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Unread 09/10/2003, 11:42 AM   #1
WaterKeeper
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So you got a new fish tank Newbie

Well your gonna need more than a fancy glass box if you're gonna be a REAL reefer!

I just love mail like this:

Dear WaterKeeper,

I have a 55 with 50 lbs of LR and 100 lbs of LS.....My tank has been curing for two weeks. Can I put salt in the water now?

Sincerely,

A Newbie


Dear Newbie,

AHHHHHHH

Yours truly

WaterKeeper


There is a wealth of information for the Neophyte on RC. Sometimes you need to take a little time and read through some posts to gather it but it is there.

Over the couple of weeks I've been getting some PM's from Chicopee Phill out in Massachusetts. Phill is just starting out and has been asking for some tips on how to set up his first reef tank. Now Phill is a semi-old fossil (46) so he is not asking crazy questions like the one I referenced above. He has done some homework and knows some basics. He evidently found out that I'm the only one at RC who has spent time with the Gungans at their underwater city on the planet Naboo. Of course, having knowledge of the seas on Naboo is not easily passed on to earthbound reefers. The major component of their seawater is dilithium pergeumide and with a specific gravity of 2.238 lifting a five gallon bucket of salt water during a water change can cause a hernia.

Since Chicopee Phill is not the only one out there starting a new tank I though maybe we could follow his adventures and give Phill input on how to set things up. You comments are welcome although, if your thoughts differ with mine, you'll be pulling KP this weekend.

Now Phill has taken his first steps by first obtaining a tank. Tanks are good initial purchase unless you have a walk-in freezer and plan to keep inanimate cod in a 600 lb block of ice. Phill was initially going to start with a 75 but ended up buying a 110 instead. Way to go Phill!! Those additional 35 gallons gave Phill a big more up. His tank went from a 4 foot to a 5 foot length. This will pay him back in the future if he plans to keep larger fish. Phill also added a 20 gallon sump has it plumbed and added "spring water" (oh-oh).

Let's catch our breath a second and look at some of the things we need before we get stocking that box of water.

You notice I added emphasis to the word

WATER

There is a lot of debate on various issues at RC but the one thing we get unanimous agreement on is your tank needs

WATER!!!

Now I told Chicopee Phill that it would be a good time to purchase an RO/DI unit. With water being the key ingredient in any successful tank you should start off with the best quality from the start. Starting out with an RO/DI to produce that water is a good move from the get-go. That is why I was somewhat worried when Phill said he filled his tank with spring water. Mucho money is spent every year purifying water from springs. Why? Unless it is fed from a pristine glacier and you happen to collect it near the source, there is no telling what is in spring water. For all one knows the spring originates form an old abandoned mine's acid run-off.

Sure you can use a tap water purifier, bottle distilled or from one of those water purifier machines if you have a 1 gallon nano but with a 110 your going to spend far too much money. Even if you use natural seawater you will need the RO/DI to make your top-off water. Investing in an RO/DI at the start just makes sense for the most important ingredient in your tank.

Having a good water supply you are going to need to test it. An electronic TDS (total dissolved solid) meter will let you check the quality of the RO/DI and replace expended resin cartridges when needed. You will also be needing to check salinity. Here you have three options in order of accuracy-
[list=1][*]A temperature correcting refractometer[*]A float type hydrometer with temperature correction chart[*]A swing arm hydrometer[/list=1]

A lot of new reefers start out with the inexpensive swing arm type and move up to a refractometer as they acquire more exotic livestock. An inexpensive pH meter is also a very important item to have. True they sell various color test kits for measuring pH but those kits are not very accurate. For a serious reefer a meter is a required item.

Lastly, you will need some test kits to get you through the upcoming cycle. Ammonia, nitrate and nitrite test kits will let you know when your tank is over the cycle and ready to stock. If you start out with corals a calcium and perhaps a phosphate kit will serve you well.

These kits cost money but they keep you from guessing and in many cases worrying about what is happening in your tank. They also keep you from spending big bucks on additives you may or may not need.

Where you put your tank is also a major consideration for the new reefer. A 110, like Phill's, will weigh-in at over a half a ton when complete so it is not a easy matter to move it about unless you are G.I. Joe. You want to make sure the floor will support it. You also want it away from a window where it will be exposed to direct sunlight. Placing it near a heat vent or radiator will play havoc with your temperature control. High traffic areas tend to scare the fish and light sensitive inverts.

A good site must also have an ample supply of electricity. With a 110 your home 20 amp wiring will probably be enough. With tanks much larger you're probably going to need a separate service installed. If your running high intensity lighting it will quickly overwhelm the household service when setting up a large tank. If your tank can be run off your regular service a Ground Fault Interrupter, GFI, is a must. It can be a extension cord type, one that installs in place of the wall plug or on the breaker panel itself. No matter which it is you need to install it right from the start to have a safe tank installation. One word on the in the wall type GFI. I didn't know this till I put one in but all plugs downstream on that circuit will become protected by the GFI. In most cases that doesn't make much difference but it is good to know if you have something critical plugged in near your tank.

A few other items you will need-
  • Heaters (and/or chiller)
  • Some large make-up water containers
  • Powerheads
  • Glass cleaner (for algae)
  • A skimmer

For a 110 three 150 watt heaters are usually enough. I use one active heater in the sump of my 130 and one in the tank. The third heater is set a couple of degrees lower and serves as an emergency back up. I only use a little over two watts per gallon to keep my own 130 at 80º F. I find that the larger the tank the less watts it takes to heat it. Of course, it takes a lot longer to get it up to temperature when you first start out but, hopefully, you will not need to do that again on an established tank. Smaller tanks lose heat more rapidly than large tanks so you will need higher wattage per gallon if you have a nano. I usually find small tanks, 30 gallons or less need about 4-5 wpg to maintain a stable temperature.

