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Old 12-21-2008, 12:24 AM   #1
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N00b: What can I do with what I have?

Hello everyone, I'm trying to get into the Saltwater setup and doing my homework and research, but I'd like to get the ball rolling before Christmas (I know it'll take several weeks to a month before I can put fish in, and even when I do I need to do it slowly, I just want to get it started before Christmas) so if you guys could tell me what I need based on what I have that would be great!

I previously had turtles plus a feeder tank plus a freshwater tank, so I have:
- 75 gallon tank with heavy duty stand
- 4 filters: Fluval 404 (up to 100 gallons), Eheim 2217 (up to 160 gallons), XP1 (Up to 45 gallons), XP2 (up to 75 gallons).
- no lighting or lid

I'd like to have a setup with some decent saltwater fish, colourful, fancy, but I haven't decided exactly what yet. Honestly I don't even know what changes need to be made to the setup depending on what fish I want to get.

What I'm mainly concerned about is price.

The guys at the local pet store told me I'd need a $450 protein skimmer (Aqua Medic Turboflotor Multi Hang-On With Pump) , 80 lbs of crushed coral ($66), 75 lbs of live rock ($750), plus $100 for the light and $50 for the glass top, then a hygrometer and about $80 in new filter media. $1500 is way above my budget before I even get to stick any fish in there.

So what I'm wondering is this:

- Since I have way more than enough filtration already what benefit will adding live rock have? Can I still have some nice fish without any, or without a lot of live rock? If I do require some how much will I actually need?
- Can I just add a skimmer attachment to one of my filters instead of buying a new protein skimmer?
- If I need a skimmer can I get away with a much cheaper one, like a Red Sea Prizm Deluxe Hang-On Skimmer for $170 instead?
-
What is the purpose of the crushed coral?

I am continuing to do my own research but I figured that this would quickly answer my questions so I can figure out if this is even feasible, and if it is to get the process started before Christmas.

Thanks a lot for your help!
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Old 12-21-2008, 01:27 AM   #2
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First thing I should say is that there are many different ways to set up a tank, and you'll probably get 10 different answers from 9 different people. There are cheaper ways to set up tanks, but cheaper does not necessarily mean "cheap". Saltwater is an expensive hobby, and depending on whether or not you want to have coral or not will really be the deciding factor on $$.

In a nutshell, if you go fish only, you won't need to be as picky with your water parameters (nitrates mostly.) For that reason, you could probably get away without a protein skimmer. In addition, your lighting won't need to be much so you can save $$ there. The $100 you mentioned for lighting is for fish only - a lighting setup for a reef tank with corals would be much much more than that.

Yes... you have several different canisters that could be used for filtration. But most folks in saltwater kind of shun the canisters and go with live rock because of the constant maintenance the canisters require to keep them clean. Live rock will house the beneficial bacteria that takes care of your nitrogen cycle (converting harmful ammonia and nitrites to harmless nitrates). You need something to house that bacteria, and it'll either be live rock or the sponges/bioballs/biological media in your canisters. Live rock also gives the tank a more "natural" look, in my opinion. Without rock, you just have fish and water. In my tank, the fish love to hide in nook and crannies of the rocks and generally swim around and pick stuff off it to eat. It also gives the more timid fish a place to hide if they feel threatened. It's fun to watch my Bangaii Cardinal chase a chromis from one end of the tank to the other, weaving in and out of the rock towers... with the chromis eventually ditching him as he doubles back behind a rock pinnacle.

A skimmer attachment to a filter isn't the same as a protein skimmer. The main purpose of a protein skimmer is to take dissolved organics out of the water before they can break down into nitrates. Skimmers do this by basically forcing a bunch of air into the water, making foam, which then rises up a tube and is collected in a cup. The foam will trap the nasties and export it from your tank. Think about the foam along the surf line at the beach... that's what a skimmer does.

Skimmers are kind of a must for reef tanks, but for fish only it becomes a personal decision as to how much maintenance you want to do and how high you want to run your nitrates. A reef tank will want to run with undetectable nitrates, but it's not unheard of for fish only tanks to run with 20-40ppm nitrates. The only drawback there is that nitrates will fuel nuisance algae growth, so there's a drawback there.

