Is A 32 Gallon Too Small For A Starter?

Kyler9437
  • #1
I have been doing fresh water for a few years and haven't really needed to know too much about salt. Now I'm in a position where I need to have more hands on info for saltwater that I'm just not getting at my work. I'm thinking about buying a 32 gallon Biocube as my first salt tank. I want to do some soft coral and a few clown fish. Is this too small of a tank for a beginner?
 
California L33
  • #3
Fresh or salt water, the bigger the tank the slower the water chemistry changes, the easier it is for the fish keeper. Back in the day the advice I always heard was 55 was the smallest practical salt water tank, but that 75 was better for a beginner. However, recently I've seen YouTube videos with people doing much smaller salt tanks, including 32 Biocubes. Whether or not these tanks last and what the maintenance load is I can't say.
 
Kyler9437
  • Thread Starter
  • #4
is a 25-35% once a month water change about right for salt or is it more often? I plan on getting the protein skimmer mod for the tank once its cycled so I don't know if that would change the rate I would change the water.
 
Maggie321
  • #5
is a 25-35% once a month water change about right for salt or is it more often? I plan on getting the protein skimmer mod for the tank once its cycled so I don't know if that would change the rate I would change the water.
I have a 39g as my first tank. I do once a week Wc's with about 5 gallons. It's easy to make 5 gallons of saltwater so once a week is hardly an inconvenience.
 
stella1979
  • #6
is a 25-35% once a month water change about right for salt or is it more often? I plan on getting the protein skimmer mod for the tank once its cycled so I don't know if that would change the rate I would change the water.
I also do weekly changes, 4 gallons per week on a 20g. However, I can skip a week now and then if we'll be out of town or something. A skimmer will keep water cleaner, so may extend the time between changes. Only regular testing will tell you how often you need to change water. You don't want nitrates over 10ppm in a reef tank, and depending on the kind of coral, 10ppm is pushing it. The other thing to consider is that as a tank gets full of growing coral, trace elements will be used by that coral for growth. So, you might someday see that calcium, alkalinity or magnesium is not staying at the right level for more than a week. Water changes will help with those parameters too. Then again, if you're looking at lots of stony corals someday, you will have to dose trace elements to keep up with the uptake. I have quite a bit of growing coral, mostly LPS and some SPS.... not a lot of softies. I kinda thought I'd be dosing by now, but I haven't had to yet.

Fresh or salt water, the bigger the tank the slower the water chemistry changes, the easier it is for the fish keeper. Back in the day the advice I always heard was 55 was the smallest practical salt water tank, but that 75 was better for a beginner. However, recently I've seen YouTube videos with people doing much smaller salt tanks, including 32 Biocubes. Whether or not these tanks last and what the maintenance load is I can't say.
True... very true. A larger water volume is much more forgiving, and therefor safer for beginners. The problem is, with reef tanks equipment gets quite pricey, particularly lighting for the corals. Also, I would not run a tank bigger than a 30 (or 32 ) without a sump.... which would contain a skimmer, a refugium, filter socks, plumping and return pumps. That's not to mention working out an overflow so water can flow to and from the sump.

On the other hand, smaller tanks can be run as closed systems if regular maintenance is done. I run a 20 gallon long reef and rely on weekly water changes to manage parameters. I also have a simply modified HOB that handles mechanical filtration and grows macroalgae - so it is an HOB refugium. The rock in the tank hosts bb, so maintains the cycle. Reef lighting isn't real cheap anyhow, but you can certainly spend less lighting a shallower tank. The tank is almost a year old, lots of little corals are growing well, the fish is healthy and happy, and parameters are easily maintained. In fact, I have a hard time getting nitrates to come up above zero.

So, all in all, I do not recommend a beginner go smaller than what I've had success with, but I also have a very hard time telling a beginner that they need to spend thousands of dollars right at the start. It's just unnecessary, especially because if a tank is neglected, size will not save it in the long term anyhow. Not trying to be argumentative, only trying to spread the word... salty tanks aren't as hard as most people think. I just love to enable, lol.
 
Jesterrace
  • #7
I have been doing fresh water for a few years and haven't really needed to know too much about salt. Now I'm in a position where I need to have more hands on info for saltwater that I'm just not getting at my work. I'm thinking about buying a 32 gallon Biocube as my first salt tank. I want to do some soft coral and a few clown fish. Is this too small of a tank for a beginner?

A 32 gallon biocube would work well for a few coral and a PAIR of clownfish (not more). You could also do a goby or blenny and one or two other fish.
 
