15 Gallon Saltwater Stocking? And Beginner Tips?

BubbledCity

Ok, so I just transferred my freshwater fish from my 15 gallon to a brand new 20 gallon. So I'm thinking of transforming my old 15 into a very simple saltwater tank. Well, I'm completely and utterly new to saltwater in general. I mean, I know nothing... so I have some questions...

-What's the easiest and simplest stock for a 15 gallon? I'm thinking maybe two clown fish and some sort of sea star?

-What's the best beginners advice you can give regarding saltwater? Just how different is it?

Thanks!
 

Reeferxbetta

Saltwater can be very simple and inexpensive, or it can be very difficult and pricey. I've had experience with both. For a 15 gallon, simple setup I would do a FOWLR with 2 clowns, I don't believe there are any starfish that are suitable for a 15 gallon, and I would only put the 2 clowns, that would put you at just about fully stocked. For a simple FOWLR you will need the tank (obviously!) sand unless you'd like to have no substrate, live or dry rock about 10-15 pounds, RO or RODI water preferably RODI, you don't need a unit for a tank that small, you can buy it from lfs, a salt mix, instant ocean works well, unless you buy premixed saltwater. You will also need powerheads, you want a turnover rate of about 20x an hour, and you will want to direct the flow at the rock structure, as your live rock is basically your filtration, of course a heater as well, and some type of test kit, in a FOWLR, you could get away with the API saltwater master test kit, it's not the best, but you just need something that's going to give you a fairly accurate read, you're also going to want a refractometer to check your specific gravity, hydrometers work but they're nowhere near as accurate. The last few things will be lighting and some optional things, for lighting a FOWLR any cheap LED will do, you're just using the light for viewing with this type of setup. Some of your optional things will be sump, refugium, HOB filter, skimmer. In a simple FOWLR of only 15 gallons, you really won't need a sump, or a protein skimmer, if you decide on no skimmer, just keep up with water changes and you will be fine. You can also use a HOB filter (aquaclear 70 would probably be good) and if you'd like, you can mod it into a refugium, it's very easy to do, or you could use the stock media/other media, but you would have to be good about rinsing it as it will collect lots of nitrates. I don't think I forgot anything, but I'm sure you will get some other responses in case I did, a setup like this would likely be the simplest I think, and fairly inexpensive and easy to maintain.
 

Jesterrace

I think Reeferx covered it best. Some habits transfer well from freshwater to saltwater and others don't. Here are some bad habits from freshwater that I don't recommend carrying over:

1. As mentioned by reefer play it safe and do not use tapwater. Either get an RODI system or if you have a reliable LFS nearby you can either just buy RODI water or RODI/Salt pre-mix from them. Given the size of your tank the latter might be a more practical option.
2. Once you have your RODI/Salt mix water DO NOT attempt to treat it with chemicals. Other than maybe seed bacteria and something to start the cycling process for the live rock. Plan on doing a 30-60 day cycle unless you are doing cured rock. Remember that even after everything zeros out on Ammonia, Nitrites and Nitrates that the cycle isn't truly done until the brown algae bloom comes and goes.
3. Don't put any fake plants, driftwood or those goofy decorations in the tank. Let your live rocks, corals, etc. be your decorations. Can't tell you how many times I have seen newbies who are having a heck of a time setting up a saltwater tank and then tell people they basically setup the aquascape like a freshwater tank and simply added saltwater. Sand (ie Live Sand) and Live Rock and RODI/Salt premix should be the only things in a saltwater tank to start with. You can go without sand and go with what is known as a bare bottom tank, but to me it just doesn't look natural and it does somewhat limit your options for stock.
4. RINSE EVERYTHING IN RODI WATER. That means your filter media (ie Chemipure Elite Bag), your water test kit vials and any other thing that needs to be rinsed before going into your tank
5. Stick with media that is designed for Marine environments. Outside of basic carbon filtration there are many medias that simply aren't appropriate for a saltwater tank. The aforementioned Chemipure Elite Bag would be an excellent choice
6. Also have you sanitized the tank properly? (ie doing a white distilled vinegar and water cycle to kill off any last remaining bacteria in the tank)
7. Lighting, keep the tank dark for at least the first couple of weeks (realistically during the cycle you don't need the light at all) and after that 6-8 hours a day is all the lighting you should give or you will start an out of control algae bloom

I would personally recommend ditching API all together and just getting a Red Sea test kit and sticking with it. After spending almost a year with the Red Sea Test Kits and spending only a few weeks with my API Freshwater kit, I can tell you that if Red Sea ever made a Freshwater Test Kit, I would get rid of the API in a heartbeat. The Red Sea Test Kit has wider test vials that are easier to clean out, lids that actually screw on tight instead of cheap plastic caps that leak which makes things much better when you are shaking the vials. The red sea test kit also includes a syringe that makes it much easier to measure out the desired amount. I actually stole the syringe that came with my latest Red Sea Test kit to add to my API Test kit for this reason. The Nitrate test results are also much more accurate with a Red Sea kit and considering that is probably the most crucial long term test, I would say it is worth it.

Given the fact that this tank is only 15 gallons I would go as cheap as possible and stick to just the essential mechanical equipment for the tank (ie Marine safe Tank Heater, Powerhead, decent LED light and a good HOB power filter with the ability to handle various media). This will keep costs down on your first foray into saltwater and help you save money for when you want to try a bigger tank (believe me, you will) and virtually nothing from that 15 gallon tank will transfer to a significantly larger tank. I agree that a pair of clownfish would be a decent choice for the tank. They will provide lots of color and activity and are a relatively inexpensive and hearty fish. Just an FYI the Ocellaris (ie Nemo) and Percula varieties are considered the least aggressive (all clowns are semi-aggressive and territorial to an extent) and the Cinnamon and Maroon more aggressive. The Tomato Clown is by far the most aggressive clownfish in the aquarium trade. They are a common resident in quarantine tanks at my LFS after being pulled out of other people's tanks for being too aggressive. Obviously if you are only going with one or a pair of them in a tank with nothing else it won't be a factor, but if you want to transfer them to a larger tank with more fish at some point, you will definitely want to stick to the first two varieties.
 

