HELP! Beginner with first saltwater tank

Discussion in 'General Reef Aquarium Discussion' started by chrisf71, Jun 1, 2019.

  1. chrisf71

    chrisf71 New Member

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    I have had a few big freshwater tanks and now wanting to move towards a saltwater. So far I want to try and start off with a rather small tank with already bought equipment. So I wanted to use a 20g long tank with a 50g hob filter and a 20g marineland penguin hob filter. I also have 20lbs of crushed coral and going to use instant ocean saltwater powder with prime. I was wondering what to use for media for the 2 hob filters, I have used biomedia, lavarocks, filter floss, and I have heard good things about chemipure blue. Only thing I want in the tank is a clownfish or any fish recommendations? Is this a viable set up? Im not worried about constant water changes since i have always had to for my discus and arowana tanks. Please help.
     
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    Last edited: Jun 1, 2019
  2. chrisf71

    chrisf71 New Member

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    Also, recommendations on lighting if I wanted to do some type of coral/anemone??????
     
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  3. Humblefish

    Humblefish Member

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    Utilizing HOB filters will work, but you'll be largely dependent upon rock/sand in the tank for biological filtration. The biggest downside to HOBs is they eventually become detritus traps (which fuels high nitrates) so you'll need to take them out every few months for a thorough cleaning.

    I personally would use a reef grade sand substrate over crushed coral, as once again detritus tends to get trapped down in crushed coral.
     
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  4. chrisf71

    chrisf71 New Member

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    What type of media would you recommend to put inside the HOB filters? and what kind of sand substrate?
     
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  5. nanoreefing4fun

    nanoreefing4fun Well-Known Member
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    Yup
    CaribSea ARAGONITE SPECIAL GRADE is one good one...
     
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  6. Brittle star 11

    Brittle star 11 New Member

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    Hi I use 2 fluval aqua clear 30 filters and a powerhead the media in the filters that I use is eheim mech it works well. There are many ways to filter a reef tank.my tank is a 15 gallon 12x12x24 and it is doing well
     

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  7. chrisf71

    chrisf71 New Member

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    Thank you for replying! mine is only a 20g long so it shouldn't be too different. I'll look at that media. Is that all the media you use?
     
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  8. DaveK

    DaveK Well-Known Member

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    I think the most difficult thing to overcome when going from FW to SW systems is that many things you do in FW don't apply anymore or are done very differently. Your almost taking on a new hobby.

    Planning in a SW system is everything. There are so many valid choices you can make on equipment, livestock and so on. To get the basic "nuts and bolts" of the hobby down, I recommend you get a couple of good book on state of the art reef systems. Here are two I especially like -

    The Conscientious Marine Aquarist by Robert Fenner
    The New Marine Aquarium by Michael Paleta <---This book has an especially good section on fish suited to someone starting off in the hobby.

    While you can find all this information on the net, there is also a lot of bad information out there and a tremendous volume of information. This can make things very difficult to search through.

    When getting books, look for used copies. They will usually be a lot less expensive.

    Now the planning part comes in. You need to figure out what you want to keep verses the size of the system you want to build, your budget, and time and effort your willing to devote to it. For example you mention you have kept discus and also arowana. Now you wouldn't recommend those fish to someone new to the hobby because discus have very demanding water conditions and arowana require really large tanks. It's similar with SW.

    At this point your saying you want a clownfish. This is not at all unusual, but once you get into the hobby a bit, you'll find lots of other fish, coral and inverts that you may also want. The other livestock may have very different requirements, such as needin a larger tank, better lighting, special foods and so on. Best to plan for this in advance.

    Now to look at the specific system you plan.

    A 20 gal long tank is on the small side for a SW system. Think of it in terms of a 5 1/2 gal tank for FW. Can you set it up and run it, sure, but it's going to be almost as expensive as a larger tank and be very limited in what you can keep in it. I'd recommend going a bit larger, like a 30 gal tank or a 40 gal breeder tank. The larger volume of water will make life a lot easier for you.

    You will also find that you can't crowd SW fish. In FW typically your are told "1 inch of fish per gallon of water", SW generally requires about 5 gal of water per 1 inch of fish. As an example, the 20 gal tank your considering would hold only about 16 gal or so by the time you add live rock and live sand. At best you would want to limit the tank to about two 1 1/2 inch fish, and this would leave little room for growth.

