Need help on setup

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Aquarium Advice Freak
Nov 15, 2002

My husband and I have been doing a lot of research on starting our new tank, we've done FW for about 6 years until the fish we had for that long died we have two 250 magnum filters and were using a biowheel, anyways that's besides the point, we've done a lot of reading on how to set this new tank up but we are at a standstill because we are getting conflicting opinions, do we add the water, salt then check the salt content then add the Live Rock then Live sand, or do we do what the local fish store guy says and all it all at the same time? We do know about putting some kind of support for the live rock so that it won't fall if the sand is moved by the digging fish we may get. Also, can we use one of the magnum filters or should we just go with a skimmer and a pump? Also which is the best skimmer that doesn't cost a lot, I've read good and bad about the Sea Clone skimmer. Help is extremely appreciated!
I posted this on another site, but this one seems more helpful and more informative.
do we add the water, salt then check the salt content then add the Live Rock then Live sand, or do we do what the local fish store guy says and all it all at the same time? We do know about putting some kind of support for the live rock so that it won't fall if the sand is moved by the digging fish we may get. Also, can we use one of the magnum filters or should we just go with a skimmer and a pump? Also which is the best skimmer that doesn't cost a lot, I've read good and bad about the Sea Clone skimmer. Help is extremely appreciated!
I posted this on another site, but this one seems more helpful and more informative.

Lets get down to business. First off welcome to the site. Second off Kudos to you for researching first. Third, double Kudos for looking for second,third options.

Ok. now that we have that covered lets get along with helping ya out.

First off how big of tank are we talking about?

I would add water and get it up to 80F temp. Also have some powerheads in the tank to provide current. Then once tank is up to temp slowly add salt. I like to shake the salt out with a wax cup so that its spread out evently and not just pour it in. Allow the tank to sit with heater and PH's running for atleast 12 hours. The salt should be totally disolved by this point and you can test salinity or specific gravity. Once that is at 1.020-1.025 then you can add your sand and live rock. You can use PVC pipe as a structure to keep your rock from being toppled if you have sand digging critters. You could also put the rock in first and then add the sand. This would put the rock on the glass bottom and the sand around it.

When placing the rock try to stack it loosly so water and fish can swim and flow in and around the rocks. Also if possible put the rock in the middle of the tank so you can get to the sides, front, and back. If you add it all at once, (ie put freshwater in tank then add rock and sand then add salt your gonna kill 99% of the stuff on that rock and sand. so you need saltwater to be ready first).

If you want to use the mag's you can remove the media and just use them as water circulation pumps. You want to get at a minimum 10X flow in the tank so if the tank is a 55 gal then shoot for a min of 550gph flow rate in the tank.

1 to 1.5lbs of LR and 3-4" DSB is all the filtration you need. Add a skimmer to that and your set.

Depending on size of tank this will govern your skimmer selection. I have used both the seaclone and the prizm skimmers. I feel for the price they are a good unit. Are they the best out there? No. But $ for $ they are the best in their pricerange. If your tank is larger than a 55 then you might want to look at a larger unit.

We try. Heck maybe we get you an answer faster than that other site. Who knows.


Thank you for responding so quickly! I'm sorry we forgot to add it is a 29 gallon tank, we'd like bigger but don't have the room for it plus we had just bought a nice stand and hood for it when the fish died a couple months later. We thought it was weird when the fish guy had told us to all everything at once, it makes more sense to do the water and salt first especially when adding live rock and sand. We really like to go reef but are finding until we get a bit more experienced with keeping things in check that we will just do the living rock and a few fish, love the mandrin gobies but that one will have to wait until later. This has got to be the hardest hobby, it really teaches you to be patient unlike fresh water, from what we have been reading it will involve a lot more care and patience. But we look forward to it, would love anymore info especially lighting, can we just use striplites and attach them to the hood? We have a glass lid that sits on top of the tank. Tried reading info on lighting but frankly am confused on whats what and what it is needed for. Remember we've only had freshwater and a standard flouresent bulb to light the tank before but we are extremely willing to learn.

Thank you again for your help and responding so quickly!
U thought the first response was quick. How 'bout this one ;)


We have a thread in the general retailer section about not trusting LFS's (local fish shops). Its a fun read. basicly it talks about not trusting someone who makes $ off their own advise.

Its good to wait for reef setup. the only real difference between a reef and a FOWLR is corals. And for corals you need BRIGHT light.

