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FAQs on Marine Filtration Design

Related Articles: Marine FiltrationMarine Aquarium Filtration, by Adam Cesnales, Central Filtration Systems,

Related FAQs: Marine Filtration 1, Marine Filtration 2Marine Filtration 3Marine Filtration 4, Marine Filtration 5, Marine Filtration 6Marine Filtration 7, Marine Filtration 8, Marine Filtration 9, Marine Filtration 10, Marine Filtration 11, Marine Filtration 12, & FAQs on Marine Filtration: Installation, Maintenance, Troubleshooting/Repair, Brands/Manufacturers, DIY, & By Type of  System: FO System Filtration, FOWLR Set-Ups, Reef Tank Setups, Reef Filtration, Small Tank Setups, Large System Filtration/Circulation/Aeration, & By Aspect and Gear: Biol.: Biological Filtration, Denitrification/Denitrifiers, Fluidized Beds, DSBs, Plenums, Algal Filtration, Mech.: Marine Mechanical Filtration, Power Filters, Outside Power Filters, Canister, Cartridge Filters, Undergravel FiltersWet-Dry Filters, Phys.: Ultraviolet Sterilizers,   Ozone, To Skim or Not to SkimBest Skimmer FAQs, Chem.: Nutrient Control and Export Chemical Filtrants (e.g. Polyfilter, Chemipure, Purigen), Carbon, Mud/Algal Filtration Phony: Magnetic Field Filtration, & Troubles: Bubbles, Noise,

Dear Bob,
I am a strict marine beginner so go easy on me!
There seems to be so much information around in various books, forums and magazines regarding setting up a marine tank. I am struggling to see what will be the best kind of setup for me to start with. I don't really want to buy an all in one system as they are too pricey for me (I am looking to spend about £400 on the setup initially) but I just do not know what filtration setup will be best for me. I have read about Canister filters, miracle mud, and the 'Berlin' method I think it's called among others. I do not want to keep any fish or corals that I do not think I could care for properly; in your opinion is there a suitable method, which is both cheap and easy to maintain that you would recommend for a beginner?
I understand that it is a commitment and I am ready to carry out routine maintenance and water changes, but I do not want to spend loads of money on equipment that I might not even really need. I would like to keep a few clownfish a blennie and some corals but nothing too difficult!
Thank you
Gemma Baxter 

Hello Gemma, and welcome to the ever-inspiring hobby of marine life keeping!  Now, before I forget, I must make the obligatory statement that there is no one 'best' filter/filtration method for any given type of saltwater display. Of principal approaches all have something better going for them. Often there are trade-offs in initial cost and ongoing maintenance, to the need for added testing, adjustment, and 'larger margins of error'. However'¦ given what you've stated here in the way of desired livestock, and excluding more difficult groups (at least presently) from your stocklist'¦ there is a standard arrangement I advise:
The use of a sump/refugium in addition to your main display, where you can place your skimmer if you'd like (as opposed to a hang-on model), and derive all the benefits of a deep sand bed, macro-algal culture, and much more. This 'other tank' can be situated under, above, or next to your main display, with plumbing connecting the two. This type of filtration grants one the most stable water conditions, and is not difficult (once up and going!) to manage. If you find yourself as most folks do, wanting to delve into corals and more, this 'stock filtration set-up' will find you in good stead for modification to accommodate such.
I would like to state that there are several good 'all in one' systems available these days'¦ so, do consider these further when shopping. Gathering, putting together a system from individual components can prove considerably more expensive. Cheers, BobF.

Filtration question... no rdg... using WWM... SW choices  02/13/13
Good morning
Since you probably answered this question a 1000 times already I will make it short.
150 gallon

80lbs of base rock
25lbs of live rock
reef dynamics 180 skimmer
live stock:
Picasso trigger
dog face puffer
yellow tang
emperor angel
What filtration set-up is best wet/dry or refugium?

<See WWM re wet-dries... gone over and over: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_3/cav3i6/trickle_filters.htm
and the linked files at the bottom.
And refugiums are worthwhile for most marine systems, though not alone in such a system as yours, considering the type, size of fishes stocked. Bob Fenner> 

Overflows, Sumps and Pumps (Oh My!) – 08/16/12
Hello Wet Web,
<<Greetings Brenda>>
I've read a lot of your info since March of 2011.
<<Excellent…do keep reading!>>
You have helped me a lot and that is an understatement!
<<Ah! Is redeeming to know>>
I have a 55 gallon tall tank, 30’’ long, 24’’ high, and 18'' wide.
<<Ah yes…the ubiquitous 55>>
The glass is tempered, so no drilling.
I'm thinking of putting an overflow on the tank. The tank has some corals, a few sps, lps and Zoas and mushrooms, plus a couple of fish. I want to get a CPR overflow, but don't know which one. I would like to get the one with 2-1.5’’ holes, I think it is a 1500gph, but am afraid it might be too big for a 55 gallon.
<<Is more than you “need” in my opinion. Going with a smaller setup (2-1” or 1-1.5”), and even then sizing/regulating your return pump to provide flow equal to half the return’s capacity for redundancy/safety, will be enough circulation yet a whole lot less headache re noise/bubbles/plumbing issues et al>>
I also need to know what size sump
<<As big as you can fit…for many of the reasons just listed. But for sure nothing “less” than 15 gallons>>
and what size pump?
<<For the size overflow I have recommended, something that will give about 300gph with whatever head-loss your system will provide>>
As you can see I'm a little afraid of an overflow onto the floor with all the water and I don't have the extra money for costly mistakes I'm going to make.
<<Understood…but many benefits to be gained by adding a sump. Though there are those (some here) who would say they would do without rather than rely on a siphon-style overflow>>
Believe you me, I have made a few even with all the info I've read here and other places!
<<Mmm, me too…even after many years in the hobby>>
Also if I don't go for the overflow which I really want, how many power heads should I put in there and where is the best places to put them.
<<Enough sized to provide flow at some 500+ gph…and positioned near the top to provide a “GYRE” type flow pattern>>
So what do you say guys, can you help a lady out?
<<Hope I have… Do research WWM re the terms I have used (gyre, head loss, etc.), along with sump plumbing and design, and then come back with more questions if you wish>>
Thank you.
<<Happy to share>>
I know you gentlemen
<<Ladies here too!>>
are very busy.
<<We’re here to help…>>

