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FAQs on Reef Set-Up 13

Related Articles: Reef Systems, Reef Set-Up, Being Conscientious Save money and the reefs By Jennifer Smith, Refugiums, Reef Filtration, Marine System Plumbing, Marine Aquarium Set-Up, Fish-Only Marine Set-up, FOWLR/Fish and Invertebrate Systems, Coldwater Systems, Small Systems, Large Systems, Refugiums, Marine Biotope, Marine Landscaping, Fishwatcher's Guides,

Related FAQs: Reef Set-Up 1, Reef Set-Up 2, Reef Set-Up 3, Reef Set-Up 4, Reef Set-Up 5, Reef Set-Up 6, Reef Set-Up 7, Reef Set-Up 8, Reef Set-Up 9, Reef Set-Up 10, Reef Set-Up 11, Reef Set-Up 12, Reef Set-Up 14, Reef Set-Up 15, & Reef Tanks, Reef Lighting, Reef Lighting 2, Reef Filtration, & Reef Livestocking, Reef Livestocking 2, Reef Feeding, Reef Disease, Reef Maintenance, Marine System Plumbing, Marine Aquarium Set-Up, Live Rock, Live Sand, Fish-Only Marine Set-ups, FOWLR/Fish and Invertebrate Systems, Coldwater Systems, Small Systems, Large Systems, Reef Maintenance, Biotopic presentations, Algal Filtration in General, Mud Filtration 1,

Small Marine Aquariums
Book 1: Invertebrates, Algae
New Print and eBook on Amazon:
by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Small Marine Aquariums
ook 2: Fishes
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Small Marine Aquariums Book 3: Systems
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Reef Setup Critique -- 06/08/10
Hey guys love the site. I'm planning for my first big tank and I made a VERY advanced CAD drawing for you to critique. It's a 240g Starphire tank. Can you lend a hand and tell me if there is anything you would change? I really appreciate any help you can give me knowing how busy you guys are.
Mike Z
<<Well Mike (or Dr. John? [name on drawing]'¦ or Cyrus? [name on email addy]'¦), I'm more than happy to offer my opinions. If I don't mention something it's likely because I thought it to be okay as is, but do feel free to specifically question anything later on if you wish. Let's start at the top and work our way down'¦ Your choice of lighting looks fine, though I would make mention that a pendant system for the halides, utilizing a high quality reflector (my vote goes to the CoralVue 'Lumen Bright' reflector'¦I use these over my 96'x30'x30' reef display), will make the most of your selection in this relatively tall tank. I also very much suggest a 10K bulb over a higher Kelvin temperature bulb for the increased intensity/penetration and overall 'more natural' appearance, especially considering the presence of the VHOs which will presumably be Actinic'¦ Moving to the display, I see you have the Tunze controller but don't specify which 6100 series Stream pump you'll use. My vote goes to the newer model 6105, just cus I like new toys [grin]. I also suggest you research and configure these flow pumps to provide a 'gyre' like flow within the display. Doing so, you will also find the 'educators' on the returns to be unnecessary. Do also reconsider the amount of rock you plan to use. Unless it is very dense, 350lbs is just too much if you plan to leave any room for corals to grow and for fishes to swim and grow. A 'low profile' with some open space all around will not only look better but will also 'function' better re overall water movement/elimination of detritus accumulation/etc. You'll still need to provide adequate hiding/territory for your fishes based on your stocking plan so it will take a bit of thought, but all will appreciate the open water above the reef'¦and this will be especially attractive to your fishes/corals with an alternating Gyre flow pattern. As for the oxygenator (Söchting Oxydator), you can use it if you wish, but personally I wouldn't bother (here in the display, or in the 'fuge). The use of a good skimmer coupled with good water movement will be more than adequate'¦ Moving on to your plumbing I want to state that I 'do not' like valves on gravity drain lines. Your 1.5' drains will safely gravity drain about 750gph each. The addition of any type of valve greatly reduces this and also increases the likelihood of an obstruction at some point. Control your flow rate with a gate-valve on the output side of the return pump (as you show in the drawing), and remove these from your drain lines... Looking at your sump/refugium and the equipment within I think the overall layout and equipment placement is fine though a somewhat larger vessel would be a plus, if this is a possibility. I feel with the use of the vegetable and mud refugium the denitrator is not needed and system would be better served by a phosphate reactor. I also feel the UV sterilizer to be a benefit not worth the maintenance hassle, and even counterproductive to a plankton-generating refugium. Your skimmer is 'ok,' but my choice would be a quieter and less power hungry needle-wheel model. Suggest you 'split' your heater in to two 250w models for reasons of redundancy and to reduce the chances of cooking the system in the event of a problem with a unit. As for your top-off controller; while the air-pressure switches (I use one to control my RO unit to fill my 50g FW reservoir in my garage) are much more reliable than a float-valve, for the investment here I very highly recommend the Tunze Osmolator for keeping your sump topped up. Now for that check-valve on the return pump'¦remove it and position your standpipes to control how much transient water volume drains back to the sump. I assure you that sooner or later that check-valve will fail'¦and it is also robbing much efficiency from your return pump. I think that about does it'¦ I'm not sure what that 'backup pump' is about, but the 'float switch' causes me a little concern. And you will also be better served by an 'in-line' chiller over a 'drop-in' model, but I think it a small matter here. Boy, there's a heck of a lot going on in this drawing but I think I've touched on everything I wanted to mention. Be chatting, I'm sure'¦ Eric Russell>>

Re: Reef Setup Critique -- 06/09/10
Thanks for the quick reply.
<<Most welcome>>
For aquarium gods you guys respond very quickly.
<<Ha! Speaking for myself, I think you give more credit than deserved re your comparison to deities'¦but thanks much for the vote of confidence [grin]>>
I (Cyrus Michael) am putting this together for Dr. John.
Made notes on your lighting recommendations. It's retro-fitted into the canopy and yes VHO will be actinics. As for the rocks, for a 240 do you think 275lb's is the right number?
<<That's hard to say as it depends much on the type/quality of the rock'¦but it will likely take less than you imagine. I would suggest starting with a couple boxes (120-160 lbs total) and see what it looks like and go from there. My own 500g system (375g display, 75g sump, 55g refugium) probably has no more than about 200lbs of rock'¦but I do also employ 1500 lbs of live sand via my DSBs in both the display and the refugium>>
The Söchting Oxydator in the display was a redundancy, in the event of a catastrophic failure it would supply vital oxygen to the water; do you think it will work in this regard?
<<I honestly don't know, but it also can't hurt. Having suffered a wipeout myself due to a failure (caused when a GFCI tripped) of the recirculation pump'¦with extenuating circumstances'¦I found it easy and comforting to simply build in some redundancy (i.e. -- a second pump on a different circuit)>>
I have the denitrator already and it worked wonders on other tanks I've had, I can run it in a heavier phosphate removing mode.
<<Real good>>
I removed the valves on the drains as per your recommendations
<<Is best>>
and doubled down on the heaters.
<<Also better>>
The reason I didn't go with the Tunze top-off is that I am running the top-off for evaporation straight off the RO filter.
<<Yikes! Not recommended my friend'¦ Keeping up with bio-mineral content can be difficult enough on a large system without putting yourself in a hole by adding the 'stripped- out' water directly from the RO filter. I recommend filtering in to a storage vessel and then either treating this water before using as top-off water (can be as simple as placing a large filter bag full of fine aragonite sand in the reservoir)'¦or my preferred method'¦running the filtered water through a Kalkwasser Reactor on its way to the sump for use as top-off (this is where the Osmolator would come in). You could utilize the SpectraPure device to keep the top-off 'reservoir' filled>>
The check valve was another level of redundancy,
<<But doomed to fail'¦sometime>>
the standpipes will be adjusted for the sumps water holding capabilities.
<<A much more reliable alternative>>
I also am drilling a small anti-siphon into the LocLine return pipe at its highest point in the display tank,
<<Also not a good idea, in my opinion. While a popular solution, these 'holes' often become plugged'¦usually right before you need one to 'work.' It's much better to simply position the return outlet so it, like the standpipes, will not drain/siphon more water from the display when the pump(s) is off than the sump can hold. Some will argue that this limits the returns ability to provide good water movement within the display. My reply to that is'¦ Don't rely on the sump return for this. There are many devices/flow pumps available today that provide much better/more useful water motion than the return. Besides, keeping the flow rate from the sump to a 'minimum' helps greatly with plumbing issues>>
but I removed it for better flow.
I did add a redundant backup return pump activated by a float switch in the event the primary goes down, is there a better way to serve this purpose?
<<Nothing is completely foolproof, but running 'two' return pumps (e.g. -- two smaller pumps vs. one large pump) on separate circuits is a more reliable option>>
Are you a fan of flexible PVC for the plumbing?
<<I am...the gentle curves (where space allows) are much less constricting than elbows. Some will argue the interior surface has more 'drag' than standard smooth pipe'¦but with properly sized throughputs and matched-up pumps this shouldn't be an issue>>
Also is there any benefit to running both drain pipes into one pipe that goes into one sock?
<<Sure, for the obvious simplicity/maintenance re'¦but this will also reduce overall drain flow capacity somewhat and will need to be considered/allowed for>>
I appreciate your help on this very much.
<<Is truly my pleasure>>
Thank You,
Cyrus Michael "Mountain Dew" Julius Zafaranloo III
<<Now that's a name! Cheers my friend'¦ Eric Russell>>

