Please visit our Sponsors
FAQs on Marine System Set-Up & Components 14

Related FAQs: Best Marine Set-Up FAQs 1, Best FAQs 2, Marine Set-Up 1, FAQs 2, FAQs 3, FAQs 4FAQs 5, FAQs 6, FAQs 7FAQs 8, FAQs 9, FAQs 10FAQs 11, FAQs 12FAQs 13FAQs 14FAQs 15, FAQs 16FAQs 17FAQs 18FAQs 19FAQs 20FAQs 21, FAQs 22, FAQs 23, FAQs 24, FAQs 25, Marine Set-Up 26, Marine Set-Up 27, Marine Set-Up 28, FOWLR Set-Ups, Reef Tank Setups, Small Tank Setups, Moving Aquarium Systems

Related Articles: Marine Set-Up, Marine Planning, Getting Started with a Marine Tank By Adam Blundell, MS, Technology: Putting on the Brakes:  How much is too much? By Tommy Dornhoffer Reef Set-UpFish Only Systems, Fish and Invertebrate Systems, Small Marine Set-Ups, Large Marine Systems, Cold/Cool Water Marine Systems Moving Aquariums

A mix of encrusting sponges. Sipadan 08  

Small Marine Aquariums
Book 1: Invertebrates, Algae
New Print and eBook on Amazon:
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
Is Bigger Better? Not always 7/17/05 Bob, <Holly> Thanks so much for the information I've already gathered through your site.  The articles and FAQ's have been instrumental in the survival of my tank so far. Your wisdom and advise are much appreciated. <Ah, welcome> I am a novice marine enthusiast (7 months now) with a long and successful freshwater past.  I have a small (29g) tank with  10 pounds of live rock, a few commercial decorations (for color), and  an inch or so of live sand/ crushed coral bedding (not mixed). The tank has a BioWheel filter (rated for up to 90g),1 power head, and a protein skimmer. I have 2 blue damsels who were purchased about a month after the rock and sand cured.  They are alive and doing well and I added 2 clown fish about 7 weeks ago. Everyone is happy and healthy. <I hope they continue to get along... this is a small volume psychologically...> One of the clowns has tripled in size and is starting to get darker in color.  She is about 2.5",  double the size of her mate and the 2 damsels.   I have some worms, some snails, and some algae all of which came from the rock and they all seem to keep each other in check. Additionally, my ammonia and nitrates are always at 0ppm.   I have recently come across an advertisement for a ---"75 gallon salt water aquarium with stand, hood, 2 sets of lights-(1 white,1 blue),2 Penguin 330 hang on filters, underground filter with 2 directional powerheads,2 heaters, stocked with lots of living rock, gravel and a few accessories. Includes fish: 1 Foxface, 1 pearl butterfly, 1 clown,2 damsels,1 blue Linckia, several snails, a couple of live coral including one yellow carpet." --- <The carpet and Linckia being alive are testament...> I have researched buying a used tank on this site, and others, and have asked the seller dozens of questions regarding the condition of the tank, its history, its inhabitants, their biographies, and so on. It sounds great.  My only concern is that this is a MUST SELL, great for my wallet, but the owner has already moved and has had to leave the tank with the new tenants.  The tenants have been caring for the tank for 2 weeks and it will be another week before I can pick it up.  Furthermore the tank is about a 4 hour drive from me, more stress on the tank itself and its inhabitants. <I see> I'm debating whether or not I would do better to invest the $$$ in my existing smaller tank. Trade the damsels for a goby, add some better lighting, another 30-40 pounds of live rock and some easy keeping anenomes, corals and what have you (again, suggestions always welcome) <Only you can decide...> Or if the bigger tank would be a better fit for me. I would keep only my 2 clowns, the butterfly, and the star, the others would be returned or exchanged for more compatible tankmates, (insert more suggestions here.  I am concerned that I would likely still need to invest in better lighting and filtration later on.   I adore my two clowns and want to give them the best possible environment.  I need to make the best decision for my fish and my finances I'm just not experienced enough to know what that might be.  I have fears of both a smaller, thus harder to control tank, and of a larger, more costly tank. I am truly torn and any suggestions or advise would be greatly appreciated.   If you would like some visuals, I have attached a photo of both tanks, I apologize for the poor quality of my tank's photo, also the for sale advertisement can be viewed at http://www.buysellcommunity.com/sale/UAOCRZZV   Thanks and Best Regards, Holly <Mmm, if you can get some friends with lots of muscles, a truck... humor, to help... I'd go for the larger deal... Make a plan... with the tools, materials listed on WWM... Good luck, life. Bob Fenner>

Marine tank set up 7/17/05 I have a 75 Ga. tank with a magnum 350, 200 w and Emperor 400 BIO- Wheel Filter. I was thinking about getting a  Remora Pro Hang-On   Skimmer with a surface pre-filter  box and a mag 5 or 7 pump. which   one would you recommend the 5 or 7? <The 5 likely> I will be buying  "the package"   for 75 Ga. by http://www.tampabaysaltwater.com/thepackage/index.html   plus an eel, pair of clown fish and blue tang to start.  the fish are   living together in a 29 Ga. tank, all have gone well for the last 8   months. and i am ready to move on to a bigger tank. this was a gift   from an ex that is moving out of town. lighting to will have to be up   grade. I was looking at the Cora-life Lunar Aqualights Compact   Fluorescent Strip Lights (48") with 260 watt Silent built-in electronic ballasts 2 cooling fans Highly-polished reflector Acrylic lens cover 3 on/off switches 3 power cords for convenient independent timer operation Appropriate number of Lunar Blue-Moon-Glow LEDs with Actinic and   10000?K bulbs do i need more light or will this be ok ? Is there any thing that i   have over looked or should change about this setup please let me know <... please read on WWM re your lighting issue... and learn to proof your correspondence. Bob Fenner>

A Few General SW Questions - As Answered by Bob Hi there: <Hello> I love your site, and I had a look at the chat forums but wasn't sure what category these questions go in so I'll email directly. <Okay> By way of background, my husband and I are avid freshwater aquarists with approx. 8 tanks going. He breeds Cyphotilapia frontosa (6 stripe) and I breed Pomacea bridgesi (apple snails) that we sell to LFS. We are, however, marine virgins, so I apologize in advance for elementary questions. I am doing my homework before we begin the set up of a 75-100 gallon reef tank. <How nice> 1. Live rock. Do you just pile it up in the tank or do you "fix" it in some way. Is there danger of it tumbling down over time? <There are functional and aesthetic considerations in placing LR. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/lrplacingfaqs.htm and on> 2. On top of my freshwater planted tank, I grow some exotic plants that are thrilled with the humidity and special lighting. Have you heard of anyone doing this near a saltwater tank or are the plants damaged by the salt spray? <Indeed a concern... most houseplants will NOT do well in this setting, with salt spray> 3. I still don't fully understand the concept of drilled holes in the side of the tank. Do all reef tanks need this, and is it something that you have to do yourself? What are these holes for? <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/index.htm > 4. Last one for now. Do any of the major brands of aquatic hardware manufacture/sell complete systems of equipment, where you buy a skimmer, filter, U.V. sterilizer, calcium "adder" etc. etc. all plumbed together in one unit? <I wish there were such "all in one" arrangements... most folks find it far more satisfying to "put together" their own from disparate manufacturers... buying/using as large a sump as will fit... and adding skimmer... other components per their particular desires, needs. There are some relatively complete "kits" by CPR and Ecosystem Aquariums... but best to delve into this issue THOROUGHLY before buying... and (this is a bit dangerous), query the various BB's in our interest (ReefCentral, Reefs.org...) re what others are doing, have done... with a big bag (not just a grain) of salt. Bob Fenner>

Marine Newbie - As Answered by James the Old Salty Dog Hi there,  <Hello Cindy> I love your site, and I had a look at the chat forums but wasn't sure what category these questions go in so I'll email directly.  By way of background, my husband and I are avid freshwater aquarists with approx. 8 tanks going. He breeds Cyphotilapia frontosa (6 stripe) and I breed Pomacea bridgesi (apple snails) that we sell to LFS. We are, however, marine virgins, so I apologize in advance for elementary questions. I am doing my homework before we begin the set up of a 75-100 gallon reef tank.  1. Live rock. Do you just pile it up in the tank or do you "fix" it in some way. Is there danger of it tumbling down over time?  <Usually we want to create caves/tunnels for the fish for the feeling of security. If you strategically stack the rocks where they feel secure to you, there shouldn't be a problem.> 2. On top of my freshwater planted tank, I grow some exotic plants that are thrilled with the humidity and special lighting. Have you heard of anyone doing this near a saltwater tank or are the plants damaged by the salt spray?  <Ideally, you don't want salt spray as it will create a mess. Water movement is created by power heads rather than air stones. You could place plants in the area if you would like.> 3. I still don't fully understand the concept of drilled holes in the side of the tank. Do all reef tanks need this, and is it something that you have to do yourself? What are these holes for?  <The holes are for bulkhead fittings that direct water into and out of the sump which is placed below the tank. It is not necessary for to have this, some people use overflow boxes that accomplishes the same thing although they can be trouble some at times. The sump also offers a place to put your skimmer and heater and other accessories.> 4. Last one for now. Do any of the major brands of aquatic hardware manufacture/sell complete systems of equipment, where you buy a skimmer, filter, U.V. sterilizer, calcium "adder" etc. etc. all plumbed together in one unit?  <Yes, there are several, although most just come with the filter, skimmer and lighting. Do a search on the web and you will find a gazillion places that sell these turnkey systems.> Thanks very much, and I'm reading your books. <I will also post a link here for your reading.  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/ Good luck in your new venture and always remember that patience will be one of your best tools.  James (Salty Dog)>

- Sim-Reef - Hey crew, this is Mike again, <Hi Mike, JasonC this time.> I emailed about scooter blennies at my college tank and a trip to Fiji a few weeks ago...I have an idea that could change the future of aquarium keeping! tada! During my boring temp job filing at MIT, I was thinking about tanks - as usual, and how the past few months I've been looking at all these sites that show tanks and the way they should run and mainly your site to get the descriptions of fish and inverts, compatibility water chem...all the stuff you'd need for a tank- so my idea is, turn all the info on the site onto one info base- tanks, size, slat/fresh, aquascaping, filters, skimmers, livestock...and make SIM-REEF! Let people pick a tank shape, gal size, choice from 2-3 filters, skimmers, lighting set ups, turn over, sediment, amount of live rock, -similar to simcity where you can just fill in land or water- algae, again, how simcity does tree cover, all that, and then a quick cycling period time progression, and add fish- which would all work like the real ones, (kind of) because they're built out of the info you already have- so if someone puts a trigger in with some damsels, they watch the trigger empty the tank- and add "disasters" like ich outbreaks, glass cracks, cat eating everything, filter explosions, a built in water chem test to monitor with "real" consequences and some random, just like the real world, bad livestock every so often, bulbs going out...this would give people total freedom in the fake world to do whatever they wanted and give a valuable learning tool- plus, people could watch the succession, interaction, and all that with an idea before they started messing with real animals. of course, I turn this over to you, because I just have the idea, but no clue how to organize it all in the computer world- I can barely type this...uh.. what's it called? Email? anyway, something to dream about- I'll leave you alone for real questions now- <Ahh no worries, your secret is safe with us... no wait, it just got posted on the Internet! Oh well, I do believe someone already makes such a thing, although not under the "SIM" brand-name... but a good idea. Now if we can just assemble a small army of programmers to produce it. Thanks again, and cheers, J -- >

