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Old 09-22-2003, 02:45 AM   #1
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Things I have learned over the years... it may help newbies

New to the forum and reading some of the messages here.. I figured I would go ahead and post some things I have learned over the years to help people out. This is basic information for people starting tanks. This info is in no particular order...its just coming off the top of my head as I think about it. And remember.. you will spend money.

0: Get a large collection of 5 gallon buckets.

1: If you are going to get a 55 gallon tank.. spend the extra money and get a 75 gallon tank. It's basically the same size tank except you get more depth to it. Its not that much more in price.. except maybe the stand.

2: If you are going to build a reef tank.. don't buy standard lights that come with the tank. Don't buy glass covers for the tank. For a 75 gallon tank I recommend two 250w 10k or 20kmetal halides in a retro kit and two 110w VHO actinics. Mount these on the your tanks hood (well.. ill get into this a little more). Expect to spend money.

3: If your tank stand comes with a nice wooden hood (cover) then you may need to raise this higher off the tank. For example.. I had my two 110w VHOs and my two 250w MHs about a foot from the water. While this was ok at first.. I had some coral burn from being too **** close. Not to mention my evaporation rate on the water was a little high. Spend some money and raise the lights/cover up to about 2 feet from the surface of the water.

4: Got Algae? The secret to having a clean tank is all in the water. Yeah.. and it's _NOT_ tap water. Go out.. get yourself a 35 gallon garbage pail and stick this in your basement. Then go out and get a 3-stage RO/DI unit (They run around $100-$200 bucks). Then.. hook the RO/DI unit up to a sink in the basement and make about 35 gallons of RO/DI water. Then.. use this RO/DI water for your water changes, top-off systems, or any time you need to add water to your tank. I will explain why.

During the initial setup of your tank most of you will use city water. Whatever.. its fine. But what you need to do is let your tank go through the entire algae phase. You will see brown algae, sometimes green algae ..and eventually the algae will use up all the phosphates in the water and die off. BUT.. if you add tap water back into your tank you are basically replenishing your source of phosphate (food for algae). So when you use tap water you are feeding the algae in your tank.... if you use RO/DI water you won't have to worry about algae break-outs.

5: If you get a bio / filter / sump-like system you will probably hate it. But while it's annoying it does allow for some neat things. You can put in a in-sump protein skimmer. You can also keep the sump around for topping your tank off with fresh water. While some people put their heaters in the sump I recommend leaving it in the main tank. Hook a small UPS (uninterruptable power supply) to the heater. This way if the power goes out the main tank will still stay warm for awhile.

6: If you have MH and VHO lights running most likely your tank will run hot. Go to radio shack and buy four 4" AC fans. You may have to solder electrial plugs on them but it's not that hard. Take the four fans and mount them in the hood/cover of your tank. This will keep air flow over the light and seriously lower the water temp in your tank.

How does this cool the tank? -> through evaporation. And what happens during evaporation -> You lose water in your tank. Which leads me to my next item... build a water top-off system.

6b: If you have the cash buy a water chiller. But for most of us.. read on.

7: Build yourself a nice water top-off system. This is tricky and requires some thought and money. My system with the lights running was probably doing about 2 gallons of evaporation every day. So instead of dumping gallons of RO/DI into the tank every 2 days.. this system will make your life easier.

I'm sure most people won't be able to do this but maybe this will spark some ideas. Here is what I use:
You want to have a float switch in your fish tank sump so that when the water drops it turns on a pump that sits in your RO/DI garbage pail in the basement. This pumps RO/DI water up to the fish tank and tops it off. I highly recommend you pay the extra $60 bucks and buy a second float switch or you will end up like me and flood your house with RO/DI water a few times. The second float switch is your insurance and well worth the money.

Anyway..

Position your 35 gallon container of RO/DI water in the basement near a sink. So this way you can make water every week or so.
Go online and purchase TWO micro float switches (UltraLife Float Switch: Price: $59.95)
Purchase a House SumpPump or utility pump at Home-Depot. Purchase a 50 foot garden hose. Purchase a 50 foot extension cord.

Hook the garden hose to the pump and place this into your 35 gallon RO/DI garbage pail in the basement. Run the hose up to your fish tank. Maybe through a wall, floor, or whatever your wife/husband will let you do. Put the hose into your fish tank sump.

