Suggestions requested! Sputnik’s first saltwater build

Sputnik
Member
Ok, I have been dreaming of salt for a while, but have a busy schedule and the traditional reef systems and FOWLRs I have seen seemed more effort than they were worth to me. I love lush underwater scapes and was going to stick with fresh for the foreseeable future...until I found out about macroalgae scapes! Why have I never heard of this before? I plan to research this in detail and will NOT be setting up in the near future, but would love to try this eventually. I have a bunch of questions!

Will I need a fancy set up with a skimmer and refugium if algae is the focal point of the tank? The algae kind of acts like an in-tank refugium...

What is a recommended tank size for algae, maybe a few easy corals, and some salt shrimp (please recommend species) or a goby/mantis pair (again specific species recommendations are welcome)? I’d like to do this in a 10 gallon but am not sure if that size is doable.

Will the algae overgrow and “smother” corals?

Are there any macroalgae that you can recommend that are nice for a planted scape and can be kept under control ( in a smaller tank, if possible).

What would be involved in terms of maintenance compared to fresh, and what can I do to keep maintenance time minimized?

Thanks all! Any advice is appreciated!
 
HarrisonAquatics
Member
For a macroalgae-dominant tank, the only equipment you really need is a source of flow and heat. No skimmers, sumps, or refugiums are required.

A 10 gallon tank would be a good starter size, although a 20 long might give you more wiggle room. Skunk Cleaner Shrimp, Blood Shrimp, and Pistol shrimp are all good choices - I think you meant goby/pistol pair, as mantis shrimp aren't symbiotic with gobies.

The macros will definitely smother corals and other macros if given the option - I'd suggest using mostly calcified macroalgae (hard macros), as they grow slower. If you'd like some soft macros (like caulerpa and most gracilaria), I'd choose 1 or 2 species, and know that you'll have to trim them back fairly often.

As for macro recommendations, I'd just look around on ReefCleaners and Gulf Coast Ecosystems and see what you can find. My personal favorite is Palm Caulerpa - it's fast-growing, but it looks like it's got palm fronds. Caulerpa Prolifera, Bubble Caulerpa, Caulerpa Taxifolia, Gracilaria Hayi, Codium Spp., Halimeda Spp., Christmas Tree Macro, Shaving Brush, Mermaid's Fan, Pom Pom Algae, Dragon's Breath, and Branching Coralline all make great choices for the display.

Compared to a freshwater planted tank, the biggest difference is going to be managing salt levels. It's fairly easy - just get a refractometer, and maybe an auto top-off, if you want. If you get a LOT of macros, you may have to start worrying and macro and micronutrients, however frequent water changes can help mitigate those.

Macroalgae use a LOT of nutrients to grow, much like plants. However, most macro will also use a lot of calcium, iron, potassium, and other stuff that we might not test for much. So if you have a lot of calcified macros, for example, you'll have to either dose calcium or do a lot of water changes to keep your calcium levels within range. Avoiding too many red macros and calcified macros would help lessen your maintenance, as soft green macros will utilize less of these.
 
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Sputnik
Member
Thanks- this is really helpful and encouraging! My water is pretty hard so that might help , and I use crushed coral/ cuttlebone for cichlids and snails. Thanks too for correcting the shrimp nomenclature- I thought pistol shrimp and mantis shrimp were synonymous but I see after doing a little online research they are not! Are pistol shrimp safe in glass aquariums- my research says they can’t break glass but I take most things on the internet with a grain of salt...
 
HarrisonAquatics
Member
It's worth noting that you may want to use RODI or distilled water. Most people recommend against using tap water in reef aquariums - that said, I've never tried it with macro tanks. It may cause some unwanted nuisance algae... but, YMMV! I might just do some research on it.

Pistol shrimp are 100% safe. The only thing they may do is "snap" at stuff that comes near their burrows, and they'll also steal small shells and corals to decorate their burrows with. No chance of them harming the aquarium itself.
 

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