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Old 03-27-2006, 02:43 PM   #1
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1st Salt Water Tank - Need advice

In about a month, I will be getting my first salt water tank. It's a 55 gallon acrylic set-up. It is a used one but I believe it has everything I need to get started with.

Some of the things I guess, and I am not too familiar with it all, but the plastic ball things, a heater, gravel, lights, protein skimmer, and other stuff. Like I said, I'm not sure what it all comes with but the person I am buying it from assures me that all I will need is water, fish, and coral/live rock.

My 5 Y.O. daughter is extremely excited about this and is looking forward to having a bunch of Nemo's and Dory's swimming around in it. Looking at the prices of those particular fish, I want to make sure that they are in my best financial interest.

What would be a good starter type set-up for somebody who doesn't really want to spend $500 on fish? Especially since I have 0 experience with a salt water tank.

I don't want them to outgrow the tank either. Also feeding of the fish. I don't want to spend more on fish food per week than I do on my dog per year.

Thanks all for your advice.
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Old 03-27-2006, 03:16 PM   #2
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Clownfish are an acceptable fish for that size tank. Hippo tangs (Dory) are not.

Finances seem to be an issue (as they are for most of us), so I will tell you now that even with the bare minimum, you need to be prepared to spend a good bit of money. Monthly maintenance is not cheap. You need testkits, live rock and the other incidentals. Liverock is a very expensive part of the tank. a softball size rock is about 3 lbs. Liverock per pound price is anywhere from 4.00 to 7.00 depending on whether you buy it locally or online. Even if you chose the liverock for decoration purposes and not enough to filter the tank, it is a good chunk of change. For filtration, you would need about 110 lbs minimum.

I guess what I am getting at is the cost of the fish is probably the least expense you will have.
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Old 03-27-2006, 03:18 PM   #3
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Thanks. Is there an advantage to having live rock vs. dead rock?
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Old 03-27-2006, 03:31 PM   #4
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dead rock will eventually become live rock. Live rock is the best type of filtration (in my opinion). The blue plastic balls that you are getting with the tank, will actually work against liverock filtration. Most people discover that the blue plastic bioballs are nitrate factories and replace them with liverock in the sump area as soon as financially possible.

If you choose to stick with the bioballs for filtration, then you would only get as much rock as satisfies your decorating scheme, keeping in mind that the fish relate the rock to a more natural habitat and are happier when they have a good bit of it available.
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Old 03-27-2006, 03:33 PM   #5
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Welcome to AA!!

you have bought the general basics, but there is still more you need to buy. Not expensive stuff individually, but enough that it will add up.

I recommend 2 heaters for your tank so if one breaks, and goes unnoticed, your water temp won't drop and kill your animals. Also, you can either take one out at water change time to get the new water up to temp, or buy a third that will be used for WC's. While on the topic of water changes... You're gonna need 2 rubbermaid tubs. One for mixing new water, and one for taking out old water (same size tubs so you can accurately replace what you took out). You will also need a powerhead for mixing/aerating new SW.

Which brings me to tell ya about the powerheads you'll need in the main tank. I recommend maxi-jet 1200's (2 in the main tank should do, you may need 3 depending on your aquascape). You may already have powerheads in the "other stuff" category you mentioned though.

Buy a 200G bucket of salt to start off with, it'll last you awhile. Your lights, what kind are they. They may just be normal output (NO) flourescents, in which case, if you want corals etc., you'll need to upgrade eventually. What kind of protein skimmer is it?

Other things you'll need to have:

-hydrometer
-test kits
-fish net
-algae scrapers/cleaners
-water purifying solutions, or better yet, RO/DI unit
-GFCI (for your safety against electricution)
-grounding probe (for your fishes safety against electricution from stray currents)
-powerstrips
-mechanical timers for your lighting period


I do strongly recommend researching as much as you can on this hobby. It WILL save you much of your hard earned "green" in the long run.!!!

Cheers,
Ryan
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Old 03-27-2006, 03:38 PM   #6
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Welcome to AA

Do you know if the tank has ever been medicated? Was it used previously for FW or SW? Is it “reef ready”? Are you taking over an existing setup that has fish/inverts?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hara
For filtration, you would need about 110 lbs minimum.
Isn’t that closer to the maximum for a 55 gal tank? I have 90 lbs in my 55 gal and it’s very close to looking like a “rock tank” and not a fish tank. I thought 1.5 lbs per gal was the minimum needed for bio-filtration which would be about 83 lbs?

