My very first saltwater aquarium - 190 gallon

Marsh980

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So today I finally ordered my very first saltwater aquarium after being a wimp for so long, plus I turn 40 this year and wanted to get myself a great present. I decided to get a custom 220 gallon (1000 litres as I’m British) D-D reef tank and cabinet and have to wait 5 weeks for it to be built as it will have a metal stand.

I would like to start my own diary here so you guys can give tips and share your knowledge. Once it arrives and if people are interested I’ll get pictures up of the delivery, set up and final tank design including aquascaping.

Many thanks for reading
 

saltwater60

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Awesome. I’ll turn 40 layer this year too. I’ll buy something mid life crisis wise too.
 
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Marsh980

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Haha I’m hoping it wasn’t a mid life crisis purchase. I’m sure my 3yr old son will love it and will help me now and when he’s older, maybe he’ll get his own tank like his old man. I remember helping my dad with his saltwater tank in the mid to late 80s and that’s what caused my love of the hobby

PeteStevers said:
Good luck! I started my first reef tank about 4 months ago. Its only a 40 gallon though. Can't wait to see it!
Cheers and I can't wait for it to arrive. Its going to be a long 5 weeks
 

saltwater60

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Marsh980 said:
Haha I’m hoping it wasn’t a mid life crisis purchase. I’m sure my 3yr old son will love it and will help me now and when he’s older, maybe he’ll get his own tank like his old man. I remember helping my dad with his saltwater tank in the mid to late 80s and that’s what caused my love of the hobby
Doing aquariums with kids is so much fun. I had my reef tank and I remember my kids just sitting there with me watching it. It would calm them down when upset. I just started a 75 fresh water planted tank and my 16yr old wanted me to go reef. I said no due to time and money constraints at this moment
 
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Marsh980

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That's lovely and I hope the same happens with my son. Aquariums can be such a bonding experience. I loved my fresh water planted aquarium but felt it was time to step up. Lets hope your son doesn't continuously keep asking for a reef tank again...

So an update

I have ordered the below equipment for my tank:

3x Radion XR15 Lights with brackets
1x MP40 Powerhead
1x Vectra M2 Pump
1x Barb Kit
1x Heater
1x D-D Heat Controller
1x G9 Skimmer
1x UV 39 Watt Sterilliser
1x Smart ATO
1x Bubblemagus Roller
1x Continuum BAC Brick for my sump
1x Reeflink
 

saltwater60

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Marsh980 said:
So an update

I have ordered the below equipment for my tank:

3x Radion XR15 Lights with brackets
1x MP40 Powerhead
1x Vectra M2 Pump
1x Barb Kit
1x Heater
1x D-D Heat Controller
1x G9 Skimmer
1x UV 39 Watt Sterilliser
1x Smart ATO
1x Bubblemagus Roller
1x Continuum BAC Brick for my sump
1x Reeflink
Sounds like you’re well on your way. Man those protein skimmers have come down in price. I remember a while back protein skimmers like that would be a couple hundred more.

I’ll get back into reefing again someday. MAybe sooner than later. I’m looking for a place to put a seahorse tank. I just redid my wife’s office and I’m thinking I could do a small seahorse tank with some corals and a peaceful goby or two. We will see.
 
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Marsh980

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I hope so, just need to grab the live sand and dry rock.

I’m looking at:
2x boxes of TMC EcoReef A
3x boxes of TMC EcoReef E

I love this rock especially that it’s man made, has awesome shapes including branches and is porous.

I’m also looking at Natures Ocean live sand, possibly 6x large bags.

I’ve been told it’s very addictive and hard to keep freshwater when you’ve experienced saltwater. Maybe you could get a seahorse tank for your 40th, a perfect excuse if it’s the right time haha. Sounds like a great idea.
 

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Wow I can’t wait to watch this build! Take lots of pictures! I thought about going with a reef for my 210 after I got tired of cichlids but I chickened out due to costs. I’m going with a planted rainbowfish tank instead. But I can’t wait to see your progress!
 

saltwater60

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Marsh980 said:
I hope so, just need to grab the live sand and dry rock.

