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FAQs on Reef Set-Up Systems 1

Related Articles: Reef Systems, Reef Set-Up, Being Conscientious Save money and the reefs By Jennifer Smith, Refugiums, Reef Filtration, Marine System PlumbingMarine Aquarium Set-UpFish-Only Marine Set-up, FOWLR/Fish and Invertebrate Systems, Coldwater Systems, Small Systems, Large Systems, RefugiumsMarine Biotope, Marine LandscapingFishwatcher's Guides Technology: Putting on the Brakes:  How much is too much? By Tommy Dornhoffer

Related FAQs: Reef Systems 2, Reef Systems 3, Reef Systems 4, Reef Systems 5, Reef Set-Up 1, Reef Set-Up 2, Reef Set-Up 3, Reef Set-Up 4, Reef Set-Up 5, Reef Set-Up 6, Reef LightingReef Lighting 2Reef Filtration, & Reef LivestockingReef Livestocking 2, Reef Feeding, Reef Disease, Reef Maintenance, Marine System PlumbingMarine Aquarium Set-UpLive RockLive Sand, Reef Maintenance Biotopic presentations Algal Filtration in General, Mud Filtration 1

Small Marine Aquariums
Book 1: Invertebrates, Algae
New Print and eBook on Amazon:
by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Small Marine Aquariums
ook 2: Fishes
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

Fish Only To Reef Conversion Hello Bob, Steve or Anthony, <Steven this morning.> I hope you can help. I am interested in converting my fish only tank to a reef tank. I would like to keep some fish and soft corals for starters. The aquarium is a 55 Gal. tank. It has a corner wet/dry that houses some bio media. I have a 24" Amiracle counter current skimmer. Lighting is a 220 watt PC hood. The current live stock is a maroon clown and about 20 Nass. snails. There is about 1 1/2 inch of sand and about 30 lbs. of lava rock in the tank. All is great with the tank except for the occasional algae bloom. I would like to get some live rock and sand.( for now 50lbs. of live rock and add 2 inches of sand) Do I get rid of the lava rock and keep the sand that I currently have? <I would be inclined to start fresh, new rock (50 lbs. total is fine) and sand to 4-6".> Also, the bio media in the wet/dry is not accessible, it is housed in acrylic. I would like to remove the media because of the articles that I have read that they help in raising nitrate levels. Do I try to cut the top of the filter to take out the media? (I would prefer not to do this, I would be scared to crack the tank somehow). <Yes, agreed can be dangerous.> My main concern is not to harm the maroon clown. He is over six years old and he is the first fish my wife and I bought together. If you don't think I can do the conversion without hurting him I will not do the conversion. <No, I think you can do it. Get fully cured rock from your LFS, else cure the rock yourself in a separate vessel before placing in the main display.> Thank you in advance for your help and for having, in my opinion, one of the best web sites for aquaria care. A new friend, Dan <Glad to make your acquaintance. -Steven Pro>

Deep Water Reef I'm taking a step away from the usual sun-drenched reefs that we try to replicate, and researching what would be needed for a deep water reef tank. I'm not surprised that there is very little information out there on this type of setup. That's why I have come to you. There are many aspects to this tank that need to be discussed, but I'll try to limit for now and ask only about the lighting. The tank will most likely be a 120g. I'm not sure at what depth I want to replicate, but inhabitants I am considering are: Anthias (squamipinnis), some species of flasher wrasse, perhaps some species of Gramma, Basslet, or Hawkfish. Corals would obviously be non-photosynthetic, such as gorgonians, sponges, Tubastrea. The more research I do, the more I will be able to narrow things down. I'm not sure exactly what depth I want to replicate, and I'm not sure if it's that easy to replicate a specific depth in the first place! Regardless, I am assuming VHO's would be the best option for this type of thing. My questions are: <If you are looking at keeping non-photosynthetic inverts, lighting is definitely a secondary concern.> --Can you have too much light over this type of tank? I will probably have ballasts to power 4 bulbs...should I go with less? --What would be a ideal bulb combo? If I have 3 bulbs, I was thinking 2 actinic and 1 10k. If I have 4 bulbs...what about 2 actinic, 1 10k, and 1 20k? <I think you would not need anymore than 2-3 lamps with a heavy emphasis on actinic lighting.> Thanks for taking the time to read this and any answers you can provide. Also, if you know of any resources for this type of thing, I would love to hear them! Ron Skylstad <No particular references come to mind on deep water reefs, but do look for various writings on growing green water, rotifers, refugiums, and other live foods. Martin Moe's books would all be a good starting place. Let us know how it turns out. -Steven Pro>

Reef Set-Up I have a 125 gallon reef tank. I am using 2 emperor filters, 2 802 powerheads, 1 Bak-Pak (it is for 70 gallons). Should I buy one more? <That or upgrade to one larger protein skimmer.> The fish I have in the tank are two banded shrimp, five turbo snails, four scarlet crabs, four ocellaris clowns, two tomato clowns, one Foxface, one yellow tang, three Firefish, three scissortail gobies, one yellow blenny, two Sailfin mollies. I am waiting on my metal halide lights and my three bulb tentacle sea anemones. <Please read up on anemones, their care, their dismal record in captivity, and their removals ecological impact here http://www.reefs.org/library/article/r_toonen8.html -Steven Pro>

Upgrading Reef Tank Just a quick question to whom ever may be replying this fine day. I bought a glass 55g from my friend with a huge Fluval canister (fp300) for a hundred bucks. I currently keep an 18g nano with only soft corals. Ideally, I would like to be able to keep SPS and Clams and such in the 55. Here is the plan: overflow box to 20g long for refugium using CPR Bak-Pak for all filtration 60 lbs sand with plenum under deep sand bed 45 lbs rock Hamilton 4ft hood with 2-175w MH and 2-110w VHO actinics Here is the question: Can I use an overflow for most of my circulation and get by with maybe a couple of powersweeps? <First, it depends on the overflow. Most are rated for how many gph they can siphon/handle. You would want at least 500 gph, approaching 1000 gph for SPS. Secondly, if you do need powerheads, I would recommend you pick another brand. I like Hagen and Aquarium Systems models.> If so how big of an overflow box (tank not drilled) and what sort of return pump can I use? <500 to 1000 gph for a drain and an external pump rated for 500 to 1000 gph at your head pressure/height.> Will a big RIO in the refugium create a lot of heat? <Not a lot, but in combination with your hood, it could contribute to overheating problems.> I live in Colorado and lately the temperature approaches 90*F everyday. I can't afford a chiller. My nano gets up to as high as 84.7, but shows no ill effects from this temp. <That is definitely pushing it. I much prefer to operate no higher than 82.> Any input is always greatly appreciated! <Have a nice day. -Steven Pro>
Re: Upgrading Reef Tank
Will the Bak-Pak be enough filtration with the plenum for denitrification? <Just to b clear, the Bak=Pak does not perform any dentrification. It is a protein skimmer combined with a W/D for nitrification. It should serve you well along with your liverock. It is possible, given enough liverock, that you will not need the bio-bale media at all.> I've read recently a theory that corals grow best around 75*F <Strange, most current thinking is to push the temperatures higher, 82-84*F, to maximize growth. I prefer to play it safe though at 78-80*F.> and my colt and Kenya tree have blown up since the warmer weather. Also what brand of pump is nice and quiet and reliable if I go with an external model? <Iwaki. -Steven Pro>

Fish only to fish/reef Hello! <<And hello to you.>> I was wondering if you could give me a few specifics on gradually moving from a marine fish only aquarium towards a fish/reef aquarium. I have a 125 gallon setup. After a MAJOR disaster while I was away for 2 weeks a couple of years ago, the tank is doing well and it contains a Grey Angelfish, Blonde Naso and Powder Blue Tangs and Damsels and I would like to get Personifer and Imperator Angelfish when I upgrade the tank size. There is a considerable amount of live rock, almost enough to cover the back glass, but I add more little by little and have no idea how much it adds up to in lbs. I am planning on moving within the year and would like to move up to a 375 gallon acrylic tank and I have read quite a bit about making base rock from cement and other materials and curing it for six weeks and monitoring PH and I will be pursuing that to help save the reefs and help save some bucks as well as upgrading to a larger home made protein skimmer. I am doing quite a bit of research before I get and continue to stock the new tank and I was wondering if you could give me a little info. I would like to add a few colorful corals eventually as well as more fish and would like to know more about low light and other corals and compatibility with Angelfish for the most part because if it's OK with them, it's OK with the Tangs and Damsels. It would still be a fish aquarium primarily and will use sand and live rock, a wet/dry filter, the protein skimmer and assorted Rio power heads to keep the water healthy and mobile. The tank I have in mind would be only 24 inches tall and 30 inches front to back, allowing a large surface for oxygen exchange and less distance for the light to travel. I normally run 50/50 fluorescent bulbs, doubled with actinic fluorescent bulbs standard output. (A double bulb light fixture the length of the tank). I have some highly effective fluorescent light reflectors I have been saving for the day I actually make this project happen and will build the light fixture and was wondering this double fluorescent setup would be acceptable to any Angelfish compatible coral if they were closer to the water surface or lower or if this amount of light is completely unacceptable for any coral. <<Well - what is the output wattage of the lamps - this will help you determine whether or not a given coral will thrive under this light.>> I am also concerned about which corals are safe for the fish as far as them getting stung and killed. <<Actually, you should be more concerned about the angels picking those corals to death. There are very few large angels that can be trusted around any coral.>> I guess filter feeding corals would be safer in that respect, but although I have had aquariums for 30 years and the last 14 have been with saltwater fish, I know extremely little about corals, their requirements, feeding types etc. other than the names of a few and my main concern is that whatever life I put in my aquarium, I am responsible for, so I don't want to add a fish, coral or creature that wouldn't have a serious chance of thriving. I have had 75, 220 and 150 gallon tanks previously and I'm at 125 now due to current space, but with 375 I will be able to get seriously creative and If I do my homework now, no time or life will be lost later, so if you can give me any advice on this stuff or give me more websites as educational as yours or tell me of a book that answers these types of questions, please get back to me. <<Well, similar to any other quest for knowledge, there will be no 'one' source of information. There are many books, and many websites. Do check through WetWebMedia as there are many, many articles here.>> I have also noticed that Aquarium supplier/store standard output fluorescent ballasts are seriously more expensive that the Home Depot standard output fluorescent ballasts. Can you tell me what the difference is between the two. <<Perhaps the ballasts at the LFS are for power-compact or VHO fluorescents? Perhaps they just need the profit margin.>> Is there a water resistant issue? The ballast is in the top of the canopy, so I don't imagine there would be a serious water issue and can't see an obvious reason for the price difference. Isn't a 40 watt ballast 40 watts in any ballast? <<No... a 40 ballast for standard fluorescents is different from a 40 watt power-compact ballast, which is different from a VHO ballast. All the bulbs are fluorescent, but they are quite different from each other.>> Sorry about the length of the email. I wanted to give you as much info about my situation to base your input on. Thanks, Rich <<Here's a good place to start your reading: http://www.WetWebMedia.com/marine/setup/lighting/index.htm http://www.WetWebMedia.com/marine/setup/lighting/fixtures.htm http://www.WetWebMedia.com/marine/fishes/angels/index.htm You might also want to pick up a copy of Eric Borneman's book, Aquarium Corals which is a great guide for selection and husbandry of the various corals available to hobbyists. Cheers, J -- >>

Tank Dimension Hi Bob & all the experts, <Greetings, my friend> I setting up a new reef tank. The dimension are 4 x 3 x 2-1/2 ft. Please see attach gif file of detail. 1) I would like to know is it applicable for a reef tank ? <indeed a very nice size for convenient lighting (it is not too deep at 30" or less) and rockscaping (it is nicely wide) 2) If not, which are the best solution if I want to view it in 3 way (i.e. front & back, and one of the side which is 3 ft long) <I think the dimensions are very good and can make a beautiful display> 3) How much light and how strong the powerhead got to be ? The tank is about 220 gallon. <lighting will depend on the needs of the invertebrates you keep, but three 175 watt Aqualine or Ushio 10,000K metal halides who be fine for general reef lighting. Add actinic blue bulbs for aesthetics only if you like. For a tank with more SPS corals, consider two 250 watt Iwasaki Metal halides instead (again, blue actinics optional). As for water movement... the more the better. I recommend one or two large external pumps hooked up to a manifold with tees/nozzles above the tank rather than having 4-7 powerheads in a tank this size> Thanks again. Regards Danny
<kindly, Anthony Calfo>

Large Reef Tank Design Questions Gentlemen - I have written to you in the past with questions concerning things in one of my tanks ( I have 4 - 1 large predator, Two Reefs, and a micro reef). I write today on a different topic and hope either you can help me or point me towards those who can assist me. Feel free to forward this to anyone you deem appropriate I'm a high tech guy or had been for the last 15 years (until this years layoffs - No I opted out instead of fighting it out with the rats on a sinking ship, you know eventually they will turn cannibalistic). Any who to make a long story short, there are 9 of us good friends and coworkers who all sold their souls for stock options and cash for a minimum of 10 years each. After opting out of this each of us was tired of the rat race of that lifestyle ( constant travel to exotic foreign cesspools - Aah vacation is so much different than work isn't it). All of us spent this time transferring the industry from the US to everywhere else it was cheaper to do it (quite a few strange places I will admit - Japan, Korea, Malaysia, France etc) so it is truly a sinking ship here domestically - We decided to form a group to build a business just for fun but that we could experience our old sense of self worth - So we created the Los Vatos corporation to build something similar to a Dave and Busters but less glitzy and more affordable to the average man (because even though each of us made 6 figures we all complained that a $250 night out with the wife and kids to have a good time is just plain outrageous). I digress though so on with it - We created this corporation and are in the process of designing our first family entertainment center with the concept of letting everybody have fun at a fraction of these other places, while introducing our hobbies / interests to the world at large (cold beer, nice cars, video games, billiards, good food, water, fish). All but 2 of us a coastal creatures who grew up on or very near the water 4 from the Texas gulf coast and one each from Northern and Southern California. The poor guy from Phoenix doesn't know what he missed). Where do you guys come into it ??? Well my partners know of my fascination with Saltwater (another partner is a freshwater guy with multiple biotope aquaria his best is a local Texas one) as such they gave me a space 40 feet long by 15 feet deep in our restaurant waiting area / entry bar to create an aquarium of large scale - Here is where you guys come in - I have this big space and a general idea of things, however I would like to do a more natural setup sliding away from technology as much as I dare to ensure my charges well being - I am collecting information on the "Ecosystem Approach" as my micro reef works this way - It had been running as such for about a year before I ever heard of it and it is generally agreed between my friends it is the best looking of all my tanks. Size constraints do not allow me to convert the other 3 tanks to this method to test it on a grander scale. All these run just as is Bob's book. In short while not on par with you or your cohorts I may actually know a couple of things, but I am smart enough to know what I don't. I've read about Richard Harker's 2000 gallon aquarium and envision it's construction along similar lines, but I wanted to pick you guys brains with the question -- <our pleasure to help> If somebody walked up to you and said here is this space 40' X 15' X 12' - I want to build and aquarium for myself - What would you do? <many possibilities here. I take great pleasure too in system planning and conceptual designs. I covered some such dynamics in the first chapter of my Book of Coral Propagation... even more dramatic designs in the second volume (early 2003). I have also consulted a few large public aquaria on top of many private systems as well. It would be my pleasure to dream with you. Without haphazardly spewing stream of conscious fantasy designs... let's do this up right. Let me trouble you to send me a simple photograph of the allotted space (or draw a diagram if you like). I'm looking to get an idea of the surrounding environment and its likely integrity/functionality with the system and its application... looking for access to drains, water supply, electricity, etc.> I eagerly await your input or direction and fully respect that this is not a question so easily answered  <agreed... not in a simple e-mail. Lets see a basic floor plan or photo of layout and that will open the floodgates for the imagination. Fair warning... expect dramatic from me :p > and I also want to add I want to do this myself not to save cash in a commercial venture but more along the lines of I dream of it. <understood and admired, my friend. I believe this to be true for what so much floor space could otherwise be used for commercially. I'm looking forward to chatting more. I also noticed that you are in Texas... I'll be in Dallas 9/26-9/30 at MACNA (www.dfwmas.com). Perhaps we can chat even more there if you'll be making the trip to that great marine conference.  With kind regards, Anthony Calfo> PS: feel welcome to call me at 412-795-XXXX. We can chat more So you don't think I'm a crank with nothing better to do than waste your time - Here is my personal information - (512) 257-XXXX if you call I will be happy to call you back and expand a little on things - It's tough to catch my vision in an email. 37 years old Electronics Engineering degree (specializing in the manufacture of semiconductor chips from sand to Pentium 4) XXXX North Cannes Drive, Cedar Park, Texas (Austin suburb) 78613  Ric Raley Do not be afraid to try new things Amateurs built the Ark  Professionals built the Titanic

New Reef Questions (Lots of 'Em!) Hi, <Hi! Scott F. here tonight!> Quick questions.  What are my options for a 55 gallon glass tank as a reef environment replication? <All kinds of options here-you can simulate a rubble zone, patch reef, etc. The possibilities are endless!> (would like inverts) (first time marine, about 2 years FW experience, current 20gal FW, 55 gal empty). I realize that I will need a sump, a protein skimmer, LR in the tank and some in the sump, LS in the tank, powerful fluorescent lights between about 6500 and 10000K, at least two heaters, and some sort of in tank water circulation. <All can be used- depends on your goals and the animals you'll keep.> I have also determined from what I have read that I will need to cycle this with just light and LR for upwards of 3+ months. <Shouldn't take that long...> I will also need to make at least weekly 20% water changes <20% is a serious water change on a weekly basis!> ( can I do this from the sump WO disturbing the tank?) <certainly> How deep should I make the LS bed be, and does it need an open space below it? (gravel concept filter?) <Either 1/2 inch or less, or more than 3 inches> Also I have heard that tufa(CaCO3) can be used as substrate, as long as, you do add some LR, and some of the bagged bacteria reef mud products, what are the considerations with using Tufa. <Can be used as "base rock" Make sure it's free of contamination.> In the great basin of the US there are lots of it just waiting to find a new home. <As above> How important is it to have a RO/DI unit? <Can be critical if your source water is poor quality> Would a simple charcoal and sand column and a days wait be sufficient (water is from a well in an alkaline basin gravel aquifer). <Check with your local fish store about measures used in your area to prep source water> How much "Emergency saltwater" needs to be kept on hand? <No hard and fast rule> How crucial is a UV light? <Depends on the animals you keep- can be nice to have, but lots of people get by without 'em> What about those "Calc-Reactors" I have heard of, and can they be had via DIY projects? <They are beneficial for many systems, can be a DIY project> Also, as water volume is important should I make one of the 3 sided wood fish tanks to have something in the 200 gallon+ size for the effort required of a reef system? <Bigger can be better, IMO!> I am considering using a plastic (Rubbermaid) tub for the sump, how important is it to paint it with something like a non toxic marine boat paint? <As long as it's "food grade", should be okay without coating of any kind> What are my options for reducing the cost of lighting? <Really too many to cover, here!> When can I make DIY projects and when should I just buy it off the shelf? <If you are handy- go for it!> Where can I find pictures/diagrams of sump systems that have incorporated failsafe redundancy? <Check the DIY site, OzReef.org. Thanks, Jesse PS, picked up the following small library on eBay recently (The Moe book looks the most complete, though each seams to have a bias). "Reproduction in Reef Fishes" by Dr. R.E. Thresher 1984 "Reef Fishes of the Indian Ocean" by Dr. Gerald R. Allen and Roger C. Steene 1987 "Fishes for the Invertebrate Aquarium 3rd ed" by Helmut Debelius 1989 "Advanced Reef Keeping" by Albert J. Thiel 1989 "Exotic Marine Fishes 8th ed" by Dr. Herbert R. Axelrod and Dr. Cliff Emmons 1988 "The Marine Aquarium Reference System and Invertebrates" by Marin A. Moe, Jr 1989 "The Marine Aquarium" by Dick Mills 1987 <My friend- you sure have lots of questions! That's good- 'cause you've come to the right place. WetWebMedia.Com has literally hundreds of pages of content that can address just about everything you brought up here- and in much greater detail! Why don't you dedicate yourself to an hour or two a day of surfing the WWM site and reading up on these things! It's a lot of fun, and you'll learn plenty! And pick up a copy of Bob's "Conscientious Marine Aquarist, and Anthony's "Book of Coral Propagation". They'll provide a solid base of up-to-date information that you'll benefit from greatly! Good luck!  Scott F.>