Another place you will need a heater is for the second item on the list. Unless you have a huge RO/DI you are going to need somewhere to store top-off and water change salt mix. I keep three 30 gallon plastic trash bins full of R0/DI water handy at all times. A forth has premixed salt solution for water changes. I have a 150 watt heater in the salt mix container as well as one of the plain RO/DI containers. A powerhead serves to mix the salt and aerate the water change container. I should note here that a GFI should be used here as a safety measure on this system as well. A few extra powerheads are always a good idea. They can be used in a hospital tank or to provide additional circulation for a finicky coral.

Being a Damn Yankee, and a Yankee with AC , I have never needed a chiller. If you think your tank will go much past about 85 it may be wise to look into getting one.

Old or new to the hobby, cleaning the glass is always a problem. You might as well get an algae scrapper right off as you will need it real soon. The magnetic types are the most popular but a simple plastic putty trowel will work on a budget. Be real sure if you have an acrylic tank that the scrapper will not scratch it.

You notice I left a skimmer to last on the list. That is because there are many successful tanks out there that do not use skimmers. My own feeling is that they serve a useful purpose my removing proteins before they become ammonia and other nitrogen compounds. For a small tank the hang-on models will do. For a 110, like Chicopee Phill has, an in sump skimmer is best.

There are probably a dozen things I missed in this post that are also worthwhile for the new reefer to get. I hope that many of you will catch my oversights and add to this in the next few day. I'll add to this thread after that with info on setting up the initial tank and getting through the cycle.

I'm not going to get into sumps and refugiums very much as there is already a wealth of information out there on this subject. For those of you that haven't read them here are a series of articles by Greg Taylor on sumps that I'll leave you with-

Sumps #1

Sumps #2

Sumps #3


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Last edited by WaterKeeper; 08/17/2006 at 02:45 PM.
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Unread 09/10/2003, 12:48 PM   #2
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Another great post Tom Thanks and keep up the great work.

George


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Unread 09/10/2003, 12:56 PM   #3
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Im glad you made a post like this it is a GREAT way for noobs to understand how to go about your new tank. I wish I could have read this first...luckily for me I did enough research here and a couple of books and a MILLION questions to have been pointed in the right direction. I got all this info but not all in one place. Good Job again Tom.


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Unread 09/10/2003, 04:52 PM   #4
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Thanks George and hwynboy for your kind comments.

I did leave one thing out that any Newbie should do when installing a new tank in a permanent location. If you have carpeting you may want to spray the area around the new tank area with a carpet water proofing material. If it is on hardwood or tile a good coat of wax is a great idea. New or old to the hobby you will find it comes into use at some point in your reefing experience.


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Unread 09/11/2003, 12:00 PM   #5
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Man 'O man--I can't believe nobody posted any amplifications or corrections.

I found one error myself. I claimed that it was universally accepted that water was the key ingredient in any tank. Doing a search I see I was wrong. In a poll posted in the Lounge a full 27% did not feel water was important. With such added comments as, "You mean there are other forums than the Lounge?" and "Like Wow Man-Why would anyone waste their time keeping fish when they could be polishing and detailing their '66 Alfa Romeo?"; it appears that I was wrong.

I don't go to the Lounge that much. Like other Easterners, about the only time I do is when I want to see what is happening on the West Coast.

That should draw a few comments.

Well, as long as I'm here I'll add a bit more to this thread.

In his PM's Chicopee Phill asked about filtration. My reply was that a tank with good live rock and sand would provide all the filtration he needed. Having a sump to provide circulation and a skimmer would complete the basic system. Phill wondered about other filtration systems to compliment the LR/LS. I asked him to amplify what he meant and he stated he was thinking about a wet/dry.

Let's talk for a moment about what we want to achieve. The idea in any tank is to convert ammonia to less toxic forms and eliminate them from our tank. Part of this is accomplished by removing protein with a skimmer. Ammonia is broken down and converted to nitrite then nitrate by bacteria on the rock and sand. If our sand bed is active and deep enough areas of very low oxygen are established. Here the oxygen in the nitrate is used by bacteria and the nitrogen bubbles from our tank as simple nitrogen gas.

Now an undergravel filter defeats this by pulling oxygen through the sand bed and not allowing areas of low oxygen to be formed. That is why they have been abandoned in reef tanks. Wet/Dry's allow the sand bed to function properly yet many feel they are "nitrate factories". This term, at least to me, is a misnomer. You should not produce any more nitrate than the waste protein that enters the tank.

Still the consensus is that Wet/Dry's are not a good filter and most people remove the bioballs and just use the filter as a pre-plumbed sump. I have proposed that one possibility is that cyanobacteria grow on the un-submerged portion of the filter and convert atmospheric nitrogen to nitrate through the process of nitrogen fixation. I lack the resources to prove this theory and nobody seems to know if this really happens. Recently Chemistry Droid, Doc Randy, posted an article on nitrate. His thoughts are that having nitrification happening away from the zones where denitrification occurs may lead to complications. With a wet/dry the nitrates are formed in the filter and enter the water column throughout the tank. This spreads them out and makes it harder for the denitrifying bacteria in the lower portions of the sand bed to do their jobs. Either one of us of perhaps both of us may be right. Of course, you are not going to believe a droid over me are you?

