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Old 12-11-2010, 06:45 PM   #1
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Advice on setting up a classroom tank

Hello all,

I'm a high school teacher setting up a new Aquatic Science class. I am a bit embarrassed to admit it, but while I've worked for major aquariums and have lots of time diving and viewing fish in the field, I've never actually kept a private aquarium or set up a small salt water tank. I'm setting up a 40 gallon tank in my classroom that I'll be keeping store bought fish in, my students will also be setting up tanks but they'll be keeping fish they have collected locally, so I'm using my tank for bright and colorful fish. I've included a complete description of my tank set up so far and my basic plans for this year on my profile. If you have any advice or thoughts about my plans I'd be happy to hear them. When I have some more funding next year I want to move up to a larger tank (70 to 90 gallons) and set up a more diverse environment with corals anemones echinoderms etc. along with some larger fish, but for now I don't even have any lights a protein skimmer or a tank heater (and can't afford them) so I'm trying to keep it fairly simple.
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Old 12-11-2010, 07:25 PM   #2
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Ok, adding this from my profile because apparently it doesn't actually fit there:

I'm running a 40 gallon tank, the tank and gravel are both old equipment that was used for the old Aquatic Science class at my school. I have a hanging filter at one end of the tank and an airpump with an airstone at the other for extra oxygenation. All of the decorations are old as well, they're a bit cheesy neon castles and plastic plants, but they are what I had available. I cycled up the tank for about a week and a half while adding BIOZYME to the tank daily to help get the bacteria started. I've been using testing strips daily to check the tank conditions (I'll get a real testing kit later this week, but I'm working from a very limited weekly budget). Last Saturday I added 8 damsels to the tank, 2 striped, 2 yellow tails, 3 green chromis, and 1 domino. Everyone was doing fine early in the week and the test strips were still reading ideal conditions. Wednesday I started noticing the domino wasn't looking as good and thursday I started seeing evidence of bullying, the chemicals were still looking good though. When I came in friday the domino had died (I had expected this) and one of the green chromis was starting to look like it was getting bullied as well, but it was harder to tell because I couldn't get a good look at its fins, but it was definitely lethargic. I buried the domino to add to the cycling process and did a 10% water change. Today I went to my LFS to get a percula clownfish figuring that it would be big enough to deal with the bullies (I'm fairly certain its the two striped damsels). When I brought it in to acclimate it and add it to the tank I did a fish count and the green chromis is GONE, I searched everywhere, but no sign. Best I can figure it died some time late last night and the cleaning lady saw it and removed it from the tank. Everyone else was looking good, the chemistry looks great so I went ahead and added the clownfish after it was acclimated. I'm going to give the tank another week to make sure it is fully cycled and then I'd like to start adding some cleaners (a few snails and maybe a cleaner shrimp?). After that I'd like to add a small blue tang (I know this will need a larger tank but like I said I'll be moving to a larger tank over the summer). My students may be high school seniors, but they're still obsessed with finding nemo so they've been begging for a clownfish and blue tang. If the tang is doing well then the last thing I'd like to add is a flame angel. I'd also be interested in adding some live rock since I don't have any now, but this will have to be done slowly because of budget issues. After that point if it's possible to add some more fish I'd like to as I want to keep the tank full and active for my class and am willing to do extra work to make sure everything stays healthy, but I realize that I'm probably already reaching the limits of carrying capacity for a 40 gallon tank.
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Old 12-11-2010, 08:21 PM   #3
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Welcome to AA. Good luck on the tank.
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Old 12-11-2010, 08:55 PM   #4
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Welcome to AA

Make sure and post a thread in the SW getting started forum... You'll get more help there, most people just come in here to say hi to new folks
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Old 12-12-2010, 08:28 AM   #5
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hi. please make some breaks in your paragraphs so they are easier to read.
you added way too many fish too soon. damsels are very aggressive. they will kill each other and whatever else you put in there.

you really need to put some base rock in the tank at least, if you cannot afford live rock. i don't think you have enough surface for bacteria to support the livestock you are adding all at once like that.


i would remove the damsels, add some base rock (i would suggest 40+ pounds) and properly cycle the tank.
those test strips are very inaccurate. i would not trust my livestock to them.
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Old 12-12-2010, 08:39 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mr_X View Post

i would remove the damsels, add some base rock (i would suggest 40+ pounds) and properly cycle the tank.
Properly cycling the tank means doing it the humane way. The humane way would be a good example to your students.

Cycle your salt tank
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Old 12-12-2010, 09:38 AM   #7
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I hate to jump on the band wagon but something else you mentioned was the blue tang. I'm pretty sure those need a much larger tank than a 40 gallon. Getting a 120+ gallon tank is what they need (longer the better because they like to swim).
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Old 12-12-2010, 11:35 AM   #8
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1. I've been monitoring the Nitrate Nitrite and Ammonia levels every day. Even with all of the fish in for a week they are still reading zero. I don't like the strips either but they are what I have and they did pick up a slight drop in my pH that went back to normal after I did my water change friday, so as of yet I have no reason to think they aren't working.

2. I think there is enough surface area in the tank but I will be happy to add in some live rock slowly over the next several weeks, if you have advice on the best way to add it to an already established tank I would be happy to hear it. I know it needs to be fully cured first.

3. I know damsels are territorial, at this point they look like they've established their territories and are getting along fine but I am still monitoring them.

3. I know a blue tang needs a bigger tank I'll start with a little guy (if and when I feel the everyone else in the tank is doing well) and move everyone to a bigger tank when I get more funding over the summer.