FOWL To Reef Dear Crew:         <Scott F. here tonight> I am in the process of converting my 58 tall FOWLR predator tank (wow what a mistake- way too small) into a reef tank. <Glad you learned that early on!> I currently have 100 pounds of LR and just added a 5 inch aragonite DSB.  Should I seed this with "live sand" or save the money? <If you seed it with just a little live sand, you'll be fine. All sand in a system like this will become "live" in time!> All of the fish were returned to the LFS, the moray ate the Powder Blue, so not much to return. <Yikes!> I have a CPR skimmer with pre-skimmer and bubble trap, and I create circulation with two 600 gph power heads, I may also use my two 200 GPH power heads depending on total turbulence.  I plan to purchase either a Champion or Hamilton 4x96 watt power compact hood.  I also plan to add the 24" CPR Aquafuge with PC lighting.  Do you think that using miracle mud in the refugium would be worth the expense? <All depends on what the refugium is being used for. If you're simply trying to cultivate macroalgae, yes it would work. But if your goal is to produce plankton and provide a safe place for delicate life forms, it's not necessary, IMO> I am planning on LR and macro algae (to be named later). <No Caulerpa, PLEASE!> I do not and can not have a sump, and I am worried about calcium.  I currently use 2 part b-ionic and I am worried about keeping levels in check.  The wife would like to have an anemone >and clownfish, clams, scallops, and assorted corals.  I am aware that trying to keep SPS with anemones will not work, how about LPS. <Can work. Why don't you try an inexpensive Condylactis anemone for your first try? They are gorgeous, and much more hardy and forgiving than some of the other species. Anemones require great attention to lighting and water quality.> Also, do you think that I will have enough light for the clams? <If placed high up enough in your reef, yes, but I'd go with one of the species that is not as demanding in regard to light> If I do not have an anemone will my lighting and calcium dosing be enough for SPS corals also is there an animal that might host the clownfish and have a shape similar to an anemone without the associated problems? <When you ask this, I assume that you mean that you will keep SPS in the absence of the anemone, and will dose a 2-part solution? If so, it will work, but you really should look into a calcium reactor for the long run. There are a number of possible "surrogates" for anemones, but it really depends on what the fish want! I've seen clowns take up residence in Sarcophyton leather corals, Elegant Corals, etc. Keep in mind that many tank-raised clowns have never seen an anemone, so it may not interest them. I've heard a lot of disappointed people when this happens. You simply don't know what an animal will or will not do! They don't have to answer to us!> Are there any major problems in my plan that you can see or additions that would make the system appreciably better. <Just study your additions carefully. If you are really going to go SPS, consider metal halide lighting and a calcium reactor for the long run. Your current plan will work, but these two items might make you and your high-light-loving animals happier down the line!> I have ordered Anthony Calfo's coral prop book. <My personal favorite> Is there a good book for coral species information and combination? <Do look for a copy of Eric Borneman's coral book> Finally two last odd questions.  I had a UV filter on the old setup, should I leave it in the new system and run it, run it only if there is a problem, or remove it all together as it will kill all of the microscopic food for the corals. <I'd probably omit it from your setup> And lastly do you think that I could stick my heater in the refugium to hide it. <Should be fine> Sorry for the length of this email, but I would like to do as much as possible to make this a stable and safe environment for my new housemates.  Thanks James <You've got the right idea! Keep studying and learning! You should be fine! Have fun!  Scott F.>

Mini Reef I have two very well established reef systems that use live rock and protein skimmers with no other filtration. I have had excellent success with these two tanks (a 30g and a 40g) for the last three years. I would like to try a 12 g mini reef. I was wondering if I might be ready for such a system. I imagine the only advice you'll give is to not overstock the system. I mean they sell them, so they must work successfully for some people, right?  <The same can be said for many things. You can buy a Tiger cub for $300. Does that mean everyone can keep one in their backyard?> The mini reef has built in wet/dry and protein skimmer and power compact lighting. the only modification I might make is to remove the bio-balls from the wet-dry. What do you think? Are you just totally and adamantly opposed to these small systems? It seems from your website that everyone recommends against these systems.  <That's because they are too small, inherently unstable, hard to keep cool (Doesn't tend to be a consideration in mid-October, but think August 1st. and 98F outside) and need almost constant maintenance to make up for their too small volume.> I'm dying to try one, though! My two established tanks have had no problems, zip, zilch, zero. Am I taking that much of a gamble? <It's your time and money, but IMO they would be better spent pushing the other end of the spectrum where the possibilities are better, are less work, stress and overall cost. Craig>

- Moving to a larger tank - <Greetings, JasonC here... I clicked send a little too quickly last time ;-) > Hi there I have been to your website in the past many, many times and would like to thank you for all of your help. I have a question about a reef tank. I have a 125 gallon tank right now with approx 230lbs of rock in it, VHO Lighting and all the other equipment. I have 3 hammer corals, 2 torch corals, 2 colt corals, elegant coral, 2 open brain corals, 2 bubble corals, 1 pearl bubble, 3 frogspawns, 3 doughnut corals, star polyps and an assortment of mushrooms. I am planning on getting a 280 gallon tank. 72"x30"x30". I am going to use a sump system on this tank so I can hide the heaters skimmer etc out of site. I am going to use three metal halides (I am thinking two 10,000K and one 6500K with standard actinics). The tank will be built for me with overflows and returns drilled. Is there any suggestions you can give me to help make this tank more manageable for a reef set-up? <Sounds like you've got a good handle on it.> Number of returns, placement, etc. <Very hard to be specific here... general answers like more circulation is better than too little, more heads are better than one... etc.> My biggest concern is I like LPS Corals and need a gentle current for them. <You might want to cut back a little on the lighting then, or go for lower wattage lamps. Likewise... lowering the current too much might cause stale areas in the tank. I think you'd be surprised to find many of these corals in areas on the reef where the flow is much higher than in most tanks... I wouldn't be too concerned.> I am going to use a 2400GPH MagDrive pump for my sump return. Is there anything else I should ask the LFS store might overlook. <Perhaps just redundancy... the ability to take a pump out of line to clean it but still retaining circulation, stuff like that.> Thanks, Ian Roff <Cheers, J -- >

- Reef Setup - Hi Jason! <Howdy.> Hope you're doing well tonight. <As far as I can tell...> No questions this time.  Just wanted to respond, and thank you.  You made my night. <Glad to hear it.> I've been stressing over the fact that I just found out that the tank I purchased, Oceanic's 75G "Reef Ready" (Yeah right), <Do you know what "reef ready" means? I don't.> has an overflow that will only accept 750 G an hour.  Since I can make up for this to a certain extent with power heads, I feel better. <Honestly, there isn't an overflow that I know of that will handle more.> I guess I could find a way to use both the return and overflow pipes for return, and then rig my own return, but If I can get by without, I think that's what I'll do. <It's still a limitation of the holes/slots in the overflow box inside the tank...> A slight rant: It really makes me mad that the "Cadillac" of tank makers pull this kind of crap. <?> It's bad enough that they insist on selling a wonderful 80W light fixture with the tank (unless you special order the tank), which by the way takes up pretty much the whole area and leaves no room for extra lights. Please, 80W, for reef ready?! <Depends on what you want to put in the reef... you expected metal halide perhaps?> And get this.  The light is about 1/4" too big to fit in under their canopy!!!!  The nerve. <Let them [Oceanic] know.> I'm going to stick with it, but I'm pretty disappointed that this is what I got for $300.00 for more than the "lesser"  brands. <Dude, relax and breathe deep for a minute or two. Just compare the thickness of the glass in an Oceanic tank to any other on the market... you'll see where the majority of that extra $300 went. I've owned Oceanic tanks in the past, and I've always been very satisfied with them, I think you will be too... lighting is another matter, and one that you can easily fix.> Thanks again for the advice, and thank you for letting me vent.  Have a wonderful night! <You too.> Thanks, Eric N. <Cheers, J -- >