Run the electrical extension cord from the pump in your RO/DI garbage pail to your fish tank. Hook this extension cord into the First float switch you have.

Take the first float switch and (tape it or glue it .. whatever) hook it into your sump so that its pretty high up in the sump. Set the switch so that its always ON.. and .. if water comes up in the sump it would turn the power OFF. This is your fail-safe float switch. This will always be on unless the water flows past the second float.

Take the second float switch and hook it into your sump at the desired water height. Set the switch so that when the water drops it turns the switch ON. When the water rises the switch turns OFF.

Take the second float switch and hook it into the first switch.

Now .. when the water in your tank drops the system will turn on and pump fresh RO/DI into your tank. Usually every few minutes as the float system is pretty precise. And like I mentioned if the water goes past the second float it will hit the first float and turn the whole system off.


8: If you are going to do a Reef tank make sure you take any fish/inverts out of the tank before placing your Live Rock in. Your tank will take a few weeks to cycle then you can put your fish/inverts back in. If you leave your animals in the tank and introduce a large portion of LR you will spike the tank and end up killing them.


9: Never add caulerpa algae to your tank. Check any rocks or corals for any caulerpa algae. While this algae is great for fish food.. it grows like a weed in your tank and basically takes over everything. What a ***** to remove.

10: Setup a hospital tank.
yeah yeah.. i know I know.. It's a pain in the *** to do so.. but face it. If you have a reef tank setup the last thing you need to deal with is ICK or some stupid disease. You can't treat your reef tank with copper so if you introduce ICK into your main tank you are F'd. Take the time and quarantine all fish in a hospital tank for awhile before putting them into your main tank. Never introduce store or shipping water into your main tank. Never introduce hospital tank water into your main tank. Keep your main tank clean.

Remember.. if you treat any animals with copper .. any rocks that were in that copper water cannot go back into your main tank. No chemicals, no copper, no nothing goes into your main reef tank.

I'm serious. Setup that stupid 10 gallon tank someplace out of site and keep it running around the time you are thinking of purchasing some new fish.

11: Setup your main tank with a 6 inch sand bed. Go to home depot and find that southdown playsand. I think its under another name now. I'm sure the people here will help you out. Take the sand and dump a little bit by bit into a 5 gallon bucket outside and rinse the hell out of it. Once it's sort of clear you can use this in your tank. Your tank will initially be milky white for a few days. Unless you have another filter.. which leads me to my next item.

12: Get yourself a normal canister filter. While people say LR and your Sump is fine.. I find that a nice canister filter comes in handy. During the setup of the tank I use it. I put charcoal into it and run it for 3 days to buffer the water a bit. They say you should never run charcoal in your reef tank but if you change it out pretty quickly its not a big deal. Plus its a nice backup to have and it moves water around the tank.

13: Purchase a water alarm at home depot. It's an alarm with a sensor that detects water. Set this up right near your sump. God forbid in the middle of the night something leaks water it will most likely end up under the tank. This thing will go off and you can react to the flood that started.
For example: The other night my protein skimmer air intake tube fell down below the water line. The tube was hanging over my sump wall. So the air tube became a nice little siphon for water and started to slowly drain my tank. But.. my little water alarm detected this and woke my butt up at 4am. I saved the day

14: Purchase a good heater

15: Never trust what the people at the pet store tell you. They have no clue. They have no idea. They just want to make money.

16: Get a real Refractometer. Its the device that measures how much salinity is in your tank. No.. not one of those float ones. Sorry but they suck. While a refractometer is pricey (maybe $40-$60) it will auto calibrate the temp of your water and give you an exact reading of your salt level.

17: No matter what you do.. take your time when putting rocks into your tank. The worst thing in the world is getting a nice scratch on the front glass and watching algae quickly fill the streak. You will hate yourself for ever. While this isn't much of a problem with RO/DI water in your tank it will still appear with some algae.

18: If you have a sump then you most likely have a skimmer/overflow thing in the corner of your tank. Put a cover on it. Stupid fish jump into it.

19: Purchase a real thermometer. The ones that go onto the outside of the glass suck. Actually the ones that stick on the glass are more like mood rings.

20: GFCI : Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt
Make sure that all your electrical sockets are GFCI grounded. I can't tell you how many times this has saved my ***. I'm still alive because of this.

