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Old 02-25-2007, 11:37 AM   #1
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Starting up - 55g - opinions for gear and stock

First off, allow me to say that I've been successfully keeping a couple of tropical freshwater community tanks for awhile now with some success, so I'm not a complete newbie. However, this will be my first marine/reef tank, so I figured I'd come to y'all experts to request some opinions.

I apologise if any of this is already widely known or recently answered. I did do my best to read up and get a general idea of the answers to my questions, but with nearly 26,000 posts in this forum alone, that was rather a daunting task.

What I'm mainly looking for here is just some opinions to see if my choices of gear and of stock are acceptable. Without further ado:

Tank: standard 48x13x18" 55-gallon. Lighting: 8x54W T5 HO tubes - they're a mix of 10k and actinic, but I'm not sure how many are which straight out of the box. Presumably it'd be a simple matter to replace individual tubes to suit need/preference. Also contains "moonlight" blue LED lamps. Total wattage will be 432W, which I'm hoping would be enough to get at least some of the medium-light corals happy. I'd like to add in a sump as well, but that's going to be a long term proposition if it happens at all.

Substrate: ~65lb Fiji live rock, and wavering between live sand and plain ol' normal sand - supposedly live sand is a Very Good Thing, but also supposedly it usually turns out to be dead sand by the time you get it, which I can't see really helping anything out.

Machinery: 2x Maxi-Jet 900 powerheads (rated 230gph apiece), 1x Marineland Magnum 350 Deluxe power filter (rated 350gph), 1x Visi-Therm Stealth 200W heater, Edit: 1x AquaC Remora skimmer with Maxi-Jet 1200 powerhead (rated up to 75g tanks.) The SeaClone I originally had listed has been found unworthy.

Livestock: Introduced over time, naturally, not all at once. 3-5x Blue Green Chromis, 1x Lawnmower Blenny, 1x Flame Angelfish (I LOVE these fish. They are GORGEOUS), 1x Yellow Tang. I already suspect that the tang may be a bit big when it starts to reach full size at ~8", but then, I've also seen "The New Marine Aquarium" recommend them for 40-50g tanks.

My goal here is to go for a good mix of vivid reef colours, and have both the flame angel and the tang as centerpiece fish, and the chromis for a visually appealing small school. If, as I suspect, the tang is just too large to keep in there, any other suggestions for an attractive centerpiece that may be a little smaller but still safe in a reef tank?

And while I'm thinking about stock, what about smaller eels like a snowflake moray? I know they can get quite large, but I hear that since they don't move around a lot and stay largely hidden, they can do with a bit less space. I've heard 30g can be acceptable if the snowflake is the only occupant, but how would it do if I were to put it in the 55g reef community, perhaps as a replacement for the tang? Still too big?

Now, where my knowledge and research have completely given out - with the exception of the flame angel, which I know should only be put in a reef tank with caution (but alas, I can't resist it) it seems that most of these fish should be reef/invert safe. What kinds and quantities of inverts could I put in here without going overboard on the bioload? In an ideal world I'd like to get a good range of colourful shrimp, crabs, starfish, anenomes and/or urchins, and some corals - but again, I have no idea what's realistic for a tank this size.

Edit: Cleanup crew: I'm leaning towards the 55-Gallon Deluxe Reef Cleaner Package at liveaquaria.com, and then adding in a Burgundy Sea Star and a Blue Tuxedo Pincushion Urchin. That's a lot of crabs and snails. I'm impressed. Then on top of that I'd want to do something with corals, but I don't have any idea just what yet.