Here a link to Randy's article Droid Randy on Nitrate

Phill asked me if he should put LR and LS in his 20 gallon sump. Current thinking is that the minimum flow from the sump should be at least 10X the empty tank volume. In many cases reefers use more. This means the water in Phills 20 gal sump is only going to be in there for a minute or less. To me this is not enough time for the bacteria that would be on rock or sand in the sump to provide a lot of treatment. In Phill's case I would not place either rock or sand in the sump. Another thing is the location of the sump. If it is to be under the tank stand I would not be inclined to have very much in the sump other than a skimmer and heater. WaterKeeper is getting older and does not want to be bending over to do maintenance on a sump in a confined space.


Things are different if you have a large sump that is located in an out of the way place like the basement. This is great as you can do a lot more with your sump. LR, LS and macroalgae can all be maintained in an isolated sump. This can really help in nutrient export from your tank. When setting up a sump you want to read the articles Greg wrote for ReefKeeping Magazine that I posted above. Also, you can use the handy calculators (they're on the left margin of the RC home page about halfway down) to size the pumps, overflows and sump itself.

One of the things you want to do is have plenty of valves and disconnects on your sump plumbing. They do add somewhat to the head loss but they are worthwhile when you have to do such mundane tasks as cleaning out the gunk that grows in the pipes.

Once you have your sump set up you are pretty much in business. If you have a new tank a good rinse with RO/DI is in order. If you bought a used tank you may not be sure where that tank has been. A better cleaning is in order. I just got back some results from a little experiment I did on using citric acid to clean tanks that have been exposed to heavy metals. The results were very promising and I'll post them over at the chemistry forum when I get some time. Meanwhile, for an old tank, fill it with warm tap water and add two to three heaping tablespoonfuls of citric acid. You can pick this stuff up in the canning section of a grocery and at some health food stores. Let it sit overnight then dump it and rinse the tank well with water followed by a final RO/DI rinse. You can use that treatment for the sump, plumbing, submersible heaters, etc. You want to limit the contact time with pumps to a couple of minutes as they often may have metallic or ceramic-metallic composites that might be etched with prolonged contact.

With everything in order and in place you have one more task while the tank is empty. Get out the old level and if the tank slants shim the stand to bring it into level. With the tank level, you can fill the tank with good old RO/DI.

Move away from that bucket of salt there buddy!!!

Don't add salt yet as there is always a chance of a leak. Hold off on that urge to add salt until everything is topped off and the tank has had a chance to sit overnight. Carefully inspect you handiwork for any signs of leaks the next day. If a new tank leaks you can take it back. If you get your stuff used, as your truly often does, you need some patching. Locate the leaking seam and remove all the silicone from the entire length of the seam that leaks. It is important to do this as new silicone will not stick to older cured silicone. Once remove get an epoxy glue that says it will bond glass and brush it along the glass seam. Allow it to cure overnight then run a bead of silicone glue along the seam and feather it out using a trowel or knife. Let it cure and then retest the system. It most cases this will fix the leak.

Check your tanks level once more. Better now than later when it has water, rock and sand in it. If it is OK you can make saltwater.

Most times you don't want to mix salt in your tank. With a new tank, with nothing in it, it is easier to get the correct specific gravity mixing it up in the tank. In Phill's case he can add a bag of salt mix that makes 100 gallons. In a plastic trash bin he can then make up a 25 gallon batch to finish off topping the tank and filling the sump. With that done start up the pumps and turn on the heaters. When the tank reaches temperature, usually between 78-80 degrees, it is time to check the specific gravity (SpG). A lot of people run the specific gravity down at 1.023. There was a theory at one time that the lower SpG inhibited parasites. This theory has kind of fallen by the wayside and quite a few people run it at 1.025-1.027, which is more in line with natural seawater. You can choose either method as long as you keep the SpG fairly constant. If the SpG is too low you can add increments of salt to the sump to bring it up. If it is too high remove some water from the tank and replace it with RO/DI. Give some time for the tank to completely mix and come to temperature before taking readings.

Well we now have seawater in our box and hopefully everything is running well. Next time I add to this thread it will cover adding sand and rock. I might even get into the cycle.

Ok, Ok, you can go down to the LFS and look at that Hammerhead shark you plan for your 29 gallon tall with mirror back.


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Unread 09/11/2003, 07:05 PM   #6
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Question New to the Hobby

My husband is buying an already established salt water tank and it looks to crowded to me. How can I thin it out to make it look better and be able to add my own touch to it? There is a lot of cool stuff in it and I'm not really sure how to arrange it, maybe to give it my own touch without getting rid of anything and still add to it. It is a 100 gal. tank with all the gadgets from a good lighting system, monitors for ph levels you name it it has it. Can you help me?

Thanks, Sabrina


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Unread 09/12/2003, 10:20 AM   #7
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Hi Sabrina

Sounds like you're going to be one popular person at a frag swap meet.

I assume you saying your new tank is overgrown with corals. There are quite a few new reefers out there that would envious to be in your shoes. Although coral is an animal it can be pruned. The problem I have with giving you a lot of advise is different corals require different techniques. Not knowing exactly what you have in the tank makes it hard to answer your question over the net.

I'm not sure where you live in Idaho but there is a reef club in Boise--

Boise Reef club

Splitting corals (fragging) is somewhat of an art and it is always nice to have someone show you the techniques first hand rather than talk you through it. If the club is near you I am sure someone will be glad to help (I imagine a small fee of some of your frags will draw more than one volunteer ). I reposted you thread at their club site.

It just so happens there is a--
Coral Propagation and Aquaculture Forum
On RC. There are many posts about fragging various corals on that forum.

Also we have Eric Borneman , a well know coral expert, hosting the coral forum. Coral Forum

You're probably going to need to do a bit of reading and studying to figure out what corals you are acquiring. You'll need to know that before the pruning begins. Perhaps the person selling the tank can speed things up by "walking" you through the tank and identifying the species.