Turf Scrubber vs. Refugium in Fish Only Tank   10/14/11
Hello Wet Web Media Crew,
<Howdy Tien>
I am buying a 200 gallon corner tank and will most likely keep it a saltwater fish only tank. It has wet/dry sump that I am considering adding a 2 chamber refugium to. One chamber for a deep sand bed and the other for live rock and algae.
However I have also considered using a turf or algae scrubber.
<These can work... though are more work/maintenance... and often result in water colour issues>
My goal is nitrate removal for healthier fish. I know refugiums provide food/microorganisms for corals but that wont concern me with a fish only tank. Which do you feel would be better for nitrate removal in this
<The DSB and/or refugium are superior.>
Thank you,
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: Turf Scrubber vs. Refugium in Fish Only Tank
Thank you for the reply!
I plan on keeping Lions, an eel, and a puffer, none of which eat copepods that I am aware of. Will I have a copepod problem in my tank if I use a refugium and large fish that wont eat them?
<No problem. BobF>

SW UG Filter question, 2/18/10
Hi, Folks.
I see that you are continuing the excellent job of helping people.
I am planning a 90 gallon marine aquarium. Lots of thinking and reading to do, and the WWM site has been a tremendous help, as has a good re-reading of "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist".
One question to which I do not seem to be able to answer, though, is whether it makes sense to include an undergravel filter in the system. I am planning to have the following in the system:
- overflow box to feed a sump
- sump with AquaC protein skimmer
- large canister filter
- 90 or so lbs. of live rock to initially cycle the system
- 20 or so lbs of live sand mixed with the normal stuff (~4" total) to initially cycle the tank.
<Sounds nice.>
I still need to figure out what else I need in the sump, but those are, I believe, the basics.
I still have a lot of reading to do on the WWM FAQ pages.
Is an undergravel filter redundant or a good idea in this setup?
<I would consider it unnecessary and a bit problematic since it will trap detritus is a difficult to clean place, I would skip it.>
This will start as a FO system and progress through FO with invertebrates and eventually a live reef system (but that will take a year or two, I suspect).
<Good luck with the new tank.>

Filter Feeding Animals As Filters (SW) -- 07/08/09
<<Greetings Forrest>>
As I am getting ready to move (buying my first house) I am in the planning stages of a new Reef tank (intention of housing both fish and inverts).
<<Ah! Some exciting times ahead'¦do take your time>>
I am interested in setting up a system that allows for the maximum amount of nitrogen to be actually utilized. That is in a sense to reduce the amount of "food" that is being wasted in the form of skimmate, chemical adsorption and/or water changes.
<<I see'¦ This is a worthy endeavor, but being able to support in our small captive systems the bio-diversity needed for such filtration exclusions as you describe is problematical'¦even not practical. You can indeed employ 'animal' filters'¦but there will still be a need for ancillary filtration devices>>
So far the majority of information along this line is regarding export to plants or algae.
An idea I am wholly behind, though I am also interested in the idea of a display refugium (I do not have my copy of The Conscientious Marine Aquarist [CMA] in front of me but I seem to remember seeing an interesting refugium belonging to Julian Sprung as being mentioned, though this may have been in another of my references).
<<Ah yes'¦refugiums are interesting to observe in their own right>>
The only other mentions have been in Calfo (Coral Propagation) where he discusses the use of aiptasia as a filtering element, and one article I read in Coral discussing the use of sponges as filters.
<<And both are worthy of investigating'¦as are 'Xeniid' filters. I have also heard of the use of Tridacnid Clams for filtration purposes. Any 'absorption' feeding organism that can be employed in a large enough quantity could work'¦the problem is'¦how much do you need?>>
Calfo discusses a raceway of Aiptasia. I was curious if some other animal, perhaps zoanthids or something else similar would be effective (allowing for appropriate lighting of course).
<<Maybe so'¦but I'm skeptical as to their 'practicality' for this purpose (back to the 'how much do you need' thing)>>
Or perhaps Xenia, which I have to assume, has a healthy nutrient appetite given its growth rate.
<<A better choice I think>>
Along with this system I would plan on a remote deep sand bed, as well as a skimmer.
Which leads to the question of plumbing. What should be in series? What parallel? Etc.
<<I would plumb in series'¦with the animal filters before the refugium (don't want to waste the cultured beneficial plankton and epiphytic matter in the filters), and the refugium draining either in to the display (as in an overhead installation), or in to the pump chamber of the sump>>
I am happy to do my own research on this topic but am not entirely sure where/how to look.
<<Hmm'¦see what you can find in the marine plumbing and refugium sections>>
I would also be more than happy to report on my findings both from research and eventually from the actual installation and the techniques I used.
<<Please do!>>
Thank you again for your time, knowledge and patience.
<<Happy to share Forrest. Keep me posted, and I'm also happy to discuss matters as you progress. Cheers, Eric Russell>>

Upgrading Filtration 12/10/08 Hi, <Tina.> I have a question about maybe upgrading a canister filter. I have a 90g euro braced acrylic tank. Here is what I have. 175 lbs live rock, 60 lbs live sand, Aqua C remora protein skimmer, magnum 350, Rena xp3 canister, Hydor Koralia 3. Here is my problem/question. Here is the situation. Started tank with live rock & sand almost 2 years ago. Happily added fish & LPS corals over a year. Nitrates went up to 20, did water changes, talked to www crew, too many fish, took out 1/2 of them, nitrates now at 20 after 20g water change down to 10 over a week back up to 20. Fish load: 1 jaw fish, 1 flame angel, 3 green chromis, 1 6 line wrasse, 1 anthis,1 tomato clown, 1 Pseudochromis. other stuff LPS, 1 clam, 1 anemone, 2 shrimp, snails, tiny starfish. November had a problem with hair algae & dying off of a clam, some fish, and most of my snails, again www crew solved the problem. (you guys are sooooo smart.) Anyway today my Rena stopped working after only having it a year. I don't know if I should fix it (have a call in to Mars to see if they know what's wrong there) or upgrade. I know canisters can cause nitrates but I clean it weekly & have only the sponges & white filter in there, I also clean the tubes etc every 6 months. Do you think it is causing the high nitrates or still too many fish? <Your bioload sounds fine from a filtration standpoint. The canister filter is really not doing anything for you at this point, your skimmer and live rock can handle the job.> I started off with the LPS corals but am selling them off because I want sps corals, but I know there is no point until I get rid of the rest of the algae & get the nitrates down to 0. <Not zero, but low and under control.> All my tests except the nitrates are where they should be. Also do I have any time to spare? Without the Rena running (completely took it out, don't want stuff building in the filter or tubes) is my tank a ticking time bomb? <No, but do be sure to supplement the flow the canister was providing.> Should I run down to Petco & buy a canister or do I have some time to order something better? I have thought about either another canister (maybe Eheim), a wet/dry, a sump with live rock, or a refugium. <One of the latter two, or both! If you do go with a sump, consider drilling the tank rather than using a hang on the back overflow. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ovrflowboxfaq4.htm> To be honest I really thought that the 175 lbs of live rock & 60 lbs of sand was supposed to be my filter but the nitrates suggest otherwise, unless the Rena is the problem (I do 20 g water change weekly). So better filter? <Yes, in a sump/refugium form.> Maybe more live rock & sand & adding more Hydors for circulation & no canister? <Bingo.> Give it up totally and admit I don't know what the heck I am doing? <Don't give up, keep reading and learning.> Any help you can give will be much appreciated. Ya'll are fantastic! <Thank you.> Thanks in advance Tina <Welcome, Scott V.>

