FH's 29g saltwater tank progress/journal

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Aquarium Advice Apprentice
May 31, 2013
Hi there! Making this for I guess more of a journal than anything, recording updates and hopefully get some pointers/advise as I go. I'm new to saltwater, though I've run several freshwater tanks for years previously. Like most hobbyists, saltwater has been a bit of a dream that I was initially too scared to dip into until I felt confident in my aquarium knowledge.

While I love the looks of corals ect, I have decided that at first I will only keep fish (FOWLR) with the possibility of going reef, or simply adding an anemone further down the line. It would be a year or so before my tank would be aged enough anyways, so perfect. This decision has let me gather up equipment I would need for a reef tank rather than just a FOWLR, such as a reef happy LED light.

Over the past year/year and a half I have managed to slowly gather up all of my supplies to begin my journey. Originally I was going to start with an old 20H glass aquarium I've had since a child. However I decided to turn that into a freshwater community tank (while turning my 20L that previously hosted the freshwater community into Hermit crab habitat) and get a 29 gallon to start as saltwater. Because bigger is better, right? Figured that would be perfect since I already had the glass canopy that size, I could have more fish choices, and wasn't too big that everything wouldn't be too outrageous price-wise.

Also decided that my saltwater aquarium needed something a lot better to sit on than some industrial shelving. While the 20L was just fine sitting on it, I however now had 9 extra gallons, and 25-30 extra pounds of rock going to be sitting on this shelving so I was a little leary. Plus, it didn't look great. So, I decided to build my own stand, with my dad's help. I love diy projects, and I love customization. My tank stand is taller than most so the tank is more eye level. I have shelving underneath that can accommodate my bucket of salt, a 5 gallon bucket of r/o water for top offs; a middle shelf that can accommodate pretty much anything I want from water tests to foods ect; and a top half shelf that sits just under the holes in the back that I can rest my electric things on (airpump, ramp timer, ect). I could also paint it any color I wanted (I found an awesome sunken pirate ship backdrop that I got for my tank, so I decided to incorporate a kind of tasteful pirate theme and stain the wood to match) The best part is have the stand completely enclosed to make sure no cat could mess around in my wires, equipment, nor eat my fish food! In the end I love how it looks, especially for use being amateur builders!
Here's my DIY tank stand build thread: FH's DIY 29g aquarium stand

And the finished product:

The inside (though it is unorganized right now! beware!)

Now, for my tank and all the equipment ect I have aquired. Which, now the that tank is filled and running, I've been switching up equipment LOL.

- 29G glass aquarium
- glass canopy
- Aqueon quietflow 30 HOB filter (which will be replaced with a aquaclear 70)
- hydor 100wat heater (which may be replaced since it's turned down to 75F and the water temp says 81.8F)
- two hydor Korlia wavemakers, a 425gph and a 250gph)
- Coralife biocube protein skimmer
- digital thermometer
- FluvalSea full spectrum Marine and Reef LED (it's 24" I believe)
- Current USA duo ramp timer

- 25 pounds of base rock
- about 30 pounds of Caribsea Arag-Alive Fiji pink sand
- Instant Ocean marine salt

- refractometer
- Salifer Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate tests (I have PH and KH in API as well as the basic API kit originally bought and used for my FW tanks. Though I know I can print the saltwater API card I still read that it is pretty unreliable, and I have felt I never got a correct ammonia API reading anyways)
- seachem stability to help kickstart the cycle- or so it's been debated.

After much debating and research ect, I decided not to go with a SUMP because my tank wasn't drilled and I heard HOB overflow boxes are very unreliable (plus it would be my luck the siphon would break and would flood).

I am currently turning my aquaclear 70 into a mini refugium (of course as soon as I got the 70 I was kicking myself for not getting the aquaclear 110 because more room!), and have it hold my protein skimmer and possibly my heater. That would be nice, less clutter in the tank. However honestly if the power goes out and the water level drops, when it returns if the pump cannot self prime I am worried that it will explode my heater and set fire to my wall and/or break the aquarium/filter sending water everywhere and/or shock my fish. I can be a bit paranoid.
Plus I do want room to grow Cheatum, and no heater in filter means more room.
I have read a lot into the hob mini refugim, some say it will help, some say it's too small and won't really do anything- but the way I look at it is I haven't read anything saying it'll harm the tank and if there is the slightest possibility that it can help keep my water quality stable/benefit my tank in any way I'm all for it. Plus I really wanted the aquaclear to put my protein skimmer in it so I can properly close my glass canopy lol.

