I really really want a live coral tank I just need to know a LOT more about it before I just go picking things. I was at the lfs yesterday and one person told me not to get corals and just fish then get coral years later but in my mind the coral would be a bit more important to do first, I'd rather not stick my hand in a tank with all the fish unless I really have to, can someone please explain corals to me?
     
    what kind of lighting? I know this would vary depending on coral/no coral and types of fish but should i be getting a different fish tank hood? I said before mine is led and has a blue moonlight setting but idk if that matters, with this i am clueless?
     
    and what other type of equipment will i need!?
     
    also how to do a water change?
     
    thanks to anyone who takes the time to read and answer and help me with my saltwater fish tank dream!!!
     
  2. sawickib

    sawickib Member

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    Hi! Welcome to the dark side! Im not very experienced in SW so ill give as much info as i can.
     
    Im not sure on live rock and live sand, ive heard 1-3" of live sand is good, and 1lb of live rock for each gallon, and SW generally i think 1.22 gravity is a good.
     
    You will need a filter, i have a sump so i cant suggest one unfortunately, but you will use a filter a.) to move water and oxidize the water as well and b.) as a mechanical filter, to catch loose debris.
     
    You will want to cycle the tank first, i personally just put raw shrimp in and let it rot for about 2 months and as of now im slowly adding snails and hermit crabs until its stable enough to add a fish, you have to go really slow when adding live stock to the tank. You will want to start adding some snails or hermits when the ammonia is reading 0ppm for more than 24 hours, at least this is my method, there are many other forms. You will be introducing it in this order most likely >>> inverts (hardy), fish (if your comfortable then add your stocking slowly, about 1 fish every 1 to 2 weeks), and then the corals you are interested in, soft corals are the "easiest".
     
    Im not sure on the stocking for your tank unfortunately, i would have to research them but atm i dont have time :/, i do know that damsels can be very nippy, most shrimp can go in a 55 gallon (some are very delicate and demanding of care), seahorses are difficult because they pretty much only eat copepods which you need to set up a colony before you can add seahorses and it has to get big. A lot of star fish can go in, but a lot of star fish are not coral safe as well, and all eels that i know besides garden eels need bigger than a 55 gallon.
     
    As i stated above, corals are a lot more delicate, and should be added last, to a stable tank, the lighting depends on the corals you are keeping, but i think i know the light you are talking about and it will due for a fish only tank, but corals will die under that light, it needs to be much stronger, not sure on the strength and other details unfortunately. 
     
    My equipment consist of a fluorescent light fixture, a heater, an aqueon water pump, and my sump has a pump and a protein skimmer in it.
     
    Hope i helped! :/
     
  3. RRaquariums

    RRaquariums Chatroom Moderator
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    Ok so I'm no expert on this stuff but I don't think anyone is because there are so many different ways to do salwater and reefs it's really up to your preference that being said I will try to answer whatever I can based on my own experience with my saltwater tanks.

    Let's start with lighting right now I assume the LEDs you have are probably a freshwater or just standard LED fixture this will work just fine for you while you cycle the tank and for the first few months as you add your fish. Later on as your tank matures and you are ready for corals you will need to upgrade your lighting to reef grade LEds, t5 high output or metal halides I'd suggest you google each type and see what will fit your needs best and what you want to spend on them. Now it's important to understand there are three types of coral. Soft coral, LPS/large polyp stony coral and SPS/small polyp stony coral. Each group has tons of diffent species with different care needs. Softies are the easiest LPS corals are a little harder and SPS are the hardest.
    The easiest corals to care for are the soft corals such as mushroom corals, zoanthids, leather corals and there are many more all of which are great beginner corals and I'd suggest they be your first choice you can always get into the other two types later on as your experience grows.

    Live rock and sand are a controversial topic but I will give you my opinion on them some my disagree but this is how I do it.
    When getting live rock there are usually different grades I usually buy whatever the medium grade is since I don't really need the premium stuff which usually just includes lots of the purple algae know and coralline algae.
    How much you get really depends on your filtration and how well you care for the tank but more is usually better so I'd say 40-55 pounds of it would be a good point to shoot for.
    I don't believe in live sand since I not only doubt the credibility of it actually being alive after spending so long in a bag but also when you cycle the tank with live rock it makes the sand alive so I'd suggest saving yourself some money and buying plain old aragonite dry sand they sell it in 30 lb bags at Petsmart for 21$. It's up to you how deep of a sand bed you do 2-3 inches is IMO a nice depth.
    Stay away from crushed coral chunks that they sell for a substrate it will trap waist and give you nothing but headaches.
    Go for a fine sand.

