Setting up my first saltwater tank(s)

  • #1
I am in the process of setting up my first saltwater tank. I have wanted one (or you know... maybe two or three) for a long time but the initial set up costs have always kept me away. I'm finally getting to the point of being financially solvent enough I can spare the money to start buying the equipment and supplies.

I have plans for this one and one other tank at this time. This one will be a Seahorse tank (captive bred seahorse - probably the Erectus). The other will be corals and fish with live rock. I'm still researching exactly what I want and how to go about it. And yes, I'm going through and reading the beginners threads and going over past threads. But it is always a good idea to get advice for your specific situation.

Would really love some advice on making sure I'm setting it up well and not missing something important. Please keep in mind I do have a tight budget so may not be able to get some items (I don't see how I'll be able to get a sump/refugium anytime soon). I have a refractometer on order but will pick up a hydrometer when I go to my LFS this evening to get a few things. I also have a saltwater test kit on order. I will order a reef test kit in the near future since it will be awhile before the tank(s) are cycled enough to get them. I have a RO/DI unit coming in today. I had ordered it last week. I also have a LFS that sells saltwater by the gallon in case I need water before I have the RO/dI setup. I have five 5 gallon water containers that I will use specifically for saltwater tanks and plan to get a few more to hold freshwater for top ups.

1st tank setup:

29 Gallon Aqueon LED kit

20 lbs carib sea live sand

And since I haven't received my refractometer yet, I bought premade saltwater from my LFS to start the cycle with.

Since this will hopefully be a seahorse tank, my current plan is to get some live rock and in the future maybe get a few mushrooms and/or polyps that are seahorse safe. The only other fish I might have in the tank is a goby and I'll probably have some hermit crabs and snails for the clean up crew. No shrimp. Recommendations on specific types or quantities is appreciated. And yes, I know it is preferable to have the seahorses in a species only tank. I may end up going that route, but would like to set up the tank as if I was going to have more than them in there so I don't have to redo the tank when I change my mind and abandon my seahorse obsession.

Currently the aqueon filter (that came as part of the kit) is on the tank but I have a sunsun 304b on order which will be here next week and also have a cycled aquaclear 70 filter I can switch out the aqueon with if needed.

heater (have an adjustable heater on order. This is a preset one to 78 degrees that came with the kit. I know the water needs to be around 72-75 for the seahorses. Have researched enough on the rest yet to make sure they are okay with these temps.)

I have just started the cycling for this tank. The goal is to have seahorses of course but I know they are more finicky to keep so I may end up changing my mind. I know I'm limited on what can go into the tank due to the seahorses which I'm fine with in theory (I am a really, really bad impulse buyer which is why I want to have the tank set up to accommodate a spur of the moment decision).

How many powerheads would you recommend for a tank this size for moderate flow? I know they prefer lower flow than most other fish and corals but I don't know how many I should get to make a decent flow without overwhelming them but have enough flow for any corals and other fish that may reside in there?

The canister filter has a skimmer attachment. Will this be enough of a skimmer or should I plan to get another one? Should I have a separate UV light or is what comes with the filter enough?

What other equipment is mandatory for this tank and what is optional?

And what order should I introduce them in? My reading seems to suggest the clean up crew once the tank has cycled, wait for the tank to adapt then add the seahorses, wait for tank to adapt and then add other fish. Wait a few months until tank has been stable for 4-6 months and then start adding corals.

(I have a 10 gallon empty tank that I plan to turn into a brine shrimp tank for live food and I plan to see if I can culture Tisbe biminiensis in the tank itself or I may repurpose another container if they can't live long enough to reproduce in the main tank.)

2nd tank (planning stages)

40 gallon breeder (currently in use as a juvenile cichlid tank)
aquaclear 70 (using for the cichlids currently) and sunsun 304b canister filter (on order)
2 powerheads 800gph (on order)
adjustable heater (have one on order)
live sand (getting this weekend after I move the cichlids)
live rock (getting this weekend after I move the cichlids)

What other equipment would be recommended or needed? I'm still researching what exactly I want to put in there. I will need to purchase the proper lighting once I make up my mind. I have time. Still have to move the cichlids around and then resetup and cycle the tank for saltwater but I will more than likely stick with easier and beginner type corals. I'm fairly open to the types of coral and fish to stock with. I think a lot of the fish and corals are gorgeous but seahorses are the only ones I'm obsessive enough to plan a tank specifically with them in mind.

Thanks in advance for any advice or suggestions. Will take pictures when I can. The 29 gallon was a murky mess this morning so I didn't take any pics. (Not that there is much to see at this point.) My sister helped me setting up the tank and instead of pouring the water on the plate I provided, she poured it on the sand. It hadn't settled by the time I left this morning.
  • #2
Hello. This is great, I can tell you are doing your homework. I keep seahorses in a 110g xtall. It was my first saltwater experience, and I still have all my original ponies - happy, healthy and plump.

I encourage you to contact Pete Giwojna at Ocean Rider Seahorse and ask to take his course for keeping seahorses. He sends the material via email - and it's why I'm having such a successful experience myself keeping ponies.

It. Is. Completely. Free.
There's no obligation; they're just trying to educate people.

Your post is asking all the right questions, but the devil is in the details.
For me it would be too much information to share in an online discussion.

I can't imagine a SHOWLER tank without shrimp, and be sure to stick to micro-hermit crabs
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  • #3
I had looked at that previously but ended up not emailing him because I thought it would be longer before I could get started. I had planned on buying a larger tank (possibly second hand so I could go bigger), but ended up having to lend my sister her rent money so abandoned my plans altogether. But I had gotten so close that I couldn't stop obsessing over getting started so downsized my ideas by a lot. I will go back and check it out now that I'm actually getting started and not just dreaming about it.

Are there any pics of this beautiful tank??? I'm completely jealous. I would love a tank that size. Not in the budget at this time... and I would have to do some serious rearranging and get rid of some stuff to fit it into my little house or maybe get rid of my freshwater tanks altogether... hmmm... ideas.. anyway...

I had shrimp on my original plan. I've been checking out every site that I can find that deals with seahorses including forums. I'm not sure which one it was but there was one site that was adamant against shrimp in a seahorse tank. I think it was because of the food competition. I don't care about shrimp one way or another, so removed them from my list and moved on. I will revisit them.

Thanks for responding.
  • #4
I am in the process of moving my ponies to a 65-gallon. They've been very happy in the 110g but it's too tall for me to have a one-on-one relationship with them - I want to be able to reach the bottom of the tank (can't at 30-inches tall), I want to be able to easily hand-feed them, and I want to be able to spill water without stressing about the wood floor since they require a large weekly water change;

The shrimp are extremely helpful. Even though I use a feeding station (and never broadcast) to help keep the food contained, the seahorses are still messy and throw it everywhere… the shrimp are awesome chasing that down and keep the rotting remains from being discovered later by a seahorse, which can make them sick. I serve enough food that when the shrimp crowd the station they grab-and-run, and still leave plenty for the ponies. Three types are recommended: Peppermint shrimp, Fire Cleaner Shrimp and Scarlet cleaner shrimp. Be judicious adding Scarlets, they can be a bit too enthusiastic about cleaning algae off the seahorses and leave them feeling a somewhat harassed.

I'm excited for you, and hope you enjoy it as much as we have!
  • Thread Starter
  • #5
Thanks. Emailed him so I'll see where that goes. I am also changing what tank I'll use for them. I was at my lfs and they had a used 46 bow front with stand for only a hundred. Taller than the 29 gallon so I think it will work much better.

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