Quote:
Originally Posted by stony
Is there an advantage to having live rock vs. dead rock?
Two things: Live rock “looks” prettier (greens/reds/oranges) and depending on quality has either sparse or tons of life (coralline algae, corals, & hitchhikers) along with a good amount of beneficial bacteria to start/maintain your cycle.

Dead/base rock is devoid of life and is generally white/brown but serves the same purpose as far as bio-filtration once bacteria builds up within the pores (about two months)

If you seed dead/base rock with some live rock it will all look live within about a year.

Research is key to successful SW fish keeping and as ryguy mentioned reading all the saltwater articles on this site and the articles on liveaquaria.com is an excellent way to get acquainted with all that’s required for this expensive hobby.

SW fish keeping isn’t really that much more complicated then keeping FW or brackish fish. The key thing to understand is that SW fish/inverts come from a very stable environment (the ocean) which has a fairly consistent sg/ph and very low nutrients. They require fairly stable conditions in the aquarium as well to thrive long term hence the reason you want to consider a skimmer which removes DOC therefore keeping your nutrient and no3 levels low. A SW tank can be run successfully without a skimmer (as many have done for years) but require more frequent PWC to keep DOC down. Since SW doesn’t exchange oxygen as well as FW you are also limited in the amount of fish you can keep compared to FW or Brackish. For SW the general rule is 1” of fish per 5 gal for starting out. For FW/Brackish it’s 1” per gal. There is virtually no limit on how many inverts you can keep though within reason. Acclimation is probably one of the biggest differences between FW/SW and drip acclimating them for 3+ hours to adjust to the sg/ph will help considerably.

FW & Brackish fish come from less then perfect water conditions most of the time and more oxygen rich environments which make them easier to keep in less then perfect water. As already mentioned as long as you take it slow ie: doing a fishless cycle, then adding 1 or 2 fish per week and research your fish/invert selections before purchasing you should do fine. I would also consider a qt tank (20 gal) so you can qt all new inverts/fish and never have to treat the main tank.

lr and skimmer filtration (Called the "Berlin Method") doesn’t require the use of any mechanical filtration ie: sump or hob, but does require water movement through the use of ph (aiming for 600-1200 gph for your 55 gal). It is easy to maintain although it’s costly to initially setup.

Also unlike FW or Brackish the use of tap water/de-chlorinator is not recommended due to the high levels of minerals & usually no3/po4. A ro/di unit is recommended for removing all of these elements and to make the water as pure as possible.

A lot of people get them from ebay for around $100. Below are the 3 most popular sites:
Filter-Direct-store (seems to be most popular on this site)
The-Aqua-Safe-Pure-Water-Shop
ROfilterDepot

Also airwaterice.com is a good place if you don’t want to deal with ebay.
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Old 03-27-2006, 03:48 PM   #7
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Quote:
For filtration, you would need about 110 lbs minimum.
Since when is 2 lbs per gallon the minimum recommendation?

Stony, you can get by with 1 pound per gallon of LR for biological filtration, but 1.5 would be a better target. 2 lbs is even better, but by no means the minimum required for biologic filtration. In fact, at 2 pounds, depending on the porosity of the rock, you may not have many aquascaping options other than a massive rock pile due to the physical volume of rock within the tank.
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Old 03-27-2006, 04:31 PM   #8
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Awesome advice everybody. Thank you all.

The person I am buying the tank from is upgrading to a 250 gallon tank. The tank I am buying is mainly a live rock and coral tank with some eels and other fish. Not sure if it has been medicated or not. The gravel is actually crushed coral.

I am still pretty leary of the whole SW thing. I have successfully taken care of numerous FW tanks without much issues but this whole SW thing has me a bit nervous. Mainly due to the costs involved.

There is a possibility that I will switch it over to a FW tank and just raise some Bass and Catfish. Not sure on that whole thing yet.
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Old 03-27-2006, 04:37 PM   #9
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Quote:
Since when is 2 lbs per gallon the minimum recommendation?
Thats my story and I am sticking to it...alot of places use that amount as a general rule. Ultimately, denseness of the rock and amount of bioload are your determining factors.
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Old 03-27-2006, 05:03 PM   #10
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Hara, you would honestly recommend 2 lbs of LR MINIMUM in a 55 Gal, potentially sumpless system (at this point we don't know that stony will or won't have a sump). That doesn't leave alot of room for a sufficient amount of water to maintain adequate water quality if a sump is not going to be incorporated. Forgive me, but that just doesn't make any sense to me.

what is your max. recommendation out of curiosity?
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