Stella's Salty 20 gallon

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stella1979

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Edit: Current stock and equipment list, which I will keep updated here.

Equipment
20 gallon Long - painted the back black with Plasti-Dip. I love it! Looks great and overspray rubs right off.
20 lbs. dry rock
20 lbs. live sand
RODI filtration unit, Red Sea salt/blue bucket, refractometer for checking salinity.
10 gallon Brute trash can, Maxijet 900 and a Jager 75W for mixing and heating saltwater
AquaClear 70 HOB - It's modified to act as a refugium, while still able to handle mechanical, biological and chemical filtration.
ACKE 24W Plant light - over the AC70 for growing the chaeto
100W Jager heater + an Inkbird, a separate temperature controller with a probe thermometer.
Light - SB Reef Lights Ultra 22"
2 x Jebao OW programmable pumps
Test Kits - Red Sea Pro kits for Calcium, Alkalinity, Magnesium, Nitrates and Phosphates. API test kits for Ammonia & Nitrites
Stand - this is actually an entryway bench. This tank is going under an existing shelf to I needed something particularly short.
DIY Automatic Top Off Unit (details on page 68 of this thread)
BRS (Bulk Reef Supply) 2 Part Dosing Kit, which is actually 3 parts, for dosing calcium, alkalinity and magnesium.
DIY Dosing Unit (doses Calc and Alk daily, Mag is dosed manually and less frequently.)


Stock as of 04/11/19
1 designer Clownfish (perhaps a Black Snowflake? Unsure and don't care.)
1 Yellow Watchman Goby paired with a Randall's Pistol Shrimp
1 Royal Gramma Basslet
3 Trochus Snails
1 Nassarius Snail

Corals
Duncan
2 Hammers
Torch
Frogspawn
Kryptonite trumpet
2 Rock Flower Anemones
3 Favias
1 Favite
War Coral
2 Platygyra (Jason Fox High Voltage and WWC Regal)
2 Leptastrea (WWC Grapes and Limes and John Deere... which is orange, lol)
5 Acans
2 Chalice corals
Birdnest Stylo
Rainbow Montipora
Jedi Mind Trick Montipora
Several Shrooms - 3 Ricordea Floridae, 1 Superman Rhodactis, 1 Rainbow Rhodactis, 1 Fruity Loops Discossoma
Jason Fox Special Porites
Green Leptoseris
Orange Leptoseris
2 Blastos
Green Slimer Acro
Green Millepora Acro
1 unidentified, but very beautiful Acro
2 Montipora Capricornis, red & green
3 varieties of zoanthids
1 Galaxea


*********************************************************************************

Hey guys Oh boy, here I go…

I'm still pretty new to forums and have never made a build thread. I'm making this as a sort of log for myself as well. I am very much still learning. Please forgive my newbie mistakes.

So, we have very little space but with two Freshwater tanks running I can't help myself, I am originally an island girl after all. So, I've carved out an area where I can fit a 20 gallon long Saltwater tank. YAY!


Due to space restrictions and because we have an RO system installed, we have decided to go without a sump. We'll surely stay on top of the wc's and test regularly.

We'll also be adding a pound or two of live rock after we find the perfect LFS to get it from. There are a lot of places to choose from around here, just not sure which one is best yet.

We’re also not quite set on which products we’ll use to maintain calcium and magnesium levels, but we’ll get there.

We're taking it slow and want to get everything just right before we add any stock. We’re also quite frugal and will take the time to find the best bang for our bucks. Like to DIY when possible too.

The eventual goal is for this to be a nano reef tank but we’ll start it as a FOWLR. The only thing we’re in love with so far are cleaner shrimp. We’d like to have a Scarlet Skunk. Of course we’d love our first fish to be hardy and have considered a Percula Clown but I’m certainly open to other possibilities. I’d love something more colorful, maybe a firefish. We’re pretty good on the orange around here with our goldfish. We haven’t decided yet on fish, just want a colorful, non-aggressive species that will do well with the corals we want to introduce later. We’ve been reading a lot but advice from personal experience is great!

So that’s the plan as of now. I’ve been lurking a bit on the Saltwater forums lately and would love to hear any comments or advice. Paging MightyNanoTank
 

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High five! Looks like you've been doing some research

You have the perfect set-up! Not sure what I would even change... Let me sift through your set-up again.

