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Old 01-02-2017, 02:16 PM   #1
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New to hobby - 120 gal. tank

Greetings everyone! Long-time reader of this forum, first time poster. I've been thinking about getting into this hobby for several years now, and finally after moving into a new home I have the space to do it. I recently acquired a new 6' long 120 gal. tank and I want to set it up as a saltwater FOWLR. I have no plans to add coral in the future. I've done quite a bit of research but as there is so much information out there, much of it contradictory, I want to make sure I do this the right way and ask the right questions before I get started. I am pretty patient and absolutely want to wait until the right time to do everything. I've ordered some supplies, here's what I have on the way to me now, along with some questions:

  • 7 20-lb. bags of Caribsea Arag-Alive Hawaiian Black sand (I pulled out my calculator and did the math so you don't have to - that's 140 lbs.). I think this should be enough for a sufficient substrate bed, but correct me if I'm wrong.
  • 1 40-lb. box of CaribSea Life Rock. From my research I'm concerned that this won't be enough. I can always get more, but since it's so expensive I'd like to know if there's a chance of making it work with this amount. The recommendations I've seen say 2 lbs. per gallon which would mean 240 lbs. of live rock, and that seems like an insane amount to me. How much do I realistically need?
  • Fluval FX4 canister filter (700 gal./hr circulation). I know that this type of filter isn't the top recommendation for a saltwater tank because it apparently builds up a lot of nitrate, but I'm ok with cleaning it once a week. A sump is pretty much out of the question for me. Is this a terrible idea or will I be ok with proper maintenance?
  • JBJ True Temp Titanium Heating System Kit (800W). This seems like it will be more than sufficient for my planned setup, so no worries there.
  • API Saltwater test kit
How does this sound and what else might I need?

I'm somewhat confused about the issue of circulation - do I also need a pump or does the filter provide enough flow? I've been looking at the Hydor Koralia Evolution Aquarium Circulation Pump (1050 GPH version) - is this a good idea? Should I get 2 less powerful pumps instead? This is the one point that has really confused me during my research. My LFS seemed to think additional circulation wouldn't be necessary at all.

The water question - I had originally planned on using tap water (I know your palms are getting sweaty just reading that) with bottled conditioner/dechlorinator treatment and a large box of Instant Ocean sea salt. Could this work? My LFS does sell saltwater but the "L" is in quotes here because it's over an hour away and I have no idea how I'd haul 120 gallons. Bottled distilled is also a possibility but it seems like 120 gallons of that may induce weeping in my wallet. I understand the tap water route could cause excess algae - if I decide to go that route, what's the best way to deal with that situation?

As far as cycling, I'm planning on doing the recommended cocktail-shrimp-in-pantyhose route to start the ammonia - would 3 of these be enough?

Lastly, I'm a bit unsure of what order I need to put things in to get the cycle started. Sand first, then live rock, then water? All 3 at once or should the rock go in later in the cycle? Should I add the salt before I put the water in the tank or can I just add it to the water after it's in the tank? At what point do I introduce the filter and start circulating - after the cycle is complete?

Apologies for the lengthy post but I sincerely appreciate any advice. This is one hobby that has the problem of too much available information (one might even say a head-spinning amount) and contradictory opinions. I feel like I'm on the right track but again, I want to be sure before I even get started.

Thank you!
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Old 01-02-2017, 03:49 PM   #2
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Welcome aboard!
When it comes to rock, you want to aim for 1 lbs per gallon. This will give you enough room for beneficial bacteria growth and ample swimming room for your livestock as well.
You can keep a canister with proper maintenance. A FOWLR system can be pretty basic and doesn't need much fancy to it. If you keep up with it, you'll be just fine.
The goal for flow is to have 10x turnover of your water column as a minimum. You will want to have powerheads in the system to assist with this, you want to avoid dead spots.
Algae isn't the real threat when it comes to tap water, it is the other dissolved solids that are in there that are the unknowns that can cause issues in our closed systems. An example of this is fluoride, which is good for us and not so good for the livestock we want to keep. I would aim for using either distilled water, which I have used in my reef tank for several years, or getting yourself a ro/di unit so you can make your own water.
That number of cocktail shrimp would be more than enough to cycle the system for you.
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Old 01-02-2017, 06:44 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply. It's all very helpful advice.

For the powerheads, is it better to have one powerful one that provides the 10x turnover, or a couple of smaller ones that add up to 10x?
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Old 01-02-2017, 07:42 PM   #4
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Going Saltwater ain't a cheap man's route. I'd recommend getting a decent RO/DI, keeping in mind that my 100 gph fills a 6 gallon container in an hour and a half. Considering the hike to the NSLFS, having a water source will be a major concern for water changes.

You didn't mention lighting... something to consider...

Personal preference would be more smaller power heads. More versatile, and if one craps out, you're still moving water.

Good luck with your new tank. Very rewarding for the work. I miss my S/W tank. Maybe again someday.
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Old 01-02-2017, 11:07 PM   #5
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More than one powerhead is best. Will help make a more 'chaotic' flow and make it harder to have dead zones.
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