Help for new reef set-up Greetings,      I am currently starting my very first saltwater/reef aquarium, using a 37 gallon Eclipse with the built in hood and power filter. Substrate is the ubiquitous sand (not live) and I just put in 12 lbs. of live rock to start off the cycle. My question concerns the ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY equipment when it comes to a reef/fish operation. I already know about the importance of good lighting, so I will not be skimping on that at all. My dilemma is that my LFS tells me that the best results come from utilizing a wet/dry trickle filter with sump, and that no other filtration can match this. <IMO, the media in the trickle filter will lead to elevated nitrites down the road. If adding this type of filtration, I would use a simple sump as a place to 'hide' the mechanicals and add some mechanical filtration, like carbon etc and increase volume> The local worker, who is very helpful and well meaning, also mentioned that having this set-up meant I didn't need to use a protein skimmer since it would kill too many bacteria, both good and bad. <Hogwash. A high quality protein skimmer is a critical piece of filtration equipment in a reef> He also tells me that the trickle filter basically meant I can/should stop using the power filter that came attached with the system. However, I have also encountered people who have reef systems who do not use the trickle filter but are getting along with a power filter. As a rookie to the saltwater side (and most books do not specify the "real deal" in this dept.) please tell me what you think the optimal set up is. I am willing to spend some money on the higher end equipment, but I also want to know if I can be successful and thrifty at the same time (aka use the same filter, etc). Thank you for your patience! <Here is what I would do. Keep the power filter and run it as needed, add a GOOD skimmer, and add a sump if you have $$$$. Do a search of WetWebMedia for skimmers and sumps to get some ideas. BTW, kudos to you for researching and asking questions BEFORE you start. Continue this practice and you will be rewarded. Hope this helps, Don>

Reef Tank Set-up Hi Bob and crew, I'm designing a new 150g (60x24x24) reef tank to hold LPS corals, some small fish (1 mandarin, 2 purple Firefish, 1 fairy wrasse, others undecided yet), and possibly a few clams. <Wait until well aged for Mandarin--food supply to become established without predation.> It will be in my bedroom so my first priority is noise and I live in Southern California so electrical use is my second priority.   <So using power to induce the hum of motors and water gurgling is bad?  I thought the noise lulled me to sleep! But seriously, a 150 with clams and LPS will use some power for pump motors, lighting for LPS and clams, heat in winter and cooling in summer. Not really much room for compromising here...> Could I get your advice on the following issues? 1) For filtration, can I avoid having a sump and instead use lots of LR, a DSB, and strong circulation from powerheads in the main tank?  There will be a large refugium (100g) with a EuroReef PS under the tank, but there will not be much flow through the refugium (200-400gph). <More LR, LS etc. is surely good. I would replace refugium idea under tank with sump with LR as sumps are designed and intended, well, as sumps. That is, under the tank.  Refugiums are meant as a multiple purpose filter/nutrient export/pod production, etc. placed *above* the main and passively draining into main. Flow through sump only needs to be sufficient to provide good turnover to skimmer/filtration. Main circulation can be done with powerheads (a little unsightly), a closed loop, more overall circulation, etc. The circulation in the main is the primary concern if filtration is sufficient.> My thinking is that lower flow out of the tank -> smaller pumps -> less noise and electricity.  Using powerheads means no head for the pumps -> smaller pumps -> less electricity.  Does this sound good or am I deluding myself? <A little. There is no compromise for needed filtration flow and overall flow in the main tank. Powerheads are not silent, add heat to the water, and you have to look at them. Combined they can use more power and make more collective noise than one correctly sized pump.  And in So. Cal. add more heat.  Chillers use power and make noise as well!  The other part of this compromise is less water volume, less flow, less water/temp stability.> 2) I would like to use a Durso standpipe to cut down on noise.  Do I need to have an overflow box for this or can I just make an intake filter for the standpipe? <For best noise reduction, use an overflow box and then the Durso intake can be below water level, reducing water noise and getting best flow rate.> 3) I'm interested in building a concrete wall for the back of the aquarium (like what is found in professional public aquarium setups) to hide all the plumbing and create a natural coastal wall look.  I can't find any information on how to do this, any experience or pointers? <Do check out WWM for concrete curing issues and perhaps coatings (epoxy, etc.) for concrete. Look into Alkalinity/pH issues with concrete. This has been done, so the info is out there.  I read about a 2000 gallon concrete built-in last year, I think it was in FAMA?  Also, with such a permanent set-up, I would advise a central sump/filtration with pumps, perhaps closed loop circulation, no powerheads.> 4) Lighting: HQI MH or T5 VHO fluorescents?  I'd like to go MH, but I can concerned with heat (leads to fans + AC -> more electricity) and the cost.  If MH do you have any opinions on whether electronic ballasts are worth the additional cost? <MH. Light output per KW is far more efficient with MH, therefore it is actually less power used. Wattage depends on depth. I love VHO but for power efficiency you will be able to run less wattage in MH to get the same light from much more VHO wattage. You may still consider Actinic VHO for looks/rendition/appearance.  MH will be raised higher, less heat to water, more room for a fan or two.  David, it's So. Cal. it will 105 in July. (you're not in the Valley are you?) You will need the air no matter what!> Thanks for any help and I can't thank you enough for your excellent website!  David Wangerin <A pleasure my friend, have fun!  Craig>

Tank size okay? Hello, I  have a 55 gallon tank that measures  the typical 48X18X12, and was wondering if  its size is okay for a reef system, I have about 11/2 to 2 inch of sand and  have  260 total watts of lighting(2-65 watt Actinic and  2-65 watt 10,000K) I understand that wide and shallow are the way to go in tanks for reefs, but when  I got this tank last year I was only going to do a fish only tank but have changed my mind and would like to turn to reef system.  Thank you for your help!   Bruce      >>Hi Bruce.  I see no problem why you couldn't make a nice reef tank with what you've got.  I would make the sand a deep sand bed, since you're at least halfway there, and go for a generous 3"-4". The lighting sounds good, filtration would be your next consideration, which is going to be partly determined by what you've chosen to do and the current tank. Marina

Starting with Reef Additives - 8/13/03 Hello Anthony! <cheers, my friend> I have my tank filled with sea water. I used R/O water to adjust SG to 1022. The tank has only water for the moment.  My pH is  8.00 and I have not measured  my alkalinity yet. <was the RO water aerated and buffered before it was salted? If not, it is a burden on pH and ALK> I have also bought an American Marine  ORP meter and its readings are 325 at daytime and 275 during the night. <if accurate, those numbers a little bit low. The tank may need better aeration, skimming and/or ozone to get in the 350-400 mv range> I am waiting to receive 20 kilos of Indonesia live rock in two weeks and let it cycle in the tank. My questions are:  - When should I start measuring and adding Calcium and Alkalinity Buffers? <from the beginning/always> - I have access to Seachem products but I am confused which ones I should choose (Reef builder, Reef Calcium, Reef Carbonate, Reef Complete, Reef Buffer, Reef Advantage Calcium) and how to use them. <I prefer to use Kalkwasser (pickling lime/calcium hydroxide or oxide) and the Reef Calcium> - I have also read about the two-part additives (C-Balance) but I can not get then from Europe. Is it worth the money ordering them fro USA ? <I thing the B-Ionic brand is much better. These 2=part mixes are convenient... but expensive and still lack many of the benefits of calcium hydroxide (Kalkwasser)> - Are 20 kilos of live rock enough for my 340 liters tank + sump ? I will not use any bio media in the sump. <its hard to say without seeing/knowing the bio-load. The test kits will let you know as you stock the tank early and slowly. Look for control of Ammonia and nitrite as indicators> Thanks and best regards, Thanassis <kindly, Anthony>