R2: Reef Setup Critique -- 06/10/10
So Eric, we are down to one issue, the RO water.
Demineralization would be an issue even with the Ca reactor on the system?
<<Can be, yes'¦depending on coral species and stocking densities. I find on my heavily stocked SPS (predominantly) system that even with a Calcium reactor 'and' a Kalkwasser reactor I often have the need for additional supplementation>>
So if I understand you correctly, could I run the RO directly into the Kalk reactor, then have the top-off system trigger the pump for the top-off?
<<Pump? If the RO is hooked up to the Kalkwasser reactor wouldn't the water be pushed to the sump via the mains water pressure?...thus, why the need for a pump (or does the RO utilize a pump to boost said water pressure?)? At any rate, yes, if the air-switch in the sump is controlling a solenoid that turns water on/off to the RO units then it is feasible to route the RO to the Kalk reactor and then on to the sump>>
On another note are you a fan of the Tunze Wavebox 6212 (I give that model because I am not sure if the 7095 will control the 6515)?
<<Not especially, though I've not used one'¦mainly because I don't like the size/bulk of it'¦even in my 8' display>>
Thanks again,
Mike Z
<<Happy to share'¦ EricR>>

R3: Reef Setup Critique -- 06/10/10
Hello Eric,
<<Hiya Mike>>
I forgot to ask, since you're a fan of needle-wheel skimmers is there a brand that stands out for you?
<<Several, actually'¦ I currently employ an 'old' Euro-Reef CS12-3 upgraded with ER modified Eheim pumps, and love it. Euro-Reef has changed their name and are now called Reef Dynamics. Royal Exclusiv (Bubble King/Vertex) and H&S also provide some very nice high-quality skimmers'¦other options worth considering are the offerings from Deltec, AquaC (though this is not a needle-wheel model), Reef Octopus, and of course the Aerofoamer driven Tunze skimmers>>
Also, how about having two pipes drain into one 7" filter sock, can you think of a disadvantage to that?
Mike Z
<<Should work fine'¦ EricR>>
R4: Reef Setup Critique -- 06/10/10
Oops, I know that you guys appreciate good grammar so please replace my "your" with a "you're" or a "you are" in case you are not a fan of contractions.
Mike Z
<<No worries, mate'¦was taken care of. EricR>>

R5: Reef Setup Critique -- 06/10/10
I say pump because it seems most top-off units are some type of low water detector that triggers a pump that's in a top-off reservoir to fill the sump, no?
<<Yes, indeed you are correct'¦but you were talking about plumbing the RO directly to the Kalkwasser reactor in which case the mains water pressure would do the 'pumping'>>
Anyway, if I am going to be dosing vitamins, Coral Vite and stuff like that isn't it a moot point?
<<Depends again on the stocking/health, and the rate of growth you are shooting for>>
I will have mostly softies with some LPS and fish, really no SPS besides monti's. Now for something completely different. For aquascaping I will be getting some nice 20 - 30 lb pieces of rock that will need securing. My plan is to drill a hole and insert nylon bolts and nuts, is this ok?
<<Should be, yes'¦though 'bolting' may not be necessary. You will likely find that much of the rock can be secured by simply drilling/inserting rods of inert material to secure (nylon, acrylic, PVC, etc.)>>
Thanks again Eric
<<Quite welcome Mike'¦ Eric R>>

R6: Reef Setup Critique -- 06/13/10
It's been a couple hours since I have emailed you guys so I guess it's time to bug you again.
<<No worries Mike>>
Onto the lighting...the tank has a canopy with 2 VHO's (I'm going to run actinics on this) and 3 mogul sockets for 400W metal halides.
<<I hope there is some means of venting air/heat from this canopy>>
What brand bulbs do you guys like?
<<Often, what you pay for is what you get'¦ Some bulbs worth looking at include offerings from Ushio, Hamilton, Phoenix and Aqualine-Buschke (not necessarily in that order). I'm currently trying out the CoralVue ReefLux 10K bulb and thus far consider this my fave among 10K bulbs'¦but it is still early in the testing>>
Being that I have actinics would you recommend 14k or 10k?
<<A multitude of factors at play here (do peruse WWM re), not the least of which is the planned stocking of this system. Generally my preference would be 10K'¦more natural appearance, better PAR/penetration'¦but if this tank is not going to house 'high light requiring organisms' the 400w 10K may prove to be too much; considering the close proximity of the bulbs to the water's surface determined/limited by the use of the canopy, in which case 'less potent 14K bulbs' may prove more appropriate for the organisms being kept>>
<<Happy to share'¦ EricR>>

R7: Reef Setup Critique -- 06/14/10
Eric, Should I downgrade to 3 x 250W MH's or maybe just 2 x 400W on each end of the canopy?
Mike Z
<<Hi Mike'¦ I would keep the number of bulbs over this 6' tank to three. And if I recall accurately this will be a 'mixed reef' so 250w bulbs should be plenty strong enough (again, many factors can affect this e.g. -- bulb type/brand//color temperature, water clarity, reflector quality, etc.), even with the less than optimum reflectors I would expect to find in a canopy installation. Organisms with high light demands can be placed higher up in the water column and or more directly beneath the bulbs. The lower wattage bulbs would certainly help with energy consumption, and may also help with heat gain. EricR>>

Re: Setup Critique, thru hull diameters mostly 6/17/10
<Mmm, he's out with a medical issue.>
Attached a photo of the tank with newspaper rock to think of aquascaping ideas. Any downsides you can think of or any improvements u would implement to this?
<Am not a big fan of such rock stacking m'self... How about bommies instead?>
Also, buying the PVC parts and I forgot to ask you- I was thinking of putting disconnect unions at the drain lines by the sump and by the tank just in case I need to remove the sump, is that a bad idea?
<A good idea. True-unions>
I don't remember if we discussed this but BOTH my drains and returns are 1.5" bulkheads.
<I'd make these 2" ID>
I am going to keep the 1.5" to the drain and reduce the return PVC to 1", are you OK with that setup?
<Not I>
Hope all is well and again
thank you for helping me.
Mike Z
<Read here Mike: http://wetwebmedia.com/SystemPIX/PlumbingPix/Oneinchart.htm
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>
Re: Setup Critique 6/17/10
GEEZ sorry to write you so many times but that is the burden of being a genius, is it worth it to you guys?? Anyway, I have attached 2 schemes.
Being that all the holes drilled in the tank are 1.5" bulkheads (weird isn't it???),
do you think I should do the standard one drain one return per overflow (scheme 1) or both drains in one and both returns in the other overflow (scheme 2)??
<Two larger drains one return per overflow>
Scheme 2 would reduce head length on the pump and be a joy to plumb. What do you think?
<Scheme 2... and bump the inside diameter of each to 2". BobF>

