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Old 10-04-2012, 04:24 PM   #1
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Thinking about a saltwater tank...

Okay first time ever posting in the saltwater section. I'm a completely freshwater person. So be gentle. I know practically nothing about saltwater. So if I do take the plunge, lots of research will be in store.

I am not too happy with my current 10 gallon freshwater tank and was wondering how difficult it would be to just empty it and start over with saltwater. So that means I currently already have filter(AC 20), heater, and substrate. I know this tank is smallish, but I was thinking I would just do one or two firefish gobies, some inverts, and some live rock. Is this even possible?? I absolutely adore firefish gobies.

So if this was possible, what additional equipment would I need? I do not have a large budget. I just wanted to stay small with this tank. I know I'll have to buy premade saltwater because I do not plan on investing in an RODI system. How often would water changes be and how much of a change? This will be a large factor in determining if I will be able to afford it.

One last thing. I am going off to college in about 9 months and I am planning to move my tank with me. Is it hard to move saltwater fish/live rock? I would be worried about moving it after every year when I go home. I know I can easily handle moving my freshwater fish. It is only about a 2.5 hour drive away.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this! I appreciate any and all advice. This is a project I've always dreamed of starting, but am very scared to give it a try. Not sure I will be doing this at all either.
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Old 10-04-2012, 09:30 PM   #2
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What substrate do you have? An aragonite based substrate would be best. You can only have one firefish unless they are a pair (which are not too often from what I've seen). Your stock list is definitely possible. Although a nano tank is harder to keep parameters stable, it can be done. It will also be fairly cheap since you already have the tank, filter, and heater. You probably don't need a skimmer since it's such a small tank. You can make a DIY skimmer out of water bottles and an airstone & pump if you don't mind looking at it in the tank. After your cycle a 10% water change every week would be ideal. (Frequent water changes are best!). So one gallon a week which is not too expensive (25-50 cents a gallon). However, your water will evaporate and you will need to top it off with freshwater (no salt mixed in) b/c when the water evaporates, the salt stays behind and the salinity rises, so you have to add FW to bring it back down. With that size tank, it shouldn't be a huge hassle. Just 1-2 5 gallon buckets will do with holding your LR, sand and livestock.

Are you getting corals? It would be more expensive and more work, but it's so worth it! There are some cheap lights and since you have a 10 gallon tank, you don't need too much light meaning you could get a light fixture that's cheap for your nano, but expensive for say a 50 gallon.

No doubt you can accomplish this and have a beautiful system IF you research and take it slow!
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Old 10-04-2012, 09:52 PM   #3
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I just have regular black petco sand. Will I need to switch to live sand? Could I mix it in with my current stuff?

I hope I can manage the water parameters, I am very experienced with freshwater so I am not a complete newbie in that regard.

So glad to hear this is possible! The more I think about this, the more and more I want to dive into this. Can't help but be a little nervous! lol.

So, when I decide to make the change, the things I will need to buy are pre-mixed salt water, distilled water to add in FW if the water evaporates, a refractometer, and live rock/sand? I assume tap water will not work? I can definitely handle one gallon per week of water changes. I can just stock up on those jugs of salt water from the fish store and use them when needed? They are already ready to be poured in the tank? (other then temp).

Since this is my first saltwater tank and I will be in college, I am not going to attempt corals just yet, but maybe sometime in the future that was actually another question I had- lights. Right now I have two 15w compact fluorescent bulbs that are 6500k. It was a planted tank so obviously the spectrum is not going to be the same for saltwater. This is relatively high lighting in freshwater, how will it be for saltwater? Will I have algae issues? Should I get saltwater bulbs? Does live rock need any light?

So the steps would be: 1. fill tank with live rock, salt water, and live sand. 2. cycle? how long? what do I do? do I need an ammonia source like in FW? 3. add inverts and fish?

So many questions! Thank you for bearing with me!
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Old 10-04-2012, 10:13 PM   #4
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You don't need live sand, it can just be dry, but the black sand from PETCO (moonsand? not sure)..anyway, it's not limestone which is what aragonite based sands for SW is. I guess you could use the sand, but there could be silicates leaching from the sand or die off from your FW tank, not familiar with what it's made of...

You don't need live rock or live sand. I used all BRS pukani dry rock, which is very porous and you get more for your money and it's easy to aquascape. Live rock is usually $3-8 per pound, plus more live rock (usually fiji rock) is pretty dense and you are paying for the water weight too. Just another option, especially if money is tight, but since you have a 10 gallon you don't need a lot of everything and it's not going to get really expensive.

Definitely would NOT recommend tap water. At the very least, top your water off with distilled water bought from the grocery store. Yes keeping the SW for a while shouldn't be too bad..might need a small pump to keep the water moving as it can possibly get stinky/get "spoiled".

With those lights you could get macroalgae. There are some gorgeous deep red marine plants that you can keep under those lights or green, etc. They would be a nice accent and you already have the light for it. I think you're pretty much set except for the sand, rock, water, and livestock! In saltwater it is pretty low and isn't a great spectrum for corals (10,000K and up for corals), but once again it's good for most macroalgae. If there aren't any corals or plants in there it does not matter what light you use.

I'd recommend putting in the sand, rock, then water (so it doesn't get cloudy), or for more stability of your rock structure, rock, then sand, then water. The cycle process all depends. There is a good article on AA about cycling. You will need an ammonia source. If you get LR that is an ammonia source; there is some die-off that will decay and convert into ammonia, however this is probably not enough. Putting a table shrimp in your tank and letting it decay in a net or stocking will do the trick! ( or you can dose with pure ammonia if you don't want the stench). Only add fish when you have 30 ppm nitrate or lower. Inverts are a little more sensitive. At first, get a CUC when your nitrates are at 30 ppm or below, then if they are doing well, you can add your first fish. Wait 2-4 weeks before adding another fish or invert as you don't want to add everything at once and get another mini cycle and potentially kill your animals.