- New Setup Questions - <Greetings, JasonC here...> I'm currently working on setting up a 29 Gallon Saltwater tank, with a Marine Eclipse 3 hood.  Need some input from the pros.  I've got an extra 10 gal thought I'd use for a sump.  I'm purchasing a RIO 2500 for my return, and looking at making DIY overflow/ can't find anybody that will drill the tank for me. <None of the glass shops in your area will do this? You do need to take them a dry tank, of course... I would look a little harder for the drilling service, this solution is vastly superior to external overflow boxes.> I will be getting LR for the tank probably 10lbs to start with, going to 30lbs as funds permit.  I've been looking at all different kinds of equipment, and searching the Internet for opinions and the RIO 2500 submersible pump seems to be a good one for my size tank. <Yes... do make sure you disassemble and clean it every other month to keep it running well.> But Skimmers are a different story.  Seaclone isn't even an option, but what about the Prism's H.O. Skimmer? <I'm not a big fan.> Cost about 80.00. <Some things are worth spending a little more money on.> All the different skimmers I've seen are rated for 100-300 gal tanks, I'm down in the 30 gal. <How about an Aqua-C Remora?> Maybe later I'll move up to a 55 at the most. <55 would be a better size, 30 gallons is on the small side of small and when things go wrong in this sized tank, they go wrong in a hurry. Consider the 55 a little more.> I've read as much as I can about these things on the internet-books, whatever, but nothing like the real thing. One last question.  What is a good substrate/ size to use??  Even with the LR, would it be over kill to add a Plenum, with about 3 inches of sand or crushed coral??? <Yes, it would be overkill. Much better to just add more sand and make that bed 4-5" thick or more.> I've got two 15lbs bags of CaribSea? Crushed Florida Coral (aggregate?) <Is fine, sure.> But the more reading I'm doing it sounds like this stuff might be two big and allow debris to become trapped. <Well, if you are going for a deeper sand bed, then it would be the opportunity to get some finer-grade stuff in there, perhaps the CaribSea Aragamax, which is very fine grain.> I need some advise.  I'm working on getting everything together before assembling, like to do things right the first time. The goal is to have as much of a hands off, and self-sufficient tank as possible (if that's possible). <Well, it is probably better to 'have' to do some maintenance every so often or you forget... and then things go off the deep end - recall my earlier comment about tank size here.> Haven't even thought about fish yet / I'll add them later this spring once everything else is checking out okay. <Sounds good.> Thanks for your help and advice. <Cheers, J -- >

New/return to Marines in Norway Here's a question - for a semi skilled freshwater veteran what's easiest 1. FOWLR with deep sand bed 2. FOWLR w/out DSB 3. Ecosystem style? <I am inclined toward the system with the deep sand bed for denitrification if the fish you keep are not exceedingly large or messy (foraging wrasses and the like)> Norway (as I have moaned before) is fiendishly expensive - 25 gallon instant ocean 25 dollars! <wow!> for example, so I want to keep hardware to a minimum.   <understood and agreed for many reasons... beyond price> Most of the skimmers available locally look like bits of air driven drainpipe, though people seem to make 'em work <do consider one of the many fine DIY plans on the 'Net> I see 'respectable' company STM in Britain is offering a minireef setup for 121 pounds or something - it's about 9 gallons.  They recommend it as suitable for beginners but I find this hard to credit.   <I will say emphatically that it is irresponsible to market such a small and unstable tank to beginners... dangerous and forces people out of the hobby in short time due to failure and disappointment. They must be fascists <G>> Any opinions (yes). Not that I'm thinking of this - it's just too limiting in so many ways. Many regards for your prompt response. Wayne <kindly, Anthony>

29 Gal Tank Version 2.0 Season's Greeting to the WWM Crew.... hopefully Santa delivered a bag full of new goodies to each of you.  He stopped at our house and left the goods - but not the advice and experience that is in such abundance at WetWebMedia. <We tried to get Santa on the WWM staff, but he's to busy with outside commitments most of the year...guess we'll have to do! Scott F. with you today!> Could you please provide some advice on implementing the "upgrades"? <Will try!> Livestock:  one false percula, two three stripe damsels, one skunk cleaner shrimp (bright red back with single white stripe - this is >Lysmata amboinensis?), 5 turbo snails. Tank in original configuration: 29G tank, Penguin 170 filter with BioWheel, aerated, 2 inches of crushed coral and small gravel, and one relatively large piece of Tufa rock (spelling?), no live rock (yet), populated for about 5 months.  This has teetered on the edge of "out of control" and has always had problems maintaining zero ammonia. <Hmm... sounds like either the tank never finished cycling, or their is some heavy organic accumulation occurring that's overwhelming the filter> Changes in progress:  An EHEIM Ecco 2233 has been installed and running in parallel with the Penguin 170 for 24 hrs .  The CPR BakPak2 is being installed today.  A MaxiJet 1200 is being installed to promote good circulation. <All good moves. You should see a noticeable improvement in water quality, especially if you keep up with good water changes and careful feeding> Q1: How long should I wait before relocating the Penguin 170 power filter to the QT I am going to set up?  I am assuming that the new filter media needs to become populated with bacteria. <Good question. I'd give it a couple of weeks, myself> Q2: The EHEIM came with all of the baskets loaded with filter pads and the literature says it is ready to "plug and play" (coarse blue pads in the lower baskets and fine pads and carbon pads in the upper basket).  However, the literature also talks about different types of media that should be loaded in the lower baskets.  What is the story here?  Should I plan on a) adding different media ASAP, b) adding different media at first filter maintenance/cleaning, c) just continue to use "as delivered"? <Well, lots of choices. The down side to replaceable mechanical filter media, such as pads, are that they tend to accumulate organics and detritus over time, reducing water quality. If you are gonna use these items, they must be cleaned and/or replaced regularly (like weekly, or more frequent, IMO. Maybe use some stuff like the "Efimech" ceramic "noodles", and some carbon in the other basket. In time, the Efimech will become a biological filter, and the carbon should be replaced regularly> Q3: The MaxiJet 1200 is rated at 295 GPH.  Will this be excessive in a 29G tank which will also have a EHEIM Ecco 2233 and a CPR BakPak2 generating circulation? <Nope, I think that you'll be fine> How do I know when I have crossed the line and created a washing machine rather than just good circulation? <When the stripes start blowing off of your clownfish...that's too much! Seriously, you'll know. It's really hard to get "too much" circulation into most aquariums, IMO> Q4: Since the tank is aerated, will there still be aerobic processes after I remove the Penguin 170 with its BioWheel? <Biological processes and oxygen exchange will still continue> Q5: I have a Proquatics Hydrosafe heater manufactured by Hydor in Italy.  Does anyone know if this is submersible?  Their literature does not clearly indicate either way - no cautions against or claims for submersing, only a remark that the "Water Level" indicator is the minimum immersion required (immersing any further would place the upper seal and cover in the water). <Hmm...no experience with this brand/model of heater. I'd check with either the retailer where you purchased it or with the manufacturer/distributor of the unit> Q6: My make up water is created from heated and aerated tap water stored in the basement.  If the container is covered (not sealed) does this prevent the reduction of chlorine? <As long as it's not airtight, I don't see a problem. Supplemental aeration is best in either case, IMO> Thank you in advance for your valued opinions and advice. <And thank you for stopping by! Have a great holiday season and enjoy your upgrades...sounds great!>

- Looking Far and Wide - Hello, <Hi Jeremy, JasonC here...> I have been deeply fascinated with salt water aquariums for a few years now.  I have wanted to have one ever since my first snorkeling trip in the Bahamas. However, there is only one problem.  I have no idea what I am doing.  I have checked several websites only to feel that something still has to be missing. <Did you check ours? We have easily over 1,000 pages of articles and FAQs covering just about every aspect of aquaria, including marine.> I am not sure if this is due to the unknown factor since this would be my first attempted salt water (reef aquarium).  My question would therefore be, where can I go for information I can use and feel confident about? <Get thee to WetWebMedia.com - oh wait, you were already there.> I have been told to try the book Conscientious Marine Aquarist, which I plan on purchasing. <Then don't wait - the same person who wrote this book also authored the majority of the articles on our site.> I am not afraid of failure, but I refuse to just jump in on this blindly because I don't want to kill fish based solely on my ignorance. <Sounds like you were on the right track, perhaps you just didn't have your eyes open wide enough. Do buy the book, it's excellent. Do check out the rest of WetWebMedia.com - most everything you could want to find is there.> Any help would be appreciated. Thanks Jeremy <Cheers, J -- >

Tank Set-Up Hi All, I have a couple of questions. I have looked over the FAQ's and read through both Anthony's "Book of Coral Propagation" and Bob's "Conscientious Marine Aquarist", both great books by the way, but unfortunately I am still left with a few questions, so please bear with me. I have had my 75 gallon Sea Clear System II (wet/dry part of the tank) for about 10 years now. I am considering moving up to a 90 gallon tank (48 x 18 x 24), possibly a Sea Clear with the overflow in the back corner. My first question is about flow. I have read about some overflows not being able to go above a certain amount of gallons per hour. Is this because of the size of the overflow box being too small, the pipe inside too narrow? <Mostly because of the size of the overflow pipe, but a small box does not help matters.> Do you have any opinions on this particular tank for a reef tank, probably only LPS corals and 4 to 5 fish (right now I have Lemon Peel, Flame Angel, Tomato Clown, and a Dottyback)? <As far as manufacturer's go, I have no preference.> I am also looking to add a sump, DIY, but what would be the optimum size? <As big as you can fit, but I would go no smaller than a 30 for a 90 gallon display.> I was thinking about a 20 gallon tank for the sump. Would that be large enough? <See above> It will hold a Protein Skimmer, either Euro-Reef or a Turboflotor, I have not decided yet. I am also thinking about an Iwaki WMD30RLXT or MD30RLXT for the return. Can I attach the return to 2 SeaSwirls, have it branch off in a "Y" fashion for some water movement? <Sure> I would also have a separate pump for circulation only. Now for the transition from one tank to another. I have about 70 lbs of live rock (I plan to get more) and crushed coral substrate (3 mm to 4 mm) at about 1" high. I want to have a DSB. I am looking for the SouthDown sand that I have been reading about, possibly mixing a little bit of new live sand on top of it to help establish some critters quickly. Do I just discard the old substrate? <That grain size can be problematic. I would likely discard it.> I read in Anthony's book that it is not good to have a variety of sizes, so I don't want to mix the old substrate with the new. In regards to my bio balls in my old System II. Once I move to the new tank, the only filtration will be the live rock. I am afraid I might have problems with Ammonia, etc. What is my best option here? <Add fish slowly.> I don't have the room to run both tanks for an extended period of time, my wife would not appreciate that! <The easiest thing may be to make your current biological filtration dependent on the liverock that you have. Four fish in a 75 with 70 pounds of liverock should work. Just slowly remove the bioballs in your current system, monitoring ammonia and nitrite. Then you could move all to a new tank and be relatively safe.> Whew, a lot of questions, I hope you don't mind. Any help is greatly appreciated. Paul T <Good luck! -Steven Pro>