Once again--welcome to RC and we all hope you have a successful reef experience.

Yikes!!! I just got water and salt mix into the new tank and we're already fraggin corals. How that's what I call a cycle!!


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Last edited by WaterKeeper; 09/12/2003 at 10:25 AM.
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Unread 09/13/2003, 09:31 AM   #8
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Hmmm--Can't believe there are no comments after Sabrina's post.

I see you out there with those chainsaws Newbies. Unless your heading to Idaho you can put them away while we get some sand and rock in that new tank!

Hopefully at this point you have a tank that is free of leaks and all the mechanical stuff is working correctly. If not you want to fix it now before going further. You also want to check out your temperature now that the tank has had a couple of days to stabilize. Use a good in-tank thermometer. Avoid those liquid crystal ones that you paste onto the outside of the tank, they're pretty but not very accurate. I keep my tank at 80 degrees but anywhere in the range of 78-82° F is just fine. If your room has wide temperature swings you may want to check the temp at the days high and low points. The temperature should hold within 2° F. If it doesn't during the low temperature part of the day you may want to add another heater to the system. With my 130 the heater in the sump is nearly constantly on. The heater in the tank cycles on an off and the back up in the tank remains off.

Now, before any thing else goes into the tank, is a good time to get some background water quality data. First get your salinity to the proper level then check pH, alkalinity (I forgot that test in the earlier part of this thread ).) You might want to check calcium levels too for future reference. If the pH is in the range of 8.0-8.4 and alkalinity of 3.0-5.0 meq/L (dKH 8.5-14) you should be in pretty good shape. Don't go to a lot of trouble trying to adjust things at this point as things are going to start to change when we get sand and rock in your tank. Just note them as your baseline parameters.

Time for some sand. Now for those of you with deep pockets the way to go is with all LS. For Chicopee Phill's tank, a 110, we are probably looking at a 60" X 18" X 24" it will take about 190 lbs of aragonite (calcium carbonate) sand with a weight of 75 lbs per cubic foot. That would run him about $500 to $600 depending on the sand cost and shipping. The alternative is to go with an aragonite plain sand base and use some LS to activate it.

In option one you will be happy to know that your tank will go through the cycle faster and you will not probably contend with as long a battle with algae. If you are on a budget, like most people, you will need to make do with choice two. I'm going to proceed here using the second option, as it is the most popular.

Choosing base sand is important. Although some feel that silica sands and such are OK to use, I always use aragonite. As the bed develops there will be anaerobic zones in the lower levels. The bacteria in those zones produce acids such as vinegar. Using aragonite will neutralize these anaerobic acids and at the same time add some calcium into the system. This may not be a major factor in maintaining calcium or alkalinity levels but it can't hurt.

The sand should also be sugar sized or somewhat finer. Unless you are completely new to RC you probably know that Home Depot carries a sand called Southdown Play Sand. This stuff meets the above requirements and costs $5 - $7 per 50 lb bag. Pretty hard to beat for the budget conscious. You can also buy other brand of aragonite from the LFS or on-line but they will cost you more and, some cases, a lot more.

For a tank like Phill's I would go with 150 lbs of Southdown and then use about 50 lbs of LS to seed it. You can go with less seed sand, some people count on the bacteria from their LR for seed, but you are really going to slow things down.

Having obtained the Southdown there are two methods to add it. The sloppy fast method--put a bucket under the overflow on the tank and just dump in the sand through the water in the tank. The neat slow method--take out all the water, add the sand, cover the sand with a plastic garbage bag and slowly add the water back in. This latter method reduces the resulting sandstorm but, at least IMO, not enough to justify moving all the water around. WaterKeeper is inherently lazy.

Another nice thing about the "sloppy method" is if you are careful you can catch the displaced water from the overflow and get an idea of how much volume the sand takes up in your tank. This can be handy info in the future.

With either method you can expect a sandstorm. With the "sloppy" method it takes about 3-5 days to fully clear, with the "neat" method perhaps a day or two less.

At this point another thing that you can add to your collection of tank purchases can help. A hang on the tank canister filter using a polishing filter can be used after about 48 hours to help clear the sand storm. Be prepared to change filters often as they will clog fast but it will speed things up. Clogged filters can be soaked in vinegar and un-clogged. Just rinse them well. A canister filter runs about $50 and is so handy for doing things like running carbon or cleaning up a bacteria bloom that I think every serious reefer should have one.

You don't really need to wait very long to add the Live Sand to the bed. Give it a day or two to clear some and you are ready to go. I like to get LS from several different sources. I think it adds diversity to the tank. Some sands are heavy on worms, some on micro starfish and others in copepods. For the 50 lbs for this tank I might buy 10 lbs from five sources. The drawback here is increased shipping and handling charges. I do think it may be worth it however as detrivore (sand critter) kits cost as much as $100 and may not be needed with a diverse mixed bed.

Once the LS arrives, carefully ( try not to restart the sandstorm) add it over the base bed. Once in place, I like to take a plastic dowel or someother non-metallic, round object and poke some of the LS into the base bed. I do this every few inches to help seed the beds lower levels.

Well, I'm going to run out of time today so I'll need to tackle LR addition next time.

Here is some info on sand beds from our Biology Droid, Doc Ron-
Deep Sand Beds (DSB)

Get out those flashlights with the red lenses. Your gonna want to watch them pods!


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Unread 09/15/2003, 08:02 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by WaterKeeper
Time for some sand.
What I didn't pick up on is how much sand to use? There are so many different opinions on this ranging from none to 7" deep, plenum or no, small sand, big sand, white sand, yellow sand, OMG it's sooo confusing

What's a new reefer to do?


