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Old 06-19-2013, 12:18 PM   #1
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Creating a 20 gallon salt water tank

I am thinking about a 20 gallon salt water tank, but I need some info about how to set it up. Please answer the following questions:

1. Are salt water tanks hard to maintain?
2. How often do I have to test the water?
3. For a 20 gallon salt water tank, what type of substrate should I use, sand?
4. How many fish will fit in a 20 gallon?
5. Do I need to buy live coral, or can I use fake coral?
6. I am thinking about getting clown fish for the tank. Do they need an anemone? If so, Do I need to feed it? What should I feed it?
7. What should I feed the clown fish? How many should I get?

Anything else I need to know?

Thanks!
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Old 06-19-2013, 12:41 PM   #2
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1. That depends on your definition of "hard". Smaller tanks are subject to faster, larger swings in water parameters (pH, salinity, etc). Testing should be done regularly until you can identify a pattern and rectify the problem before it takes a toll on your livestock.

2. I have a 20 gallon marine setup that is about 3 months old. I test the salinity every 3 days. I do other tests weekly when I do my water changes. All data is recorded in a notebook.

3. Live sand, 20 - 30 pounds. An additional 20-25 lbs of live rock should be used. Cure everything (with NO fish in the tank) for 4 weeks before adding anything. Watch this: Curing Live Rock For Saltwater Aquariums - YouTube

4. Not many. I have 2 clowns, and will add one goby. Other than that, just a CUC.

5. Live *rock* is best. Corals are much more intolerant to parameter swings.

6. Clowns do not need an anemone.

7. In a 20 gallon, 2 clowns is as many as you should get. I feed mine slow sinking pellet food, and am going to start supplementing with mysis shrimp as a 'treat'.


Anything else: Yes...read, read, read. Do lots of research. You will need to use RO/DI water, mix salt, check salinity, top off during the week...Cycling must be done. Do a fishless cycle. Read this article for info: Cycle your salt tank - Aquarium Advice

I also highly recommend purchasing these two books and reading them from cover to cover:
Marine Aquarium Handbook: Beginner to Breeder by Martin A. Moe | 9780982026212 | Paperback | Barnes & Noble
The Nano-Reef Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Reef Systems Under 15 Gallons by Christopher Brightwell | 9780793805723 | Hardcover | Barnes & Noble

Stay active on the forums here, lots of people are willing and able to help. Ask questions before you do anything, to prevent major mistakes.
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Old 06-19-2013, 01:59 PM   #3
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Great answer above.

I've done both fresh and salt (and brackish) and saltwater is probably a little more difficult, but it was not nearly as difficult as I expected.

The smaller the tank, the more concern that goes with it. Small tanks can get parameter fluctuations much quicker as well as temperature changes. Saltwater demands a consistent environment. Larger tanks tend to make that consistency easier. If you can go slightly larger, I would consider that.
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Old 06-19-2013, 03:35 PM   #4
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Okay, thanks! I think I am going to stick to freshwater tanks for now, salt water seems a bit difficult. And I can't get a bigger tank due to the amount of money I have, and the amount of space. Thanks anyways
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Old 06-19-2013, 03:40 PM   #5
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Honestly, it isn't that bad. There is a lot of prep work up front (I asked a bazillion questions here on AA), you have to buy some gear (RO unit to make water if you don't want to haul to/from your LFS each week, salt)...

In the end, the basics are about the same as freshwater: Keep your water clean, and keep the parameters steady. You don't need a protein skimmer or fuge on a 20 gallon tank (they won't hurt, but you don't need them). The rock and sand (maybe with the help of a HOB running Purigen) is all the filtration you need.

If you're going FOWLR, you don't need bajillion dollar lights, and even if you go reef, the Taotronics sets are only about $150, and are way more than enough for a 20 gallon tank.

There is a large initial outlay of money (I spent around $500, but spread out over about 4 or 5 months) for the equipment, but after that, with patience, you will have an awesome tank.
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Old 06-19-2013, 03:45 PM   #6
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Here is what I bought for the saltwater tank.

RO/DI system
• Pump for SW storage – MaxiJet 400 powerhead
SW storage heater (use any heater big enough for your SW storage bucket)
• 5 gallon bucket (for RO water)
• 20 gallon bucket (for the initial SW "loads", unused since)
• 20 lbs live rock
• 30 lbs Fiji pink live sand
• BioSpira (not really needed)
• Refractometer
• Two Hydor Koralia 425 pumps
• Hydor SmartWave (not needed, but I like the effect)
• High Range pH, calcium, carbonate hardness, nitrite, nitrate, ammonia, phosphate test kits (most are in the "master" kits from API

The most expensive was the RO system, but it will pay for itself in time soon enough. The rest was bought in the span of about 3 months while the live rock and sand were curing and the tank was cycling.
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