Re: Setup Critique 6/17/10
Hi Bob, I hope Eric is OK. SO you don't like the 1.5" for drainage even thought they do 1500gph which is 7 times flow for this tank?
Upgrading the holes will be a nightmare, there is not enough room in the overflow to put the 2 2" bulks in.
as far as the returns are you against doing the 1" ( I know the article said not to use it for drain but didn't mention return) ?
<Whatever the pump discharge ID is... is what I would use>
Also, do you think I could plumb the sump with 2 drains in one overflow and both returns in the other?
<Could... if there's room, yes>
It would make plumbing so much easier , is would reduce head pressure and would equalize return outputs....Please say this is OK!!!!
<Head?! Who said head!?>
HAHAHH, anyway take car <care?> of yourself Bob good to finally get the legend himself. I want to thank you for the years of education you have given me.
Mike Z
<Glad to have contributed... B>

Re: Setup Critique, pb 6/24/10
Hi Guys. Ordered all the parts I need now I just want to make sure I have covered my PVC basics. I have attached the plans for the plumbing. Please expose any follies I have made. I know you guys aren't ball valve fans on the return but I only kept it because I have the bleeder line in.
<Is fine>
I was thinking of removing the bleeder line and if I do I would pull that other ball valve as well. I could have sworn I saw that bleeder setup on your site somewhere, why exactly do people install them??
<To divert/use water flow that they consider excess, rather than just restricting the discharge>
I was thinking water changes but that makes no sense because it will only release a little water out of the tank before the overflows will stop pulling water down. Thanks again for ALL of your help.
<Well... I'd use the "diverter line" to service the UV rather than sharing the ETSS Red Dragon pump... the skimmer needs the flow, and slightly higher pressure that the UV would be better run w/o. IF the UV is not fitted with true union connections, I would make sure and provide these, for easy removal of the unit for periodic checking, servicing, replacing of the germicidal lamp/s. Lastly, the general circulation/return pump... IF the FIP/MIP fitting on the discharge is 1" (or even less) there is no benefit in grading up to 1.5" ID through a wye on the return... Either use a reducer bushing of 1" to the 1.5", or just keep the discharge at 1" all the way. BobF>

Re: Setup Critique, pb follow-up 6/25/10
Hi again. So I was thinking that since I am running the drains at one end and the returns on the other end of the tank that I should just forget the wye splitter on the return all together and just run my return pump straight to one return bulkhead and cap off the other hole.
I mean what really is the point to split one pump to two returns anyway, if its flow I have 3 Tunze 6100's which should be enough. What do you guys think?
Thanks so much,
<Welcome. B>

Converting to a reef system 6/2/10
Hello again Bob and crew or whoever gets this,
<Hi Jill, Simon with you this afternoon!>
I have severe frustration's regarding my FOWLR tank that I want to convert to an anemone/reef friendly system.
After not being happy for a while with my saltwater LFS I decided to just take matters into my own hands before I finally just give up all together. Here is my system info:
125 gallon, 80/100 lbs live rock, Marineland protein skimmer (not producing enough skimmate), two BioWheels (removed one and replaced with live rock), Harlequin Tusk, Foxface, Copperband Butterfly, Flame Hawkfish, Diamond Goby.
<Hmm, a difficult fish by all accounts>
Ammonia/Nitrite 0, 1.024 Sg, <low> KH 10, PO .5ppm, <high> Nitrate 80ppm, <High> Calcium 520, <Also high> I use RO/DI water with Seachem Reef Salt. This is after a 35 gallon water change this week and a 15 gallon water change last week. I use Chemipure in my filters (replaced one a month) and foam pads replaced weekly.
<I would just remove these>
I also clean the skimmer weekly. I recently (within the last couple of weeks) got rid of my two puffers. I also just recently found out I have been way way overfeeding my tank so have reduced my feedings to two cubes a day.
<Ok. It may take some time to get this nitrate down. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm The phosphate should come down with it>
I, of course, am fighting some hair algae and lots of that red turf algae I believe. It's covering my live rocks.
<Do you mean BGA or Cyanobacteria? http://www.wetwebmedia.com/algaeconMar.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bluegralgae.htm >
I'm wondering what my best course of action should be to get my tank reef ready. How aggressive can I be with my water changes until I get things back in line?
<As 'aggressive' as you like really. Just make sure that it is pre-mixed, aerated, heated first. Also make sure there are no areas in your system that are harbouring build-ups of waste (such as filter pads)>
I have been fighting this protein skimmer for 9 months now, I'm lucky to get 1 cup of icky stuff a week, and am looking into getting an Octopus skimmer.
<I've heard good things about these>
I just need to see if it fits into my sump.
<Do you employ a refugium as well? A great tool in this fight http://www.wetwebmedia.com/refugium.htm>
I have always had high nitrates, hence the removal of one Biowheel. Do you think I would be fine removing the other Biowheel?
<I would, yes, but I doubt that this is the source of your issues.. these do not trap debris>
I also read lots and lots of FAQs about the red turf algae and am wondering if I should remove the live rock that it's on and replace this with some new "live" rock?
<I would rinse it in some water that you remove from the system.. perhaps blow debris out of it using a turkey baster.. this could be a source, especially if you used to have two puffers in there>
I have two corner overflows into my tank but think I still might need to increase my water flow.
<Good water flow is essential.. if you have the money look into Vortech pumps -- superior to every other method of providing flow IMO>
I do not add any chemicals to my water unless needed, my magnesium levels have been good ( I didn't test them tonight though) and since I switched to reef salt my calcium is high. How do I lower this?
<have you tested the make-up water for Ca before adding it to the system?>
Is it a danger to anything?
<Can cause a precipitation, and irritate animals>
I do have trouble keeping the KH high enough but it has gone from 7.5 to 10 now as I have been using Seachem Reef builder.
<Ahh! This is a 'three part' additive'¦ contains ca & mg as well, probably why your calcium is high. You want to fins a method of raising dKH without raising calcium http://www.advancedaquarist.com/issues/nov2002/chem.htm>
I brought my water into my LFS to be tested and he said my Sg was high at 1.027, he used a refractometer and I just have one of those plastic hydrometers and
tested it at 1.025 that same day so I'm now a little leery about going above 1.024 on my hydrometer.
<These can be inaccurate'¦ best to purchase your own refractometer -- good ones can be found cheaply.. try D&D aquarium solutions>
I was lucky enough to have a finger leather coral come in on my live rock with some star polyps, how these haven't died yet is beyond me.
<Tough corals>
They do seem to close up when I do water changes but all lights are off so I'm assuming that's normal?
<They will close up yes>
Basically, I'm just not sure where to start to correct this all. 40 Gallon water changes every week? I don't want to stress my fish out anymore than I already have with my in-experience.
<Once you get the nitrates down they will thank you for it.. especially that Copperband>
Thanks once again and take care.
<No problem Jill.. do research here on WWM and write back if you have any more questions. Simon>

Re: Converting to a reef system 6/3/10
Hi again Simon and thank you for taking on my questions.
<No problem Jill>
About my calcium levels. This was high (in the 500 range) before I started using the buffer to raise my KH levels.
<Have you tested your test kit? Might be worth getting your results verified, perhaps by a different brand>
I tested my source water mixed with the Seachem reef salt and the calcium was around 320.
<Are you sure? I have used this salt and found it to be much higher than that>
Could it be possible that old baby clam shells are leeching calcium into my system?
<No.. you would have to have a very low pH in the system to dissolve these to any extent that they contributed>
My Goby uses them to "decorate" his cave so I have left them in there for him. The clam shells were left over from the puffers.
<There is no problem with these>
After reading the link you sent me too, I'm figuring I should use baking soda to raise my KH instead of the buffer.
<Food grade can be used, yes, until your Ca & dKH are balanced. Mg is important in this relationship as well -- needs to be balanced http://reefkeeping.com/issues/2006-06/rhf/index.php
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/calcalkmar.htm?h= >
Maybe a decent skimmer will help?
<With the nitrate? Indirectly by removing more waste from the system, yes it will>
When all is said and done, I would like to invest in a calcium
reactor at some point but not until I get it under control.
<Do you have much/ many Scleractinian corals? If not, then such apparatus is not really necessary>
As far as the red algae, it isn't BGA, I went through that hassle and my LFS had me use ChemiClean. I'm wondering if that wasn't the start of
all these other issues,
<Mmmm.. other issues? You mean the Calcium? No.>
outside of the nitrate/phosphate problem that I take full responsibility for. After looking at the pictures on this site I have confirmed its the red hair algae stuff.
<Standard algae control methods apply here.. including the nutrient control that you are working on, as well as lots of elbow grease>
I checked out the Vortech pumps. That is now added to my "shopping" list. I really like the idea of the motor on the outside of the tank. I figured I would have to go with the model MP40 for my size tank.
<Yes -- The best pump available>
Ouch!! But I bet it will be worth it.
<When you're on your on your way home with it sitting on the front seat, you are not quite sure. As soon as you plug it in, it becomes clear why this SO worth it>
I have only live rock, live sand, and some macroalgae in the tank. I really can't figure the reason I am
getting such high Ca when it use to be on the low side. The clam shells are the only thing I can come up with that has changed.
<No.. not this. You have added it somewhere. You write well and with intelligence.. use the articles by RHF, I give you good odds that you should be able to solve this>
One more question on calcium reactors. My understanding is that will help keep the Ca / KH in balance correct?
<Only once they are balanced. At the moment you are unbalanced. Calcium reactors are an automated method of adding two (sometimes three) part solutions to your system. They will not help with your present problem>
Would it add to my high calcium problem at this point?
Thank you...Clueless Jill
<No prob.s'¦ Knackered after moving house and ripping walls down Simon>
Thank you...Clueless Jill