- Tank Setup - Thanks for the information. <My pleasure.> My family and I have discussed this and thought that with what you have said we would probably enjoy more a tank full of corals with beautiful fish as well. <I think so too.> We can always put the macro algae in the sump system. <Absolutely.> So with the set up listed above would be able to keep hard corals as well, such as sps? <Oh sure, although you may want to consider a calcium reactor if you pursue the SPS corals. The reactor would make calcium and alkalinity maintenance less of a chore.> Also, as far as the substrate, would a DSB be a better substrate for keeping corals or would the crushed coral be just as good? <Well, most all sands for saltwater aquaria are made of crushed coral. They are just crushed to different sizes. A deep sand bed greater than 4" would be good thing, as Martha Stewart would have once said.> Thanks Robin <Cheers, J -- >

A Little Remodeling! Hi Guys, <Scott F. your guy tonight!> Do you have any idea how helpful your site is to those of us who have gotten four different answers from four local fish stores to the same questions? <So glad that you find it helpful. We each have different opinions here, too-but our general philosophies are similar. It can be frustrating hearing tons of different answers on the same subject, so it's always nice to take information with a grain of salt, as they say> You have renewed my interest and enthusiasm.  A big thank you!  I have a 55 gal. FOLRLS that has been set up for approximately seven years this time around. <That's some nice long-term success!>   At that time I used crushed coral as a substrate and have since added live sand to a depth of three inches or so.  Since finding your site and reading, reading, reading I know I need to add to that to bring it up to at least four inches.  Since I do have lots of critters in the existing substrate can I just add more sand? <If you're going to be adding "live" sand, you could probably just add it all at once. On the other hand, if you're using sand "right out of the bag", if you will, I'd build it up over a couple of maintenance intervals in your tank, to allow the infauna in the sand to colonize the inert sand gradually> Also, I am going to add a skimmer thinking maybe HOT Bak Pac II model (do I need the one with the media) and am ordering a box of Walt Smith live rock that I will cure in my garage. <The Bak Pak is a nice HOT skimmer-I'd get rid of the biomedia, though> Can I just use a fluorescent light for the curing process as well as a skimmer and heater? <Should be fine- just change the water regularly and keep an eye on things> I currently have a Tru Vu wet/dry, yes with bio balls that I am planning to remove after I add the new live rock. <Good idea- the live rock will be your best "filter"> Can I use the wet/dry as a refugium? <Well- a refugium is a more-or-less self contained unit, which is connected to the sump. The idea is to provide an isolated, safe place for various animals to thrive. Yes, you can put some sand and maybe some purposeful macroalgae, such as Chaetomorpha, in a lighted section of the sump that doesn't get high flow. That's not really a refugium, however.> It currently has a blue filter pad, then DLS rolls, then bio balls in the middle section. Do I remove all and put some live rock in that section? <Some people like to put rock in their sumps- really a matter of personal preference. I'd definitely remove all of the bioballs, DLS, or other mechanical filtering materials. You could continue to use the filter pads to catch gross particulate matter if you'd like, but be sure to change them regularly (like a couple of times a week) to avoid them becoming a nutrient trap. This wet/dry currently houses the heater, a non functioning built in skimmer and then flows into the media section. <Perhaps you may want to consider the Aqua C Urchin, a skimmer in the same price/performance range as the Bak Pak, but one that sits in the sump...this can really work well if you're so inclined> I now know that most of my fish are way to big for this 55.  I have a Clown Trigger, Blue Tang, Mustard Tang, Green Bird Wrasse, Percula Clown and Coral Beauty. <Yikes! But I'll spare you the lecture, because you seem to have a handle on things for the future!> If I take the trigger, and both tangs and the wrasse back to the store that sold them to me, knowing the size of my tank, will the Percula and Coral Beauty keep the tank stable, bio load wise, while I do the renovations of adding the live rock, skimmer and removing the media in the wet/dry? <I think that will work just fine. Sorry that you have to return these guys, but I know we both agree that they need more suitable homes for the long run> I will at a later date hope to add a blenny and goby of some type along with maybe a sharp nose puffer. <Much better choices, with the exception of the puffer (IMO), for long-term success in this system> I don't have enough light to even consider corals and since I live in the central valley of Calif. don't want to hassle the heat issue in the summer.  Just interested in creating some more interest in this aquarium. <A commendable aim!> Fortunately, even though it seems this set up is extremely over stocked it has been stable for years. <Systems do achieve an equilibrium of sort over time- even crowded ones...but the moves that you are planning are really good for the very long run> Thanks for your time and any input or suggestions would be welcomed. <I think that you've already come up with some great ideas for your system! Have a great time "remodeling" it! Best of luck to you in the future! Regards, Scott F>

New Tank I read articles at this site for hours, great information really a great site. <thanks, its my favorite as well.  Good people sharing unbiased opinions for the greater good of the hobby, does not get much better than that.> But I'm still puzzled, I never had a fish tank and want to get into the hobby. <WELCOME!!> Bought a 55 gal tank that came with a hood and has 1 light where do I start? <You just did.> What do I buy? <everything, but only what you need.> what kind of lights? <the best for your inhabitants.> your website has bombarded me with so much information that my head hurts. <The best plan is to focus on what you are interested in.> could someone there just answered me with if I had a 55 gal tank and wanted to have liverock and a view fish something that looked cool this is the setup I would use. It would be great thanks <Hey Dave, Gage here this evening.  You are in a wonderful position, empty tank and endless possibilities.  If it were me I would set up the 55 with tropicals, live plants, and a nice Co2 system, or maybe a reef with beautiful corals, guarded by the meanest Dottyback you can find.  That is the beauty my friend, it is your world to create.  Keep researching, decide if you are more into fish, or corals.  Pick what you like, and let us know, then we will shoot you down. Just kidding.  Honestly, a 55 is a great starting point for a reef, or a fish only system (depending upon the fish).  If you are thinking marine, start looking into lighting (power compact, VHO, metal halide), and protein skimmers.  AHHHH too much to sum up in one email, check out our site, let us know what you are into and we will advise as best we can.  Check out the links below.  Best Regards, Gage http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marlgtganthony.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/skimbestof.htm  >

- Order of Operations in a New Tank - Mr. Bob Fenner & highly knowledgeable crew Greetings & Happy Holidays! <And greetings to you. JasonC here...> I have a few more questions. (of course) I am setting up a 90 gal. FO tank, and "everyone" recommends a deep sand bed and live rock for filtration.  I am having to buy new equipment in "installments" so the wife doesn't go ballistic on me.  I understand that I can add all the live rock at one time so it will cure in the tank & cycle the tank at the same time.  Do I have to scrub the "pre-cured" rock before I put it in? <I would approach this on a case-by-case basis - if the rock is covered in goo, for certain give it a rinse. If not, don't worry about it.> How much lighting will I need during the curing process, and will I need mechanical &/or carbon filtering? <The lighting you list below should suffice, although a second tube wouldn't hurt. You should probably at the very least run a protein skimmer while the live rock is curing.> I currently have a Bak-Pak2, which I believe is not big enough for my 90, <I would agree.> 1 NO 48" fluorescent fixture, a Magnum 350, a Fluval 303, and an Aqua clear 500.  After lengthy discussion, (begging) my wife is still strongly against a sump.   Besides which, I only have 18" of height inside the cabinet, so I will have to do all my skimming & filtration via hang on the back equipment.  I also only have 3.5" clearance between the canopy & glass top. What would be the best skimmer for my particular set-up? <I would suggest an AquaC Remora Pro.> Would I need more lighting for the rock during the curing process, and how long before I have to upgrade it to VHO? <Perhaps never - the fish really don't care about light type, and the live rock will do well with just about anything besides an incandescent light bulb.> Would the Amiracle hang-on wet-dry be of better use than the canisters during & after the curing? <I wouldn't suggest that, no. Instead, look into the CPR hang on refugiums and just put in more live rock. Use the canisters for mechanical filtration only - clean them once a week.> In which order should I make the upgrades, and should I upgrade before buying the rock? <Get the skimmer first, then the rock.> My local LFS' are just about worthless about marine issues, and there are so many differing "opinions" on these subjects that I am gonna go with the "experts" recommendations. Thanks a bunch, Neil <Cheers, J -- >

Jalli Lighting for a Nano-Reef Anthony/Bob, <Steven Pro in this afternoon.> How are things? I hope all is well. <Not too bad, and you?> You both have helped me in the past regarding my 75 gallon reef and the advice has been excellent. Thank you. However, I have decided to start a 15 gallon (24x12x12) nano-reef. I would really like to keep some SPS stags and others. In the current set-up I have 25# of sand, 25# of Fiji live rock, 2x Hagen 201's in the corners for circulation and a Hagen 150 box filter for carbon and other chemical media. I also have a 200 watt heater to keep the temperature more stable. The problem is lighting. There really are not a lot of choices out there for nano's especially if one wants to explore SPS in this type of system. I have been looking at PC's since they seem to make more sense on a Nano than Metal Halide based on cost and heat. <MH's would be just plain overkill.> The most wattage I have found is either Jalli or JBJ PC fixtures that are suspended over the tank via legs that sit on the rim of the tank. My question is will 110 watts of light be enough to grow SPS corals at a reasonable rate, as well as, for the most part, maintain their color? <That should be just fine.> I am also concerned about protein skimming. I really would like something that doesn't take up too much space, but is actually efficient. Water changes could work but I feel more comfortable with the skimmer "safety-net". Any suggestions? <I would look for a small hang-on, counter current, air-driven model. I have used Aqua-Link ones before and been very happy. They need both a small water pump to feed the skimmer and a good air pump. I like the Luft pumps.> Happy Holidays! -Keith Broadbent <You too! -Steven Pro>

Marine Set-Up I have an empty 55gal aquarium. I was thinking of starting a tank with a mix of some live rock and fish. I was wondering if there was a list of supplies that you could send me to get me started.   Dave <Much depends on what sort of livestock, type of system you intend... Please peruse our "Marine Set-Up" sections posted here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/index.htm Bob Fenner>

Thanks for the help... After doing (almost) everything wrong and buying a lot of (well marketed) crap your advice has contributed significantly to the health of my small system and it's inhabitants.  Ammonia Zero, Nitrite Zero, Nitrate below 10ppm.  The skimmer is on the way, the Eheim is on the way and Bob's book should arrive just in time for some holiday reading by the fire.  Thanks a million to Anthony, Bob, Steven, Dave, and anyone I might have missed.  Have a happy holiday season. <Thank you my friend. And to you and yours. Bob Fenner>

Batten Down The Hatches! I'm currently setting up a 90 gallon reef tank so far my equipment is: 2 Aquarium Systems Millennium 2000 power filters 1 SeaClone 100 protein skimmer 4 power heads 1 wave maker I'm next adding live rock and about 1/4" of live sand in front of the rock. <Sounds good so far. Make sure that the skimmer is yanking out a few cups of dark yucky stuff per week, okay> I'm working on putting together A automatic water changer to do about 3/4 of a gallon per day. My question is I'm wanting to add a deionizer and a sump to do the water changes should I get rid of the Millennium 2000 filters and set up a wet/dry sump w/ the protein skimmer. <I'd go for a sump with skimmer inside, '86 the bioballs, add a few bags of carbon, and you're on your way to an easy-to-care-for system.> Will it be trouble if I use all the above? <Ok- I have to get my 2 cents worth in...Lots of people do use "automatic water change/top off" systems with their reef tanks. I am not one of them. I don't want to discourage any dedicated, skilled DIYer's such as yourself, but I personally know of 3 individuals who have had disastrous malfunctions with these systems within the past few months, costing them enormous amounts of livestock, heartache, time, and money. They were not stupid people. I really think that the concept and the goals of such a system are valid...but you will be doing your animals, pocketbook, and possibly, your carpet a big favor by doing it the old-fashioned, labor-intensive way.  I'm not saying that it cant be done-but why put all of that time, money, and effort into a water change system like this? I'd rather put the same $$ and effort into something more reliable and useful, such as a refugium, better skimmer, etc. In a system of many hundreds of gallons, such technology, properly designed and constructed, can be an enormous time saver. But for most of us normal folks, it's really better to keep to the simple stuff, IMO. Regards, Scott F>