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Unread 09/15/2003, 11:12 AM   #10
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Your right mclva, I did omit the bed depth in my thread. The most common recommendation is to have at least a 4" bed of granular sugar sized or smaller sand. The amount figure I gave for Chicopee Phill's 110 was based on a 4" depth. There is a handy calculator on the home page to figure how much sand you need for your sized tank. If you read the link to Doc Ron's article on DSB's you'll see the reason for having small sized sand is twofold. It gives a larger surface area for attached growth bacteria to colonize and allows the critters in the sand to move the particles in the bed and keep it stirred.

If you use an aragonite sand it will be fairly close to white. You want to avoid the crushed corals often seen in the tanks at your LFS. It is too large to meet the requirements of a good material for a DSB. The tanks at the LFS are merely holding tanks so not much effort is made to provide much biological filtration.

A few months ago I wrote a series of threads on sand beds, live rock and cycles. I try to keep my stuff light hearted so it shouldn't be too difficult to read-

Rock & Sand #1
Rock & Sand #2
Rock & Sand #3

Plenums where in vogue for awhile and some people still use them. They have somewhat fallen out of favor lately as people have had more success using just a 4" or greater bed sans plenum.

Summing things up from the sand thread-

  • You want to use a fine sand, about the texture of granular sugar or finer.
  • Aragonite, calcium carbonate, sands are preferred
  • The bed depth should be at least 4"
  • If using a non-live base sand, such as Southdown, you want to supplement it with as much live sand as you can afford


You with me so far mclva?

For the rest of you Newbies out there. I noticed at bed check this weekend a lot of you were AWOL. No doubt watchin Pod races all night!

When talking about pods in your tank we are not referring to the same ones young Anakin races but rather the small crustaceans that inhabit the LS bed. The number one thing you want in your LS is a film of bacteria growth over the sand particles. This biofilm does much of the work in breaking down toxins in your tank. If you have good quality LS you will also have many hitchhikers come with it. Among them are copepods and such relatives as amphipods. All are small shrimp like creatures that are, for the most part, beneficial for your tank. Also, you may find various types or worms (bristle worms are a major group), mini starfish and snails. Since most of these critters live buried in the dark sand they are light sensitive and only cruise the surface at night. A regular flashlight sends them scooting for cover so using a red plastic over the light beam allows one to see them in their late night cavorting.

Another sign of good LS is to look where the sand is against the glass. After the sand is in place for a few days you should see borrows and tracks along the glass where your critters have been. All these wee hitchhikers serve a valuable purpose in consuming leftovers, stirring the sand and serving as food for your fish and invertebrates.

I will get to adding LR in a day or two. If you add LS and don't plan to add LR for awhile it is always good to throw in a small piece of cocktail shrimp into the tank. This will provide food for some of these tiny scavengers and release some ammonia to satisfy the appetite of the nitrifying bacteria in the sand. If you have base sand without any LS, the shrimp trick will get biological action going in the sand bed but this can take a very long time, so if you can't afford LS, you want to at least borrow a little from a reefkeeping friend or your LFS.



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Unread 09/15/2003, 12:37 PM   #11
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new 100 gal fish tank help

I just got a 100 gal fish tank. I am not really new to the hobby but The people at the fish store told me to say something. Is there any info I need to know? Also are there any good sites to go to that sell fish? I think i would like to start a reef tank should i wait a while?

Thanks
what does LFS stand for?


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Unread 09/15/2003, 05:57 PM   #12
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Hi Emzer

To Reef Central

So the people at the LFS told you to say something.

Many salespeople at a Local Fish Store will tell you that WaterKeeper is all wet and I'm sure there are many at Reef Central that will tell you the same.

Starting a new tank is pretty much what this thread is all about. It started with some PM's from Chicopee Phill who is starting a tank around the same size as yours. If you read through the thread I think you will see that most of the info given should apply to your tank. You lost me slightly went you said you are not new to the hobby but wonder if you should set up a new reef. I am guessing you have freshwater or saltwater fish only (FO) experience which is always a plus.

As I said in my first post in this thread-
Quote:
There is a wealth of information for the Neophyte on RC. Sometimes you need to take a little time and read through some posts to gather it but it is there.


A good article for the new reefer is the Hennie Landman article-
So, you want to start a Marine tank...

You can also use the search engine at the top of the page to find information on just about any topic dealing with the reef tank.

Many sponsors of RC offer marine fish. Most have their own forums on RC. Another good place to look is the Vendor Experiences forum-
Vendor Feedback

Hope this helps and once again welcome to RC.


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Unread 09/16/2003, 09:08 AM   #13
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A few of you have asked why I don't write articles for magazines like RK, Advanced Aquarist, Aquarium Frontiers etc. So many of the Droids in the Expert Forums publish stuff almost monthly they were wondering where mine are. I just wanted you to know that I do but not for those small circulation publications

Here is my latest article-


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File Type: doc goldfish hobbyists on.doc (33.0 KB, 871 views)
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Unread 09/28/2003, 06:57 AM   #14
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Cant understand why this thread died, its great, so heres a free bump


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Unread 10/01/2003, 01:19 AM   #15
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Waterkeeper - great info!

I love the step-by-step instructions. Are you going to continue it so we know when to put in our live rock and how to do that?

I do have one question about the "fast/sloppy" method (yep, Crystal is lazy too haha).

When you are letting the sandstorm die down, should you have your pumps on circulating water through the sump, or will that hurt the pumps?