I’m looking at:
2x boxes of TMC EcoReef A
3x boxes of TMC EcoReef E

I love this rock especially that it’s man made, has awesome shapes including branches and is porous.

I’m also looking at Natures Ocean live sand, possibly 6x large bags.

I’ve been told it’s very addictive and hard to keep freshwater when you’ve experienced saltwater. Maybe you could get a seahorse tank for your 40th, a perfect excuse if it’s the right time haha. Sounds like a great idea.
That is nice looking love rock. Not a bad price either. Porous rock is good. Water flow and denitrifying bacteria galore
 
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Marsh980

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KDS said:
Wow I can’t wait to watch this build! Take lots of pictures! I thought about going with a reef for my 210 after I got tired of cichlids but I chickened out due to costs. I’m going with a planted rainbowfish tank instead. But I can’t wait to see your progress!
Cheers and I'm very excited to delve into saltwater. I will take lots of pics and add onto here. I'll be happy to take any specific pics if people ask as i'm still a newbie when it comes to plumbing, set up etc.

I'm currently looking at the H2Ocean P4 PRO Dosing pump for feeding the corals (when i'm ready to get some). Just thought it makes sense to get the set up all done at the same time.

I can understand why you had reservations about costs, I knew it could be an expensive hobby but wow haha. However, I have been waiting 32 years to do this so wasn't go to pinch on the pennies. I suppose the majority is one off costs and I just need to get over the initial set up costs.

I love planted freshwater tanks, they can be so beautiful

Dennis57 said:
Good luck, and congrats on the birthday gift. Can't wait to see pictures
Thank you, its been 32 years in the waiting but I've finally pulled my finger out.

saltwater60 said:
That is nice looking love rock. Not a bad price either. Porous rock is good. Water flow and denitrifying bacteria galore
That's what I thought, my LFS recommended it. I was initially looking at the Caribsea MoanI Dry Live rock because I liked that it was white, but my LFS said that its pretty dense and would turn purple anyway when coralline algae is present.

It maybe be also because a lot of the youtube videos out there showcase the white rock when aquascaping.
 

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It’s funny I just turned 40 today and my planted tank is my gift to myself. I’d like to set up a reef tank once I’m done with this one. Hopefully another 210. But I don’t know if it will be in the budget. The costs at this size of tank make the planning the hardest part!
 
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Marsh980

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KDS said:
It’s funny I just turned 40 today and my planted tank is my gift to myself. I’d like to set up a reef tank once I’m done with this one. Hopefully another 210. But I don’t know if it will be in the budget. The costs at this size of tank make the planning the hardest part!
Happy birthday - Hope you're having a great day and being spoilt!!

I knew the 220 would be expensive and I only wanted to go big or not at all. I've been waiting so long to do it that I really wanted to go as large as I could manage. I still was surprised with the cost and I was reading another member's tank build diary and he called the thread 'Money Pit' haha.
 
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Marsh980

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One week down, just another 4 before I can start my saltwater reef journey. The excitement is building!!
 

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Marsh980 said:
One week down, just another 4 before I can start my saltwater reef journey. The excitement is building!!
Somebody is impatient I see. Glad I’m not the only one. Seriously excited for you and I’m jealous. I always wanted a large saltwater tank.
 
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saltwater60 said:
Somebody is impatient I see. Glad I’m not the only one. Seriously excited for you and I’m jealous. I always wanted a large saltwater tank.
Haha is that obvious. I’ll be fine once it arrives, I’ll be patient then I promise;)
 

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Nice Birthday gift. What a way to jump into the hobby. You are so going to enjoy this. This is not a mid life, many of us started about same time. I started my first salt at 41. Had it for 16 years before going back to freshwater. Now thinking about jumping back in with a similar sized tank.

