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Old 10-07-2010, 10:17 PM   #1
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Reef Aquarium Help

I started working on this aquarium over a year ago. My vision was to build a reef aquarium. I've had tropical fish for years but comparing that to a reef aquarium is like comparing a skateboard to a car.

It's been slow going because I'm teaching myself. I've got a bunch of books on the hobby, research online and even go to youtube for information. The only decent pet store that I have access to is 1.5 hours away. This place does nothing but SW and while they have been a good resource, I need some additional help.

So I found myself here.

My goal is to begin buying live rock next week. This is the equipment that I have so far - if I am overlooking something, please let me know:

-Marineland 60 gallon aquarium (48w x 13d x 24h) and stand.
-Perfecto glass canopy x 2
-Odyssea Metal Halide Light / 12 lunar LEDs (2 250W bulbs - 1500k)
-Seaclone 100 protein skimmer
-Instant Ocean Hydrometer
-Lifegard digital temp with alert
-Zilla power center timer 8 outlet power strip
-Reefmaster test kit (calcium carbonate, phosphate and nitrate - I think I bought the wrong thing and need something to test amonia too).
-Hydor Koralia circulation pump flow rate 1500 400 GPH with magnet
-Two 150W heaters
-Blueline Aqua Pump
-CS Overflow Box (of course I bought a tempered glass tank, ugh)
-Aqualifter Vacuum Pump
-Ecosystem Refugium Sump Del 2410 (24L x 10w x 12h) 10 Lbs of miracle mud and a bunch of bioballs with basic flourescent lighting.
-I have the plumbing to connect display tank and refugium and they (petstore) built me a manifold for returning water with 3 outlets.

Here are some issues I have:

I don't know what type of sand and salt to get. I've read that I should have a mixture of fine and coarse sands for inverts. Help? Are some salt brands better than others?

Can anyone suggest bucket sizes to mix the saltwater in? Since I can only filter 24GPD, I'm thinking I don't need a huge container but I'm not totally sure.

I think I need to cut the legs off my refugium stand? It is only a few inches shorter than my display tank. The sump is too large to fit in the compartment under the tank and I'm not sure how far the drop needs to be. I'd like to work with what I have rather than buying something else.

I bought a Corallife Pure-Flo II - 24 G/Day 3 stage system water filter. It just arrived today but I don't think it has a DI function on it. Is this going to give me the kind of water quality that I need for corals and inverts? I thought it was RO/DI but upon closer inspection, I don't think it really is. It says it gives 99% pure water...

Just a logistics question...? How do you get live rock home? Do you bring buckets to the store? Will a 1.5 hour ride home be ok? There is a closer petstore that sells live rock but it looks really furry and brown. I'm thinking that I don't want that.

I have a bunch of other questions but this is getting to be a lengthy post. I hope someone can give me a few pointers. I haven't had much time to check out all the cool animals I could get because I've been consumed with the mechanics of all this. Totally burned out on the research and planning and want to move forward!

Thank You for reading.
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Old 10-08-2010, 10:37 AM   #2
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Welcome to AA! Where in PA are you?

Any chance you can return some of the stuff you bought? The glass lids are not needed and can cause pH problems. You will not be happy with the Seaclown skimmer...it's a piece of junk. A hydrometer is very inaccurate and it's best to use a refractometer to measure salinity.

I don't know what type of sand and salt to get.
I personally like Red Sea salt. It mixes to parameters very close to natural sea water. I use CaribSea oolitic (very fine) sand. You can buy a mix of fine and a little courser sand if you want. Just make sure the sand is aragonite and comes dry in a bag. You don't need to buy bagged "live sand".

Can anyone suggest bucket sizes to mix the saltwater in?
If you do a 20% water change you need aprox 12g of new saltwater so a 15g container/tote would be fine.

The sump is too large to fit in the compartment under the tank and I'm not sure how far the drop needs to be.
It's probably best to have the top of the sump just below the bottom of the tank.

I bought a Corallife Pure-Flo II - 24 G/Day 3 stage system water filter. It just arrived today but I don't think it has a DI function on it. Is this going to give me the kind of water quality that I need for corals and inverts?
Did you also buy a TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) meter to test the filter output water? Depending on the TDS reading you may or may not need a DI cartridge added to the filter.

How do you get live rock home?
Just have them wrap the rock in wet newspaper. It will be fine.
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Old 10-08-2010, 11:38 AM   #3
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Welcome to AA!

How do you plan to set up your sump? I saw down that you were getting bi-balls. I think the consensus on this site is that you really don't want the bio balls because it is just another place to have your levels go bad. Just go with 60-90 lbs of live rock in the display and you can add more to the sump and with good flow you should be good.

