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Old 12-30-2011, 12:36 PM   #1
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I'm a noob - typical questions

Hello all,

I'm new to the forum and have set up my first saltwater aquarium. I have had a cichlid tank for a while, but finally needed to get myself two ocellaris clownfish.

I have not bought them yet, but the tank is set up and cycling right now. It is a 20g. This post might get long, so I apologize in advance and thanks to those enthusiastic and helpful members that answer them.

1.) I have very find sand for the bed, but every time I move it around the slightest bit it stirs up and causes an awful fog. In fact, I can hear the filter picking it up and getting stuck and grinding the fine particles. This is annoying and I'm worried that as I add live rock or other ornaments to the tank, it will keep doing this. If I have fish in there and need to move something, will it keep doing this and if so, will all that dust and sand being stirred up harm my clownfish?

2.) There is a lot of foamy build-up around the water line, sticking to the heater and filter and thermometer. It wipes off easy, but this seems unique to my saltwater tank. Never had this foamy stuff on the freshwater tank. Any comments on what this is, how to get it to go away, and what it means? I'm cycling my 20g with two shrimp right now that are about 50% completely rotted away...maybe that has something to do with it.

3.) If I don't get a protein skimmer right away (or at all) how much work will I need to do for this tank? I've read they aren't necessary and do actually remove some helpful elements from the tank... but generally they are good. I would like to avoid getting one if that only means a bit more work on my part. However, if they perform a certain function that no amount of extra work on my part can do then let me know, not many clear articles about these things that I could find.

4.) What's the best way to test for ammonia and other important aquarium parameters? I've always just used cheap test strips and, specifically for ammonia, it's difficult to tell what "shade" it exactly is. Anything more accurate, or any advice on the most reliable way? This question, I guess, also applies to my freshwater tank.

5.) I'm getting 20 pounds of live rock sometime next week for this also. My tank is already cycling... will putting this live rock in speed up or slow down the cycle process that is already going? It should be pre-cured.

6.) Ah! Almost forgot... does the salt in the salt water eventually dissolve itself completely? I stirred it all very thoroughly when I put it in, but I can't help but wonder how much is enough. If it eventually dissolves on its own, then I should be good. I noticed when testing the water with a strip yesterday it appeared that there were tiny salt specs on there... like they weren't fully dissolved. Kind of worried about that... I stirred it thoroughly for a few minutes with a spatula when I mixed it but I'm new so maybe it wasn't enough?

Thanks again for any expert tips anyone has in regards to these questions.

JohnLocke
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Old 12-30-2011, 12:41 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnLocke
Hello all,

I'm new to the forum and have set up my first saltwater aquarium. I have had a cichlid tank for a while, but finally needed to get myself two ocellaris clownfish.

I have not bought them yet, but the tank is set up and cycling right now. It is a 20g. This post might get long, so I apologize in advance and thanks to those enthusiastic and helpful members that answer them.

1.) I have very find sand for the bed, but every time I move it around the slightest bit it stirs up and causes an awful fog. In fact, I can hear the filter picking it up and getting stuck and grinding the fine particles. This is annoying and I'm worried that as I add live rock or other ornaments to the tank, it will keep doing this. If I have fish in there and need to move something, will it keep doing this and if so, will all that dust and sand being stirred up harm my clownfish?

2.) There is a lot of foamy build-up around the water line, sticking to the heater and filter and thermometer. It wipes off easy, but this seems unique to my saltwater tank. Never had this foamy stuff on the freshwater tank. Any comments on what this is, how to get it to go away, and what it means? I'm cycling my 20g with two shrimp right now that are about 50% completely rotted away...maybe that has something to do with it.

3.) If I don't get a protein skimmer right away (or at all) how much work will I need to do for this tank? I've read they aren't necessary and do actually remove some helpful elements from the tank... but generally they are good. I would like to avoid getting one if that only means a bit more work on my part. However, if they perform a certain function that no amount of extra work on my part can do then let me know, not many clear articles about these things that I could find.

