Help Saltwater Tank Beginner

xpolkadotkittyx

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Hello Fishlore community,

The Master List - Updated as of: 2019-08-07

Tank Info
Brand: Aquamaxx Rimless
Capacity: 32 Gallons
Dimensions L x W x H: 23.7" x 17.8" x 17.8"
Tank Lid: Mesh Lid (Still to be attempted per DIY instructions from @Asomeone but will probably just recruit my husband for)

Water Source Info
Freshwater: Purchased from my LFS
Saltwater: Purchased from my LFS

Light Info
Brand: AI Prime Series
Current Setting:
1. UV: 60%
2. V: 60%
3. RY: 60%
4. B: 60%
5. G: 60%
6. DR: 60%
7. CW: 60%
Current Schedule: 8AM-2:30PM
(incl 30MIN ramp up/down, then lights off outside of that schedule daily. Once the tank is stocked I’ll be increasing this time to 8:30HRS from existing setting, with same ramp up/down times)

Internal Tank Info
Substrate : CaribSea Arag-Alive (Qty. 3x 20LB)
Base Rock: Pre-Cured Dead/Dry rocks (Qty. 20-30LB)
Heaters: Hydor 50w Submersible (Qty. x2 and attached to Inkbird Digital Outlet Heat Temperature Controller)
Wave-maker: EcoTech Marine VorTech MP40wQD

External Tank Info
Filter: eHeim Classic 150
Auto-Top Off: TBD
Protein Skimmer: AquaMaxx HOB-1.5

Stock Info
(TBD-Currently Unstocked but will eventually stock with below)
Breed: Some type of Clowns pref a pair Qty: 2
Breed: Qty:
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Additional/Misc Info
Cycling process started: 2019-05-17
Cycled with: Seachem Prime Stability

I am new to saltwater tanks and have been cycling my tank since 5/27/2019. I have an Aquamaxx Rimless 32 Gallon (L x W x H: 23.7" x 17.8" x 17.8") and decided to forgo live rock opting for dry rock from my LFS instead (I’m in no hurry and have completed tons of research but also am in no hurry to stock my tank). I used CaribSea Arag-alive for my sand.

I cycled with SeaChem stability religiously at 8am every morning, and those first 2 months (roughly) l cycled lights off (lights are now on as of 7/20-21 roughly for 6hrs a day). My tank is not stocked. No fish, no inverts, nothing but for the sand and dry rock with water temp at 80F while cycling. Pretty simple setup right now: heater, eheim classic 150 filter, lights, dry rock, sand.

My question is-does anyone know/can identify what this is on the surface of my saltwater tank? Just started appearing recently, only on surface. Nothing else seems amiss in the tank. It’s beautiful even empty even if I have to wait a year I’m patient for it to mature.

IMG_1131.JPG
IMG_1130.JPG
IMG_1129.JPG


P.s. Also, can anyone suggest a great mesh lid and where to buy for my rimless?
 
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Asomeone

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You can easily make a mesh lid from the hardware store! Just pick up Some screen railing, corner pieces, and spline (the rubber stuff that fits into the crevices of the railing). I made lids for both a 55gal and a 45gal for about 30 dollars. If you dont want to go through the that hassle of finding the stuff you need. You can find DIY kits from innovative marine that include everything you would need.
As im also going through the same process you are...except I added live rock and finished my cycle and im on the fish part....That looks like what it was in my tank, protein buildup. As my skimmer has become more efficient I've seen a reduction in this film. In the meantime I have been breaking it up with one of my return nozzles.
Edit: i dont know what phone you have but I want it. Those pictures are flawless.
 

Jesterrace

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I assume since it's dry that you are seeding it with bacteria and that looks a lot like that, especially if you overdosed a bit. Also did you make sure the dry rock was cured before you put it in your tank? Cured=Scrubbing off the dead stuff on the surface of the dry rock.
 
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xpolkadotkittyx

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I assume since it's dry that you are seeding it with bacteria and that looks a lot like that, especially if you overdosed a bit. Also did you make sure the dry rock was cured before you put it in your tank? Cured=Scrubbing off the dead stuff on the surface of the dry rock.
I did some (more than some) reading (add watched tons of youtube on top of that) on seeding. The impression I got out of that was if you were in a hurry to cycle your tank-that would be the way to do it. I’m not in a hurry-so I only used Seachem Stability for Marine & Freshwater, but religiously used this for the first 2 weeks, 8am every morning, lights off cycling. I’ve only added lights 6 hrs a day in the past 1-2 weeks

If there was one mistake I made it’s not scrubbing the rock beforehand-but I didn’t see any dead stuff to begin with and the guy at my LFS said no scrubbing was needed. Maybe I have dead rock and and not dry rock or maybe I shouldn’t have taken the advice of my LFS? I’ve seen the terms for this interchange at times so it’s a but confusing to me. There seems to be a ton more info on using live rocks vs dry/dead rock.

But thats okay. Anything worth having is worth waiting for is the attitude I have. No rush here. I love my tank as even if there are only rocks.

Also-do I have to do anything about this? Is it bad? It’s literally only on the surface and below that is crystal clear. I smelled the water and it smells awesome-or at least-does not have a bad odor.