Water Parameters In A New System Dear WWM, <Scott F. here today> My new 150gal marine aquarium is about 6 weeks old, consists of fish only, and employs canister filters. The ammonia level seems to have leveled-off at 0.5ppm...perhaps even reduced a little.  The nitrite level has just shot-up this past week to 5ppm; and the nitrate level has also risen this past week to about 15ppm.  Also, the pH has dropped to 7.8.   <The ammonia/nitrite levels seem consistent with a routine cycling period-I'm a bit concerned about that low pH. It's really on the "low" side of the desired range of 7.8-8.4. Do check regularly, both day and night to confirm.> 3 questions: (1) When should I turn on the protein skimmer? <Tons of different opinions on this. I have always ran my skimmers from day one- they will help remove a lot of organics that will otherwise accumulate and contribute to major algae problems in a new system that has not yet achieved a high capacity to cycle nutrients.> (2) When should I do a partial water change? <I'd hold off on the water changes until ammonia and nitrite have both returned to undetectable levels, at which point the tank could be considered to be "cycled"> (3) Should I adjust the pH from 7.8 back to 8.2 now...if so, is backing soda OK? <Do monitor the pH levels throughout the day to verify the "high" pH. If 7.8 is your high, some form of adjustment may be necessary. Do read the FAQs on pH and alkalinity on the wetwebmedia.com site for a lot more detail on these concepts than I can touch on here. Always remember that if you're gonna add something to the water- you really need to test for it. That's the responsible and correct way to do it, IMO> thank you for any advice, Jeffrey Makiel <Keep observing and learning, Jeffrey. You seem to have a great grasp of what's happening in your tank...keep it up and you'll be rewarded with a beautiful tank for years to come! Regards, Scott F.>

Setup Questions... Hello, I've been reading quite a bit on setting up my new (2nd hand) 150gal (w/Rubbermaid sump, bio balls & skimmer) tank but still have a few questions maybe you could help with? Plan is to have a FO w/LR tank, substrate being ~1 inch of aragonite. <I'd go for 3" plus, or 1/2" or less...> First of all, I'll get rid of the bio balls and add ~100lbs of LR. <Good call>   I'm planning on the sump holding only filter floss, maybe some LR rubble in the bottom, then having the skimmer hang off that.  I guess it could possibly hold carbon as well.  Does this sound like a good general solution to make use of the equipment I have?  And if not, what are some better ways to go that wouldn't involve spending a lot on new equipment? <Sounds great to me!> My Ebo Jager heaters have an indicated water line - I'd like to be able to put them in the sump but they couldn't stand upright in that shallow water and I'm guessing can't be put on their side and submersed? :( <You sure can- as long as they are submersed. Should be fine> The overflow/sump/pump & pvc/tubing are all custom made (and not all there so I have to do a bit of plumbing), what's a good way to get the return hose to clip on the tank or actually stay put up there, and does it have to flow into the tank from above the water line or be directed in a way to make use of that current? <Literally dozens of possible ways. Bulkheads plumbed into the side of the tank...or return through devices such as Sea Swirls, etc.> Or, generally, are there any sites you know of that explain how to build this kind of thing making use of the local hardware store? <Check out Ozreef on line. A great DIY site> Does the water level in the sump stay constant by adjusting the return flow valve only? <That's one of the main ways> Does keeping LR require any certain strength of lighting? <If you're keeping photosynthetic animals, you need sufficient light to meet their needs. Read up on the animals you want to keep and develop a lighting scheme to suit them> Thanks in advance for any help! :) Mike <No problem, Mike! Good luck and have fun! Regards, Scott F.>

Set-Up Ideas Howdy to the WWM Crew! <Hey there! Scott F. with you tonight!> I am currently reading my way through "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist" and am thoroughly enjoying it and learning quite a bit! <I re-read this book all the time myself!> I had a couple of quick questions for the crew. Here is my planned setup: 90 Gallon Tank 100-150 pds. Live Rock 200 pds. Sugar size Sand (seeded from LR) 1 protein skimmer 1 aquaclear 100 to handle the Mechanical Filtration (sponge removed and cleaned regularly to act as mechanical filter) 400 Watts of VHO (3 Day/1 Actinic) <Sounds nice> I plan on FO until balanced and then would like maybe a frogspawn or something similar. Would you do the DSB in this kind of system? It will be lightly stocked and I plan to keep the load small.... although I am finding that I love the Inverts! <I really like the idea of a DSB. It can benefit both fish and invertebrate systems alike with its efficient processing of nutrients> While I know you don't like to make a cut/dry "this is the better product", is there a skimmer that you can recommend for me? <Lots of good ones...Euroreef and Aqua C are consistently recommended and utilized by many hobbyists with great results. There are others-but these brands are consistent in quality and efficiency> Also would you suggest another form of filter over the aquaclear to handle the particulate filtration and to hold the carbon media? (I have a lot of experience with Aquaclears in my FW and still have my original after almost 5 years of operation). <I like sumps, myself, for the efficiency and flexibility they afford, but-hey- if the AquaClear works for you, stick with it. Just change the filter media often.> Thank you all so much! <And thank you for stopping by!> p.s. Anyone know what the green plant in the picture on page 41 of the T.C.M.A. is? <Looks like Caulerpa racemosa to me (aka "Grape Caulerpa")!

Re: how to contact Coralife I recently purchased a used 2 lamp Coralife NO ballast, and it's not working.  I think it may be under warranty, but have no way of knowing where it was purchased.  Problem is, I can't seem to find contact information for Coralife anywhere.  It's like the company doesn't exist.  If you have a phone number or email addy, I'd be most appreciative.  Thanks as always.  Side note, the new book coming out in March is already on my xmas list.  Can't wait to receive it.  ~Tim <the parent company is Energy Savers Unlimited. The web site for Coralife is here, bud: http://www.esuweb.com/new_site/coralife.php Best regards, Anthony>

Re: basement I used Thoroseal about 15 years ago in my basement. In the past few years it has started to come off my walls in  spots. The walls are block. now I would like to refinish my basement and have to reseal it. I will be covering some walls with drywall and one with brick. If one coat lasted about 15 years will 2 or three coats last longer? Also can i just go over the Thoroseal that's there now? Thanks in advance    ED GENTILE <I would ask the folks at the resellers of Thoro Products these same questions. I suspect that you can apply the material over the old coat... I would use their "Water Plug" over areas where the material is missing currently first. Bob Fenner>

Planning Ahead! I have been studying the wealth of info on your site, as well as reading many books, in preparation for my foray into the reef aquarium hobby in the next couple of months (after my tax return comes!), but I am still fuzzy about certain issues that maybe you guys can help with. I plan on having a 100 gal tank with a 25-30 gallon sump (with skimmer, heater, and grounding rod) and a 20-30 gal refugium lit 24/7 for added biodiversity. I plan on having 2 metal halides and 2 blue actinics for lighting on the main tank. I want to eventually keep corals and clams, along with some royal grammas, some Chromis, a flame hawkfish, a watchman goby/shrimp pair, and possibly a pacific blue tang with live rock and sand for filtration. <Sounds like a nice setup!> I hope to hone my skills to later perform coral propagation due to the lack of livestock in my area. This will help populate the larger 300+ gal tank I plan to include in my new home design in about 5-6yrs. <Have you purchased Anthony Calfo's "Book of Coral Propagation" yet? This book will be your daily reference manual for coral husbandry and propagation...A must read for you!> On to the questions: 1) I am still up in the air about deep sand beds vs. plenums, but I'm leaning toward DSB. I really don't like the aesthetic aspect of having the DSB taking up a lot of volume in my tank, so would a 5-6'' live sand DSB in the refugium with a 2-3'' layer of aragonite and live sand in the main tank provide the same functionality as one large DSB in the main tank? <Many aquarists have such "remote sand beds", and enjoy tremendous success. In the main tank- I'd shoot for 3 inches or more as a minimum, to enjoy the benefits of nitrification that the sand bed can offer. More than 1/2", or less than 3" is a biological "no-man's land", that could have long-term problems due to the bed not being deep enough to foster complete denitrification processes.> 2) I have seen some discussions on the evils of powerheads, and using multiple PVC outlets around the tank perimeter with a separate circulation pump to create currents. How can such a setup be a) used alone or b) combined with a wavemaker to create a suitable high-flow environment for corals and clams? <Tons of ways to achieve this. Best way, IMO, would be to construct a "closed loop" with a dedicated pump. Do look on the wetwebmedia.com site for lots of information on the design and construction of closed loops in reef aquariums> 3) I want a calcium reactor to eliminate the constant hassle of kalkwasser mixing/addition. Do I need a pH controller with any calcium reactor? <No you don't> Do dual stage reactors alleviate sharp CO2 fluctuations? Are their single stage reactor designs that are "worry free"? <There are many different designs and merits and downsides to each. Do read up on the FAQ's and manufacturers' literature for specifics> An Octopus or Neptune controller would be nice, but the cost may be outside my initial budget. <Many aquarists operate their systems without controllers, and are quite successful. Controllers are great for chiller/heater setups, however, as they enable you to maintain very precise temperature controls with minimal fluctuation> 4) I want an acrylic tank. Should I be concerned about the top center brace heating up and possible warping or cracking due to the high temps caused by the lighting? I plan on having good hood ventilation, but I have seen this mentioned as a problem more often than I would like. (I plan on getting a chiller to control water temp) <As long as the bulbs are not coming into direct contact with the acrylic (something that you'd never want, anyways), and the hood is properly vented, there is not too much chance this will happen. Not that it couldn't, but it's quite unlikely. 5) If I have one main circulation pump, one pump for current creation, and a smaller low-flow pump for the refugium, how do I handle a pump failure situation? It seems to me like the closed loop current and refugium pumps will be OK (flood wise), and that the sump will only have to be big enough hold the water that made it into the overflow after the main pump stopped. <I'd utilize a sump that can handle about 20-30 percent more water than you'd expect during a "drain down" even, just to be sure. I really don't want to have a large water incident in my rec room! Any advice you can give me on these topics would be greatly appreciated. <To determine how many gallons per inch your tank holds, you can multiply your tank's length times its width times the "height" ( In this case," height" will be how many inches there are from water surface to the bottom of the overflow's "teeth", or water return outlets- whichever is deeper), and divide by 231. This will give you a rough idea of how many gallons will drain down, and how much capacity you'll need in your sump to accomodate the water.> I know it sounds a like a little too much from someone WITHOUT a tank, but I want to get my ducks in a row before I start the whole thing so I don't massacre a load of innocent sea creatures needlessly. Thanks, Jeremy Dawson <Jeremy- I commend you for doing all of the planning now. If you make intelligent, well-informed decisions now, you and your specimens will be so much better off for it down the line! Good luck with your plans! Regards, Scott F>