Thanks for helping us newbies... after months of research, I'll finally be able to add water to my tank soon - maybe as early as next week!

Thanks again,

Crystal


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Unread 10/01/2003, 03:38 AM   #16
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Excellent info!!!!!!!!!!!!


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Unread 10/01/2003, 09:01 AM   #17
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Arizona Crystal--Do you need to wait for a rainstorm out in the desert before you can fill that tank?

LET'S ROCK!!!!

Actually, I meant to get to adding rock about two weeks ago. But once football season starts I lose track of time.

Crystal, I would let the sand storm abate before starting up your pumps. Circulation slows the settling and, as you mentioned, can damage the pumps.

It just so happens that Darren Walker, aka Palmetto, wrote a wonderful guide to LR about the same time I should have been writing mine. Since he put just about everything I was going to put in my post in his, I'll save myself some carpal tunnel and just give you the link.

Beginner's guide to Live Rock

One of the points Darren makes that I wish to stress is having enough water to dilute the noxious products of curing. I have found you can get fairly flat, plastic; containers that hold around 15-20 gallons for about $5 each at discounts stores. You can use them for stomping grapes after your done with the cycling.


If you get a few of these you can set up a nice curing line at a low price. Since your tank doesn't need heaters until you introduce LR you can use your tank heaters in the containers. The big ones will even allow you to place a skimmer in them. You can skim one tank each day during the cycle so don't go out and buy a skimmer for each vat.

Darren used actinic lighting but a better solution, if you wish to light the curing tanks, is a shop light fixture with daylight type florescent bulbs like the 6500K Optilume type bulbs. They are much cheaper and provide enough light for curing. You can use one light and move it from container to container. You only need about a 6 hour photoperiod at this point. Make sure you use a GFCI when hooking stuff up for safety sake.

Curing LR in your tank is OK but you are better off using separate curing containers as you get some pretty funky water during the cure.

Darren said you can use your nose to judge how the cure is going. Recently I gave Amanda from Michigan this advise on the proper fragrence one should have during curing--

  • A man wearing a black suit drives up in a hearse and asks if he can remove the deceased
  • You neighbors put up a sign in your yard saying "Bates Motel"
  • Your spouse, who wasn't into this saltwater thing in the first place, has their lawyer draw up divorce papers on the constitutional grounds of cruel and unusual punishment



You are going to want a test kit when you add the LR to your tank so you might as well spring for it now.

For those that cure the rock in their tanks, you will want to do some massive water changes. I know this is contrary to a lot of expert advise. My reasoning is that during the curing massive amounts of nutrients are added to the water column. There is plenty to go around to complete the cycle, so why keep this nasty water around? It will only come back to haunt you later as a huge algae bloom. Now dumping most of the water is not going to stop you from having an algae bloom but it will reduce the intensity and duration if you remove a large portion of the nutrients via a large water change(s).

A few days into the curing it is a very good time to show off your skills as a geeky chemist. You want to check for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. Hopefully the ammonia will be dropping or low and nitrates will be present. If not, just give it more time. Another thing you want to check, especially toward the end of the cycle, is pH and alkalinity. Don't be surprised if both are very low. Often the alkalinity will be only around 1 meq/l and the pH in the range of 7.5-7.8. Why? Well the curing process is acidic in nature. The bacteria produce lots of carbon dioxide and consume alkalinity. It is normal for both of these parameters to decline, often, dramatically.

Once again, water changes during the cycle will be a big help as they add fresh buffer with the introduction of fresh salt mix. You can also buy the various buffers sold on the market to adjust pH and alkalinity. A cheap substitute is washing soda, sodium carbonate, sold at the supermarket. Add 1 tablespoonful of washing soda for every 20 gallons of tank water to a quart of RO/DI water and dissolve. Pour this mixture into the sump or other high circulation area of the tank. Give it about 3 or 4 hours to react then check the pH again. If you still need to increase the pH you can add another dose. If you use a second dose wait a full day before making any more adjustments as the tank needs time to stabilize.

As Darren said, When you ammonia and nitrite are very close to zero you can add your LR to your tank. Don't worry if your nitrate levels are high. Nitrification is the hard part of going through a cycle. De-nitrification will be forthcoming as the LS in the tank starts to develop anoxic zones. The more time you can give the cycle the better off you'll be.

Well, I just heard the 2 minute warning ending this half. Next half will talk about the algae blitz that is the next fun part of the reefer game.


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Unread 10/01/2003, 01:47 PM   #18
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Water keeper. I am setting up a 50 gallon reef tank. Do I need a sump for a tank that small? If I do should I have the tank drilled or get a hang on overflow box? Suggest an affordable quality skimmer to put in a sump if I need one.


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Unread 10/01/2003, 02:01 PM   #19
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Hi Singman

I see George (Griss) already welcomed you so I'll skip that formality.

Any size tank will benefit from adding a sump as it adds to the overall water volume and provides enhanced circulation. That said, tanks 55 and below often do well with a hang-on and it does reduce costs. Both the CPR backpack and Remora are very popular hang-ons. The two skimmers you mentioned in you other post are both popular. It is very hard to recommend a certain skimmer simply because there are so many and I've only had experience with a couple. You probably want to run an RC search with any brand you choose to see what comments it has drawn.


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Unread 10/01/2003, 02:35 PM   #20
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Thanks!

As usual, great info! Can't wait to read about algae blooms! (that's not a sentence I ever thought I'd catch myself saying).

If I was waiting for the rain to fill my tank, I'd be waiting a long long time. Luckily, we have the leaky old RODI to do the job for us. (we had our first flood last week - awwww!)

