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Beginner. Tips?

Discussion in 'Saltwater Beginners' started by Sosublime, May 19, 2019.

  1. Sosublime New Member Member

    Hello everyone, I am venturing into saltwater for the first time, and I am excited!

    I'm scouring the forum for tips, tricks, and little bits of info to help me along with my journey.

    However I am starting this thread as more of a "I wish I knew this" kind of thread, from those of you with experience on things you wish you knew when you first started.

    Now I have a habit of going all in and tackling the hardest systems I can and dont mind spending the money, time, and effort to do so.

    The start up for this tank is:
    Used JBJ 28G nano tank from a friend (tearing it down and sterilizing it first and taking hood off for an AI Prime HD light
    Hydor circ. Pump (not sure on GPH yet)
    Carib-sea Fiji Pink substrate
    Cultured live rock from LFS
    Red Sea Pro salt (pre-mixed from LFS)

    Have a MA887 on order for measuring my salinity as well.

    I'm going to keep a few fish in the tank, however, the tank will be primarily coral focused which I will be doing more research on which corals I wish to add.

    So I guess I will end this with a simple question.
    When you first started your saltwater/reef tanks, what are some tips or tricks you wish you knew when you started?

  2. Jesterrace Well Known Member Member

    Before we go any further do you also have an RODI system or access to RODI water from an LFS? Treated tap water generally doesn't cut it with saltwater and it's even more so with corals. A cheap 4 stage portable RODI system will run $60 from amazon.

    How much generally peaceful fish can be timid and hide. I had in my mind this gorgeous 36 gallon bowfront with a swimming and active purple firefish, a swimming and active dartfish, a sandsifting goby and a Green Mandarinfish. In reality here is what I got:

    1) A super skittish purple firefish that had a bullseye on it from more aggressive/assertive fish. Spent 90% of it's time in hiding
    2) A Scissortail Dartfish that was visible only half the time and hid the rest
    3) A Mandarinfish that I spent hundreds of dollars on just to try and keep it alive to only have it die in 3 months and it spent lots of time crawling in and around the rockwork (sometimes visible, sometimes not)
    4) The Diamond Watchman Goby was generally the most visible of the bunch and definitely sifted sand and had some cool personality traits (ie picking up and moving hermit crabs that he felt were better served doing clean up on the rockwork). Unfortunately I had 2 and one last 15 months and the other didn't make it 3. Wouldn't be so bad if they weren't $25-$30 a pop. They also do create a terrible sandstorm in the tank (A medium sized one could cloud up my entire 90 gallon tank all by himself).

    The point is that although it seems like a good idea to get a bunch of super peaceful fish, you actually want something that is a little more assertive (particularly for color and visibility). I'm not saying fill your tank with semi-aggressive fish, I am just saying don't fill your tank with the most timid species available in the hobby.

    In place of the firefish/dartfish, I would go with a Basslet (ie Royal Gramma or Black Cap) as they are generally more bold and visible and have even more bright (but similar) coloration. The Mandarin I would completely avoid in a 28 gallon cube as you can only keep them alive long term in a tank of that size by never taking any kind of vacation (even a few days), and feeding them throughout the course of the day.

    The next thing for fish stocking is that I never understood the value of a Wrasse. A Possum or Pink Streaked Wrasse will work in that cube and the Pink Streaked will probably be the most visible of the bunch. They are active yet peaceful and the pink streaked can also perform pest removal services for you. Don't be suckered by the 6 line wrasse. They often turn into a pescacidal maniac as they mature.

  3. Sosublime New Member Member

    Thank you for the in depth reply!

    Yes I have access to RO/DI water, and will be buying a system for my house shortly so I can make it here instead of purchasing it.

    And thank you for the fish recommendations. I know it's easy to see a beautiful fish and want it.
    I saw a few mandarin fish yesterday and loved their colors, did a few minutes of research only to see most starve to death.

    That is a really good point out of peaceful vs assertive fish though.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Jesterrace Well Known Member Member

  5. Sosublime New Member Member

    Thanks! I'll check it out. I'm sure I can pick up some info from your vids.

    I went out and got my own RO/DI filter, did a little math, and approx. 3-4 tanks of water will equate to the cost of a simple RO/DI filter, so financially it made more sense to buy my own filter.

    I'm going to be polishing the Acrylic tomorrow with the novus 1-2-3, and then sterilizing the tank. And begin its life cycle this weekend.
  6. stella1979 Moderator Moderator Member

    How exciting! :D I love watching a new salty tank go up. :D

    Good advice so far and I don't see further questions so I'll address this...
    1. Corals like that back and forth sway that comes from flow approaching from different directions... just like how you might feel the push and pull of waves at the beach. So... I wish I knew how much my corals would appreciate programmable powerheads that allow the aquarist to set a flow pattern. If the powerhead doesn't come with or have the option to add a controller, then I believe you may be unhappy with it after some time. Seriously, I have seen and experienced the increase in happiness and growth rate of corals when I switched from Hydor Koralia nano (non-controllable) to Jebao pumps (which are programmable and come with a controller.) Are Jebao's nano powerheads top of the line that will last for years? No, they are not. One of two Jebao SW-2's broke after a little more than a year... but, next best is 4 times the price, so I replaced those SW-2's with RW-4's a few months ago and I'm hoping for better this time around. Of course... just like you found with buying RODI instead of installing your own unit, buying four Jabeos isn't the right longterm budget strategy. If I could've, I'd have purchased two MP-10's by Ecotech.

