Feeling Overwhelmed Starting Up Saltwater Tank

Discussion in 'Saltwater Beginners' started by Heisenberg430, Jul 5, 2019.

  1. Heisenberg430

    Heisenberg430New MemberMember

    SETUP: FOWLR (dry rock)
    Recently, I bought a used 55 gallon tank off the internet. However, later after setting up the tank, I found out it’s actually a 75 gallon tank. I already put live sand (amount intended for a 55) in before I found out and it was two full bags, and it looks like it might not be enough.

    I filled the tank with tap water which I used conditioner and mixed with Instant Ocean salt in a 5 gallon bucket before pouring in. However, I’ve been reading about RO/DI water and feel like I may have made a big mistake not using it. Also, the faucets close to my tank are weirdly shaped and probably can’t be used.

    I am also getting low salinity readings in my tank, just underneath the red zone on the hydrometer. But again, I’ve started to read that hydrometers aren’t super accurate so I guess I wasted my money buying that instead of a refractometer.

    The previous owner also had a Fluval 306 canister filter, which I replaced the media out with new media. But I later found the actual plastic intake nozzles were missing and now my tank is sitting here with just a wavemaker cycling the water.

    My previous fish-keeping experience is freshwater and that was a long time who. I’ve always dreamt of keeping saltwater fish but didn’t have the spare money until now and I’m feeling VERY overwhelmed starting this up. Any tips that can help me clean this mess up are appreciated!
  2. TimothyHartwick

    TimothyHartwickValued MemberMember

    I don't know much about saltwater tanks but if you haven't already put fish in it. Take a break. There will be a lot of problems in the hobby but that's the cost of it and they are usually all easy to fix. Good luck
  3. david1978

    david1978Fishlore LegendMember

    First thing first. Forget everything you know about freshwater other then the basic cycle. A canister filter has no place on a saltwater tank. Its just a nitrate factory. Your cycle will be in your live rock. Tap water is a yes and no thing. If it tests good it can be used in a fowler tank but very little tap tests good enough.
  4. stella1979

    stella1979ModeratorModerator Member

    Hi :) Please believe me when I say that a little over two years ago, I too was very overwhelmed with starting up our little reef tank... but these days, it's been smooth sailing for a long time. So, I can confidently say that it gets much easier.;)

    In looking at the bright side... Yay! You got 20 more gallons than you bargained for. No worries about mistakes this has caused because it really is best to take things slow, and it's not like you've got anything (like fish waiting) but your own patience to contend with.

    Hydrometers were the standard not so very long ago but lucky for us, the much more accurate refractometer is now readily available and cheap.:) You can pick one up for less than $20 on Amazon.

    Indeed, RODI water is the safest source for a saltwater tank though rarely, municipal tap sources may work out for a FOWLR. Would you happen to know the TDS of your tap water? This and a water report are a good starting point in deciding whether your tap will be usable... though I must admit that I hate saying that. I'm a RODI fan all the way due to easily unseen 'stuff' in tap sources that at best will cause algae, and at worst, will be dangerous for tank inhabitants.

    I also wouldn't worry too much about the faucets simply because, for water changes, you must first gather your freshwater from the source, then mix it with marine salt and heat it to the temp of the tank... due to the gathering and prep process, and as long as you can move the prepped water, it's less important to be near a faucet. For saltwater prep, I highly recommend a Brute trash can and a dolly so you can easily move all those gallons around. Lots of folks setup RODI systems in a garage or laundry room and since we must gather RODI from the source, the mixing station is usually right there too, then, of course, the prepped water must be brought to the tank. For mixing you'll want a spare pump and it's best if this is a powerful enough unit to mix up very large water changes (for the rare times large water changes are needed) and also pump water from the bottom of your mixing container up into the tank. For me, with tanks tops only about 4 feet from the floor, (yes, they're low;)), a MaxiJet 1200 and a 10g Brute does the trick for mixing saltwater and pumping it out of the mixing bin and into the tank... I should say that this setup services a small 20g long tank. I'd recommend a 55g Brute for you.;)

    Speaking of saltwater, don't forget that a salty tank needs freshwater to account for loss to evaporation. Saltwater tanks need freshwater every day because water evaporates, while salt and everything else in the water doesn't. So, without regular top offs, a tank will quickly rise in salinity.

    Please don't feel down.:) I do understand feeling overwhelmed but would say that it's definitely all worth it once you've got the tank running and stocked. Can't help but mention... with a good water source, an established tank, and some time and a little experience under your belt, well, the only thing holding you back from a full on reef tank (corals!:D) is a fancy schmancy reef light. Ugh, believe me here too, a lighting purchase can feel overwhelming not to mention pricey but... starting the saltwater journey with a FOWLR is a great way to 'get your feet wet' and spread out the responsibility and cost of a reef tank.

    There are some really great sources/guides stickied in the Saltwater Beginner's forum and I'd say that even if they seem geared towards reefing, well, 90% of it holds true for a FOWLR too. I'd give those a read, knowing that you don't currently need to worry about reef lighting, nor dosing minerals and supplements meant for corals.