About my lighting: I got them for a good deal off Ebay, white reading it could grow corals (though now I read some other reviews that say otherwise) and when I got the Current Duo ramp timer I thought I could program it for two channels on this particular light (the light itself has a single switch- it can only be on off, daylights, or moonlight). I was really hoping I could program it for both the moonlight and the daylight- turns out it only has one connector plug instead of one for each the moonlight and daylight. Does anyone have any advise or experience dealing with the FluvalSea full spectrum marine lighting that could give me any pointers? Or any way I can possibly jimmyrig it?
I know I don't have to have the moonlight, but it would be nice. My other option is to get a moonlight LED strip. Doesn't have to be a fancy one or anything.

So, back to the tank! I have had it set up for a little over a week now (filled with r/o water from my LFS on 5/17/16), and have added two small raw shrimp in pantyhose for a week for a fishless cycle (5/19/16). I was originally going to seed my tank with 5 pounds of liverock, but my LFS does not carry LR to cut down on unwanted hitchhikers, which I think it a smart idea. It may take longer, but I'm willing to wait.

My SG is at 1.023, Ammonia is at 0.25pph and Nitrites are at 1pph as of yesterday.
So far I'm able to top off with RO water every other day, with just 2 1/2- 4 cups.

Before sand/rocks:

Today 5/27/16 (ah I need to clean the glass! need to get a soft glass cleaner magnet, wasn't aware that maga-float had such a rough side it makes me super nervous to use on it)


Lastly, my stocking plans. I have kind of thrown idea around for a while, but only recently have I begun to get serious with my livestock possibilities. I like a lot of color, an a lot of personality in my fish.
- Royal Gramma
- Two Oc clowns (one black and white, one common)
- Citrinus clown Goby
- (unsure if I want a blue/green chromis since they have always been a favorite of mine, or if I want some sort of sifter Goby, a chalk bass, a Benggai cardinal fish, or some sort of small colorful damsel though I heard they can become quite aggressive)

For CUC which I'm even more unsure and unfamiliar with, and I defiantly won't add them all at the same time especially when my tank is so new and there isn't a lot of food for them to thrive off of. I was thinking
- 2 blue legged hermits
- 2 red legged hermits
- a skunk cleaner shrimp
- 2 peppermint shrimp
- a starfish, still researching what kind
- possibly an emerald crab, but I heard they can be aggressive with the fish?
- possibly some snails, not quite sure what yet or if I really even want them. My others thanks got over run with trumpet snails and I'm kind of over the snail thing.

So far I'm enjoying the ride!
It looks good, can't comment on the lights as I've never had them but I'll comment on the livestock.

The four you listed: Royal gramma, clowns, and clown goby would work perfectly. A chalk Basslett wouldn't because Royal grammas are also basslets and they'd fight. You could do some type of blenny or small hawkfish if you want personality. They're brimming with it lol

As far as cuc I'd skip hermits and just do snails. Hermits are jerks and murder snails for their shells. As far as stars, serpent stars are hardy and cool.

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Oooh, Hawkfish! They are quite striking, especially that Flame (too bad he's an invertebrate eater). I think I'll look into the Geometric Pygmy Perchlet, he's very eye catching and looks like he's less likely eat any inverts :)

Thanks so much for your input, with the CUC as well!
So I said in the original post nitrites were at 1ppm; I meant 0.1ppm (whoops sorry!)
As of today (5/29/16) nitrites look to be at 1ppm, ammonia in between 0.25 and 0.5? It's hard to say haha.

ImageUploadedByAquarium Advice1464534147.174770.jpg

SG at 1.023, temp 81.8F (left the heater alone as now, since warmer water breeds bacteria. My goal temp is 78F after the tank cycles)

Also looks like I'm starting to get so noticeable brown algae growth. Of course I had my lights on a schedule until yesterday. They're now off until I start adding stock.

Next time I'll start testing for nitrates as well. I've been testing every 3 days thus far.

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The brown algae is a good sign, it's diatoms and usually means the cycle is coming to an end.

Also, I have a flame hawk in my 40 and he's a model citizen. He doesn't mess with my mated pair of gold coral banded shrimp.

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The brown algae is a good sign, it's diatoms and usually means the cycle is coming to an end.

Also, I have a flame hawk in my 40 and he's a model citizen. He doesn't mess with my mated pair of gold coral banded shrimp.

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Ooh, good to know! It hasn't progressed much since I first spotted it, so not sure if it's true diatoms or just my rock naturally coloring for some reason? Will keep an eye on it.
ImageUploadedByAquarium Advice1464965092.541205.jpgImageUploadedByAquarium Advice1464965122.027073.jpg

Also that is good to know about the Flame Hawk! I think he'll be on my stock list, and if I do run into problems I can always return him.

