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Old 11-28-2012, 04:46 PM   #1
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Handful of Q's from a n00b...

Hello all. I'm about 3 1/2 weeks into cycling my first saltwater tank (29g). Seems like everything is running optimally and I'm quickly becoming an obsessed parent. As of right now here's what's in the tank:

40 lbs. sandy substrate
24 lbs. of rock (5 - LR; 19 - DR)
(5) Red Legged Hermits
(5) Astreal Snails
Coral:
Toadstool Leather (tan)
Hammer Coral (green)
Open Brain (rainbow)

The hermits, snails and corals have been in for 5 days now, 2 1/2 weeks after the sand, water, filter, skimmer & power head had been running. The lights (T5) and heater have been going for almost 2 weeks.

Yesterday I tested all water parameters fully and levels seem to be perfect, including temperature and salinity which have been stable since the get-go. The only exception are Nitrates at roughly 10ppm. After researching it looks like the marine system is going through its natural "nitrate shock" period and I expect the number to drop over the next couple of weeks.

Also, I am getting ready to change the water (~35%) for the first time. Used all distilled water before mixing originally and am wondering now what the best way WITHOUT buying more distilled water from the store is to prep water changes? I'm trying to avoid buying an expensive filter for tap, so any suggestions are appreciated.

So, as I wait patiently (another 2-3 weeks) to introduce fish, here are some questions I already have given its current state. Thanks for ANY advice and I appreciate ALL tales of your rookie SW days!

Lights:
-I see that 10-12 hours on is typical, we've been running on at 14 hours. Too long?
-Do hours of operation matter? Been running from noon to 2am so far. I'd like to keep them on from 4pm to 4am. The tank room gets nearly NO sunlight, so does it matter?

Rock:
-Do points of contact between the LR and DR make a big difference? I ask because two DR's are hardly touching the LR. Will this slow the process of the LR seeding the DR significantly or is it no big deal?

Hermits & Snails
-I did not add any empty shells when I put the hermits in and read after that it's important for their livelihood--truth? Or not a big deal?
-Snails have been incredibly active--one has been sitting at the top of the tank (looking like it wants to escape) and another lodged itself on the underside of the Hammer Coral. Are these an issue or totally normal? Can this harm the Hammer?

Coral:
-Placed the Hammer Coral dead center of the tank, mid-height range on the slab of LR. I've read that Hammers should be placed on the bottom--is the middle a big deal?
-Toadstool Leather seems to want to lean like crazy, looking like it's always on the verge of tipping over but never doing so. Normal?


Anything else I should do as I move forward and prep for fish? Thanks so much! Excited to join this community.

(Pictures to be added shortly)
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Old 11-28-2012, 04:56 PM   #2
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How do I post pics that I've uploaded into an album in this thread?
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Old 11-28-2012, 07:50 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gordo15 View Post
Hello all. I'm about 3 1/2 weeks into cycling my first saltwater tank (29g). Seems like everything is running optimally and I'm quickly becoming an obsessed parent. As of right now here's what's in the tank:

40 lbs. sandy substrate
24 lbs. of rock (5 - LR; 19 - DR)
(5) Red Legged Hermits
(5) Astreal Snails
Coral:
Toadstool Leather (tan)
Hammer Coral (green)
Open Brain (rainbow)

The hermits, snails and corals have been in for 5 days now, 2 1/2 weeks after the sand, water, filter, skimmer & power head had been running. The lights (T5) and heater have been going for almost 2 weeks.

Yesterday I tested all water parameters fully and levels seem to be perfect, including temperature and salinity which have been stable since the get-go. The only exception are Nitrates at roughly 10ppm. After researching it looks like the marine system is going through its natural "nitrate shock" period and I expect the number to drop over the next couple of weeks.

Also, I am getting ready to change the water (~35%) for the first time. Used all distilled water before mixing originally and am wondering now what the best way WITHOUT buying more distilled water from the store is to prep water changes? I'm trying to avoid buying an expensive filter for tap, so any suggestions are appreciated.

So, as I wait patiently (another 2-3 weeks) to introduce fish, here are some questions I already have given its current state. Thanks for ANY advice and I appreciate ALL tales of your rookie SW days!

Lights:
-I see that 10-12 hours on is typical, we've been running on at 14 hours. Too long?
-Do hours of operation matter? Been running from noon to 2am so far. I'd like to keep them on from 4pm to 4am. The tank room gets nearly NO sunlight, so does it matter?

Rock:
-Do points of contact between the LR and DR make a big difference? I ask because two DR's are hardly touching the LR. Will this slow the process of the LR seeding the DR significantly or is it no big deal?

Hermits & Snails
-I did not add any empty shells when I put the hermits in and read after that it's important for their livelihood--truth? Or not a big deal?
-Snails have been incredibly active--one has been sitting at the top of the tank (looking like it wants to escape) and another lodged itself on the underside of the Hammer Coral. Are these an issue or totally normal? Can this harm the Hammer?