You can easily make a mesh lid from the hardware store! Just pick up Some screen railing, corner pieces, and spline (the rubber stuff that fits into the crevices of the railing). I made lids for both a 55gal and a 45gal for about 30 dollars. If you dont want to go through the that hassle of finding the stuff you need. You can find DIY kits from innovative marine that include everything you would need.
As im also going through the same process you are...except I added live rock and finished my cycle and im on the fish part....That looks like what it was in my tank, protein buildup. As my skimmer has become more efficient I've seen a reduction in this film. In the meantime I have been breaking it up with one of my return nozzles.
Edit: i dont know what phone you have but I want it. Those pictures are flawless.
Haha! The photos were taken with a much dropped iPhone 10, but am using portrait mode. I feel like it takes better close up photos.

Would protein buildup happen in a tank that has no live creatures in it yet? I figured I’d have time to research the perfect skimmer while it was cycling.

Thank you for all the info on how to make a lid I really appreciate it. I am not handy at all and am a bit nervous . If I fail though I’ll go to the website you mentioned and then task my
Husband.
 
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Jesterrace

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I did some (more than some) reading (add watched tons of youtube on top of that) on seeding. The impression I got out of that was if you were in a hurry to cycle your tank-that would be the way to do it. I’m not in a hurry-so I only used Seachem Stability for Marine & Freshwater, but religiously used this for the first 2 weeks, 8am every morning, lights off cycling. I’ve only added lights 6 hrs a day in the past 1-2 weeks

If there was one mistake I made it’s not scrubbing the rock beforehand-but I didn’t see any dead stuff to begin with and the guy at my LFS said no scrubbing was needed. Maybe I have dead rock and and not dry rock or maybe I shouldn’t have taken the advice of my LFS? I’ve seen the terms for this interchange at times so it’s a but confusing to me. There seems to be a ton more info on using live rocks vs dry/dead rock.

But thats okay. Anything worth having is worth waiting for is the attitude I have. No rush here. I love my tank as even if there are only rocks.

Also-do I have to do anything about this? Is it bad? It’s literally only on the surface and below that is crystal clear. I smelled the water and it smells awesome-or at least-does not have a bad odor.
Dead and Dry Rock are one and the same. It was live rock that has since died. Basically you are bringing it back to life. The question isn't Dead or Dry but Cured or Uncured. Cured means the scrub down and cleaning is already done for you, Uncured means you still need to scrub it down or you will get phosphate leeching from all the dead matter still on it. So if it was cured then they were correct that it was good to go to place in your tank and start the cycling process, if not then it can cause long term phosphate/hair algae issues for you.
 
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xpolkadotkittyx

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Dead and Dry Rock are one and the same. It was live rock that has since died. Basically you are bringing it back to life. The question isn't Dead or Dry but Cured or Uncured. Cured means the scrub down and cleaning is already done for you, Uncured means you still need to scrub it down or you will get phosphate leeching from all the dead matter still on it. So if it was cured then they were correct that it was good to go to place in your tank and start the cycling process, if not then it can cause long term phosphate/hair algae issues for you.
Ah okay-that makes sense that it’d be used interchangeably then. Thank you! You solved a major mystery for me!

Also-phew! After your explanation I believe it’s been cured and scrubbed already. My LFS said all that was required was rinsing of any debris if I cared to before placing it in the tank. So far no algae issues, but I have only been cycling 2 months so probably being a little premature.
 

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Would protein buildup happen in a tank that has no live creatures in it yet? I figured I’d have time to research the perfect skimmer while it was cycling.
It did for me...but I cycled with a bunch of live rock. That is an interesting question because you dont have anything for the bacteria to feed off of. Dont you need an ammonia source? I could be way off here cause the nitrogen cycle is one of those things with so many variables that I get tripped on it.
@Jesterrace I assume you could clear that up.
 
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xpolkadotkittyx

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It did for me...but I cycled with a bunch of live rock. That is an interesting question because you dont have anything for the bacteria to feed off of. Dont you need an ammonia source? I could be way off here cause the nitrogen cycle is one of those things with so many variables that I get tripped on it.
@Jesterrace I assume you could clear that up.
In other news-as my water evaporated and my spray bar started agitating the surface those snowflake (thats what they kind of looked like to me from snowglobes) are now gone. ‍♀ who knows? This is the frustrating but also fun part about tanks for me.

As for the ammonia source-does that mean I should add critters soon otherwise the bacteria will die off?

If so, what is the safest critter(s) to add and have I truly let my tank cycle enough time? I read that I should give it 3 months before adding anything live.
 

Asomeone

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Well...what are your test levels telling you? Do you have anything showing? Since you seeded with live sand there should be BB in the tank. But I know, at least with freshwater, you have to provide an ammonia source to complete the cycle...some people use a very hardy fish, others use pure ammonia, and still others use fish food. I've even heard of people placing weird things like a defrosted shrimp into the aquarium. Either way I'm almost positive without an ammonia source you wont see the BB cycle.
Edit: I wouldnt add fish/inverts till the cycle is complete. I tried to add a shrimp before I was confident with my salty skills and killed it with my first water change. Granted I've come to learn shrimp are more picky about parameter changes but still...salt water is one of those things that you cant go buy a cheap feeder fish to see if it lives.
 