Also, you are doing a GREAT job of researching first. There are many opinions out there but I do support fishless cycling of the tank. It does mean you won't have fish in for several weeks (6-8) but it is much easier on the fish.
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Old 10-08-2010, 02:34 PM   #4
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Quote:
I don't know what type of sand and salt to get.
I personally like Red Sea salt. It mixes to parameters very close to natural sea water. I use CaribSea oolitic (very fine) sand. You can buy a mix of fine and a little courser sand if you want. Just make sure the sand is aragonite and comes dry in a bag. You don't need to buy bagged "live sand".
First, cccapt has got you going in the right direction. Just expressing a different preference on the sand. I am not crazy about the very fine sand. It is so fine that it gets blown around real easily and can be a pain. If you have a sand sifting goby or anything that is going to be moving around sand they make a mess with it. I found that it would get on my coral and irratate them. Caribsea makes a sand called "special grade reef sand" that is a little more coarse. I find that a mix of this and a more fine sand proveds a really nice sand bed and the reef grade seems to help hold it down a bit better.

Second, I would consider buying a mix of live rock and base rock. Buying 60-90 lbs of live rock at fish store prices will leave you eating rice for the next 3 months it costs so much. Buy about 20% live rock and 80% base rock. It is probably less then half the cost and it can be easily shipped. Search for it online and you will find a couple places. The 20% live rock will be enough to get you a good start on your cycle and the base rock will become live rock in no time.
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Old 10-08-2010, 03:28 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by pat8you View Post
Second, I would consider buying a mix of live rock and base rock. Buying 60-90 lbs of live rock at fish store prices will leave you eating rice for the next 3 months it costs so much. Buy about 20% live rock and 80% base rock. It is probably less then half the cost and it can be easily shipped. Search for it online and you will find a couple places. The 20% live rock will be enough to get you a good start on your cycle and the base rock will become live rock in no time.
+1 No need to buy 60lbs of live rock!
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Old 10-08-2010, 03:45 PM   #6
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Since you're so far from a pet store, you should consider doing a google search and trying to find a reef club in your area. I have found that my local reef club has quite a few people that will sell you rock, fish, corals, etc at much better prices. Ours in Des Moines has a website & forum for buying & selling, and I've used that extensively. I recently got a 7" Magnificent Fox Face, 5" Sailfin Tang, 4" Scopas Tang, pair of Black & White Clowns, 3" Green Chromis, 2" Tailspot Blenny & a peppermint shrimp for $150). Another time I got 50-75 lbs of LR, a ton of corals, a damsel and 2 blennys for $180. Well worth checking into.

Also on the salt, I use Instant Ocean Reef Crystals for coral tanks and Sea Salt for FO/FOWLR and have no problems. Most any salt you get will be good, as long as you pick the right type.