Sooo tested the water the other day! That would have marked day 13 in the official cycle day, and I decided to test the nitrates as well.
ImageUploadedByAquarium Advice1464963539.247641.jpg
Ammonia (top) appears to be in the 0.25ppm range, Nitrites (right) appears to be around 0.5ppm, and Nitrites (left) looks to be near the 100ppm range! Wow things are moving! Though I know I still probably shouldn't add anything until 4-6wks, or was it when there is a lot of algae growth first?

Temp is down to 80.8F (I turned my heater down four degrees on the dial and it went down one degree in the tank). Looks like I'll be digging out my other heaters, I'm not happy with this hydor heater.
SG remains at 1.023 with the occasional RO/DI top off. I think I might be looking into a small auto top off in the near future, I think the constant manual top offs will be the death of me ha. Hopefully evaporation will be less once I get my skimmer out (it's going in my diy refugium mod) so I can fit my glass lid on correctly.

As for the Aquaclear 70 refugium mod- haha the silicone doesn't stick well and the super glue isn't working well. I guess I'll have to find a different type of superglue.

Also, rearranged my rocks a little- may epoxy the big group together on the right.
ImageUploadedByAquarium Advice1464965011.656599.jpg
Yes fake jellies because I was tired at looking at an empty tank :p


So I guess the big question is when the tank is ready, what should I stock first? I know I have to add everything slowly especially after reading up on why my tank appears to be cycling so fast. From what I interpreted everything i added is dead (the sand originally came live, but after I put it in the tank I ran into some problems, was suggested I epoxy my smaller rocks together especially, and we'll live happened then the sand dried up >.<), so if I add things too quickly/big of a bioload for the bb to handle the cycle will crash/go into a mini cycle. Vs if I had some kind of live rock, which could have handled a bigger bioload to start out with. Does that sound correct? I am doing the best I can to research and learn all I can.

I was probably going to add in this order, waiting a week-2 weeks in between, depending on water parameters. Any variations please let me know!
1. couple snails (nerites and Nass. Is I think the most popular choices)
2. The Royal gramma
3. Shrimp
4. Emerald crab and feather duster
5. C. Goby
6. Couple more of same species of snails
7. Pair of oc. Clowns
8. Serpent starfish
9. Flame hawkfish

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ImageUploadedByAquarium Advice1465739407.414166.jpg
From 6/8/16, just shy of week 3 of cycling.

Nitrites on top, nitrates Is the middle, ammonia on the bottom. Doesn't look like much changed. Nitrites still present, and looks like some ammonia as well. Decided to pretty much test weekly for a little bit to preserve tests.
Getting some noticeable green algae on my rocks, I knocked back the light schedule since I decided to turn them back on. Aquaclear refugium mod took a back seat for the time being.

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Just turn your lights off, there isn't a need to have them on while cycling.

Yeah I had them off for a while but turned them back on since I kinda wanted a little algae to grow to feed my future cuc. I've been gone all week and had since reduced the light schedule and not really much more has grown which I'm totally fine with.

1 month into the cycle (4 1/2 wks)
Tested the water again, and my nitrates actually went down? Is this normal? As in from 100+ to maybe 20ppm. I thought the only way the nitrates could go down was via plant or water changes. I have not done a water change, and I am cycling with all base rock, and hardly have any diatoms or algae.
ImageUploadedByAquarium Advice1466349844.651030.jpg
(Nitrates on the bottom)

But the nitrites ate trace, woot!

Ammonia has me a little confused, I either detect 0 or .25 depending on where I am in regards to the overhead light.
Under the overhead light:
ImageUploadedByAquarium Advice1466350220.272405.jpg

Overhead light is behind me:
ImageUploadedByAquarium Advice1466350270.057586.jpg

Thoughts? May compare using my API kit later once I get a saltwater color chart printed out.

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Using pure ammonia method? Dose some ammonia again. You want to see the ammonia processed into nitrates in a 24 hour period before adding livestock.

I'm using the raw shrimp method, still have the pantyhose in the tank- haven't really investigated to see if it was completely disintegrated.
Should I try adding some fish food or another raw shrimp? Or just go out and get some ammonia?

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If you are using the raw shrimp method and you still have a shrimp in the pantyhose that is decomposing, then the ammonia source is still there doing its thing. If you can't detect ammonia or nitrite while the shrimp is in there, then it is time to remove it and do a water change to bring down your nitrates to add livestock.
How's the tank going, I'm curious because I think you have the same dimensions as my tank.

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