Having the kids involved makes it even more fun as you will see. Take your time as you set this up and get things running.

Wishing you all the best and please post pics as you progress.
 
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JimC22 said:
Nice Birthday gift. What a way to jump into the hobby. You are so going to enjoy this. This is not a mid life, many of us started about same time. I started my first salt at 41. Had it for 16 years before going back to freshwater. Now thinking about jumping back in with a similar sized tank.

Having the kids involved makes it even more fun as you will see. Take your time as you set this up and get things running.

Wishing you all the best and please post pics as you progress.
Cheers Jim, I couldn’t think of a better 40th birthday present to myself, wife and son. I really hope they‘ll get as much enjoyment with it as I will. I was always going to wait until I could get the tank I really wanted, I’m a kind of a ’go big or go home’ kind of guy lol.

That’s awesome that you had a saltwater tank for 16 years. Let’s hope I can keep mine going for that long. Who knows, if my son falls in love with it he may get his own freshwater or saltwater tank of his own. Who am I kidding, he’ll more than likely take over mine leaving me tankless lol.

I will take my time and soak up as much help and assistance from the owner of my local LFS when he and his son come over to help me set up all the equipment.

Thank you and I’ll ensure plenty of pics are taken
 

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Now - just try to control what we old sailors call "Channel Fever". That's where sailors who have been at sea for extended periods of time are entering the channel for home port and can't wait to tie to the pier. You will feel this as you get closer to receiving your new toy, time can't move fast enough to get you there. LOL

FYI - I think all of us are feeling your excitement as well!!!

Cheers from the Yank across the big pond!!
 
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Marsh980

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So I’ve been looking at a long term solution to buying my 75 litres of saltwater a week plus 50 litres of RODI every approx week to two weeks from my LFS.

I really wasn’t interested in installing a RODI unit due to the wastage, energy used, maintenance, risk of leaks etc.

I’ve just been recommended the below firm that offers a cheap TDS 0 self service 24hr 365 days a year distilled water pick up point. Our UK window cleaners use the service but it’s also states on the site that it’s ideal for aquariums. Below is the link:



Are there any British members in here and have any used it. It looks amazing and will be a cheap way to make large volumes of saltwater.

What do people think?
 

saltwater60

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Marsh980 said:
So I’ve been looking at a long term solution to buying my 75 litres of saltwater a week plus 50 litres of RODI every approx week to two weeks from my LFS.

I really wasn’t interested in installing a RODI unit due to the wastage, energy used, maintenance, risk of leaks etc.

I’ve just been recommended the below firm that offers a cheap TDS 0 self service 24hr 365 days a year distilled water pick up point. Our UK window cleaners use the service but it’s also states on the site that it’s ideal for aquariums. Below is the link:



Are there any British members in here and have any used it. It looks amazing and will be a cheap way to make large volumes of saltwater.

What do people think?
I’d buy a cheap TDS meter and test it yourself just to verify. Always have extra on hand for an emergency. You never know.
steam distillation produces 0 tds since it’s all evaporated water(steam) collected and condensed. Only concern is and maybe they address it is volitile organic compounds being captures and ending up in the water. They very likely address this though. Call and talk with them.
 
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Marsh980

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Cheers, I shall give them a call. They don’t currently offer the service where I live so will have to wait. however, I’ve just checked the TDS level on the water supplied by my local LFS and they have said it arranges between 0-1.

So a little update, nothing that exciting. My Continuum Exxodus BAC brick has been transferred to my LFS established tank’s sump so it has 3-4 weeks to soak up all the benefical bacteria before being placed in mine. That should help with the cycling.

Two weeks down and I've started buying little miscellaneous bits such as a few sized turkey basters and measuring cylinders plus the cleaning brushes for each.

My wife has given me my own fish tank storage drawer under the stairs which will house the above plus cleaning scourers, dry food, water tests and anything and everything else I may need.

These 5 weeks really are dragging!!
 
