Completely overwhelmed - please help !

Dechi

Having a saltwater tank has always been a dream for me but I never went ahead with it because it is complicated and every time I start looking into equipment, I get lost in too many details and end up with my head about to explode...

I’m an experienced freshwater hobbyist so at least that’s a start. If it’s realistic, instead of trying to be an expert before buying everything, I would like to know just enough so I can start a tank running and then learn more as I go. If not, I’m afraid I’ll never start anything.

I would like to start with a 15 gallons approximately, like the Fluval Evo 13.5. Something that comes with a light that can grow corals and not too expensive, in case I don’t like it and want to quit.

Here are my questions :

1) What is a good RO/Di system for beginners that doesn’t have to be permanently installed and easy to use ?

2) How often do you need to replace cartridges and what’s the approximate yearly budget for that ?

3) What other equipment do I need to buy besides the aquarium equipped with a filter/pump and a light, a wavemaker, a heater, saltwater tests, saltwater and a TDS meter ? What brands/models do you recommend for each item ?

4) What are the steps of a good beginner set-up (I can have access to live sand, but not to live rocks) ?

5) What inverts, corals and others should I start with ?

6) What’s an approximative yearly budget for maintenance ?

7) Any tips / advice you can give me

I know this is a lot to ask but even if you cover just one area, I will really appreciate it.

Thank you !
 

kanzekatores

In the long run it could be cheaper to buy rodi water from your store if they supply it. That is what I do so I’m not sure about what ro system would be best.

I use aqua clear and replace the media every few months, just when it starts looking dirty. What filter will you be using?

You’ve covered pretty much most of the equipment, but remember a thermometer if you don’t have one. I highly recommend the red sea test kit, it has worked well for me!

do you have access to dry rock? This with live sand will provide the bacteria and decoration needed and your rock will eventually be colonized.

I have heard it is best to start with soft corals. I have kept many invertebrates, and I think astrea snails are my favorite for cleaning up algae, scarlet hermit crab and emerald crab are both great for scavenging, and my favorite shrimp is the cleaner shrimp. You could do a clownfish pair with at least several inverts in there!

You’ll just need replacement cartridge and water, for me it hasn’t been so expensive but depends on your setup.

Just remember to take things slow, and stock with hardy friendly species that are easy to care for. Best of luck!
 

Dechi

I use aqua clear and replace the media every few months, just when it starts looking dirty. What filter will you be using?
There is a water pump included with the Fluval Evo. I was thinking tojust go with that and if need be, find a replacement. I would buy a Hydor Koralia for water movement.

do you have access to dry rock?
Yes, I can get ad much dry rock as I want.

Thank you very much for your answer, it’s very useful and giving me confidence !
You’ll just need replacement cartridge and water, for me it hasn’t been so expensive but depends on your setup.

Replacement cartridge if I go with RO/DI you mean ?
 

PNWAquatics

I bought my RO/DI system off Amazon. The brand is RO buddie and I have the 4 stage one. It works well and has brought my TDS down to 0. You can connect it temporarily directly to your faucet whenever you need it. The only problem I have with it is it’s pretty slow and only makes up 2.5 gallons of water every 1.5 hours. It’s fine, it just takes some planning on water change day.

Typically soft corals like zoanthids or leathers are pretty easy to grow. Be careful with what you go with though because some can take over, especially in a small tank. SPS are difficult and most will likely need more light than what the stock light will provide. LPS tend to be easier (and can take a higher nutrient tank). I really like Duncans, Frogspawn, and hammer coral for example.

In a small tank you’ll really benefit from an auto top-off system to keep your salinity stable. Evaporation will cause it to change throughout the day.

If you can find any live rock (even some rubble), it may be nice just because live rock can add some nice biodiversity. Of course, it can also come with pests but I have pests in my tank even after starting with dry rock. I purchased some live rock to increase the biodiversity and it came with all sorts of cool stuff.

I have astrea snails, two large nassarius snails, red legged hermit crabs, and two trochus snails as a clean up crew, along with a healthy spawning population of stomatella snails. The trochus are nice because they are able to flip themselves if they fall in the sand. Astrea snails will not always and can die. The Astrea, stomatella, and trochus eat algae, the nassarius and hermit crabs eat left over fish food.

For a reef tank, along with the common tests (ammonia/nitrite/nitrate), it’s nice to also have tests for calcium, alkalinity, phosphate, and magnesium.

I hope this helps!

EDIT (missed some questions):

I believe the lifespan of your RO/DI membrane depends on how much TDS you have in your water to begin with. It will last longer with softer water.

For tests, I use the salifert nitrate test. I use API for my freshwater, but saltwater systems tend to have a much lower nitrate concentration and the salifert can measure less. For example, mine fluctuate between 0-2 depending on if I have chemipure blue in and how much I feed).

I have Red Sea for alk/mg/ca. They came in a set. I use a hanna test for phosphate and a standard refractometer for salinity.
 

Dechi

If you can find any live rock (even some rubble), it may be nice just because live rock can add some nice biodiversity.

PNWAquatics Thank you very much for your detailed answer !

When I asked the local saltwater fish store about live rocks, he just laughed and said those aren’t sold anymore because they are too expensive.

I‘m glad you mentioned auto top-off systems because I was wondering about that. Do you buy this system separately (do you have a brand to recommend) or should I try to find a tank that’s already equipped with it ?

I’m trying to not make this a big project because I don’t know if I will like saltwater as it is more work. So I’m refraining myself and trying not to get too carried away...
 

PNWAquatics

I have a basic Tunze (uses a float to turn on and off). I'm not sure if it is the best one, it is just what came with my tank (I cheated and bought an already established system from a local reefer )
 

jkkgron2

I’m using a hydor koralia 240 gph Wavemaker in addition to the pump that comes with the evo. It works well, and adds a lot of flow.

For the rock you may want to actually order live rock online. It’ll speed up the cycle a lot and you’ll have lots of bio-diversity that you wouldn’t have otherwise. I got mine from gulf live rock and I even got two corals and a mantis shrimp (although the shrimp did die) along with a huge clam .
 

Dechi

I’m using a hydor koralia 240 gph Wavemaker in addition to the pump that comes with the evo. It works well, and adds a lot of flow.
I love Koralias, thanks. I’ll get one for sure !

For the rock you may want to actually order live rock online.

I’ll see if I can find some online in Canada. Or maybe ask on facebook local fish groups.

eta : I think I found a place online. jkkgron2 how many pounds should I get for the Evo 13.5 ?
 

jkkgron2

I’ll see if I can find some online in Canada. Or maybe ask on facebook local fish groups.

eta : I think I found a place online. jkkgron2 how many pounds should I get for the Evo 13.5 ?
I got 10 pounds of live and 10 pounds of dry, but I think 10 pounds of live rock should be ok as long as you don’t plan on having a heavily stocked tank.

Make sure to watch out for aiptasia, it’s a common hitchhiker and while I don’t mind it, it can sting corals.
 

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