Re: Upgrading Filtration, esp. canister f'  12/10/08 Hi, Scott thanks for your quick response to my letter about the Rena filter & upgrading. <Hello Tina, you're welcome.> Turns out the Rena xp3 just needed a impeller. <Not uncommon.> But now you have me thinking instead of investing in a sump can I just take the baskets/media out of the Rena & fill it with small pieces of live rock? Big enough of course not to obstruct the flow. <You could do this. Once you go sump you will never go back!> I don't know if you have to have a open sump to off gas or not. <It is better to have an open top. The increased surface area is one of the benefits of a sump.> Or if it needs light. <Only if you are growing a macroalgae in there.> Frankly I am not brave enough to drill a hole in a $700 tank filled with who knows (or wants to) how many $$ of live stuff with no other home to save them from one little oops! <Understood. If you use the hang on the back units do be sure to use two, with each one capable of handling the overflow duties on its own in case the other fails.> I have asked for a refugium for Christmas, we will see if Santa loves me or not ha ha! thanks again Tina <We will see. Talk soon, Scott V.>

Sump or Canister filter or both? 8/24/08 Hello again guys, I've been doing a lot of research lately and I'm feeling really stupid right now. When I started into the saltwater hobby I was evidently told all the wrong things. Ok, here we go. I have a 46g bow front with no sump, a BakPak 2 protein skimmer and a canister filter plus about 45 to 50 pounds of live rock and live sand for the substrate. I was told this is basically all I needed. DUH!!!. <This setup can be quite successful, not that bad.> I'm currently in the process of getting my newly acquired calcium reactor up and running but have decided to hold off until other problems are solved. First, I would like to know what I need exactly to get this thing right. Sump, canister filter or a wet/dry filter, or a combination? <If you wish to upgrade, a simple sump will do. This can house your reactor, skimmer, heater, etc. While you are at it, do consider incorporating a fishless macroalgae refugium, these can work wonders. No wet/dry needed, you rock takes care of that, the canister can be used for mechanical filtration and running carbon if you wish, but will need to be cleaned very frequently as to not allow detritus to accumulate, leading to nitrate production. Do also keep in mind that a sump/refugium can be something as simple as a $5 plastic bin or cheap 20 gallon aquarium, no need to spend several hundreds of dollars on acrylic unless you want to.> I eventually want to put corals in this system so I want the setup to be right. My canister filter is on its last legs and I've been pricing the Eheim pro's but if this type of filter is not good then I could easily spend the money on a sump or wet/dry and overflow box plus pumps and plumbing. <I would rather see you invest in a sump and overflow setup with this rather than another canister. Also, do consider drilling this tank for an overflow before you stock a bunch of corals in it!.> Please help this poor misguided fool! Craig <It sounds like you are on the right track, Scott V.>

Re: Sump or Canister filter or both? 8/24/08 Thank you for the quick response. <Welcome.> I have a few more questions though. I've read that the live rock shouldn't be placed directly on the LS due to trapping dangerous gases. This is how my current setup is. I would have to change it I know, but do I save the sand by vacuuming it very well or should I just replace it? Should I replace the LR as well or remove it and scrub it down and hope for the best? The rock should be raised up above the LS correct? Then just arrange the LS around the LR or leave the LS out all together and place the rock on the glass? <Hmmm, the only real danger comes if you wish to have digging critters in the tank. They can dig beneath a rock, leading to a rockslide in your tank. You may put the rock in your tank and then add the sand if you wish for your aquascaping to be more stable. Use the same rock and sand, no need to change.> As far as a sump goes, what needs to be in it besides a return pump? I know I can place the skimmer in it and the return line from the reactor but I've read that bio bale or balls are not good. <Nope, your live rock will provide biofiltration.> My protein skimmer has bale, should I remove it? <I would. This stuff is in there just as much to prevent microbubbles as anything. With the skimmer in your sump this should not be an issue. Also, do pay attention to the water level relative to the skimmer, this can make a huge difference.> Should carbon go into the sump or some kind of phosphate remover? <Carbon if you run it. Phosphate removers should be used with caution and water testing. It is easy to strip the water of phosphate, it is a required compound.> I've been searching around some sites looking for a sump and overflow boxes, what is your opinion on these? CPR CS50 300gph and the CPR CS90 600gph for the overflow and a Eshopps RS-75 10gal sump. <They will all work, use double what you will need incase one fails, likely in time one will. Also, plan on an actual flow of 300 gph per 1' bulkhead, this is the size these boxes typically use. Do consider the drilling I mentioned before, check out my site: Glass-Holes.com for more info.> I'm not sure what my flow rate should be for the sump so that's why I'm looking at two different overflow boxes. I've honestly thought about emptying the tank completely and take the fish to my LFS for safe keeping until I can get all this stuff cleared up, good idea or bad? <No, not really much to clear up.> This tank has been running for about 6 yrs. now as is. <If the status quo is working, maybe you don't want to touch it!> I'm in SC and there aren't any really good LFS's in this area where the info can be trusted. I have some books but they all approach a marine setup differently. The sump info and LR,LS info would really help me out in trying to figure out what to do. I love the site you all have and have found the information eye-opening, thank you again. Craig <All this is just a matter of reading through the WWM FAQs re overflows and plumbing. Doing so will shed much more light on the whole process. Welcome, Scott V.>

Re: Sump or Canister filter or both? 8/26/08 Hi again, o.k. you've sold me on the drilling idea because my airline to my skimmer gets clogged all the time. But how do I drill the tank with the fish still in it? <You don't, it will need to be emptied. Very much worth doing before you take the leap of adding corals.> Also, I'm not clear on the comment about the water level in relation to the skimmer in the sump. How do I get the water level right in the sump to prevent a flood if the power goes out? <There are many, many pages covering this. Start here: http://wetwebmedia.com/sumpdesfaq.htm and it will become clear.> As far as the LR and LS, I plan on removing both and place the rock on top of 2" dia. pvc cut to a 1" or 1-1/2" height to raise it off the floor of the tank and then adding the LS. Just not sure on the depth the LS should be. Sounds like a good idea? <Yes, this will be fine. As for the sand: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/dsbfaqs.htm .> This is a 46g. bow front tank so which overflow would I need? <An overflow that will handle the flow we discussed previously will do. Get one that will handle twice to flow (more drains) to have some redundancy; ideally two 1.5' drains.> Thanks again. The information here is golden. Craig <Welcome, keep reading, Scott V.>