Moving Up To Large Tank Even though I've enjoyed my 45-gal Oceanic for 10 years now,  I have a renewed interest in really getting back into the hobby "full steam", and want to go with a larger tank.  I was thinking of a 120 gal Oceanic (glass) with a custom canopy that will elevate the MH bulbs at least 12 inches from the water surface.  I was planning to use two 250 W  MH true 10000 K bulbs.  I also thought that I'd use two VHO actinic bulbs for the dawn and dusk effect.  Is this too much light?  Would you recommend two 175s instead?  I plan to keep mostly soft corals and the occasional Tridacna clam.  I also plan to keep a relatively light fish load, with lots of live rock.  Does this lighting plan sound sufficient? <I don't think that this lighting scheme is too much for the animals you are considering. Please keep in mind that some corals must be acclimated to the lighting scheme that you have devised, and that their placement within the tank is dependent upon their specific needs, which you need to research carefully. BTW- Anthony Calfo wrote a great article on acclimating animals to different lighting schemes-check it out on the WWM site> As for the filtration, I was planning on going with LR and skimming alone.  Do you recommend a separate canister filter as well for mechanical filtration? <I personally do not use supplemental mechanical filtration unless its need is dictated by your animals (i.e; larger, predatory species, etc.). Use of prefiltering with filter pads, filter "bags", etc, can supply most of the mechanical filtration that you'll need with your planned population. Do change/clean these pads often, so that they don't become sources of organic accumulation> Also, would you recommend an in-sump skimmer or one that sits outside the sump, such as ETSS? <Really depends on your available space, sump size, type of skimmer, etc. ETSS skimmers can be used both internally and externally. The most important thing, IMO, is to supply a level flow of water from which the skimmer can draw. Do research the many FAQs on skimmer use and configurations available on the wetwebmedia.com site> Thanks for your help Tom <My pleasure, Tom. Sounds like you're on your way to a really cool tank. Have fun and good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Marine Set-Up Hi - I'm building a 58 gallon salt setup (FOWLR, and at some point moving to some easier corals). At this point, I have a tank (empty) and am building a stand (as I'm quickly learning, aquariums take as much time and patience as woodworking/furniture making). I bought a 25 gallon (footprint of 24"x18") acrylic tank for my sump where I plan on creating a mud filter similar to the ecosystems filters. A couple of questions: I've looked at a lot of sump designs - some have the pump and skimmer internal, some have it external. Is one better than the other? <I like to use sump model skimmers because if you overflow the cup, the excess skimmate will fall back into the sump versus the stand for external skimmers.> The better skimmers have a fairly large footprint, and I'm thinking that I'm better off to use my sump real-estate for more filter material (mud or rock) as opposed to equipment. <A valid point. The potential overflowing problem in minimal, but I am in the business of aquarium maintenance where I must try to account for all possible catastrophes to limit my liability. Also, I have to figure on some overzealous customers sometimes attempting to "help" out and adjust their equipment. Case in point, while I like calcium reactors and have one for my new tank, I would never install one in an account. I just keep mostly soft corals, mushrooms, and zoanthids for customers.> Is there any downside to mounting my skimmer and pump external besides the extra plumbing and risk of leaks in the additional plumbing connections (which should be low if done right). <No, that is it.> My sump is acrylic, so bulkheads and the such will be easy enough to drill/install/etc. Are there any other advantages to doing it externally? <No, just space considerations.> My current thought is to have mud and Caulerpa as my "filter" in a large chamber in my sump. <For a FOWLR tank, I have no problem with it.> I know many people just use live rock. Can I mix both in the same chamber (i.e. I have a "mud field" growing Caulerpa with some chunks of LR sitting on top of it)? or would I need separate chambers, or am I just better off with sticking with the mud filter (I'll have LR in the tank). <I guess you could place a few pieces of liverock in the mud, but you may want to check with Ecosystem (the makers of Miracle Mud) to be sure. Their website can be found on our links page.> I have yet to build my sump - and am just trying exploring options. Given that I'm using a mud filter, I was planning on getting a skimmer and using it "part time" - some TBD frequency (still reading about this). Should I still get a "good skimmer" (euro skimmer or turbo floater) or would these "overskim" even if it's cycled on and off at some TBD frequency. <I would get a good skimmer and use it 24/7. No need to worry about overskimming on most tanks. There is more than enough nasty things be produced at all times in all aquaria.> Thanks in advance - reading the countless articles on your site has really changed my thinking. I was initially going to buy a new W/D filter (and an expensive one at that). Your forums are a great source of info. Bob's book arrived in the mail today - so I have plenty of additional reading to do. -Mark Allen <You seem to have a fine plan in motion. Do keep up with your education and I am sure you will be rewarded with a beautiful tank for it. -Steven Pro>

Starting Out Right! Bob & crew, <Scott F. here tonight!> First off, I'm glad I found this site.  Lots of wonderful information here. <Glad you find it useful!> I have a few questions before I get too far into setting up this tank.  First off, it's a 48" 90 gallon glass tank to be (at first) fish only with live rock. I 'm going to start with about 4" of Southdown sand for a bed, and am figuring on about 100 lbs. of live rock. <Sounds good so far> Filtration (planned) will be an Eheim 2028, Remora Pro skimmer, CPR Bak-Pak2, and a Magnum 350 for carbon & flow.( I already have the last two) Also 2-250watt Ebo-Jager heaters.  I also have an older Aqua Clear 500 back filter I can use. <I like that you're planning lots of filtration, but I think that there is a lot of redundancy there. I like the idea of keeping things simple. How about utilizing a sump, with the skimmer in the sump? Much more simple and a lot less "stuff" in the tank! Also, I think that the Remora or the Bak Pak  (both excellent skimmers, BTW) would be operating at the edge of their respective "performance envelopes". I'd rather have one larger skimmer to do the job.> Lighting currently is just a 48" NO fluorescent. Much to my surprise, my wife has relented and agreed to let me put in a sump under the tank, but am uncertain as how to use it best. <Ahh- good thought! Lots of ways to do this-search on the wetwebmedia.com site for ideas on sump setups...a much better idea than all of those filters, IMO> I had originally figured to put in a wet-dry, but after reading all the nitrate factory stories, it'll have to do a different duty if I go there. <Just use the sump as the "nucleus" of your water treatment system. You can utilize some filter bags or pads if you want (to trap gross particulate matter, if required), or simply use the sump as a "settling basin" for detritus, which can be siphoned easily. Put your skimmer, heater, and a few bags of activated carbon in there, and voila! You're on your way to an easy, efficient system (that looks good, too!)> 1) Is the filtration I've described adequate?  Do you recommend something else before I buy the Eheim & Remora? <Adequate, as indicated above- but needlessly complicated! Maybe an Aqua C EV series or Euroreef skimmer. Larger capacity, a bit more expensive, but some of the best investments you can make for this tank. Do it right the first time and you'll be thankful later-believe me!> 2) How to best utilize a sump, and how to best set it up?  (She still remembers the Great Flood of 91!)  I only have 18" clearance under the tank, and will have to rely on over the back overflows. <Do look into FAQs on sump setups, as mentioned above. Over-the-back overflows can be problematic at times, breaking siphon, etc. If you can, I'd spend the extra bucks to have the tank drilled and an overflow installed professionally> 3) Will this set-up allow me to change to reef later without major changes? <The sumps setup sure would!> I'm not new to the hobby, having kept a variety of freshwater & marine fish for 10+ years. Breeding pairs of discus & angels, 20 gallon reef, Emperor angel for 4 yrs ( gave him away when I left the hobby), but things have changed a lot since 94.  No longer is the old standby undergravel filter a good thing, wet-dry's used to be the best thing since whatever, and protein skimmers were just becoming popular. <Yep- many changes as the hobby/art evolves...Your previous experiences will serve you very well> I want to do this right.  Not only because of the costs, but because it's the right thing to do if you're going to take on the responsibility of the animals. <Absolutely right! Your attitude and enthusiasm will make you very successful!> Thanks for all your help. Neil <And Good luck to you! Thanks for stopping by!>

New to Saltwater Dear Sirs, I am thinking of starting a small salt water aquarium.  I have 3 freshwater aquarium but have never had an saltwater one. Do you have any tips? Thank you, Elizabeth <yes... and it is a wonderful aspect of the hobby. So many fascinating marine creatures. Get a good book for starters to teach yourself the basics. Mike Paletta's "New Marine Aquarium" would be a great first choice. The Bob Fenner's "Conscientious Marine Aquarist". Tell Santa you need these books <G>. Also, go to our index page at www.wetwebmedia.com and click the link for Saltwater (at the top). You can then follow many hours worth of reading with links to articles and FAQs on the saltwater aquarium experience. I wish you the best of luck, my friend. Anthony>

New Reef in Greece Hi! My name is Kostas and I live in Rhodes Island GREECE !! <Cheers, from America!> I've send couple of e-mails before and your help is greatly appreciated. Now I need your help again. Just finished setting-up my 150 g reef tank. I'm now in the process of adding RO/DI water, already  added 100 kilos of Ultrastone live aragonite sand ( making a sandbed of about 10 centimetres, that should be ok?) <yes... a good bed of sand> and added the fist 20 kilos of Live rock. Now as soon as the tank and sump is full ( all equipment sump/protein skimmer/calcium re/ are from Lifereef ) I was told I should add bacteria. Is that ok ? <not necessary at all... a waste of money. Live rock and live sand bring in more and better bacteria> Also since the LFS didn't have all the required LR I will have to add some more about 30-40 kg later. Would that create a problem in an established tank  ? <it can be a problem. My advice is to hold the new rock first in a QT tank or other separate vessel for a minimum of 2-4 weeks to cycle and cure it to insure stability. No lights needed, but strong water flow and protein skimming will be. Adding that much fresh rock later can stress and kill fish or coral> Once the bacteria mentioned above are added the cycle should start ? <with or without the LFS bacteria, the cycle begins anyway. A single piece of live rock will really be the best start. The more live rock early the better> Should  I do anything else ? or just measure water parameters until they reach the desired levels? ( should I add any fish to help the cycle or not?) <yes... please do add just a few hardy and inexpensive fishes to help the cycle along. No new fishes after that for 4 or more weeks when Ammonia and nitrite return to zero ppm> Waiting for your reply, take care, Kostas <best regards, Anthony>

Metal in and about saltwater Hi... I've heard that anything metal should be kept out of marine tanks...does this include a stainless steel hose clamp? Thanks, Jeff <Hi Jeff, Yes, they may contain metals other than SS and usually rust anyway as a result.  Try the plastic hose clamps from your LFS or one of our WetWebMedia.com sponsors.  Craig>

