40g Saltwater Setup How Do I

Discussion in 'Saltwater Beginners' started by TheGouramiGuy, Nov 19, 2018.

  1. TheGouramiGuy

    TheGouramiGuyNew MemberMember

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    Hey guys, for the holidays and black friday I want to pick up a 55 gallon tank to do saltwater fish. My dad has been in the hobby for years but he lives a couple hours away. I love the looks of anenomes, reef, live rock, etc but I’m not sure what setup I need. From what I have seen, I believe that I should setup a sump, grab a protein skimmer, UV sterilizer, reef lights, live sand, and the other basics such as a heater and thermometer. I want to spend as little as possible though, is there anything extra I am doing, or am I missing anything? Thanks!
     
  2. PoorBigBlue

    PoorBigBlueValued MemberMember

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    The key to a successful aquarium is researching. This is especially true in a reef aquarium, where there's a lot more biodiversity than in a freshwater tank. There's also many more parameters to keep track of.

    When I first got into the reefing hobby, I spent 2-3 hours a day just reading online about various tanks, methods of keeping certain fish and coral, what could go with what, what ate certain types of coral, etc... I was 14, and obsessed with getting a saltwater tank. I soon found out that researching is no substitute for doing, but you can't do without having a solid foundation of knowledge.

    Before you go out and buy anything, research what you want to keep. Here are some questions you'll want to answer:

    • Do you want to keep a reef aquarium? (do you want corals?)
    • Do you understand the requirements for what you want to keep? (for example, anemones need very specific care requirements and are a rather advanced thing to keep. I'd suggest not going for one of these guys right away).
    • Do you understand what saltwater equipment does? A sump, protein skimmer, expensive lights, and a UV sterilizer aren't worth their weight in salt if you don't understand how to use them. Research specifically what each piece of equipment in your tank does, and then choose a specific model that you like from there. A UV sterilizer isn't a necessity for any tank, so I'm not sure why you have that listed.
    • Do you understand what makes rock and sand "live"? Do you know how the Nitrogen Cycle works in a saltwater aquarium? These are things you NEED to read up on.
    • You mention spending - saltwater isn't a cheap hobby. Even budget tanks will still cost a pretty penny. Even maintaining a FOWLR tank isn't cheap, as you still need to buy salt and pay for fish (which are much more expensive in the saltwater side of the hobby). Can you provide what a tank will need right now? If not, perhaps this isn't a good time to be setting up a reef tank.

    I know a lot of people will disagree with me when I say this, but I'd recommend skipping a sump for now. That's just an added layer of complexity, when it's really not needed. Helpful, yes, but definitely not needed. I think a standard 55 will be a great starter tank, as long as you stock correctly and keep up with proper tank husbandry.

    We'll be here if you have any questions :)
     
  3. stella1979

    stella1979ModeratorModerator Member

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    Hi :) Welcome to Fishlore!! :D We'd love to help you start up a salty tank.

    There's some very good information above, so I will just add on to a few points.

    Okay, so bigger is always better, but you also mention a budget, and going smaller can save a lot of money on equipment.

    Also, a 55g is one of the worst tank sizes imo. They seem rather large but are in fact long and tall, and rather tight in the width department. Because they are tall, they are more expensive to light. Because they are narrow, they can't actually support the best rockscape, nor do they really provide the room for the larger fish you might expect to be able to successfully keep there. You really want that width to create a good scape that will provide multiple territories for fish as well as room for coral placement in such a way that one coral isn't going to shade the corals below it. For all these reasons, I highly suggest a 40B or a 75G instead of the standard 55G.

    However, for a budget reef tank, I also would say you can't go wrong with a 20 gallon long. Just know that this tank size will limit stocking to a few nano fish. There's nothing wrong with that if your goal is also photosynthetic creatures like anemones and corals. A nano tank like a 20g does not require a sump, nor a skimmer necessarily. Of course, I am biased because I run a 20g long closed system mixed reef.