Fluval fx5... SW filtr., English, using WWM  -- 07/16/08 hi thanks for your time, I am interested in purchasing a fluval fx5 <Are much improved models over previous... but... not the best technology for the vast majority of home-hobbyist marine systems. You have read our input re on WWM?> for my saltwater 125 gallon tank witch <Which> is glass, I am very familiar with overflow boxes, wet/dry filtration ect. <... no such word> I just don't like the fact that there is more of a chance to get water damage If I were to have a problem like a loose venturi hose or power outage. (I have a 60 gal. acrylic with built in overflow boxes that I am much more comfortable with) since its glass I don't want to drill holes. I had this tank set up about 2 years ago with the overflow boxes, wet/dry & skimmer before. I want to set it up again but with a fluval fx5. I would have about 50-70 lbs. live rock about 2" live sand, <See WWM re this as well> 2 main fish like tangs and a school of damsels and a few small wrasses.(6 line or so) with decorative shrimps. <Mmm, may be consumed by the Pseudocheilinus...> I would also run a turbo flotor multi (hang on) skimmer, along with the fluval fx5. Do you think that would be adequate? <Nope> please let me know I would be very thankful. <... Please run your writing through a grammar, spell-checker before sending it to us... Your answers/input and much more related, useful information is archived on our site. Please learn to/use the search tool, indices there. Bob Fenner> Re: Thinking about changing my filter methods.  7/15/08 Ok I have read and read and read your fabulous website. I think I have put together a new solution to my filter needs. OK how does this sound. I am going replace my old wet-dry system and protein skimmer with a new larger sump, with a refugium (using a DSB and some macro algae and some rock rubble), and a fluidize bed filter. I am also considering using my old sump as a place to place rock rubble in. I am going to continue to use my protein skimmer as long as I need it. My goal for this new system is to help minimize maintenance and allow me to do smaller water changes every other week and to lower my nitrates. Again I have a heavy bio-load and my fish are messy eaters. What do you think of this set-up? any improvements? <Mmm, particulars re lighting, RDP... choices of macro-algae... All covered here: http://wetwebmedia.com/marsetupindex2.htm the second tray. BobF> -Garrett Arnold Question regarding Steve Tyree's Sponge Filtration Concept - 7/1/08 Dear Bob/WWM crew, <SB in Bs> I am very interested in integrating Steve Tyree's sponge filtration model in my current aquarium. However, I consulted the opinions of several experts and they all said that though sponges filter feed from the water, they excrete ammonia as metabolic wastes, therefore contributing ammonia to the aquaria. They all agree that algae is better choice for nutrient control in aquaria. What are your opinions regarding this? Thanks. Best regards, SpongeBob in boxers <Mmm, most all animals produce ammonia (or analogs urea, uric acid) to degrees via amine catabolysis... Sponges don't make much, and there are (in well-enough) arranged set-ups mechanisms for dealing with such... Of SteveT's many semi-novel ideas the cryptic zone (low, no light, circulation) use of Poriferans is worth investigating. Bob Fenner>

Filter size? 04/07/2008 Hi everyone, <<Hello, Andrew today>> I am new to the salt water game. I have bought and have been reading the Conscientious Marine Aquarist. On page 40 of the book it states that I should cycle my water 5 to 10 times per hour. <<Hmmm.. a preference i feel, i would shoot somewhere in the region of 25 time per hour in a reef>> I have a seventy two gallon bow front glass tank. The store where I bought it initially told me that an SP4 was much too large for my system, but since I brought the info in the book to their attention they are unsure if a Rena SP4 canister filter is too large and will cause too strong a current, as I do not have a refugium. <<I presume you mean the Rena XP4, and not SP4..The rating of the XP4 is 409gph. With a tank your size, i suggest you have about 1800gph. So, you would need to get some powerheads into the tank to raise the current flow up>> At present I am running a borrowed SP3, a SeaClone 150 and two 402 powerheads. The next purchase I am going to make is a canister filter, I just need to know which would be better for the size of my tank? <<If you're aiming for a reef system, you could just use 1 - 1.5lbs of live rock per gallon of tank water and this will act as your filtration, and not need an external filter. The SeaClone skimmer i would stay away from, and choose something like a Deltec or Aqua C Remora skimmer. Far better skimmers in my opinion.>> I ultimately will have a reef system. Thank you for your time, Brad Knowlton <<Thanks for the questions, hope this helps. A Nixon>>

Filtration Question 3/5/08 Hello everyone, <Hello.> I really enjoy your site and find your information and suggestions right on the mark. My question to you is, can you recommend books that discuss the science of water quality and filtration in the home aquarium? <Reef Invertebrates by Anthony Calfo and Bob Fenner covers filtration and what is does for your water quality.> I am very interested in learning about the science and in building my own filtration systems; not to save money, but rather as a sub-hobby to the aquarium hobby. Any thoughts would be appreciated. <For the fabrication aspect of it I would contact some plastic suppliers. Most have literature on acrylic fabrication that they will send you. Fabricating your own filtration and other equipment is definitely a worthwhile hobby to pursue. Unfortunately, I know of no one resource that covers the filtration and fabrication of (Bob may?), >>Ah, no... hence, in part, my urging to have you produce such a work. RMF<<  it is something that is something that it coming to fruition, slowly. What you seek can also be found cruising the net and using common sense processing what you read (remember everyone is an expert online). Have fun, Scott V.>

Mechanical Filtration 2/20/08 Hello! <John.> OK, yet ANOTHER "active filtration" question: I just thought of a theory (imperfect as it probably is): When you think about it, the "problem" with canister filters being nitrate factories (due to the accumulation of crud inside them) may not really be A problem. After all, the way I see it, the crud that used to be in your tank has only moved to a different place - inside the filter. Either way, it is STILL part of the makeup of your water - correct? <Yes, the problem with canister filters and other mechanical filtration media.> Doesn't this mean that moving it from one place (all over your LR) to another (inside a canister filter) shouldn't technically do ANYTHING to your nitrates? <Not if you leave it there. Hopefully the filter will be cleaned often and the detritus removed.> The reason I ask is because I am DESPERATELY seeking a way to eliminate all the mulm I see all over my LR between "turkey bastings". I felt that if I had active filtration (instead of just the tons of LR I have in the back chamber of my Aquapod 24) then at least I could export this fluffy grey gunk out of the tank and periodically clean my filter out. <Exactly what you need my friend.> With just the LR, all I'm getting is biological - no mechanical. <Do consider a protein skimmer, it will remove much of this out of the water column. This is what makes these such a powerful filtration tool.> Regards, John <Thank you for writing, Scott V.>