Reeferxbetta

Jesterrace is right, the Red Sea kits are much better, salifert is good too, API is half the price though, so it's a good option if you want to keep it really inexpensive, and the kit was fairly accurate for me when I used it for a year on a FOWLR, if you want a reef tank though, definitely go with something like Red Sea or salifert. The Red Sea marine care kit is probably what you'd need for a FOWLR if you're interested in that, you can find it online for about $42, if you wanna use API I'd get the saltwater master test kit, just realize it has its flaws, and the only downside I've found with the Red Sea marine care kit is the levels of nitrate it'll pick up, some of red seas kits pick up nitrate at like 0.2, but this ones lowest reading on the chart is 2, not a huge deal, but worth mentioning.
Also, Jesterrace brought up something that is VERY important, lighting schedule, do not leave the lights on for like 12 hours, I have made that mistake and the algae is INSANE.
 

BubbledCity

Thanks all for the great replies! My mind is whirling with new info, LOL. It seems saltwater is completely different from freshwater. I'm so used to setting up a tank, adding tap water, and cycling and that's about it. But I love new challenges, and saltwater fish are just the coolest things. I'm already saving up money to get everything set and I'm looking at equipment on Amazon. So I'll clean out the 15 in the meantime and in a couple weeks I'll have enough and probably have more questions. I have leftover black sand in the 15 gallon, this will work fine, right?
 

Reeferxbetta

The leftover sand should be fine, just be sure it's heavy enough to not be blown around by the powerheads, and if it was used just be sure to rinse it really good.
 

Bellesfish

I wouldn’t do a star in a 15 gal as they need so much food that they can’t get in a small tank
 

Jesterrace

Thanks all for the great replies! My mind is whirling with new info, LOL. It seems saltwater is completely different from freshwater. I'm so used to setting up a tank, adding tap water, and cycling and that's about it. But I love new challenges, and saltwater fish are just the coolest things. I'm already saving up money to get everything set and I'm looking at equipment on Amazon. So I'll clean out the 15 in the meantime and in a couple weeks I'll have enough and probably have more questions. I have leftover black sand in the 15 gallon, this will work fine, right?

There are some similarities, but there are definite differences, it's one of the reasons why I get irritated when people really want to start with saltwater are told that they have to do freshwater first. You can start with saltwater if you are patient and spend the time to research everything. I am an odd duck in that I started with Saltwater as my first tank and just recently started a small Freshwater tank at work. There are things that transfer over, but there are definite differences and the more I learn the more I realize that Freshwater isn't that much easier than saltwater as many claim. It is cheaper though.

Oh if this is sand that was used in your freshwater tank when it was filled, DEFINITELY DO NOT USE IT!!!!!!! It won't do you any favors going through the vinegar water cycle. If it's just left over and still in the bag then go ahead. It's always advisable to go with new substrate anytime you start a new saltwater tank.
 

BubbledCity

There are some similarities, but there are definite differences, it's one of the reasons why I get irritated when people really want to start with saltwater are told that they have to do freshwater first. You can start with saltwater if you are patient and spend the time to research everything. I am an odd duck in that I started with Saltwater as my first tank and just recently started a small Freshwater tank at work. There are things that transfer over, but there are definite differences and the more I learn the more I realize that Freshwater isn't that much easier than saltwater as many claim. It is cheaper though.

Oh if this is sand that was used in your freshwater tank when it was filled, DEFINITELY DO NOT USE IT!!!!!!! It won't do you any favors going through the vinegar water cycle. If it's just left over and still in the bag then go ahead. It's always advisable to go with new substrate anytime you start a new saltwater tank.
Ohhh I see. Yeah the sand was previously used, although honestly it was pretty stupid of me to use the whole bag because there was way too much sand (why I have left over even after transferring the sand to the 20 long). But that's fine, I'll use the leftover sand for my betta tank and probably get some new white/tan sand for the 15. And, yeah it just seems like a lot right now but so did freshwater and, honestly, I feel that freshwater is super simple now. Just a matter of tests and stuff
 

Reeferxbetta

Yeah, freshwater (unless we're talking monster fish like an arowana, or fish like discus) is pretty easy for the most part, that's what I like about it, my 5 freshwater tanks combined are all less work and expense than my one saltwater tank! You might as well get new sand, you could use the old stuff, I used sand from a saltwater tank in a freshwater tank, it took way too much rinsing and I wouldn't want to do it again though, and I think a tan/white sand looks better as well.
 

Jesterrace

I dunno, I watched a video of a guy with a 150 gallon African Cichlid tank and after listening to all the things he did for maintenance and keeping his fish from eating each other, he was doing WAY MORE work than I do for my 90 gallon reef tank.
 

Reeferxbetta

I dunno, I watched a video of a guy with a 150 gallon African Cichlid tank and after listening to all the things he did for maintenance and keeping his fish from eating each other, he was doing WAY MORE work than I do for my 90 gallon reef tank.
Well of course, like I said, monster fish/large tanks or very sensitive fish (aka stuff that a simpler hobbyist wouldn't have) would be a lot more difficult/equally difficult as a reef tank, really depends too much on what you're keeping/what your setup looks like that determines what's more difficult, too many variables to determine that, but a lot of times (at least in my personal experience so far) the people who are new and asking for advice on saltwater here, don't keep those really difficult species/really difficult freshwater setups.
 

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