Any opinions and help on my selections here would be greatly appreciated. Every time I come in and read these forums I'm in awe of the collective knowledge the folks here have.
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Old 02-25-2007, 03:51 PM   #2
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Total wattage will be 432W, which I'm hoping would be enough to get at least some of the medium-light corals happy
And even some, if not most higher light corals as well.
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65lb Fiji live rock, and wavering between live sand and plain ol' normal sand - supposedly live sand is a Very Good Thing,
LS is good to have. IME the life you get in/on the LR, ie. pods, ministars, worms, etc., will migrate into the sand making it live with some time. FWIW the sand sold prebagged at LFS labeled "live" is not worth the money. LS comes from the ocean, or an established reef. The bagged "Live Sand" will not have nearly as much bio-diversity.
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Machinery: 2x Maxi-Jet 900 powerheads (rated 230gph apiece),
You should bump that up for a reef. A Seio 620 w/ an MJ 900 or 1200 would work great. I just added a Seio pump to my 55 gal and I'm very happy with it. Great flow with out blasting fish and coral.
Quote:
1x SeaClone 100 protein skimmer (rated up to 100g tanks.)
IMO get a better skimmer. Many people, including myself, start w/ a seaclone only to have to upgrade to a "premium" skimmer. You get what you pay for, so doing it right the first time may end up saving money in the long term. I would suggest looking at an Aqua-C Remora or Remora Pro or something similar. It will remove much more gunk from the tank.
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1x Flame Angelfish (I LOVE these fish. They are GORGEOUS), 1x Yellow Tang.
As far as the tang goes it will be alright for awhile. Eventually though it will need a bigger home. Something to keep in mind.
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kinds and quantities of inverts could I put in here without going overboard on the bioload?
Inverts do not add to the bio-load. It will depend on the temperment of the species you keep. A good sized clean up crew is needed. As far as starfish go, some are hardier than others. Serpent stars are easy to keep/feed. Some sea stars, ie. Linckia, need large amounts of LR to graze from and perfect/stable water parameters along with a mature tank (1 year old+ ideally). They are among the most difficult stars and more times than not are doomed due to collection and acclimation stress and lack of food. I would stay away from them at least until you get some experience under your belt. HTH
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Old 02-25-2007, 09:13 PM   #3
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I'll echo everything that Mike said and add this. If you have the means get a better skimmer for sure! One thing you mentioned was the addition of a sump I would not put this off especially if you are going to have corals in the tank. You will increase your water volume and create a place for beneficial macro algae to grow. It doesn't have to be an expensive venture. There are a lot of ways to add a sump without adding a lot of expense. I use a sump and a fuge and skimmer to filter my tank. I don't use canisters or GAC. Read a bit on them. One other thing, the Flame angel though one of my favs as well may have the urge to nip any corals you put in the tank. Just a little food for thought. HTH
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Old 02-25-2007, 09:36 PM   #4
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Needless to say, if I'm having to save some $1500 for the full setup in the first place, it's not exactly going to be a dealbreaker to wait until I have an extra $80 or so for a better skimmer. I would have put it in to begin with if I'd known the opinion of the SeaClone. Original post edited for that (and also to add some of my invert choices.)
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Old 02-25-2007, 10:27 PM   #5
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Ok two things I notice- One is the clean up crew package. IMO/IME those amounts are a little high, especially in a newer tank where there is not a lot of food. I would use 25-35 snails to start, and a few different types. Astrea, nassarius, trochea, and maybe one or two others. Snails tend to be easy pickins' for hermits. That is why I don't use/like hermit crabs. They are good janitors but replacing snails gets old fast. A few ornamental shrimp and/or serpent stars instead will do the clean up chores of the hermits-peacefully. The sea star. It seems more hardy than linckia species but it says this about them on liveaquaria.com- "It may be harmful to clams, sponges, and small anemones." That would make me a little apprehensive about housing it in a reef.
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Old 02-25-2007, 11:29 PM   #6
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Do you think the emerald mithrax crabs would be alright? They're not hermits so at least shouldn't be competing with the snails for their shells, but should still do a bit of algae cleanup, and I really quite honestly don't feel it necessary to have 63 crabs on my reef just for the visual appeal. Two or three nice bright green ones would work just great.

Likewise the snails - the package contains 65 snails of three varieties. I think most likely I'd be perfectly happy with maybe five or ten each of the astraeas and nassarius, and perhaps a handful of bumblebees and/or red footed conch. I couldn't find any max size info on the latter with a quick google search.

My concern with the sea stars is that the serpent stars I'm seeing are listed as achieving a max size of 14", and that seems a bit excessive for a tank that's only 13" wide. The burgundy sea star was listed at 8", and seemed to be more forgiving than the linckia. I'd really like to have at least one nice bright visible sea star, but I'm not sure where the best options lie here.

