Saltwater Aquarium Questions

AcornTheBetta

Hi all!
I am thinking of starting up a reef tank soon and had a lot of questions about the setup. Here they are:
Aquarium:
  • Is it better to get an all-in-one tank or buy a tank and set up a sump?
  • What is the best size for a beginner reef tank?
Coral:
  • How do you care for coral?
  • What are the best beginner-friendly corals (I like zoas and montis)?
  • How do you put coral on hardscape? Just stick it on or do you glue it?
  • How do you get rid of coral if it grows so much?
  • Are anemones hard to grow?
Equipment:
  • What equipment is essential for a reef tank?
  • Light recommendations?
  • What equipment will I need for the compartments in an all-in-one tank? What about in a sump?
  • Should I include a refugium or is it not worth it?
  • Should I invest in an RODI system if I am going to have a reef tank?
  • What would be the best salt for mixing salt water?
Hardscape:
  • Should I get live rock or some other type of rock?
  • Do Marinepure Cubes do the same thing as live rock?
Substrate:
  • Substrate recommendations?
That's all the questions I have for now, but I'm sure I'll think of some more later. Thanks!
 

qldmick

Hey mate I'm listening along as I just picked up my first saltwater tank, its 160L and came with a sump, refugium, protein skimmer, heater, light etc.

My suggestion for now is to buy a secondhand fully set up tank I paid around 1/3 of new price.
 
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AcornTheBetta

Hey mate I'm listening along as I just picked up my first saltwater tank, its 160L and came with a sump, refugium, protein skimmer, heater, light etc.

My suggestion for now is to buy a secondhand fully set up tank I paid around 1/3 of new price.
Oh cool! I guess we're sorta in this together.
 
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Jesterrace

Hi all!
I am thinking of starting up a reef tank soon and had a lot of questions about the setup. Here they are:
Aquarium:
  • Is it better to get an all-in-one tank or buy a tank and set up a sump?
  • What is the best size for a beginner reef tank?
Coral:
  • How do you care for coral?
  • What are the best beginner-friendly corals (I like zoas and montis)?
  • How do you put coral on hardscape? Just stick it on or do you glue it?
  • How do you get rid of coral if it grows so much?
  • Are anemones hard to grow?
Equipment:
  • What equipment is essential for a reef tank?
  • Light recommendations?
  • What equipment will I need for the compartments in an all-in-one tank? What about in a sump?
  • Should I include a refugium or is it not worth it?
  • Should I invest in an RODI system if I am going to have a reef tank?
  • What would be the best salt for mixing salt water?
Hardscape:
  • Should I get live rock or some other type of rock?
  • Do Marinepure Cubes do the same thing as live rock?
Substrate:
  • Substrate recommendations?
That's all the questions I have for now, but I'm sure I'll think of some more later. Thanks!

1) Honestly it all depends. AIO tanks make things easier to setup since you don't have to source a bunch of different equipment. HOWEVER, AIO units tend to have more long term durability issues with equipment or people simply get bored with them and want to upgrade to a larger setup and end up losing a lot of money in the process. So it really all depends on which AIO setup you are looking at and what your plans are for the hobby.

2) The truth is that all tank sizes have their advantages and disadvantages. Generally the larger the tank, the more stable the parameters aka the more forgiving it is and they can go longer without maintenance. That said, they also generally require a much bigger commitment for expense and equipment (to say nothing of time spent scraping algae when the tank gets well established). So it's all about figuring out what your budget is, what space you have and what your time constraints might be.

To go along with the above a used reef ready (ie drilled for sump) setup IMHO is a great way to get into the hobby as it saves you money and allows you to potentially get a much nicer setup than you could otherwise afford.

3) Coral Care. Honestly there is a huge range there. There are some corals that grow simply by having a basic light (ie Soft Mushroom Corals) and water with some nitrates in it and there others that require meticulous dosing of trace elements (ie most Short Polyp Stony Coral aka SPS Corals) so that's up to you. Generally easier soft corals and LPS is the way to go for beginners since they require a lot less maintenance and stringent parameters. Zoathids are hit and miss for ease of care. Some grow like weeds and others are super finicky so it's all luck of the draw and I haven't found any rhyme or reason to them (they are also on the menu of pretty much any potential pest or potential coral munching fish). Montis are SPS Corals so I would definitely avoid them as a newbie and hold out until you gain quite a bit more experience.

4) Just about any superglue gel will do the job for sticking coral to your rockwork although the fast acting gel from Bulk Reef Supply is one of the better options. I have used Loctite Super Glue Gel in the past with decent results. Gel definitely works best in a reef tank though, so I wouldn't use regular superglue.

5) Getting rid of corals depends on the corals. Lots of corals can be "fragged" which means you cut off branches or fragments of the desired coral and take them to your local fish store or use them for trade with local hobbyists. So just look into the coral you are interested in and see if it can be fragged.