Freshwater to Marine, Overflow and Filtration 2/13/08 Hi, <Zach> I have been reading through the posts and have tried the search but am still having a hard time. I have a 30 gallon bowfront (undrilled) that I am currently using as a freshwater aquarium and I would like to convert it to saltwater. I am confused as to whether or not I should try drilling it myself and just add a sump (I'm afraid I'll shatter it), do I really have to drill it to use a sump or can you refer me to a post that would explain how to run a sump without drilling? <There are many such posts throughout WWM about using siphon type overflow boxes such as CPR. If you are not comfortable drilling or cannot find a shop to drill for you, it would be the way to go. Do consider running two in case one fails.> I was also wondering whether or not a wet/dry or canister filter is ever going to be capable of doing as good a job as a sump? <Adequate filtration can be accomplished; it will just take more maintenance on your part cleaning the filter frequently to maintain good water quality. Obviously you will lose the extra water volume and its benefits going with a canister.> Should I just bite the bullet and get a H.O.B. "sump"? <I would opt for a true sump or the canister, perhaps in addition to a hang on the back refugium.> Thanks a lot for your time and my apologies for probably asking a bunch of questions you've probably already answered elsewhere. Zach <I have included some pertinent links for you to read through below. Keep reading and all will be clear, Scott V.> http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ovrflosel.htm http://wetwebmedia.com/refughangonmodelfaqs.htm http://wetwebmedia.com/pbholestools.htm

Natural Methods of Marine Filtration hello <Hello! Ryan with you today> we would like to set up a 350l reef tank with invertebrates and some (not many) fish. <Smart girl!  Fewer fish keeps things simple and easy.> the confusion we have is that we have asked a lot of marine stores, read books and looked on the internet and we seem to get conflicting advice as to what is the best way to setup. <Commission talks, you know!  I'll be as impartial as possible for you.> we were wondering if a DSB of 4" (in tank) using CaribSea Aragamax sugar would be ok with a small amount of live rock. <No, not really.  4 inches is a problematic depth- Too small for a true deep sand bed, yet too deep for a small one.  It'll trap debris and not process waste properly.  Either 5+ inches, or less than an inch is about right.> We have been told everything from this is ok to we don't want a DSB we need a plenum (because the DSB will compact to concrete) to we want all live rock and not to bother with DSB or plenum!!! <Yes, the DSB is great, but enjoyed best remotely (not in the display aquarium.) From looking at the FAQ on your site it seems that there isn't too much danger in a DSB and we have heard that the actual "plenum" is hard to keep clear of matter as some gets through the mesh and then you have to pull your tank apart to clean it. <Yes, plenums are great when under a skilled eye...But can be problematic for beginners.  I'd skip either in favor of refugia in your case.> we have a filter as well for nitrification but we need to find the best way for denitrification. <the live rock, healthy circulation> Is there any rules that a DSB cannot be disturbed? can you not have critters that dig into it a little? <The opposite, in fact.  The worms, clams and stars that inhabit your sand will help to keep the bed fresh.> if so what should be avoided? <For the benefit of the sand bed?  Really, I can't think of any commonly purchased animals that are a detriment to the deep sand bed filtration system.> if we have a mixture of DSB and live rock, how much live rock? again we have been told anything from 1 piece to 40kg!!(a bit of a difference) <Hmm...sorry to sound so Americanized, but approx. 2 pounds per gallon of seawater is my preference.> also if we put other rock into the tank with the live rock, will it become "live" <Yes, in most cases> it is so hard when you try to get as many opinions as possible and you end up in more of a mess than when you started. We want to be able to understand WHY the system works, not simply work to a formula. <I thought you'd never ask! http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nutrientcontrol.htm.  Control nutrients, and become the talk of all your salty friends.> I suppose everyone has there own "best" system, but it would be nice to know the science behind it if you could help us in this we would be extremely grateful.  <It's actually quite simple, and I'd encourage you to take the natural approach to any difficulties you may have.  I trust these articles will be helpful to your understanding of natural filtration methods: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/reeffilt.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marmechf.htm Just remember one thing: Natural fixes are permanent, artificial fixes are typically just buying you time!  Ryan> thanks in advance Lyndsay Jumpin' Into Sumps! Hi, <Hi! Scott F. with you today!> I am setting up a new 135 tank to be a reef tank, and I am trying to figure out to best filter it.  I plan for my main sources to be live rock and sand in the tank, but I also intended to run a filter underneath it. My original intent was to run a wet/dry filter, but after reading bad things about using bioballs, I decided to go more towards just a sump with a protein skimmer. <I like sumps. They are very flexible, and can be applied to reef, FOWLR, and breeding systems with equal effectiveness> Anyway, I purchased a wet/dry filter with the skimmer.  The size is 24Lx12Wx16T.  It is a two-chamber unit, and my intent was to put some live rock/sand macro algae and critters in it along with the skimmer. Since buying it, though, I have been told that this is too small for my use (even though the filter is rated for aquariums 100 - 180 gallons).  After being told that, I thought about using a 55 gallon tank that has been baffled, but that seems really big.  I am really confused.  Is this filter too small? <Well, it might be on the "small side" of useful, if that makes sense. In other words, you probably could benefit from a slightly larger sump, for 1)Greater capacity during drain-downs (as in power failures, etc. and 2)flexibility, such as being able to add a skimmer, chemical filtration media, areas to settle out detritus, etc. As long as you pump can do the job, your system would certainly benefit from the added water capacity that the 55 will afford...>   If it is, is the 55 gallon too big? <I don't think so, as stated above> If the wet/dry is okay to use, what would be the best arrangement?  Should the live rock go in the first compartment? Would the next compartment have the live sand/macro algae?  Where would the skimmer go (sorry, I don't know the brand, but it is a large venturi, and it was being run by a Rio 2100 pump)? <I'd put the skimmer in a position where it receives a steady flow of the most nutrient laden water right from the tank, which will provide maximum skimmer efficiency. Then, you could go for some live rock or chemical media, such as Poly Filter or carbon. Finally, you could add some "purposeful" macroalgae (like my faves, Chaetomorpha or Gracilaria) in a lighted section of the sump (you can use an inexpensive PC or fluorescent fixture for this). The sky (and your creativity- and budget(!) are the only limits here...> I apologize for all the questions, but I have never done this before, and I am trying to figure out what to do before I do it. <No apologies needed- that's why we are here! I'd make use of the vast resources available on the WWM site regarding sumps. You should also visit the SIIICCKK (as in "great"!) Aussie DIY site, OzReef, for tons of practical ideas on sumps. Finally, there was a nice multi-part series in the on line mag Reef Keeping on sumps, that you may want to check out as well.> I have a nice 55 gallon reef now, but I don't have any filtration underneath it, so this is new to me.  Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Paul       <Well, Paul, there are just a few simple rules to follow when designing and setting up sumps. Once you follow the basics, there is no limit to the cool things that you can try to take advantage of the flexibility that sumps offer. Have fun! Regards, Scott F>

