Saltwater Tank Dream/Journey

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Aquarium Advice Activist
Jun 15, 2011
Hello!!! And so it begins. About a year from now, I will hopefully be moving into my first house. When this happens I will have room for a larger tank. If I don't get a house, I will be re-arranging my apartment to fit a larger tank. Whatever the circumstances, next summer I want to start a saltwater tank. This will be my first experience with a saltwater tank so I am starting early gathering information on what I will need. I have kept freshwater fish since I was in elementary school, I am now 22 and think I can handle a bigger saltwater tank. Tank size will be AT LEAST 55 gallons, I would probably go no larger than 75 gallons.

Lets start off with the basics, my biggest concern is the filtration/sump. I need to know everything, do they sell SUMP/Refugium setups or do you have to design your own. I'm running a 29g, and a 10g freshwater right now that can be sacrificed for the use of a sump when the time comes. Is a Refugium required and what benefits does it provide? Also would the 10g be large enough for up to a 75g tank, and have enough room for refuge, skimmer, etc.

Ok a simple question for most probably. Can someone please describe to me the whole live rock/sand thing? I just can't wrap my head around it for some odd reason. If you put a rock in a saltwater tank, will it become live rock once bacteria/whatever grow on it, or is live rock something completely different, same thing with the sand.

I WANT CORALS!!! :lol: Yes I refuse to do a saltwater tank without corals, unless for some reason other circumstances regarding a certain stock fish I want will not co-exist with them. Lighting is key I understand, so what kind of light will be necessary, and what kind of price on lights alone are we talking about.

Protein Skimmer, Power Head/Wave maker. K so protein skimmer goes in the sump and gets bad stuff from bubbles etc. Power Head/Wave maker is essential to keep good currents and flow of water in the system otherwise problems can occur. If someone could just elaborate on these two a little more.

Overflow box is basically the intake to the sump? Is that right or what? So basically it acts as a safety measure and your intake to the sump. Surely I'm missing some vital part to the aquarium system, please tell me if I did.

STOCK!!! I couldn't do a saltwater without a pair of adorable clowns. Would also like to keep a Blue Tang, I've heard mixed suggestions on must have at least 55g for swimming room up to must have at least 125g. What's the final verdict on the BT. I also love the Yellow Tang and his little snout. My girlfriend is in love with some fish at the LFS I will have to get names on the ones she likes to confirm co-existability and how much the tank size can handle. The Flame Angel is beautiful also!! I will get more fish names as time goes on. I want to hear a bunch of suggestions on stocking! The only thing is I really want that pair of clowns and a BT, so anything that will work with them feel free to post! We will start off with what I know and add as we go.

2 x Clown Fish (Not decided on what type, probably the bright orange one whichever that is.)
1 X Blue Tang (If tank size permits)
1 X Yellow Tang (If requirements met)
1 X Flame Angel (If requirements met)
* X What is the shrimp that cleans off the fish?
* X Hermit crabs (Will they work?!)
* X (Your suggestions here! Everyone pitch in)

Can't wait to get some responses! I have my pen and paper ready to start writing down info on everything I will need. Thanks ahead of time!
Ok so refugium is not necessary, but a nice addition as they allow little criiters to multiply without predation. It also helps to have some calpera in them to control nitrates.

Live rock is only live because of the bacteria. There is a catch here though as just grabbing rocks and tossin em in wont be the best either as your fish like to hide in the holes and such. Lr is not necessary as the bacteria will attatch itself to anything, but it should be an appropriate substitution.

A ten gal sump on a 75 is a little small, but something is better than nothing, but i would suggest stepping up to a 20 gal. You could also use your ten as a fuge then.
A ten gal sump on a 75 is a little small, but something is better than nothing, but i would suggest stepping up to a 20 gal. You could also use your ten as a fuge then.