    Cycling the tank. There are lots of ways to do this and as saw said above a great way is to put a full sized store shrimp in there to decompose and start your cycle. The frozen type you can get at any grocery store will work just fine. add the shrimp and leave it in to break down completly while this is happening you will start to several stages of algae spring up and die off this is the cycle running it's corse once you see diatoms start to which are a brownish color film that will cover everything start to happen you know the cycling is starting to get near the end leave your tank lights off if you can so the diatoms don't have extra help growing.
    Once you start to get green algaes such as hair algae it's time to get a clean up crew! These are the unsung heroes of the reef tank they include hermit crabs, snails, some types of star fish, bristle worms, shrimp, urchins, and many others. The hermits will clean up uneaten foods the snails will eat algae and waist and so will the others each has a job to do and a piece of the tank to clean so it's important to do research on the clean ip crew you will need there is no set rules for a clean up crew so you really need to build one that fits your tank. As you cycle the tank you will get readings of ammonia which are obviously bad for any living fish or corals so what you want to happen is the colones of organisms that live in the live rock to catch up to the amount of ammonia that's being added to the system it will then start to be broken by the oxygen-loving bacteria called Nitrosomonas they convert the ammonia to nitrite. Nitrite which can be toxic to fish, but less so than ammonia. The Nitrobacter species of bacteria then convert the nitrite to nitrate. This byproduct of the nitrogen cycle which is considered harmless to aquarium fish at low levels. So your live rock is your filter you are cycling it just like you would a freshwater tank it just takes a bit longer in a salwater tank.
    Now this is where we can talk about your filter you can most certanly run your filter on this tank it will help add water flow and give you more space for filter options. I'd suggest starting it off with some sponges in it that you can clean easily when you first start the tank you will be catching lots of gunk in the sponges and so cleaning them out a lot at first helps remove that from the system.
    Another piece of equipment I'd strongly urge you to look into is a protien skimmer since you are using a standard 55 gallon tank a hang on back would probably work best for you. Some good places to start looking at models and prices are Bulk Reef Supply or Doctors Foster and Smith. A tank can be done without a skimmer but it's a lot harder IMO.
    Another tip is I've found at least in my area salt is rather expensive but I buy it online at Foster and Smith in bulk the instant ocean boxes for 41$ that can make 200 gallons of slatwater is hands down the best proce I've found so far and the box has 4 separate bags each dose 50 gallons so it's not like you have one big annoying bag to deal with.

    As for mixing the salt I made a vid a while back that's hopefully helpful on explaining it.
    http://youtu.be/XSvP2abxGlA

    Alright so your cycle is completed you have tested the water and it's all looking good and your ready for fish!
    Just like freshwater there are groups of fish each having its own needs and temperament.
    It's up to you if you want a community tank, semi aggressive or aggressive tank. I'd suggest a community tank to start off with since they are easier. Peaceful types of Clownfish can be added to a community tank so can many gobies and lots of other cool fish.
    You mentioned a flame angel and they can fit I to a community with caution really read up on them since some are coral nippers and can be mean towards other fish.
    Before starting pick the fish you want and put them on a list research each one and make sure they all get along then put them on the list in order form least aggressive to most agressive add the least agressive ones first and the most aggressive last this will insure they won't fight as much over turf.
    I wouldn't suggest adding more then one or two fish every two weeks once you are all cycled. This will give your bacteria a chance to grow a bigger population to handle more waist so you won't have any problems.

    One thing you will learn is that for every hour of actually doing something on the tank there are tons of hours in research which I find fun because I love learning something new all the time which you will.
    But I say this to everyone read as much as you can on everything don't take any one persons advice as totally true read forums like this one and articles written on each subject there is. The more reading you do and learning the less problems you will have.
    Another thing is be very patient each step of the tank takes time and even though it hard resist the urge to jump the gun take it slow and you will have success with everything.
     
  4. pokegirl1332

    pokegirl1332 Mostly New Member

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    thanks so much for the helpful advice and information! so far i have 60 lbs of sand, 40 live and 20 that is just regular aquarium sand for saltwater, i've heard from a few sources it's a good way to send money and eventually the not live sand will become live as it mixes and over time, and currently have about 10 lbs of live rock (getting more soon) and my tank is mostly filled with RO saltwater that i got from my lfs (a very nice store that specializes in fancy custom acrylic tanks (kinda like the tv shows), gonna try and let that cycle for a while, any advice while i do this?
     

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