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saltwater60 said:
It’s official your wife is a keeper. Your own fish drawer!!
I know right, I'm feeling very lucky and blessed haha. I often read how much stuff and old equipment fish keepers end up with, or should I say hoard.
 

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Marsh980 said:
I know right, I'm feeling very lucky and blessed haha. I often read how much stuff and old equipment fish keepers end up with, or should I say hoard.
Oh so true - you should see all the stuff I've accumulated. Boxes in the attic, 5 large tubes in the garage and extra tanks laying around. I'm taking inventory and looking at how I can use it to make another tank set-up. Giving thought to starting a breeder tank.......

The addiction is terrible!!! Wife put her foot down this weekend when I found 2 people who were giving away 2-90's, 75 and 55 gallon tanks. I was going after them and she was not happy. :banghead:
 
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Marsh980

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Now that’s a lot of stuff, I would like to say I won’t end up with that much but I could just be kidding myself. You should tell your wife that you’re recycling and using all those bits to make another tank, she’ll be thrilled.

I haven’t even got my first tank yet and I’m already thinking about getting a FOWLR tank so I can get all the other fish I want that I can’t get in my reef tank.

Going after all 4 tanks, that's crazy talk, awesome but crazy lol

Three weeks down now..... arghhh the weeks are dragging!!

Just a quick question so I can ensure I'm ready as I can be when it gets delivered. What miscellaneous bits do I need to get or should have on hand if/when they're needed? For example

  1. Various sized turkey basters (Bought)
  2. Various sized measuring cylinders and jugs (Bought)
  3. Cleaner brushes for the above (Bought)
  4. Plain scourers (Yet to buy)
  5. Large 30cm tweezers (Bought)
  6. Scraper (Bought)
  7. Aquarium scraper stick (Bought)
  8. Bucket (Bought)
  9. Piping (Bought)
Many thanks
 
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Marsh980

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saltwater60 said:
I always had an extra heater and power head. Extra buckets, live rock, and a tank for mixing water.
That's a good shout, a heater is relatively cheap but the power head has cost me £335 ($433) so may have to think on that - I suppose I could always get a cheaper back up just in case.

I've only got the one bucket at present as I'm buying my saltwater and RODI water in from my local LFS (it will be delivered to my door and has a TDS of 0-1) so I'm hoping I won't need too many. I have bought 6x 25 litre (5.5 gallon) saltwater barrels/drums and 2x 25 litre RODI barrels/drums.

There is a firm in the UK called Spotless Water that our window cleaners and aquarium hobbyists use to get 0 TDS RODI water. This would then allow me to make my own saltwater. However, they currently don't have a filling station in my city.

Please know I have looked at RODI systems but am only interested in a system that converts 1 litre of tap water to 1 litre of RODI. These systems are very expensive. I'm not interested in wasting 900 - 1200 litres (197-264 gallons*) a month making the required weekly 75 litre (16.5 gallon) saltwater changes plus RODI evaporation top ups.

* calculations based on a 3:1 or 4:1 litre wastage.

Please tell me if I'm miles off the mark when it comes to RODI systems or have large gaps in my knowledge.

I should have spare live rock left over from my initial purchase and build.

I won't be mixing water at the current time so shouldn't need a tank
 

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For the power head I just had a spare that was $30 of so. Certainly don’t buy a spare wave maker.

I’d still have a few spare buckets. You can never have enough. You’ll have fish to acclimate and things like that.
You’re correct on the RODI systems being 3:1 or 4:1 for the relatively cheap ones.
Just curious why you won’t be mixing salt water?
Also make sure you have test kits and minerals like calcium, alk, magnesium, phosphate test kit and remover.
 
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Marsh980

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saltwater60 said:
For the power head I just had a spare that was $30 of so. Certainly don’t buy a spare wave maker.