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xpolkadotkittyx

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Well...what are your test levels telling you? Do you have anything showing? Since you seeded with live sand there should be BB in the tank. But I know, at least with freshwater, you have to provide an ammonia source to complete the cycle...some people use a very hardy fish, others use pure ammonia, and still others use fish food. I've even heard of people placing weird things like a defrosted shrimp into the aquarium. Either way I'm almost positive without an ammonia source you wont see the BB cycle.
Edit: I wouldnt add fish/inverts till the cycle is complete. I tried to add a shrimp before I was confident with my salty skills and killed it with my first water change. Granted I've come to learn shrimp are more picky about parameter changes but still...salt water is one of those things that you cant go buy a cheap feeder fish to see if it lives.
Yeah! I’ve read/watched that online as well re: the shrimp. I am not too certain about that route/method for myself.

I misunderstood about the ammonia source, sigh . I’ll have to give some thought as to how I want to do this. I’ll start religiously cycling again with SeaChem though for now and test my water daily. I haven’t checked my water parameters yet. If it’s not obvious already I’m moving pretty slow with this new tank and was researching the best of the best tools to buy for everything.

So far what I’ve decided on are:
Aquamaxx HOB
EcoTech Marine VorTech MP40wQD

Still researching for everything else...
 

Asomeone

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Yeah! I’ve read/watched that online as well re: the shrimp. I am not too certain about that route/method for myself.

I misunderstood about the ammonia source, sigh . I’ll have to give some thought as to how I want to do this. I’ll start religiously cycling again with SeaChem though for now and test my water daily. I haven’t checked my water parameters yet. If it’s not obvious already I’m moving pretty slow with this new tank and was researching the best of the best tools to buy for everything.

So far what I’ve decided on are:
Aquamaxx HOB
EcoTech Marine VorTech MP40wQD

Still researching for everything else...
If you have the patience for that I think thats an awesome way to do it. On the other hand, I lack that skill and as soon as i saw the beauty of salt I was like I must have it nowwww.
Going slow will save you headaches I've encountered. Literally just found a fireworm in my tank. Those things are rare but of course my tank has one. I know theres still a 4 inch bristleworm somewhere else in the rockwork (clean your live rock).
I know you started with all dead rock which is great but maybe youd give some thought into researching about getting a piece of live rock. These are different then the bacteria in seachems blend because as the rock acclimates to your tank the dying organics feed the new life. Hence, no need to feed ammonia. Tiz how I cycled my tank within 2 weeks but I also have had death, algae, and worms(the saltwater kind...not human) because of my hastiness. Either way I didn't set my tank up the right way, you did. Do whatever you feel most comfortable with.
I think the easiest method is to dose with the seachem stability while adding some food to the tank every now and again and closely watching your parameters.
@stella1979 is imo a huge help and maybe shed be so inclined to help you since she was a very large reason to any personal success.

those are some impressive products to add to your tank. Im sure if you added them they will be very helpful in the stability and ease of maintenance of the tank. I know your doing your research so just from recommendations given to me to cushion the blow to the wallet. The Jaebo line is a cheaper option for controllable wavemakers if that was something you were interested in. Definitely not AS controllable as the ecotech, but they sure pack a punch for the price.
 
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xpolkadotkittyx

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If you have the patience for that I think thats an awesome way to do it. On the other hand, I lack that skill and as soon as i saw the beauty of salt I was like I must have it nowwww.
-So when I had my freshwater tanks I was like that too except with plants. Not fish. The final straw for me and why I finally switched to give saltwater a chance was encountering an infuriating situation of upgrading to a 32 gallon tank, buying some freshwater plants, only to find leeches and pond snails infesting my tank. I never even got to stock fish. Beyond...frustrating. I learned 2 invaluable lessons. 1. Go...slow... 2. Where you buy from matters!!!

Going slow will save you headaches I've encountered. Literally just found a fireworm in my tank. Those things are rare but of course my tank has one. I know theres still a 4 inch bristleworm somewhere else in the rockwork (clean your live rock).
-I did enough reading before starting my tank on forums and researching pros and cons to figure out that fireworms and bristle worms really gross me out. Just like leeches gross me out I know dead rock is actually more of a pain in the beginning but hoping if I am extra super duper careful, and patient, I’ll have as clean as possible of an environment to start with.

I know you started with all dead rock which is great but maybe youd give some thought into researching about getting a piece of live rock. These are different then the bacteria in seachems blend because as the rock acclimates to your tank the dying organics feed the new life. Hence, no need to feed ammonia. Tiz how I cycled my tank within 2 weeks but I also have had death, algae, and worms(the saltwater kind...not human) because of my hastiness.
-Can you elaborate? What death, algae (the worms I think you mentioned above. ). What lessons did you learn? Was it bad algae? What would you have done differently?

Either way I didn't set my tank up the right way, you did. Do whatever you feel most comfortable with.
- I think whether I set my tank up the right way is still vvveeerryyyyy questionable at the moment but I appreciate the compliment.

I think the easiest method is to dose with the seachem stability while adding some food to the tank every now and again and closely watching your parameters.
@stella1979 is imo a huge help and maybe shed be so inclined to help you since she was a very large reason to any personal success.
-I’ve read through a lot of forums-Fishlore seems to be the nicest and friendliest so far.

those are some impressive products to add to your tank. Im sure if you added them they will be very helpful in the stability and ease of maintenance of the tank. I know your doing your research so just from recommendations given to me to cushion the blow to the wallet. The Jaebo line is a cheaper option for controllable wavemakers if that was something you were interested in. Definitely not AS controllable as the ecotech, but they sure pack a punch for the price.
-So the main reasons for these 2 items are my current tank setup is completely quiet. My eHeim filter is barely audible but does an incredible job at flow and moving water around. These 2 consistently come up in reviews on youtube,amazon,web articles,forums as not only incredible in performance-but in that they work as close to silent as possible. I LOVE my fish tanks. My husband although supportive of my hobby-is not as enamored. I’d like to keep him supportive.