You can get by with the strip lights you have but a double strip light would be better at least for now. I personally dont like glass tops but unless you build something to mount those lights in and put them above the water you gonna have to use the glass lid.

Dont worry you will gain knowldege as you go along. as my sig says. take is slow as 'nothing good happens fast in a reef' this holds true for all saltwater.

You will find lighting is a confusing and much debated subject.
Thank you!

Boy you are fast! Thank you, we plan on starting it this weekend! Thanks for being quick and for having an informative site. We'll be back often! :lol:
Live rock


This maybe jumping ahead a little bit, we've got the water in and have a question before we go out and buy some live rock. How can you tell if it is real live rock, is there something to look for? Reason I'm saying this is whats to stop someone from putting a dead rock in some water and trying to sell it to someone new like me and saying it's live? The same fish store that all the other fish stores recommend going to has two different types of "live rock" one is for 1.98 lb and the other is 5.98 lb, is there some way of telling with out asking this guy and looking like you are someone who doesn't know what they are looking for? Also with live sand, I've read you can buy live sand and it comes in the water, then I've also read and been told in different FS that it's in a bag. What do I need to be looking for and is it really live being in a bag?

Help! :)
No i would not say your jumping the gun at all.

You can tell good live rock by a few factors. 1 is color. Good live rock will have some nice colors to it. Base rock which might be the cheapest will usually be just a bland drab grey color. Live rock will have some coralline growth on it. This is what is the purples, blues, and sometimes red colors on the rock itself. Look for maybe some small feather duster worms on the rock.

The higher quality the rock the more stuff will appear to be growing on it.

Live rock will never be sold dry so if they are selling you that as live rock then just pass it by.

Also, give the rock a good smell. If the rock smells rotten or dead then its not cured. If the rock smells like the ocean or just does not stink then its probably cured.

Good live rock is less dense and more porus than other types of rocks. A 10lbs rock that is the size of a grapefruit is not a good rock but a 10lb rock the size of a basketball would be a nice rock.

Look for strange shapes and items that you can use to build tunnels and little caves with.

IMHO the live sand that is sold in bags and is stored on the dry goods sheaves are junk. Its just sand that is supposed to have bacteria in it. Good live sand will be sold out of a tank. preferably a tank that is connected to the stores filtration system. Good live sand will not only have bacteria in it but have all sorts of worms and baby starfish in it.

Look on the side of the tank if you can see little worm trails then the sand is better quality than the stuff in the bags.
What if..

Ok, we've checked around for live sand in a tank, unable to find anyone except one place that has it in a box, it was like a shipping box. We are in Orange County California and haven't been able to find anyone that has it in an aquarium. Thank you for the advice on the live rock we will be looking for that, we've got our water at 1.025 which a osilating power head and next pay day we will be investing in the live sand and live rock once we find a place that carries both. We were going to use just regular strip lights to mount to a wood hood that we bought but it hangs lower than we'd like it to be. Any suggestions on some that work good that can be attached to a hood for a reasonable price? The water temp is about 77 degrees, I know once we get the lights on there it will raise the temp, we have NOT put a heater in the water at all yet, should we? We aren't experiencing a cold winter, but then when does Southern California, any suggestions? Btw Fishfreek saw you found the other site, like this one you are are fast!

Thanks again!
Hi. Welcome Fish Freek is quick.
I would add a heater into the tank to raise the temp a little more.
If your not in a big hurry try getting your liverock and live sand online.
Overnight shipping can be done.
Here is a site to start with.
Good luck and be patient it will come together.

Thanks for the help and the website will check it out! Still trying to figure out the lighting and have been reading everywhere and getting confused.
you could by about 10 lbs of base rock , put it in for a base, directly on the glass then put your sand in and put another 40 lbs or so of live rock on top. eventually the base rock you put in will become live rock. as far as seaclone skimmers, thats all ive ever used, i think they are great, and for the money, you cant beat it.
Lights for your tank will vary in type and strength. It depends on what you plan on keeping in the tank.

Corals such as Leathers, Mushrooms, Trumpets, Etc. can go under VHO or Power compact lighting.

Acroporas, Clams & other harder corals need Metal Halide with a combo of either VHO or Power compact lighting.

As you will come to find out lighting is very controversial, Makes for good arguments :lol:

I would suggest getting a book on Corals and research the type of items you want in your tank for lighting and hardiness of the corals.