I’d still have a few spare buckets. You can never have enough. You’ll have fish to acclimate and things like that.
You’re correct on the RODI systems being 3:1 or 4:1 for the relatively cheap ones.
Just curious why you won’t be mixing salt water?
Also make sure you have test kits and minerals like calcium, alk, magnesium, phosphate test kit and remover.
Ahh I see, I only have the MP40 powerhead presently. I'll have a look into getting a spare one just in case.
I just dislike paying for that amount of wasted water as I'm on a water meter.
I won't be mixing saltwater because I'll be buying all I need from my LFS and if I need some urgently, my local LFS store can get it me that day or the following day. I'll also be buying all my fish, CUC, invertebrates and corals from them too.
I've bought 4 test kits (well ordered with the tank and equipment) that will cover all the necessary water tests needed for a reef tank.
I don't have any separate minerals or removers, I'll have to do some research on them and see what I need.
I will be buying a H2Ocean P4 Pro Dosing Pump before I add any corals and will be adding three differing Continuum coral foods

I still have lots to learn about dosing and removing but want to make it as automated and controlled as I can, hopefully all by my tablet.
 

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Heaters are relatively cheap and easy to find/replace. Pumps are a bit more difficult and expensive to get locally, especially for an emergency repair. Luckily they don't easily fail but when they do you need a replacement quick. It's nothing you need to have on hand immediately. You have time to search and find one as an inexpensive stand-by.

To give you an idea - my 90 gal tank ran for 10 years before the pump failed. Mad scramble to get tank back online. Took some work but I found a replacement on eBay. Lesson learned was to get another stand-by replacement. I took my time and was able to make a purchase for 2 like new (used) IwakI 30 pumps used in a closed loop water system. $50 USD for both. They checked out and were as advertised.

Making RODI water is a hard decision. Everyone's needs and storage abilities are different. I live in Florida and most of us have large cement ponds in our back yards. I have a 60 gallon storage/mixing tank on back patio with a RODI system next to it. When making water, all my run off goes directly into the the cement pond. It's always needing to be top off due to evaporation so it works out for me.

Go with your current plan on water and over time you will see if it works or if you need to consider making your own.

You will need to mix salt, keep that in mind an be prepared to figure out how to work that out. There are many ways to mix and get it to your tank.
 
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Marsh980

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Cheers for letting me know. As you and Saltwater 60 have said, I better start researching a replacement suitable power heads. As you've said I've got plenty of time before having to buy one as the system isn't even here yet nor cycled haha.

In regards to my RODI approach, I've definitely considered both options because many experienced hobbyists and YouTube blogs say buying your water from your LFS is such a costly beginner mistake. Luckily my LFS offers TDS 0-1 water. Had it been any higher I wouldn't touch it so my decision would have been different. Before someone says it, I know I should only use TDS 0 water but hopefully for the time being it'll be ok. I will be checking each batch of RODI when it arrives but 100% trust my LFS.

That sounds like a great set up. I live in the cold, wet and miserable UK so makes that pretty impossible haha. On the plus side, my tank shouldn't overheat, or very rarely will need cooling.

Exactly, I can always change my RODI approach but presently the ease of having it made and delivered works with my current family situation. I have a 3yr old son and my wife is currently 12 weeks pregnant with baby 2 :)

Why will I need to mix salt, when I'll have all the water at hand ready made. Please tell me if i'm missing something obvious. This is all learning for me and its a steep learning curve, especially when I get the tank running.
 

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Marsh980 said:
Exactly, I can always change my RODI approach but presently the ease of having it made and delivered works with my current family situation. I have a 3yr old son and my wife is currently 12 weeks pregnant with baby 2 :)

Why will I need to mix salt, when I'll have all the water at hand ready made. Please tell me if i'm missing something obvious. This is all learning for me and its a steep learning curve, especially when I get the tank running.
Wow - Cheers and Congratulations with the new one on the way. So exciting. Your life is going to be soooo busy. New tank and two little ones. It doesn't get any better than that......

I may have misunderstood. Your LFS is supplying pre-mixed RODI saltwater? For your immediate needs that will work. You may want to look at the overall costs in the long term of buying water from LFS or Spotless Water company (you will need to mix salt with this) or having your own RODI system.