    With photosynthetic creatures, one thing we don't want to cheap out on is lighting. Personally, I view cheaping out on one light, only to have to buy another down the road because that first one just isn't cutting it, to be a HUGE waste of money. I did that. :banghead: Paid for lighting twice before the first year of reefing was up. Don't be like me.;)

    There are some very good stickied threads in the Saltwater Beginner's Forum. :) Please read...
    Starting a SW System - Part 1 - Where to start (Research)
    Starting a SW System - Part 2 - Bringing Nature Home (Researching Equipment)
    Starting a SW System - Part 3 - Designing, Setting up and Running your system

    and...

    Nart's Budget Nano Saltwater Guide For Beginners

    These should answer many questions you may have, and may also help you decide whether you'd like to go for it with a bigger tank or stick to smaller setups to save some money.;) My own salty thread lists all equipment and livestock right in the first post. ;)

    Stella's Salty 20g
     
  4. OP
    OP
    TheGouramiGuy

    TheGouramiGuyNew MemberMember

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    Thank you guys for all the support. I have definitely been watching lots of videos and reading articles, and I will continue to do so. Going off your suggestions, I think I will start with a 40 gallon tank. Budgeting a saltwater tank definitely looks like a tough thing to do, so I am going to save up some money and go all in to make my aquarium a happy and stress-less environment.

    As far as my understanding on all of the "live" parts of the tank such as the substrate, rocks, water, etc that you can purchase, they are all rich in beneficial bacteria and should not be washed (especially live rocks) if I am correct.

    For all of the equipment in the aquarium, I think that I am going to do a Marineland Canister Filter (likely the C220) and stick to water changes every other week rather than using something like a protein skimmer. As PoorBigBlue mentioned above, I definitely won't need a UV sterilizer (I had previously figured I might need one since my dad has one in his tank, but I guess that's up to preference.) If I end up doing any kind of corals, I will definitely make sure that I research the right kind of light, and to stick to everything that is graded for saltwater tanks.

    When going with my substrate, rocks, decor, water, etc, I have heard that CaribSea does a great job with their live sand, so I'll look into their different kinds and find what's most suitable for what I'm going with (unless any of you have any recommendations.) With that said, I may go with mixing my own salt water. I looked up a few videos and articles, and from what I see, you purchase something, such as Instant Ocean's sea salt or reef salt, and dump slowly into a bucket dedicated to your aquarium water, then mix it with water (purified by reverse osmosis or other method, sometimes a good purifier with tap water can suffice) manually or with a powerhead until your hydrometer tells you the salinity is in the range of around 1.019 to 1.023 depending on whatever fish/organisms you have. As far as live rock, I will likely pick some up from my LFF as I've heard that live rock does a great job with keeping stable tank parameters.

    Anyways, to sum it up, I have been trying to look up the ins and outs, so let me know if you see anything wrong or have anything to add. I am always looking to better my knowledge, especially before I start up my first salt water tank.

    Thanks guys!!
     
  5. McRib

    McRibValued MemberMember

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    For rock, you can either get live rock from somewhere, which is already started and will basically instantly cycle your tank, or you can start with dry rock and cycle your tank in the usual way. Both have pluses and minuses. Live rock has all the beneficial bacteria that you want, but it also has lots of other hitchhikers. Some are good, some are not so good. Dry rock should be pest free, but you will need to develop the beneficial bacteria on it, which can make startup take longer. You also don’t get the added benefit of the extra life the rock brings with it.

    Either way, after a while, it will all become “live rock” though.
     
  6. PoorBigBlue

    PoorBigBlueValued MemberMember

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    Looks like you're off to a good start!

    If you're going to be doing a reef tank, I'd recommend Instant Ocean Reef Crystals. I've had great luck with it, and it seems to be an all-around good salt - even if there are better salts out there, it's a fantastic place to start when it comes to availiability, price, and performance.

    For your salinity, you'll want that quite a bit higher than 1.019. For a FOWLR tank, you'll usually want things between 1.020-1.026, and for a reef tank, you'll usually want them between 1.024-1.026. There's wiggle room, of course, but 1.019 is a bit too low for comfort, IMO.
     
  7. OP
    OP
    TheGouramiGuy

    TheGouramiGuyNew MemberMember

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    Thank you!

    I was a little off with the salinity, I guess the article I found was incorrect on some things, but I think I’ll go with a reef tank. Since I’m just starting out, I’m going to look for some hardier reefs that can get me started on my reef journey.

