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Old 10-06-2002, 06:35 PM   #1
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Is a saltwater reef aquarium possible with a smaller tank?

I just came back from a very good specialty fish store. I went there resigned to buy myself a small freshwater tank since, after much research, it looked too costly and complicated to buy and set up a tank of at least 55 gal to start my first saltwater aquarium (which is really what I want...).

After talking about freshwater tanks with the salesperson (he was highly recommending the Aqua Via tanks with filter incorporated in the hood), he finally got out of me (!) that I would prefer a saltwater tank. He told me that he could sell me a package with a smaller tank to start a reef aquarium -- the store actually has a few smaller tanks set up as reefs as demos. In all of the books I have consulted, the author recommends a tank of at least 55 gal in order to keep good water quality, especially for the invertebrates. He said this was true in the past but that there are now excellent new more compact "all-inclusive" filters on the market that have changed that reality (he was referring to an Amiracle wet dry trickle filter).

Should I follow his advice and buy myself a 26 or 36 gal tank to start a reef (with fish and invertebrates)? I understand that a smaller tank will limit the number and size of the fish I can have but if I have to choose between a reef with a few smaller fish and no saltwater aquarium at all.... Can you tell me if this would be a mistake and I would have a hard time keeping my critters alive in such an environment?

Thanks!
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Old 10-06-2002, 06:48 PM   #2
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Yes, small S/W tanks are possible. You should know off the top, that they are more work than larger tanks, and you will eventually want a larger tank . It is an addicting hobby and where we all tend to want bigger, there are some of us that are also called to the challenge of a smaller reef aquarium. I personally have a 20g reef, and have had as large as a 150g. Eventually I will go with larger, again, but I may be in my minimalist phase right now . I would like to forwarn you, the LFS is there to sell you things. It is unnecessary and not recommended that you go with any of there all inclusive, filter and tank, etc...

My 20g has 32 lbs of LR, 2"-2.5" sand bed, a protein skimmer and 3 powerheads (run by a wave mker) for it's filtration. The actual filtration is done by the LR and the sand, the protien skimmer is there to remove organics and the powerheads are for watermovement. That is all that is necessary (and the need of a skimmer is debatable) for any size reef tank. If you have any more specific question, please feel free. If you'd like to view some pics of my reef tank please feel free...
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Old 10-06-2002, 07:13 PM   #3
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Yes a small mini reef setup is possible. In fact my first saltwater tank was a 20gal H tank. I am still running this tank but as reefrunner said its very addictive. Within 6 months of starting the 20 gal tank I had purchased two additional tanks and had 1 of them setup (only reason i did not setup the third one was I was moving in a few months after purchase)

The ONLY items you need for filtration are exactly what reefrunner specified above. a 3-4" sandbed and 1 1/2lbs of LR per gal of tank capacity. The LR and LS will do the bio filtration. Some PH's for movement or if you want you could setup a small sump 10 gal or 15 gal tank and a submersible mag pump. If you have a sump you dont need powerheads if you place the sump return lines correctly. The sump pump will provide the water movement you need. Ideally you want 10 X (10 times) the water capacity of teh system flow per hour. So if you get a 26 gal tank you want to shoot for 260GPH or maybe a little more.

Remember the smaller the tank the less fish you will be able to keep in good conditions. The general rule is 1" of adult fish per 5 gal of water. So a 26 gal tank would give you 5" of adult size fish. A pair of clowns would do nicely in that size tank.

You can see photos of my 20 gal mini-reef in the photo gallery of this site. It might be a few pages back but its there. I have two powerheads and a hang on filter (no media) and a prizm skimmer (not skimming) providing water movement. A 100W heater and thats all the equipment in the tank.
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Old 10-08-2002, 12:17 AM   #4
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Thank you guys for your quick replies. I'll look into getting the largest tank I can but will stay on the small side (somewhere between 35 and 45 gal).

Reefrunner69, what do you mean exactly by "smaller tanks are more work"? You have to clean more often? Check/change the water more often? Something else?

So, if I understand well, the two of you don't think I need to buy a "traditional" filter for my aquarium?! I'll continue to research this but I may feel better having a good filter I can rely on to keep the water clean (since this is my first aquarium). Or do I need to get over my "insecurities"?!

Also, when you talk about "inches of fish per gallon", that excludes invertebrates, correct? Is there a limit (within reason) of the number of shrimp, anemones, coral, starfish, etc. that I can add?

