From scrath to freshwater to saltwater within a week

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Aquarium Advice Apprentice
Sep 15, 2008
Grand Rapids MI
I am completely new to aquariums. I have never had one before until this past week. I have had friends that had nice looking freshwater, some with betas, others with some African Cichlids. I finally decided to start my own.

I started with a 10 gallon. I was told that this would be a good starter size. I bought two Oscars, a lace cat, and some Kenyii. you can see, I wasn't very smart. Since I bought these at Meijer (similar to Wal-Mart) they salesman didn't know jack. So I decided going to the LFS and get some advice and accesories.

Upon telling the salesman at the LFS about mixing the Oscars and the Kenyii, he strongly recommend me to separate them, that they would be too agressive, especially for a 10 gallon.

So I returned those and bought some Tropheus Duboisi's. Cool cichlid, I really like them.

Having two of those in a 10 gallon with one Lace Cat, and having the pH level adjusted properly, I ran into the thoughts of getting a bigger tank. There was a grand opening sale for a new LFS, so I went there and got a decent deal on a 20 gallon High.

My current setup is two Duboisi's, one Mboko yellow, two yellow labs, and two lace cats. I am starting to think that it's too many fish for the 20gH. In fact, I know it is, and on top of that, I moved them in too fast. Even further, there shouldn't be any fish in the tank yet. Hasn't cycled yet. (been doing research).

I have been looking at creating a Nano Reef. This is my plan of action:

1) Taking the fish back (all seven).
2) Buying some Instant Ocean.
3) Buying some LiveRock.
4) Waiting...LOL!

My roommate has a 10gal nano reef that he just started a few weeks ago and is looking nicely. He has the water tests, the hydrometer, and all the "tools" needed. I think I would have to look into a PowerHead and a Protein Skimmer, but are those TRULY required for cycling a tank with LR?

Next would be the lighting system so I could start growing cool looking coral. I am looking at a dual PC strip, running at 130W, but dont have the money for it now. Will I have to have it for the LR right away? Currently, I have an 18" 15W Marine-Glo flourescent. Would that be enough to cycle the tank?

And when I say Wait, I truly mean not putting anything but LR in and low light soft corals in until about 4 months from now....

The ultimate question is whether or not I should go to saltwater. I like the cichlids, but everyone I talk to recommends 50 gallons or higher. I understand that they are only juveniles right now, and I could start a bigger tank later, but I think that would be more expensive than going to SW with Coral.

I am more so interested in keeping with the higher maintenance of sw because it gives me something to do. I enjoy change, and as my roommate said, "The freshwater is just growing now."
Well, in order to cycle that 10 gallon you will need one of two things, uncured live rock or fish. If you buy live rock from your lfs that is cured, its not going to cycle your tank. Uncured live rock is rock that has either slightly or completely dried out. All of the nitrifying bacteria on this stuff dies, and when it is reentered into saltwater, the decaying process begins. all the good stuff. Ammonia, nitrite, nitrate. If you choose to cycle a tank with uncured rock, set the tank up, add the rock, and constantly moniter all three levels. It may take several 25% water changes to get the tank cycled until your nitrates stabalize at a low level. I would recommend holding off on the corals for a little while, especially until the tank cycles well, and your nitrates are stabilized at a level of less than 5ppm. As far as lighting on a 10 gallon, the most you would need for even bright light corals is 5 watts per gallon. I think 130 watts is overkill. You will wind up with serious algae issues. And also here is a tip learned the hard way. If you cure your own rock, do it with no light. This prevents a hair algae bloom. If you do choose to use light while curing rock, dose the tank with a corraline algae accelerator. And one more thing, don't cure rock in a tank that contains fish. It cycles WAY TOO HARD and they can't handle it. I hope some of this info will come in handy for you and good luck!! Tip of the day.... Research, research, research, before you buy. It will save you lots of money in the longrun. is a really good informational website. They also sell everything you need
Instead of risking killing a fish you can use a raw, unseasoned shrimp from your grocery store (way cheaper and more humane).
If you get 1.5-2Lbs of cured LR per gallon, you will not really see a cycle at all because the beneficial bacteria will already reside on/in the LR.
I wouldn't suggest PWCs during the cycle (unless using fish) because it will prolong your cycle.
Wow....what a post. Thanks kwilliamskw! Learned quite a bit. I always thought that it would be better to use cured LR to make the tank cycle faster.

Also, I am using a 20gal High. Will the 130W be too much then? I figure 6.5W per gallon should be good. The only thing I might run into is that a 20gH is deeper than a 20g. Mine is 16.75" deep. Should I be concerned with the penetration level of the light?
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