    As far as fish, I was definitely thinking that I wanted to get a couple clownfish (likely ocellaris for their colors or tomato for their easy maintanence to start out.) On top of that, I was thinking a sand sifting gobie to eat any algae in the substrate, and maybe another couple fish depending on size.

    Let me know what you think, thanks!
     
  8. stella1979

    stella1979ModeratorModerator Member

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    Hi :)

    Clowns can be great!! And... not so great.;) They are highly active fish and can be quite territorial. Occys and Percs will be your friendliest, and any of the larger varieties can be a downright jerk. For this reason, I suggest waiting on the clown and stocking any of the more timid species you want to keep first. Always stock from least aggressive to most.;) This will allow those more timid fish some time to establish their own safe zones and begin eating well before a potential aggressor is added.

    Sand sifting gobies can be great too, but it is not a good idea to put them in a new tank. You'll want to offer this fish a mature sandbed, and that will only come with time.

    I'm not the best with stocking suggestions since I'm a nano keeper.;) I'd suggest heading over to Live Aquaria and sorting by tank size. They're actually not too bad on their stocking rules, and this will show you the variety of fish you can keep. :) Come back here with some more ideas, and I'll be more than glad to help you with a finalized stocking plan. :)
     
  9. OP
    OP
    TheGouramiGuy

    TheGouramiGuyNew MemberMember

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    Yeah, I have heard that clownfish tend to get territorial, especially around anenomes if they have made it their home. I’ll definitely wait to add the goby until my tank is cycled, and growing algae. I know freshwater can be a different story at times, but I definitely experienced the whole aggressive fish issue when dealing with male gouramis. I had to end up keeping one in a separate tank until the others had fully settled in after a couple weeks. Anyways, thanks for the information!
     
  10. Jesterrace

    JesterraceWell Known MemberMember

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    I'd disagree on Occ or Perc being the friendliest fish. Mine was a jerk to it's tank mates and there are some that once established will bite their owners if they get in their space. Definitely better than the spawn of satan though (aka Tomato, Maroon, Cinnamon) clownfish as they are just flat out aggressive. They often end up returned to my LFS from tank owners who are at wits end with them. After going through 2 Diamond Watchman Gobies, I switched to conch snails for sand sifting and am much happier (the Diamond Watchman would create sandstorms in both my tanks) and the Conch snails have been very resilient.

    @The OP the 55 gallon is what I would consider the tipping point between HOB and Sump Filtration and you will definitely want to keep that in mind as it is much easier to simply buy a pre-drilled tank for a sump then it is to set it up and go with a sump later. The equipment all depends on which method you choose. If you are set on a sump then you will almost certainly want a protein skimmer, return pump, etc. If you go HOB then I would still recommend an HOB skimmer, but you have to be careful and select a good one (ie Reef Octopus Classic 100, Eshoppes PSK-100H). As for fish stock 55 gallons will more than handle the fish stock that you are talking about. I strongly suggest looking at the generally peaceful variety wrasses. They are arguably the most overlooked and underrated fish in the hobby. Beautiful colors, very active, visible and tons of personality. One of the challenges you will find is that many of the peaceful variety fish have a tendency to spend more time than you want in hiding. This is almost never the case with wrasses. Among some of the options for a 55 gallon:

    https://aquarium-fish.liveaquaria.com/search?w=Flasher Wrasse (ignore the Lamarck's Angel, not sure why it came up)
     
  11. OP
    OP
    TheGouramiGuy

    TheGouramiGuyNew MemberMember

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    Thanks for the clarity on everything, I’ll definitely look into those fish and a good HOB skimmer. Do you have any suggestions as far as products go for holding a good saltwater pH and alkilinity for reefs? I’ve been looking at some of the products and haven’t been able to find what works best. I do know that some chemicals such as pH up will bring the pH back down over a fairly fast amount of time, and may be harmful with a lot of use of the chemical. What do you think?
     