California L33
  • #8
I also do weekly changes, 4 gallons per week on a 20g. However, I can skip a week now and then if we'll be out of town or something. A skimmer will keep water cleaner, so may extend the time between changes. Only regular testing will tell you how often you need to change water. You don't want nitrates over 10ppm in a reef tank, and depending on the kind of coral, 10ppm is pushing it. The other thing to consider is that as a tank gets full of growing coral, trace elements will be used by that coral for growth. So, you might someday see that calcium, alkalinity or magnesium is not staying at the right level for more than a week. Water changes will help with those parameters too. Then again, if you're looking at lots of stony corals someday, you will have to dose trace elements to keep up with the uptake. I have quite a bit of growing coral, mostly LPS and some SPS.... not a lot of softies. I kinda thought I'd be dosing by now, but I haven't had to yet.


True... very true. A larger water volume is much more forgiving, and therefor safer for beginners. The problem is, with reef tanks equipment gets quite pricey, particularly lighting for the corals. Also, I would not run a tank bigger than a 30 (or 32 ) without a sump.... which would contain a skimmer, a refugium, filter socks, plumping and return pumps. That's not to mention working out an overflow so water can flow to and from the sump.

On the other hand, smaller tanks can be run as closed systems if regular maintenance is done. I run a 20 gallon long reef and rely on weekly water changes to manage parameters. I also have a simply modified HOB that handles mechanical filtration and grows macroalgae - so it is an HOB refugium. The rock in the tank hosts bb, so maintains the cycle. Reef lighting isn't real cheap anyhow, but you can certainly spend less lighting a shallower tank. The tank is almost a year old, lots of little corals are growing well, the fish is healthy and happy, and parameters are easily maintained. In fact, I have a hard time getting nitrates to come up above zero.

So, all in all, I do not recommend a beginner go smaller than what I've had success with, but I also have a very hard time telling a beginner that they need to spend thousands of dollars right at the start. It's just unnecessary, especially because if a tank is neglected, size will not save it in the long term anyhow. Not trying to be argumentative, only trying to spread the word... salty tanks aren't as hard as most people think. I just love to enable, lol.

I certainly understand that expense is a real consideration, and it's nice that nano salt tanks are do-able. For some reason money doesn't come as easily as it should . One option that might not break the bank would be to get a relatively small tank, but attach a relatively large sump. The sump could be an old give away tank, sound but scratched, hidden in the stand. There would be increased pumping requirements, and plumbing a sump isn't always easy, but it would give, potentially, a tremendous amount water volume increase. The lighting (and 'pretty' parts) would remain the same price. I suppose if the tank needed a chiller that expense could be a deal breaker as those things are pricey.

I'm just throwing that out as an option for folks who might have a bit more money to spend and want something a little more forgiving.
 
stella1979
  • #9
I certainly understand that expense is a real consideration, and it's nice that nano salt tanks are do-able. For some reason money doesn't come as easily as it should . One option that might not break the bank would be to get a relatively small tank, but attach a relatively large sump. The sump could be an old give away tank, sound but scratched, hidden in the stand. There would be increased pumping requirements, and plumbing a sump isn't always easy, but it would give, potentially, a tremendous amount water volume increase. The lighting (and 'pretty' parts) would remain the same price. I suppose if the tank needed a chiller that expense could be a deal breaker as those things are pricey.

I'm just throwing that out as an option for folks who might have a bit more money to spend and want something a little more forgiving.
A very exciting option indeed! I'd love a huge sump on a small tank... so I could provide millions of pods for my favorite fish! I love a dragonette, but won't have one without the right setup. And just think, one could keep something funky and dangerous in the sump, while keeping the display safe and peaceful. Think I'd go with a mantis shrimp.
 
SecretiveFish
  • #10
is a 25-35% once a month water change about right for salt or is it more often? I plan on getting the protein skimmer mod for the tank once its cycled so I don't know if that would change the rate I would change the water.

It is really going to depend on your stocking level as to how frequent your water changes need to be. Watch the nitrate buildup in your tank over time as this is a good indicator of when a water change must happen. Bi-weekly is probably best to keep things stable in your tank, but monthly works for some hobbyists!
 
Jesterrace
  • #11
I certainly understand that expense is a real consideration, and it's nice that nano salt tanks are do-able. For some reason money doesn't come as easily as it should . One option that might not break the bank would be to get a relatively small tank, but attach a relatively large sump. The sump could be an old give away tank, sound but scratched, hidden in the stand. There would be increased pumping requirements, and plumbing a sump isn't always easy, but it would give, potentially, a tremendous amount water volume increase. The lighting (and 'pretty' parts) would remain the same price. I suppose if the tank needed a chiller that expense could be a deal breaker as those things are pricey.

I'm just throwing that out as an option for folks who might have a bit more money to spend and want something a little more forgiving.

