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Old 05-23-2004, 09:47 PM   #1
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Saltwater Aquarium in Apt?


I'm excited that I stumbled across this website, seeing as how it seems to be very informative. I am an avid enthusiast of saltwater marine life and dive quite frequently so that I may enjoy it even more. I just returned (yesterday) from a 2 week long stay in Hawaii which has now caused me to pursue the saltwater aquarium venture even further.

I am a college student and live in a fairly good sized apartment, and for the most part have no clue what/where to start/do with this "project". I know from friends and reading that taking care of a saltwater aquarium can be quite the daunting task, but it is definitely one which I am willing to take on.

I'd love for some input on sizes of aquariums to get and just a general overview of what I am getting myself into!! I don't want something that is so small that you have to get right up on it to see what is inside... Money really isn't that much of a factor, but I don't want to be spending immense quantities of money on this right off the bat... I'm sure like many hobbies, there is always room for expansion and more money to be spent down the road.

Also, I was wondering about the types of fish that may be compatible. I was reading an article that was saying that having invertebrates and fish can be a bad idea, as they are susceptible to disease or parasites or something like that....?

Thanks for the help!!

Kenny B.

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Old 05-23-2004, 10:07 PM   #2
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Hey.. Welcome to the site. I am still a newb myself, but let me share my startup experience with you. First I wasted a ton of money not researching and or listening to the LFS who was just try to sell me what every they could.

It really depends on what you want to do. In all of my research I have found that starting with a bigger tank is always better(the more water volume helps keep you parameters steady). I have the following setup for my FOWLR, which I think I am going to upgrade already to more of a reef ready aquarium. It really depends on what you want to do with your aquarium
FO,FOWLR,Reef Tank.

55 Gal - I am upgrading to a reef ready tank
100# of LR from liverocks.com
Emperor 400 (hob filter) I am going to upgrade to a sump system
SeaClose Protein Skimmer (I Works fine for me, but most people hate them)
3 Maxijet 1200 PH
260W PC 03 and 10000K lights
Ebay RO/DI water filter
120# of sand (100# southdown sand) 20# livesand
200W heater
So far this setup has been ok for me,but I want to keep sps corals later down the line to I am going to upgrade soon.

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Old 05-23-2004, 10:26 PM   #3
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I am an apartment dweller myself and a SW newbie. All I really have right now is the equipment, but let me share the number one thing I wish I would have known from the beginning.


Figure on spending at least 1000 dollars just to get your tank setup. (right off the bat as you put it.) And that is probibly a low figure.

I found that I could save money with a slightly smaller system. Instead of the standard 55 gallon, I went with a 37 gallon cube. This means less live rock, sand, and half of the lighting requirements. Plus you get much better water flow from your filtration system.

There are some downsides to a system smaller than a 55. the first is ofcourse, stability. The larger the tank, the more stable. The second is that you are much more restricted with the amount and types of fish that can be placed in the tank. Find out what fish you like, and decide if its worth the extra $$$ to house it properly.

Another thing to think about is that you absolutely important not to overstock the tank. Which is a very easy thing to do in SW tanks. you can have 20 or 30 freshwater fish in a 37 gallon aquarium, but you can only have about 4 SW fish in the same size aquarium.

Also, have you had an aquarium before? If not, then I would highly recommend that you absolutely do not attempt SW first. Try a 29 gallon Freshwater tank. I know This may seem a bit discouraging, but there are quite a few serious mistakes that beginners often make. Making these mistakes in a SW tank means a ton of $$$ and time wasted. A 29 gallon Freshwater tank can be setup fairly quickly and cheaply, and there are a ton of very interesting fish to choose from. AND if for some reason you get bored of it or the aquarium bug doesn't bite. at least you are not out a ton of dough.

thats just my personal opinion. The most important thing to remember is cost. I am currently stalled because I can't quite afford the 200 dollars for the live rock right now...hopefully soon.
Hardware: 37 gallon SW tank and stand by Oceanic Systems, Magnum 350 Pro Canister Filter (half carbon), CPR Bak Pak 2R skimmer, Maxijet 1200 Powerhead, RenaCal 150 W heater, Compact fluorescent lights with moonlights. 40 lbs of liverock, 3" sand bed.

Software:2 Tank-Raised Ocellaris Clowns, 1 Purple Firefish, 1 Electric Orange hermit crab, 18 Blue Legged hermit crabs, 8 or so Nassarius snails, Xenia, Blue, green, and Green Striped Mushrooms.

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Old 05-24-2004, 08:04 AM   #4
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This is long, sorry.

It doesn't have to be outrageously expensive, these are the steps I've taken thus far with my current system. I had a few false starts (wet/dry filter etc.) with equipment before I started actually researching, but I'm not counting those costs. This is approximate and doesn't include shipping for stuff I ordered. I'm a big do-it-myselfer and love figuring things out. As such I build my own equipment whenever I can, and that helps.

FOWLR DSB filtration
55 gallon tank with 40w strip light, $120
Stand $ 50
150 pounds play sand $ 6
60 pounds base rock $ 60
3 pieces good live rock $ 50
Pump/Powerhead x 2 $ 30
Bag 'o' salt $ 20
Water, free since I stole my neighbors hose : )
Sand critters, free if your lfs is nice about it.

Sump/Fuge (not a requirement but a darn fine idea)
10 gallon aquarium $12
Overflow $40
Plexiglass/misc plumbing $10
Macro including bugs $10
Lighting $15

I'm currently upgrading my lighting to do a simple reef system.

hood $80
220W PC lighting $140
Moonlighing $5

total $646

If you absolutely MUST have a wet/dry as your lfs will tell you, add about $400. Or you can make your own for about $40 and I'll gladly donate the bio-balls as I want them out of my closet. Be prepared to clean the filter often. If you must have a manufactured fuge, add on $350 to $450. If you must buy preman'd lighting... that is very pricey. Easily the most expensive part of this hobby is the lights. If you must have all LR from the beginning, its about $200 - $400 for enough for a 55 gallon.

Lighting in this system is obviously not great, but is fine for fowlr. When the upgrade is complete it will be good for shrooms and some other nice corals, but not for the light intensive ones. The filtration I've chosen is all natural, with the exception of the PH's to do the flow since I can't get natural tides no matter what I do : )

One of the great things about this hobby is that it can be done in steps, as long as you have the patience. The rock is a great example. Starting with base rock is fine. The nitrifying... bacteria will collonize throughout it and will add to your filtration. Adding a few pieces of "live" will seed the tank, and the life will spread to all the base. It just takes some time. Saves a ton of $ tho'. And if you keep an eye on your paper, you can get a lot of this equipment for pennies on the dollar. If money is no object, please send me some 'cuz payday ain't for a while yet.

Having said all that, on to your ?'s.
SW is not difficult to maintain. IME it's been easier than many FW systems I've done. Before I started SW I believed it would be very difficult, but I've found it not to be so. Once your system is setup and established correctly it maintains itself wonderfully. The diversity in life your tank will have works well to keep things in check. But it does require you keep an eye on it a little more than FW, and be prepared to make adjustments to keep everything working. Good testing supplies are a must. You'll have to test very often in the beginning until the tank establishes itself, after that you can space them out a little. But you will be testing water as long as you have your tank.

There are a variety of filtration methods available and they all have their pro's and cons. And they all have their followers who will of course recomend their method. Their will likely be tons of posts debating the different methods. I suggest you do some reading and decide on the method that will work best for you. Again be prepared to make adjustments to your plans. I started with a wet/dry system and after about 6 months converted to DSB (deep sand bed), and have been very happy with it ( hint hint ). It's all natural and easily the least expensive to start.

Livestock... decide on the 1 fish or fish type you absolutely must have. The rest of your livestock have to be compatible with this fish or else you won't be happy. So if you must have a very docile fish, you can't give him a group of triggers as playmates. If you must have very agressive fish, your invertibrate selections will drop to nill. A lionfish is great, but if you want some nice shrimp you'll just end up spending $30 per meal for your lion as he eats your shrimp.

Having inverts with your fish is no problem, and is a requirement if you want a natural system. With the proper setup you'll have snails,crabs, corals and all kinds of interesting life. With live rock in your tank, you'll have a nice supply of invertibrate life anyway. All life is susceptible to disease and parasites, some more than others. I have a simple system right now, but I've only lost 1 crab in the last 9 months. Not sure what got him, but I think it was another crab. No diseases to date.

Having said all that, how long will you be in your apartment? If you move every semester you will need to stick with some very hardy animals and I'd recommend staying away from the corals until you have a permanent place. Also, if you're above ground level make sure your floor can support the weight of the tank. All that water, rock, sand, and salt adds up fast and will weigh much more than a FW tank.
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Old 05-24-2004, 11:16 AM   #5
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Welcome to AA and welcome to a great hobby! The best piece of advice I can give you is to research, research, research! Get some good books and keep coming to this site for questions. Honestly, this i not a hard hobby, but it is one of patience so try not to be in a hurry. I think there is a high wash out rate with this hobby because people do not take their time and end up killing a lot of fish. This is where the bad reputation comes from. Once your tank is up and running and established it takes care of itself. you just need to commit to a maintance schedule. As far as a tank goes, measure the space you are going to put it and then buy the biggest aquarium you can fit in it. The more water you have to work with the better. Larger tanks are much more stable and tend to flucuate in water parameters a lot less. you need to decide what type of tank you want. Fish only, reef tank with corals and inverts. This is were the research comes in. Decide on one or two "must have" fish and build the rest around them. Plan on 6 weeks to cycle your tank properly. Using live sand and live rock will help speed this up. This is were patience comes in. Initial cost will be your biggest expense. I would plan on $1500 to get everything you need, and the list is big. Search on-line and visit some of this site's sponsors. you can usually find most dry goods cheaper on-line. Also, seek out a great local fish store and develope a relationship with them. Make sure they are credible, knowledgable, and care about the livestock and not just selling you stuff. If they give you information that contradicts what you read on this site they are most likely wrong. Find a nother fish store. good luck and keep the questions coming...Lando
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Old 05-24-2004, 01:24 PM   #6
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Start off by asking yourself what you want to keep in your tank. Fish only, fish with some live rock, or do you want the full blown coral reef tank. Fish only can be done fairly cheap and should be your first course if you're new to SW. I would recommend at least a 20 gallon to start off with a 30 gallon would be better but you can manage a 20 gallon. Any filtration will work for a small FO tank, some methods are better than others but can increase in cost as well.
I would say if you want to go FO without LR, figure on spending about 300-400 to get started. Post some more detail as to what you want to keep and you can get some more detailed help.
Brad C.
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Old 05-24-2004, 01:56 PM   #7
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One question
Are you on the first floor. If not you may want to see if the floor can handle the weight of an aquarium. Some apparments will not allow tanks due to the weight and water issue if the tank bursts. 1st thing would be to check that out
Message to all aquariasts!!!!!
Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.
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Old 05-24-2004, 03:55 PM   #8
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Also, how long are you living in this place? I keep only small easy tanks so that I can move them when I need to. If you are only going to be there a year or two and moving a distance you'll want to go with something smaller that you have a chance of being able to move.
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Old 05-24-2004, 03:55 PM   #9
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Oops Sorry!

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