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Old 08-30-2014, 11:50 AM   #1
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Advice needed. Go big or start small?

Hi thanks in advance for any advice and sorry if I'm too wordy. I am currently planning my first saltwater tank. I did take care of a reef tank many years ago with my dad but it was a very different experience as we lived in the Caribbean on an island with no LFS, used seawater for water changes and rainwater for top off and found our own food for the fish/inverts. We had good lights and a wet/dry filter, lots of coral and inverts but if something looked sick we just put it back where we found it so kind of a low maintenance/low pressure experience. What I would give to have those days back. Fast forward to now I have 4 freshwater planted tanks (one is invert only) and live in Rhode Island so it will be a little more complicated this time around to have a reef tank.

At any rate, my question is this, do I practice on a nano tank first or just go big from the start? I am trying to learn as much as I can and plan for equipment to do this right. I have learned from lots of mistakes in freshwater tanks. I am patient and willing to do this slowly and spend some money (but not crazy amounts) to do this the right way. I have a large aquarium stand now that was originally going to hold a 55 gal freshwater tank but I have decided to use this for a reef tank. I am giving the 55 gal tank away and am looking into a 90 gal reef ready tank from Glasscages that would fit the stand I have (which I really want to use, it was custom built for me with massive pool table legs from a 1800's pool table. You could park your car on this thing and not worry about stability issues and it looks cool. Pictures later.). The stand doesn't have a cabinet below the space is open, I wanted to do a display refugium/sump with a variety of macroalgaes and maybe a mangrove or 2 because I still like dealing with plants and I can't hide this space so may as well make it interesting in a different way from the reef tank. This room will be our family room where there is a wood stove which is something else I may need to consider/worry about ... it is on the opposite side of the room from the tank but we do get some soot from the stove...

I am starting to realize how much of an investment this will be and am a little scared to jump in with both feet financially on a big tank where I will spend thousands to get it started, what if I end up not having time or not liking saltwater enough to keep it going? Yes I can resell but I'd rather not. Also, the large tank will go in a room currently being renovated and the flooring is not done. It can stand on the subfloor safely now but I will have to move it or lift it when the flooring goes in probably 6-8 months from now so that will delay my start a little more than I wanted (or I get my husband to just do the floor under the aquarium for now and finish the rest later which is not ideal either for many reasons).

What I was hoping to do was start a 30 or 24 gal nano now (I was looking at the Innovative Marine all in one tanks). I was going to buy an ATO and RO/DI system at the same time with potentially a protein skimmer and start cycling with dry rock and maybe a small amount of live rock from my LFS. I would keep this tank in my bedroom or kitchen and would keep it going even once the big tank is up either as a grow out tank for corals or maybe one anemone with a clownfish pair for my son's room. If I started this tank now though I would probably just do LPS and/or soft corals for learning/experience which would move over into the big tank once it's going. Invertebrates are much more interesting to me than fish so I can be very patient on my fish stocking until I know for sure what is happening with both tanks.

My husband wants me to skip the small tank and just slowly accumulate the equipment needed for the big tank, he is a good plumber and doesn't mind helping with some DIY stuff to save some costs. He is also worried about electricity and overloading what we can manage in our house. Our home is 200 years old and I already have 4 freshwater tanks running so adding 2 saltwater tanks that use more devices and cords than the freshwater, he may actually have a point. He's even willing to upgrade but I don't know how much that will cost or when we will have the time to deal with that in the face of many other needed restorations in our living space. i know nothing about electricity so I can't tell if he has a legit concern or if he's just being cheap about 2 tanks instead of one I'm excited and want to start soon with a nano because to do the big tank right we need to wait many months before even putting water in it. What do y'all think?
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Old 08-31-2014, 08:57 AM   #2
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Well id just like to say how well planned and informed you are. I think a lot of people are threatened by the big post though.

Anyway, normally I would say go big right away, but in your case I don't think either way is necessarily a bad option.

Personally, I don't like to wait. So I'd start with a nano tank. I kept nanos for years before upgrading and loved them.

Now the accumulating method isn't a bad way at all. It gives you plenty of time to research and get the nicest equipment possible without breaking the bank. The thing is, once you hit saltwater there's no going back.

Good Luck.
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Old 08-31-2014, 10:48 AM   #3
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thanks for your patience getting through my post, I knew it was long but so much to say...

what do you think about the electricity issue? I was going to ask my husband to install one of those gfci plugs at each sw tank, then I'd have to plug a power strip into that. does that sound a lot to have going with additional 4 freshwater tanks? (who are all low energy with just LED lights, heater and filter and 2 of them aren't heated)
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Old 08-31-2014, 11:24 AM   #4
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I'm just starting this experience too. I hope you have success either way you decide to go. Consider cost is my best advice. The little 29g I started last week has already cost a few 100 dollars for rock, lighting and water flow.

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Old 08-31-2014, 12:07 PM   #5
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It depends how many breakers the house is on.
Where my tanks are (3 salt and 3 fresh) are on different circuits. So I don't over load one.
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Old 08-31-2014, 12:57 PM   #6
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We have a lot of breakers which are all in use to some degree but I think so far all tanks on diff. circuits. The nano tank will likely share either with my 5 gal unheated shrimp/snail tank or share with at least 2 FW tanks downstairs. I guess that decides it, bedroom it is. And I guess this means I am doing the nano. I can see it costing around $1000 to do the way I want.

My first purchase I think will be the RO/DI unit no harm in getting that sorted out now. I was going to get the standard 50 GPd they have on BRS website. Anyone had a bad experience with those? Next buy will be the tank but not until after vacation. I am looking nuvo 30 vs 24 long. Love the look of the cube but 24 seems narrow in depth (not ideal for reef) but obviously long better for most fish. Any favorite AIO out there that easily adapts for small refugium in the back area? (or should I keep it simple with protein skimmer and media reactor & save the refugium for the big tank)


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Old 09-02-2014, 04:45 PM   #7
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IMO, starting relatively large is better if you are uncertain about going really big. I think 75g is a good starting point. You WILL want to go bigger eventually.


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Old 09-02-2014, 10:32 PM   #8
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I would too like to start a salt water I found a nice 70 gallon aquarium (used) that was salt before and comes with everything. But I would like to start a 20 g nano. I have a lot of big tanks and all tanks have their own circuit nothing else attached just the tank


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Old 09-03-2014, 11:56 AM   #9
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I'm with starting larger. I start a nano 4 months ago and in already upgrading to a 125

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Old 09-04-2014, 03:16 AM   #10
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When I started in the hobby a couple years ago, I figured we should start with a 75 or even 125. The owner of my LFS talked me out of it, and to be honest I'm really glad he did.

I started with a JBJ Nano Cube 28, and have upgraded tons of things as I've gone along. The only thing I didn't like about the smaller system is I can't have a mandarin fish, as there's no way the tank could support it. If that's the worst part about it, I think we're doing okay.

Personally, I would have been pretty bummed dropping $1500-3k on a larger setup only to have bare rock work, hermit crabs and snails. Even if you drop $300 on a beautiful aussy scoly, or a crazy colored acropora, there's still a ton of real estate to fill up!

So ask yourself this: Do you have the cash to fill up a larger tank or are you cool with it being rather bare as you fill it with coral over time?

I spent this past weekend building a stand for a larger new setup that just started cycling tonight! I'll be moving livestock from that "starter" 28 gallon over to this. That 28 gallon has been absolutely great for me for about two years.
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