First time SW tank keeper - Long time fan and reef diver

Garrett M

New Member
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Hey guys long time Saltwater tank lover and reef diver but, now it's time for my own.

I'm planning a 20 gal tank (regular rectangular shape)

Going to do a FOWLR tank, coral is to advanced for me right now.

Plans are as follows along with questions;

1) Buy live rock - 35 lbs of it. Does all live rock have to be cured after you get it home even if it was cured at the original place of purchase? I was thinking of going for all FijI rock, should I use any base rock? If so please explain how to use base rock? I assume it is as a base for the fijI to be stacked on but are there any tips?

2) Buy live sand - 35 lbs of it. Cure it, add it to tank for about 1 - 1.5 inchs at the bottom of tank.

3) My cage set up with be a 20 gallon aquarium tank.

-Heater- Marineland Stealth 50 Visi-Therm Submersible Aquarium Heater
8" Length - 50 Watts

- Water pump- (Two of these on eithar side of tank pointer toward cetner?)Hagen AquaClear Powerhead Multifunctional Water Pump 20

- One filter- But whcih one? I know live rock and sand work as great natural filters but which mechanical one?

- What lighting should I use. A link to website would be great

As far as fish goes

-2 Ocellaris Clown Fish
- Suggestions on one other fish?
- Then a small assortment of inverts.

Any tips would be nice, what am I forgetting? Thanks guys

Miss Mouse

Well Known
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Hello and welcome to marine keeping!
You set up sounds fine but you'll have to keep on top of the water parameters because of the size of your tank. I would thoroughly recommend a good water test kit and a lot of patience!
With your base rock it depends on the shapes of your live rock - I don't have a base - I have just sunk mine into a thick later of live sand.
With regards to a mechanical filter - I have a fluval 404. I have always used Fluval so I can't advise on any other types but I'm sure they all do similar jobs. A canister filter is what I would recommend because it offers all 3 types of filtration in 1 unit. I would also get one that doesn't go in your tank - this means that you don't have to put your hands in all the time to clean it etc.
With regards to lighting - depends on your budget. This is not my strong point so I'm hoping Mike will help out here! I guess if its fish only then you don't need much lighting so you won't need to spend much. I have 2 x 30watt flourescents (1 blue, 1 white) whcih is fine for my coraline algae. How deep is your tank? I'm sure you can get a little compact flourescent. This website has a guide that might help -

Best of luck and feel free to ask away! it helps us all learn a little more! I would love to hear some of your experiences as a reef diver too... 8)


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More than 10 years
HI everyone - for fish only or fowlr tanks, regular fluorescent bulb/hoods should work fine. I would recommend a good protein skimmer too. Dissolved organics could accumulate quickly without one on a 20 gallon.

Assuming you're driving it home from the pet store, Live rock that's been in the dealers tank for several weeks may not need to be cured. You'd have to ask them how long they've had it. If it's coming via air shipment, there may be some curing time involved. Only way to know is with the water test kit Miss Mouse recommended.

I don't personally use base rock since its not as porous as the good stuff and won't harbor as much of the beneficial bacteria. You usually see base rock in much larger setups to save on costs. But using base rock in a smaller tank would really take up much needed space. For a 20 gallon, I'd go with an inexpensive power filter that is easy to maintain, since you'll need to clean out the filter pads on a regular basis. Although canister filters do an excellent job at mechanical filtration I don't think I'd use one on a marine tank (IMO, I'm sure others would prolly disagree).

Also, if you run a good protein skimmer on your tank and have good water flow within the tank, a mechanical filter is not an absolute necessity. The bacteria and other organisms in the live rock and live sand will break down fish wastes and the skimmer will be pulling a lot of gunk out of the water column. Some reefers will only periodically run a mechanical filter in order to use activated carbon for polishing the water.

For a list of equipment, see Saltwater Aquarium Setup for ideas on items needed.

Small tanks require more diligent monitoring, but they can be fun too. Good luck with your tank.


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