SW Options


I've just recently got back into keeping fish with a 29 gallon freshwater setup. The fact that I have my own disposable income now (compared to my last foray in middle/high school) has allowed MTS to hit hard. I'm really happy with how my freshwater tank is going after joining these forums and have been venturing over to the saltwater side of the LFSs lately. My Saturday consisted of a couple hours spent at each store talking with employees on the saltwater side. I still have plenty of research to do and plan on taking a considerable amount of time on this project but wanted to get an answer regarding my initial setup.

During the recent dollar per gallon sale I purchased a 55 (couldn't get them to bend on a 75 which would have been better) and a 20 long. I was convinced I was going to go with African cichlids but the allure of saltwater just won't go away. For somebody just getting into this side of the hobby should I be looking at a sump setup or go with HOB options? I have both of these new tanks plus my old ten gallon to work with. I'm building my own stand so that can be planned around the setup. I'm very DIY-inclined in general in case that makes a difference (most recently built an entertainment stand and projection screen for our home theater). None of these tanks are currently drilled.

Just looking for general recommendations at this point based on others experiences.

Claire Bear

HI and welcome.
I got into saltwater about two years ago and am a relative newby.
That said, there is not a simple answer. What I mean is that it really depends on what you want but I will tell you bigger is much easier.
My first saltwater tank had a hob overflow box. I had a few mishaps with that and gave it up. Then tried later with a different overflow that worked fine on a different tank.
My next tank was drilled and came with a sump-it was a 120g. I got tired of it and went with a double stacked 55 gallon with the bottom the sump.
Anyway, I could go on! My current salt tanks (yes I understand MTS) are a 90g with a 29 gallon sump, 2 36g bowfront with hob refugiums, a 29 gallon bowfront with a hob refugium and a ten gallon Hawaiian Shrimp tank. Still of course having freshwater tanks.

So back to your question. If you go with your 55g, and you have that 20 gallon for a sump-I am thinking it would be your best shot as it would have room to house all your equipment-skimmer, extra rock, macro algae, any type of phosphorus reactor, etc. Plus they really come in handy if you have a renegade fish-I currently have a file fish in my 29 gallon sump.
I am excited for you and will add a link for the saltwater fishlore book. Read, read, read! And of course ask those questions!


Thanks for the tips, I've read a lot of the articles on the site already but I'll jump right into the rest of that ebook asap.

For a sump setup like I'm looking at, what is the first piece of equipment (skimmer, return, overflow) to shop for? Which piece has the determining flow rate?


I would go with the sump option, great way to keep your equipment out of the display tank and increased water volume never hurt anyone.

We have HOB overflows on two salt tanks and drilled overflows on the other two. We too have had some near-mishaps and real mishaps with the HOB ones, and I would recommend drilled. Make sure your tank is not tempered glass though if you plan to drill!!!

IMO, anywhere between 40-90 gallon tanks are excellent starting sizes! Bigger than that the $$$ and time needed to care for them seems to be exponential...

You are aiming for an overflow rate and a return rate that are pretty close, but if I am thinking correctly right now, it is the overflow that determines the flow rate. I would first shop for the overflow/return pump and then the skimmer. IME, I have not found a good external protein skimmer and would recommend an in-sump type. A more budget version we have tried that works pretty well is the Skimz. We have 3 Vertex Omega skimmers, and they are just so touchy... They work great when/if you can get the silly things tuned...

What do you think you will want to keep?

MTS. Fellow sufferer here 5 salt tanks (65g, 40B, 150G, 57g, and a 1.2g pico), 50 gallon axolotl tank, 40 gallon planted tank with Glofish and Platys, 4 betta tanks (Picotope, Fluval III, V and 5.6), and a 5.5 gallon baby axololt tank. Running out of room is about the only thing that made it stop!!!


I'm planning on doing the polarized lens test tonight to see if drilling is an option. I've seen a ton of varying information on these Aqueon tanks.

I definitely like the idea of a sump setup more, can't beat the clean look. An internal skimmer is the way I'll go for sure.

I'm still super early into the stocking plans for this tank. I know my family would riot if we didn't get a nice pair of clownfish in there (I wanted them anyway). Beyond that I haven't narrowed it down a whole lot. The color selection is so open in saltwater! Just need to find some good, compatible fish that aren't too challenging for a new saltwater guy.

My initial plan is to go FOWLR. I don't know how I want to go about that though. Mixing in some dry rock would definitely help the budget. One LFS I went to said the manager will work with you on the price for an initial bulk purchase of the stuff however. And then there's always online...

It looks like lighting is gonna be a pretty big hit to the budget so I'm trying to see the difference cost-wise between some basic lights and some that would allow me to keep some less demanding corals.

MTS has got me looking for a way to clear a dresser and pull out my old 10 gallon

Thanks for the input so far.


My tank is tempered on the bottom only Good to move forward with that part.

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