New Tank Filtration Hi Bob, <<Hi Danny>>  Attached is my new tank filtration. Below are the water condition. a) Ammonium NH4 -- 0.1 mg/l b) Nitrite NO2 -- 0.2 mg/l c) Nitrate NO3 -- 25.0 mg/l <<These should be zero excepting a small amount nitrate, which could be resolved with more LR. Sponges will need cleaning on constant basis to keep them from going bio and producing nitrates. I would stay on top of those or remove, same with all other media, make sure you change them out on a regular schedule before they become an unseen problem.>> d) Calcium Ca -- 420 ppm e) pH -- 8.5 f) KH -- 12 dKH g) Salinity - 1.023 h) Temperature - 26 oC  Q1. Is it filtration enough ? <<I would rely on more LR. How long has this been set up? If new, then tank is not fully cycled or you have ammonia source. (waste, dead stuff, source water).>> Q2. Is the water condition acceptable ? <<See above>> Q3. Water movement from sump to main tank is generated by a 1240 gph powerhead and there is a 462 gph powerhead which run internally inside the main tank. It the water movement enough ? <<Does this flow factor in head height pump must pump up? Total is okay if so, ideally ten times total volume turn over per hour =1500 gph, so seems good.>> Q4. The metal halide is on from 11 am to 8 pm, is it enough ? <<In truth, properly sized and set up MH's do their work in about 4-6 hours. However, living things have evolved to varying photoperiods, known as seasons. Longer hours of light in summer and shorter in winter. The winter photoperiod gets down to about 8 hours, so this is the least I would go myself. Properly sized MH's do all they need to do in about 6 hours, but you need a longer photoperiod to simulate nature anywhere from 10-12 hours) and the remaining photoperiod can be VHO, PC etc. Your MH will do this but after about 6 hours it's mainly adding heat. With only MH, I would go for about 10 hours minimum. I use a 12 hour photoperiod, the first two hours VHO, then MH's come on for 8 hours, then VHO for last two hours. Make sure your ventilation is up to par.>> Thanks again for your advice.. <<You're always welcome, hope it works for you, Craig>> Regards 

Filtration...what to do? Hello to all, Your website is very informative, I have just gotten a 60g Hex and I want to set it up as a marine aquarium. I have been bombarded with filtration suggestions...one gentlemen suggested a Fluval 404 with a protein skimmer, another said an Emperor 400 BioWheel, protein skimmer, and some live rock should be plenty. (The Fluval is not a consideration after reading your faq section )...I am on a budget and am desperately seeking some suggestions even as far as stocking the tank. Help! Thanks, Lori <Much to discuss... do take the time (cheap and easy by comparison) to read through much of the marine filtration articles and FAQs sections posted on WetWebMedia.com first... determine about what sorts of system, types of livestock you'd like to have... what you want to do with them (optimize growth, color, reproduction, just have a nice system)... and your options. Do write a synopsis of what your real options are, perhaps just a table of possibilities and the gear (even sizes, brand names) that could go into making your system. Strive to understand the underlying principles (can I say/state it? the actual science) of what the various types of gear "do" and how they "do it"... ahead or instead of adverts or blank statements of "do this/that" to have a successful aquarium. Clear your mind, and study my friend. We will be here to help you. Bob Fenner>

Biological Filtration Upgrade Hi Bob, Just got back from a week of diving (including a 1000¹ dive on a research sub) and I¹ve dedicated the last few vacation days to cleaning/overhauling the ole fish tank. In reading Aquarium Sharks & Rays, one of Scott Michael's suggestions is to use sand filters in lieu of more traditional filters like wet/dry bio balls, undergravel, canister, etc., due to the nutrient spikes concomitant with large predators. <Many larger, public aquariums rely on this technology... expensive to run for power, throwing away a bunch of water for backwashing... but can work> I have several filtrations systems on my 600 gallon shark tank. I was considering keeping bio balls in a trickle filter but replacing a canister filter (full of ceramic pieces) with a fluidized sand filter. <Okay> Two reasons: First, I think ceramic pieces in a large canister filter setup is relatively inefficient for the amount of space it takes up under the stand (18" in diameter and about 30" tall). Is this correct?? <For large predator tanks, yes... more nitrification to be had by fluidized bed methods... more still by a wet-dry tower with air blown up it> Wouldn't the same size fluidized sand filter provide GREATLY increased area for bacteria. Second, cleaning accumulated debris out of the ceramic pieces involves a multi-hour canister removal/replacement, which can't be good for the bacteria colony. With the way sand filters are constructed, aren't they generally self-cleaning?  <If packed correctly, and managed properly (principally regular backwashing) yes... many times/cases folks just use too much, too fine silica sand as media... bad news packing and channeling...> I'd much rather my protein skimmer be responsible for collecting and removing algae and other debris rather than a dedicated bio filter. <Need both types of filtration> I'd like your thoughts on this strategy as well as any recommendations of suitable manufacturers and/or retailers (600 gallon tank. Will probably be driving the unit with 1,500­2,000 gph). Believe it or not, even in a city as large as Dallas, we're pretty short on high tech aquarium suppliers who would carry this kind of equipment. <Check with Aquanetics... link on WWM for pumps, all-plastic filters... Euro-Reef or RK2 for a skimmer. Bob Fenner> Thanks once again!!

Filtration systems Bob, I am in the "research" phase of establishing a smaller saltwater aquarium (25g-30g). For the most part, I understand equipment, compatibility, water quality, etc. but am a little confused (no, a lot confused) about the filtering. I would like to use live rock (Bio?)<Yes, and more> to do the filtering but, do I need anything else and if so what would you suggest. <Hmm, yes... at least some skimming is advisable at the start... the first few months... you will see decided changes in the qualities, amount of collectant... and some periodic chemical filtration like monthly use of activated carbon... along with perhaps some boosted macroalgae growth (intense lighting, sufficient water quality)> Please be specific as I am that confused. <Keep researching till your confusion fades... you have an obvious talent for communication... and will be able to discern your path... Do look for Walter Adey's works on the Net... and read them over as well as the scant coverage of "Setup", "Components" posted on our site: www.WetWebMedia.com... seek to understand the underlying principles and you will know how to proceed> I do know that I don't want a wet/dry system if it can be avoided at all. <Easily. Bob Fenner> Thanks for the help. Thom Walters

