Fowlr Tank With Inverts?

mossman
  • #1
I've been keeping multiple freshwater tanks for the past 2 years and would now like to get into saltwater. I've been doing some research, and it doesn't sound as daunting as I initially thought. Apparently I can do a relatively simple setup with live rock and live sand with no sump, refugium, or skimmer. Is this correct? A couple other questions to start off:

- Can I have a FOWLR tank with certain types of inverts? I like the idea of keeping a few species of fish (Clowns, Tangs, Damsels, Lions) and some sort of crab and/or shrimp and/or snails.

- Is it necessary to use live rock and sand, or can I start with (dead?) rock and sand and add bacteria to the water to speed up the cycling process (e.g. Seachem Stability)?

- I realize the BB from a freshwater filter will be of no use in a saltwater tank, but can I re-use the canister filter and media from my freshwater tank? Or is it better to start with new/un-used filters, sponge, media, etc?

- Do I need a special light in a FOWLR with invert tank or can I go with a regular LED light fixture? I don't plan on growing coral at this point, but that isn't to say I won't eventually want to. I prefer a more natural look and don't really want that bluish-purplish light that I see a lot with saltwater tanks.

- Is an RODI unit a must or can I get a way with using tap water and prime?

- Are there non-coral type marine plants that I can grow using normal lighting? I like the idea of live plants (like my freshwater tanks), but I don't want to get into coral right off the bat.

- A Youtube video I viewed said at a bare minimum a basic setup would require a tank (obviously), canister filter, heater, power head (or wave maker), rock, sand, and a light. Is this accurate?

- Regarding live rock/sand, I read that the odor given off by the decaying bacteria can smell very bad for a couple weeks until it completely breaks down. Is this as bad as it sounds? One solution I read is to put the live rock in a tub of water outside (e.g. in a garage) for a couple weeks until the smell goes away then transfer the rock to the main tank. Is this the way to do it?

- I like the look of a rimless tank with no lid. I realize evaporation is going to be an issue. Are lidless aquariums a PITA? I don't want to be mixing saltwater and topping off all the time, but they sure look nice. I like the look of a lidless, rimless glass aquarium with the rock protruding above the water level.

- What is the minimum tank size I should get that will give me some good options on fish, inverts, and eventually corals? I'd rather go bigger so I don't have to upgrade later. I was thinking I'd get at least a 75 gallon. I don't think I'd want to go larger than a 120 in order to keep the length to 48".

Can I do a fishless cycle by adding a certain amount of ammonia every day for several weeks until the BB develops, similar to a Freshwater tank? Is this necessary even with live rock and sand?

I'm sure I'll have many more questions, but I'll keep it at that for now.
 
Fisker
  • #2
You can do a FOWLR with no sump, fuge, or skimmer, you'll just have to be performing regular WC's and being careful with how much you feed.

- It depends on the fish you're keeping. Lionfish and shrimp, for example, won't mix. I'd say the same might go for most grabs. You'd probably be limited to mainly snails and hermits. However, if you limit yourself to just "reef-safe" fish that won't bother inverts, you should be fine. It's also worth noting that a lionfish would probably be able to eat clowns, damsels, and a lot of other small fish. Plus, there are only really a few species of tangs that would work in a 75 - and even then, a lot of people would probably tell you to go bigger for tangs.

- You can start with dry rock and dry sand, sure. Honestly, I recommend doing a mix - half life, and half dead. You save on costs, but still get all the beneficial life that comes with live rock.

- I'd STRONGLY recommend against using a canister filter. They require a lot of maintenance in saltwater, and usually just end up causing nutrient-issues and algae problems in the long run. Honestly, if you're not wanting to run a sump (which I'd recommend at this tank size), you'd probably be best to slap a couple Aquaclear 110's on the back of the tank with a few large powerheads in the tank. No biological media required. You can run a small sponge in one HOB just in case you ever have to set up a hospital or QT tank, but it's not necessary and can be harmful if you're not frequently rinsing the sponge in saltwater.

- For FOWLR, any light will work. Personally, I think you'd prefer something between 8000-12000K, as I find that's where a lot of saltwater fish show off their colors best, and that's a pretty "natural" look, IMO and IME. That said, anything above around 5000K will probably work, and should avoid any terrible algae issues. As for the high Kelvin lighting (reef tank lighting), that's not needed in FOWLR, but if you think you might do corals in the future, you might consider investing in a reef-ready light now instead of having to get one later. Just a thought.

- I'd 100% recommend the use of RODI. While you're not keeping coral, tap water is still going to cause algae to grow, and you never know what's in your tap. It's worth it to buy the RODI.

- Look into marine planted tanks. I've got one going on right now - basically, you have macroalgae and marine plants. Macroalgae are just clumps of colorful algae, while marine plants are true vascular plants - think seagrass. A lot of the green macros can be grown with relatively simple planted tank lighting, while a lot of the red macros will tend to prefer a bluer spectrum. Browns will have their own care requirements. Seagrasses are pretty complicated, so I'd steer you away from those.

- I mean, yeah, but again, steer clear of the canister if you can. I've heard way too many horror stories. Having used a small one on a hospital tank at one time, even with just one fish in the tank, it got nasty quick.

- Decaying live rock can stink while out of the water, but I've never had it stink much while in the tank. Maybe there's a bit of an ammonia smell during a particularly intense cycle, but that's not been my experience. What you're speaking of with leaving it in a tub for a while is considered curing - great if you already have a tank set up, but if you're cycling a new tank, there's little point. Just cycle the tank with the rock in there, and I very seriously doubt that you're going to have any noticeable smell, especially from a normal distance from the tank.

- Keep a lid. Rimless tanks look nice, but with the amount of RODI you'd be using to keep it topped off, it becomes a PITA immediately. I'd just get a rimmed tank, cut yourself a glass sliding lid (cheap, easy DIY), and call it a day. There are rimless options out there, but I personally think you'll be happier with just dealing with the rI'm for now, while you're getting used to the saltwater thing. By the way, you don't top off a tank with saltwater - you top of with freshwater. Water evaporates, but salt doesn't - so, as the tank loses water to evaporation, your salinity climbs. If you're topping off with saltwater, you're just adding more salt, causing your salinity to climb even more. I almost killed my first tank this way.

- Generally, the bigger the better. I usually keep nanos, and wouldn't even say a pico tank is that difficult - but the more water volume you have, the more wiggle room you're going to have. Honestly, I'd recommend going with a 75 or so and spending the money you saved by going with a smaller tank on better equipment. Don't skimp on equipment - you can cheap, but you can't go so cheap that everything you get breaks in a few months or a year. That's one of the biggest mistakes people make, IMO.

- You can do that to cycle, yes. If you get live rock, more than likely it's going to have decaying biomatter on/in it - so you'll have some ammonia coming from the rock. That said, it probably won't be enough to really get a cycle going (unless you get a lot VERY live rock), so I'd just be on top of testing, and try to keep your ammonia between 2-4 PPM.
 
mossman
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
Thanks for the thorough reply! Some follow-ups...

It depends on the fish you're keeping. Lionfish and shrimp, for example, won't mix. I'd say the same might go for most grabs. You'd probably be limited to mainly snails and hermits. However, if you limit yourself to just "reef-safe" fish that won't bother inverts, you should be fine. It's also worth noting that a lionfish would probably be able to eat clowns, damsels, and a lot of other small fish. Plus, there are only really a few species of tangs that would work in a 75 - and even then, a lot of people would probably tell you to go bigger for tangs.
.

I didn't necessarily mean that mixture, but those are a few of the species I like.

- You can start with dry rock and dry sand, sure. Honestly, I recommend doing a mix - half life, and half dead. You save on costs, but still get all the beneficial life that comes with live rock.

Makes sense.

- I'd STRONGLY recommend against using a canister filter. They require a lot of maintenance in saltwater, and usually just end up causing nutrient-issues and algae problems in the long run. Honestly, if you're not wanting to run a sump (which I'd recommend at this tank size), you'd probably be best to slap a couple Aquaclear 110's on the back of the tank with a few large powerheads in the tank. No biological media required. You can run a small sponge in one HOB just in case you ever have to set up a hospital or QT tank, but it's not necessary and can be harmful if you're not frequently rinsing the sponge in saltwater.

Okay. I'll probably start with HOB then and eventually do a sump. No bio media is required in a saltwater tank? Is this because the rock acts as the media with the high water flow (provided by the power heads/wave maker) aiding the process?

- For FOWLR, any light will work. Personally, I think you'd prefer something between 8000-12000K, as I find that's where a lot of saltwater fish show off their colors best, and that's a pretty "natural" look, IMO and IME. That said, anything above around 5000K will probably work, and should avoid any terrible algae issues. As for the high Kelvin lighting (reef tank lighting), that's not needed in FOWLR, but if you think you might do corals in the future, you might consider investing in a reef-ready light now instead of having to get one later. Just a thought.

Got it. I'm fine with bright white and even a little bluish, but I'm not a fan of the purple.

- I'd 100% recommend the use of RODI. While you're not keeping coral, tap water is still going to cause algae to grow, and you never know what's in your tap. It's worth it to buy the RODI.

Okay. I can get an RODI system. Should I get a system that adds the beneficial minerals back into the water at the final stage, or is it better to add the minerals to the water separately in a bucket?

- Look into marine planted tanks. I've got one going on right now - basically, you have macroalgae and marine plants. Macroalgae are just clumps of colorful algae, while marine plants are true vascular plants - think seagrass. A lot of the green macros can be grown with relatively simple planted tank lighting, while a lot of the red macros will tend to prefer a bluer spectrum. Browns will have their own care requirements. Seagrasses are pretty complicated, so I'd steer you away from those.

I was thinking seagrasses, but if they are complicated, I'll likely stay away. I don't want anything too high maintenance.

- I mean, yeah, but again, steer clear of the canister if you can. I've heard way too many horror stories. Having used a small one on a hospital tank at one time, even with just one fish in the tank, it got nasty quick.

Got it.

- Decaying live rock can stink while out of the water, but I've never had it stink much while in the tank. Maybe there's a bit of an ammonia smell during a particularly intense cycle, but that's not been my experience. What you're speaking of with leaving it in a tub for a while is considered curing - great if you already have a tank set up, but if you're cycling a new tank, there's little point. Just cycle the tank with the rock in there, and I very seriously doubt that you're going to have any noticeable smell, especially from a normal distance from the tank.

Okay.

- Keep a lid. Rimless tanks look nice, but with the amount of RODI you'd be using to keep it topped off, it becomes a PITA immediately. I'd just get a rimmed tank, cut yourself a glass sliding lid (cheap, easy DIY), and call it a day. There are rimless options out there, but I personally think you'll be happier with just dealing with the rI'm for now, while you're getting used to the saltwater thing. By the way, you don't top off a tank with saltwater - you top of with freshwater. Water evaporates, but salt doesn't - so, as the tank loses water to evaporation, your salinity climbs. If you're topping off with saltwater, you're just adding more salt, causing your salinity to climb even more. I almost killed my first tank this way.

I really like the frameless look though. Maybe there's a happy medium between the two. Am I correct that acrylic is not a good idea with saltwater?

- Generally, the bigger the better. I usually keep nanos, and wouldn't even say a pico tank is that difficult - but the more water volume you have, the more wiggle room you're going to have. Honestly, I'd recommend going with a 75 or so and spending the money you saved by going with a smaller tank on better equipment. Don't skimp on equipment - you can cheap, but you can't go so cheap that everything you get breaks in a few months or a year. That's one of the biggest mistakes people make, IMO.

I'm willing to pay extra money if it allows me to keep more types of fish. I never skimp on equipment. I always try to by the highest rated stuff. Unfortunately, even the best stuff can end up being junk, so it's hit or miss. I wish companies would make more higher end equipment because people like me would have no issue spending considerably more for equipment that only lasts a year, if that!

- You can do that to cycle, yes. If you get live rock, more than likely it's going to have decaying biomatter on/in it - so you'll have some ammonia coming from the rock. That said, it probably won't be enough to really get a cycle going (unless you get a lot VERY live rock), so I'd just be on top of testing, and try to keep your ammonia between 2-4 PPM.

Okay, so it sounds like I should monitor the level once the live rock is in there, then add liquid ammonia if needed to keep the total between 2-4ppm until I'm cycled.
 
mossman
  • Thread Starter
  • #4
This glass tank with low-iron glass and euro-bracing looks pretty sweet. I could make an acrylic lid for it.

https://www.scaquariums.com/SCA-100-Gallon-Starfire-Tank-p/sca-100g.htm

- Is there a rock-per-gallon and sand-per-gallon rule for Saltwater tanks?

- Is rock sold in most LFS's, or should I order online? I'm concerned about breakage, but her pieces can be epoxied back together if necessary.
 
Jesterrace
  • #5
There are only a select few tangs that will work in a 4 foot long tank long term (ie Tomini, Kole, Squaretail) and even then just one. Lionfish are predators and anything that fits in their mouth becomes food, so I really only recommend them for predator tanks. Given that you are talking about a FOWLR tank, I would look into Pygmy or Dwarf Angels. Lots of color and they do great in 4 foot long tanks long term. It's pushing it a bit but a One Spot Foxface could also work as an alternative to a Tang and it would certainly add presence and color to the tank. I have one in my 90 gallon as well as a coral beauty dwarf angel. You can see them in action here:

 
Fisker
  • #6
Yes, live rock (and to an extent, live sand) act as your biomedia in a saltwater tank. No extra biomedia needed, although I'd recommend considering keeping a sponge or bag of bio-rings in your filter to set up a hospital or QT if you need to.