Reverse osmosis...? 5/19/10
Dear Mr. Fenner,
I have been raising freshwater Angelfish and African Cichlids for about a year and a half as a hobbyist in South Florida.
I feel like I want to try a reef tank. I purchased a 120 at an auction. I need to put about $100.00 in the pump and miscellaneous items to put it together. I have been using a sediment=large carbon block=small carbon block for some time now. I very rarely have to use Prime to adjust my water. Right now I have a new 150 gallon a day reverse osmosis system I've been thinking of setting up for my Angelfish babies and the reef tank. If you would be so kind as to advise me of your opinion of my ideas.
<What, which ideas?>
I would really appreciate it. After reading your article on the net; Sea Water, Natural or Synthetic? I believe you know what you are doing.
Many thanks,
<? Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/marine/index.htm

New Tank Setup And A Clownish Situation 4/27/10
Hello WWM Crew,
<Hi Jeremy>
Okay so here is the deal. I just got an amazing new 200 gallon tank given to me by a doctor who no longer wanted it in his office.
<Lucky you!>
It is a complete setup with a stand and canopy, T5 HO lighting, as well as filters. It was a African Cichlid setup but he gave those away. I plan to go reef but here is the catch. It comes with 2 filters a Fluval FX5 and the Rapids Pro 3 Plus w/ Protein Skimmer witch
<no witches here, just whiches>
I am kinda getting the hint from reading your articles that these would be nitrate factories
(the canister filter at least).
<Canister filters can become nitrate factories if the pads are not cleaned/changed regularly and the waste on the pad is allowed to denitrify. The Rapids Pro 3 is actually too small for a 200 gallon tank. They are rated for 150 gallon max.>
I am not overly experienced in Reef Setups as this will be my first. I have however had a predatory FOWLR 90
gallon marine setup before so I'm not new to the marine requirements. Now I would like to do this right the first time so if you could give me some start up tips that would be great. I have 150 pounds of Texas Holey Rock that came with the tank. First question is can this be used in marine setups
<You could use this, is basically limestone which will aid in keeping you pH stable as this rock is soluble and will slowly leach calcium, magnesium and carbonates into the water.>
and question 2 will I be able to seed the tank with LR and have eventual coraline coverage on this rock?
<Should, the limestone would be a good base for coraline growth.>
Also should I get a sump and do a refugium and try to sell the filters I have?
<I would, they will improve water quality by reducing nitrates.>
Then there is the maintenance schedule I have never had a tank this big but have always battled with high nitrates.
<Excess nutrients need to be exported efficiently to prevent high nitrate levels. Stocking level also comes into play here. An efficient protein skimmer is most beneficial here.>
What would be an effective water change amount in gallons per week to keep nitrates as close to zero as possible
and of course I'll have to avoid over feeding... Also the tank has already cycled and inside it I have a Maroon Clownfish (starting slow)... wanted a clown of decent size lol even though its quite a bit more aggressive. However I noticed a small white cyst looking protrusion on his mouth this morning. I don't have a picture but its only on the
mouth so I think I can rule out a parasite. Could it be just a possible injury from something inside the tank?
<Yes, likely.>
Anyways if you can give me any tips or thoughts you have I am sure they would be beneficial. Also I will continue to read on and continue learning as I go with hopefully very few mistakes.
<I think at the stage you are in, it will be better to provide you a link to our marine index. Topics/articles found
here should answer all if not most of your questions. Do read, then write if necessary.><<James... where is this link? RMF>>
Thanks in advance for the words and wisdom.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Jeremy Wright

Brand New Reef, Stocking Questions/Marine Set-up 2/22/10
Hello guys & gals
<Hello Chris, and please...all the double spacing is not necessary.>
The set up of my tank is fully complete and is currently going through the cycling process Tank is 155 gallons and has approximately 150 lb of live rock
Filtration is a sump with a built in refugium along with a monster skimmer
Calcium reactor is in place
Lighting consists of 2 VHO Actinic and 3 x 20,000K MH.
I have 3 crabs that came along for the ride and 2 baby star fish about the size of a dime
My question is in regards to stocking
I'm thinking to get an anemone first so that it can establish its location in the tank..once there, I'll start to load with corals (primarily softies to begin with)
<You run a risk of the anemone stinging corals and/or other sessile invertebrates should it decide to move.>
Fish will probably begin with a clown or a mated pair if I can find them and then go from there.
Clean up crew will be introduced as soon as I can find a local supplier...
Can you offer any suggestions regarding stocking order or am I on the right path.
<Future fish selected should be compatible with each other and timid fish should be introduced first. Do read/learn about desired fish as to compatibility, requirements/needs before buying.>
Let me know
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Re Brand New Reef, Stocking Questions/Marine Set-up 2/22/10
Thanks James
<You're welcome.>
The Reason for introducing the anemone first was so that it could establish it's location in the tank and then add the corals afterwards in an effort to reduce this possibility. I was told that once settled in a spot, they generally don't move.
<No guarantees here.>
Another question is in regards to powerheads. I am purchasing a Koralia 4 and a Koralia 8. From the FAQ it was stated to have them at opposite sides of the tank pointing in to each other. Question is, how important is a wave
maker in all this and can I get by without as they are pretty expensive...
<If you are referring to the Koralia Wavemaker, this unit was specifically designed for use with the 12 volt Koralia Pumps. I'm thinking you are getting the standard Koralia 115 volt pumps which are not designed for use with Wavemakers. I feel a wavemaker better simulates current on the reef rather than a laminar flow. Actually, a decent wavemaker can be had for about 38 bucks. The Aquarium Systems Wavemaker is the one I am referring to and the inexpensive MaxiJet pumps work best with this unit. I've been using one myself for about two years with no problems. See here.
Other current comes from my 2 returns in the corners.
Let me know
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

