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Old 02-26-2004, 04:09 PM   #1
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BACK AFTER 8 YEAR HIATUS

I'm planning on getting back into saltwater aquariums. I used to maintain a 90 gallon fish only tank before I gave it up due to 4 new requirements in my life ... kids. Now I'm looking to get back into it and I'm looking for some help in getting current ... particularly along the lines of filtration. My 90 gallon ran on a home built wet/dry with a protein skimmer and I had a couple of powerheads with pvc wrapped with floss for mechanical filtration. I've been looking on the web and it seems that people are looking to other methods of filtration these days. Back when I was involved, wet/dry was all I had ever heard of salt water folks using.

... so, can anyone tell me what the preferred method of filtration is these days. My main objective is to attempt to minimize brown algae this time around. That was the only real problem I had when I used to keep a tank. I don't know if it was my filtration method or some others factors. Any comments on these two areas would be greatly appreciated (especially since I haven't laid out any cash yet)

Thanks
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Old 02-26-2004, 04:36 PM   #2
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First, it depends on what kind of tank you want to set up...FO, FOWLR, or reef. For the FO tank, the wet/dry is still king and crushed coral is the usual substrate. Nitrates are usually a problem with this type setup though.
For the FOWLR tank, live rock serves as the biofilter. This is known as the Berlin method of filtration. Check the articles link for more detailed info on this. You'll want about 1.5-2lbs per gallon. Many folks are setting these tanks up with a DSB as well. This is a sandbed consisting of sugar sized aragonite sand that is 4-6" deep. This helps control nitrates. There is a good bit of ongoing controversy regarding DSB's so you'll want to thoroughly research them and make your own decision there. Other options are a SSB (fine sand about 1/2-3/4 deep) or CC. The reef tank is very similar to the FOWLR except for lighting and flow. Let us know what type tank you have in mind and we can make more specific suggestions. Also, you might want to pick up a copy of "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist" by Robert Fenner. This will catch you up on the basics that have changed in the last 8 years. The brown algae you mentioned sounds like diatoms which are usually caused by excess silica (or is it silicates...can't remember 8O ) in the water. Most of us are using only RO/DI water now which has eliminated most of the diatom problems. You will have a bloom of them as the tank cycles, but they will typically go away on their own in time.
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Old 02-26-2004, 04:40 PM   #3
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Oh...and WELCOME to AA.com!!
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Old 02-27-2004, 03:28 PM   #4
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RE: WELCOME / NEW TANK

Thanks for the welcome and the info, particularly the comments on brown algae. I'm going to research the RO/DI water and I'll definitely get the book

My plan is to get a 150 FO tank. I used really fine/white Florida sand the last time around and that looked great under the actinic's. I had about 3-4 inches worth. You mentioned DSB ... how does that help in converting nitrates to nitrogen?

I'm going to consider the live rock, but I must admit that I'd prefer the look of a clean (almost sanitary) aquarium. In my last tank, I would pull out the decorative coral and bleach it, stir up the sand, and wipe down the walls to try to get it as bright and clean as possible. I'd rely on the wet dry entirely for filtration (cause I was probably killing any bacteria in the tank with my cleanings). What about the possibility of constructing a sump/wet-dry that contained live rock? Does the live rock require light to "do it's thing"?
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Old 02-27-2004, 06:20 PM   #5
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What about the possibility of constructing a sump/wet-dry that contained live rock? Does the live rock require light to "do it's thing"?
A perfectly viable option. This is refered to as a refugium or fuge. basically the sump is given minimum lighting (the LR should have some light for algaes n such (they are unsightly some times, but it's part of the natural filtering)), a DSB and LR. a few critters like a brittle star and maybe some snails/crabs and your fuge will handle everything for you.
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Old 02-27-2004, 07:57 PM   #6
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The only potential problem I see with this setup would be the amount of LR you could get in the fuge. You might be limited to a small bioload in the main tank although I think you could still have a nice display as long as you stayed away from large predators such as lions, eels, ect...
The DSB, in its deeper regions, is anoxic. The bacteria that grows in the anoxic regions processes nitrates into nitrogen gas...or so is the theory. It seems to be working well in my tanks. Another plus to a DSB is the increased diversity of life in the tank. It is full of little critters...worms, pods, ect... that keep it stirred and working. These also provide a natural food supply for the fish as long as you let them get well established before adding fish to the system.
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Old 03-01-2004, 06:28 PM   #7
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If the Berlin method is cycling the waste all the way through to a gaseous state and out of the aquirium, does that mean that you don't have to do partial water changes?

I see your point about the amount of LR that I could fit in a fuge. I guess I'm still going to consider this option. I'm kicking around the idea of building my own stand around a fairly large fuge (say about 60 gals), since I obviously can't fit that through the back opening of a cookie cutter stand). One plus for this method would be a fairly simple conversion to a reef system down the road, since I'd already be doing a good portion of the advanced filtering less the kalwasser (sp) and trace element supplementation, etc. I'm also considering setting up a macro algae farm in this "fuge".

I still need to weigh the pros and cons. I'm only going to go to extreme's with advanced filtering if it's going to make my weekly maintenance requirements go down in terms of fewer if any water changes and much less diatoms than my last go at it. Do you think this will work out as planned, or would I be better off going wet/dry with protien skimmer and betting on the RO/DI to control the diatoms? Also, I read an article by Thiel that said that the RO/DI filters only work for a very short period of time (in terms of silicates) and that the sand that I'd be using would leach out silicates into the water ... thereby defeating the purpose of all my RO/DI efforts. Can you specifically test for silicates to see if what you're doing is working? ... and, how do you get RO/DI ... do you have to buy a special filter? Someone at a LFS mentioned that they just buy distilled or buy it from one of these water dispensing machines that you buy filtered water by the gallon. Do these options work?