-Other than cost, can you provide more insight on the pros/cons of the Jaebo line vs Ecotech line? Does it perform better, lasts longer, etc. ? i’m interested to hear/read if you’ve got the time.
 
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stella1979

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Phew... I'm late to this one. Sorry about that. As for tank details like size, freshwater source (RODI vs RO vs Tap as well as if it's made at home or purchased), equipment, salt brand, stock, lighting..., and so on, I think it can be helpful to newbs and advisors to keep a full list on the first page to refer to. I can help with this if you'd like. P.S. my own list is on the first page of my salty build thread, linked in my signature below.

Here's what sticks out after a (too-quick) read...

  • Take care with canister filters. Clean them often to be sure they aren't less of a filter and more of a nutrient factory, (meaning, the detritus stuck in the filter is breaking down and delivering nitrates and phosphates, ((food for algae)), to your tank.)
  • Way to go on the dry rock! Live vs dry, well, like most things, both have benefits and drawbacks. To each their own and I'm a tiny bit proud to say that never did a piece of live rock enter my 2.5 year old healthy and established mixed reef tank, (and, I've never seen creepy worms!) That said, I fishless cycled using ammonia instead of food, BioSpira instead of Stability, using the following instructions below (as I have for many a cycle) and put my first fish in a month after startup. Ammonia Instructions when Cycling with TSS+ or other Bacterial Starter This was a hardy firefish, parameters were monitored closely, all went very well, and we added the first three 'hardy' corals 3 weeks after the fish. Now, with that said, I can appreciate and very often do follow the slow and steady approach, however, we were eager beavers when it came to getting life in the tank. I mention this because I believe the addition of stock is a HUGE benefit towards getting a mature system. Because we added a fish and fed it, our diatom phase started and was over by the end of month 3. Things like coral and the plugs they came on were added (which were dipped for pests) and we started seeing microfauna (copepods and amphipods) appear. Chaetomorpha macroalgae was also added to my filter/HOB refugium and this was not qt'd or dipped, and was what first brought aiptasia to my tank.:banghead: Anyway, watching the uglies come and go, Scorch (the fish) loving to snack on pods between feedings, seeing what we first thought were hard LPS corals thrive... this is what speaks of a maturing tank to me. Life brings maturation.
  • NICE CALL on the Vortech!! Very impressive indeed and you will love this product. EcoTech is the forerunner on pumps my friend, though I've never invested and so run Jebaos instead. The difference between my powerheads and my buddies MP's? He rarely has to clean his and they still maintain top performance. His are two years old and he still LOVES them... one of my Jebao's controllers broke less than a year in, though I had two and could run them both from the working controller. Then, about a year into use, the pump (with the working controller) just up and quit one me. I really, really considered investing in MP10's but I really, really like having two powerheads on each side of my 20g long. Ecotech lost my vote simply due to cost and I purchased different Jebaos in January. I don't hate them, they totally work, but I don't have faith they'll last as long as MP10s, so in the end, is Jebao really cheaper?o_O
  • The gunk on the surface is likely regular old biofilm and certainly could be bacteria driven. A skimmer would help with this... but one of the draws of a nano tank to me is not having to sump it or invest in a skimmer. I keep my powerheads (remember, on the short sides of a long tank) pointed slightly up and slightly towards the front glass. In my particular tank, this is best for overall flow and surface agitation. It's the agitation that keeps the biofilm at a minimum for me. However, if I turn the pumps off, I see it forming. So, best case... skim the tank.
  • Lastly, I'd be happy to help in any way I can... and an extensive tank details list certainly would lead to more discussion. I am SO excited for you... and want to know everything!
 
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xpolkadotkittyx

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Hello @stella1979 and welcome to the party, better late than never! If it’s not too troublesome-I’d love help with setting up a full list. For some odd reason I wasn’t able to find your signature web or app view. I have the info ready to go to pop it in to where we need.

“Take care with canister filters. Clean them often to be sure they are less of a filter and more of a nutrient...”

Thank you for the tip to clean often I set a reminder to clean Monthly. I was scouring the web for guides/video/blogs that would walk me through a proper saltwater filter setup for this eHeim 150. Do you know what the proper setup should be? This is an area where no amount of reading was I able to decipher the answer to this. Current setup is for that of a freshwater tank:
1. Top: Coarse Filter Pad
2. Middle: SeaChem BioMatrix Media (I opted for SeaChems Media versus what came with the filter)
3. Bottom: EHeim Mech Filter (Came with filter)

“Way to go on the dry rock! Live vs dry, well, like most things, both have benefits and drawbacks...”

Okay this gives me hope and relief! Due to the lack of Dead/Dry to Live Rock saltwater guides I was starting to think I was crazy to go this route as a saltwater newbie and was just about to give in and buy Live rock. I am going to follow your same steps you detailed.

What was the ammonia brand/product you used?
How often and what quantity would you add a day/weekly/etc?

I always turned away from saltwater tanks due to sustainability-I truly love nature and our Oceans so am only stocking with Captive bred critters that we aren’t taking out of their environment to help assuage my guilt getting into Saltwater.