Crystal


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Unread 10/02/2003, 10:53 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally posted by CrystalAZ
(we had our first flood last week - awwww!)
Now you can add running a wet/dry vacuum to your interests line.

By the way--saw the pics of your set-up and it is looking great Crystal.

A couple of points were made about the last post I made in this thread. One was, "what about KW to adjust pH?" A good question since I didn't indicate you should use it to raise the pH of a new tank. There is a reason behind it.

For those of you new to reefing KW , aka Kalkwasser or just Kalk, is nothing more than a saturated solution of lime, calcium hydroxide. It is made by simply adding a couple of tablespoonful of something like pickling lime to about 5 gallons of water and stirring it up. It then is allowed to settle and the supernatant is used to top off your tank to replace water last to evaporation. It raises alkalinity, pH and calcium levels in one swell swoop.

The thing about a new tank is there is little or no calcium demand and that will hold true until you add corals that utilize calcium. In most cases the calcium supplied by your salt mix and that added during water changes should suffice. If you test for calcium, and it is low, then you might consider KW to raise it along with pH. There are so many posts on RC regarding how to make and dose KW I won't get into that in this post but I did omit mentioning it as a pH-alkalinity supplement.

Point two was about actually adding the cured LR into your tank. Another good question. When you add LR there is always the problem of what to put it on. Method one is to place it directly on the bottom glass and then add the sand. Some wise person pointed out that you are paying $$$ for that LR so burying it under 4" or more of sand is kind of a waste. Method two is to place it on top of the sand. I've done this and it works pretty good but over time the rock does tend to settle into the sand, especially if you have fish that like to dig.

Recently Amanda from Michigan asked:
Quote:
Originally posted by AEALOVESHERGIRLS
I have heard you guys mention base rock, what is it?
Base rock is dead rock. That is rock with nothing growing on it. You put baserock as the bottom layer in your tank and place the LR on top of it. You can use cheap aragonite or any rock you find pleasing. It is best to use dense rock such as slate opposed to shale as the latter tends to have more soluble compounds in the rock. Igneous (granite, basalt) rock is probably better than metamorphic (slate) or sedimentary (shale). On the other hand, I've never really heard of any problems with the choice of base rock so it may make no difference.

Another option is to cut plastic dowel or PVC pipe to a length that is just shy of the surface of the sand and place your LR on it. Avoid having it it too high above the sand as your fish may dig burrows under the rock and go into seclusion.

Landscaping is also done with base rock or shelf rock. Many people like to make shelves for latter critter placement. A small shelf can be anchored using gel type super glue. You clean an area from the two rocks you wish to join and glue them together. For larger shelves you may need more support. You can use a masonry bit to drill holes and then use superglue to anchor plastic dowel material in the two rocks thereby joining them. For a really big shelf you can use plastic bookshelf brackets. Again, drill holes in the rock and, using plastic wall anchors and nylon screws, join the shelf to the rock. Don't worry, in a few weeks the plastic will cover with coralline algae and blend in.

One thing to be cautious of--Don't get two carried away attaching rocks together. It is kind of sad to find you have a 100 lb rock sculpture that you can't lift out of your tank.

Also be sure to support glued together pieces from the bottom when lifting them from the tank. A 10 lb hunk of rock falling against the glass is not recommended.

Don't have time today put I'll get to algae next time.


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Unread 10/03/2003, 04:37 PM   #22
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1, 2 , 3 , 4 - what are we rooting for?

Algae! Algae!

Yay, algae!!!

I'm holding my breath waiting for info about algae!

Actually I just want to keep this post bumped up because I really like it.

Crystal


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Unread 10/04/2003, 03:37 PM   #23
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awesome post too!! Here's a bump!


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Unread 10/06/2003, 09:05 AM   #24
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By golly it is sure easy to know one is on the Newbie Forum. Only place at RC where they give you a bump so you'll talk about algae.

Let's See--we have are tank full of water, sand and rock. Ammonia and nitrites are at zero.Congratulations Newbie-- you've completed the first steps in setting up your tank!!!

Once ammonia is steadily at zero the initial cycle is complete. That is, you have a population of nitrifying bacteria established that can oxidize ammonia to nitrite and nitrate and, in essence, de-toxify this decomposition product. This may have taken anywhere from a week to over a month depending on the type of LR and your method of curing but you have made an important milestone.

Don't get too quick to celebrate. That was only the first half of the game. For the second half you must overcome the ALGAE Blitz!

Quote:
Photo originally posted by Hambone


Now in the first half of the cycle all the dead stuff on the LR decomposed and the developing bacteria hopefully feasted on it. They then converted it to carbon dioxide that then exited the tank as a gas. Carbonaceous compounds are fairly easy to remove as most bacteria live by consuming organic carbon compound. Nitrogen compounds have a more complex natural cycle and, so far, your tank has only succeeded in converting them into a more reef friendly form. Eventually your system will convert nitrate to nitrogen gas and eliminate it as well. This process usually takes awhile as the sand bed plays a crucial role. In a newly established tank conditions are usually not achieved for a couple of weeks after the initial cycle. There are many that contend that de-nitrification, the process of converting nitrate to nitrogen gas, occurs in the pores of the LR. IMO the chief method that LR provides in removing nitrate is through uptake by the coralline algae growing on the rock. Serious reduction of nitrate occurs in the sand bed in the anoxic zones. In the new tank they just haven't had time to properly form

Another thing is now happening. With the supply of decaying organic matter almost depleted many of the bacteria that helped clean things up have nothing left to eat. They in turn die and become a food source. In a well-established tank this decomposition occurs mainly in the sand bed and, indeed, helps de-nitrification and the removal of nitrogen from the tank. In a new tank this new food has nowhere to go except into the water column. Our friend Amanda saw one manifestation of this when she wrote a few days ago:

Quote:
Originally posted by AEALOVESHERGIRLS
Today is day 9 of my tank. Up until now, despite the high trites, trates and ammonia, my water has been clear. But, today it's cloudy and I haven't touched it. Could it be from all the algae in there, I mean, we aren't talking a little algae. It's brown and hairy everywhere. It's driving me nuts that I can't touch it, that I have to wait for the algae to correct it'sself. Any advice would be great!
I'm not picking on Amanda. It is just that she is starting a new tank and making daily posts on her progress. They sure fit this thread. Wait till Desert Crystal gets some water in her tank.