Almost forgot! You'll want to buy a test kit! The API saltwater test kit is okay for starting, but not super accurate.

It's a good thing you're asking questions and researching first and not just buying the livestock and killing it.
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Old 10-04-2012, 10:29 PM   #5
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So you think it's a good idea to get rid of the sand I have and switch to live sand? I could easily just add my sand to another one of my FW tanks.

So as far as the rock.. Basically, if I buy live rock, I do not need another ammonia source? I can just buy it, stick in a table shirmp, and let it cycle? I am indeed familiar with the cycling process. It's not different then freshwater, right? Can I use the majority of dry rock, then add in a few pieces of live rock? Will this help speed the cycle? Any idea how long it takes?

How long would it be too long to keep premixed salt water? So it isn't a good idea to stock up on jugs of it? Could I keep them for a month or two? I will definitely avoid tap water then. I can stock up on gallons of distilled water.

So my light will not be too strong and cause algae? I may look into those macroalgaes. That sounds interesting. For now I am going to worry about getting everything set up first.

What is a CUC? Clean up crew? This may be a little early, but what invert stock would I be looking at actually? And I am definitely set on getting one firefish goby, could I fit anything else in the tank with him?

It's a shame I can't use my freshwater test kit on my salt water tank! lol

I definitely don't want to just jump into this!

So I still need: live sand, dry/live rock, saltwater, refractometer... and then livestock! Is this it?
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Old 10-04-2012, 10:56 PM   #6
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I keep saying refractometer... but I think I mean a hydrometer?? The plastic looking thing you just fill with water and it measures the specific gravity. Will this suffice?? Also, what salinity level do I want?
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Old 10-05-2012, 01:19 AM   #7
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Oh if you want to add the sand you have to another FW tank, by all means do, but I recommend getting aragonite-based sand from companies like CaribSea or Nature's Ocean. If you buy the LR the other ammonia source is the table shrimp. And yes you just put it in and wait for it to cycle basically. I did the pure ammonia dosing, so personally I haven't done the shrimp method. Yes you can use mostly base rock and seed it with live rock. The length of time varies...I'd say most are within 1-2 months, but really depends. More info:
Cycle your salt tank - Aquarium Advice

You should be able to stock up on the water...I just don't know how long you can keep it...try it out, it will probably be fine.

Okay, if you have nutrients like nitrates, phosphates, (you'll get more phosphates and higher TDS from RO water and especially tap water) these will feed hair algae. Almost everyone gets this eventually. All that is needed is light and nutrients. You could leave the lights off for all eternity and you won't have that problem, but of course that's not practical. Your light won't be too strong...really if there's any type of light (and nutrients)...algae will grow. So nothing to worry about, just keep nitrates and phosphates as low as possible and keep up on water changes. Also you'll most likely get diatoms which feed off of mostly silicates (can be from source water or certain sands) and nitrates and phosphates.

Oh! And since you're not doing corals, I'd say that refractometer is not necessary. Yes, hydrometers are not as accurate, but since you're just keeping fish (and possibly macroalgae) accuracy isn't the main goal. If you did keep corals then yes you'd want to know your exact parameters. (Just then read your other post..yes the plastic container with the needle is the hydrometer).

I think you can use the FW test kit for SW. Just look up the SW and FW color cards and compare. Saw this on another post, but it might be kind of hard to tell which color is exactly what as they are kind of different shades.
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Old 10-05-2012, 01:25 AM   #8
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Also, you might want to look into getting a koralia evolution nano pump for more aeration and flow. You could get a small goby (neon blue gobies are awesome, or clown goby, etc.) Just look in the nano section of LiveAquaria.com. For inverts, you could get a cleaner shrimp, a serpent star (awesome CUC member), snails, hermit crabs... CUC=clean up crew, you are correct.
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Old 10-05-2012, 03:19 AM   #9
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DO IT!!!!

It is absolutely more expensive but worth every penny. You can start slow to offset the cost.

I found SW to be easier than FW which is ridiculous because SW is sooooo much more rewarding and enjoyable. I can't even imagine doing another FW setup.
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Old 10-05-2012, 08:18 AM   #10
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I will definitely use one of those live sand brands and move over my sand to my other FW tank. It's actually lacking in sand anyways.

I will definitely plan on getting a hydrometer then. Thanks!

It would be great if I didn't have to buy another whole test kit when I already have the freshwater! That would save me 25 dollars, which can easily go towards something else.

Are the pumps necessary? And are they expensive? I will have to look at them when I get the chance.. I am going out of town for the weekend and probably won't have access to a computer.

So including my firefish goby, how many other fish would I be able to keep? I want to keep the bioload low so i'll have to worry a little less about nitrates building up, but it's definitely worth the water changes to have some more fish. And cleaner shrimp are awesome.. totally want one of those lol. What's the deal with inverts in saltwater tanks? How many can I stock?

Thanks for all the help!! I really appreciate this. There's no way I could ever start a SW tank without everyone's help and guidance on here. Hopefully I will be able to get this tank up and running shortly after christmas. I'll work on building up funds until then. It feels like an eternity until then, but it'll give me plenty of time to plan everything out and ask lots of questions! I want to do this slowly and not rush into this.
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