You don't need to remineralize RODI for saltwater. That's why we're adding salt. If you're remineralizing the water before you use it, you end up basically defeating the purpose of running it through the filter in the first place - for our use in saltwater tanks, anyway.

You can try something like Oar Grass, but I'd make that a "Once I figure out how to run a saltwater tank" project. Not that I think you're going to fail, but if you're setting up a new tank, it's best to take it one issue at a time.

Acrylic is fine with saltwater - you just have to deal with the same issues that you have to deal with in freshwater. The main one being that they scratch very easily. Hopefully you can find a way to keep a lid on the tank and still stay pleased with the aesthetics of the tank - you really will want a lid on that tank, I promise. If for nothing else but to keep evaporation down.

That tank looks nice. If it's within budget and in the cards, go for it.

Generally, a pound per gallon of both sand and rock is a good place to start. That said, there's wiggle room. I'd say that with particularly porous rock, you'd have a hard time getting 75 lbs of it into a 75 gallon. I usually try and get at least 0.5 lbs per gallon, and call it quits there, unless I find myself needing more. With sand, unless you want to do a deep sand bed, less is more. I'd use just enough to get a thin aesthetic layer.

Rock is sold in SOME LFS's - I don't know about most. I'd just shop around locally, as it's better to buy rock where you can see it and make sure you like the shapes and nuances of the rock. Shop on craigslist, too. Worst comes to worst, ordering online is usually a good experience from most reputable dealers, especially with something like rock.
 
mossman
  • Thread Starter
  • #7
Great. Thanks!

Next question is about overflow boxes. Are there any advantages of going with the internal type (with holes drilled through tank) over the siphoning type (hang on back, home made)?

Reason I ask is because I plan on starting out with an HOB, but will eventually switch to a sump. I suppose I could just cap off any holes that exist in the tank until that time comes.
 
Tony_097
  • #8
Drilling is always the best option but they are diy pvc overflows and hob overflow. If you choose an hob overflow just remember to keep it clean or it will clog.
 
mossman
  • Thread Starter
  • #9
Why is drilling always best? Less change of clogging, losing siphon, and subsequent overflow of main tank?

I found a tank with two options: a centered internal overflow with holes in the bottom of the tank (Herbie style) or holes in the back of the tank for a 16" Synergy Shadow overflow. No clue which is better.
 
Jesterrace
  • #10
You are correct in the reason why a drilled tank is best. I would definitely go with the first option as it's more direct and IMHO a little easier to plumb for a sump.
 
mossman
  • Thread Starter
  • #11
I think I'll go with the bottom drilled one then. There are three identically sized holes. I'm assuming if I use two for drains (one for a drain and one for overflow) I would use the third for the return, and if I use all three for the drains (two drains, one overflow), I would run the return up the back of the tank and over the rim, correct?
 
Jesterrace
  • #12
I think I'll go with the bottom drilled one then. There are three identically sized holes. I'm assuming if I use two for drains (one for a drain and one for overflow) I would use the third for the return, and if I use all three for the drains (two drains, one overflow), I would run the return up the back of the tank and over the rim, correct?

That would be correct. Mine is just a single drain and a return but here is how mine is setup on my 90 gallon with a corner overflow:

 
mossman
  • Thread Starter
  • #13
That was helpful. Thanks. Do you have any videos or can you recommend a video that goes into detail on installing a protein skimmer? I was searching You Tube last night and found several videos titled "skimmer installation", but none of them actually showed the install procedure from start to finish. I'm confused as to whether the skimmer should be placed inside the sump or outside and whether there are benefits to one or the other, why a separate pump is needed to get water into the skimmer (why can't I tee off the output of my sump's return pump to feed the skimmer), at which stage in the sump should the skimmer be (should the water source come from the last stage then skimmed water discharged back into another stage?). Do I need a separate air pump to feed the skimmer?

I'm also a little confused as to what all actually goes into a basic saltwater sump. Is it just a couple filter socks for mechanical filtration, some bio media (for use in a hospital tank when the need arises), a protein skimmer, a heater, and a return pump?

I found this pretty helpful and wanted to share. Doesn't answer all my questions regarding the skimmer part though.

Some Sump Basics - Reef Aquarium
 

Similar Aquarium Threads

Replies
16
Views
982
DocRick
Replies
10
Views
809
fishboy367
Replies
14
Views
4K
LiterallyHydro
Replies
85
Views
4K
Jesterrace
  • Locked
Replies
10
Views
2K
LJC6780
Top Bottom