Amanda did the in-the-tank LR curing method that explains the cloudy water syndrome. Usually there is little organic material, often called Dissolved Organic Material (DOM), in the water column. That means there is little for free swimming "bugs" to eat, so their population is quite low. Following a cycle the water column contains a regular smorgasbord of stuff for bacteria to eat. And eat they do.

WarningThose under 18 (21 in some states) may want to skip the next section as it contains graphic content!!!!

The bacteria in the water column, with plenty to eat, go on a rampage of wanton mitosis. When these little critters get plenty of food, population control goes right out the window. Seeming overnight the water takes on a milky white to gray appearance brought on by this shameless orgy . Just as the bacteria hit their peak, the protozoan's in the tank also get real randy. In full public view they conjugate and reproduce to record numbers but at the expense of the sex crazed bacteria in the tank who these protozoan's now call "dinner". Yes folks it is a sordid affair.

This bacteria bloom happens in all cycles. If you cure your LR outside the tank it may happen but you won't see it like you would in a tank where the LR is cured. The bacteria/protozoan bloom tends to clear up as fast as it appears as these free-swimming "bugs" really go to town and consume all the food PDQ. Once done, they die off only to become food for ensuing organisms.

One can speed up the removal of these bacteria and protozoans by using a polishing filter. One of the handiest items one can have in their bag of tank maintenance items is a canister filter. These fairly inexpensive filters serve in so many handy fashions. With a bacteria bloom you can use a sub-micron filter in them to remove the bacteria, usually in a matter of hours. Then you can replace the sub-micron filter with some activated carbon and remove much of the organic material left behind. With a 200 gph, hang-on canister filter costing less than $50 you really want to have one when you can afford it. When not being used on your main tank it can be used on a quarantine or hospital tank to provide circulation. The sub-micron filters even have a pore size small enough to remove the free swimming stages of parasites such as ich and velvet. A real handy item to have.

The main downside of a bacteria bloom is the little buggers use up tons of oxygen during their heyday. With fish or coral in a tank you want to get them out as fast as possible. If your tank doesn't have livestock then you can wait for it to take its natural course. You also want to check pH and alkalinity after a bacteria bloom. Because these blooms tend to be somewhat acidic in nature you may need to correct the pH using the washing soda additive I mentioned earlier in this thread.

Amanda also has brown "algae" everywhere. This may be algae but in many cases it is diatoms. This occurs shortly after or during the bacteria bloom. I've often wondered why the population of diatoms would soar in the post cycle. I came up with this theory. Much of the die-off on the LR is from encrusting sponges. A sponge uses kind of a silicate skeleton to maintain its shape. After the sponge decays some of this silicate enters the water column where diatoms, who also use silicates to form a type of shell, utilize the excess silicates to reproduce. This causes a diatom bloom stage. This brown algae phase is also usually short, lasting about 5-8 days. Like the bacteria bloom it then disappears almost as suddenly as it started

Don't pat yourself on the back too quickly. The real fun is about to start.

Just about the same time the brown algae starts to recede enters the green algae. At first is appears at the top of the tank nearest the lights but soon in covers just about all your beautiful rock and sand. In general, a tank is about 2-3 weeks old when the green algae hits its peak. How long it will remain at its peak is the hard part to predict. Usually, but not always, a tank that has LR cured in it will have much more green algae over a longer period than a tank that had the LR cured in separate containers. A tank with good lighting will normally have a greater initial growth but the bloom will be shorter in duration than a tank with low lighting.

What’s a person to do????

Well first off—the algae gods have not singled you out for a special punishment. Algae Happens!!! No amount of atonement, even sacrificing your first born, is going to make it go away. The best way to deal with it is to give it some time. There are, just like unwanted in-laws who visit, a few things that will shorten its stay.

First off a program of water changes will remove the nutrients the algae needs to grow. During an algae bloom 20% water changes every few days will go a long way in providing nutrient export from the tank. Secondly, get out that scrapper and harvest as much of the stuff as you can. While scrapping run that handy-dandy canister with a polishing filter to help remove algae cells. Third, use the same filter to run activated carbon to remove organic nitrogen and phosphates. Forth, if you have a refugium, add some macro algae to it to compete with the algae in your main tank. Fifth, add a variety of snails to help eat the stuff. If you plan to add hermits crabs this is the time for them too. Sixth, buy and wear a Q-ray bracelet. You can never have too few ions on your side .

Well gang I don't have time for more today. I'll finish up with the algae next time and talk a little about lighting. Take care.


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Unread 10/09/2003, 06:43 AM   #25
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Waterkeeper thanks for the great thread.
My question is I am starting to think i won't have enough room in my cabinet for all the equipment needed for a reef setup. skimmer, sump, chiller, heaters and whatever else i am forgetting.
I want a 120 gal tank it would fit perfect where my bar is at now.
The cabinet size is little over 4ft wide by 3.5ft deep by3.5ft high.
I have no other room to put the equipment in.

Thanks Lithoman


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