“I mention this because I believe the addition of stock is a HUGE benefit towards getting a mature system. Because we added a fish and fed it, our diatom phase started and was over by the end of month 3.”

That’s pretty exciting! I guess I wouldn’t mind speeding it up a tiny bit. I was so focused on accomplishing 3 things though before adding life:
1. Stabilized and consistent water temperature.
2. Stable and consistent water parameters and salinity.
3. I forgot what 3 was but I know it was also important

Can you walk me through your “QT” or “Dipped” process? I worried about it with freshwater but even being careful introduced bad things into the tank. What are your steps to assure it doesn’t happen with saltwater tanks?

“...considered investing in MP10's but I really, really like having two powerheads on each side of my 20g long. Ecotech lost my vote simply due to cost and I purchased different Jebaos in January.”

I am using a coupon to purchase them. I can see if I am able to get you one also.

Lastly, thank you @stella1979 and @Asomeone as well as @Jesterrace. I really appreciate you guys and am excited as well, but even more excited you both are so friendly and willing to help guide us new guys(gals) do it right!
 
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stella1979

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Hello @stella1979 and welcome to the party, better late than never! If it’s not too troublesome-I’d love help with setting up a full list. For some odd reason I wasn’t able to find your signature web or app view. I have the info ready to go to pop it in to where we need.
Oops! I'm sorry... I use a laptop pretty exclusively for Fishlore and I forget that signatures do not appear on mobile devices and the app, which I'm sure are used by many of our members. Here's a link to my salty thread where you'll find my list in the very first post. P.S. If you'd like to do the same, I can assist with placing the list at the top of this page.
Stella's Salty 20g
If you'd like to do the same then perhaps you could use my list as a reference to make your own. Post it here, we'll have a look, you can finalize it if necessary (you may edit your own posts as long as it's within a day of originally posting. Then if you'd like to have the list at the top, I can assist with placing it there..
eHeim 150. Do you know what the proper setup should be? This is an area where no amount of reading was I able to decipher the answer to this. Current setup is for that of a freshwater tank:
1. Top: Coarse Filter Pad
2. Middle: SeaChem BioMatrix Media (I opted for SeaChems Media versus what came with the filter)
3. Bottom: EHeim Mech Filter (Came with filter)
I've never actually used a canister but I am familiar with filter setup in some respects. Here's the order in which water should flow through stages of filtration.
  1. Mechanical media like your course sponge. Hmm, I prefer to have finer mechanical media and I follow a method called floss and toss that not only helps keep my filter (an HOB) clean, but removes detritus that would otherwise break down within the floss, adding either dissolved nutrients or just their end-product... nitrates and phosphates, feeders of nasty algae outbreaks. So, instead of a reusable sponge, I purchase floss padding in bulk (the exact stuff that's used for filling quilts, which must be 100% poly WITHOUT flame retardent properties<--- chemicals which hurt livestock), I cut it to size, and here's the real kicker... I change that filter pad twice a week.o_O Gunk/detritus breaks down fast and I have had my share of algae woes, plus, algae can upset corals and that's a HUGE no-no to me... so my goal is a very low nutrient tank.
  2. Biomedia I also use Matrix and in an old freshwater tank, I was very happy with eHeim's Substrat Pro (similar too but a different shape than Mech.) Here's the thing about Matrix though... because it has attributes that may allow the growth of anaerobic bacteria (that which eats nitrAtes and the true end-stage of a full-circle nitrogen cycle) and anaerobic bacteria is... idk, sensitive or otherwise difficult to grow, then our best chance of harboring this bacteria within Matrix is to keep it always submerged. I'm not an authority on all this but it seems to me that the Matrix should go under the Mech, so it is the very last stage of biomedia filtration.
  3. Chemical media Think carbon, which btw, it is not always necessary to run carbon ALL the time. Like most things, it has its uses, like stripping medication from a tank, or ridding it of odor. More often in salty tanks, we're using some other form of chemical filtration. Personally, for nutrient reduction, I use a product called ChemiPure Elite, which contains carbon, GFO (granular ferric oxide <--- it absorbs phosphates), and deionizing resin (I think!) DI (deionization) is the end stage of a RODI filtration unit... it also contains deionizing resin. P.S. You and I must talk about source water quality.
  4. The last stage, usually used in sump filtration is some kind of Nutrient reduction. This can be a skimmer or a refugium. Skimmers removed dissolved organics before they break down further into nitrates and phosphates and refugiums are a place to grow macroalgae (sw plants), which is usually chaetomorpha, or more simply chaeto. Skimmers are great, but one of the draws of a nano tank to me was not having to have one. So, I've modified my HOB so a largish section of it can hold chaeto... and due to this, the HOB has a small plant light over it. ANYWAY... I didn't start the tank with a fuge, and plenty of reefers wait a few months to add a skimmer, so, we can talk more about nutrient reduction later, kay?

“Way to go on the dry rock! Live vs dry, well, like most things, both have benefits and drawbacks...”

Okay this gives me hope and relief! Due to the lack of Dead/Dry to Live Rock saltwater guides I was starting to think I was crazy to go this route as a saltwater newbie and was just about to give in and buy Live rock. I am going to follow your same steps you detailed.