    On the filtration, I generally agree with post by @Humblefish so I need not repeat that. I would also consider getting a skimmer for the tank. In a SW system this can be even more important than the filtration system, since it removed waste peoducts before the biological filtration needs to deal with them.

    As for media, a SW system is generally going to contain live rock at about 1 pound of rock per gallon of water. This is the biological filtration system, so you almost never need any bio media in your filtration system. You will generally need some kind of mechanical media in one form or another, and this should be cleaned weekly. You can optionally use various chemical media. Carbon gets mixed reviews in SW, and many opt for other media. Some don't use any chemical media at all. I'd say leave a place for chemical media, start with none at all, and add media you need when you need it.

    Lighting is another area in SW systems that is all over the place. If your just keeping fish, you don't need anything special, but if you want corals, you may need some very intense lighting. This is why it's important to plan. You don't want to spend money on basic lighting and then find yourself replacing it soon after because you want to keep those giant clams or SPS corals.

    On clownfish and anemones. Like with any fish make sure you start with top quality livestock. Ever since the movie "Finding Nemo" cam out it seems everyone wants a "nemo" and this has cause a lot of low quality clowns in the market. Choose carefully. Anemones that will hose clownfish require excellent water conditions, excellent lighting, and a well established tank, usually one that has been running for about a year with no serious issues. Because of all this don't get a large anemone until you have the experience and system to maintain it. A dead anemone can crash a system overnight, and you don't need that when starting out. If you have to have an anemone stick to the small anemones such as zoas or small rock anemones. They are a lot less demanding.

    Lastly, many of your LFSs have little or no knowledge of SW systems. Don't trust them far advice until they prove themselves. Often a store will have only a single person that knows about SW systems. Don't buy anything on a whim, especially livestock, with out checking if it will work out in your system. All to often people bring home something new, and find out it's not going to work.
     
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  9. Humblefish

    Humblefish Member

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    ^^ Excellent advice by @DaveK
     
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  10. Uncle99

    Uncle99 Well-Known Member

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    Yup, I will second that!
    Helped me a ton....
     
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  11. tucker

    tucker Member

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    This is going to be lengthy and probably with some errors that hopefully some of the more experienced reefers can correct me on. Here is what my 20 gallon high tank looked like after ten years. Given it is a night picture with the moonlights on and the corals are not fully open you see that they are real and happy. I’ll tell you what I did and what I did wrong and what you can keep with this set up. I ran in my 20 gallon for 10 years. Crush coral stated is a good start. There is a lot of debate on proper substrate. If you have a friend with a healthy saltwater tank I would take a couple little scoops of his substrate to mix with yours as it will help your tank cycle faster. Which you do with only a fish or two to begin with as you probably know. I used regular charcoal filters in my job filter. Also ran several hydor circulation pumps so there are no dead spots, higher circulation less chance of algae oubreaks. They are needed for certain high flow corals as well. so A big no no that I did for 10 years was using tap water and adding water conditioner. Which would explain why only certain corals would survive in my tank. Although most survived surprisingly. Anemones no such luck, without rodi water AND stable water conditions, which is hard to do with a 20 gallon, perhaps an ato system and frequent weakly 4 gallon water changes would help. 4 gallon weekly or bi monthly water changes is what I did. Although sometimes I would go a month. (Not recommended, lazy) I have had 2 clowns,(make sure one male one female), tried to pair two together forever and problem was I was always buying a larger one that I already had hoping that it would have better chances at survival, but my clown would eventually kill the new one since it knew the lay of the tank, so in that case i was always buying another female. I finally bought a teeny tiny one that was guaranteed a male and now they are happy and about the same size. also have a watchman goby paired with pistol shrimp and a lawnmower Blenny. Whenever adding a new fish to suck a small tank always a good idea to change around the rocks and environment a little so your fish don’t particularly have a territory and need to establish a new one. Peppermint shrimp, emerald green crabs, and Astro’s snails are a no go always disappear. Astros can’t flip themselves over and become easy snack for hermits. Make sure you get a clean up crew, snails, (no jumbo ones like turbos, knock stuff over), also nassarius snails (as they eat scraps that get caught in substrate and mix up the crushed coral and break up phosphate pockets, I believe... and a mix of different reef safe hermits, eg, blue/red leg.
     

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