4.) What's the best way to test for ammonia and other important aquarium parameters? I've always just used cheap test strips and, specifically for ammonia, it's difficult to tell what "shade" it exactly is. Anything more accurate, or any advice on the most reliable way? This question, I guess, also applies to my freshwater tank.

5.) I'm getting 20 pounds of live rock sometime next week for this also. My tank is already cycling... will putting this live rock in speed up or slow down the cycle process that is already going? It should be pre-cured.

6.) Ah! Almost forgot... does the salt in the salt water eventually dissolve itself completely? I stirred it all very thoroughly when I put it in, but I can't help but wonder how much is enough. If it eventually dissolves on its own, then I should be good. I noticed when testing the water with a strip yesterday it appeared that there were tiny salt specs on there... like they weren't fully dissolved. Kind of worried about that... I stirred it thoroughly for a few minutes with a spatula when I mixed it but I'm new so maybe it wasn't enough?

Thanks again for any expert tips anyone has in regards to these questions.

JohnLocke
Hi. I cant answer all of your questions, but i will try for some. The protein skimmer is not necessary for a small tank like a 20 gallon. From my understanding it is not necessary, but does help clean the water.

For the test kit, everyone on here reccomends the api master test kit. Its very good and much more accurate then the strips. Get the reef version
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Old 12-30-2011, 03:13 PM   #3
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First of all, welcome to the wonderful world of saltwater....as for your questions...

OK - lets do this one by one:
1. Fine sand does tend to get kicked up when you fiddle in the tank - generally speaking its recommended that once it's set you let it be. All else aside, especially in a deep sand bed, you can trap pockets of nitrites and trates down there, and kicking up the sand will most definitely free that stuf, potentially poisoning your tank (especially in a tank as small as a 20). The stuff that gets kicked up won't be harmful, but anything trapped in the sand certainly can be. If you go with that theory, then a clean-up crew will be your best friend for keeping your substrate stirred and clean....nessarius snails in particular are what I have keeping mine clean, and they do a bang up job of it (I also use a more gravellish substrate rather than a fine sand).

2. Not sure what this foamy substance could be - you able to post a photo?

3. It really depends on your bio-load. I'll be flat out honest with you: I have a skimmer running on my tank but the pump doesn't seem to be producing enough power and as a result it hasn't skimmed much of anything. I do 15% water changes weekly and haven't seen any negative occurances as a result. My tank is also currently MASSIVELY understocked, so that could certainly impact the amount of "crud" to be skimmed out.

4. I use the standard reef master kits - usually two bottles of chemicals to add to a vial of your tank's water. They work well enough to get a baseline idea of what's going on. Obviously if you suspect a problem in a specific area, it might become time to fork over for one of the more expensive kits that will really let you dial-in. I also recommend a refractometer for measuring specific gravity (salinity).

5. I am hesitant to trust "pre-cured" rock, honestly - once you add that rock it will likely cause your tank to cycle again, so keep testing and checking the water. Keep in mind that part of cycling is building up helpful bacteria, much of which lives on that live rock - if it's being transported even for a couple of hours, much of that bacteria can die off, so you'll need to give it an opportunity to build back up again before it can really filter the way it should.

6. When you add saltwater the individual salt grains should not be visible at all. If they are, it means that they've not completely dissolved and that any salinity measurements you're taking may not be accurate. When I made my own water I would put it into a big ol' can, add salt mix and a powerhead and leave it alone for a good 5 - 6 hours. Then check salinity and adjust as needed. All told you should see the readings you want for at least a few hours before you add it to your tank. You'll also (depending on where you are and what "room temperature" is) potentially want to add a heater to that bin as tropical fish really dislike large imports of icy water.