In my opinion, you get what you pay for when it comes to skimmers. There may not be a big difference between a $200 or $300 skimmer, but there's a world of difference between a $100 one and a $300 one. More $$ doesn't equal great, but cheap is normally a good sign of "a waste of money".

I wouldn't go with crushed coral - especially if you skip a skimmer and live rock. You need some type of substrate, and "crushed coral" is often recommended. In my opinion, sand is a better option. Crushed coral tends to trap debris and elevate your nitrate levels. Sand allows you to utilize snails to keep your sand bed clean, and turn it over.

Good thing that you're thinking all this over and planning before jumping in head first. Many folks don't, and I think they probably sink a lot of money into this hobby before realizing they shouldn't have. Which brings me to mentioning watching Craigslist or eBay for equipment. A lot of people might be looking for some extra cash this time of year and selling off that unused SW equipment that's lying around in the basement might work in your favor.

This hobby isn't cheap, but it's pretty rewarding.

Welcome to AquariumAdvice, and keep asking questions!
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Old 12-21-2008, 09:40 AM   #3
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Welcome to AA. I definitely agree with going with sand. You dont want or need the Crushed coral. My preference would be the LR and a skimmer. But you could just get away with the canisters but the fish would be more comfortable with LR so as to have a hiding spot when needed. I know they make a whole lot cheaper skimmers than that out there. If you are only paying 100 dollars for the light I can already tell you that it will be OK for a FO or FOWLR tank. Should you go reef later on the lighting will have to be upgraded.
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Old 12-21-2008, 02:03 PM   #4
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Ok, thanks for the help guys!

Due to how expensive reef is I doubt that I will be getting into that, and certainly not to start out with.

I will check into the sand, thanks. Does crushed coral provide any filtration ability like live rock does? There must be some reason that people recommend it.

Well what about supplimenting the canisters with some LR to keep the price down? I read that you can use normal "dead" rock (which is much cheaper) to form the base and then just have some LR on top to provide some filtration and decoration. This way I wouldn't need $750 worth. I assume then that I could put in as much as I want, but can anyone recommend a quantity of rock then that would be good to start with?

So is there no method that I can use to turn one of my canister filters into a protein skimmer? My local store (Big Al's) seems to only have $150, $350 and $450 priced skimmers, so not a lot of variety.

What I'm wondering is if I can start smaller with some good water quality measuring tools and then add from there as time goes on. So what would be a good baseline setup that I can start with that will give me good water quality for the fish and will allow me to expand in the future?
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Old 12-21-2008, 02:40 PM   #5
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Using mostly base rock is a great way to save some money on a project tank. Your major expense is usually live rock. I would use base and top the base rock off with some pretty live rock.. over time the base rock will become "live". In an old tank i bought base rock and paid $2.00 a pound. prices vary so shop around.

You will need around 1.5 pounds per gallon so i would probably start by buying 50 lbs of base rock. you could add up to 20 lbs of live rock to that, i bought 24 lbs of Fiji branch rock from liveaquaria and they look really nice, cost me $99 plus shipping so for right around $130 i have nice live rock that looks good..

Treat this tank as a project tank, use what you have, buy what you need and save up for what you cant afford.

make sure to get a refractometer ($35.00 marine depot) and a saltwater test kit
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Old 12-21-2008, 10:23 PM   #6
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Okie. I'm in Toronto (Canada), so getting it from LiveAquaria isn't really an option, however it looks like their 24lbs of branch rock is $125 USD now.

So to just get the tank starting on it's settling period how about this:
- CaribSea Reef Base Rock ($175 CAD) 50lbs, nonbleached, not chemically treated
- CaribSea Ocean Direct Live Sand ($55 CAD) 40lbs
- CoraLife 48" Double Strip ($100 CAD) 2x28W: 10000K + Actinic
- 200G worth of Salt ($50)
- Glass Top ($50 CAD)
- 20lbs of live rock ($10 CAD per pound)
- new filter media, hygrometer

I'll use my existing canister filters for now and investigate what to do about a protein skimmer later. I'll also investigate getting a Refractometer since my local store's option is $80.