What was the ammonia brand/product you used?
How often and what quantity would you add a day/weekly/etc?
Any 100% ammonia product will work just fine. 100% meaning it does not contain any soapy or detergents. This can sometimes be hard to find so... if you have an ACE Hardware store nearby, they definitely sell janitorial grade 100% ammonia. You may also buy an aquarium branded product like Dr. Tim's ammonia. I don't have an ACE and find Dr. Tim's a little pricey for what we get. Unfortunately, not all bottles are labeled as to total contents but... there's a trick. I found 100% ammonia at a dollar store and knew it was 100% by shaking it up real good. If it contains detergent, shaking it will cause soapy bubble accumulation but if it doesn't, quick-to-pop bubbles, like in a shaken water bottle, will form then quickly reduce. I've used that bottle to cycle several tanks and more than once for cleaning windows. Still, it took me nearly 2 years to go through a $1 bottle of ammonia.

I always turned away from saltwater tanks due to sustainability-I truly love nature and our Oceans so am only stocking with Captive bred critters that we aren’t taking out of their environment to help assuage my guilt getting into Saltwater.
I feel ya there. I am from Key Largo, Florida, where we have the planet's third-largest barrier reef. Grew up learning to revere our reefs, snorkeling, and diving on them. I've also seen them decline. This is a whole different discussion but someday, if you'd like, I can tell you why myself and many other reefers feel like we are actually helping the reefs of the world. With that said, I am totally with you on this one. All my fish are captive bred and though I'm not 100% sure, I do think all of my corals have been aquacultured... that is, not taken from the wild. I couldn't stomach knowing I might cause harm to my own reefs or any others throughout the world. P.S. You should check out ORA Farms online.

That’s pretty exciting! I guess I wouldn’t mind speeding it up a tiny bit. I was so focused on accomplishing 3 things though before adding life:
1. Stabilized and consistent water temperature.
2. Stable and consistent water parameters and salinity.
3. I forgot what 3 was but I know it was also important

Can you walk me through your “QT” or “Dipped” process? I worried about it with freshwater but even being careful introduced bad things into the tank. What are your steps to assure it doesn’t happen with saltwater tanks?
Eeek... qt is a scary time and those who think that qt can cause more harm than good are not always wrong. That's another long discussion but it comes down to a personal decision, and mine is... nothing enters my tank without running the gauntlet and proving it won't hurt my display tank. Fish stress is quarantine so I do the best I can to make it a less stressful environment. The trouble here is, medications may have to be used in qt, and rocks and sand can absorb medications. We may later want to put a critter intolerant to meds through qt, so we don't want rocks leaching. So... only a thin layer of sand in my qt (so I may throw it away and replace if needed, but, qt isn't a constant thing and I've only replaced sand once), and instead of rocks and such, PVC T's and elbows as well as plastic plants for hides. Again, things I'm willing to ditch if needed, but also, they are easily sterilized.

Okay, so the process for qt is to put the fish/invert/coral in there and observe very closely, treat as necessary, and do not move to the reef tank until the critter has been nothing but healthy for several weeks. My last two fish did not need meds in qt, (thank goodness!), ate, and appeared healthy (though stressed) for nearly 6 weeks, and then, they were finally granted entry. The yellow goby who'd gone grey due to stress and was very timid in qt... well, after a few weeks in the reef tank, he was bright yellow again and had turned into a little boss willing to take on his clownfish buddy in a battle for a food chunk.

“...considered investing in MP10's but I really, really like having two powerheads on each side of my 20g long. Ecotech lost my vote simply due to cost and I purchased different Jebaos in January.”

I am using a coupon to purchase them. I can see if I am able to get you one also.
That's very kind of you. Thanks!

Lastly, thank you @stella1979 and @Asomeone as well as @Jesterrace. I really appreciate you guys and am excited as well, but even more excited you both are so friendly and willing to help guide us new guys(gals) do it right!
You are more than welcome. Fishlore is pretty HUGE but is overall a very friendly and inviting place and our members and staff strive to keep it that way. We are proud of our little corner of the net. Also, the salty crowd is a little small here but every last one of us loves to encourage new/more/better salty keepers!

Lastly, I'd like to share my own sources which helped me along on this journey. First, have you read the stickies in the Saltwater Beginner's Forum? The ones by ryanr were a huge help to me before I got started and later, my own salty mentor Nart wrote a great beginner's guide to reefing on a budget. Also, my encyclopedia on all things reefing is BRStv on YouTube. When we've got questions, they've got answers so check out playlists called FAQ's and BRS Investigates... but first, the biggest source that helped me get started and running right is a playlist titled 52 Weeks of Reefing. I know how it is to feel overwhelmed with research and how frustrating contradicting sources can be so, while I never recommend using one source alone, I have learned who my favorites are.
 
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xpolkadotkittyx

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Phew! This is a wealth of information! Thank you! If I disappear and become inactive again in the forums, you guys will know why.

I've never actually used a canister but I am familiar with filter setup in some respects. Here's the order in which water should flow through stages of filtration...
Notes added to my Notebook! Off I go to digest, read, research. I have read that once my tank is established I can get rid of the canister filter, but I already have it leftover from my freshwater days it’d be such a waste of an amazing quality product so in it stays.

...ANYWAY... I didn't start the tank with a fuge, and plenty of reefers wait a few months to add a skimmer, so, we can talk more about nutrient reduction later, kay?
Deal!

