New to saltwater??

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Acropora Nut
Welcome to RS!! :) and more importantly the RSM owners club :D
First off NEVER EVER be scared to ask any questions here :) We're all super nice and love helping (I know I do :D) secondly as everyone has said make sure you go slow, take your time, have some sort of plan and be patient!! :)
*Disclaimer* I don't claim to be an expert or know everything and I don't have the years of experience that some other reefers have but I do want to help you all and make things a little less scary and more approachable, so please take what I say or ignore it completely it's up to you at the end of the day but through all my research and love of all things aquatic this is my effort to try and help those who might need it :)

So you've finally got your new tank and your itching to get started, well before you jump head first into the deep end there are a couple of questions you should answer that will greatly help get you on your way to creating an amazing underwater home for your fishy and coral friends :) These are food for thought for the long run because one day you'll get there and if you plan now it will save you time and money :) If you just want to get in plan for both what you want now and what you can see yourself with in the future and regardless of what skill level you feel you are at, be honest to yourself about what you want :) Nothing is impossible if you give it time, patience and dedication.

1.) What do you want to keep in your tank?? Fish only with live rock (FOWLR), coral/invert only, or a mixed reef with fish :)
2.) What sort of corals do you want to end up with as the dominant type in your tank?? Soft corals, large polyp stony corals (LPS corals), small polyp stony corals (SPS corals)
3.) The type of rock you want to use?? Dead (not live) rock, dry live rock or live live rock

Bit of info on some of the things I've said (you may already know all this but better I say it than not? lol):

There so many different species and sub-species of fish out there I'm not going to try and cover them all or explain them as it would require a very large essay on each and their habits but think ahead about what you want. Do you want an aggressive tank, tangs, angels or butterfly fish, do you want sand sifting gobies, will there be a carnivorous fish, will this mean a size limit on what can be kept with it, does it pick on corals, diets, feeding and all manner of things need to be considered for each fish and the company they will end up having for the rest of their lives (unless someone is really mean or causing problems then back to the LFS they go). After saying all of that DO NOT over stock your tank, yes there are people out there with incredible tanks that have done things that bend the rules slightly but they have been reefing for a very long time and know what they are doing, DO NOT attempt it yourself till you have years of experience under your belt. The general stocking rules I follow are 1-2 inches of fish per 5 gallons of water. This is the fully grown length of the fish, just because it was small when you get it does not mean it will always stay that way! For aquariums under 40-50 gallons I would go for the 1 inch rule and for larger tanks or those that incorporate sumps or refuges the 2 inch rule can be used. The reason for less in a smaller tank is small parameter swings in a smaller tank are felt a lot harder by its occupants so you need to be on guard with smaller tanks as the larger the water volume you have the more a problem will be diluted, that doesn't mean it can be ignore though!!

The soft corals
(Not really a soft coral man but I'll do my best to explain) Soft corals are corals that have little or no stony (calcareous) skeleton are generally very fleshy with large-ish polyps (some have smaller polyps). The soft corals (softies) are generally the easiest corals to care for as they do not require intense lighting and can be quite tolerant of less stable water conditions. As they have no zooxanthellae they require their energy to come from either nutrient uptake directly from the water, feeding on micro-particles in the water like plankton and small pods (copepods and amphipods) and some softies require some more meaty foods like chopped up prawns (shrimps) or bits of fish. Soft corals are corals like stoloniferans, gorgonians, sea pens, mushrooms, zoanthids and anemones. While these are generally the easiest types of corals to keep there are exceptions so always double check things and make sure you do your research on something before a purchase :)

The stony corals
LPS corals are large polyp stony corals, they generally are a little hardier than SPS corals but are similar. While they maybe called large polyp stonies there polyp size doesn't always determine whether they are lps or sps just to confuse you a little bit haha. LPS corals are corals like acans, hammer or torch corals, plate corals or brain corals to name a few. These corals require very stable water conditions and generally high to moderate lighting conditions, they also require some calcium to be present in the water because they are stony corals and this means that they have a hard calcified skeleton and require calcium and a few other elements to ensure proper healthy growth LPS corals can generally be feed and seen consuming the food which is pretty awesome IMO but generally only need so once a week or so.

SPS are, you guessed it, small polyp stony corals. They are the much harder to keep brothers of the lps corals. They require near perfect water that is exceptionally stable and high amounts of strong lighting in most cases. Sps corals are corals like the Acropora, Montipora and such corals. They require plenty of calcium in the water as they need plenty for proper growth along with other trace elements as they have more hard calcified skeletons with small polyps on them and can grow quite quickly but they are the most beautiful type of coral out there IMHO and are truly incredible creatures!

Both types of the above corals contain zooxanthellae (in most cases) which is why they require such strong lighting because they get large amounts of their daily requirements in terms of energy from they symbiotic relationship with these photosynthetic algae (which are brown in colour by themselves). LPS corals have large "mouths" on their polyps which is why they can be feed and thrive from the occasional feeding and most sps corals don't need feeding just strong lighting as their zooxanthellae produce most of their energy but some people add corals nutrients to the water with great success but in the beginning nothing is more important than stable water conditions and strong lighting for both these types of corals

While they are harder to care for with a bit of patience and determination you can have a wonderful sps, lps or mixed sps-lps coral reef in your very own home (would strongly recommend against having soft corals in there with them due to the coral warfare that you will have go on in the tank if you do)

There are several different types of rock that you can put in your tank as the basis of its make up. The general rule of thumb )that applies across all types of rock) is the more porous the rock the better it is! The reason being is there is a larger surface are for beneficial bacteria to grow on.
Dead (not live) rock:
Is just 'normal' rock that has been dried and sometimes boiled so there is no life or bacteria on it at all, people like this as creative aquascaping is easy to achieve as there is nothing to kill on it by having it exposed to air for extended periods of time. This rock will eventually grow the good bacteria's but you won't get any hitch-hikers with it (HH) which some people see as a massive positive and other see as something that isn't what you should be doing (me for one).
Dry live rock:
Is live rock that hasn't been kept submerged or completely wet. It still retains a large amount of the positive bacteria but no HH (hitch-hikers) on it which is a good balance if you really want to avoid them. It usually also has some coralline algae on it which is a good thing.
Live live rock:
Is live rock that has been keep submerged and completely wet through it's life. This retains virtually all the good bacteria's and has the added bonus of HH along with plenty of coralline algae.