Marine Newbie & Fan of all things "Fenner" Dear Sir,     I use your "Conscientious Marine Aquarist" book as a guide in concert with pretty much anything else I can digest on the subject. I find there to be few publications of that quality that I can manage to chew through, so my compliments on your abilities as an author. <Glad we have found each other>     My particular challenges at this point in the hobby are that before I realized the pace of scientific development in Marine Aquatics, I purchased what I thought was a good system at a great price. I then had it installed in my living room wall. It looks SUPER! But then I started learning about the system deficits implicit with the old technology. <... "we are where we are due in large part to such "old tech."... same principles apply I assure you> For one, it has an undergravel filter system with two 803 powerheads drawing through crushed coral. I'm told that this has been identified as a source of impending biological collapse. <Mmm, not necessarily... but there are more homeostatic, stable means... of accomplishing the same ends> Live sand is the preferred answer, so they say, and forget the powerheads; just ditch the UGF altogether. That's easily said, but requires a total tear-down of the tank. <Again... not the only route. I would like to introduce you to a tool, our website: www.WetWebMedia.com and ask that you peruse the Marine Index... on set-up in this case, filtration... undergravel FAQs... you will find that your plates may well furnish you with a desirable space termed a plenum...> OK, so I'm committed to a re-build. While I have it empty (my two small fish temporarily transferred to my hospital tank), I intend to have the bottom drilled to accommodate a feed and return line to a sump. My tank is about 200 US gallons, I will be using a re-circ. pump of 2300 usg/hr. I will also be using a "Hagen Bullet 2" protein skimmer and a 40w UV sterilizer. I have discreet pumps for both those devices. <A good idea> I have about 600 pounds of live sand with a mix of medium grain and fine grain, about 65% fine. I will be placing live rock in the tank for aquascaping, but am unsure of how much I should budget for. <Please take a read through the many "Live Rock" sections on WWM... and utilize our ( http://wetwebfotos.com/talk/) and other BB's to gain insight as to who has good quality "whole box" quality of live rock presently... from other recent users> All this is in aid of eliminating any visible filtration equipment, as well as improving the long term viability of the system. I just purchased a 5' "Coralife" light hood with two metal halides and two fluorescents, (one actinic). <Okay>     My livestock consisted of more species before I had a wake-up call... so all that's left is a percula and a banded snake eel. They get along great and I know you're not a big fan of the eel, but he's been thriving for about 8 months, now, and has doubled in size, has a good appetite for shrimp pellets. I'm gonna try to make it work for him/her, but what else can you do? <Keep going if you like this specimen... or trade it in...>     My questions are many, my mind is open, the iron is hot, I invite you to strike! <I am pleased to make your acquaintance... the hobby can always use passionate, eager, good minds>     My budget on this is already way past what I thought it would be, so I'd like to get this thing running properly without having to explain to my wife why we have to spend another $2000!     Thank you for taking the time to read through this tome.  <Do study, chat with others, contemplate your possibilities for a while then... costs little to find out more, enjoy the anticipation of what you will do.>  A friend, Jerry <Be chatting my friend. Bob Fenner>

Re: New 265 Gallon Set-Up Bob (or other fine staff member), <Hello Dave> First of all, I would like to thank you (Bob) for writing "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist".  It was very informative, and has been an essential part of my learning about marine aquariums.  After reading your book, I was thrilled to find this website. <Glad we have found each other> Anyway, I have had many freshwater aquariums, and several months ago, I decided that I would change my 265 gallon tank from freshwater, over to marine.  I've been doing a lot of research, and although I know there is no exact formula to putting a system together, I would like to run my proposed set-up past you.  The intent is to have a "fish with hardy invert" tank.  I know this description will be long, but this is my first shot at a marine tank and I would like to do it right.  So, I will apologize right now for the long "question". <No worries> Here goes. Lighting:  I have a Hamilton fixture with (3) 175 Watt, 10,000K metal halide bulbs and (2) 96 Watt actinic power compacts.  The fixture is suspended inside a canopy by coated steel cables about 5"-6" above the surface of the water, but can be adjusted.  The top of the canopy will be solid, but with many holes drilled in it.  The rear of the canopy will be screened (I don't want anything crawling out, or cats getting in.)  The intent is to have the water open to atmosphere.  I don't want a glass top to interfere with the light penetration. <Sounds good> Filtration:  Filtration will be via a Euro-Reef CS12-1 protein skimmer (in sump), which processes about 900 gph.  The skimmer will be fed by an overflow box, which will lead to the sump in the basement. <Just one? Overflow box that is? I encourage you to employ two... for safety's sake... should one fail...> I will also start with about 200 lbs. of live rock, and about 100 lbs of dead base rock. The sump inlet will have some sort of mechanical filtration, either 100 micron filter sock, or some other media. <Okay... do put on your daily list to wash, switch this out with a pair... letting the "used" one air dry between uses/switches> Sump:  The sump consists of the primary sump (45 gallon Rubbermaid tub), which holds the skimmer.  The secondary sump chamber will be connected to the primary sump by two short lengths of PVC pipe. <Make these good size diameter.> The secondary sump is about 20 gallons.  The primary sump will have a float switch, which will open a solenoid to allow fresh water to flow into the sump from a 32 gallon (garbage can) reservoir, to maintain specific gravity.  This freshwater reservoir will have a powerhead to continually circulate the water. The FW reservoir will be fed directly by the water feed into my house.  Question-do I need a RO/DI unit to feed the FW reservoir, or will the fact that the FW is being constantly circulated get rid of the chlorine in the water, <Mmm, depends on how much water is being used... I would either pre-treat the water to remove the sanitizer or run it as tap through a contactor to remove same> also, are there any water parameters that I should check to determine if I need a RO/DI unit? <Yes... the overall characteristics of the source water... like total dissolved solids, nitrate, phosphate content> A heater will also be located in the primary sump. Water Changes:  A salt water reservoir will sit next to the FW reservoir, and contain pre-mixed salt water for water changes.  The SW reservoir will have a heater, and a powerhead.  To drain the tank, I will shut down the main circulation pump, flip some valves, and siphon the water back down through the water return line to the 265 gallon tank.  The valves will direct this water to a drain.  When I appropriate amount of water is gone, the valves will be returned to normal operating positions, and the pre-mixed salt water from the reservoir will drain into the sump, and get pumped back into the system. <I would "just" siphon out the water while gravel-vacuuming... I don't like too many valves... capacity for trouble...> Refugium:  A 75 glass tank will also be in the basement, to serve as a refugium.  The refugium will be fed by a smaller pump, which will also feed a 15 watt UV sterilizer (I know it may be a bit small, but I already had it, and can upgrade later).  The water from the sterilizer goes right back into the primary sump, not to the refugium. <... no need for the sterilizer... or another pump... some of the return water can be valved into the refugium and it allowed to overflow into the main reservoir/sump> The refugium will circulate 150-200 gph also using an overflow box. <I would make this just 3 or 4 turns per hour... via the diverted return water (from the tank to the basement)> Lighting for the refugium will be a single 175 watt, 10,000K metal halide lamp, and some low wattage fluorescents, running on a light cycle opposite of the main tank. <This amount of light is more than I would use... a simple power compact of forty watts would be fine> Water will flow from the refugium into the secondary sump. <As stated above, I would just have the water overflow here. I believe in gravity.> Circulation:  The main pump (a Dolphin 4700), which delivers water to the 265 tank will only be set to deliver 1000 gph, which was recommended by Euro-Reef as an optimal delivery rate for the skimmer.  The tank will also have another 1000 gph or so of powerheads.  I assume the power heads should be at different depths inside the tank for proper circulation. <Okay> That's pretty much it.  I have no clue as to whether or not I should be supplementing calcium, or anything else for that matter, so any advice here would be highly appreciated. <You'll learn about this at a later time. No real reason to supplement as of yet> Thanks so much for reading my marine fishtank novel.  I can't wait to get some water in this baby! <Be filling! Bob Fenner> -Dave

Minimum Tank Sizes Mr. Fenner, <Steven Pro at your service.> I'm setting up a 75 gallon aquarium, 48x18x24. I'm doing things right in that I'm researching and researching and researching. <Good to hear.> I am going to have fantastic filtration through an AquaC EV-180 and a Lifereef Berlin sump. I am going to have a refugium about 20 gallons. This will give me approximately 110 gallons of water, counting tank, sump, and refugium. However, that's not including liverock volume. <Correct, I was just about to mention that.> When a fish such as an angel, is listed at 100 gallons minimum, does that mean you tank should have the length dimensions of a tank that would be about 100 gallons, or are you looking at volume of water including from all sources listed above? <Actually both. They need the swimming room (dimensions) and the water volume to dilute pollutants.> I certainly don't want to crowd any animals, as I will not have very many in my tank. However, could an angel, or a butterfly like semilarvatus, listed at 100 gallons be happy in a 75 gallon as I have described? <No, not in the long run.> A very respectable marine fish retailer mentioned that most fish, if introduced to a tank when they are only a few inches long won't outgrow the tank. Is this true? <Yes, but that is because they will die prematurely.> I hope this wasn't too confusing. <Not at all. FYI, when in doubt, under stock. You and your fishes will be much happier and healthier.> Thanks for the help! Brandon Wilson <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

New Reef Tank Hi, <Hello!> I'm planning on setting up a salt water reef tank and I'm looking for opinions on filtration...some say trickle system, others are for the canisters. <Nitrate factories. A recipe for growing hair algae.> Any help would be appreciated. Is the lifeguard rainbow system any good? <You need a good protein skimmer (don't skimp on this one...spend the real bucks), 1-2 lbs. of live rock per gallon, and a sandbed of 4-5" with Aragamax Sugar-Fine sand, and good lighting (either VHO or halide. That's it! The Lifegard system is trash IMO.> Thank you, Robert Hager <A pleasure to serve. Try Wetwebmedia.com for much, much more detailed information on this and thousands of other topics. David>

New Marine Tank (Pt. II) Thanks for your great reply Scott. It leads to a few follow-up questions: I don't understand the rationale behind EITHER having less than 1/2" substrate OR more than 3"?  Will the greater depth substrate displace more water and reduce fish load capacity? Or, conversely, will the lesser depth provide adequate denitrification? And what is wrong with a substrate depth of 1 or 2 inches? <Good questions. A substrate depth of 3 inches or more has been shown to enhance the denitrification process, and handle substantial bioload. Between 1/2 inch and 3 inches is a sort of a "no man's land"- too shallow for complete nitrification processes, but too deep for a static sand bed, in most cases. In theory, a 2 inch sand bed has greater potential to form the dreaded "nutrient sink" that people seem to fear so much. A depth of 1/2 inch would provide just enough cover to look pleasing to the eye, without the aforementioned problems.> What is the benefit of investing NOW in better lighting "just in case" later on I want to move to a reef system? <Because you will have greater flexibility to try photosynthetic animals that may require substantial lighting. My rationale has been to plan ahead to the best degree possible, so that you don't have to do a substantial equipment upgrade down the line if your interests change. Just a philosophy that I have acquired over the years...> I like your idea of just putting a bag of charcoal in the sump rather than using a hanging filter...but doing that would mean there would be biological and chemical filtration but no mechanical...can a system like this thrive with no mechanical filtration at all? <Absolutely...The sump itself acts as a "settling area" for detritus, where it can be easily removed by siphoning, or utilized by purposeful animals, such as urchins, brittle stars, etc.. If it makes you feel better, you could use some type of prefilter material in the sump, or filter bags, to catch larger detritus particles...If you use any of these items, you MUST clean or change them several times a week, or they will begin to affect your water chemistry as "nitrate traps!"> Water would be skimmed from the top if the tank is drilled, not collected from the middle or bottom where there is likely to be detritus that a mechanical filter would catch.. <you'd be surprised how much stuff works its way down, even when drawn from the top of the water column...> Using a 1000gph submersible would produce plenty of flow, but it would be coming into the tank from one direction...is that called laminar flow?  I've read that is bad...should the flow be coming from multiple directions? <Ideally- you'd want to create "chaotic" water motion with multiple returns, power heads, etc., pushing water into each other from different directions> Should I use a Y to bring the water back to the tank from the sump from two locations? <You can tee off the return, and have it return from two sides of the tank...or many, many other options are possible with a little creative thought...> Several dealers I've spoken with have said DO NOT use bioballs or other artificial media if you use live rock...it is one or the other...the filtration of the bioballs will "starve" the live rock, and bioballs produce nitrate.  Do you agree with this? <Well, not exactly...Bioballs are highly efficient at processing waste and breaking it down into nitrate, which can accumulate at a very fast rate. Live rock/live sand are natural denitrification vehicles, so it's really kind of counterproductive, IMO, to use both  live rock/sand and bioballs in the same system...> Thanks again for your help...Jeff <Always a pleasure! Keep utilizing the many resources that we have on the wetwebmedia.com site! Good luck!  Scott F.>