Does this sound like a good plan to start?
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Old 12-21-2008, 10:56 PM   #7
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yes you have a good plan so far. Yea local prices of refractometers are usually crazy if they even carry them. Get what you described and do a fishless cycle. This will give you plenty of time to plan your livestock and clean up crew.

If you can get regular sand, you can skip the live sand and save some money there, After you add a clean up crew and some time the sand will become live.
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Old 12-21-2008, 11:11 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Telek View Post
Okie. I'm in Toronto (Canada), so getting it from LiveAquaria isn't really an option, however it looks like their 24lbs of branch rock is $125 USD now.

So to just get the tank starting on it's settling period how about this:
- CaribSea Reef Base Rock ($175 CAD) 50lbs, nonbleached, not chemically treated
- CaribSea Ocean Direct Live Sand ($55 CAD) 40lbs
- CoraLife 48" Double Strip ($100 CAD) 2x28W: 10000K + Actinic
- 200G worth of Salt ($50)
- Glass Top ($50 CAD)
- 20lbs of live rock ($10 CAD per pound)
- new filter media, hygrometer

I'll use my existing canister filters for now and investigate what to do about a protein skimmer later. I'll also investigate getting a Refractometer since my local store's option is $80.

Does this sound like a good plan to start?
not to be mr advertiser but big als is having a pretty big boxing day sale... so if theres one around you... and being in toronto im sure there is. it may be a great time to hit it up.

also live rock at my local big als is 6.99 a lb and 5.99 over 30lbs. im not sure if your rounding up... but the 45min-1hr drive from T.O would likely be worth the time to go to newmarket.


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Old 01-01-2009, 03:19 PM   #9
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So I picked up all that stuff, ended up going with 65 lbs of live fiji rock and 35 lbs of spiderwick rock. I got the 65lbs of fiji rock for $265 (plus tax) because the guy did his math wrong (29lbs + 15lbs was 34lbs apparently) and the boxing week sale was 20% off. I also got the 35 lbs of spiderwick for about $98 (plus tax) so overall not too shabby! I checked out the other live rock that they had but honestly the fiji looked best. I added a bottle of the bacteria assist and 80 lbs of live sand. Got 330 gallons of salt for $70 (Instant Ocean) and the new filter media (expensive stuff that is) and a hygrometer and water conditioner.

So I made sure that the rock was the last thing that I picked up, and as soon as I got home I mixed some dechlorinated salt water and put them all back in water, so the total out-of-water time was about 45 minutes. This also allowed me to clean the rocks up a little bit.

It took a few hours to get the temp and salinity of the tank right, and the sand made the water really foggy for about a day. I hooked up my Eheim 2217 as a mechanical/biological filter, and a Rena XP2 as a mainly mech/bio but with about a cup and a half of carbon. These should be good for about 175 gallons, so use for my 75 gallon tank should be fine!

I then made sure that the temp and salinity of the fiji rock water and tank water was the same and transfered the rocks in and let them sit for a day so the water would clear and the sand would settle. After a day I drained 5 gallons and "washed" the spiderwick rock then we aquascaped the tank so all the rock is piled nicely in the back with lots of nooks and crannys.

So far the water is clear and the salinity is 1.023 and the temp is about 78F (no heater - can't get it any cooler unless I add a cooling unit!)

I need to get one of those inside-glass cleaning things as well as you can already see a bit of stuff left over, most likely from when I washed the tank prior to installation (I don't think it's from anything going on in the tank right now).

Questions:

I've read that after about a week (and after testing the water quality) I should add a few Damsels to help the cycling process along. Does this sound like a good idea?

I noticed a rather large worm as well that must have worked it's way out of a rock, plus a lot of very tiny little bugs crawling on the sand. Are either of these going to be a problem?

I also picked up a Hydor Koralia 3 pump (850 GPH) to help water circulation. Any idea based on the picture below where would be best to mount it?

Thanks!

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Old 01-01-2009, 03:24 PM   #10
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I've read that after about a week (and after testing the water quality) I should add a few Damsels to help the cycling process along. Does this sound like a good idea?

No To be honest it`s not a good idea at all. Here is our site cycling thread for SW. Consider the lives and health of the fish.

http://www.aquariumadvice.com/articl...ank/Page1.html
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