Re: New reef set-up questions Hello again. If you ever come to Greece it would be an honour for me to meet you and drink a beer with you. Just let me know when! <the pleasure would be mine, Thanassis :)> As said before I will need about (1200lit) 300 GPH for my tank circulation via the overflow, which can be done with an 1'' tubing. I have read that the capacity of a pump is reduced with the height distance. <correct> So in my case, if I used an EHEIM pump with 1200 lit/h capacity and the height from the pump to my upper wall of the aquarium would be 150 cm (62''), how much reduction of the capacity I will have? <the pump manufacturers have this data (varies by pump) usually on their product boxes and/or web sites. You can certainly e-mail them to get the pump values at "head" (the term for the height/pressure on a water pump)> If it is a lot of reduction then perhaps I will have to use the next model with a capacity of 2280 lit/h. Is this right? <unfortunately we cannot know/remember all of the various pump brand limitations. Simply add up the "head" imposed (one foot of head for each foot of height, plus one foot of head added for every ten feet of run, plus one foot of head for each elbow/angle. All added together to give the total "head"... then look that up on the pump charts> Concerning the DSB in my main tank, would it be better to put a mesh in the middle of it , so that the lower part will not be disturbed by the sand-borrowing creatures, or it is good for the whole substrate to be stirred by the bottom critters ? <I prefer to have no mesh whatsoever... but is you are keeping very aggressive stirring fishes (like goatfish)... then the mesh in the middle may be helpful> Just to understand this right: Can I achieve zero nitrates just with a DSB in my sump/refugium  (which has about the half of the surface of my main tank), <possibly> or it is necessary to make a DSB  in my main tank? <not necessary... but better because it is larger> I am convinced that it is the best bet for 0 nitrates but I still have a small fear about it. Of course my target is 0 nitrates and I do not want to use a nitrate reductor, as some aquarists do. I have a sea urchin in my hospital tank doing well for a month now. I got it from the sea close to my house. It is a very good cleaner and nice to watch but I have noticed that it is destroying the red macro-algae on my life rock. <yes... they are aggressive algae grazers... usually a good thing> Can I put it in my reef when it will be ready or it will be dangerous for the invertebrates and corals? <most species are safe... but you will need to identify the genus/species to be sure> Please find attached the sump/refugium design I have decided to make. -  Is it important to prefilter the overflow water before it drops to the sump? (filter bag or sponge) <I prefer no prefilter if the skimmer is good (allows more raw matter to be exported)> -  I am thinking  not to use a bulkhead on the top of the sump but let the overflow hose hanging in the sump with some kind of cupping to hold it on the sump wall. Is this ok? <seems reasonable> Best regards, Thanassis <kindly, Anthony>
Re: New reef set-up questions 4/23/03
Hello Anthony! I am very close to ordering my tank and sump now, having been able to solve some of my basic questions, thanks to your help. One thing which is confusing me and my LFS as well is the following: Suppose I have an overflow box on the upper back wall of the tank and an overflow hole. Since the water is entering the overflow box it will start filling the box and when it reaches the lower level of the hole (which will be drilled in the middle of the overflow box) it will start draining through the hole. So far, so good. Now we have two scenarios: One is that the water level in the overflow box does not cover fully the hole and the water surface reaches about the middle of the hole, letting air come inside the tubing. <correct... this is the proper and safe running level of a bulkhead. And if the tubing/pipe that drains in to the sump below is prevented (as it should be ) from being submerged... the air will escape quietly and prevent the hole from having backflow/resistance> The second scenario is that the water level fully covers the hole and does not let air come inside the tubing. <Yikes!!! Dangerous> (There is even a third scenario, which I already reject, where the water level rises even higher than the overflow box.)/ Which scenario is the optimal? <the former... and is controlled by the flow from the return pump (which you regulate with a valve on the outflow)> In order to control the flow precisely, I am thinking of having a 2''overflow tubing (I believe that is better bigger than smaller) and a fully submersible SICCE pump in the sump  with a flow regulator on it (1000 to 4000 lit/h) http://www.shopsolution.nl/shop/home.asp?shopid=seameec&deptid=siccepumps, . I do not know much about this pump but I liked the fact that it has a flow regulator on it. <agreed... all good> In order to control the flow to the sump I intend to have a ball-valve right after the bulkhead fitting as well. Thanks in advance, <a gate valve would be much better than a ball valve (ball valves reduce a lot of flow/potential)... and instead of a valve inline that restricts the flow/pump... a teed bleeder line would be even better. See the diagram here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/plumbingmarart.htm > Thanassis <best regards, Anthony>

New 75 reef and refugium questions I have a 75 gal tank that I'm wanting to turn into a reef tank. Right now the tank sets empty while I research a refugium. I want to put under the stand so I realize that I have to have overflows and a sump. <I advise picking one function, sump or refugium. Refugiums are best located above the display and passively drained into display. Sumps are better located under stands. A decent mix is additional LR in the middle compartment of the sump.  I suggest reading about marine set-ups and refugiums at WetWebMedia.com.>   My tank doesn't have overflows, so while its empty I want to have some drilled (DIY hopefully). <If this tank is glass, make sure it's not tempered glass or it's not possible to drill. If so, look into sand blasting holes or an acrylic tank.> I know that the overflow rate and the sump rate have to be the same, I want to know what size holes I should have drilled ( would be best) or to have some kind of rate chart. Should the holes be in the back or on the bottom? If I know the size of hole and the rate I can get a pump. <I suggest starting at flow rate for main (10-20X's turnover) and sizing pump(s) from there. Also look into closed loop circulation as a means to increase overall flow without running everything through the sump or refugium. Sumps can handle the flow, refugiums must have a gentle current. A good book wouldn't hurt, and would likely save you much time and money. Most of Anthony's set-up info is available at WetWebMedia.com, do check it out.>    It's going to be a 20 gal under the tank with 2 dividers, 1 on 1 side of the sump and 1 on the other, in the middle I want a refugium.  Currently I have  75 gal, 20 gal, a sea clone protein skimmer for 100 gal, it has a maxi - jet 1200, 2 maxi - jet 1200's, 2 other powerheads rated 150 -175 g/h, a magnum 350 that I'm trading for another maxi - jet 1200, 100lbs of non - silicate sand. I'm going to order 90lbs of Fiji live premium rock once I get this all figured out. Does this all sound ok and thanks for answering all my questions. <Sounds okay, you might keep the canister for carbon/resin use. Research the needed flow rates for the types of inhabitants you wish to keep. Start there and work backward to provide proper conditions/flow rate.  Try the drain/pipe calculator at Reef Central.  Have fun!  Craig>

Old tank new re set-up - 4/21/03 Hi Guys! <Hi Becky. Sorry for the delay. Been a very busy week of mid-terms, work, family matters, and holiday weekend. Did I say work? Oh yeah Anyway, I so sorry for the tardiness of this reply.> My parents have a reef tank that looks like a swamp because it was totally neglected. <Too bad.>  My dad has offered me a "job" taking care of it. <Well, cool if you want to do it and like this sort of blank canvas project.....sucks if you don't> I have a reef tank so this would no prob. <Oh...OK....so this a good thing. Great!> The live rock in the tank is covered with brown algae, and the water is unbelievable. <As in smell, I bet>  Should I leave the rock in the tank and just do a total water change? <I would>  Or maybe give all the rock a rinse job in some seawater, then place back in the tank? <This would be better but may not be necessary. Dunno though, as I cannot see the tank. What do you think?>  They must have well over 200lbs of rock. <Rad!>  The tank's 135 gallons.  The other thing is that the tank is in the wall so taking out all the rock would be a huge chore. <Yeah, sometimes a problem with these types of configurations, although I love the in wall look. Worth the hassle in my book> I'm the one who put it all in there. <Man, what a chore, but very cool>  I think I could help seed the old rock by bringing a piece over from my tank. <Exactly. If the water has been heated and at the very least topped off with fresh water then may not need anything but a water change and general upkeep from here on out>  I have sand with tons of critters too. <Now that I think about it, I would definitely seed both the sand and the live rock>  Any input would be very helpful. <Well, sounds like you have the right idea. Since you have worked on it once before, I think you know exactly what to do. I would treat this as a new tank  by cycling everything in tank, and as soon as all levels are nominal, I would "seed" via your suggestion above. Give it a good six weeks to two months though. The only things I would add at about the third or fourth week would be a clean up crew. Keep the water changes coming. Change the lighting if needed and go from there.> This is going to be my weekend project! <Understood> I love this stuff! <Glad to hear. Sounds like you got a handful there> Thanks Lots! <Our pleasure. Good luck and most of all.....have fun! Thanks for coming WetWebMedia. Paul> -Becky

Re: New reef set-up questions 4/19/03 Thanks Anthony! I am really obliged with your answers. <its our pleasure to help, my friend. One day I'll find myself traveling in your country and we can share a beer :) > My LFS know just a few things about reefs and I could never imagine starting a reef without your help and your advices. I really can not describe my thankfulness to you and your colleagues. <we truly enjoy sharing our passion for this beautiful hobby with folks like you sharing the interest> I have read the "Conscientious Marine Aquarist" and I am looking forward to buying your new book "Reef Invertebrates" when published. I have some more questions: - After your answers I start to calculate that if I choose a 1'' tubing for my overflow, I can have a minimum flow rate of 300 GPH, which is about 4 times my tank+sump capacity (50 tank + 20 sump). Is this circulation enough? <it sounds safe and appropriate for the sump loop. But you may want to add some extra water flow in the main tank with a hang-on filter or simple power head to increase total flow overall. The modern guideline in a reef aquarium is 10-20X tank volume turned over per hour> (my LFS say that 1 time is enough!...). <WOW!!!! That is terrible. With such slow flow... algae problems are very common... not to mention poor water quality at large> Of course I will use extra powerheads of inside-tank circulation. I am now referring only to the circulation via the overflow. <ahhh... understood and agreed> - In case I have to use a bigger diameter for the tubing in order to have a bigger water circulation , is it better to have two 1'' tubings in the same overflow box or one 2'' tubing? <one 2" would be better than two 1"> - Which dimensions should the overflow box have? - Which should be the distance of the hole from the lower end of the overflow box? <Hmmm... these are questions that cannot be answered easily sight unseen. My advice is for you to visit web sites like ozreef.org and check out their DIY links and pages for great tips and illustrations with measurements to see what might suit you best > - Concerning the DSB in my main tank, is there the risk of formation of anoxic pockets, where poisonous gas can escape and kill the fishes+invertebrates? <that only occurs when the system is overfed and/or lacks water flow (or other creatures to stir sand naturally). Essentially... it only occurs in neglected tanks> I have read it in some web sites and this is the reason I was thinking of having a DSB only in my sump, where it can be more controllable. <agreed... a small benefit indeed> - I have also read that a plenum is much more efficient in denitrification. Is this wrong? <I have had much experience with plenums... and I do not find them to be helpful or harmful. Mostly a waste of time when applied to home-sized aquaria... better for very large displays> And a question about lighting: - I would like to start right and cover from the beginning the issue "lighting" by buying the right equipment from the beginning. I am confused about the following: since daylight is at about 6500K why do the new metal halides have a 10000K or higher? <because aquarists like the aesthetic look of the bluer colored lamps> I know that we need the higher spectrum but we can provide it with extra blue actinic fluorescent tubes. Is it in fact the higher spectrum areas that the photosynthetic invertebrates mostly need? <not at all... quite the contrary... mostly daylight> Don't we need the lower spectrum areas that much? Or it is so, that the 10000K cover fully the 6500K and offer even more in the upper spectrum area? <anything in the 6500 to 10,000K range will serve you fine... do resist the bulbs over 10K unless you are going to specialize> I see a lot of on-line shops in the Internet and intend to order a pending system soon. I still do not know what combination it should be (MH + blue actinic I suppose , but which Kelvin rate ?). <my advice for a balance or good coral growth and handsome color to lamps is an Aqualine or Ushio 10K lamp. If coral growth instead is your only or primary interest, then the Iwasakis are your best bet IMO> I am not discussing the Watts here, because I feel a little more informed in this area.- Are HQI really more effective than normal MH? <perhaps... I like them very much (the double ended 10Ks)> Too many questions again , but I feel I am starting to have a good idea about all this (thanks to your help!) Thanassis <best regards, Anthony>

RE: Setting Up a Reef  4/17/03 Thanks for the quick response Phil,<No problem!> I love the site.<So do I!> I wish I would have got more advise before I bought the skimmer.<Live, learn, and kick your-self in the butt... :)  > I was under the impression this was a top of the line skimmer. It has a top of the line price.<This is so true of many "crap" items in this hobby.> I started the tank fresh without bio balls, but a local shop had told me to leave them in. I didn't listen. I am not sure yet what type of corals I am going to try and keep. I will start slow. right now I would like to maximize the coralline algae growth on my new rock and start with some soft corals and add color to the tank. how much light to accomplish this,<Between 3-5 watts per gallon is a good amount for the basics.  You should pick up Anthony's book on coral.  It lists all you need to know!> also when do you recommend I add reef janitors?<I'd give it a little time for algae to grow.  Maybe a week or two after you add your first fish.> thanks again!!!<Hope this helps and good luck!  Phil>

New reef set-up questions 4/14/03 Hello again! <Howdy!> Just to summarize, after 13 years of keeping a FO aquarium I am now on the process of designing a reef from scratch (my old tank had a crush, so I just gave it away). After a lot of reading in the net as well as some books about reef set-up, I have come up with my first questions, which will help me in the stage of designing my cabinet+tank+sump. My first question concerns the overflow box. My LFS has a little experience with this kind of stuff and they only have built a couple of overflow systems but with a bulkhead hole which is drilled on the upper side of the side glass of the tank (not on the bottom, as I have read in many sites in the internet), Is there a problem with this kind of overflow box? <I personally prefer to have my overflow holes drilled on the upper back wall... never the floor> I am planning to order a 50 gal (200 lit) tank with a 20 gal (80 lit) sump. I am now in the process of designing my sump and I read really a lot in the net (your site plus thereefweb.com). My question is how I am going to calculate the diameter of the bulkhead overflow hole and the respective flow rate of the return pump, so that I do not face overflow problems in my sump. Could you help me calculate this? <we cannot calculate it per se... you simply consult the bulkhead manufacturers specs and then drill enough holes to match the desired flow and pump of your choice (perhaps 500-100o GPH for this tank)> I find it easier and simpler to have the return pump (submersible) inside the sump and not outside of it.. Is there any problem with that? <it adds extra heat and may be a problem (water temperature) in a warm room> Up to now I have concluded that it is safer and more controllable to have a DSB in a special area within the sump, where I can also have some live rock and Caulerpa growing plus some bottom critters (hermit crabs, etc). If I do this I will have just an inch or less of sand on my main tank for the stars, gobies, and other fishes that enjoy a substrate. Is this right? <it may not be enough sand to feed some deposit feeders (over 3" is recommended)> In case I follow the above sump/refugium do I need to build a plenum or can I go also with a DSB ? <don't bother with a plenum IMO... they offer little or no benefit over a static bed of sand> Has it got to be live sand or can I do the job just with dry sand from my LFS, since there is no problem with the creation of pockets of poisonous sulfate escaping in my main tank? I am really confused with this one. <dry sand is fine and will become live in time. Just add a small handful of live sand to seed the dry> I am at the same time designing the stand cabinet of the tank. Since I will have a plenum does the wooden cabinet have to be open on the rear side (practically to have no back at all) in order to avoid the humidity caused by water evaporation within the cabinet? <its nice to have a little part open at least to dissipate humidity. Add a fan if necessary to exhaust humid air> In case I use glass front doors for my stand cabinet , will the light be enough for the living organisms on my live rock and Caulerpa in my sump or do I still need to use lights? <you will need bright lights for certain (5 watts per gallon)> I recently bought an AquaC Remora skimmer, which worked just for a couple of weeks before my FO tank had a crash. I am thinking of hanging it to my sump with its pump in my sump. Will it be ok? <yes> I have read somewhere that it is a good idea to place a glass just below the Metal Halide lamp, so that you get an extra protection for the UV radiation coming from the MH. Is this correct? <yes> Will this extra glass reduce the efficiency of the MH lamp? <little... mostly UV if the glass is think, clean and clear> Many questions, but I feel the more I read the more questions I will have.....(sorry!) Thanks, Thanassis <best regards, Anthony>
Re: New reef set-up questions 4/15/03
Thanks Anthony, here are a couple of questions just to make things for me more clear: <I personally prefer to have my overflow holes drilled on the upper back wall... never the floor>. Do you also make an overflow box, or just drill the holes and let the water come directly into them? <<I prefer to have an internal (horizontal) overflow box around the holes to thin out the overflow water for improved skimmer performance (gets better raw water)>> <we cannot calculate it per se... you simply consult the bulkhead manufacturers specs and then drill enough holes to match the desired flow and pump of your choice (perhaps 500-100o GPH for this tank)>. This is in fact my question (my English is a little bad!) : Suppose I have an EHEIM pump 1250 lit/hour or 550 GPH. Which diameter will be the hole that I will drill? 1 inch or more? Which way can I much the desired flow with the hole diameter? <<your English is very fine my friend... no worries. You have simply misunderstood. The size of the hole you need depends on the tolerances of a given and specific bulkhead. Their are differences in water flow through the "same" diameter of pipe made in different formats (Sch 40, sch 80, Thick wall PVC, sewer and drain pipe, etc). You must simply look for a bulkhead fitting first and then see what it says you can push through it... then add up enough of those bulkheads to match the total flow that you desire in your system. 1" bulkheads can run between 300-600 gph through one hole usually. To be conservative, if you want 1000 gph through your system, you will need 3 to 4 holes drilled (1")>> <don't bother with a plenum IMO... they offer little or no benefit over a static bed of sand>. If I do not make a plenum, would it be ok to place oolithic aragonite sand with a diameter of 1,5 mm  to a height of 8 cm? Is that all or do I have to use 2 layers of sand, one with non-aragonite sand and the upper with aragonite sand? <<nope...it is just as you first mentioned. You can simply place 8 cm of fine oolitic sand in a static bed directly on the bottom of the > My AquaC Remora skimmer is not designed to use ozone. Since I am making a reef I would like to use ozone. Is there any solution to this? <<yes, indeed... there are simply and fairly inexpensive acrylic and PVC cylinder that will work as a reaction chamber for injecting ozone. DO a search for DIY plans for an "ozone reactor" on the web to see if you can find one that suits you>> Thanks, Thanassis <<best regards, Anthony>>

- Set-up Questions - <Hello again, JasonC here...> Thanks, I went to the aquarium store and they explained it to me in the same way, now I have to figure out how I'm going to set it up, bought a couple of books on reef tanks and I want some invertebrates in there, looking forward to it, I may convert my old 55 gal into a sump for this tank and put the goldfish and koi in my pond. <Sounds good.> I really like your DIY website, does anyone use the water pumps from Harbor freight, they are cheap, and seem to work well for a pond. <But are they capable of dealing with corrosive salt water? That is the question that needs to be answered.> What about using an old pool filter canister with pump (with a new filter, I'd never fully Dechlor. the old one) for filtration, would that work (I have an extra), then into a skimmer, into the old aquarium (sump), I would divide it wet/dry w/bio balls, then to the pump, through a UV in case I needed it and back to the tank with a spray wand type inflow. <If you want to build a reef tank, I wouldn't use a pool filter in the system - would filter out items that would be useful to the health of your occupants. The skimmer, yes - the wet/dry, no - the UV, no.> Should I put air stones in the sump for maximum oxygenation or will the skimmer handle it. <The skimmer will accomplish that for you.> Thought about the gymnasium type metal halides if I can get the right color (I can get them cheap) then put them on timers, and 4 power heads, 2 on each side on timers to simulate tide. <The fixtures would work, but the bulb would probably need to be replaced with something more appropriate for aquaria.> What won't work, and what am I leaving out?  I want to build a stand to go over an antique cabinet, then plumb it to a closet behind that wall and set up the mechanicals there.  What about sealing the top of the tank with a glass sheet, but running a couple computer fans to keep it cooler, then hanging the large halides a foot or so above the tank. <How would you do any maintenance on the tank? I wouldn't seal the top.> I also have plans to convert an old minifridge into a chiller if need be.  Wow, hope you can help. <Keep up the research.> Thanks, Jay <Cheers, J -- >

Setting Up a Reef  4/14/03 Ok I have read your site so much now I think my eyes are starting to bleed.<LOL.. I hear ya.> First time questions so I hope I don't wear out my welcome.<Nah, we're a great group of people.  It must be something in the water... LOL.  Pun intended.> To much controversy in what I read and what local shops tell me. I have had very successful fish only tanks but I am now bored.<That's how I was.> Just started a new 90 gal reef tank system which is up and running with 80lbs Fiji live pink sand.<GREAT!!> I ordered 98 lbs of Fiji live rock and only received 46. which has been in the tank for about two weeks. Should receive the other half today. I bought a red Berlin 25-250 skimmer and placed it in the sump and started it today.<Sounds good so far> my questions are: Bio balls or no bio balls<I would slowly remove them over a few weeks and replace them with live rock>,skimmer started now or do I wait<Start now>, Is this skimmer ok for this set up<I'm not a fan of this skimmer, but others have used it with no problems>, Is this enough rock.<I think so> lighting now?<Do you mean turn it on?  If so ya turn it on.> if so how long and how much.<10-13 hours is good.  How much.. depends on the corals you want to keep.> Thinking about a ice-cap 660 system. ok<ok...>, Base rock or no base rock.<Really doesn't matter> my tank is an all glass system with corner overflow. Is one discharge enough current?<Probably going to wanta add a few(?) powerheads, IMO> I use a quiet one pump and I have it gated down because the flow was extremely strong . Also how can I quiet down the overflow.<There are a few ways, search on WWM for "Durso Standpipe".>  Thank you, any help would be greatly appreciated... Robert<Hope this helps Rob!  Good luck!  Phil>

Marine Set-up, suggestions for everything! Hi, I am starting a 29 gal reef tank, I already have the tank... but none of the equipment. my question is what equipment would you suggest I get... I am not made of money and as of now can only purchase the bare minimum to keep my tank clean... I plan on buying a pair of true percula clowns... I also plan on, since I am short on cash, buying only 10 pounds of live rock and 20-30 pounds of base rock... the same with live rock... I think I can get away with that by adding some of that "jump-start" stuff to "jump-start" my live rock/sand... for filtration I planned on getting a bio-wheel, and Berlin airlift until I have more money.. for lighting I planned on buying a 55 watt light from... http://www.ahsupply.com/36,40,or.htm would 55 watts be enough.. if I decide to add mushrooms or hardy coral life later on.... I'd probably add about 4 more 55 watts before I add coral....  Thanks,  Mark  >> All sounds fine as you've listed it... you don't need to buy live sand... the live rock will seed whatever substrate you use. Bob Fenner

Live Rock, and Much More I have some follow-up questions from the last time that I e-mailed you. I am wanting to set up a 58 Oceanic reef using the Berlin style of filtration. I know that you prefer the Fiji for its weight and how porous it is. Would the rock from Tonga, Marshall Island, and Manono fit into the same category?  <Yes, all fine sources> Are they all about the same in terms of quality of rock? <Equally variable is more like it... depending on collector, the weather, how long in transit...> I'm thinking about ordering a couple of boxes from FFExpress and placing whatever won't fit into the aquarium into my sump as additional filtration. In my sump (at this point I'm thinking just a big Rubbermaid container--will this be inert?)  <Yes, and very strong... a good choice> I'm thinking about having the live rock, a needle-driven protein skimmer and growing some Caulerpa. Are some forms of Caulerpa preferred to others?  <Yes... some more temperature choices... others aesthetic... some are hard to get rid of if you "change your mind"... but C. sertularoides, C. taxifolia are about best, most available> Will fish eat all forms if I decide to throw some up top for a snack? <Within reason, yes> What are your thoughts about mangroves for removing nitrates?  <Mostly a scam... and can be a big problem getting rid of... I don't endorse their use> I'm also leaning toward hooking up some kind of canister filter to the sump and sticking in a couple of PolyFilters and Chemi-pure. Would you recommend that I put Siporax in the canister or just place it in the sump? <In the canister for sure> I am still a bit confused about live rock/live sand combinations in the aquarium. I know that I don't want to place the rock directly on the sand but I don't see how one can clean the sand even if I put the rock up on the plastic egg crate material. Would it be preferable to buy the live rock branches from Fiji as I should be able to get them up off of the bottom easier?  <Even better to leave the sand in a separate area... cordone it off from the LR or place it in a sump...> What do you think about mixing a box of rocks with a box of branches?  <Should be fine> I have never used sand before and I am a bit leery of it. Am I to assume that if I purchase enough creatures that will get in there and stir up/eat the detritus that I won't have a major problem?  <To some extent, yes... this is the given spiel> I see that you recommend stirring and vacuuming the sand periodically. How can I do this if it is around the rock?  <Harder to do... have to move the rock... see above... corral the area around, away from the LR for the sand, use it in a separate sump, or don't worry> In the past I've used crushed coral and vacuuming it is a fairly simple matter. I can't see how one could vacuum sand without a lot of it being lost. Speaking of sand, where can I purchase aragonite (2-3 mm)?  <Most anywhere... even the Home Depot...> Is this what you would recommend and then placing a little live sand seeder on top of it? How much of each would I need to purchase? <Just use the live rock... trust me> I'm also wanting to get your opinion about lighting. At this point my plan is to use a daylight and a blue bulb on the twin strip that comes with the Oceanic setup and then purchasing a power compact 2x96w (one 6700 and one blue). Will this be enough to keep a wide range of inverts?  <Should be> At this point I'm not wanting to go gaga over the SPS but I've been told by AH Supply that I should be able to keep some with the foregoing setup as long as they're placed high in the water. <Nah... likely will have to add much more intensity> For circulation I'm planning on at least two powerheads in the aquarium (along with the return from the sump). What size/brands of powerheads would you recommend? Would you recommend putting them on some kind of timer for a wave effect? Would you recommend putting some kind of sponge on them or would this just add to my nitrates? <Use some sort of intake filter to keep your livestock out... the Hagen and Aquarium System products are superior... leave them on continuously... and get as many, as large as you can...> I am really concerned about algae problems with all of this lighting. For this reason I want to keep my nitrates, phosphates, and silicates as low as possible. I'm therefore planning on investing in an RO unit but am completely at a loss (even after doing research/reading). I've heard some say that RO units won't remove silicates for very long after the first use. Is this true? <Hmm, yes... generally not a big issue...> Are there some units that will continue to pull out all of these for an extended period of time. In your opinion, what are some of the better models/manufacturers out there?  <Not that important (make, model...) you can fit a contactor on your RO if further concerned... if money no object, look into the Kold Steril unit PolyBioMarine offers> Are they going to require lots of plumbing work on my part or are they pretty much self-contained?  <the latter> Even with treated water I'm thinking that I might have to look into products to take out excess nitrates and phosphates from the aquarium (occurring from detritus, frozen fish food use, etc.). Are there any products out there that you think are worth the money that do a decent job of controlling nitrates and phosphates?  <Not really... better to control biologically in a sump... with macro-algae culture> I assume that I can count on algae growth regardless. In your opinion, what janitors are essential to a reef set up and what quantities would be best with my setup? Will these cleaners also eat the sought-after coralline algae as well. <Much investigation necessary here... and yes, most of the handy dandy types sold in the trade will/do eat encrusting red algae> Finally--and I'm sure that you're glad that this is it--I have a couple of nice perculas in a fish-only tank right now that I'm wanting to transfer to the reef setup. How long would you wait after the tank has cycled with the live rock and my fish have been transferred, before you'd start to add inverts?  <The cleaners? As soon as the tank is cycled. The tougher fishes, a month or two after... the invertebrates otherwise? About the same> I'd really like to get an anemone for the clowns. In your opinion, which species would I have the most luck with given my lack of experience with a reef setup?  <The Bubble Tip, Entacmaea quadricolor> At this point, I'm wanting to transfer the clowns, a flame hawk, a hippo tang, and get a royal Gramma, and a mandarin for the reef. Think it will work OK? Thanks for all of your help! <Probably not the Mandarin... keep reading, dreaming... Bob Fenner> Michael Krogman

