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Old 05-18-2020, 04:11 PM   #1
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Starting up a reef tank

Good afternoon, my name is Jean and I needed some help. I have had a 75 gallon saltwater aquarium for years. I am not saying that I am an expert, but I am comfortable in maintaining it and keeping my fish healthy. My question is , my new hobby is starting a reef aquarium.
This is new to me. I just bought a 20 gallon high tank. I wanted to start small and once i am more comfortable, I will upgrade to a bigger tank. This is how I was able to maintain my 75 gallon. I started small and when I became more confident I upgraded.

Anyways, I have the tank, stand and light. I just want to make sure I set this right and the coral will thrive.
I am trying to figure out on a good filtration for this size tank that the coral will survive. I am excited and can't wait to start.
What else other than the live rock, live sand is it that I need to start the reef tank and be successful. Please help.

Thanks.
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Old 05-18-2020, 04:16 PM   #2
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Welcome Jean! Reefing really isn't any more or less difficult than what you are already doing. You should know about cycling and the importance of water changes and maintaining parameters. The only real difference from fish only systems to a reef, besides hoping for lower nutrient levels, is having an intense enough light for the photosynthetic needs of the corals.
Any size will do, it's about what you want to do and are comfortable with. Depending on the livestock in your current setup, simply updating the lights could easily turn it into a reef tank depending on livestock in the system.
Since you said you have lighting, what is it? We can help you figure out if it will support photosynthetic corals or not.
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Old 05-18-2020, 04:56 PM   #3
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I have an orbit marine aquarium LED light
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Old 05-18-2020, 05:45 PM   #4
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That light should handle soft coral/lps all right. A stronger light would be needed for any stony coral or sps. Not sure of the budget but the black box chinese led panels would grow anything you want on a small tank like yours. I've had mine on my 29g for years. As for the live rock and such, do you have a reef society in your area? They can be awesome for acquiring live stock and supplies on the cheap.
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Old 05-18-2020, 05:52 PM   #5
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Thank you. I plan on getting lps coral.
As far as the filtration?
Would a hang on filter be ok for the coral? If so what would you recommend? Will I need a protein skimmer as well?
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Old 05-18-2020, 05:57 PM   #6
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You can get an aqua clear 75, 110 would be better. Evaporation will be a pain as will salt creep but if you're up for the challenge?? Do you have a reverse osmosis setup?
Not sure if a sump is an option? That is ideal.
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Old 05-18-2020, 06:51 PM   #7
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Like brook said youíll need an Rodi unit as tap is a no go for a reef tank. With sw tanks as water evaporates salt stays behind so youíll have to be topping off with freshwater regularly. What kind of corals/fish did you want? Stocking a reef tank is a lot different than a fw setup.
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Old 05-18-2020, 07:26 PM   #8
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All of that is great advice, but from my experience I would skip the HOB filter. They cause more issues from salt creep alone than they solve. These small systems can easily be managed via water changes. A 5 gallon bucket water change is 1/4 of this system's water column.
But ro/di water can be very important. Making your own is best case, but check to see if you can get it at your LFS if it isn't in the budget or space to put one.
It wasn't mentioned, but I was assuming you have powerheads already for the setup?
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Old 05-18-2020, 07:57 PM   #9
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^^^^^ flow is paramount. And speaking from experience the hob is a salt creep nightmare. Even in my brackish tank. It's bad. I will.probably have to buy a new house because of the salt creep hahah
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Old 05-22-2020, 04:08 PM   #10
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I have a question for you. Will I need a protein skimmer ? If so, is the Macro Aqua M-50 a good brand. I did hear many good things about it. Do I leave it running all day? I am not sure on how to use a protein skimmer. I do know what its purpose is for. I am not familiar on how to use it. Can you explain, if it is not too much trouble.
Thank you.
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Old 05-22-2020, 04:15 PM   #11
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I ran one for a couple years and took mine off my 50 gal system a year ago, it's been doing just fine, if not better. You can absolutely add one, they're beneficial, I'd think more so in the first couple years. I was sick of dealing with it to be honest. The big boy rigs seem to be a little more user friendly than the nano models. You're not running a sump so itd be an hob or in display model?
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Old 05-22-2020, 11:02 PM   #12
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I have a 40 g reef with a 20 sump/refugium. A skimmer has a pump that creates a foam of bubbles and "skims" organic matter from the water. Water changes achieve the same purpose and also restore calcium and other minerals at the same time. It just isn't efficient to do large weekly water changes on a large tank.

A skimmer also has an added benefit of helping aerate the water. But I think you'd be fine with weekly 20% water changes on a 20g as long as you aren't overstocked. Live rock and powerheads will handle your biological filtration and aeration needs. I started with dry rock.

If I had to do over I wouldn't add coral until 6-9 months after the tank stabilizes a bit. The hair algae and cyanobacteria outbreaks in new tanks can be brutal as you probably know and it is no fun dealing with especially with corals.

As others have said, you will want a rodi unit, I have the inexpensive "rodi buddy" sold on Amazon for under $100 and it gets me to 0 tds. You may also want to consider an auto top off unit a stability is key for coral happiness

I have some hammers and candy cane / trumpets. Duncans are popular easier lps as well. I just run a black box 165w led like Brookster mentioned and it works okay. You can find them on Amazon for $80+.

My own personal reef struggle is that I have bubble algae that I just can't get rid of, which is an argument for good quarantine process

Good luck!
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Old 05-22-2020, 11:17 PM   #13
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Just sharing a picture of my tank, softies on the left, lps on the right, gorgonian and corky in the foreground. Clown, cardinal, cleaner shrimp, shrimp goby, blenny... All would bee fine I think in a 20g reef.Click image for larger version

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Old 05-23-2020, 07:06 PM   #14
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Iíd say anything 40g or under doesnít really need a slimmer and job skimmers are junk. Just keep up on weekly wcs on a small tank and youíll be fine. Lps and softies donít use up much calcium or alkalinity until they get big and even then it pales in comparison to sps corals.
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