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Old 02-11-2012, 04:17 PM   #1
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I think we screwed up..

My boyfriend and I decided to start our own saltwater aquarium, having no prior experience. We did some research, found all the supplies we need and have begun to set it up, but I'm afraid we've gone too fast and/or done things too out of order to correct now.
We have a 15 gallon tank with a light, a filter, pump, made our own protein skimmer, a refugium tank, heater, thermometer, hydrometer, live sand, live rock, distilled water, and the salt to add to it. Oh, and a test kit for ph, nitrate, nitrite, etc. We've made sure to get the appropriate size/watt/gph everything.
The way we set it up: 1. Pour distilled water and appropriate amount of salt into tank. 2. Hook up pump and filter, and let it run for one day. 3. Check salinity of water. 4. Pour in live sand. 5. Add live rock. Steps 4 and 5 took place the same day (yesterday), and the water is still cloudy because the sand won't settle. After reading other threads, I'm beginning to think we did things backwards and too quickly. Also, we didn't rinse the sand.
My questions for you, wise aquarists, are: Did we do things out of order? If so, how should we have done it? Is there any way to clear the water or make the sand settle? Should we have rinsed the sand? Is there any way to correct our mistakes now, or do we need to dump it out/remove the water and start over? We greatly appreciate the help!
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Old 02-11-2012, 04:28 PM   #2
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First off, you will be okay with how it is now.

You are correct on a few things. It is considered better to put in rock first and then add the sand around the rocks. This helps especially if you have burrowing livestock which would dig tunnels in the sand and the rock could shift and hurt the animal or cause your rocks to fall. As long as you pushed your rocks down hard into the sand, but not through the glass , you should be fine.

Live sand, is usually not really live, but it isn't advised to rinse it. The dust will take a few days to settle. You should shut down the filter as it can be damaged by the floating sand.

You should be fine to start cycling the tank. Cycling means adding an ammonia source and going through the nitrification process of ammonia -> Nitrites -> Nitrates. This should not be started with any live creatures in the tank.

The process typically takes between 2-6 weeks usually leaning toward the longer side.

Once your tank is cycled properly and you have enough bacteria built up to drop ammonia from 4ppm -> 0ppm in a 24 hour timeframe, you are good to go.

At that point you can SLOWLY start to add livestock. Put in one small fish wait for a few weeks and add another.

With a (15) gallon tank you will be very limited as to what fish you can put in the tank.

Here is a great site to look at:

Nano Fish

Did you have an idea of what types of fish you want?

You may be able to add (1) clownfish and maybe one or two small fish.
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Old 02-11-2012, 04:32 PM   #3
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It's done now so don't worry about draining and removing stuff. Give it some time and the sand will settle out so don't worry, even with rinsing the snot out of sand it will still often cloud the water to some degree. As far as the water/salt I would pre-mix it in a 5g bucket and get the salinity to the right point before adding it to the tank, again not a big deal at this point but once you get critters in your tank adding the salt directly can be catastrophic. Another idea is to mix up your water and leave it with power head circulating it over night to ensure all the salt is dissolved.
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Old 02-11-2012, 04:41 PM   #4
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Whew, that's a relief!
I will make certain that the rocks are securely in the sand.
I was under the impression that the filter should be running while there is live rock in the tank, or is it only the pump that should be running? Oh, we also have the heater in, and the water is at the appropriate temp. And is it pointless to have the protein skimmer set up before there are critters in the tank?
We were planning to slowly add a snail or two, hermit crab, and/or other such cleaners first, then maybe a clownfish and one or two other fish later. Is that too much? Should corals be added before or after fish?
Thank you for replying!
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Old 02-11-2012, 04:47 PM   #5
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I would leave all pumps off till the sand settles, if you have them running you risk sand getting in a wearing them out.
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Old 02-11-2012, 04:59 PM   #6
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Skimmer usually needs to be broken in, so you can run it with no livestock, even if it isn't really pulling gunk out yet.

Just make sure that if and when you add a CUC (clean-up-crew) that they actually have something to eat. If there are no fish in the tank you may need to feed a tiny bit just to keep them alive.

As far as corals, it is always good to wait 3-6 months after the tank is running to get a little more matured and settled.

Starting with a clownfish as the 1st stock is good. They are hardy fish. Then just keep the parameters in check and if all goes well, a few weeks later you can add another fish.

Slow and steady wins everytime in Saltwater.
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Old 02-11-2012, 05:43 PM   #7
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Thanks so much! I will definitely take y'all's advice!
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