For your RO system, I would suggest getting yourself a 20 or 32G Rubbermaid BRUTE trash can for holding the water. What I do is make it, mix it, and heat it in one location (basement utility room) and then when I do my PWC I put it in 5g Home Depot buckets (the orange ones) to transport them. They work awesome. I have 20 or 25 of them.
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Old 10-08-2010, 03:52 PM   #7
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Quote:
For your RO system, I would suggest getting yourself a 20 or 32G Rubbermaid BRUTE trash can for holding the water. What I do is make it, mix it, and heat it in one location (basement utility room) and then when I do my PWC I put it in 5g Home Depot buckets (the orange ones) to transport them. They work awesome. I have 20 or 25 of them.
If your tank is on the same level that you filter your water on yuo can get one of those brute trash cans from a hardware store and they make wheels for them. I filter and mix mine in the can and then wheel it out to the tank. I even use the same pump for mixing with some flexible hose on the end to pump the water into the tank. No lifting, pouring, or cursing required.
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Old 10-08-2010, 08:29 PM   #8
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Welcome to AA! Where in PA are you?
Thanks! I'm in Lake Ariel - closest city is Scranton, PA. The store I drive to is in Northhampton.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ccCapt View Post
Any chance you can return some of the stuff you bought? The glass lids are not needed and can cause pH problems. You will not be happy with the Seaclown skimmer...it's a piece of junk. A hydrometer is very inaccurate and it's best to use a refractometer to measure salinity.
I can't return the glass lids because I had them custom cut to fit the tank. That's ok, compared to expense of this setup to date, I can eat the cost of that mistake. Out of curiosity, how does covering a tank change the PH? I'm guessing the exchange of gasses is less efficient and contributes somehow? I bought the skimmer over a year ago and don't have the receipt. Again, that's fine but what do you recommend? As a side note: I read somewhere that many people don't use protein skimmers after the first 6 months if they have a refugium/sump setup established with macroalgae. Thoughts? I will look into the refractometer - thank you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ccCapt View Post
I don't know what type of sand and salt to get.
I personally like Red Sea salt. It mixes to parameters very close to natural sea water. I use CaribSea oolitic (very fine) sand. You can buy a mix of fine and a little courser sand if you want. Just make sure the sand is aragonite and comes dry in a bag. You don't need to buy bagged "live sand".
Thanks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ccCapt View Post
Can anyone suggest bucket sizes to mix the saltwater in?
If you do a 20% water change you need aprox 12g of new saltwater so a 15g container/tote would be fine.
Got it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ccCapt View Post
The sump is too large to fit in the compartment under the tank and I'm not sure how far the drop needs to be.
It's probably best to have the top of the sump just below the bottom of the tank.
Sounds good. Both stands are close in height. The sump stand is only an inch or two lower. I can use that rule of thumb to cut down the legs of the stand.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ccCapt View Post
I bought a Corallife Pure-Flo II - 24 G/Day 3 stage system water filter. It just arrived today but I don't think it has a DI function on it. Is this going to give me the kind of water quality that I need for corals and inverts?
Did you also buy a TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) meter to test the filter output water? Depending on the TDS reading you may or may not need a DI cartridge added to the filter.
No, I didn't. I was going to take it at face value that it would remove what it said. You raise a good point and I will look for one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ccCapt View Post
How do you get live rock home?
Just have them wrap the rock in wet newspaper. It will be fine.
Wow. Ok. I had visions of live rock sloshing around in buckets in the car for almost 2 hours. Good to know how that actually works!

Thanks for your post. It's becoming more clear. Sorry if my formatting is weird in this post but I haven't posted on a forum with quote options and am getting used to it.
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Old 10-08-2010, 08:45 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Smitty View Post
Welcome to AA!

How do you plan to set up your sump? I saw down that you were getting bi-balls. I think the consensus on this site is that you really don't want the bio balls because it is just another place to have your levels go bad. Just go with 60-90 lbs of live rock in the display and you can add more to the sump and with good flow you should be good.

Thanks! Here is a link to the sump that I bought.

Deluxe Filter System

It is the DEL 2410 model - first one listed. After I bought it, I read somewhere that many people hate those filter bags - Did they call them nitrate farms? Something like that - so I guess I'm not surprised there is controversy or outright dislike over the bioballs. Gah.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Smitty View Post
Also, you are doing a GREAT job of researching first. There are many opinions out there but I do support fishless cycling of the tank. It does mean you won't have fish in for several weeks (6-8) but it is much easier on the fish.

Thank you! I've read that you can get damsels to cycle your tank but like you, I don't want to do that. I want be sure that I don't kill the live rock before adding much, ha. This may sound off the wall but I'm looking forward to just enjoying the live rock for a while. The tank has set vacant along the wall for over a year. Live rock will be fascinating in comparison. Sad but true.
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Old 10-08-2010, 08:57 PM   #10
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First, cccapt has got you going in the right direction. Just expressing a different preference on the sand. I am not crazy about the very fine sand. It is so fine that it gets blown around real easily and can be a pain. If you have a sand sifting goby or anything that is going to be moving around sand they make a mess with it. I found that it would get on my coral and irratate them. Caribsea makes a sand called "special grade reef sand" that is a little more coarse. I find that a mix of this and a more fine sand proveds a really nice sand bed and the reef grade seems to help hold it down a bit better.

Second, I would consider buying a mix of live rock and base rock. Buying 60-90 lbs of live rock at fish store prices will leave you eating rice for the next 3 months it costs so much. Buy about 20% live rock and 80% base rock. It is probably less then half the cost and it can be easily shipped. Search for it online and you will find a couple places. The 20% live rock will be enough to get you a good start on your cycle and the base rock will become live rock in no time.
Thanks Pat. I do admire gobies. I saw one at the petstore that might be what you are talking about. It was shaking sand out through its gills and it was the wildest thing. Maybe I need to leave the sand for a later purchase and concentrate on what types of animals I plan to get before making that decision. You make a good point about the cost of all that live rock. I'm calculating it in my head and thinking Omg. My fear is that (I read) if you add more than a few pounds of live rock to your system at once (might have been 10 lbs or so), it starts that cycling process all over again. But, if I bought a percentage of base rock, it would be more neutral to the cycle. Hmm. I think that is a good idea... Thank you.
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