New Start Up (Last Chance)/Marine Set Up, reef 2/15/10
Hello guys, <and gals>
I am finally in the position to build my reef (must be a valentines thing)
<Must be a sweetheart of a tank.>
Waiting for just such an occasion, <occasion> I have been stock piling hardware to change my 155 bow from a cichlid tank and as this is my last shot, I am trying to do it perfect.
<Last shot as in drinking or attempt?>
I have secured a larger sump, skimmer, built in refugium.
Picked up a Tunze nanowave and am looking to pick up another controller to assist with the water flow.
<You may find the nanowave is all you may need.>
Calcium reactor is on the side, just waiting to go (yes, I've been planning this for a while).
<I see.>
Substrate is already approx 2.5" of crushed coral.
Lighting is 2 VHO Actinics, with 3 MH
<Sounds good.>
Questions are
1) Can I continue to use my glass lids as this will reduce evaporation and cut some of the noise in the tank.
<Certainly, and will also protect the lamps>
2) I am planning to use a deep sand bed in my refugium portion of my tank...From what I have read, it should consist of approx 6" of sand, some live rock rubble and Chet...<Chat>. Can I use silicon sand as the base or
would additional crush coral be better.
<The later, silica sand is likely to introduce silicates into the system which can lead to excessive diatom and/or nuisance algae growth.>
3) I have been told to remove the bulk of the crushed coral from underneath the rock and have it sit on egg crating...If I do this, I will then have approx 4" of crushed coral in the tank...is there any pro's or cons to this or should I move some of it to the refugium.
<I do not see any long term pros to the use of eggcrate unless the eggcrate itself is supported slightly above the bottom glass which aids in siphoning up detritus during water changes, but going this route also requires no substrate which is a con, as crushed coral/sand is an aid to maintaining dKH/pH.>
4) The tank currently has 2 returns pointing into the middle of the tank... I was considering plumbing them along the back and then along the braces having the returns shoot down at 45s from there... Other than having to cut the power when feeding will there be any benefits or disadvantages to doing this... On the same tangent, with the addition of the 2 Tunze devices, will this be enough movement.
<The Tunze Nano Waveboxes should handle close to a 300 gallon system if set up properly. Have you been here yet?
5) I have a Little Giant 4mdqx sc running those returns, so am looking at 1225 gph....is this too much? Should I be reducing the output...I'm thinking to restrict the flow going through the refugium, but how about the overall flow?
<The Waveboxes should provide all the water movement you will need in the
tank itself. I would plumb a true union with a ball valve on the output side of the Little Giant which will allow you
to experiment/control additional flow into the tank. You may want to look at our plumbing information
here. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/plumbingmarart.htm>
Sorry for all the questions, but I want to do this right the first time
<I hear you. James (Salty Dog)>

Patch Reef Planning/Stocking/Marine Set-Up 2/7/10
Hey WWM crew!
<Hey Rachel>
I'm in year 4-5 (suffer from sometimers, can't always remember when I start things)
<Just wait until you get older and see what happens.>
of my planning for a saltwater tank. It's going to be a few more years yet before I can implement things, but was just wanting some input on my ideas to make sure I'm on the right track. Have been reading and researching so much I fear I'm suffering from information overload. Not a bad thing, but hard to keep it all straight some days. There are times I've begun to wonder if I haven't over thought this whole thing.
<The extra time researching/planning before diving in will be a plus for you.>
I'm planning some odd little version of a Pacific patch reef biotope (I started out planning a FOWLR), or at least as close as I can possibly get. Will be setup in a 40gal breeder, with a planned 50gal sump (run capacity of 34gal with how I have the baffles setup) and a separate 6gal PodFuge to reside on a shelf above and behind the main tank. More on this at the end of my ramblings here. I'm looking into LED lighting setups, and hopefully in another 4-5 years when I'm ready for setup they'll not cost an arm, leg and
other various body parts.
<I look forward to that as well.>
Basically looking for a few areas to save on power consumption, as with 10+ computers running in our house we already use quite a bit right now.
<Yikes! I'm developed quite a vocabulary using just one.>
Though, I might get the husband more involved with letting me do this if I add a reef computer to the mix (ha ha).
<Ah, a computer geek in the household, a valuable asset these days.>
My patch reef is going to be rather selective and probably minimal stocking compared to most. I don't want every coral imaginable, nor umpteen million fish, so I've narrowed down my wish list accordingly. I'm down to the "either or" part of livestock planning I guess. Here's my list:
1 Entacmaea quadricolor - haven't sold myself 100 percent just yet on adding
one of these. It's my one "impulse" item on the list.
<Corals or an anemone, both do not mix well, especially in small quarters.>
Very small selection (no more than 4 types I've picked out) of Palythoa, Zoanthus and Clavularia.
Some Chlorodesmis (Maiden's Hair) and Red Gracilaria in the main tank as well - maybe.
Looking for different colors/textures with what all I'm putting in the tank. Probably getting a little artsy here, but I can't help it.
Planning for future addition of Playgyra, <Platygyra> Favites, Dendorphylliidae, <Dendrophylliidae,
and some members of this group can be difficult to keep.>
Acanthastrea lordhoweensis frags
as well (just one of each and probably not all I have on my list).
Would love to add one T. squamosa or H. hippopus to the list, but I'm not sure on adding a clam to the mix with everything else and my planned LED lighting path. Know my coral selection is probably going to be okay, but still iffy on the clam.
<These species will require moderate to high light intensity.>
Other Inverts:
1 (or two?) Lysmata amboinensis (Scarlet Skunk Cleaner Shrimp)
10 Trochus sp. snails
5 Calcinus laevimanus (Dwarf Zebra Hermit - I like crabs, so must avoid the urge to have too many of them)
And now for fish:
1 pair Amphiprion perideraion (Pink Skunk) or Amphiprion sandarcinos < sandaracinos> (Orange Skunk) clowns
As far as I can tell from my research, these two are the least aggressive of the clownfish. One book I have even says Orange Skunks don't do well in the home aquarium without a host anemone and that they're timid and will be bullied by more boisterous tank mates.
<I would ensure plenty of shelter is provided for these clowns, yes, they are rather timid.>
Not quite sure I buy the whole "must have anemone" thing, but then I'm no expert either.
<This specie may very well do better with an anemone due to their timidness.>
3 Sphaeramia nematoptera (Spotted Cardinal)
<If you are going to have an anemone, do not mix non-immune species of fish with the anemone, they will be at risk.>
5 Apogon cyanosoma (Orange Lined Cardinal) - leaning more towards these guys
<I like these, a little smaller than the above cardinals, a better choice
for your system.>
1 Nemateleotris magnifica (Firefish Dartfish)
1 Ptereleotris zebra (Zebra Barred Dartfish) - though I have read these should be kept in small groups???
<Yes, they do better in groups.>
For a final fish, I'm stuck on one of the following four. No matter how much I read, I just can't seem to decide which one would be a better addition to the above stocking list.
Amblygobius rainfordi (Rainford's Goby)
<A beauty and another requiring an abundance of hiding places.>
Valenciennea wardii (Tiger Watchman Goby) - really like the look of these.
<Will fight with others of the same specie unless a mated pair. I would not recommend these fish for your system/tank size.>
Ecsenius stigmatura (Tailspot Blenny)
Ecsenius midas (Midas Blenny)
<Needs rocks to hide in, eats food out of the water column, so you need to feed it things that will slowly sink in the tank.
They need to be fed quite a bit otherwise they'll die of starvation.>
Not going to be too many fish is it? 1 pair clowns, 3-5 cardinals, 1 Dartfish and 1 goby or blenny.
<Much so if you planned on putting all of these fish in. I'd stick with four or five smaller fish
in this size tank. Make up the difference in coral with attractive easy to keep corals.>
I can skip the goby/blenny addition and just go with the others. Would rather have less "happy" fish than one too many.
Stocking order should probably be cardinals, Dartfish, clowns, goby/blenny?
<Sounds good.>
My setup/stocking plans are rather long term as well. If all goes according to plan, I'd be looking at 9-10 months minimum from initial start up to cycle and get a maintenance schedule setup. Then I'll start with the BTA if I get one, or the corals first if no anemone, then start adding fish slowly after a few months or the next summer unless I can get from LFS.
<Let your tank age at least three months before adding corals. >
Shipping livestock to Wyoming in the middle of winter seems crazy even to me - so plenty of time between livestock additions as we wait for winter to pass
<Good idea >.
Planning for 40-45 lbs live rock setup in little patch islands in the tank instead of one wall-o-rock. Extra rock in the fuge with Chaeto in the sump.
Probably go with a shallower sandbed of about two inches or so.
Sorry this has ended up so long - didn't mean to ramble on so much. One more thing before I forget though, just to make sure my crazy idea sounds ok.
I'm wanting to avoid powerheads in the main display - but I also don't want too many different pumps running. So I planned for a return loop in the style (sort of) of a closed loop - run off a Mag12 pump (or something similar/better? Pump choice still confuses me) placed in the sump. Going with a Glass-Holes overflow with 2 - 1.5" drains rated at 1500gph total - will this all be too much or not enough?
<A good flow rate for your system would be around 400-500 gph.>
Fuge will be fed either from the return line, or a second smaller pump in the sump. I want as little equipment in the main tank as I can possibly get away with. Just worried that my return loop won't give the tank enough flow with how I've designed it.
<I'd consider adding a Sea Swirl to your return line. Will give you flow to all areas of the tank and minimize flow related equipment in the tank.
See here.
Link to the image I attached in case it doesn't come through with the email.
Just a quick planning model I threw together.
<Nice to have a geek in the house, isn't it. Well done. I'm guessing it would take me a week of Sundays to accomplish that.>
Doesn't have all the plumbing done yet since I changed a few things, but enough to show the general idea.
Green box is my skimmer placeholder (wasn't going to model everything down to the smallest detail). There will also be a 20gal QT with a sponge filter
I can keep in the sump and just bring out when needed.
I had better stop before I end up with some multi-page essay here.
<Yes, my fingers are stiffening up:-)>
Sure I'll be back when I actually get to set this all up. More reading and research for me over the coming years though. May have to write up a guide on how to survive long term tank planning!
<All part of the hobby, enjoy.>
Thank you all so much!
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Re Patch Reef Planning/Stocking/Marine Set-Up 2/8/10
Thank you James!
<You're welcome, and in future queries, always respond to the original thread so I can refresh my mind. I can be difficult to remember every queriors content.>
I have people telling me I'm too young to forget as much as I do, must be too much time spent zoning out in front of the computer (haha). Sorry for all my typos, I didn't double check as good as I thought with my slightly funky keyboard here. I press a letter but it doesn't always want to cooperate and my brain reads it and says it's okay. Doh!
<Is best to type out your query as a Word document where a spelling and grammar check
can be done. Then copy/paste to the email and send.>
Gives me some more thought on stocking - either an Orange Skunk/Anemone setup, or a polyp garden with Pink Skunks and other fish. As I said I'm more than happy to cut down on what fish and how many knowing a 40gal breeder doesn't leave one with a lot of room. Will need to see what all fish I can get in through my LFS (only have one, and it's a chain store). They have a pair of Orange Skunks in right now that I go drool over about once a week.
Poor little guys aren't selling, probably due to "Nemo" popularity (and not the James Mason Nemo unfortunately). A macro algae/anemone tank might look interesting, but then there were all those Zoanthids calling out to me (that list was harder to cull than my fish list).
Thanks be to the fish gods I have some time to think about things still.
My husband already thinks I'm crazy, what's a few more years muttering about fish and corals? Pretty sure though that I'm going to be cut off at one tank, only reason I'm so back and forth on stocking right now. Could very easily see myself with an office full of reef tanks eating Ramen for the rest of my life.
<Alternating/supplementing with Spam will create a much better culinary experience for you.>
If I do go the anemone route, what other families of fish should I research for another possible addition? Would this be an okay tank for one of the blennies? Or just stick to my clown pair and call it good with a few other inverts (shrimp, hermits, snails)?
<No blennies, but if I were determined to have a couple of other fish in an anemone/clown system, I'd likely go with the Yellowtail Damsel (Chrysiptera parasema)
Is one of the better mannered damselfish and will add some color to your tank. I would introduce the clownfish first in this scenario.>
I am planning to make sure my pod population is good and stable before introducing any fish to help supplement feedings since I'm at work all day.
<A good idea.>
Of course, this is probably one of those things that looks good on paper and who knows what will happen when I get my system up and running.
<Your refugium plan should provide a good stock of pods. Several etailers do sell pod cultures and is a good way to initially stock the refugium.>
On the Sea Swirls - would two placed at opposite sides of the tank be enough? Or do you think just one with a few other stationary outlets on my return loop work fine? Plumbing/flow is the one area I still confuse myself on a great deal. I know it's relatively simple, but I start getting into all the numbers, rates and such, and my brain just runs off to the hills.
<I believe one Sea Swirl would do the trick in your tank coupled to a MagDrive 950.
There will be a flow drop using the Sea Swirl and with this in mind, a Mag 950 should give you a good flow rate for your 40 gallon breeder.>
3D modeling is one of my other hobbies.
<Ah, so you are responsible for the graphics and not hubby.>
I've tried to sketch out diagrams on paper, but modeling is just easier for me - not to mention you can look at it from any angle quick and easy. Have been thinking about doing up various aquarium models and props to help people plan out systems as there is free downloadable software for rendering/viewing. If I ever get that up and running (one of those too many projects, not enough time things) I'll be sure to let you all know.
<Yes please, and a link to this software may also be useful to our readers.>
Kept it shorter this time, since I gave you a bit of a workout with the last
email. I tend to ramble on occasion when my brain fills up.
<Detailed queries are generally more helpful in providing better answers/suggestions.>
Thank you again,
<You're welcome, and allow me to provide you with an index to our marine articles/FAQ's. I
believe it will aid you in searching.
James (Salty Dog)>