As for the shrimp, I'm all in favour of more of them. I think they're great, colourful and interesting to look at. What would you advise in addition to the peppermints? I'm hesitant to go for things like the blood red fire shrimp at $30 a pop. I've heard too many bad things about pistol shrimp going aggressive on smaller fish - it's listed at growing up to 3", which is about the same size I've seen for those blue green chromis. While I love the looks of the banded coral shrimp, they seem to need a lot of space for their size, and I'm seeing notations to keep either singly or as a mated pair. If I'm going to be filling out the cleaning crew with shrimp, it seems like it should be more than just one or two. Also, most of the shrimp I'm seeing listed seem to be cleaners, but I don't know if that applies mostly to fish parasites and the like, or whether that also applies to detritus.

In any case, what with all the snails (and maybe shrimp?) appearing mainly to be detritus cleaners, it seems like I may need to fill out with a few more algae grazers. The pincushion urchin may help there... perhaps two instead of one?

Any other suggestions? I really appreciate the advice you've offered so far, and thank you profusely for the fantastic answers.
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Old 02-26-2007, 10:54 AM   #7
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Keep in mind, the buble bees will eat other snails. I like cerith, nassis, fighting conch. Those crabs could potentionally eat smaller/sleping fish as they get older.
I would go for a pistol shrimp/shrimp goby combo. I have not heard of pistols going after fish. They tend to stay in their burrows and work with the goby, getting food and defense.
CBS will also, potentionally become aggressive. Personally, I like cleaners and fire shrimp.
As for the urchin, I would go for a long spinned urchin. My pincushion will pick up snails and carry them for days, causing them to starve. I also have a pencil urchin, but they can move smaller rocks, when they wedge into places. Watch the long spinned ones, because they have venom in their spines.
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Old 02-26-2007, 11:16 AM   #8
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Keep in mind, the buble bees will eat other snails.
That would definitely be a concern - I hadn't seen any information about that, and was choosing them mainly just because they look neat.


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Those crabs could potentionally eat smaller/sleping fish as they get older.
Emerald Mithrax get to about 3", correct? The smallest fish in the tank will be the blue green chromis at also about 3", then the flame angel at 4", the lawnmower blenny at 5", and the yellow tang at 8". Would those chromis be small enough to be risking attack? If so, is there any crab I can put on a reef that's relatively safe?


Quote:
I have not heard of pistols going after fish.
Perhaps it's the mantis shrimp that I'm thinking of, then. Or perhaps I'm simply remembering incorrectly.


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As for the urchin, I would go for a long spinned urchin.
Good advice. My only concern would be their size - I read that they get to 8" and need lots of room to graze. Would that be a bit large for a 13" wide tank? I was aware that they were venomous, but thank you for the reminder. I'd rather be 200% sure than 75%, especially in this hobby...
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Old 02-26-2007, 11:35 AM   #9
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That's the same reason I bought Bumblebee snails , I thought they looked cool. LOL!
Crabs, in general are opportunistic feeders, if they aren't well fed, they will get what they can. I have a sally lightfoot crab. Like most SW critters, it depends on their temperment, some might not attack other inhabitants, and some will. I don't have any experience with those specific crabs, so other's with personal experience might be able to help better.
You probably are thinking of the mantis shrimp.
I doubt the ling spinned urchin would grow that big in our tanks, but it is a possibility. I think by the time it got that big, you will probably already be looking to upgrade anyway. LOL!
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Old 02-26-2007, 11:43 AM   #10
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I think by the time it got that big, you will probably already be looking to upgrade anyway. LOL!
That's fact. My upgrade cycle however tends to be very very long - it's not likely I'm going to have a larger-than-55 gallon tank for a couple years at a minimum (unless some lottery winnings become involved.) I've been wanting this 55-gallon reef setup for about two years already, and it may well be another six months or longer before I ever pour any water for this one. I wanted to get all the planning done nice and early though so I could make sure that when I start buying equipment it'll be sufficient for the stock I choose.

Anyway, I'm already waffling over that yellow tang. I don't want to be in a situation where half my stock is too big in a year or two. Between the tang, the urchin, and perhaps one of the sea stars MT79 recommended, that seems like a fairly realistic possibility even if none of the three actually get to full maximum size.
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