Coral:
-Placed the Hammer Coral dead center of the tank, mid-height range on the slab of LR. I've read that Hammers should be placed on the bottom--is the middle a big deal?
-Toadstool Leather seems to want to lean like crazy, looking like it's always on the verge of tipping over but never doing so. Normal?

Anything else I should do as I move forward and prep for fish? Thanks so much! Excited to join this community.

(Pictures to be added shortly)
Wow, thats a lot. Ill try to tackle some. Lol. 14 hours seems like a long time for the lights to be on, it'll just encourage algae growth. I'd cut that back some. And for the corals, the time doesn't matter, but when fish are added, I wouldn't do lights on till 4A(unless you're talking about moonlights only at that hour) cuz that'll mess up their circadian rhythm and that's probably not good. It doesn't have to be 8A-6P or anything like that, but 4A is a little late. My light goes off at 11P, then moonlight on till 1A, Then dark all night.

BB will grow on all the LR, don't worry about that.

Yes, you need to place some shells in the tank for hermits to grow into. Their shells are not part of them, they just carry them around and live in them. When they molt and get too big for their current shell, they must have one to move into. If they don't, they will kill a snail and take their shell. And if that shell isn't big enough, he'll keep going till he finds one he likes. Usually the LFS will sell empty shells for pretty cheap- just get some that are bigger than the hermits current shell. And get a few that you think are too big for them, cause they can get big fast, and sometimes will move into shells that seem to be twice as big as it needs. And hermits seem to like to just "try on" shells sometimes too.

If the hammer doesn't open fully in its current position, just move it to another position a little lower. Sometimes it takes a little time to find a place where it likes the flow and lighting. Sorry, don't have a toadstool, so ill leave that one alone.
Good luck!
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Old 11-29-2012, 11:32 AM   #4
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Thanks beengirl! And you're right, already had a snail fatality by way of crab. Picked up some shells last night so hopefully it will end up being a simple isolated incident.

Any recs on what fish to start with? I've heard a handful of differing opinions, always nice to hear more. When all is said and done, looking at 5-8 fish. Leaning towards a Goby that can hang with a shrimp, a couple of Wrasses and a Clown. Suggestions on specific types? Also what are the positives/negatives buying tank-bred fish?

Thanks!
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Old 11-29-2012, 11:51 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gordo15
Hello all. I'm about 3 1/2 weeks into cycling my first saltwater tank (29g). Seems like everything is running optimally and I'm quickly becoming an obsessed parent. As of right now here's what's in the tank:

40 lbs. sandy substrate
24 lbs. of rock (5 - LR; 19 - DR)
(5) Red Legged Hermits
(5) Astreal Snails
Coral:
Toadstool Leather (tan)
Hammer Coral (green)
Open Brain (rainbow)

The hermits, snails and corals have been in for 5 days now, 2 1/2 weeks after the sand, water, filter, skimmer & power head had been running. The lights (T5) and heater have been going for almost 2 weeks.

Yesterday I tested all water parameters fully and levels seem to be perfect, including temperature and salinity which have been stable since the get-go. The only exception are Nitrates at roughly 10ppm. After researching it looks like the marine system is going through its natural "nitrate shock" period and I expect the number to drop over the next couple of weeks.
Slow down a bit. Did your tank cycle? The presence of 10ppm nitrates does not means its cycled. Also i doubt it cycled properly if not ammonia source was present. Was this the first time you tested your water if not what where previous readings of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gordo15
Also, I am getting ready to change the water (~35%) for the first time. Used all distilled water before mixing originally and am wondering now what the best way WITHOUT buying more distilled water from the store is to prep water changes? I'm trying to avoid buying an expensive filter for tap, so any suggestions are appreciated.
Honestly the cheapest option is buying and RO/DI unit. Tap water is generally a no no. Distilled can even be a major source of phosphate. Ive tested distilled water brand with phosphate from .1-.5 in many brands. Total dissolved solids also range in the 25-75 on most brands (0 TDS is ideal and recommended for reef keeping)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gordo15
So, as I wait patiently (another 2-3 weeks) to introduce fish, here are some questions I already have given its current state. Thanks for ANY advice and I appreciate ALL tales of your rookie SW days!