Things to consider in the costs are one time purchase items and then recurring expenditures.

LFS:
One time cost - cost of storage containers (you already purchased) and pump or pumps to circulate the water with mixing salt if necessary.
Recurring costs - cost of petrol round trip to purchase water or if they charge for delivery, cost of RODI pre-mix salt or regular RODI water x liters purchased, and cost of salt if having to mix yourself.

Spotless Water:
One time cost - cost of storage containers (you already purchased), and pump or pumps to circulate the water with mixing salt.
Recurring costs - Cost of water, delivery charge if not included in water charge, salts to mix,

Owning RODI system:
One time costs - RODI system, storage containers (you already purchased) and pump or pumps to circulate the water with mixing salt.
Recurring costs - Cost of water to make RODI water (use worst case factoring of 4:1 ratio for water use), salt to mix, replacement DI media (use 6 months as replacement ratio), replacement filter cartridges every 6 months (carbon block and sediment, 0.5 micron filtration) and RO membrain filter (1 - 2 years depending on water quality).

I may have missed a couple items but this will give you an idea of which is more economical and/or is better for you to work with.

I also see your calculating on a 10% weekly water change? You may be wanting to consider a 20 - 25% change. As you get your tank operating, things are going to happen and you are going to need more water than you anticipated. Cost are going to be more then you planned. Expect the unexpected. Don't know why but it always happens. The nature of our hobby. The biggest factor in all tanks is water quality and it is the number one item we all use the most, especially when things start to go sideways.

Like you said, you have a steep learning curve, We all did. That's what is fun with the hobby - all the learning, the trials and error, and the victories. The end result is a wonderful tank you are proud of and enjoy.
 
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Marsh980

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Thank you for the very comprehensive response.

Yes its very exciting, we found out we were expecting baby two a couple of days after I purchased the tank. What a wonderful few days. I look forward to being very busy.

That's correct, my LFS is supplying the RODI water and ready mixed saltwater. I’m currently considering to keep that approach until a Spotless Water filling station is installed at a location in my city. Then I‘ll look to mix up my own saltwater.

Good thinking about having extra water in case of larger water changes. I’m hoping having a 200-220 gallon tank will ensure greater stability but I’m going into this with my eyes wide open and expecting I’ll need to adapt and react quickly and appropriately.

I’m budgeting £200-250 ($257-322) a month upkeep (this doesn’t include cost of livestock). But am ready if this increases. I have been saving for a very long time for this and have a ‘reef emergency fund’ just in case.

I’m so looking forward to getting my hands dirty and my teeth into this wonderful hobby and I know my late father would be proud that I have followed in his footsteps and got a reef tank.
 

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I would definitely always have extra water on hand. You never know when you’ll have an emergency. I know you said your LFS will always have water for you but that might not be the case. I know that’s what they told you but they have cheaper RO systems that take a while to build up volume of water. Of course I’m referring to the USA.
remember water truly is the life blood of tour system. If I were you I’d always have 50% of my tank volume of premixed saltwater on hand. Might not be possible but it’s certainly a good idea. Emergency water changes can happen. Tour plumbing can fail and of course those things are many planned. I just read on here where someone’s mom had a pest control company come and spray and needed to do lots of emergency water changes.
If you’re buying a dosing pump you’ll likely not need as much minerals and things. I always had iodine, calcium, alkalinity, and magnesium on hand to adjust my dosing just Incase it was off a bit.
Just a couple of cheap power heads is all you’ll need. Even if your return pump dies you can make due for a few days before you’ll need a new one but yes a spare return pump is a great idea.
 

JimC22

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Duh!! When I read power head my mind was thinking return pump. It's oldtimers disease.....

Yes power heads are inexpensive and a good item to have on hand. I've had several go bad and it was nice to be able to change out and keep water circulating and flowing in the tank.
 

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