21: If you are like me (scary thought) then you have some sort of surge protector device under the tank where everything plugs into. Timers, pumps, heaters, more pumps, power heads, lights, whatever. Suggestion. Mount the surge protector on the side of the fish tank stand so its vertical and off the floor. This way if you flood the floor it doesn't zap the protector. You can mount this inside the stand on the inside wall.

22: Purchase some towels and keep them for the fish tank. Your wife/husband will get mad everytime they find you using the nice bath towels near the fish tank. So get your own set and save your relationship (if you have one. I recommend that you get rid of.. well.. never mind that's another forum topic)

23: I heard that your Metal Halides should be on no more than 6 hours a day. Anyone else want to comment on this.. please do so.

Well...
that is all I can think of at 1:40am (on a worknight.. ugh). I must say that the biggest thing that helped me was the RO/DI water trick. Having no algae in the tank is the greatest thing. Good luck everyone.


-Motavar
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Old 09-22-2003, 08:52 AM   #2
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Quote:
Purchase a real thermometer. The ones that go onto the outside of the glass suck.
LOL, I have actually found the stick ons to be fairly accurate as compared with a rainbow digital thermometer with probe. I did, however, prefer the digital

Quote:
Get a real Refractometer. Its the device that measures how much salinity is in your tank. No.. not one of those float ones. Sorry but they suck. While a refractometer is pricey (maybe $40-$60) it will auto calibrate the temp of your water and give you an exact reading of your salt level.
I know it is silly with all the money I've spent on my tank to say I never seem to be able to afford a refractometer, more like to cheap, I have found that for day to day use the swing arm hydrometers are sufficient. Monthly I use a floater (more than 12" long and verified accurate with a refractometer from the LFS) to calibrate my hydrometer. If less than 12" the floaters are not accurate, to get a good one, look away from the aquarium trade and look to the brewers
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Old 09-22-2003, 08:54 AM   #3
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Ugh, hit the submit button instead of the quote selected

Quote:
I heard that your Metal Halides should be on no more than 6 hours a day. Anyone else want to comment on this.. please do so.
I keep my halides on for 9.5, if your having lots of algae problems, 6 might be beneficial, but otherwise I would stick with 8-10 hours per day.


Very nice post!!! and Welcome to AquariumAdvice.com!!
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Old 09-22-2003, 11:53 AM   #4
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You mention placing your MH lights 2 feet from the surface. How necessary is this? I'm in the process of building a stand and hood (with many extras) and currently have alloted about 18" of clearence for the lights. I plan on eventually housing 2-3 65 watt PCs for actinic and two 150w MHs (over a 55 tank).

thoughts?
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Old 09-22-2003, 12:10 PM   #5
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You mention placing your MH lights 2 feet from the surface. How necessary is this?
Most people recommend 8-12" these days, I have mine at 7" with no barrier between the MH and the water.
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Old 09-22-2003, 01:07 PM   #6
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Mine are 8"-9" above the water. With no barrier as well.
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Old 09-22-2003, 01:17 PM   #7
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Since MH is sugested to light a 2 X 2 foot area, I would imagine that 2 foot above the water defeats the purpose and you should go down to 175's and lower them to 7 to 10" above the surface... Although it is relative, I have friends that have 400 watt MH 7" above the surface...on a 125 same depth and hight as the 75, but longer...Hmmm the evaporation rate is good as long as you have a way of replacing it...It is not uncommon to replace 5 to 20 gal per week with the use of MH lights...
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Old 09-22-2003, 01:22 PM   #8
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It is not uncommon to replace 5 to 20 gal per week with the use of MH lights...
When I first set my tank up before I turned the lights on, I lost 2 gallons a day!! Now I lose over 3 with the lights on. I like all the evap though, help keeps the tank cool.
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Old 09-22-2003, 08:38 PM   #9
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I found that raising my lighting helped me out. Originally they were 2 inches off the water. Talk about evaporation rate

Because of moving and this and that.. im in the process of starting a new 75 gallon reef tank with some fish in it. Hopefully I wont get lazy and I will keep you guys posted on the adventure to come

-Motavar
"I thought I had 5 fish last week but today there's only 4. Honey.. does that puffer look bigger to you?"
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Old 09-23-2003, 03:54 AM   #10
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Great Post, I loved it! I have designated "fish towels"!!
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