As you have already seen this type of tank demands alot of thought before starting. As I have found out the hard way don't skimp at the beginning it will only cost more later on down the road.

Keep asking ? and learn from others by our good fortune and mistakes
Thank you, one more question

We are going to get the live sand and rock today, but because of the holiday's coming up I don't want to go overboard on buying, is it possible to add more live sand from the same place we got it in the first place at a later time. What we were thinking was getting about 20 lbs of live sand and about 5 pounds of live rock, we still need to purchase lighting and also a test kit which will also add up the price. Our tank has been running with out a heater it is at 80 degrees without a heater and without lights, just the saltwater has been circulating for a week with an oscilating jethead and a magnum 250 just to circulate the water. We know it's going to take time to get everything right before adding any fish. Is it possible to put a mixture of sand from a bag that they sell in the LFS at the bottom and put the live on top knowing that the live would eventually make the other live also? Look forward to everyone's response and thank you in advance! :p
YEs what you say is fine.

I am curious why your tank is so warm with out a heater. Do you keep your house warm aswell? What is the room temp of the room that the tank is kept in?

80F is a fine temp as long as it does not flux from night to day. If it goes from 75F at night to 80F at day then you should put a heater in to keep the temp at 80F as much as possible.

ANother concern is what will happen in the summer. If the tank is that warm now. Is there direct sun light on the tank?
No heater

The most it has changed in temp is about 1 degree, the tank is in a corner of the room away from direct sunlight. We live in So. California and we don't run the heater at all. The house faces north and south, we get a lot of sunlight in the room but the tank is in a darker spot in the room. From the time we set up the water the water remained about 76, the temp from night to day hasn't changed at all in the last two to three days.

Yesterday outside was a bit cloudy at times but it stayed in the 70's and last night was probably in the low 60's or high 50's, I mean it was cold to us, but we don't run the heater in our house.

We do have a little bit of salt build up on the bottom of the therometer do you think it is giving us an inacurate reading? Can you recommend a better therometer then?

We bought some live sand, not out of the tank though out of a bag that had sand a some water in it, it's called Bio Active Live Aragonite Reef Sand, bought two bags of that and 10 pounds of fiji Live Rock with nice color on it like you suggested.

We have not bought a skimmer as of yet, right now we have the 250 magnum and the oscilating jethead and bubble stone going to provide a lot of movement.

We still need to purchase a test kit but are having a hard time finding one that includes everything, I've read the test strips aren't that great so we are looking for the other kind.

We bought some lights also, but not your normal aquarium lights I guess, they are flouresent lights that would go under a cabinet, we plan on replacing one with an actine light. Both lights are covered with a plastic cover, will this cause a problem?

Look forward to your help :)
We do have a little bit of salt build up on the bottom of the therometer do you think it is giving us an inacurate reading? Can you recommend a better therometer then?

Salt buildup?

What kind of therometer is this? Is it extnernal stick on type?
It's an internal one that is affixed with suction cup, it has white plastic and also shows a "safe zone" area which is highlighted in green which shows from temp 70 to 80, which you had said 80 is where it needs to be at.

Should we have an external one? That's what we had used for our freshwater but figured we needed an internal one to get a more accurate reading for the salt.
some more questions

We have our tank getting set up. As earlier, we have the 29 gal tank, magnum 250 & an ocsillating head to push the water around. We removed the airstone. Did think it was doing much other than get water spray outside the tank. The Ammonia is starting to climb so it looks like the tank is just starting it's cycle. We have 40lbs of LS and right now only 10lbs of LR. We plan to add about 10-20lbs more LR when we can afford more & possibly another 20lbs of LS.

We've been thinking ahead a little bit as to what critters & fish to put in that wouldbe reef friendly. We've read other posts on this & other boards where some people have a LOT of critters & cleanup crew for their tanks (i.e. 10-20 various crabs, 20+ snails, 10+ shrimp, etc.). One of my thought is: are ALL these numbers of critters & cleanup crew really needed? With our 29 gal tank, we were just thinking about 2 or so different snails, maybe 3 crabs & a shrimp or two. Would that be enough? We're also thinking about a gobie and/or a bleenie to stir up the DSB a bit. As for the fish population, we're not planning on having that many. Maybe 3-5 or 6 small fish at the most. We don't want to over populate the tank.

Anyone have any thoughts/feelings/advice on this? We really appreciate all the advice & feedback we've been getting! :D
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