Stocking, set-up questions sans searching... reef -- 01/30/10
Hi again,
Well previously I asked you about the lighting on my hexagon tank. I have decided to start over. I am getting a 90 gallon tank. I want to have fish with some soft corals. I have live rock, sand, tang, Ocellaris, clown goby, two crabs, banded shrimp, and a serpent starfish in my hexagon now.
I want to start out with mushrooms, finger leather, polyps, and love the rose bubble tip anemone.
<... please read re all these species... and a workable approach at their mixing. Here:
and the linked files above>
. I have read that maybe the anemone shouldn't be in there with other stinging mushrooms.
Since I am spending around 3000$ I want to get the best light and set up.
<Invest your time in study ahead>
I like my LFS? ( is this right for local fish store) but they recommend I get the wave point light, total of 216 watts, 2:54watt actinics and 2:54 10000K.
What do you recommend for a new set up...
<That you read>
I would like to have the capability to do more than the starter corals once I get comfortable. It seems once I got the fish, then I wanted live rock and sand and invertebrates, and now I want soft corals...etc... I know with the 90 gallon you should have 270-450 watts. I also know that the corals can go higher up in the tank and some can go lower according to what they need..
But I also know that if I'm doing this I want to do it right and not be disappointed that I didn't know more and buy a different light., protein skimmer, refugium..Please help and recommend what you would do.. Thank you so very much.
<Please learn to/use the search tool and indices on WWM. You can get input
on how to use our resources where you found how to write us. Bob Fenner>