Sorry for all the freshman questions ... apparently I've got more cathing up to do than I figured!
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Old 03-01-2004, 11:15 PM   #8
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It can be a pain but I get all my RO/DI water at Wal-Mart for about 33 cents a gallon. I guess if you were doing a 10 percent water change weekly that comes out to about 15 bucks a month which dosent seem all that bad. Lets face it this is an expensive hobby. You think water is tough, it is a good thing you only want fish as understanding reef lighting is far more complicated than any college course I ever took welcome back...

Doan
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Old 03-02-2004, 06:32 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by IMPERATORFAN
If the Berlin method is cycling the waste all the way through to a gaseous state and out of the aquirium, does that mean that you don't have to do partial water changes?
The Berlin method doesn't convert all waste to nitrogen gas. A DSB is required to do this and, lately, problems have arisen with those when used in the main tank...they seem to start causing problems after about 5 years. They also only process nitrate. There are many other contaminants in the tank besides nitrate. So, IMO, not doing regular water changes is not an option. I'm sure I'll make someone mad here, but to quote Anthony Calfo on water changes: "Aquarist who claim they do water changes less often (than monthly) or not at all are not doing the industry a favor by bragging that they can't kill most things in their tank no matter how hard they try. It's just luck and the grace of God. If you send 100 chickens running across a busy freeway, some are going to make it across, but the rest are going to be hood ornaments. It's just a matter of statistics. (Book of Coral Propagation, page 161)" Meaning some folks can get by with it with luck, but that's all. Dilution is the solution to pollution.

Quote:
I see your point about the amount of LR that I could fit in a fuge. I guess I'm still going to consider this option. I'm kicking around the idea of building my own stand around a fairly large fuge (say about 60 gals), since I obviously can't fit that through the back opening of a cookie cutter stand). One plus for this method would be a fairly simple conversion to a reef system down the road, since I'd already be doing a good portion of the advanced filtering less the kalwasser (sp) and trace element supplementation, etc. I'm also considering setting up a macro algae farm in this "fuge".
A fuge is a great idea. I would say that it will improve your tank immeasurably. One thing I would warn you about is the use of caulerpa though. It exudes toxins that inhibit the growth of coral and requires frequent and careful pruning to prevent it from crashing and fouling the tank. When it crashes, all the nutrients that is has absorbed are released back into the tank. I'm not saying you can't use it, just that you have to be careful with it. I'm going to do a seagrass fuge next time...probably using turtle grass.

Quote:
I still need to weigh the pros and cons. I'm only going to go to extreme's with advanced filtering if it's going to make my weekly maintenance requirements go down in terms of fewer if any water changes and much less diatoms than my last go at it. Do you think this will work out as planned, or would I be better off going wet/dry with protien skimmer and betting on the RO/DI to control the diatoms? Also, I read an article by Thiel that said that the RO/DI filters only work for a very short period of time (in terms of silicates) and that the sand that I'd be using would leach out silicates into the water ... thereby defeating the purpose of all my RO/DI efforts.
Well, I can't say I agree with that statement even if it was made by Theil. The RO membrane uses rejection to filter the water. It doesn't actually "filter" like a floss or paper filter does. It just lets certain size molecules through...the rest are rejected and sent out via the wastewater line. The water then goes through the DI chamber for a final polish and removal of the last bit of dissolved solids. Whether the sand will leach out the silicates or not I can't say. The diatoms will consume the silicates until there isn't enough left to support them, then they will die off. Really, IMO, the wet/dry is more of an extreme filtering option than the Berlin method using the LR and LS. The RO unit removes much more than just dirt and silicates. It will, when used in conjunction with a sediment and carbon block filter, remove chlorine, chloramine, copper, zinc, other heavy metals, chemicals, bacteria, nitrate, ect... Properly treated RO/DI water is about as pure as you can get.

Quote:
Can you specifically test for silicates to see if what you're doing is working?
Yes, I know Seachem makes a test kit for silicate...I'm sure there are others. I would not trust anything other than Seachem or Salifert although I'm looking into the Hanna kits.
Quote:
... and, how do you get RO/DI ... do you have to buy a special filter? Someone at a LFS mentioned that they just buy distilled or buy it from one of these water dispensing machines that you buy filtered water by the gallon. Do these options work?
You can buy RO water from a Wal Mart or other store that has a dispenser. You can also use distilled. I think you'll find that it's a bit of a pain to do this if you're using much water at all though. You can buy your own RO/DI unit that will fit under your kitchen sink if you wish. I recommend the Aqua FX units. I won't go into my sales pitch here, but if you want to know more about them, feel free to PM me and I'll tell you why I feel they are superior to most other units out there.

Quote:
Sorry for all the freshman questions ... apparently I've got more cathing up to do than I figured!
No problem at all. You are asking pertinent questions that show you are doing some research. I hope we can give you advice that will help you get a successful tank going.
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Old 03-05-2004, 04:22 PM   #10
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Can't thank you all enough for the advice. I'm looking forward to getting started and seeing how these new methods work. Thanks again.

Scot
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