There's also some other things to be considered: while you've not specifically mentioned a desire to make this a "reef" tank, as opposed to a fowlr. I'd be curious to know if you have physical filtration on this thing, what kind of lighting etc. Two ocellaris clowns in a 20 will pretty much max out your fish bioload, so keep that in mind as well. Also, if you're currently using tap water to make your mix, you may want to rethink the strategy: RO/DI water is typically the preferred water source for a live rock tank, as tap water can introduce all kinds of nutrients that can cause algae blooms and the like.

Hope that helps and that I didn't totally overwhelm - feel free to ask follow up questions

P.S. Locke was the MAN


Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnLocke View Post
Hello all,

I'm new to the forum and have set up my first saltwater aquarium. I have had a cichlid tank for a while, but finally needed to get myself two ocellaris clownfish.

I have not bought them yet, but the tank is set up and cycling right now. It is a 20g. This post might get long, so I apologize in advance and thanks to those enthusiastic and helpful members that answer them.

1.) I have very find sand for the bed, but every time I move it around the slightest bit it stirs up and causes an awful fog. In fact, I can hear the filter picking it up and getting stuck and grinding the fine particles. This is annoying and I'm worried that as I add live rock or other ornaments to the tank, it will keep doing this. If I have fish in there and need to move something, will it keep doing this and if so, will all that dust and sand being stirred up harm my clownfish?

2.) There is a lot of foamy build-up around the water line, sticking to the heater and filter and thermometer. It wipes off easy, but this seems unique to my saltwater tank. Never had this foamy stuff on the freshwater tank. Any comments on what this is, how to get it to go away, and what it means? I'm cycling my 20g with two shrimp right now that are about 50% completely rotted away...maybe that has something to do with it.

3.) If I don't get a protein skimmer right away (or at all) how much work will I need to do for this tank? I've read they aren't necessary and do actually remove some helpful elements from the tank... but generally they are good. I would like to avoid getting one if that only means a bit more work on my part. However, if they perform a certain function that no amount of extra work on my part can do then let me know, not many clear articles about these things that I could find.

4.) What's the best way to test for ammonia and other important aquarium parameters? I've always just used cheap test strips and, specifically for ammonia, it's difficult to tell what "shade" it exactly is. Anything more accurate, or any advice on the most reliable way? This question, I guess, also applies to my freshwater tank.

5.) I'm getting 20 pounds of live rock sometime next week for this also. My tank is already cycling... will putting this live rock in speed up or slow down the cycle process that is already going? It should be pre-cured.

6.) Ah! Almost forgot... does the salt in the salt water eventually dissolve itself completely? I stirred it all very thoroughly when I put it in, but I can't help but wonder how much is enough. If it eventually dissolves on its own, then I should be good. I noticed when testing the water with a strip yesterday it appeared that there were tiny salt specs on there... like they weren't fully dissolved. Kind of worried about that... I stirred it thoroughly for a few minutes with a spatula when I mixed it but I'm new so maybe it wasn't enough?

Thanks again for any expert tips anyone has in regards to these questions.

JohnLocke
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Old 12-30-2011, 03:29 PM   #4
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Wow... first of all, I was wondering how long it would take someone to give Locke a shout out.

Second, great post and thanks for taking the time for all of that. You know, one thing I've noticed as I've started this hobby is that on forums like these, it is AMAZING how common it is for random people to post such long elegant and informative answers to questions of beginners. That's just great.

Third, my only question in reply to your answers, is: How soon can I add snails and a few for a clean up crew? If nothing else, would this be a good indication of whether the tank is ready (despite test strips, obviously)? I mean, would they be able to handle going in towards the end of the cycle to serve as a sort of "guinea pig" to test it out?