Bio-load and wrasse compatibility 1/11/10
Hello WWM crew!
I have been keeping freshwater aquariums for 10 years. Most recently I've had a 180 gallon planted community tank that I had to take down when I moved and a 50 gallon planted discus tank that remains one of the highlights of my day.
Last year, my partner and I purchased property to build what I can only describe as the house of our dreams and since a salt water aquarium has always been something I dreamed about, I couldn't resist including a fully built in, two sided, wall mounted tank as a focal feature of the main floor to the plans.
If construction stays on schedule we should be in in 9 months. However, I didn't want something that elaborate and expensive to be my first marine aquarium and began collecting the parts to construct a 'practice' tank in the mean time. I've read more than a few books and have logged more hours than I can count researching the hobby online. I regularly use your site as an awesome resource but I'm hoping I can get some specific advice on my current set up.
<Will offer what I can>
Here's the set up:
- 90 gallon main tank
- 750 watts of lighting (2x 250watt metal halide, 250 watts actinic, LED moonlight)
<Mmm, will likely have to run a chiller to keep water temperature constant, reasonable>
- 25 gallon refugium with live sand and 15 pounds of macro algae covered live rock, fed by drilled in overflow
- Coralife 220 superskimmer (finicky and prone to over flow, but effective if attention is paid) hanging on refugium
- Fluval Fx5 on it's own water circuit (not connected to refugium) - some people think canisters are evil I know, this one came from my 180 and it's always worked beautifully for me. Depending on how nitrates track I will probably use something else on the big tank - it's filled with mechanical, bio and phosphate absorbing media
<A fine component here>
- 80 pounds of live rock in the display
- 2.5 inches of aragonite fine grain sand in main display, inoculated with live sand
<I might add an inch or so>
- 600gph after head loss return pump on refugium, about 800 gph flow rate from Fluval
- 2 Vortech MP10s set opposite each other on reef crest mode ( very random, ever changing flow patterns in the tank)
- The tank is grounded with a titanium probe just to be safe
<Mmm, do read on WWM re... these "grounds" are almost always unnecessary... some induce current themselves...>
I don't have an RO system yet so the tank is filled with treated tap water.
Thankfully I live in Calgary, Canada so our drinking water travels about 150km between the glacier it melts off of and my faucet, is naturally very clean and has an outrageously high natural calcium level. There will be an RO system in the next tank.
tank was cycled first with dead sand and cocktail shrimp (a smell I hope to never experience again ever), then cured live rock and live sand was added.
specific gravity: 1.025
NH3+/NH4: 0
NO2: 0
NO3: around 5ppm
Calcium: 540 - 550 ppm (if I'm reading the test right)
<Mmm, magnesium concentration? You want/need this to be about three times [Ca]... I would mix in some RO water to lower the latter>
pH: 8.2
alkalinity: 11.7
phosphate: undetectable on my test
Corals: Still pretty sparse.
The tank is anchored on either side by a branching frog spawn and a gorgeous Australian elegance coral. 3 kinds of Zoanthid frags, 1 stag horn leather, one mushroom leather, 1 Acropora frag (unknown sp.) and one shelf form SPS that I'm still trying to get an ID on. it's green and glows under LED light. I plan on adding more corals very slowly so I can track calcium level changes.
<I would add all that you intend to soon... to reduce allelopathy. We can talk about this later if you'd like>
The tank finished cycling 4 months ago.
in order of addition I have:
1 neon Dottyback
2 cinnamon clowns (a male/female pair I believe)
1 female lineatus wrasse
1 yellow spotted sand sifting goby (though I haven't seen it since it went in)
1 cleaner wrasse
<Labroides? Not likely to live long>
1 medium sized sohal tang (6.5-7 inches).
<This last will likely get too big, perhaps mean here>
The tank isn't big enough for an adult sohal tang, so I only purchased it knowing that it will have a 240 gallon aquarium to move to as it grows.
The cleaner wrasse is the first time I didn't extensively research a fish on my own before purchase, taking only the LFS attendants word - and as a result my first major error (I hope). Since the damage is done and it comes down to whether it starves here or somewhere else, I'm going to keep it. I've been taking care to chop Mysis shrimp and krill pieces extra small for it and so far it's been eating ravenously twice a day, so we shall see how it goes. I won't buy another one.
I also have about 30 blue legged hermit crabs (which the Dottyback has developed an unfortunate taste for), about 25 various sand sifting and algae grazing snails and two peppermint shrimp. I get a few more custodians each time I go to the store. I would very much like to add one more wrasse, though I'm afraid with the big, dirty tang in there I might be approaching my bio load/space limit.
<Look to Labrid/wrasse species found in the same geographic range... Red Sea into the Gulf of Aden>
I'm hoping to acquire another lineatus wrasse, either a male, or another female if mine changes sex (which apparently they can do when kept alone)
before I track one down. I've been able to find lots of info on wrasse compatibility between other species of wrasse and with other fish, but I don't know if conspecifics of different sex will be an acceptable combination in this tank, or if that is too many fish for this tank.
<You have good odds that another medium sized species will go fine here>
I am ok with waiting till they have a bigger home, but lineatus wrasses are so uncommon and are sold so quickly I would be inclined to jump on the right one if it becomes available. I was initially concerned about the lineatus being to peaceful for such an active and typically aggressive tang, but in the 2 weeks since he came out of quarantine the only aggression I've seen from him has been to his own reflection. He was also at the LFS for 6 months before that with many less aggressive tank mates with no problems - I know because I have been admiring him for months. I certainly won't be adding another tang to a tank he's in however.
Any input you have would be greatly appreciated!
<Read on my friend. Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Stocking/Setup/Am I Doing This Right?/Help With Coral -- 01/03/10
Dear WWM,
<<Hello Heather>>
Thank you in advance for your help/advice/2 cents etc.
<<Is my pleasure to assist>>
I've read so much information and misinformation at this point I don't know what is right and my eyes are starting to cross from the glare of the computer screen, but I seem to find a lot of good advice on your site.
<<Mmm, indeed'¦though even among the crew there are many differences of opinion. It is up to you weigh the answers and to use your own good judgment to come to a decision>>
I'm hoping someone might be able to answer some questions for me.
<<I'm happy to try'¦>>
My Setup-
I have a 55g reef. The tank is a SeaClear System 2 with built-in filtration. Right now it's running with the SeaClear protein skimmer (crap, but better than nothing) that I am replacing in the next couple of days with a CPR Bak Pak 2.
<<Hmm, a likely improvement'¦but for only a bit more money, I would recommend you have a look at the AquaC Remora>>
I have mesh bags of Purigen and carbon for chemical filtration. I am running 2 Koralia1's, 1 Koralia Nano and an Aquabal with a rotating Koralia 'wavemaker' attached.
<<Very good>>
The Koralias are aimed at the sides and front respectively and the 'wavemaker' diagonally across the length. My light is a 24' CF with 1 65w 12000k and 1 65w Actinic (It's shorter than the tank because I upgraded from a 30g, but I keep it to one side and the low light corals to the other and it seems to work for them.).
<<Mmm'¦I would consider this as 'low' lighting for this tank'¦period. If you plan to keep more than some Corallimorphs, Zoanthids, or azooxanthellate species I suggest adding 'at least' another Daylight bulb to this mix>>
There is approx. 50lbs of live Fiji rock in the main tank and about 3lbs in the compartment that was designated for the bioballs. I plan on adjusting some things back there so I can have a slow-flow-thru fuge section that will have Chaeto and hopefully lots of copepods. Oh yeah, and there is 50lbs of live sand. Taking into account the dimensions of the tank 36x15x20 and subtracting for acrylic thickness, displacement from rock and sand, and the fact that the tank is narrower in the middle to allow for the built in filtration compartments, I calculated that I'm only working with roughly 30-32 gallons in the main display and 5-6 in the back filter area.
<<Likely so, yes>>
I know there are inches of fish rules
<<Useless, in my opinion'¦ Each fish/fish species must be evaluated against the system/setup>>
but there are 3' long skinny fish and 3' wide fish.
<<And there are some 3' fishes that would do fine in this tank (e.g. - Some Cardinalfishes)'¦and some 3' fishes that would not (e.g. - Dwarf Angels).
They have widely diverse feeding habits and it's all making my head spin.
<<Ah but careful research on your part is key'¦do read here and among the associated links in blue: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/reeflvst.htm >>
I would like to know if my tank could comfortably accommodate a Blue Spot Jawfish or a Coral Beauty or both'¦?
<<A Blue Spot is possible in this size system given suitable tankmates and environmental conditions (e.g. -- a suitable substrate for digging)'¦please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/jawfishe.htm . The tank is a bit too small for the Coral Beauty in my opinion>>
The fish I already have get along great. They've turned this one pile of rock into fish condos and they each have their own 'apartment'. With the exception of the Mandarin who cruises all over the tank feeding, they don't really seem to like to go to the darker side of the tank. Is that odd?
<<Not at all'¦unless a generally nocturnal species, they will tend to gravitate to the brighter side of the tank>>
The current residents are as follows:
2 Ocellaris Clowns (Elizabeth & Mr. Darcy) 3' & 2.5'
1 Firefish Goby (Roxie) 3'
1 Lawnmower Blenny (Teddy) 4.5'
1 Mandarin Dragonet (Matilda) currently 1.5'
1 Skunk Cleaner Shrimp
1 Emerald Mithrax Crab
<<This crab may prove troublesome to your smaller fishes as it gets large/larger>>
2 Scarlet reef Hermits
4 Blue leg Hermits
1 Electric Blue Hermit
1 Sand Sifting Star
<<Aside from the tank being too small already for this animal, these Echinoderms are extremely efficient at removing 'all' the beneficial biota from your sand bed>>
7 Nassarius Snails (4 are .5' babies)
4 Astrea Snails
4 Margarita Snails
1 Branching Hammer with 10 heads
1 Chili Coral
1 Sun Coral cluster
1 Dendrophyllia with 5 various sized heads
1 Rhizotrochus
2 Scleronepthea
1 small field of Daisy Polyps
<<Wow'¦a low-light and/or azooxanthellate mix for sure'¦I do hope you are direct-feeding>>
My next question is concerning my Branching Hammer (which I've had for about 6 months). Over the past two weeks I noticed the polyps on 2 of the heads receding so that the mouth in the center was visible. Prior to this I didn't even realize it had one because it was always so full you could barely see the branches. I searched the web high and low to figure out what was going on and read that they need supplemental feeding and can't rely on zooxanthellae alone.
<<Mmm, yes'¦though most do well with only incidental/light feeding given adequate lighting, in my experience'¦but can be fed small/diced bits of meaty foods>>
I did not know this so I figured it to be the problem.
<<Maybe'¦or possibly environmental (e.g. -- water quality, pestered by fishes, etc.)>>
I squirted some Mysis and Cyclops on them and all of the heads shriveled. They haven't opened back up since (this was 3 days ago). They've been ejecting brown stringy stuff from their mouths. I haven't introduced anything new to the tank in at least 3 months. The light bulbs are 5 months old and the coral heads are between 6 and 8 inches from them. I have no idea how to proceed. Any advice?
<<Hmm...hard to say, but this could be the expelling of zooxanthellae'¦and not a good sign if so. Naught to do but wait for the moment and see how this coral responds'¦but do check and correct your water params as/if needed>>
Lastly, my pH is at a steady 7.8 and I can't seem to get it to raise up.
<<Have you tested your saltwater mix? Perhaps buffering is needed (I recommend Seachem products for this)>>
My other test results are as follows and hold pretty steady. How do I get the pH up and the KH down a bit? I do a weekly 5g water change.
KH - 15 = 268.5ppm
<<Hmm'¦perhaps you need to 'test' the test kit>>
Calcium - 440
Phosphate - 0 to trace
Nitrate - 10-20
<<This 'may' be what is troubling your Hammer Coral after 6-months. I would strive to keep this below 10ppm>>
Nitrite - 0
Ammonia -- 0
<<Do test the parameters of your freshly mixed saltwater batches (aerate for 24hrs or more first to allow all chemical reactions and gas exchange time to stabilize/complete'¦you should also be doing this before each water change). And with the corals you have and the resultant heavy feeding required I suggest you increase the water change volume to 20g, but done every other week. Give this a try and then check your water parameters for any change/improvement and make adjustments as necessary>>
Thank you so much for your time and expertise! I know this was a long one.
<<No worries Heather'¦happy to share>>
Heather in CA
<<Cheers'¦ EricR in (chilly!) SC>>