So would a 10G sump work for a 55?
Itll work for either, just a touch small imo. Either way an extra ten gallons is an extra ten gallons... more is always better, if you have more than a yr. you could easily get a 20 for cheap.
Imma try and touch every subject here, forgive me if I miss something. Yes stores do sell pre-made sump/refugium kits complete with bioballs and all...but they are several hundred dollars:( in terms of size, a 20g on a 75g display would be ideal, and it'll fit under the 75 in the stand. Sumps/refugiums are not mandatory, but after setting up my 125 with a diy refugium, ill never go without one again. In terms of the live rock/sand, stores sell both live and base rock, the only difference is live rock has been through cycling and is covered with beneficial bacteria, base rock is naked in that aspect, a good general rule of thumb is 80%base to 20% live. Now sand is a lil different, and there's some debate, the stores sell "live" sand in bags, but a lot, including me, will tell you that noone truly knows exactly how long that "live" sand sits on the shelves, so its more than likely dead. A lot of people use either pool filter sand or play sand. If you have the money, live sands nice, but the majority of use skip it. Being that you want to keep coral, lighting is of utmost importance, the "stronger" lighting you have, the wider selection you'll have both in types of coral and how low you can place them in the tank. Either way you're gonna want to look at a multi-bulb t5 light hood or led...again if you have the money, led is prefered. Protein skimmer- works wonders to remove unwanted waste and protein....this is an area where you prob shouldn't buy cheap. Esp wanting corals.
Most will say mh(metal halide) will pnetrate deeper than t5ho but its a hot debate, either way leds are nice and cheap to run, but has quite an upfront cost
The purpose of the powerhead is primarily to create waterflow over/thru the live rock, (this is an essential part of the ammonia breakdown cycle). Ultimately you don't want to have any deadspots at all and the surface needs to be constantly broken up. Also it gives the fish a stream to play in:)if you don't have adequate flow over your lr, your tank will have problems dealing with bio-load, or your fish waste....resulting in ammo spikes. An overflow box is only needed if you run a sump/refugium on a NON-drilled tank....I'd recommend when the time comes, pick up a drilled tank with built in overflows.....its a lot easier and keeps all the tubes out of sight. Stocking-wise, clowns will fit in just about any tank, but its smart to buy in pairs. Sorry to say, but forget the blue tang in a 55g.....way too small. 125 is about the bare minimum....180+ is recommended... Triggers,tangs,lionfish, eels are some of the common "aggressive" fish you'll come across, for the most part, if you plan on having a nice peaceful tankful of coral and inverts, forget those fish.the tangs family has some members that are invert AND coral safe...but research it because they need lots of swimming room. Other than that, just comb through fish and write down the ones you'd like to keep, let us know and we will tell ya if its possible or not:) ...well that about covers your questions.....just a few suggestions frm someone that's not even a month into his first sw tank.....stay committed, once you decide to "pull the trigger", don't back out, you will run into problems and you will feel lost....its normal and we all go through it:). Also be prepared to devote A LOT of time for the first 3-4 tapers off once the tank is stable and running. Patience is worth 1000 lbs of gold.....if you can stay patient, you'll be rewarded with an amazing beautiful tank and happy fish:)
Clowns dont have to be paired, and have a ten gal min which is pretty small but with the proliferation of pico tanks it needs to be stated. I do believe the op said he was looking at a 55 so its really a nonissue.

Since youre planning on not starting for a while itll give you a chance to save up nicely for it, as well as scour craigslist for great deals
Ok so I'm feeling slightly overwhelmed, exactly why I started this early. :). So I'm thinking I'm going to stick with a 55 gallon, something not to big so I can master the saltwater art before moving on to something bigger. So with a 55 I should be able to use my 10 gallon as a sump, which is large enough of a sump for skimmer, live rock, refugium, and the return pump, or should I cut out the refugium part? Also, how difficult are we talking about here on a DIY scale, getting the dividers in place and the right height seems like a headache? Is this easier to do than what I'm making it out to be. Also, what advantage other than asthetics are we talking about in reference to the in tank or HOB overflow box?

About the Tangs, so blue is outta the question, yellow as well? I really like the yellow guy!!! Also any information on the flame angel working in a 55 gallon? Probably be taking a trip to the lfs in the next few days and we will write the names down of some fish we like. Thanks!!

Also, the lfs had some really young blue tangs the other day, no bigger than an inch. Would it be possible to keep one and rehome/sell him before he gets larger.
Sorry about the confusion on the clowns, they don't have to be paired, but it is suggested that you introduce multiple clowns into the tank around the same time, as they can fight/ nibble over territory if one establishes and you try adding more later:) I haven't the slightest clue about the flame angel (ill research it a bit) I personally would say the yellow is out of the question too...its minimum is 90g, which can be debated but he needs a lot of horizontal swimming swimming room (6ft or more). Unfortunately the BT is extremely misleading because they are very small initially, I mean you could put a baby BT in a 55 but you'd prob only get 6 months worth of proper keeping before having to sell/rehome. Def know your initial thought is "holy crap this is too much info". And you wanna go with a smaller decent-size tank to make sure you can handle it, but trust me, get the biggest you can afford. I'd suggest 75g or 90g (can have yellow tang then:). ) I went from a 20g fw tank to a 125g salt. Its honestly not bad at all, just a ton of info,decisions, and maintenance. ..but its worth every second of it. The only big difference between salt and fresh is you have to mix the sw for pwc's and the protein skimmer:) in terms of the hang-on back overflow vs drilled tank....that's more than just aestetics, the drilled tanks are gonna circulate and filter better because, well that's why they are drilled:) not to mention that other than the Overflow boxes in the tank....there's no exposed tubes :)
I've turned the 10g I have into a saltwater tank and will be attempting to get some experience with little things like water changes and stuff. If I can maintain water quality in 10g, the 55g should be easy. I have a thread going in the nano section!!!
Good idea, perhaps get used to testing as well.. If you have a year or so, why not aim a lil higher? I'd say try for a 125, only because when you get to 100-125+ you're options really start opening up in terms of fish:) but its only a suggestion, plus you could start buying parts one at a time and in 12 months, have a full setup

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