  12. stella1979

    stella1979ModeratorModerator Member

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    To be clear, I wasn't saying Occs and Percs are the friendliest fish, only the friendliest of the clownfish species.;)

    Edit: Marine salt and water changes should handle all your parameters, so you definitely don't want to go using things like pH Up or Down. Corals uptake calcium and alkalinity for their growth, and this in turn also affects magnesium. At some point, if and when a reef tank grows to become full of thriving coral, the uptake will exceed what your salt and water changes can provide. At this point, the reefer should begin dosing for major elements like calk, alk, and mag... but this is a subject that shouldn't come up right away. Dosing is a big step and there's lots of good info out there about how and when to do it. For me, it took nearly a year to need it, plus lots of research, and LOTS of testing before I started dosing my reef tank. ;)
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2018
  13. Jesterrace

    JesterraceWell Known MemberMember

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    Honestly IMHO pH is best maintained by 25-30% water changes each week and not overfeeding the tank. For Alkalinity something like the Red Sea Reef Foundation will work. As for the Skimmer if you go HOB the Eshoppes PSK-100H or Reef Octopus Classic 100 would work.

    @Stella, I figured that was the case. It was just when I first read it that it came across as painting a rosy picture of them. :D
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2018
  14. OP
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    TheGouramiGuy

    TheGouramiGuyNew MemberMember

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    Thanks again for all the help guys! I will stick to leaving the water as it is without any pH adjustment.

    As far as skimmers go, are any of you familiar with the "Instant Ocean Sea Clone Aquarium Protein Skimmer"? I am looking for a skimmer around the $50 - $70 price range, and from the reviews, it seems like it may be sufficient, but I can't really tell. If this won't suffice, do any of you have any suggestions for better ones around the same price range?

    Thanks!
     
  15. Jesterrace

    JesterraceWell Known MemberMember

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    Trust me, the cheap skimmers aren't worth it. With HOB Skimmers you either go with the best or simply skip it. This is the cheapest I found for you: https://www.saltwateraquarium.com/h...KkEZAWMmbmGZAjrVH3PzYbntIoiACIdgaAhrxEALw_wcB
     
  16. OP
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    TheGouramiGuy

    TheGouramiGuyNew MemberMember

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  17. McRib

    McRibValued MemberMember

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    It’s seems like with salt water, it’s either pay for decent quality equipment from the start, or end up battling your tank/equipment until you either eventually win, give up, or buy better equipment. I’m not saying you can’t do it on a budget, you just have to be smarter about how you do it.

    For instance, a canister filter can be difficult to manage, be a detritus trap, and cause nutrient problems. Some people have luck with them, so you should really research those before jumping in, as you might be making things much tougher on yourself.
     
  18. OP
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    TheGouramiGuy

    TheGouramiGuyNew MemberMember

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    Yeah, that's true. My dad has a 55g tank with a 10g sump, so I was considering just grabbing a 10g tank from one of the $1/g sales, and heading to his place so we can make one for my setup.

    I feel like this would be a lot easier to manage, plus I would be able to put in a better protein skimmer and make a refugium with marine pure block and clean chaeto. I'm pretty sure doing all of that would reduce how much/how often I have to change the water, saving me both reef crystals and time. Plus, I'm pretty sure it should also be very beneficial for the aquarium.

    Let me know what you think about my plan!
     
  19. Jesterrace

    JesterraceWell Known MemberMember

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    Yikes. Didn't see that about the canister filter, I would definitely recommend that a newbie NOT add that to the equation. An Aquaclear/Fluval 110 HOB Filter would be your best bet for a tank of that size, if you go sumpless.
     
  20. Jesterrace

    JesterraceWell Known MemberMember

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    Just me but a sump of 20 gallons or more is really recommended as is a pre-drilled tank if you go with a sump. To me a 10 gallon sump doesn't provide enough extra flow to be worth the effort, nor does it offer enough room for decent equipment (ie good skimmer and return pump, which are generally larger in size), furthermore it's super cramped for equipment when you need to work on it/clean it. I have a 29 gallon sump on my 90 gallon and definitely wish I had a 40 breeder for a sump on it. As mentioned above, the other issue is that if the tank isn't drilled you will be likely be looking at an overflow box which can be a pain as their siphons can become clogged and are more prone to overflow issues. With a predrilled tank the sump is as simple as the plumbing, a filter sock (if you chose to use one) a return pump and the skimmer. Honestly if it were me, I would actually bump it up to a pre-drilled 75 gallon tank as it will give you more useable space for your fish and open up your stocking options considerably. 55 gallon tanks are good for length but are too skinny on the width for many fish.
     
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