Hitch-hikers are all the little critters that can tag along on live rock (LR). They can be all sorts of things; pods, small crabs and snails, small corals, bristle worms, sea stars and I've even seen some get a fish or two that survives as a hh. All these little creatures will turn your tank into a real reef (I strongly recommend the use of LR as it completes the ecosystem you want to create rather than the barren wastelands of dead rock). However, that being said there are a few evil little critter you want to get rid of if you find them (which is why a careful insepection of everything as it goes into your tank is good :)) and they are:
Majano or aptasia anemones (they will sting every coral insight and can reach plague proportions)
Crabs (if you don't want any) they can knock things over and eat your snails and other things
Certain stars are snails that prey on corals
Eunice worms (absolutely the worst evil thing to find, they eat everything, corals fish you name it and they can grow quite large and they are considerably hideous and disgusting)

Curing Live Rock
I won't explain that here but here's a great website that will do so for you:
How to Cure Live Rock

Cycling Your Tank:
Cycling is the process in which saltwater (natural or artificial) is turned into biologically 'alive' saltwater. The cycle of the tank is where the cultivation of the right bacteria's in your filter system, on your rocks, the tank's glass and floating around in the water occurs until the water is biologically stable, one way to put it. Once your tank is fully cycled, your system will have the right bacterial balance meaning there are the right bacteria's in the water that can convert the nasties out to lesser evils which you then remove by process of a water change. Those nasties are ammonia (NH[SUB]3[/SUB]), nitrite (NO[SUB]2[/SUB]) and nitrate (NO[SUB]3[/SUB]). I call these nasties as they are all toxic to fish and corals in varying degrees with ammonia being virtually a death warrant and then nitrite and then finally nitrate. The reason we cycle our tanks is so we don't kill our new aquatic friends as they poop and produce ammonia eventually killing themselves through toxic overdoses.
During the cycle your tank goes through certain steps, I'll do my best to explain them in easy to understand English:

1. Basically, a new systems/water start out with no bacteria and void of biological life.
2. You add an ammonia source (NH[SUB]3[/SUB]) and the ammonia levels will start to spike (see the graph below) this is the beginning of your cycle.
3. As the ammonia spikes the first cycle of bacteria begin to grow and multiply, constantly feeding on the ammonia.
4. As these bacteria 'eat' the ammonia (waste) they then turn it into nitrite. (Not sure of that exact process but hit me up and I can find the answers :))
5. Due to this you will start to see ammonia levels falling and the nitrite levels will begin to peak.
6. You guessed it, a new bloom of bacteria begins that feed on the nitrites.
7. As these guys eat and multiply you will see you nitrite levels begin to fall (By now you ammonia should be nearing a zero or undetectable level).
8. These nitrite feeding bacteria then turn it into nitrates which is the end of the line for you cycle :) Nitrates are the least harmful of them all


Just to recap the cycle goes ammonia spike, then reduction followed by a nitrite spike and then comes down and you end up with nitrates going up and staying there till your water change. For the first water change there are plenty of opinions out there on how much, some say 40% but I wouldn't recommend that large a water change however as said by a much more experienced hobbiest than I, go "no more than 20%" of your total water volume. The end goal of your cycle and tank parameters are ammonia = 0ppm, nitrite = 0ppm, nitrate < 15 ppm.
Once cycling is complete and live rock is cured, there should be no more die-off or smell from your live rock. Also, waste from your protein skimmer should be greatly reduced. Cycling may take 1-8 weeks.
Remember, add livestock slowly as livestock creates waste which creates ammonia. You have to allow the bacteria time to catch up and multiply so that the balance in your system is not over-turned and doesn't cause a tank crash.

Tank Parameters:
The following table is probably the best way to sum up the critical parameters that you want to be aiming for:

More info on this table and the chemicals and parameters listed can be found here:
Reef Aquarium Water Parameters by Randy Holmes-Farley -

Now that you've had a read of all that I hope you feel a little bit more confidant in where you are heading with your reef tank and that the saltwater is less scary :spinner:

Don't be afraid to ask anything! PM someone if you're not comfortable posting a question, we are all nice people and most of us love helping! We love the hobby and want everyone to get the most out of it :dance:
The golden rule to take out of this is that NOTHING good happens fast in reefing so take it slow, do your research and be patient you will get there :yup:

Feel free to ask about anymore info on anything I've said as I try and do my best to help everyone so I hope this has helped! :bouncer:


Why hello My Dear Goma aka Greg! As you can quite plainly tell, Miranda Hart warm and exhuberant mode of speak is catching & I can't stop typing this way! :thumber: . Amazeballs, hilaire and indeed "Such fun". Let's all gallop today

Ok if you have no idea who Miranda Hart is then I am simply coming across as a forum nutter! Ha!
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