450 reef display, set up, stkg. 11/17/09
Greetings WWM Crew,
<Hey Jim! JustinN here!>
I'm setting up a 450 gallon reef display (6' x 4' x 32") and had a few questions:
<Quite the display! Lets see what we can help with..>
Do you think a 100 gallon sump is large enough ? It is actually a Eco-System brand but, I wasn't intending of using Miracle Mud. Unless you recommend otherwise ? I was thinking of using a extra 40 gallon tank as a gravity fed refugium. Do you think a 4-8" deep sand bed will be enough to denitrify the 450 display ? or should I get a larger tank for the refugium ?
<100 Gallon sump + 40 gallon refugium sounds about right -- am I to assume that you are going to be utilizing both refugiums for their algal scrubbing abilities? I would forego the Miracle Mud as well -- oolitic grade sand is cheaper, and does just as well (if not better) for denitrifying purposes in a DSB.>
For circulation, I was thinking of going with 4 Vortechs on the back wall and Tunze wave box and streams in the rock work.
<Seems somewhat excessive -- have you looked into closed loop configurations? This may achieve your desired goals with less investment/power usage/over-time maintenance:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/pbh2oret.htm Otherwise, this configuration would work, just seems like a lot of work to repair in the case of need..>
I will most likely be using 2 Reeflo dart golds for the returns going into two separate manifolds w/penductor outlets. The goals is 30-50x turnover.
<Mmm, I would aim for a lower turnover through the sump and refugium tanks -- the longer the water contact here, the more filtration that will occur.
Closed loop configurations benefit this by allowing the flow you're seeking, while still allowing a slower draw through the sump.>
The rock layout will be similar to Steve Weast's tank in Ultimate Marine Aquariums (2 separate islands with caves, overhangs, & a canyon down the middle). I will be using roughly 400# of Key Largo rock from Marcos Rock. It will be a primarily sps and a few LPSs to give some "motion" in the tank.
<Sounds nice.>
I want to go the Steven Pro route and go fishless for 6 months. I want to give the refugium a chance to build up the pods, mysis shrimp, etc. population.
<A good plan, always wise.>
I'm also a fish guy and would love to have a good mix of fish. A school of various anthias is on the desire list(any recommendations ?).
<Any of the commonly available anthias would do just fine in this setting -- get a good sized harem would be my suggestion (5 or more total specimen)>
I also would like various wrasses (mystery, solar, Scott's, etc.) and tangs (chevron, purple, Kole, etc.). I don't want any large fish with maybe the exception of blue cheek angel and blue throat trigger (I know they aren't always reef safe).
<At least in the case of the Blue Throat, they are some of the more timid/acceptable in a reef setting.>
Could I mix various pygmy angels together (flame, potter's, & my favorite Japanese) ?
<Mmm -- yes and no -- the Centropyge angels will likely 'mix' (in that they'll co-habitate -- in a setting this big, they'd likely never/rarely come in contact with each other) -- the 'no' portion comes from the Centropyge interruptus -- this fish is exceedingly rare, historically fares very poorly in aquaria, and is actually of a colder water species than most our reef specimen we keep... Won't comfortably live in a reef temperature tank for long. Reef Culture Technologies has managed to succeed in breeding of many Centropyge angels, one of which is the interruptus -- as time goes on, the possibilities of adding this stunning fish to your tank will increase, but as of now, its not a high likelihood, unfortunately.>
Any advice you could impart would be appreciated,
<Glad to help! -JustinN>

New Tank Set Up, reef -- 11/17/2009
Hello Crew!
<Hey Steve! JustinN here!>
Thanks for having such a wonderful site!
<We're glad to provide.>
I have a couple of questions/concerns on the new tank I just set up this past weekend. I had a DAS 75 gallon tank w/ the old H39 filter that had the air stone skimmer and spools. I have since transferred all the contents of that tank to a new 90 gallon aquarium.
Here's a list of all that was moved. 60lbs of live sand, 100lbs of live rock, Finger Leather, 2 open Brains, Mushroom rock, Red Flowerpot Coral (has spread 1-1/2" in 4 months!)
<Mmm, is not typical of Goniopora sp. -- usually don't fare well in aquaria.. Do keep an eye.>
Zoanthid rock, Xenia, Clove Polyps, Green Star Polyps, Frogspawn, 3" Yellow Tang, 3" Blue Throat Trigger, 2" Tomato Clown, 3 - 1" Green Chromis, 3" Bicolor Blenny, Long Tentacle Anemone, Cleaner Shrimp, and misc. snails and crabs.
<Sounds nice>
My new set up is a 90 gallon (48x18x24) aquarium w/ dual overflows, Current 6x54 watt T5 light, 20 gallon tank underneath that houses a DAS BX-2 skimmer, and a Mag Drive 7 return pump (very very loud, suggestions on new return pump will be appreciated).
<Perhaps the problem isn't the pump itself -- many have used items such as spare computer mouse pads or other such inert rubber materials to 'pad' the underside of the pump -- largely silences the vibration action. I am somewhat partial to Eheim pumps myself.>
My question is, is this enough filtration for my tank?
<Sounds about right -- perhaps adding a refugium area to your sump, if you have the space -- just a light and a ball of Chaetomorpha algae.>
There's nothing but live rock in the main tank and a huge skimmer underneath. I do a 15 gallon water change every week and all of my levels are great (0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 5ppm nitrate). I just want to make sure this tank wont crash on me in a few weeks.
<I see no reason why it would.>
I would also like to add some SPS in the future and wanted to know if the light and filtration I have will support them.
<Lighting MAY be a bit inadequate for some of the more advanced SPS species -- as much great light as T5's put out, they definitely don't have the same overall intensity as Halides. Perhaps a single Halide pendant, down the line, used in addition to your T5 lighting, could round out your lighting needs (and provide a central spot for your SPS colonies to grow).>
Thanks in advance for your help! You guys are the best of the best!

Small Marine Aquariums
Book 2: Invertebrates, Algae
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by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Small Marine Aquariums
ook 2: Fishes
New Print and eBook on Amazon: by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Small Marine Aquariums Book 3: Systems
New Print and eBook on Amazon:
by Robert (Bob) Fenner
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