20lbs of sand is actually perfect. Unless you want a thick looking layer of sand. Less sand = easier maintenance.
20lbs of live rock - During your rockscape, try to avoid just piling rocks together or near the back. You'll want to give a good 2" clearance on all sides for cleaning and gravel vacuum purposes. To give you an idea check out CJ's Aquariums new set-up ad see how he rock-scaped his tank. He did a perfect job. The water flow is able to go through all areas of the rock rock and you can easily clean the bottom to avoid any detritus getting trapped.
This will be key in keeping a long-term successful tank.

When you say RO, you mean RO/DI yeah?
Perfect on the refractometer. You will want to get refractometer calibration fluid as well to calibrate it precisely during your water changes. The salt I use, typically takes 1/2 cup per gallon to mix at 1.025. When I measure the salinity and it doesn't look too right, I will recalibrate the refracto and double check the salinity.

Love the AQ70HOB. Skip the sponge and just use floss instead (toss out the floss each week). When you turn it into a refugium, just throw in bio-media and chaeto. Get a small LED light for the chaeto and by the 2nd to 4th week watch as your nitrates slowly creep down to 0. My water was too clean, I actually had to cut back my lighting schedule on my chaeto. You'll want to stay in the 5PPM range of Nitrates for keeping LPS corals and below.

API Test kit - this will get you started as a FOWLR because calcium, mag, etc.. won't mean much, but once you get into corals look into better kits to measure, KH, Calcium, Magnesium, and Phosphates. Look into Salifert and Red Sea test kits specifically for those.

You'll be fine without a sump. Sumps are nice to hide all the equipments and etc... But you'll accomplish the same with your set-up.

Maintaining calcium and magnesium is such a pain lol. I am currently using Brightwell and Kent, though there's a lot of different products out there. Reefers all have different preferences, so trial and error to see what you like and what works best for you.

Clownfishes also comes in black
If you want to stay away from clowns... you can definitely look into Firefishes, Starry Blenny, bi-color blenny, yasha goby + randall shrimp (though they are not always swimming out in the open)
Some gobies to look into: - just make sure they fit the minimum requirement.
Skunk cleaner shrimps are neat, though they do steal food from your corals (something to think about down the line)
Unique piece that I've really been liking is a Royal Urchin aka Tuxedo Urchin.

Can't wait to see your set-up!

Oh - if I had a chance to start another tank... I would actually go the dry rock set-up route just like CJ's Aquarium in the youtube video I linked. This way I can take my time on the exact rockscaping I want and letting everything happen naturally. I had to rush through my IM25 gallon set-up because I didn't want a huge die off with my BB colony when transferring things over from my 15 gallon. Though it does take a lot longer in a dry rock set-up, but I think it's worth it.
 
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Thanks! You have no idea how excited I am! Want to hear a good one? Almost 20 years ago I had just graduated and moved in with my future spouse. He had an old broken down boat. Our buddy had a running 55 gallon that he was sick of maintaining. So, naturally, we made a trade. These kinds of things can go on when you live on a small island. We succeeded with some live rock, a yellow tang, my beloved yellow-headed jawfish, a blue tipped anemone & clown, as well as a few crabs and shrimp. We failed with the mandarin fish and some type of tiny flounder that a friend gave us. We didn't even have the internet at home then and didn't have much of a clue. Considering how green we were, I'm still proud of it. Kept that tank a couple years until a big move. Here we are all these years later and finally, another Saltwater tank!

No, I don't actually mean RO/DI, just RO. We've had the system awhile, originally for drinking water then much loved for Freshwater tanks because tap nitrates get as high as 80ppm. Do you find the DI part absolutely necessary or do you think we might get by without?

I know it's a lot to look at, but the 20lb. of rock I mentioned is dry. I agree about taking the time to scape and all. Just mentioned getting a piece of two of live to help move things along. Although I am even a little leary about that.

Thanks so much for the link to CJ's videos. We are definitely YouTube-aholics but there's a lot to weed through. I am not an aquascaping pro but I hear what you're saying about doing what's best in the long run. I do plan to leave as much open sand as I can with the rock I have, (BRS Dry Fiji).

Your thoughts and advice are most welcome! I can't wait to get this tank into place and share it with everyone here as well.
 

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Hi Stella,

I am not a expert in RO and RODI so you'll want to research more on it.
From what I know is that DI removes the rest of the impurities so that your tank will not have to deal with any algae issues down the road. Also for removing any impurities that can harm corals that are more sensitive to water qualities. However, I have heard of some folks even using straight tap water to run their tanks, so I think it all boils down to how good/clean your city water is, so I would pick up a TDS meter and start reading up on that.

Ah gotcha. You are going to have a blast with the rockscaping with dry rock.
I love Fiji rock. They are so porous.

Yeah - Mandarin's are not easy nor cheap to keep. They blow through a population of copepods in a matter of days. Gets expensive to start dumping $20 a bottle every 3 days. Not to mention their bio-load. No thanks!
 
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Well, I've not given this thread much attention. It's been pretty slow going with this tank as my two other tanks, both Freshwater, are sick. Shortly after writing this I started losing fish in my community tank and have lost a total of 10 fish and 8 shrimp to what I believe to be columnaris. It's been rough.

The Saltwater tank is more in my husband's hands and I'm delighted to say.... We have water!!!

20170526_160348-1.jpg
20170526_160416.jpg


Rockscaping proved to be harder than we thought. I would have preferred to work with lots of smaller pieces (just saw a video from Reefapalooza with STAX rocks, pretty cool )but we were nervous about breaking the rock. I know it can be done and we have the tools. It's just that the rock came to us with areas where you could see that it had been broken. Those areas were quite smooth and didn't look nice and craggy like the rest of the rock. So, we went with the sizes we got so it could have a more natural look. It's still a little cloudy but that's to be expected right now. I'm so thankful to the hubby for this one. Yes! I finally have a tank that I can see from the couch!
 

grantm91

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I like your scape, i smashed my rocks with a hammer it was rather barbaric but my tank looks good. Id like an upgrade but my Saltwater tank fits in the living room just right on my nest of tables perfect. Il sub this thread.
 
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Thanks for the sub grantm91! I like the scape too! I should've said that.

Like I said, it's going to be slow. Right now we're not even turning on the lights. Trying to let a good amount of biofilm grow before algae starts going crazy.

I like your reef tank too grantm91! I checked out some of your pics. Is that a green anemone sitting in the sand? Really cool looking! How's your experience been with the zoa's? Looks like you have a pretty big colony. I'd like to invest in one of these really bright varieties but I have no experience with them.
 

grantm91

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No what you see in the sand is a torch coral, the perfect beginners alternative to a nem, i love that coral its my fave,and ask for the buttons an zoaz i need to do some pruning but not done it before so im nervous lol they look after them selves if you position them good enough i have found.
 
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We couldn't help it, just had to turn on the lights for a little while. I'm really loving it now!

Our fixture will hold 4 bulbs, but here it is under 2. 1 white, 1 blue
20170526_200949_HDR.jpg


I really love how you can see the porousness of the rock now. Wish I could get better pics
20170526_200955.jpg


And here's the view from my favorite seat in the house. Looks like there's a great spot for a torch coral in the corner.
20170526_201233_HDR-1.jpg



It's getting excited and we can't help but think of our first fish. We're hoping we can keep a firefish, a yellow watchman goby with a tiger pistol shrimp, and then a clown to finish it off.

How good are the chances of the goby and the shrimp pairing up do you think? Some people say it's no problem, while I've seen others say that it never worked out. Guess it's the luck of the draw?
 

grantm91

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I dont know about them gobys and shrimp i never had them. But i love the fire fish i seen a purple one the other day but i have no room im contemplating a new tank but its a hard decision as i love where my current one sits and dont know where a bigger one could go. Also i love the yellow rock goby they are so cute lol would look good exploring my little coral colony. You should 100% get a torch too, i dont do nothing special to care for mine or any of my corals but they thrive, so anything you see in my tank go for lol, the only thing ive done is spot feed my nem as i love watching it eat and placed my corals in a good flow not too much not too little and success.
 

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Love the rock scaping. Excellent job!