    2, Zoanthids....:banghead: Gorgeous and... easy? They are softies and softies are often recommended for first corals because they can be more forgiving. Zoas though, with them there is a whole lot of variety and some are quite difficult to keep happy indeed. This isn't always the case, of course, but in my own experience, zoas were not happy at all in my young tank. In the first 6 months or so, I purchased 7 different varieties, including a few awesome ones that I really loved. It didn't happen overnight or even within months but by the time the tank's first birthday arrived, all of the zoas had died.:( Meanwhile, other corals, purportedly more difficult to keep, did very well so I knew the tank was a safe environment and my care was up to standard too. I gave up on zoas completely thinking that something impossible to identify was making my tank unsafe for them in particular. Then... a dear friend said, 'hey, try these, they are my hardiest variety' and sent me a frag of about 10 polyps for free. I wanted to say no but my friend encouraged me to try again and neither of us would lose money here. The tank was about 15 months old by then and wouldn't you know it, those zoas thrived. Since, I've added two more strains, one being one of those fancy, small-polyped, difficult to keep happy varieties. All are currently growing and happy.:) Idk what the deal was and the only thing that has changed is that the tank matured. Hmmm, plenty of folks grow zoas in newish tanks, so what's the take away here? Ermm, don't by a lot of a single species or the fanciest morph of a particular coral before knowing that this kind of coral does okay for you.;)
  7. Jesterrace Well Known Member Member

    I am in the exact same boat as stella1979 with Zoanthids. Lost 3 early on and swore off of them, but my LFS owner really wanted me to have one last black friday so he gave me a single tiny polyp for free. By this time I had upgraded and had a well established 90 gallon with a sump and more importantly a massive upgrade in lighting (went from a crappy Aqueon modular LED to a pair of AI Hydra 26HDs). The Single Tiny polp has grown into 2 full size heads and one that is still growing.

    Here is what it looks like now:

  8. Sosublime New Member Member

    I do have a wavemaker that I can set to alternate between 1 second to 90 minutes for my two return pumps, with nozzles for direction. As well as a hydor strictly for circulation. Is this like what you're talking about? Or do you mean like alternating flow strength and direction?

    Also, that's a good tip on Zoas. Everyone I have talked to has recommended Zoas to start. Is there one particular coral you have had luck with for immature tanks? Or is it pretty much a shot in the dark because every tank is inevitably different.
  9. stella1979 Moderator Moderator Member

    Hmmm, wondering what you mean with the 1 second to 90 minutes. Does this mean the wavemaker will pulse on and off for the time setting you use? Like, say you set it for two minutes... is it then on for two minutes and off for two minutes as well? Or, is it on for two minutes, off briefly, then back on for two minutes, rinse and repeat? Basically, this powerhead should achieve the variable flow, but if it's on/off for the same set amount of time, be sure the timing is fairly short because you probably don't want it off for a big block of time... unless it's at night when some aquarists reduce overall flow. Anyhow, all I really mean is that you want a variable flow pattern. Imagine a torch coral, or a long tentacle anemone... we do not want those long tentacles always flowing left, instead, sometimes left, sometimes right, sometimes somewhere in between. A powerhead/wavemaker will achieve this if it has settings to alternate its on-off times throughout a day. In my own tank, (a 20g long), there are two pumps and the return from a large HOB. The pumps alternate... when one is on, the other is off. Back and forth, ebb and flow, rinse and repeat all day and night. They do not change their speed/push more or less water, they just create a variable flow pattern. Make sense?

    As for early corals.:) I've had a Duncan and favias since the very early days and have never had trouble with either of them. The Duncan was a single polyp about a year and a half ago. It's first growth spurt produced five new polyps... then those each produced multiple new polyps. Before year 1 was up, the Duncan had more than 20 polyps. So, it's a good grower, fun to feed, and provides that movement that we can usually only get with euphyllia and anemones, but most of all, it's hardy. My tank has certainly had its bad times, two of which were particularly rough, but the Duncan never broke a sweat.;) And there you go, lol. Lots of advice will point new reefers towards softies but I lost all those zoas and even some green star polyps early on. So, I recommend hardy LPS corals.:D
  10. Sosublime New Member Member

    Yes, the wave maker connects to two pumps, and turns on one pump for say, 1 minute, turns it off, and turns on the other for 1 minute.

    I was thinking I was going to hook up two Hydor pumps up to it to create a variable movement flow in the tank, and have the two return pumps pointed out to create upper level movement. That way the inner tank flow is handled by the Hydor pumps, and the return flow can disturb the upper regions and the surface. The tank came with a 425gph hydor already, so either use two of those or just replace them with the i think 265gph pumps.

    It seems we are talking about the same form of system.
  11. Sosublime New Member Member

    Figured I'd give a little update.

    Tank is coming along great.

    It was a process figuring out how to stuff the "life support" in the nano, but in the end, I believe it will set me up for success on my next tank (got a reefer 170 to set up one I get this ones parameters super stable)

    The only thing I'm experiencing swings on anymore is salinity due to evaporation rate in CA, even though I top off twice a day, getting only a 1.025-1.026-10.25 swing, but the ato I'm getting in a few days will be handing that.

    Nitrates are starting to come down (only peaked at 10ppm) after removing all sponges from manufacturer, which was a terrible idea, and switching to floss I change daily. Spurred some small algae growth, but nothing terrible, primarily glass and some on the sand.

    Got a chiller installed, a bit large for the tank, but keeps tank in less than a 1 degree swing.

    But enough with the specifics

    Let's see some pics (sorry some are still acclimating)

    Then the heart of the operation