    Hope this helps! Please feel free to ask any questions. Most of all... WELCOME TO FISHLORE!! :D:D:D We'd love to see your tank and are more than glad to help you get it running.:D
  5. OP

    Heisenberg430New MemberMember

    Aren’t canister filters what you need for a big tank? Or do I just need a protein skimmer? o_O
  6. david1978

    david1978Fishlore LegendMember

    Actually on a saltwater tank they go with a sump for bigger tanks.
  7. Jesterrace

    JesterraceWell Known MemberMember

    Yup, Canister filters are a bad habit from freshwater when it comes to marine tanks as they are very prone to trapping the nasties and making for quite a bit of hassle in tank maintenance in the long run as is tapwater and a few other things. Not sure if you took a look at the video I posted in your other thread but it covers those in the differences between saltwater and freshwater. Sump is the way to go on tanks 4 feet long or longer. Here is how mine is setup on my 90 gallon:

  8. stella1979

    stella1979ModeratorModerator Member

    The reason most won't use canister filters on saltwater tanks is that they are difficult to clean, and if they are not cleaned very often then organics will build up inside and the canister then becomes a nitrate factory, causing algae woes. This is not to say no one in saltwater uses canisters. Some make them work by being diligent with cleaning and replacing filter pads and such. For what it's worth, I keep a filter pad in an HOB on my 20g reef tank, and if that pad is not replaced twice a week, I get algae problems.

    Now, in a 75g, you might have some of the bigger fish that can help with keeping algae at bay, and if you are up for cleaning that canister at least every week, then you can probably make it work without growing a garden.

    Also worth mentioning... unlike the danger of increasing nutrients via a canister, sumps are generally mostly filled with things meant for nutrient removal. Things like skimmers, refugiums, reactors, and so on. Even in my HOB, the bulk of the space inside is used as a refugium.

    Lastly, generally speaking, biomedia is less important in saltwater tanks because the rock inside the display is what holds the bulk of beneficial bacteria which handles the nitrogen cycle.

    Ermm, I hate to come off all like 'my way if the only way'... just want to use my own filter as an example.;) So, on a 20g tank, I have an Aquaclear 70 which has been modified slightly. It holds a thin filter pad water travels through first (changed twice a week as a form of nutrient export), then water moves through an area of probably 6" x 4" X 1.5" (LxWxH) where there is biomedia, before finally moving through the bulk of the box which is filled with chaetomorpha macroalgae, which uses nutrients for growth, (this is a refugium and every time I remove some chaeto to make room for more growth, I am essentially exporting nutrients.) As for the biomedia in my HOB, well, I once took half of it out to try to get an instant cycle on a 5g quarantine tank... and it did not cycle that tiny tank. Having been taken from a stocked, well-fed, cycled and well-established tank, the best guess as to why that mature media did not hold enough beneficial bacteria to cycle the qt is that the media in my filter is not strongly cycled due to the bulk of the tank's nitrifying bacteria living within the live rock in the display.

    So, because filtration in saltwater is more geared towards nutrient export, less geared towards the cycle and biomedia, and canisters easily become a source of nutrient import (due to decaying matter leaching nitrates and phosphates into the water column), canister filters are largely viewed as not only unnecessary but just a bad idea on salty setups. Again though, I've seen them used successfully, when the aquarist is up for managing the filter well.;)
  9. AZL

    AZLValued MemberMember

    Hey, fairly new to fishkeeping myself and a noob with marine so I can relate. I hadn't actually planned to get into it but knew I wanted green spotted puffers and the ones re-homed with me came from full marine. 4 months on they're doing well in their 130 litre starter tank and being upgraded later this year/early next to 420 litres. The current set up is FOWLR (fish only with live rock) and has two mechanical filters although the live rock and the creepy crawlies that came with it do most of the filtration. I find these are more to give flow and oxygenation and to keep the water clear rather than clean. I've just set up a reef tank at work and it's a very DIY job so I have ended up gaining a deeper understanding of the system (although by no means an expert, still a noob, I just enjoy problem solving and am working on near enough 0 budget). Like yours it is a 70 litre tank but it is drilled at the bottom. I built a weir overflow box and a durso stand and drainpipe system into the sump's first chamber. The sump tank has three chambers, the first will have a protein skimmer, the middle will have macroalgae and perhaps some medium, the third ha a return pump which put water back in the tank. Once I had a look at someone's system this wasn't hard to understand or build. I used dry and and very mature live rock, a hermit crab and a couple of turbo snails are in there now and fish in a fortnight. Going for a pair of clowns with this and down the line some corals and anemones. The puffer's upgrade will be a larger version at home and after the research and fiddling that resulted in this one I feel pretty confident for that project. There will always be issues and challenges but also reward and development. I use natural seawater, it's cheap and the salinity is stable. I top up with RO freshwater and do use a refractometer, mine was £5 used and is fine, new they are only £20 or £30 in any case. Hope this and what more experienced people can suggest helps :)65961340_1278309228985025_8809197985335345152_n.jpg