Any 100% ammonia product will work just fine. 100% meaning it does not contain any soapy or detergents. This can sometimes be hard to find so... if you have an ACE Hardware store nearby, they definitely sell janitorial grade 100% ammonia...
Would the janitorial ammonia be safe to use? As I was writing this my husband happens to see this and told me we have one closeby I can grab it from. Awesome tip! I captured your notes from the previous post on your cycle process so will combine notes from this post so I have a nice easy reference sheet. 3526]

I feel ya there. I am from Key Largo, Florida, where we have the planet's third-largest barrier reef. Grew up learning to revere our reefs, snorkeling, and diving on them. I've also seen them decline. This is a whole different discussion but someday, if you'd like, I can tell you why myself and many other reefers feel like we are actually helping the reefs of the world.
Let me apologize. I hope I didn’t come across as judgmental or judging of anyone as that was not my intent and I’m mortified if there is even a slight possibility. That was me trying to explain why it personally took me so long to take the leap into salt. The leeches in my FW tank may have helped also. That and the fact you can get Captive Bred fishes now. 3526] Otherwise-Yes! I love our ocean and am VERY interested to hear more.

P.S. You should check out ORA Farms online.
That is all that I have been checking. 3526] I am so indecisive there are so many different clownfish colorations! My goodness!

Eeek... qt is a scary time and those who think that qt can cause more harm than good are not always wrong. That's another long discussion...
Captured these steps as well for once I am ready to stock. You also mentioned a “dip” process, is that the same thing but a different terminology? I never had to dip anything for my FW tank. A lot of new terminology to learn-what a vastly different world saltwater is vs freshwater.

Lastly, I'd like to share my own sources which helped me along on this journey. First, have you read the stickies in the Saltwater Beginner's Forum?...
Captured as well into my notes! I did read the stickies, but will re-read them again. I never wrote down any notes last time even though I did hours upon hours of reading/watching of videos. Some of it stuck-alot did not. 1787] Hopefully capturing all these notes in my notebook will help to fix that.

I went to your link you sent. Is that your tank now?! My gosh it’s so AMAZING!!! Do you have more photos or videos compiled in one area? I may pick your brain some more on dry rock saltwater setup questions-or honestly about your tank setup in general, but probably after I digest all this new information you’ve provided first. 3526] Thank you again @stella1979!
 
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You have a Prime HD light??? This is simply... AWESOME!!! Great light and if you want to see some very sweet reef tanks running under the same, find salty threads by my buddies @Nart and @Lchi87 .

Okay, here we go...
I have read that once my tank is established I can get rid of the canister filter, but I already have it leftover from my freshwater days it’d be such a waste of an amazing quality product so in it stays.
Indeed. Sounds good. And, in the end, who knows... maybe we'll modify that canister to hold chaeto or somethin'.

Would the janitorial ammonia be safe to use? As I was writing this my husband happens to see this and told me we have one closeby I can grab it from. Awesome tip! I captured your notes from the previous post on your cycle process so will combine notes from this post so I have a nice easy reference sheet.
Yes, though it sounds scary, pure ammonia is perfectly safe for our tanks. After all, our tanks produce ammonia and the fact that is in unsafe for the critters who produce it, is exactly why a good cycle is so important. Thing is, different products will be of different strengths since, even when we buy pure ammonia, it isn't 100% ammonia... it is, in fact, mixed with water since your average Joe doesn't need the straight stuff, and probably couldn't be trusted with it anyway.o_O

I'm not sure, but believe that ACE's ammonia is 10%. If you find an ammonia source which tells you it's percentage, then it's easy peasy to dose the ammonia to your tank with a simple calculator. Keep this site bookmarked because there's more than one calculator here that is of use.
Ammonia Cycling Calculator

For myself, the dollar store ammonia didn't show the particulars on the label, so, knowing that many ammonia sources are 5-10%, I cut the difference, used the calculator by inputting a 7.5% strength ammonia, dosed the tank accordingly, then tested ammonia levels to see if this dosage actually achieved the 2ppm ammonia level I was after. Hrmm, it did not, telling me my ammonia was weaker than 7.5%, but no matter... after the first dose and test, I had a baseline to work from and cycled the tank to 2ppm conversion (within 24 hours) before doing a couple BIG water changes and adding Scorch, our beloved firefish who is no longer with us. During the cycle itself, I simply followed the advice of the guide linked above, (which, btw, was written by an old member who saved the goldfish that brought me to membership here. George was very sick, CindiL saved him AND made me feel comfortable here.)

Let me apologize. I hope I didn’t come across as judgmental or judging of anyone as that was not my intent and I’m mortified if there is even a slight possibility. That was me trying to explain why it personally took me so long to take the leap into salt. The leeches in my FW tank may have helped also. That and the fact you can get Captive Bred fishes now. Otherwise-Yes! I love our ocean and am VERY interested to hear more.
Ooops! Let me apologize because I never thought you were being judgemental of the hobby. It's just, as another who reveres the oceans and the world's reefs (I was literally taught to be so from the time I was in grade school), I can understand how others may think we are part of the problem. Certainly, there are terrible practices for gathering fish and coral, and we don't want to support those. However, there are also good practices... such as, the farming of corals in very poor island nations who depend on the export of critters to simply put food on the table. By the sharing of information and good practices, as well as the income the hobby can bring to these places, well, the average reefer who purchases aquacultured corals is supporting sustainable practices and doing our small part to support the economies of places corals come from. I very much wish I could remember some of my sources... but, there are videos and such on the net showing the farming (not taking) of coral in the wild in such places. I am NOT an authority on this subject but being who I am, I would feel terrible if I thought I was hurting the reefs of the world, so, I did a little reading but actually digested very little of the details. However, I know that we, as reefers, are NOT part of the problems our oceans face. Plus... there's the sad fact that all the worlds reefs may die and if that happens, the only corals in the world will be in captivity. I believe that could be what ultimately saves corals if the worst happens. In my own neighborhood (or close enough) the Coral Restoration Foundation farms corals indoors, then 'plants' them in the wild in an effort to restore part of the population which has been lost. This... makes me very proud. If you'd ever like to see some of the good work these folks do, search up the FL Keys Coral Restoration Foundation and/or Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary. As I've told you, I'm not much for social media but I do keep a pretty quiet Instagram account and I LOVE seeing these things in my feed.



That is all that I have been checking. I am so indecisive there are so many different clownfish colorations! My goodness!
Right?? I got lucky in the decision of my own clown variety. I was looking to add a clownfish and a yellow watchman goby (YWG) to my tank, headed to a favorite LFS for salt, and there was a tank bred YWG living peacefully with a clown in one of those tiny fish boxes we find at the LFS. If you haven't heard, clowns can be rather jerky, so here was my chance at picking one up who was already living with another species and NOT picking on him. These guys went through QT together and have always been buddies. I love them! Idk for sure and my clown is likely a low-grade hybrid but he's got a Picasso look about him. Anyhow, I do love how these fish look but the real fun/love comes from behaviors. They sleep together!:joyful: Awww.



Captured these steps as well for once I am ready to stock. You also mentioned a “dip” process, is that the same thing but a different terminology? I never had to dip anything for my FW tank. A lot of new terminology to learn-what a vastly different world saltwater is vs freshwater.
I'm sorry, sometimes when I talk too much (pretty much all the time) I forget to follow up/explain. The dip process is for corals in an attempt to not bring pests to the tank when corals are added. Craziness, but believe it or not, after much research, instead of a reef branded coral dip, I went with an insecticide by Bayer. Some say that it is not only more effective against pests, but also gentler than branded coral dips. We all must do our own research in order to decide which advice we trust but again... I did so, decided on Bayer, and nearly all of my current happy, thriving, growing corals were dipped in that poison when they were tiny frags. Here's the method...
Proper Dipping of Corals - The Bayer Method
but when the time comes, I'll tell you how I do this in tiny take-out bowls without a heater in the actual dipping container. Yes, we do have to maintain temp, but this can be done by using the temp of a larger 'body of water'. In a nutshell, I use 3 pint-sized containers (like the ones you get with soup from Chinese take-out) and a bucket of water with a spare heater in it, along with the safety gear advised and a dedicated toothbrush for scrubbing frag plugs and the stony parts of corals. We can get into finer details when you're ready.

I went to your link you sent. Is that your tank now?! My gosh it’s so AMAZING!!! Do you have more photos or videos compiled in one area? I may pick your brain some more on dry rock saltwater setup questions-or honestly about your tank setup in general, but probably after I digest all this new information you’ve provided first. Thank you again @stella1979!
Yes, and THANK YOU!! :joyful::joyful::joyful: Updates are few and far between these days because the reef tank is just doing its thing without much attention or new stuff added. However, somewhere in that long, long thread, there are pictures of tiny corals on frag plugs and those are now the larger colonies covering my rocks.:smuggrin: In fact, some are too big. I've got Leptastrea coral encroaching onto and stinging Birdsnest coral, a Discosomma mushroom which is so big these days and slightly mobile, so even though I didn't put him there, he is now in a space where he's encroaching on my war coral (a variety of Favite) and the war, despite his name and reputation for being a meanie... well, he's receding (showing skeleton, no bueno) from the touch of the shroom. I should move the mushroom but I really don't like messing with soft corals because they are so difficult to attach to my rock. Plus, it's kinda fun to just see what happens. After all, nobody would be detaching and moving mushrooms away from favites in nature. ANYWAY, lol, the pictures near the end of my thread show the current state of the tank. It is gorgeous if I may say so, and despite the fact that my picture taking skills aren't up to par enough to show it.
 
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xpolkadotkittyx

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So here is the new rock setup. I will openly admit that checking out your thread @stella1979 inspired me to redo my rocks.
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I started cycling again with SeaChem Stability, and the after that add my ammonia source. My question is...is this what I think it is? Is this the diatom stage? ::fingers crossed:: 1696]1696]1696]

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It looks brownish and has bubbles on it. So hopefully a good sign. The higher up the rocks the darker brown and more bubbles.
 
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xpolkadotkittyx

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Lets see an update of that tank!
Not much to look at really It’s wrapping up diatoms stage and I see green algae forming. 2 spots I can see.

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The ecotech MP10wQD is installed and running. For anyone reading I read the Nero 5 created by AI costs roughly the same and really has a nice app interface but apparently equal output of an MP40, but don’t quote me on that output. The app interface for the MP10 at this time requires an addt’l ReefLink device which costs another $100. But they are releasing an update through a free app for all their customers which will allow Bluetooth. I can’t vouch for the noise on the Nero 5, but the mp10 is near silent. Once installed it instantly cleaned my sandbed, glass and rocks of diatoms. Above is the after, below is the before me fixing the sand to be more level again.
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