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Old 07-07-2006, 12:20 PM   #1
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Low budget setup


I hope you folks can point me in the right direction.

In the early 70's I was an avid saltwater hobbyist. I haven't done anything with SW since then.

Now I would like to get back into it, but in a very small way. I need to re-learn many things, mostly in the area of equipment. While they had most of the things they have now, back then, they were not very popular, and I have no experience with them.

I have a 35 gal tank that I want to set up as Fish Only. The key here is LOW BUDGET. I have never had much luck with saltwater in less than a 50 Gal tank and used to prefer 100 Gal plus, so this is a big departure from what I am used to. But I am hoping that newer technology will help me out.

Back in the day, the preferred setup would use a under gravel filter using reverse flow with a deep bed, and an external power filter for additional water movement and mechanical filtration.

I never did like UG filters much.

Now I am thinking a hang on power filter with a bio wheel maybe for mechanical and bio filtration, and a hang on or in tank air driven protein skimmer.

I am assuming the chemical test equipment has not changed since then, I know the fish certainly haven't

I am comfortable with cycling the tank and all. I want to stay away from a reef system due primarily to cost, and issues with potential disease control.

Because of the small tank size and potential water stability issues I intend to under populate the tank and stock with fish that are clean eaters.

Where I can really use help, is advice with the filtration equipment, specific brands, and please remember that cost is a major factor. Also, I am a unsure about what type of substrait to use and how much. Oyster Shell or dolomite, used to be the thing to use, Now, I am not so sure.

Thanks for the help!!

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Old 07-07-2006, 12:39 PM   #2
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UGF's are almost never used anymore. *MY* preferred recommendation would be about 3 inches of sand, 60 lbs of liverock and then powerheads for water circulation. No other type of filter would be necessary, although I would say that an el cheapo hang on the back would be handy for running carbon now and then. Bio Wheels are nitrate producers and I would stay away from them.
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Old 07-07-2006, 12:50 PM   #3
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Hey, welcome to AA, and welcome back to the hobby.

First off, I gotta say that "success in SW" and "low-budget setups" aren't really friends in this hobby. You can make them get along for awhile, but eventually, if you want the peace usually "low-budget" needs some character-improving.

It also depends on what you really mean by low budget, of course.

My recommendation, in your case, would be to fill your 35G with 1.5 to 2 lbs of live rock and make it a FOWLR instead of fish-only. With this done, you could eliminate the need for powerfilters and canister filters which are kinda iffy now-a-days anyway.

Your LR (50 to 70 lbs worth) will handle the bio-filtration better than any other method. Plus, it looks nice. At that point, you can decide on either a small protein skimmer.....one that actually skims....(not the cheap ones sold that try and fool us into thinking they can skim.) OR decide to go with dedicated husbandry practices and be diligent with water changes every week or so.

Theoretically, if you stay on top of your system, you should be good to go with this method. At this point, should you decide to take it further, you have the foundation for a reef....LR already in place, and you can just upgrade you lighting when and if that decision is made.

I would recommend starting with aragonite sand as well.
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Old 07-07-2006, 12:51 PM   #4
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Hara.....beat me to it.....roughly the same idea.....'cept she remembered the powerheads!!
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Old 07-07-2006, 01:02 PM   #5
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Wow. quick reply.

I was sort of afraid of liverock in such a small tank. I thought that a quick dive in WQ might kill off the rock but not be much of a threat to vertibrates like fish.

Very interesting. I like the idea a whole lot. And yeah I know there is realy no such thing as low budget SW. But once I get it up and running (and past the wifes budget control) I may be able to expand upon it as time goes by.

I am very confortable with close monitoring of the system as I used to do that kind of thing long ago. The idea of depending upon LR to manage the filtration is very new to me and hard to get used to.

If I add fish that are likely to nible on the rock, would the rock need to be replaced after awhile or can it sustain a limited amount of pecking? Also, I believe LR needs better lighting. This tank is in my basement so is not going to get any natural light to speak of. Do I need to be concerned about that?
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Old 07-07-2006, 04:09 PM   #6
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LR in a small tank is nothing to be afraid of

What my recommendation would be is to start your cycle with uncured LR... and maybe a raw cocktail shrimp... the LR put in right in the beginning should be all that's needed to kick start your cycle, but a raw shrimp will be a nice supplement to kickstart the ol' cycle.

