Starting a saltwater tank

KenFromBG

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I have been thinking about starting my first ever saltwater tank. I have a freshwater tank and though the beginning was a little rough, I think I am through it now. Now I want to get a saltwater tank going. I have a few questions:

1) Should I buy an all in one bundle? I see them for sale at LFS and places like Petco. I wasnt sure if the equipment in those bundles is good enough. I know sometimes they sell bundles of mediocre equipment to try to make a buck.

2) Do I need to set up some sort of reverse osmosis water filter or is there a way to treat tap water for use in a saltwater tank? How do you guys add water?

3) How do I break in a SW tank? FW is a little easier, just put the water and filter together and in a month you are good to go. (clearly Im exaggerating) :)

4) I have seen people say you dont need a filter with SW tanks, you just need live rock. Is that true? That doesn't seem right. What cleans the fish poop out of the water? :D
 

PheonixKingZ

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Now I’m no expert (in freshwater or saltwater for that matter), but I probably can answer general questions, just for my research.

First off, you can check out my extensive saltwater question thread/journal, for typical newbie questions: https://www.fishforums.net/threads/interested-in-sw.462661/


1) Should I buy an all in one bundle? I see them for sale at LFS and places like Petco. I wasnt sure if the equipment in those bundles is good enough. I know sometimes they sell bundles of mediocre equipment to try to make a buck.
Kits like that are very nice, but you can setup a SW tank for much cheaper. If the kit comes with a light for growing coral however, I would go ahead and get it. Most of the filtration systems in those are tank decent as well.


2) Do I need to set up some sort of reverse osmosis water filter or is there a way to treat tap water for use in a saltwater tank? How do you guys add water?
Depends on what your tap Nitrate is. If it is 0ppm, you don’t need RO. Some people still recommend it, but I’m personally not going to use it.

If you plan on growing corals however, you will need RO water.

You treat the water with regular water conditioner, and then you add salt. (Instant Ocean Saltwater Mix is probably the best out there - highly recommended by experts)

It’s usually recommended to mix the salt/conditioner in a 5g bucket, with a powerhead.

3) How do I break in a SW tank? FW is a little easier, just put the water and filter together and in a month you are good to go. (clearly Im exaggerating) :)
Saltwater is much easier than most people think, if it’s a fish only tank.

If you get bottled bacteria, your tank could cycle in a minimum of 3 days.


4) I have seen people say you dont need a filter with SW tanks, you just need live rock. Is that true? That doesn't seem right. What cleans the fish poop out of the water? :D
I still recommend getting a filter. Most kits come with it anyway. Live rock is just filled with a ton of microorganisms that will help but not completely filter the water.

——

Again, I’m no expert, I’m just giving advice from my research. :)
 
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Donya

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Wanted to chime in here on using tap water because it's more complex than just checking for nitrates/nitrites.

There are people who use tap for marine and even corals (I used to do it) but it only works well if you have pretty high quality water with low carbonates in particular. Of course, you don't want a bunch of other things in there like metals and nitrates and you have to treat for chlorine if on city water, but carbonates especially will mess with your ability to even get the salt to mix properly and give you longer term KH & pH issues that are really hard to work with. Phosphates are another pain to deal with since those will get into the rock and then leach back out even if you switch to RO, giving you annoying algal blooms along the way. Those kinds of issues are what made me switch to RO/RODI a long time ago. Your water supply can also change quality over time - so you can have a problem like carbonates/phosphates creep in slowly and then leave you with a long term headache.

That said, water quality does vary a lot from area to area. I'm about to move into a new place that has well water where the TDS is something like 10ppm. Weirdly low since I'm used to 100+ readings on residential water and I was honestly tempted to be lazy and just try mixing salt with it directly because of that, but ultimately hooked up an RO unit out of paranoia since I didn't have enough test kits on hand to figure out what that 10ppm of stuff really was. Anyway, if you've got low TDS and use RO to be safe like I did, you might not need a DI stage to get down to 0-1ppm which is just fine for mixing salt. Some use <5ppm as a threshold for mixing salt. If you've got high TDS you may need the DI stage to get it down into that range.

Depending on your LFS and how big a tank you're getting, you can sometimes juts get jugs of RO and/or pre-mixed saltwater. I've run nanos and smaller just fine with this approach but I also lived close to a LFS that was set up for providing those jugs of water (big box stores typically aren't). It's definitely more expensive in the long run but can be more convenient sometimes.

4) I have seen people say you dont need a filter with SW tanks, you just need live rock. Is that true? That doesn't seem right. What cleans the fish poop out of the water?

Live rock is the biological filter - handles your ammonia and nitrite, nitrate to a degree although sand beds can do more for that. Many tanks still need a mechanical filter. A lot of big systems that have sumps use a filter sock over the line flowing into the sump to perform that role.
 

Arthur11

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Advice for anyone when making saltwater for an aquarium. If you are using a soft bucket or a 55-gallon drum, it is an excellent idea to use a circulation pump to agitate the water. The moving water will help dissolve the small particles more quickly. Using a small powerhead or building a DIY hard pipe mixing system for larger containers is an option.
 
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Gkat66

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I would like to chime in here as well. There are many variables to think about before you start. Make a list of what size you want to start with (and then go bigger) what do you want to keep livestock wise ( research is key !) As mentioned, unless your water source is perfect , you will fight algae blooms , diatoms, and other headaches that will make you want to quit. When I started with SW I bought ro water in 5 gal. jugs but it was 32 mile round trip and a huge hassle. When I added more tanks I finally purchased an RO/DI unit and it was the best thing I could have done.
All in one kits are usually under sized as far as water flow and lights, but if you just want to keep a lightly stocked fish only tank they are an easy way to get introduced to salt water. Live rock is the key to keeping a successful salt tank , if you start with all dry rock it will be a long slow start up even if you use bottled bacteria. If you want to start a little faster it's possible. For the quick method you should have the salt water mixed at least 24 hours and heated ( buy a cheap heater for a spare to use in your mixing vessel) , salt mixes better in warm water . Buy live rock that is already cured ( it's pretty pricey ), Use live sand ,Caribsea has a nice selection, use bottled bac . Dr. Tim's for saltwater works great. Seachem Prime and Stability are also very useful and necessary if you plan on adding a fish , Get good test kits for marine tanks and if you wish to spend the money a refractometer is a valuable tool for checking salinity or more precisely SG ( specific gravity ).
Make list and do your research, you will save yourself a ton of grief and money .
p.s. Brute garbage cans make good mixing vessels I have 3.
 

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