4. I'm sorry I didn't cycle in the tank the way you guys seems to like doing it, I hadn't seen this site yet when I started cycling it in, but it's cycled in now and if you bring my students in to this that way again I will not be coming back to this site.
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Old 12-12-2010, 12:30 PM   #9
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I'm not really sure what offended you. You should actually recommend to all your students that they join this site and do research before starting any aquarium.

Your first post stated:
Quote:
If you have any advice or thoughts about my plans I'd be happy to hear them
You have made some very basic mistakes in starting a tank, and some of the members here have told you what you did wrong and how to correct it.

If you don't want advice from people with real experience you may not want to post here. But, you have joined, so please read the articles and read some of the forum posts to see what problems or success other people are having.

This is probably the friendliest site on the Internet and we are family friendly.

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Old 12-12-2010, 12:58 PM   #10
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It`s not that we dont agree it`s a question of humane treatment. It`s a chance for you to convey to your students what is right and what is wrong. No one was bringing your students in except to ask you to show them the humane way to start a tank. I too am wondering why so upset.
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Old 12-12-2010, 03:01 PM   #11
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Cant wait to see this tank set up. I wish my teacher set up a tank but no. you must be a really cool teacher!
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Old 12-12-2010, 04:10 PM   #12
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Ok, if I came across as overly sensitive I apologize, but it seemed like you were saying that I was being intentionally cruel or setting a bad example for my students. I am doing the best that I can with very limited funds. At this point my entire school budget is going to trying to set up 28 tanks for my students, and I'm starting with 18 old tanks, a ton of instant ocean salt, and some old gravel. The rest of my class equipment has to be obtained from a $700 budget, so everything for my display tank I'm paying for out of my personal funds, which again, as a teacher is next to nothing. Needless to say I'm likely going to have to do a lot of "McGyvering", both for my tank and the student tanks.

I realize that this is less than ideal for set up, but from what I can tell the tank is doing fine and hopefully the aggression issues have settled down. Hind sight is well and good and I will certainly use your advice on cycling up my student's tanks when they get them started, but at this point I'm just looking for advice on moving forward with the class tank. Just dumping the damsels and starting over hardly seems practical or humane unless I have reason to believe the tank isn't doing well.

I would be very interested in taking and curing some base rock on my own to add in to my tank (and doing this for my student tanks as well). I'll read up more on the process for doing this, but so far the one thing I haven't seen is what sort of rock is acceptable for use as base rock? Can I use any old rock or are are there certain types of rock that can leech harmful elements in to the tank? Can I get rock from garden supply center or would I need to clean it somehow first? Finally, after I have the base rock converted to live rock, can I add it directly to my tank as is or could this hurt the fish already in the tank?
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Old 12-12-2010, 04:27 PM   #13
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No problem. Dont worry about it. As far as curing BR for using in your students tanks read this

Curing live rock? I didn't even know it was sick!
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Old 12-12-2010, 06:36 PM   #14
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Ok, here's a question I have after looking around. I've seen some posts about making your own base rocks/live rocks by mixing argonite sand and cement. If I were to make some of these rocks along with rock collected from a local beach and/or some bacteria starting aids would these rocks be useful for adding to my aquarium and/or my students aquariums? The reason I'm asking is because this might:

A. be a lot cheaper than purchasing live rock for all of these tanks
B. reduce the amount of rock we would need to collect locally
C. make a good project for my students

If I am understanding this correctly I could have my students make the base rocks for their tanks in class one week, clean them off and set them up in their tanks the next week, and then maybe start the curing process and begin cycling in the tank the third week?

Does this sound ok or am I missing something?
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Old 12-12-2010, 06:55 PM   #15
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Old 12-12-2010, 07:26 PM   #16
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That's actually the site that gave me the idea. We won't have any lights for growing corals or anemones, but would rocks made in that way still be ok for hosting the bacteria for the biological filter, at least in a reasonable amount of time for my students to be able to use?
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Old 12-12-2010, 07:35 PM   #17
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Where are you located?
Have you checked on local and state ordinances concerning collecting local fish, rocks, etc. In most places it's illegal, or highly restricted.

Making your own base rock would make a great class project. Once the rock is stabilized you can add it directly to the tank(s). By stabilized I mean that the pH has stabilized. Cement has a very high pH level and needs to to be rinsed quite a few times to cure the cement and stabilize it. That's not the same curing process as making LR safe for a tank.

LR refers to rock that is housing the beneficial bacteria for the nitrogen cycle. So any surface added to the tank will become LIVE over time. Coral rock is very porous so the surface area is greatly magnified compared to any smooth rock.

You can use 70% or more base rock and just a bit of LR to seed the tank with coralline algae. You could probably buy one or two boxes of uncured LR, bust it up with hammers and chisels and use it to cycle the student tanks. Of course you would want to have your homemade base rock in the tanks and place the LR on top of that.
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Old 12-12-2010, 07:56 PM   #18
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Using the white vinegar bath will help. Then do several days of freshwater rinses, changing the water every day. If you can use RODI water that would be best. Test the Ph of the rinse water every day to make sure it is down to the 8.x range safe for livestock before using it.
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Old 12-12-2010, 08:47 PM   #19
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Ok, that sounds good, I'm filing for the collecting permits I need, school teachers can get the permits here without major issue. I'll try this out myself over the christmas break and see how it goes.
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Old 12-12-2010, 09:10 PM   #20
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gud luck....~
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