Lights:
-I see that 10-12 hours on is typical, we've been running on at 14 hours. Too long?
-Do hours of operation matter? Been running from noon to 2am so far. I'd like to keep them on from 4pm to 4am. The tank room gets nearly NO sunlight, so does it matter?
Hours of operation slightly matter. Obviously you dont want the tank in its dark period with a nearby window putting light on the tank etc. but beside that it doesnt matter. Also as for duration 10-12 hours is the norm. I wouldnt do over 12, youll get more algae growth and shorter lifespan of light if your do pretty much.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gordo15
Rock:
-Do points of contact between the LR and DR make a big difference? I ask because two DR's are hardly touching the LR. Will this slow the process of the LR seeding the DR significantly or is it no big deal?
Nope it will not affect the process, so your fine.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gordo15
Hermits & Snails
-I did not add any empty shells when I put the hermits in and read after that it's important for their livelihood--truth? Or not a big deal?
-Snails have been incredibly active--one has been sitting at the top of the tank (looking like it wants to escape) and another lodged itself on the underside of the Hammer Coral. Are these an issue or totally normal? Can this harm the Hammer?
The snails are fine, normal and they will not harm anything. Hermits on the other hand will need more shells. As they grow they look for a slightly larger shell, if one is not available the will kill other hermits or snails for one or they will eventually die once they are forced to leave their shell.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gordo15
Coral:
-Placed the Hammer Coral dead center of the tank, mid-height range on the slab of LR. I've read that Hammers should be placed on the bottom--is the middle a big deal?
-Toadstool Leather seems to want to lean like crazy, looking like it's always on the verge of tipping over but never doing so. Normal?
It depends what lighting you are using and how many bulbs/watts. Hammers generally require moderate lighting. As for the toadstool, normal, they usually stretch to the light and begin leaning. Eventually the base will grow to support the massive cap better.


(Pictures to be added shortly)[/QUOTE]
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Old 11-29-2012, 12:02 PM   #6
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"Slow down a bit. Did your tank cycle? The presence of 10ppm nitrates does not means its cycled. Also i doubt it cycled properly if not ammonia source was present. Was this the first time you tested your water if not what where previous readings of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate?"

Yes this was the first time I tested the water. Guy at my LFS actually gave me the green light on adding coral without me even asking. Told him I hadn't tested the water yet and he assured me it was not a big deal for a couple of weeks until prep to add fish. What do you suggest I do to make sure the tank has cycled and how do I test if ammonia has been present or not?
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Old 11-29-2012, 12:12 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gordo15 View Post
Guy at my LFS actually gave me the green light on adding coral without me even asking
This throws up a red flag for me. Most LFS will give you the "green light" just so they can make a sale. I would not have added corals until the tank is established.
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Old 11-29-2012, 12:19 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gordo15
"Slow down a bit. Did your tank cycle? The presence of 10ppm nitrates does not means its cycled. Also i doubt it cycled properly if not ammonia source was present. Was this the first time you tested your water if not what where previous readings of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate?"

Yes this was the first time I tested the water. Guy at my LFS actually gave me the green light on adding coral without me even asking. Told him I hadn't tested the water yet and he assured me it was not a big deal for a couple of weeks until prep to add fish. What do you suggest I do to make sure the tank has cycled and how do I test if ammonia has been present or not?
I edited my original post to finish answering the questions so read up.

Ok, dont listen to anything that guy says anymore, he sincerely has no clue what he is talking about from what youve told me. Fish stores are known for misleading customers, its how they sell. Its dirty but its the way of the world unfortunately and often why many new reefer get discouraged and quit. Becuase they simply dont know who to listen to or what to do.

The fish is a good idea to wait on but now you in a situation becuase i doubt your tank has cycled and you have coral present, its likely the coral will not survive the cycling period. The hermits and snails may also be on danger.

The best way to cycle your tank at this point would be to remove all livestock to a new home, preferably temporary until your tank cycles and begin the cycle by dosing ammonia.

However if you have no way to return the livestock or find a temporary home then your pretty much forced into doing a fish-in cycle which could result in death of fish coral and inverts. At minimum it will be stressful. The best fish suited to this task are damsels, they are ery hardy and can make it through some bad conditions, however after the tank is cycled you will likely want to remove them as the are very aggressive to themselves and other fish.

During this time you will need to keep a close eye on ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, if anyone climbs dangerously high then you will need to perform large emergency water changes to bring the levels back down.
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Old 11-29-2012, 12:50 PM   #9
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I did not mention that with my original purchase (filter, substrate, skimmer, water, power head) I also snagged a bottle of concentrated bacteria per the employee's rec (different store than where I picked up the coral). He said it would simulate everything a couple of dead shrimp would in order to get the tank cycling. I emptied the bottle on day 3. Unfortunately I wasn't told from the start to continually test the water, so I guess with no log I'm unsure as to whether or not the tank has cycled. From the time I injected the tank it sat with nothing but substrate for two weeks.

Also if it helps gauge the likelihood that it has in fact cycled it has been six days and the coral all seems to be flourishing. I know how quickly things can go to **** with a SW tank though, I've read enough testimonials so I'm not going to be a naive sucker.

Does this info sway your hope at all? And should the snails and crabs help expose whether or not it has been cycled based on their activity/lack there of?
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Old 11-29-2012, 01:08 PM   #10
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When I say "sat with nothing but substrate" I mean that's all that was in there while the filter and power head were operating. I added the heater and lights about a week after.
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