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Old 08-03-2015, 07:39 PM   #1
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Do I need a filter on a reef tank

I've seen posts from "Reefing Madness" in several threads indicating that a filter is not entirely needed in a reef tank. I've read that that live rock is sufficient to filter the system. Despite this, it seems people invariably get a canister filter or sump for their system. Has anyone out there had success with a reef tank without a filter or sump?
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Old 08-03-2015, 07:50 PM   #2
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Rock by itself will process nutrients, because it has both aerobic and anaerobic bacteria, so what started out as fish food will end up as nitrogen gas which will be expelled at the water surface, however, when people implement sumps they end up using some sort of mechanical filtration like a filter sock or floss pad, which gets very dirty, very quickly. The same goes for canister filters- they recommend cleaning them weekly so not to have a nitrate build up from all the detritus sitting in them.
Without either of these methods of filtration, where does all that stuff go? Does the rock break down particulate matter to nothing? Perhaps some, but every piece of filtration helps as long as it's maintained properly. Mechanical filtration is a benefit, as long as you clean it regularly.
It's quite possible to run a reef tank with just live rock, but it would depend on the tank, the bio load, the keepers husbandry and feeding habits, the type of food, the flow, the amount of rock, the type of rock...there are more variables than a yes or no answer.
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Old 08-03-2015, 08:22 PM   #3
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Thanks. I have a 55 gal tank still sitting empty on the floor. I don't have any plans of stocking it that highly with fish. Some soft coral and maybe a handful of small fish. I have every intention of getting a filter, but wasn't sure if I'd be overdoing it or wasting money if I got a high end canister - or if I should shoot for something rated in the 75-100 gal range. As much as I'd like to get a sump, I haven't seen one for less than the cost of a $150 canister. After spending for dry rock, live sand, LED light fixtures, RODI, testing material etc. I'm hoping for a small victory for my pocketbook.
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Old 08-03-2015, 09:24 PM   #4
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A sump could be just a spare 20 gallon you have laying around with some partitions glued in. It doesn't have to be an expensive pre-made thing for it to work. All a sump is is an extra container of water connected to the display, for you to put whatever you want in, like a protein skimmer, heater, filter sock, etc.
You'll still need either a HOB overflow box or drill the tank for a gravity drain.

You could also buy a canister and change out/rinse the media weekly and it will work just fine for particulate matter with no ill effects.
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Old 08-03-2015, 10:21 PM   #5
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The idea behind not needing a mechanical filter is to have enough flow to keep the garbage suspended so the skimmer can get ahold of it sooner or later.
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Old 08-03-2015, 11:00 PM   #6
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I found a "kit" on e-bay where the acrylic inserts for a standard sized 10 gal tank are provided along with plans for $36. Would a 10 gal tank be sufficient for a 55 gal tank? Am I overestimating the difficulty of cutting the material myself and wasting $36? My aquarium stand would not accommodate a 12" wide 20 gal tank.
Sump Kit for 20"x10"x12" 10 Gal Custom Protein Skimmer Sump Aquarium Filter | eBay
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Old 08-05-2015, 06:23 AM   #7
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You could get away with that if you can find a suitable skimmer to fit into it.
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Old 08-05-2015, 01:30 PM   #8
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I had another question, but don't want to start another thread for fear of being ostracized for exceeding the max allowed .... I found a LFS that primarily sells saltwater fish (the only one other than Petco that I am aware of in the area) and they were selling live rock for $3.99/lb, which seems on par with what a lot of online retailers are asking. Was wondering what live rock should look like. The last time I bought live rock was a decade ago from liveaquaria.com (apparently they only sell their own "produced" rock now) and I recall it having "stuff" on it (i.e. color). The stuff at the LFS was just gray rock. What should live rock look like?
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Old 08-05-2015, 05:16 PM   #9
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It can look like several different things...it is all about having the bacteria colonizing it so you can add fish. But it can be bare rock, covered in algaes,...all kinds of different stuff depending on where it comes from or how it is produced.
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Old 08-05-2015, 06:01 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nwsharksfan View Post
Thanks. I have a 55 gal tank still sitting empty on the floor. I don't have any plans of stocking it that highly with fish. Some soft coral and maybe a handful of small fish. I have every intention of getting a filter, but wasn't sure if I'd be overdoing it or wasting money if I got a high end canister - or if I should shoot for something rated in the 75-100 gal range. As much as I'd like to get a sump, I haven't seen one for less than the cost of a $150 canister. After spending for dry rock, live sand, LED light fixtures, RODI, testing material etc. I'm hoping for a small victory for my pocketbook.
A sump is fairly easy to make, look it up on youtube

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