It's just that... it's always nervous putting a nice expensive pretty fish in a brand new aquarium, regardless of what the test strips say. I would have...well... maybe a bit less attachment to a snail.
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Old 12-30-2011, 04:12 PM   #5
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I'm actually currently rewatching LOST on netflix in the hopes that I won't hate the ending as much, now that I know it's coming

You'll know you're ready for a clean up crew (they call it a CUC around here) when you start to really see small bits of algae starting to form on the tank...and once you have a fish in there. Unfortunately inverts are a pretty bad barometer for what fish can handle as they tend to be a lot more forgiving in terms of water parameters. I recently had a 5 day power outage and all of my fish eventually died (primarily due to water temps dropping into the 50 range). When the power came back, and I'd finished cleaning up, I was shocked to find that most of my snails, all of my hermits, and 2 out of 3 peppermint shrimps all survived, and looked no worse for wear honestly.

Couple things to be aware of: you're right, people are all sooner or later more than happy to give you a lot of info: but keep in mind that often they're trying to pack years of experience into a few sentences, so take what any of us (myself included) say at face value. Fish keeping in general, and reef keeping specifically, is not an exact science: there's a million ways of doing things, and none are necessarily "more correct" than any other. As long as you follow the few basic rules (ESPECIALLY at the beginning), you're setting yourself up for success.

A few things to expect:
Once your cycle is complete, you will have algae outbreaks. I've never seen a reef tank start without at LEAST one, generally two or three (diatoms, a reddish brownish algae first, followed by some green hair). It's a natural flow of things and during that period you will be cursing yourself for ever having gotten involved. Be patient, keep up with the water changes and monitoring your water quality - make sure, if possible, you're using RO/DI water, and the biggest most important tip I can give: DO NOT RUSH!!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnLocke View Post
Wow... first of all, I was wondering how long it would take someone to give Locke a shout out.

Second, great post and thanks for taking the time for all of that. You know, one thing I've noticed as I've started this hobby is that on forums like these, it is AMAZING how common it is for random people to post such long elegant and informative answers to questions of beginners. That's just great.

Third, my only question in reply to your answers, is: How soon can I add snails and a few for a clean up crew? If nothing else, would this be a good indication of whether the tank is ready (despite test strips, obviously)? I mean, would they be able to handle going in towards the end of the cycle to serve as a sort of "guinea pig" to test it out?

It's just that... it's always nervous putting a nice expensive pretty fish in a brand new aquarium, regardless of what the test strips say. I would have...well... maybe a bit less attachment to a snail.
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Old 12-31-2011, 11:25 AM   #6
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I completely agree with the being patient part................ which is hard for me because Im not a patient person. Dont give up if things dont go your way................ I have a TON of bubble algae and do 25% pwcs a week with RODI water. lol
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Old 12-31-2011, 11:47 AM   #7
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I picked up bits and pieces of this. And most of it has been answered..so I will not be long and drawn out. Look at setting up your tank as having many stages. Right now, you are in your cycling stage. Nothing else matters until your cycle is done. So get your sand, LR, and saltwater in your tank and pick your method to cycle, either pure ammonia or toss in an uncooked shrimp.

While you cycle all you will do is test your water. Get yourself an API Reef Master Test kit. This will cover anything you will need to test...but for the cycle you should only care about is ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. The more LR that you have the faster your cycle will go.

This step is boring. Besides testing you dont have anything to look at. So, this is when you want to plan your tank. So ask yourself, what kind of tank do I want...FOWLR, Reef,...whatever. Once you know that, you get to start researching fish, cuc...so on to make sure that everything will be compatable. A hint on this part, make your tank around one thing that you feel you can not live without. It can be a fish, nem, coral...whatever. But since that is what you must have, everything else in the tank will then be compatable with it through your research.

We can move on to the next phases once you get that far. And welcome BTW.
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Old 12-31-2011, 12:03 PM   #8
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I would throw your strips in the trash, IMO they are only slightly better than nothing at all. API kits are ok, but they are no where near as accurate as salifert kits, again this is just my opinion.

Invest in a refractometer to test salinity, hydrometers have the tendency to be way out, mine read 1.026 when it was actually 1.020....
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