More Questions on Startup! A few more questions come to mind... What is the limiting factor in the amount of fish load a system can accommodate?  The size of the main tank (swimming area)?  Or the combined water volume of the main tank and the sump? <All of the above, plus many more factors, like feeding requirements, fish behavior, etc.> I am thinking of a 75g main tank, and a 20g sump.  Would a 30g sump increase my capacity for fish (albeit slightly)? Is it true, the larger the sump the better? <I believe that bigger is better, sure. I would not use the larger capacity as a basis to determine the tanks ability to hold more life; rather, you need to look at it as a means to improve conditions for the existing animals that can fit in the tank> Does water volume of the entire system drive the amount of live rock I'll need?  In other words, do I need enough live rock to account for the water in the sump too?  Can I keep live rock (or perhaps something as denitrifying yet less expensive) in the sump, even though it will be dark? (doing so would prevent the 75g viewing tank from getting TOO crowded with rock and preserve some open swimming area...which is probably a factor in the number/size of fish I get) <Lots of hobbyists keep live rock in remote sumps to add more open area in the main system for fish to swim in. I wouldn't worry about the light issue- you may even encourage the growth of desirable life, such as sponges, in such conditions. There is no hard and fast rule for how much live rock- simply depends on what you're trying to accomplish. A common "baseline" amount is 1-2 lbs per gallon of tank capacity...But again, no right or wrong, IMO> Related to this equation, at this point my plans are to stock the tank with small/midsized fish (3 -6 inches) rather than anything too large...I think that would allow me more fish and greater diversity.  About how many fish of this size would be right for a 75/20 or a 75/30 system that is well kept? <Again- a subjective call. Sure, you could keep "X" amount of fishes that are tiny, such as blennies or gobies, but maybe only a smaller number of 5 inch fishes, like lionfish, etc. A lot to consider here, such as the fishes' feeding habits, social needs, etc. Different fish have different metabolism and space requirements. Do your homework on the wetwebmedia.com site on this topic> Tell me more about the "purposeful animals" you described...can they survive in the dark in a sump tank? Perhaps I should light the sump tank? (nothing fancy or expensive mind you...) <Dozens of possibilities, ranging from hermit crabs to urchins and brittle stars, etc. And sure, lots of people light their sumps with small compact fluorescent lights or other simple systems. It's all your call...have fun doing the research and go for it! Thanks for your continued help...Jeff <A pleasure, Jeff. Good luck!>

Detritus and New Tank Start Up A few more questions...(your answers are SO stimulating!) Related to the charcoal and detritus question above...I was thinking of filling a small mesh bag with charcoal and tying it around the outflow from the  main tank down to the sump.  Doing that would assure that all the water passes through the charcoal...yet...would that create what you call a nutrient sink? Is a nutrient sink avoided simply by not trapping and accumulating detritus?  In other words, how come it is not a nutrient sink if it remains free floating?  (or is it??) < You can certainly use it in a high flow area where water passes through all of the carbon, or you can use it more "passively", simply in the area of water flow. Should not become a "nutrient sink" or "trap" if you replace it regularly. And please note that we are referring to the use of activated carbon, not charcoal, okay?> I am still concerned about the detritus that a surface-skim circulating system would miss...reassure me here.  There is NO need for mechanical filtration?  Should I simply rely on siphoning loose detritus that falls to the substrate when I do water changes? Won't a lot of crap get trapped in the caves and hiding places I will build with the live rock, making it difficult to reach with a siphon? <What most reef hobbyists do to remove detritus is to siphon it directly from the nooks and crannies in the live rock. Also, many hobbyists create periodic "storms" with a small powerhead blown into the rock to loosen debris, which may then be easily siphoned away.> The protein skimmer doesn't get hooked up till the cycle is established, right? (Hooking it up earlier will slow development of the cycle, right...?) <There may be some small argument on this issue, depending on who you speak to, but I have always ran the skimmer from day one without problems, and would encourage you to do the same> Can I boost the cycle with some gravel from one of my freshwater tanks? I have a 55g that has been humming for almost 6 years.  If so, does it matter whether I put it in the main tank or the sump? Again, many thanks...Jeff <It is always a help to "kick start" your nitrogen cycle with some live sand containing microfauna from a healthy, established aquarium. I would add it to the main system sandbed, myself, but no right or wrong here.  Good luck! Scott F.>

New System for An Old Hand I am an experienced freshwater aquarist taking the plunge into saltwater for the first time. <You'll really enjoy the challenge and education!> I have done some reading and visited many dealers, and am formulating a fish-only system that will look something like what I will describe below.  I appreciate your comment and feedback. <Will try> -75 gallon tank, drilled -live rock (how much should I use? I was thinking 50-70lb) -15-20 gallon sump (containing hydrometer, heater, protein skimmer and submersible pump) -submersible pump in the sump tank: (how big: 500gph? 1200 gph? I've heard high flow rates are best, and have found that to be the case with my freshwater tanks)(what are the right diameter holes to drill for the right flow rate and pump, and what is the right diameter tubing?) <Hard to generalize. largely depends on the flow rate that you want to achieve through the system...A starting point might be 2 1-1/2"-2" bulkheads with a pump moving 1000 or so per hour- this is just a very rough estimate...lots of other variables here> protein skimmer (what type/brand? start it right away or after a few months? can I run it off the sump tank?) <Can be located in sump. Do purchase the best unit that you can afford. Check some of our sponsors for a selection of fine skimmers...Aqua C, Euro-Reef, and Turbo Flotor are popular with our readers> Substrate (what kind? live sand? aragonite? crushed coral? and how deep?) <I like the idea of fine oolithic aragonite sand. Depth should be 1/2" or less, or deeper than 3 inches for proper denitrification to occur.> Aquaclear 300 mechanical/chemical filter hanging on the tank (is this necessary? should I use carbon?) <I'd just use small bags of carbon in the sump, arranged for water to pass through them...change 'em regularly...> conventional fluorescent lighting, not reef lighting <Will do in a fish-only system...But- let me make a suggestion: Even if you're contemplating a reef system down the line, invest now in a more "capable" lighting system (halide, PC, or VHO). You'll thank yourself later!> What comments do you have on this equation? <Do give some thought to where you want to be a few years down the line and plan your setup and equipment purchases accordingly...don't skimp on quality> Some specific questions I have are also: For a fish only tank, is using a wet dry filter a simpler solution? <A good starting point. You can even use life rock/live sand and omit the bioballs in the wet/dry all together if you are patient and obey good husbandry procedure> How necessary is it to use de-ionized reverse osmosis water? big hassle factor issue) <It's important to use very high quality water as a base for your saltwater mix...RO is a good choice> How about commercial distilled water? <Can be expensive...RO is a better long-term solution..> How about water change policy? How do frequent small water changes for this size system (5 gal/week) compare with less frequent larger ones, say 20 or 25 gal/monthly? <I favor smaller (5% or so) water changes twice a week. They really help dilute waste products before they get a chance to build up> Should I cycle this system before introducing any fish? or can I introduce one or two small fish right away to help launch the system? <You can cycle with just live rock and live sand...Cycling with fish is not necessary, and is somewhat cruel, IMO> When can fish be introduced? <When ammonia and nitrite have returned to zero> Must I put a backflow check valve on the tubing leaving the submersible pump? <Not a bad idea...> >Thank you very much for considering these questions.  Will I get a direct reply, or will your response be added to a FAQ section?  If so, where? <You'll get both! By the way- do check our vast section of FAQ's on the wetwebmedia.com site for much more detailed answers to most of the questions you asked here...Study them well, and you're on your way! Good luck! Scott F.> >Jeff Zegas

New Tank Syndrome Hi there... <Greetings from David D!> I've been reading through you web site for some time now, and you seem so willing to help people... That's hard to find in any hobby. <Helping people is the reason this site exists! we actually enjoy doing this this!>  Any suggestions you can give would be great!  <Okay>  I started my first fish only salt water tank about 4 weeks ago.  It is a 45Gal. pentagon corner tank.  The tank was left to run for two weeks with no fish, I fed the empty tank as some books have suggested to start the cycling process.  <I would have just added live rock. No feeding. It will prolong the cycling process.>   I'm using a Proquatics canister filter that is rated up to 60Gal tanks.  The temperature has been steady at 78 Degrees F.  Is this a stable temperature for marine critters?  <78 degrees 24/7? Fantastic! Many experts would suggest this as the optimal temperature for most tanks.>   Specific Gravity is between 1.021 and 1.022. <Would be better between 1.023 ad 1.025...No biggie.>   PH has been at 8.6, this seems high since most books say PH should be between 8.2 and 8.4 <Correct. But PH is a dynamic reading that will change at different times of the day or night. Try testing PH at different times of the day. If it's at or above 8.6 all the time, you are on the high end of the scale. I would not feel comfortable with the PH going any higher.>   Is there any danger of  PH being this high?   <See above>   If so, what can I do to bring it down to the "recommended" range?  <Are you adding any supplements to this tank? Water changes will lower the PH unless the new water is also at a high level! Test the water before adding to the aquarium.>   Alkalinity is also high.  <Test your makeup water and water used for changes. The problem is most likely your tap water.> Unfortunately the chart I have just has low, normal and high readings... no numbered readings. <You need a new test kit.>   Is it dangerous for Alkalinity to be this high, and if so what can be done to bring it down.  <Without a number, I don't know how high you mean.>  After the two week period I followed the suggestion of a store sales person to use damsels as starter fish to help along the cycling process.  I added three small damsel fish, and of course two just died. <Likely high ammonia and nitrites. This problem could have been avoided if you had used live rock instead of damsels. This would have avoided the damsel sacrifice to the ammonia gods.> the other is still ok, but is becoming a little more lethargic.  <He's probably going the way of the dinosaurs!>   The day after I added the fish I tested the water with a Red Sea Marine Lab, ammonia was at 0.25ppm (toxic ammonia 0.05),  <That's way, too high.>  nitrite was at 0.2, <needs to be zero to be healthy for fish>  nitrate was at 2.5 (true level 0). I just check all of this again, after two weeks and now the amounts are: ammonia 0.5 (toxic ammonia 0.1),  <Must be zero. Keep waiting. No water changes until cycling has finished>   nitrite 0.2,  <See above>  nitrate 5.0 (true level 3).  I can see here that the cycle is in its process, but before I add any more fish and kill them off, when do I know that the cycle is complete?   <When ammonia and nitrates remain at zero for a week or more.>   I have read conflicting ideas of when the cycle is done.  <This is pretty standard in the hobby. Patience...>   What readings will I get from this marine lab kit that will tell me its done, and safe to finish stocking the tank?  <See above. Always stock slowly, one fish added every two weeks or more.>   One book says to do a 100% water change when the cycle is done (doesn't this defeat the purpose of waiting all this time to let the tank mature?)  <Not if the cycling is finished. Your are waiting for the inevitable buildup of good biological bacteria. But I wouldn't do a 100% water change. If the water tests perfect, I would do a normal water change like 10-20%>   Other books have said to do a 50% water change when its done cycling... What do you recommend? <See above>   I also think I may not be aerating the water enough.  I have one airstone at the bottom corner, and the air pump is at full power.  Will this be enough to keep the oxygen level ok?  more airstones?  <Try a bubble bar (wand). It gives a nice bubble wall effect.>   I have one power head in the tank circulating the water, I tried to use the air hose that came with it, but it produces so many tiny bubbles, that the entire tank becomes cloudy with bubbles.  <Don't bother with the air hose.>  So I decided to just use the power head to circulate the water.  With a Fish only system, do I really need a protein skimmer?  <For optimal fish health and long term success? You certainly do!>  As for this canister filter I have, will other forms of media in it help things along?  <Yes but be diligent in changing and cleaning the media.>  I've seen these small cylinders that claim to help bacteria cling to them, keeping the stock of bacteria high.  Do you suggest any other media other than the carbon  <In the filters? Use whatever the manufacturer recommends. If this were my tank, I would add live rock some time before the cycling process finishes. If you get good quality, fully cured rock, it won't interrupt the cycling process at all.>   Well, I think that about addresses all of my questions... sorry there are so many. <Absolutely no problem> Thank You in advance! Justin <My pleasure Justin. My friend, if you really want to be successful with this venture, and save a lot of wasted money, buy a couple of good saltwater aquarium books. The Conscientious Aquarist (by Bob Fenner) comes to mind as well as many others and continue reading on wetwebmedia. You're on the road to success!>  