Thanks for all your help.
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Old 10-08-2002, 12:42 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tristan65
Thank you guys for your quick replies. I'll look into getting the largest tank I can but will stay on the small side (somewhere between 35 and 45 gal).
Your welcome.

Quote:
Reefrunner69, what do you mean exactly by "smaller tanks are more work"? You have to clean more often? Check/change the water more often? Something else?
Yes to all of the above. In a smaller tank, changes can occur very quickly with little or no warning, therefore you have to stay on top of it better. One simple example is salinity, as water evaporates, the salinity will go up, cause the only thing that evaporates is the water. In a smaller tank 1 gallon of evaporated water may be a considerable swing, where as in a larger tank, you would need to evaporate much more water for the same swing...

Quote:
So, if I understand well, the two of you don't think I need to buy a "traditional" filter for my aquarium?! I'll continue to research this but I may feel better having a good filter I can rely on to keep the water clean (since this is my first aquarium). Or do I need to get over my "insecurities"?!
You need to get over your insecurities. You will create more problems for a reef with a traditional filter than the method we use. Check out this thread for more details.

Quote:
Also, when you talk about "inches of fish per gallon", that excludes invertebrates, correct? Is there a limit (within reason) of the number of shrimp, anemones, coral, starfish, etc. that I can add?
For the most part, your inverts will have little imapct on the bioload, and most will have a benificial impact. Compatability is an issue at times, though.
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Old 10-08-2002, 02:02 AM   #6
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Hi Tristan,

You have asked some excellent questions. I'm glad the feedback you have thus far received has help guide you.

Several questions answered might help even more with responses. Can you say a little more about your goals in setting up a saltwater tank. Are the beautiful fish what most attract you? Is a coral reef in your sights? Have you knowledge regarding a tank filled with live rock, live sand?

The answers to the above questions makes a difference in the approach one would take when setting up a swtank.

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Old 10-08-2002, 08:15 AM   #7
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Yes, you can set up a reef with a smaller tank. I have a 29 gal reef tank. It's been up and running for over 2 years now. I have 5 fish in it, a small yellow tang, a small clown fish, a yellow wrasse, a spingeri, and a firefish. I also have several small corals. I have a candy cane trumpet, a frog spawn, a open brain, greenstar polyps, several mushrooms, button polyps and a fox coral. I admit I am maxed out on adding anything else to my tank, but I still love what I have just the same. Tomorrow I'll see if I can post a few pictures of the tank. Good Luck
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Old 10-08-2002, 09:26 AM   #8
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A 30 gal or 45 gal is a good size for a small saltwater tank. One thing to consiter when looking at tanks is to try to find a tank with the largest surface area. For example a 20 gal LONG tank is more desirable than a 20 gal HIGH tank. This is because you get more surface area for gas exchange plus the 20 LONG tank is easier to light given its short depth.

Good luck, take your time, and you will be successful.
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Old 10-08-2002, 09:50 AM   #9
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I started out with a 10 gallon tank with a mirrored back ground.. well it had a leak LOL so I had to move up to a 15long. shortly after that I built a stand and setup a 29.. I rant he 29 for nearly a yr. Then I moved it back to my 15 just last wk. I moved everything including water sand etc.. The reason I did this was a lighting issue(I could get teh desired ligthing I needed for corals with teh 15 easier then I could with the 29) But none the less I love it and its not that much harder.. Tho I am accustomed to most of thesee things after a yr. A "newbie" (no offense) might have more trouble. As they are not accustomed to having to top off with water (FRESH! water) everyday or do wkly water changes etc etc


As for the skimmer I do not use one. If I ever had a surplus of money (yea right I am 15.. Do no see that happening) I would purchase one or buy a larger tank :-p But I have never needed one.






Good Luck




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Old 10-08-2002, 03:36 PM   #10
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Regarding a protein skimmer. Originally I had a Berlin hang on skimmer on the back of my tank, then I wanted to hide the skimmer to improve the looks. I couldn't afford to do a sump right away, so I switched to a Priszm Skimmer. The Berlin worked much better, but the Priszm is doing a good job. I'm still using the Priszm and my tank is doing fine. But there are a lot of tanks that don't run a protein skimmer at all. It's a controversial issue, and a matter of preference whether to run the protein skimmer or not. I think you'll find that almost everyone who has a reef will suggest the protein skimmer. But it's a choice you have to make. You could always start the tank and add it later.
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