6) 'Nems can be finicky and aren't good for new tanks. They generally require bright lights and have a tendency to roam where they want rather than where you want. They are known to sting corals, so keep that in mind if you decide to get one. Personally I feel that if you want the look of the 'nem without the hassle I would look into the likes of a Branching Hammer or Frogspawn Coral (LPS Corals in the Euphyllia Family) as they stay put once you glue them in place. They are also more forgiving of water parameters especially if you run your tank a bit on the dirty side for nitrates (ie 20ppm).

I will answer the rest of the questions tomorrow. Long post with lots to answer. :D
 
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Jesterrace

7) There is a lot of debate over what is considered essential equipment in a reef tank and it can vary quite a bit based on the size of the tank/bioload. I think the more appropriate question is which equipment will give me the greatest odds of success. A Sump based system with solid return pump and protein skimmer will definitely give you the highest odds of long term success as will using RODI Water (whether you have a reliable LFS to buy it from or you have your own system). One of the things many folks coming over from freshwater miss about RODI is that the Salt Crystals you mix in are very high in mineral content (literally everything you need to start a healthy marine tank) and so when you combine it with the random minerals and solids that are in tapwater it often ends up creating the perfect storm for unwanted algae growth (ie Green Hair Algae and Cyanobacteria aka Red Slime Algae) and at worst it has things that are harmful to corals/inverts and fish. In addition tapwater mixed with salt crystals often gives the tank a murky/cloudy look (RODI displays are generally much clearer and cleaner in appearance). Bottom line if you want better odds with longer term hassle free success with a Reef Tank, go with an RODI Water Source.

8) Lighting Depends on the size of the tank and your budget. Generally the cheapest starting point for any tank 20 gallons or larger is the Viparspectra 165watt reef led lights from Amazon (run about $130-$140 each). Each light covers a 24 inch cube for just about any coral you could want to grow, so if you have a 4 foot long tank you would want 2, for a 6 foot long tank you would want 3, etc. Many newbies get suckered by the LED lightbars (ie Marineland, Aqueon, Fluval, CURRENT USA) and end up regretting it and rebuying lights aka wasting money in the long run. If you get an all in one tank generally the lights are okay for Soft Corals and LPS (Large Polyp Stony) Corals but will need to be upgraded if you want SPS in your future. If you want full programming control and a solid light then AI is the way to go (I run a pair of their Hydra 26HDs over my 90 gallon which is pictured in my Avatar). If you don't might expensive bulb replacements every 18-24 months you could also look into a T5HO fixture as they do a great job at coral growth with a relatively low entry level cost (a 4-6 bulb fixture would work great for most setups).

More to Come. :D
 
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Jesterrace

9) Honestly there are many different things one can do for filtration although I would recommend a refugium as it breeds both biofiltration (ie Chaeto Macro Algae) and pods which eat waste around the tank and provide an additional food source for the fish. Sump allows you to easily add a refugium as part of the setup. A cheap grow LED light and space for the chaeto are about all that are needed.

10) Salt is a personal choice as long as you stick to the reputed brands (ie Instant Ocean, Red Sea). That said if you have an LFS that uses a certain type of salt it can be beneficial for your tank to run the same kind as it can help prevent some acclimation issues for sensitive inverts (since different salts can have different levels of given elements).

11) Live Rock has multiple options and all of them have advantages and disadvantages. Live Rock has the advantage of the max diversity of biolife and filtration and tends to be the quickest to cycle. On the downside it is the most expensive option (generally runs between $5-$7 per lb and the general rule of thumb is 1lb of rock per gallon of tank) AND can come with nasty pests (ie Aiptasia, Mojano 'nems, Xanthid Crabs, Fireworms, and the dreaded Bobbit Worm).

Dry Rock has the advantage of being the cheapest option (generally $2-$3 per lb) and is virtually pest free. The downside is that it generally has to be cured first (ie scrubbed down to get all the dead matter off that can leech phosphates into your tank), has the least biodiversity and generally takes the longest to cycle

Caribsea Life Rock or similar options is a good Compromise between Live Rock and Dry Rock. It is cured Dry Rock that is coated with a dormant bacteria coating that becomes live in saltwater. So you can at least get the beneficial bacteria benefits of live rock instead of starting completely from scratch and it's already cured to boot. It runs about $4-$4.50 per lb if you buy it in a 40lb box and is pest free. The downside is that it is more expensive than dry rock and it still doesn't have the biodiversity of live rock.

Bottom line it's all your choice on which one suits you best. I personally went with the Caribsea Life Rock option and have no regrets. Here is a link for it: https://www.amazon.com/CaribSea-Aqu...ords=Caribsea+Life+Rock&qid=1621381758&sr=8-1

12) There are lots of additional biofiltration options but NOTHING takes the place of Live/Dry Rock. Personally I would avoid adding all the additional things like cubes, bioballs, etc. as IMHO it just serves to collect waste and cause long term problems. Anything beyond Filter Floss/Sock/Cup, etc. will generally just make more work for you.

13) Lots of options for substrate but you definitely want sand of some kind unless you want bare bottom (which will limit the types of fish/inverts you can have and IMHO doesn't look as good). Live Sand isn't necessary as any sand will become live as the tank matures, THAT SAID I really do like the Caribsea Live Sand for it's look and mix of substrate as it's about perfect for any application.
 
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