Big Enough?  Hey everybody- <Scott F. here tonight> You guy's are great, I can't believe the volume that you guys do, I can hardly keep up with the Daily's just trying to read them in my spare time. I have obtained a friend's 55g All Glass tank (it was free), and am drooling about setting it up. <I know the feeling!> So I wanted to run some ideas past you and get some constructive criticism where necessary. First off, my current system consists of a 20g High All Glass with a little live rock (maybe 5 pounds), undergravel filter (Driven by Powerhead), crushed coral substrate, Ebo-Jager 50 Watt Heater, HOT Mechanical Filter, and AquaC Remora.  Inhabitants include: 2 Chromis viridis, 1 Centropyge loriculus, 1 Lysmata amboinensis, and 2 "Yellow Chromis" according to the LFS, but I can't find anything that looks just like them, but they much resemble the Golden Damsel (I am trying to secure a digital camera so that I can send you guys a picture). I had another Lysmata amboinensis and 2 Lysmata wurdemanni, but I also had a Mithrax sculptus.  The crab was for a hair algae problem that I had.  Well, after cleaning up the algae he played the perfect resident for a good 2 months, and then he must have caught on of the L. wurdemanni molting because in two days my L. wurdemanni were MIA and on the morning of the third that crab had the freshly molted L. amboinensis in his grubby little claws. <Yikes> So, he's back at the LFS now (sorry to side track, but I wanted to let the  daily readers see it again NEVER! trust a crab; no matter how "well behaved" they are). <You heard it here first, folks!> Anyway, I would love to go reef, but the budget won't allow it... yet. What I want to do for now is get 45-90lbs of Walt Smith live rock, depending on how 45lbs looks I might get another box or half-box, cure it in the 55 alone, then add sand (Southdown if I can find/get it out to WI somehow) for 6 inch DSB, then transfer current residents (after it's cycled of course). <Sounds like a fine plan> I promised you questions so here they come: 1. I would like to eventually add a sump to this system but it is too costly right now.  I would prefer to drill the tank now rather than drain it or replace it when I'm ready to add the sump, and I refuse to use overflow boxes. Is there any kind of VERY secure bulkhead sealing plug available? <I have seen threaded fittings that can go into the bulkhead. Consult a local hardware or plumbing supply store on that one> I suppose I could install a short piece of pvc that is capped if there is no standard solution.  If I do go about getting it drilled what is a fair price for drilling a tank, and how many holes at what size would be needed to accommodate a return pump running at 1000gph? <Price is variable, depending on who's doing it...Most LFS's are pretty fair. I'd go with 2 2" pipes for maximum performance, but I'm pretty certain that you could get away with two 1" holes.> 2. With the new System I will be replacing my lost L. amboinensis as my pair had been producing lots and lots of larva that my fish just loved. <Yep! They love 'em!> I would also like to add a Zebrasoma flavescens, but only if it can be happy and healthy in a 55.  I see it talked about that these guys need swimming room, but haven't seen a concrete "minimum tank size" for their adult size.  If it won't be happy in a 55 it won't be in my 55.   <Your attitude and philosophy are outstanding! I really wouldn't try this fish in anything less than a 75 or greater, to be quite frank> 3. My girlfriend saw a Linckia laevigata (blue) a few months after we got the 20g (our first fish tank for both of us) and thankfully I had found WWM first because the guy at the LFS claimed that ,"yeah, it should be fine in your tank."  I put a the sea star on hold and went home and found on WWM that they need large "(hundreds of gallons)" systems to survive so we decided against any L. laevigata for our tank.  Are there any "pretty" sea stars (or serpent stars or brittle stars) that would be happy in a 55? <I'd try a few small brittle stars. They are terrific scavengers and are colorful and fun to watch> 4.Since I won't be able to have a sump with a huge return pump for circulation, I am afraid I will be initially stuck with some Powerheads in the display (much to my chagrin). I'm hoping that 2 will be enough (again this is going to be simply FOWLR + shrimp initially) Could you please recommend a brand that seems to be the lesser evil? <There are a number of good brands out there, do get some opinions from local hobbyists as to which ones have worked best for them. I'd also look into the external pumps, like Tunze or Gemini, for added circulation. They mount above the water, so they don't transfer heat, and put out a lot of flow. Unfortunately, they tend to be quite pricey!> The LFS has Hagen Aquaclear 802's that are rated for 400 gph. Are these relatively good? <I have had some old Hagens for 10-12 years, but I cleaned them regularly> 5. I would like to then put a couple of clownfish in the 20g and try my hand at breeding and raising them.  I haven't looked into it yet, but I was just wondering what species' (if any) are small enough to attempt this in a 20? <I'd try Perculas or Ocellaris. A neat project!> 6. I need to get lights because my friend didn't have any.  Again since money is tight I am thinking about going with NO fluorescents for now and probably going metal halide when I can afford it.  The LFS quoted me prices on 40W single, double, and triple bulb units. Your thoughts? <I'd get as much light in there as is practical and affordable> Well, thanks for sticking with me, I tend to get wordy sometimes. <Don't we all!> I am anxiously awaiting your reply. Luke <Best of luck to you, Luke! Sounds like you have some great ideas! Have fun, okay! Regards, Scott F.>

Marine Set-Up (one question at a time) Respected sir, Well sir, after cycling, can I take out undergravel filter? <Monty, please, please, please do some reading, for both mine and your sake. You have sent us an email everyday single day for almost two weeks now. They are the most basic of questions and if I do not cut you off at some point you will never learn anything on your own. The undergravel filter and gravel provide a means and a surface for needed, beneficial bacteria to grow. If you remove the undergravel, what will happen to that bacteria and the ammonia and nitrite levels in your tank? When you discover the answer to the above question, you will be able to decide if you can remove the undergravel filter or not and what could use to take its place.> Also I want to know that what other rocks can I use? <Take a look here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/aquascaping.htm> In my marine tank, the little part of marine salt is not dissolved. It is sat down over coral sand. My specific gravity is 1.011 right now. <That is more like brackish conditions.> I don't have any marine salt right now. I had ordered it. It will come in about a week. <At that time, you should increase the specific gravity to 1.020-1.025. -Steven Pro>

LR/BioWheels, and Substrate Hello: <Hi there! Scott F. here today!> I have a 55gal FOWLR, soon to have hearty invertebrates, 40lbs. crushed coral, BakPak2R Skimmer and Emperor 400 HOT filter with dual BioWheels.  Should I remove the BioWheels, or can I keep them running?  Is it redundant with LR?  Is my filter too small to worry about them? <If I were using this type of setup- I'd keep 'em> Also, my crushed coral is a little deep in some spots (up to 4").  I am reading this can be bad.  True?  Should I remove some?  While I am at it, can I have one side of the tank crushed coral and one side LS  (for purposes of different inhabitants?)  Thanks a bunch! <All good questions. First, crushed coral can sometimes be problematic if it's too deep. Because of its larger grain size, it tends to function as a detritus trap and pack down hard over time. As far as the 50%/50% plan is concerned, I'd just go with one substrate. If it were me- I'd go with a 4" plus live sand bed. Do read about the benefits of live sand in the FAQs on wetwebmedia.com  Enjoy!>

Marine Set-Up Mr. Fenner, First, I thank you for taking the time to answer questions from hobbyists. I am setting up a 75g tank that will contain mostly fish with maybe some corals. For me, the beauty is in the fish, and they will come first if I have to pick. At any rate, I will be using a Lifereef Berlin system with a 24" protein skimmer. I have also ordered the refugium, but I'm not sure exactly how they work. The owner mentioned adding a bulkhead to the Berlin sump, but I'm not sure about the other parts. I thought I read that there is only one pump, that which sends water from ref to sump. How then, does the water get to the ref? My apologies, I have not seen one in action. After reading your glowing reviews, I'm glad I ordered it. <Refugiums are properly placed above the display and water is pumped from the sump to the refugium and overflows into the display.  The display then overflows into the sump. For more possible set-ups, please try Anthony Calfo's excellent book, "Book of Coral Propagation" or Bob Fenner's "Conscientious Marine Aquarist"> One more question about live sand and aragonite. I know aragonite controls pH, but live sand seems to be so much better for all the critters and for looks. Would you use a combination of both? If so, how (and where)? It seems to me that if you are growing all of the little goodies in the ref that you would want to use sand and/or mud in there as well. Thanks in advance, Brandon <Live Sand IS aragonite. Aragonite is coral sand. You want approximately 5" of live aragonite sand. Please see WetWebMedia.com scroll to the bottom of the page and type "live sand" into the Google search engine, there is much more there.  Craig>

Need your knowledge those beautiful tank Bob, http://www.livingcolor.com/Gallery-full.htm http://www.bioreef.com/maintena.htm Please browse the above website, few questions that need answer, as I never see such a beautiful tank and have no idea how their maintain it , where the high of the tank is more than 3 feet - 18 feet. How are they going to extract those water to replace new one. Do you have any website information to maintain commercial tank that will not make the floor carpet , mess the floor, did their use any machine to pump the water and how to replace the new water? I keen and energetic to know all these.....can't wait to learn more.... 1) Is those coral are real or artificial? If artificial , where can I purchase it? Is it possible to get it in to Malaysia? <Much of what is pictured is artificial... much easier to maintain in such large, commercial settings> 2) The water is crystal clear, what did their use? <Very large mechanical filtration methods...> 3) Do activated carbon, phosphate remover etc able to get such result? <To some extent, yes... I would write them and ask these questions. Bob Fenner> Do reply, thank you. Regards, Frank

Small Marine Aquariums
Book 1: Invertebrates, Algae
New Print and eBook on Amazon:
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
Become a Sponsor Features:
Daily FAQs FW Daily FAQs SW Pix of the Day FW Pix of the Day New On WWM
Helpful Links Hobbyist Forum Calendars Admin Index Cover Images
Featured Sponsors: