Summer Project

Discussion in 'Saltwater Aquarium Setup' started by RogueAgent94, Mar 29, 2012.

  1. RogueAgent94

    RogueAgent94Fishlore VIPMember


    I've been contemplating starting a saltwater tank on my own for quite a while now. I have maintained SW set ups before but I never set them up. Meaning I did water changes and fed the fish haha. I'm more into freshwater and am fairly familiar with a wide base of knowledge due to years of experience with freshwater fish and tanks. Now I understand that SW is different, however, I'm beginning to think there are quite a few similarities between the two. Although I'm most likely mistaken.

    Okay, to start off with, as I mentioned earlier, I don't know a thing about saltwater aquariums! So bear with me. I'm interested in setting up a smallish saltwater aquarium this summer. To be more specific I want to set up a small reef tank. I thought that I should get in at least a few months research before I begin setting it up. I want to know how you go about setting up a tank.

    What sort of equipment do I need to start a SW aquarium? I mean like specific filters, heaters, ect. I know you need a 'protein skimmer' in most SW tanks. From my understanding all that does is remove excess ammonia and nitrite. Right? Also are there special types of heaters I'd have to use or would a titanium heater work just as well as any other?

    How do you measure the 'specific gravity' of a tank? If I understand correctly the gravity of a tank is the amount of salt in the water. Right? How do you control how much salt is in the tank? Do you add salt before you change the water for a WC or do you add salt to the new water before adding it?

    How do you begin to cycle a SW tank? Can you jump start the cycle by adding cycled media from another SW tank? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that 'live' rock is called that because it has bacteria growing in it. So it is supposed to help the cycle. But if you add live rock to a tank without an ammonia source (fish) then wouldn't the bacteria die? Or do you not do fishless cycles in SW tanks?

    Haha I think that's enough questions for one night. I hope I didn't leave anyone as badly confused as myself! I'll definitely have more questions for you.
  2. OP

    RogueAgent94Fishlore VIPMember

    Also just for future reference and so I can keep small reef in mind, I want to try to build a reef some what similar to this one. This is a 14g cube.

    image Credit goes to Lear on
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 23, 2018
  3. ryanr

    ryanrModeratorModerator Member

    First stop would be the beginner guides, here in the forum, and also on the FL main page. Much of what you are asking is covered.

    Correct. There are some similarities, and principles applicable to both FW and SW aquaria

    Equipment is covered in the SW guides.
    Protein Skimmers don't remove excess ammonia and nitrite. They help remove Dissolved Organic Carbons - or excess proteins, such as left over food etc.

    There are 2 common ways to measure the amount of salt in the water.
    Refractometer - the most accurate method commonly used. Measures both SG (i.e. 1.021) and Salinity, or parts per thousand of salt.
    Hydrometer - measures the SG using a floating arm.

    It depends what type of salt water you use - with Artifical Sea Water (ASW), you control it through the amount of salt added to the water.
    Natural Salt Water - you generally don't control as such, it should have the right salinity having come from the ocean.

    If using ASW, NEVER add salt directly to a tank with livestock in it. You mix the salt to your change water, check salinity, and then add to the tank.

    The live rock cycles the tank - as things die-off the LR, they produce ammonia, that keeps the cycle going. There's a heap of info about cycling with LR in the FL SW guides.
    And just like FW - we don't cycle with fish.

    I really recommend going through all the SW info on FL - many of your questions will be answered.
  4. Mike

    MikeFishloreAdmin Moderator Member

    Great post Ryan!

    I'd add that I've seen your stuff Rogue and I think this will be a breeze for you. The only problem I see with you starting small (other than smaller reef tanks can be more difficult than larger tanks) is that you're going to be successful with it and then you'll just have to upgrade to satisfy your growing hunger for corals. Save money, go as big as you can the first time. Just a heads up. :)

    28 gallon nano setup article I had set up awhile back: 28 Gallon Nano Cube Setup - I've moved all the corals into my 120g reef and my son is now trying to breed ocellaris clownfish in the 28g nano.
  5. OP

    RogueAgent94Fishlore VIPMember

    Yeah I figured as much! I've been slowly bulldozing through all that material haha. It is quite a bit to absorb at once.

    Ahh that's it. Okay so I've been reading reviews on protein skimmers and I've found one that may be a good one. AquaC Remora PRO Model is the one I saw. But with protein skimmers how often do you have to clean the little collection cup? Also, with reefs, isn't it better to have some excess food for the soft corals to eat? I'm probably wrong but it seems somewhat logical.
    Okay so a Refractometer is the better one. What brand of Refractometer would you say is better?

    Okay what is the difference between the two? Wouldn't all salt water tanks be artificial because the water is made into saltwater from freshwater? And since we're on the topic of water, are RO units necessary for SW tanks? What makes RO water better for SW tanks? I used to work with a company that installed RO units and I was the one that built them so I understand how they work ect. I was just curious as to why RO water, which basically devoid of minerals, bacteria, ect, is better for a SW tank if it is not a 'requirement' for FW.
    Okay that makes a lot more sense! So I also understand that there is 'live' sand. So if I had enough live rock and live tank, would that make my tank instantly cycled? If the live rock itself produces enough nutrients for the bacteria to feed of off, it sounds like it would be much easier to cycle a SW tank than an FW tank. Also, speaking of cycling, I seem to find that mostly sumps are used to filter SW tanks. Why are sumps the preferred method of filtering a SW tank? Could I just use any old type of canister filter to filter the tank?

    Haha I certainly hope so. Although I must saw SW is definitely outside my comfort zone haha.

    Thanks for the heads up. I will definitely consider it. The reason I wanted to start small was because corals seem to be so expensive! I mean I was looking at some zoanthids yesterday and most of them, with only a couple of polyps on them, cost around $20-$30. But to my understanding they are one of the faster growing corals and most don't need to be directly fed. I also read that they shouldn't be put right next to other corals because they will cover the other coral. So how would placement go in a smaller tank? Also, going back to the topic of a bigger tank, wouldn't it be cheaper if I started out with a smaller tank and then once all the corals grew larger I moved them to a larger environment. Course I'd probably have to get a lot more live rock and live sand if I upgraded from a 20g to a 55g or 70g.

    How is your son's project going? Ocellaris are one of the species I was really interested in. I mainly just want a couple of clownfish on a reef scape. My tank would definitely be centered around the colorful reef and not the fish.

    Haha I'll have more questions later!
  6. ryanr

    ryanrModeratorModerator Member

    Thanks Mike :;hi5

    Never a truer word spoken about SW! ;)
    My advice, don't try and understand everything at once.
    Break it up into segments, and research the segment.

    I would suggest starting
    The reef environment - you need to understand the scale of what you're trying to put in a 'box' - The Great Barrier Reef for example is a 2000km (~1400mile) tank, and is a complete self-sustaining eco-system, and we try to replicate in a 'box' less than a metre (3 foot) :O

    Filtration - if you understand how FW filtration works, then applying the principles to SW is easy. You just need to think outside the box a bit, and think of the whole tank as a filter. Then it starts to make more sense.

    Filtration methods - on a natural reef, there is no build-up of nutrients such as Nitrate, Phosphate etc, most of it is diluted into the expanse of the ocean. In comes Protein Skimmers, to help stabilise and remove some of the DOCs that can create higher nutrients. But still that is often not enough, so we look for other nutrient export methods - Refugiums/Macro algae, Carbon Dosing, Reactors etc.
    With filtration methods, don't just know what they do, but why they are used, then you can make an informed decision on the method to choose.

    I personally use a Tunze skimmer, but there are some good reviews on the FL main page, which I think included the Remoras.
    You empty the cup when it gets full. I have an oversized skimmer on my tank, so I only need to empty it once a week (takes 2 mins)

    Depends on the corals, some are filter feeders (what ever floats past) others require target feeding, others feed of light. The skimmer won't remove all the waste etc in the tank.

    I don't know if any are better than the other - I use an Octopus Reef one. They can all be calibrated.
    NO - Salt water is often collected from the ocean for use in aquaria. Certainly here in Aus it is more common than not for people to use Natural Sea Water.

    You've answered your own question "I was just curious as to why RO water, which basically devoid of minerals, bacteria, ect," - EXACTLY
    Coming back to the scale of the reef, there is very little in the way of impurities in the reef. We use RO because it is pure water. Water companies can put all sorts of things in the tap water, that we simply don't want in our SW tanks. Also, keep in mind that much of the live-stock in reef aquaria is hand-caught from the reefs, with the exception of some corals that are being successfully aqua-cultured, as are Osc Clowns, but other than that most fish come from the reef. FW fish are generally all tank-bred these days, so over the years we have made them more tolerant of 'poorer' water quality.

    In a sense, cycling a SW is easier because you get a free hit with an ammonia source. If you use fresh live-rock, it is possible to 'instantly' cycle the tank (say a week or two) - By fresh - my live-rock was picked from the reef at 7:00am, on a plane, and in my tank 8 hours later!
    Sumps are great, they increase water volume, provide a place to put all your equipment (heaters, skimmers, reactors etc.), That's the main reason we like them.

    Ahh - the joys of living near one of the world's best reefs - our corals aren't all that expensive (comparative to the rest of the world) :p

    I would also suggest you jump onto youtube, and search for LA Fish Guy - he has a whole channel with lots of awesome videos that helped me visualise all the text I was reading.