Any rock you buy will have die-off on it by the time it gets to you. That die-off will be utilized as an ammonia source for cycling. The rock won't lose all it's life, and some thought to be lost may even come back. Once the cycle is finished and your nitrates are below 15 ppm, you can introduce a small clean-up crew to deal....wait then slowly add a fish or two.

Your fish won't "eat" your rock....no worries there. The only thing I would stay away from if this is a concern, would be the pencil urchin......it's a LR hole borer.

Your LR will give you tons of surface area to colonize all the beneficial bacteria needed for nitrogenous waste management. It serves the same purpose as a powerfilter, 'cept it does the job better. Powerheads ARE important in your tank though. 10 to 15x tank volume should be your goal.

If you want nice coraline growth on your rock, you may want to look at a power compact light strip.....fairly affordable, and will give you several coral options before need for an upgrade for a potential future reef. LR will be fine under NO fluorescent, but it won't promote coraline growth and any photosynthetic life that hitch-hikes it way into your tank via the LR may perish. LR is deemed live because of the bacterial population as well as the various other critters, corals, sponges etc, that come with it.

It will still serve it's main purpose under low/inexpensive lighting, but its potential in the aestetics department will be stiffled under the lower light.

hope that helps!
good luck,
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Old 07-07-2006, 04:23 PM   #7
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Welcome to AA, and welcome back to the hobby!!!

would be the pencil urchin......it's a LR hole borer.
I have a pencil and a pincushion urchin. They do munch the LR but the coraline grows back fast enough, in my tank. They basically eat any kind of algae. I have seen them on top of my cyano, mowing through (not sure if they are eating or just moving it). The fish I know of that would eat LR are triggers and puffers (the puffers, use it to trim their fused teeth), both of which, I believe will get too big for a 35G.

This tank is in my basement so is not going to get any natural light to speak of. Do I need to be concerned about that?
That's probably a pretty good place to keep the algae down, due to the lack of natural sunlight, just watch the temp in the tank.

canister filters which are kinda iffy now-a-days anyway.
I have a canister, good for water movement and adding carbon, of course you can go with a HOB type deal to add carbon when you need it. I can't do HOB due to two cats....LOL!!

Other than that Hara and Rguy are right on with their advice.
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Old 07-07-2006, 07:39 PM   #8
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Welcome to AquariumAdvice.com!!!
All of the info here is spot on. LR is nothing to be afraid of, in fact, it is the single best thing you can do for your tank. I am sure a lot has changed since the 70's and your last attempt at SW. Despite other's opinions, SW can be done on a budget (as you mentioned) but things may take a bit longer. I would go with 60lbs of aragonite play sand from a home improvement store and 75lbs of base rock from www.hirocks.com. Since these items are not "live", the cycling process with take longer and you will not be able to add livestock as fast. But...if budget is a concern this is the way to go. A simple HOB filter will provide mechanical/chemical filtration and you can save up for a skimmer. this hobby is expensive and there are some unforeseen costs. However, it does not need to break the bank if you are willing to spend some extra time instead of extra money.
Some people are like slinkies...they serve no real purpose yet can still bring a smile to your face when you push them down the stairs!:p
Have a great day! Brian
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Old 07-07-2006, 09:27 PM   #9
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You might want to pick up a copy of "The New Marine Aquarium" (step-by-step set up and stocking guide), by Micheal S. Paletta. It really covers the lr filtration and the improvements on this hobby over the last 20 or so years. I have read and re-read it with highlighter in hand! The book, along with this site, has been wonderful.
I just started my lr cycle in a new tank and we are amazed at how easy it is. I have a 55g. to be reef with two maxi-jet 1200's and an Aqua C Remora Pro protein skimmer. So far, 60lbs of sand, and 75 lbs of lr.
Free shipping on first order
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Old 07-08-2006, 07:41 AM   #10
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I have to agree that LR and skimmer is all you need for filtration. Welcome to AA


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