Pistol shrimp and goby are usually sold in pairs. If that's one of your concerns, buy them paired already. If you do decide to buy them separately, yeah, it's a 50/50 chance with it finding each other and pairing. I bought mine separately and it was love at first sight with them and they paired right away. Make sure to have a lid screen on top. Those gobies are jumpers. I had a small slot in the back of my tank thinking it wouldn't find it... it became Yasha goby jerky I tried pairing my pistol shrimp with a yellow watchman goby, the pistol shrimp didn't like him and never paired with it. Now I just have the pistol shrimp by himself.

Why wouldn't you turn on the lights? By running the lights during the cycle just delays the inevitable diatom and algae bloom. Might as well get it over while your tank has nothing in it. Makes for easy cleaning.
 
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Thanks MightyNanoTank! I'll admit, I was nervous and a bit horrified at my glue job. I'm a paper crafter too and found it tough to glue rocks! I only did one and let the SO take it from there.

You know, it does seem counter intuitive, but we actually want to delay the diatom & algae bloom for a little bit while we build up the nitrifying bacteria in this tank. Mostly so there isn't competition for nutrients.

I also watched or read something that said it was good to let biofilm cover the rocks before the algae bloom, but I can't remember why. Guess there's been a bit of information overload and I don't have the best memory to begin with. I'll try to find it again.

We're going to add a dose of bio-spira in a little while. Go cycle, GO!
 
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Tonight I'm wondering about the introduction of coraline for this tank. We recently checked out several LFS's and found that most of their live rock tanks were filled with cured dry rock. Not exactly what we want. At the last store we visited last weekend we finally saw some actual live rock with visible coraline but there were also clear signs of aiptasia in that tank. There is still one more LFS about an hour away. I dropped in quickly once but didn't have the time for a good look. I do know that the label on their live rock tank said something like "Cuccina Live Rock." Haven't been able to find much about that, even Google yielded little information.

So, after all that and more reading, we've become more nervous about introducing live rock to the tank. But then, how do we get the coraline going? I've heard that some do it with snails, or even just with the empty shells, which sounds ideal but how to get that? Any more ideas about getting coraline in the tank without introducing live rock? Should I not even be worried about this now? Hmmm
 

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With my tank i just bought the rock 2nd hand and its been the beating heart of my tank, i didnt worry about aptaisia or anything nor did i introduce coralline. Best thing i did, within a month i had snails, sea serpents and brittle stars appearing and as its my first Saltwater it was so exciting to just see all the life appearing thats what makes the Saltwater so different and exciting. Literally on its own my tank went from this
c4d89650d9c8c0baec01031055e34d48.jpg

To this
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In about 4 months, i cant explain enough how good it is to buy 2nd hand live rock.
 
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This morning's thought... Why do most people prefer an open top or a screen rather than the standard glass lid? I guess it's likely for looks because condensation and salt creep are ugly. But then, the glass lid means fewer top offs. What do you guys think?
 

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Asked my self this question a few times too, all i ever really come up with is that the mesh things are light weight, easier to remove for work, and evapouration helps with cooling, i have glass and the only place i get salt creep is under the lip of my hob filter its minor and i cant see it. Id just go with what i liked the glass one is good, looks ok to me ive seen people use accrylic too. I dont mind topping off or condensation but not a fan of my clownfish jumping out i lost a orrange spot goby to jumping and my clown did it but i saved her and did a diy flap set out of a food container.
 

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People go with screen top over glass lid is because of the oxygen gas exchange with the surface agitation created by the power-heads or return pumps. You want to maximize the gas exchange so that your tank has plenty of oxygen for the corals and fish. It's a pretty in depth and scientific explanation for this actually, you can google up the articles written of how oxygen comes in to play with water chemistry.
 

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Never thought or googled on the scientific side, i had an oxygen problem when i started i elevated my hob to create more surface agitation. The only real big problem ive ever had actually. Used birthyday candles to wedge it up as a quick fix and its been the same ever since lol
e0c877942566a486e7f4af3d92876a30.jpg
 
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I guess that seems obvious now. Our surface agitation is pretty good but the lid is pretty necessary with small children. How do you know when you have low oxygen exchange?
 

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You can get an o2 test but i didn't my clowns were gasping at the top in the early days i just knew.
 
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