I will have to disagree with you on putting a sump on a smaller tank. To me it's just never made good sense to go with a sump on a display tank under 55 gallons as the sump is generally small enough that it doesn't provide as much benefit (a little extra flow and a refugium) but it does add a significant expense (ie return pump, overflow box (since it isn't drilled), protein skimmer and possibly multiple filter socks). Rather than spending the money and using the space for additional waterflow and equipment, why not simply upgrade to a larger display tank which gives you more stocking options? The whole point of a smaller tank is to keep things as simple as possible and save your money for the upgrade since very little of said equipment will transfer to a significantly larger tank.
 
ParrotCichlid
  • #12
32g is fine.

My first saltwater tank was a 5 gallon FOWLR with 2 clownfish. Everyone told me I would fail and in all honesty the tank was a pleasure to run.

Parameters where well controlled with weekly water changes.
 
Kyler9437
  • Thread Starter
  • #13
I think I'm going to do 2 soft leather corald, 2 black clowns, a few blue legged hermit crabs, a cleaner shrimp and maybe and scooter blenny or lawnmower
 
California L33
  • #14
I will have to disagree with you on putting a sump on a smaller tank. To me it's just never made good sense to go with a sump on a display tank under 55 gallons as the sump is generally small enough that it doesn't provide as much benefit (a little extra flow and a refugium) but it does add a significant expense (ie return pump, overflow box (since it isn't drilled), protein skimmer and possibly multiple filter socks). Rather than spending the money and using the space for additional waterflow and equipment, why not simply upgrade to a larger display tank which gives you more stocking options? The whole point of a smaller tank is to keep things as simple as possible and save your money for the upgrade since very little of said equipment will transfer to a significantly larger tank.

I wasn't saying it was for everyone. The expense of the pump and plumbing is definitely there, but the big benefit of higher water volume is obvious. You could potentially double it or more without the expense of increased lighting for the corals. (Saw a YouTube video of a guy who lived by the ocean and had his tanks continually changing water with it- in other words he used the ocean as a multi-trillion gallon sump and his parameters were always perfect .)
 
ParrotCichlid
  • #15
I wasn't saying it was for everyone. The expense of the pump and plumbing is definitely there, but the big benefit of higher water volume is obvious. You could potentially double it or more without the expense of increased lighting for the corals. (Saw a YouTube video of a guy who lived by the ocean and had his tanks continually changing water with it- in other words he used the ocean as a multi-trillion gallon sump and his parameters were always perfect .)

The huge sump tiny tank idea might be pretty good actually. But to make the cost worthwhile a large storage tub would have to be swapped for the sump.

Using cheap eBay pumps, plastic storage box ect could cut costs to next to nothing. Oviously it would cost something but would be minimal.
 
California L33
  • #16
The huge sump tiny tank idea might be pretty good actually. But to make the cost worthwhile a large storage tub would have to be swapped for the sump.

Using cheap eBay pumps, plastic storage box ect could cut costs to next to nothing. Oviously it would cost something but would be minimal.

The original idea was a free beat up tank from Craigslist or somewhere similar, but large tubs might be a better idea.
 
ParrotCichlid
  • #17
The original idea was a free beat up tank from Craigslist or somewhere similar, but large tubs might be a better idea.

I just mention tubs as they are very easy to handle and cheap. They are easy to drill, silicone and install barriers inside if you was going that method. Also as mentioned very easy to handle with plastic being light.

Tubs seem to be the go to thing for building large tank sumps. Should work just fine on saltwater I guess though.
 
Jesterrace
  • #18
Large Tubs are common for saltwater. I have an LFS that runs their entire store on a massive one.
 
LyssahBlue
  • #19
I have a 32 biocube and I love the simplicity of it. I'm new to the hobby and I find that getting a system that was made for Saltwater and comes with most of the things you need, well, it makes things not quite so overwhelming. I've been able to get things up and running pretty quickly, and then learn the ins and outs as I go. I still have so much to learn! If you go this route, don't worry about the sump - you can decide later if that's something you want to do. I do 4gal water changes every week and a 10gal water change once a month. My tank is still stabilizing though (4 months old), I hope to be able to do only once a month eventually. I do have a protein skimmer, a very simple one and with my very limited experience I'd say it does well Some people don't use a skimmer for a tank this size but having it makes me feel like I'm doing all I can to keep things clean.
If you go this route don't be afraid to reach out, I'd be happy to let you in on whatever I've learned running my biocube.

EDIT:
Also, 2 clowns would work, if you want any other fish in there though they should probably be added first. Add your fish from least to most aggressive. Clowns are territorial and will not love new additions. So do your research and have a good idea what you want in your tank.
 

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