Marine filtration Hi Bob, question number 2. How would you go about filtering a 120 tank (84" x 18" x 18"). At present it is fairly heavily stocked, but it is about to undergo renovation. Stock at present is: Emperor Angel 4.5" Queen Angel 4.5"  Yellow Tang 3.5" Regal (hippo) Tang 3"  Foxface 4"  2 Humbug damsels 1" each  Royal Gramma 2" 6 Line Wrasse 2" Midas Blenny 2.5"  Algae Blenny 3.5"  Maroon Clown 3" Soon to leave are the queen, damsels, maroon, and midas. They are going to friend, who really likes them, so I am selling them to him, and am going to replace them myself with other species (although I will be substituting the queen for a flame .... not another large angel). Presently the main filtration consists of a Berlin classic skimmer, and a Lifeguard Fluidized Bed (for 300 gals). At present there is no LR or LS in the system. I am unhappy with water quality in general, especially constantly high nitrates ... sometimes more than 50ppm, despite biweekly 25% water changes with nitrate free water. How would you suggest I filter my tank ? Thanks, Matthew (Co. Cork, Ireland) >> Thank you for writing... I would definitely be adding the live rock... and allowing it to make your sand live.... And checking to assure your lighting will be adequate for the live rock's photosynthetic component... Save your money and thank me later for not buying and doing all those water changes... and get a nice needle wheel type skimmer (foam fractionator) like a Turboflotor, and place it in one of your sumps.... The other, I would stock with some more live rock, a continuously on light (small fluorescent will do) with some Caulerpa Algae... You will soon be of more of the "sailboat" mentality of aquarium keeping (as opposed to fighting the declining water quality "motor boat" ways...) my friend, Bob Fenner

External vs. Internal Filtration Bob, I am compiling opinions of which of the two methods are preferred. I like the fact that the internal keeps everything inside with less danger of water leakage but I am not sure that the filtering of the water is maximized. The tank is 48" wide, 24" high and 24" deep which allows for about 4"-5" in the back for wet/dry filter and protein skimmer. What are your thoughts? Charles Early >> External in almost all cases/scenarios... much easier to manipulate... and in modern installs, almost no problems of leaking. Bob Fenner

Filtration Bob, is the undergravel filtration a bad type of filter to use? Every one who I have talked to says that the undergravel filtration that runs by 2 802 aqua clear powerheads is a bad set up. They all say that the undergravel filtration will give me nothing but problems. The also say my hang on filter aqua clear 500 is a piece of junk. I decided to first put on a millennium wet/ dry filter first, then later put on a protein skimmer. They also say my millennium wet/dry is also a piece of junk. Bob is this true about what they said about my filters? >> <Well, as the saying goes, all are entitled to their opinions... but do demand "facts" of these folks as to their commentary reasoning. First, no, undergravel filters are not necessarily bad... in fact they have been and are the paradigm around the world... most everyone does use them... they do have shortcomings certainly, and are not for the lazy who won't do minimum maintenance to make sure they don't just become collectors of filth... And as far as hang on type power filters I am not a big fan of the Hagen AquaClear (tm) line, but there is really nothing "wrong" with them... they're underpowered, but they do work, are reliable, easy to clean, quiet, energy efficient... Tetra's Millennium wet-dry I don't care for either... it does work, but is puny size/function-wise, and not easy to use... Yes, there are better filters by other manufacturers... but these will/do work for what they're designed for. Small "beginner" systems. Bob Fenner>

Filtration - enough not enough Dear Mr. Fenner: Your book is great. I'm on my second reading. just in case I missed anything. I am putting together a 75 gal. F/0 tank. I have a Marine Tidepool II with an Amiracle cross current protein skimmer in the sump and a mechanical pre-filter in the overflow. I will have a crushed coral substrate. Do I need anymore filtration than this?  <Probably not> I have been posting on the forums on the web and many people tell me I should also add a canister filter and a UV sterilizer.  <These would help, incrementally... but they're not necessary... and to put all in perspective, you would do better devoting the same resources to live rock, maintenance... even other filter gear like an ozonizer...> I understand the concept of UV sterilization but isn't that more a concern of reef keepers than with fish only tanks?  <Not really... the benefits of using UV accrue with all types of systems... lowered overall microbial populations, higher Redox, dissolved oxygen... more stable pH....> I'd rather spend any extra money on fish rather than more filtration, but if I need more I will get it. Any input you can give me, will be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance for your help. Susan Krueger <Be chatting, Bob Fenner, who thanks you for your message and kind, encouraging words>

New S/W Setup I am about to set up a 75 gallon reef tank. It is my first venture into saltwater and therefore I have a lot of questions. Your web site is great and has given me considerable guidance so far. The one issue that I still am not entirely clear on is filtration. This tank will use live rock, probably 90 lbs of Fiji rock. I will of course have a protein skimmer, currently considering one of the Berlin models ( most likely the hang on version). For pure mechanical filtration I will use either a Fluval or Eheim which will turn over the water 5 times per hour. Now the questions. Will the canister filter contribute to the production of nitrate?  <Not if set up, run correctly... can provide both aerobic and hypoxic/anaerobic conditions for culture... read through the FAQs associated with mechanical, biological filtration on the site... invest in Ehfi-mech, Siporax or such (one time purchase)...> Should it be eliminated. Do I need a wet/dry filter?  <No, but having a sump is very nice... flexible... increases safety margins...> Should it be a sump type or one of the wet/dry canister filters?  <Sumps> And since I am at it I should ask if you have any thoughts on the rock, skimmer or the canister filter. <What you have listed is fine... the Eheim is a vastly superior product> Thanks for the time and assistance - I am going out tomorrow to look for your books. Paul <Be chatting my friend. Bob Fenner>

Uniquarium Revamp - 10/03/05 Gang, <<TJ>> Thanks, you've given me some great advice over the last few weeks of revamping the filter chamber on my 50G Uniquarium (mixed soft/LPS coral, lots of live rock, sand bed, Low bioload.  Great water parameters less Nitrate at 20PPM due to remaining bioballs and mechanical filter sponges (I believe). <<Likely, yes>> In process of removing bioballs and waiting for skimmer to be available in U.S. market.  I would like, if you do not mind, some comments on this design (attached).  Granted chambers are small, because that is what I have to work with.  No room behind tank and no sump (per se). <<understood>> I am going to use a TUNZE 9002 skimmer (only thing that will fit). <<A good brand.>> Roger Vitko at Tunze USA suggests it would be adequate and also suggested the Chemipure. <<Agreed on both counts.>> No permanent mod.s would be made to tank.  Small acrylic block-off plate is a good press fit.  Settling chamber would likely be a removable container for ease of cleaning.  Any additional suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks TJ <<Nice diagram... Looks to me like you've done a good job with what you have.  EricR>>

Are Refugiums and Sumps Mandatory? 11/3/05 Greetings, <Hi Brad!> Brad B. here. I've been reading a lot on your web site to try an educate myself, answer questions and get ideas. I'm trying to be a good steward and have a basic question. First, here's my scoop: 46 g bow front marine aquarium / 60 lbs of live reef sand / mix of rock and live rock - a good coverage of LR but not all that much weight as I chose specimens with good color and surface area but light (save $$) / two Emperor 280s (fiber media plus activated carbon cartridges) / AquaC Remora skimmer with MaxiJet 1200 / two AquaClear 50s and two AquaClear 30s for circulation / Coralife 36" with a 96W Actinic, 96W 10,000K white, and two lunar LEDs on a timer - Actinic = 12 hrs and White 10,000K 8 hrs... okay...  Can I expect good success (such as getting/keeping nitrates near zero) with a low fish load - inverts - corals given the above stated setup without adding a sump or refugium? <Brad of course it is possible to get away without a refugium or a sump. Though I will say a refugium is in my opinion a great asset to any marine tank, not only as a nutrient export device as a breeding ground for detritivores and micro-fauna. The sump is a great place to hide equipment and improve the aesthetics of the display. And both the refugium and the sump increase your water volume and thus your margin of error. Having said that yes, as I stated above these are not mandatory. However the heavier maintenance because of the lack of these devices will fall on you. You may need to perform extra water changes; and yes I would understock your tank as far as fish.> I want to/did invest in good stuff but want to keep it simple as possible. Many thanks! <Welcome Adam J.> 

SW starting up 8/5/05 Hi, this is my first time writing to you, I just sold a 37 gallon salt water tank, I want to go with a 50 gallon (36x15x20-25?) nothing too big, and this was directly asked by my parents to keep it this size. I already have an XP3 canister, I'm using this to keep my filter, live rock, and live sand in a 30 gallon bucket. We're going with a ten inch high canopy with retrofit lighting (compacts: three 96watt:  two 96 watt actinic and one 10k white), is this suffice for a 50 gallon reef tank? <For many types of life, yes... there are other routes...> I say reef tank meaning soft corals, mushrooms, polyps, Leathers, etc. etc. nothing too light dependent. What do you believe to be the best filtration system? A sump? <... this is posted on WWM... I am a big fan of sumps.> I was looking into an ecosystem 60 (a hang on the back refugium?) Do you have any experience with these? <Yes> Do I need a protein skimmer? <I would have one, yes> Which one of those two filtration system (refugium ecosystem 60 or a sump) are more efficient? Do they both have pro's and con's? <Yes... and these are posted...> Are they both enough on their own? Or will something have to be added later on? <Depends... on what you keep, want to do with it...> I know power heads will be must. If a sump is the best way to go, is it a wet/dry system, without bio-balls and live rock? Is a refugium underneath to much for such a small system? I want to do this right the first time; it's too expensive to make mistakes in this hobby. <Agreed... which is why we've invested thousands of hours of our lives assembling input for your perusal... WWM, please go, read there. Bob Fenner> Thank you very much, Jessica Rose Reef: Research, Equipment, Research, Circulation, Research - 8/4/5 Hi, my name is Travis. <Hi Travis, Oh no, they set us up the bomb! ;) - Ali here..> Let me take a moment to explain my situation. I started out with a small tank and a big Oscar about 6 months ago. The Oscar got moved to a bigger tank, and he outgrew it. Then he moved to another bigger tank, 75 gallons, and he got ich and died. Six months ago when I bought that Oscar, I had never owned a fish. Now all I think about are aquariums. Anyway, after the Oscar died, I decided that Oscars were not my bag. So what do I do after failing at my first attempt? <Grab several cups of coffee and start researching?> I decide to go with a reef tank. I know, go ahead and laugh, I'm an idiot. So I've got this 75 gallon tank. I put a layer of crushed shells mixed with aragonite sand in it. I then build up the back with lava rock as a base for my live rock that I'll eventually get. I fill the tank with water and mix in the salt mix, and that's where things get complicated. In my effort to get everything right from the start, I will not buy a single live organism until I know everything is set up exactly perfectly. <Good, however your current set-up needs to be looked over and altered, continue to browse this site along with www.reefcentral.com for proper reef tank filtration methods and do some reading. I highly, highly recommend you pick up Bob's The Conscientious Marine Aquarist and read, read and read some more.> I had a Marineland 350 BioWheel filter and a Marineland Magnum 350, both of which I was planning to use on this saltwater tank. I was given advice against BioWheels, so I moved that filter to my other freshwater tank, and I returned the Magnum 350 to the store so I could afford more important items. I then bought what I thought was a good protein skimmer, a Prizm Pro Deluxe (a.k.a. garbage). So the skimmer did not do anything other than fill the collection cup with water and leak, so I returned it. Then I read some more, and decide I need a reverse osmosis unit, as my tap water is high in nitrates (about 30 ppm out of the tap). I also have a "wavemaker" unit that is pretty much 3 295gph powerheads plugged into a power strip designed to alternate them. <Run your powerheads without the wavemaker. This type of 'wavemaker' decreases circulation within the tank, do a search on this as well...In a nutshell a wavemaker "stops" circulation and then turns it 'on' again. Not a very good method and unfortunately many aquarist fall victim to purchasing these devices. A better option would be to purchase, say for example 4 MaxiJet 1200 powerheads and position one powerhead in each corner of the tank. Position the nozzles so they are all pointing to the center of the tank, causing the currents to collide with each other and essentially creating chaotic and random flow/circulation without 'stopping' the circulation.> Now you know what I know, and here is where I get to my questions. What do I need to buy to get my system set up. I will help by suggesting things that I think I need, but am not sure about: I have no stand, but the tank is resting on a very sturdy dresser that is the perfect length. Do I need a real stand? <Here is a picture of one of my old reef aquariums from 4 or 5 years ago... A standard 50 sumpless gallon tank placed on an underwear drawer: http://reefcentral.com/gallery/data/500/8980ProjectReefOLDTANK.jpg So, no you don't 'need' a stand if you are going sumpless, however if you plan on ever adding a hang on the back overflow box, you will need a standard aquarium stand in order to place your sump underneath.> I now have no protein skimmer: what is the best model for my size tank? <Best hang-on skimmer the market now would probably be the AquaC Remora Pro> I do not have a plenum, sump, or refugium: which would be best to keep my nitrates low? <3-5" FINE grain sugar sized aragonite substrate (CaribSea Aragamax select) along with high quality live rock, good quality skimmer, lots of circulation and a low fish bioload.> I plan to only house coral, and coral safe fish/inverts that thrive in average to moderate lighting, because metal halide is out of the question: how many watts do I need? I saw a 90 gallon glass tank with a pine stand/canopy in the paper for $300, is this a good deal? Is there anywhere that can just tell me step by step what I need to do to set up my tank, and what brands of what equipment are good? <The internet, especially this site and reefcentral.com have a ridiculous amount of valuable information. You need to be assertive and take action - READ, research, then do it again. Don't expect everyone to do it for you.> I have no local fish stores, so it's all pretty much internet for me, and I never know what or whom to trust. Also, please while answering my queries keep in mind that I would like my tank to look nice and function well, but I would also like to be able to afford to put a fish or two in it sometime this century. <Good luck Travis, I'm sure that if you continue your research (how many times have I used that word?), purchase the proper equipment and utilize the proper husbandry techniques - your new reef tank will be a long-term success. - Ali>

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