More questions Bob, Hello, I hope all is well. You may or may not remember me, but we have conversed many times via digitized electrons. I'm the one who sent you the pics of the fire shrimp that died for no apparent reason... I initially started with a 30 gallon tank and have upgraded to an 85 (NEXT tank? 150 or 200, so help me god...). I have had this tank running for about 7 months, with some of the bio cultures transferred from my initial tank to this new one when I initially set it up (I seeded the gravel, I suppose you could say, as well as moving the live rock to the new tank... (it now has about 80 pounds of rock in it... Should I add more?) <For looks? Who knows. For function? Maybe> ). I have some fun on occasion looking for new critters with a flashlight after the lights have gone down! I see lots of little "shrimp" type things; probably in the low hundreds, as well as 3 or 4 crabs I don't remember buying ;) I also have some marshal island rock that has these little worm type things that come out of the holes... I assume they are harmless? <For the most part, yes. Otherwise, you will know> Anyway, I have a couple of little coral polyps and I recently dropped in a mushroom (NO idea what kind of coral it is; it is a common one, but I got it as an excess from a friend's tank so I didn't get the actual name...), as well as some yellow "star" corals (they were being sold as live rock because most of them died off and there were only a few on there, so I decided what the hey...). I also got another Sebae anemone (who seems to go in and out of what I call "comfort"; he shrivels up, then he blooms... Shrivel, bloom... Not related to time or lighting or anything I can put my finger on, really...). Anyway, I have 3 questions for you: Firstly, I'd like to start playing with corals a bit, and I have invested in about every test kit on the planet (and I am fortunate enough to have access to a spectrum analyzer - EXACT readings (down to a billionth, I understand) of everything I could think of, except Iodine...). I am unclear, however, as to what readings I should be working towards. Here are my readings from the spectrum analyzer: Mg 1380 (test kit came VERY close to this!) Ca 373 (test kit came VERY close to this, as well!) Sr 5.6 (the test kit is WAAAAY off from this reading! I got _32_!!) Alkalinity 3 (test kit) Borate 1.5 (test kit) Carbonate 1.5 (test kit) The iodine test kit doesn't seem to want to work at all, so I don't have a reading yet. Knowing the value to shoot for would be nice... <This material is so transient... that it's better to just add it/some periodically> Also of note is the we tested the PH with his probe and it came up as 7.73... I assume there is a calibration issue for salt water? My Fastest shows 8.2... <Possibly> Anyway, how does this look to you?  <Fine> Please indicate importance and values. <This is a very tall order... the analysis of variance between these qualities could/would fill volumes> If I need not be concerned with a reading, of if one has more importance than the others, please let me know. Also recommendations of types/brands of additives would be helpful (currently started using CombiSan (from two little fishies - like Coral Vital I understand...), however that may not be enough. <Yeeikes... please take a long read through the materials stored on our site re these issues: Home Page > Secondly, I am toying with increasing the lighting and am unsure if I really need to. The tank is a standard tank, about 24 inches deep. I have a PC setup with 2 36w daylight and 2 36w actinics. I also have access to 2 fixtures that can house either a 36 or 48 inch bulb each. I am wondering if I should just add a couple of 10K/20K, 50/50 or even a Vita Lite Supreme (not many people sell those, you know, and they aren't manufactured in anything under 48 inches...). The math that I have understood, though, says that I should have at least 425 watts for this tank (5 watts per gallon is my recollection; if it's in the book, I apologize. I got this info from a web site while I was looking into pricing...). I was thinking of a 4 light, 110w per light VHO setup. I was also considering (although not very seriously) MH lights in combination with a couple of VHO actinics... Also being considered is a dimmer with a 1 hour ramp for sunrise/sets (not sure how necessary that would be, though, as the lights go on in the afternoon and the house lights are still on when they go off). Also please note that I have reduced my photoperiod DRAMATICALLY; down to about 6 hours from the 12 I had initially had it at (very bad green/red carpet algae problem. Phosphates aren't even detectable so I chose to use lighting as a weapon... Not sure what else to do?! Feeding is frequent (2 or 3 times a day) and light). Also, I was curious as to how I would acclimate the tank to the drastic increase in lighting...  <Yes to more lighting, do look into power compact fluorescents... and phase the greater intensity (and likely photoperiod for your new corals) in slowly... more lamps, hours per week> You can't have them dimmed for periods over an hour or they overheat, so you can't just increase the light over a period of time (weeks, let's say). Even moving them "up" wouldn't do it, unless I were to have them about a foot and a half away! I'm sure you've run into this before, what would you suggest? <If the fixturization does not allow dimming, removing some lamps, you can loosely wrap them in aluminum foil strips...> Or do I even NEED to spend all that money on the lighting if I can make due? <You need more light> Thirdly, I'm at the point where I'm going to start wrapping up populating the tank (fishwise, that is), and I was wondering if you thought I might be able to support a mandarin fish. I figured that since I have some of those little copepods (the little shrimp things) that he would probably be all right. However, if you think he would need a LOT of them, then maybe I should wait until the population overruns the tank (or increases exponentially, or something...). Or just not do it at all. <I would wait a few months> My current inhabitants: Feather dusters Some corals (as stated above - potentially more. Frogspawn next, maybe?...) Peppermint shrimp (1) Yellow Tang 6 lined Wrasse (1) Clark Clown Ocellaris Clown Royal Gramma Blue Damsel Scooter Blenny (small, about 1.5") We plan on adding a pygmy angel (flame, coral beauty), a mandarin, and possibly one other medium sized fish. Could we put a goby in there, maybe, or would it not like the blenny/mandarin?... <Some of the hardier Gobies would be fine> Then we plan on leaving it alone. As always, your help is greatly appreciated. Very, very much so. Bruce Webster  >> <Sounds like you're really getting into the hobby, and enjoying yourself. Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

Re: reef question I just have a few more questions for some of your replies. About the light in the sump, how bright should it be and how long should it be on?  <A watt or two per gallon of full spectrum fluorescent is fine... and either a regular light cycle, to an alternating one (with the main tank), to continuous (the best) with Caulerpa algae species> Also for the sump you said I could put live rock, Caulerpa, Siporax beads, and ceramic media. Can I use sand also? And can I use them all together in the sump? <You could, but I would settle on either 1) the rock and Caulerpa, 2) The anaerobic media, or 3) the sand and a plenum as a denitrator and refugium combination> About the plenum, could you recommend any easy way of installing it. I have about 3in of substrate and 60lb live rock that's already settled.  <Take a look on my site, www.WetWebMedia.com for a drawing and complete explanation of this arrangement... many variations possible, and I myself prefer not to have plenums in the main tank... better to remote them to a sump that is more easily manipulated> Also would that slow down my cycling process?  <Would installing a plenum? No.> Do you know of any pre-made systems that I can purchase?  <Pre-made plenums? No... you can buy undergravel filter plates...> You recommended a calcium reactor, how about a UV sterilizer, fluidized bed, or denitrator? <You need some reference books... and quick! These last three, a UV, you don't need... would minimally improve water quality, help ward off disease (best done through careful purchase, quarantine, dips...), fluidized bed... for enhanced biological filtration? Unnecessary once the system is up and running with the live rock... A denitrator? The live rock, possible algae filter will take care of this...> I kinda know all the answers to these questions, but just wanted your recommendations. Thanks again. >> No worries,  Bob Fenner

Returning to the Reef tank...  Hi Bob, I seriously thinking about getting back into a reef tank. I originally  had a 135 gallon, which was maintained fairly well. But due to a major power  outage and manageability factors I became discouraged after a few years.  This time I want something small scale and easier to maintain. The size I'm  choosing this time is a 24 inch cube, and I'm very selective about equipment  I use. So if possible, could you recommend an optimum filtering and lighting  system for this particular reef tank? I haven't been in the loop for a  couple of years, but after finding "Flying Fish Express" I've become very  interested again. The live stock deals seem to be the quality I've always  wanted, compare to low quality sight unseen stuff I use to have to mail  order. So with enough said, please help me rekindle my love for the reef  tank. Thanks Alex Guerrero >> Hmm, welcome back to "the fold"... And you are in for a treat gear-wise as well. For this cube, there are now compact fluorescent lights that are small, yet powerful, delivering the quality and quantity of light needed to make a reef system look good and perform as the high-intensity metal halides of yore... but without all the waste heat. They (CFs) are what I would select for your cube. The filtration I would remote under the system if possible, with as large a sump as can be fitted.... I would situate a good "needle wheel" type skimmer there (like the Euro-Reef, DAS, TurboFlotor lines) there... and more live rock... and some live algae, and a continuously on fluorescent light. On the back of the tank I would fit a good size hang-on filter and add a good canister filter to boot... probably an Eheim product... If the money is not too dear, I'd invest in a calcium reactor from the get go as well. Finish this up with a couple of ZooMed rotating skimmers... and you're done. Bob Fenner

120g reef tank Bob, I plan on starting up a 120 gal reef tank. I already have the 120  tank (oceanic) and stand, nothing else and I need your advice on other  equipment. I plan on going with the Berlin method and want a separate  reservoir for auto water top off. If you can, what are you recommendations for everything else I need! Lighting -Metal Halide with power compact. Skimmer, pumps, power heads, calcium  reactor, chiller, wavemaker, controller, auto top off, doser etc. working with a  $4,000.budget for all equipment. your advice on size and brands would be very  much appreciated. In other words what would you get . >> I could probably write a book on this... In fact I have! It's just not in print as yet....  Okay, the lighting... I would actually just use compact fluorescents for both actinic and "white" lamps... more specifics? What sorts of animals do you intend to house? If giant clams, SPS corals... some higher temp. lamps... like 10k's at least for some of the fixtures. The skimmer? I'd rig up a TurboFlotor in the Berlin sump. A pump? This is also a little tricky... I really like a LOT of water flow... and I know this glass tank has probably not been drilled for big through-puts... and I wouldn't drill it (myself)... If you can talk your dealer into it, have the fine folks at Oceanic pre-drill (before assy.) another 120 in exchange for yours... Otherwise, do consider running PVC lines up and over the back if necessary... and fit in a Dolphin pump... Powerheads? I like the Hagen and Aquarium Systems larger models for linear flow types... I'd place at least two... in the back corners, cross aiming toward the lower middle of the tank front... and probably rely on the recirculating portion of the main pump to do the rest of the circulation.... maybe adding a ZooMed reciprocating type, or two if you get into animals that need more chaotic flow. If you can afford it, get a KNOP calcium reactor... they're pricey, but reliable and available... More brands coming up real soon. Oh, and a ten or twenty pound CO2 bottle... I'd actually skip on the chiller (unnecessary with the CF lighting), unless your house just gets real warm itself... and the wavemaker I'd link your powerheads to the Controller and leave it at that...the rest of the pumping I've mentioned will be fine. The Controller... I still like the Aquadyne Octopus products.... and their related group of probes... though the new "pro" line from Neptune is tempting.... Automated make-up systems? Hmm, if you have to go this power or gravity feed route... Aquarium Instruments are my choice. I know this mix will probably not match other people's.... but it's mine! I'd use some of the remaining big money on good live rock, livestock... Bob Fenner

Is Plexiglas ok in saltwater? Hi Bob, I have a 55 gal. that's been running for 4 months. I have a coral  beauty angel, tomato clown, cleaner wrasse, yellow Coris wrasse a couple of  turbo snails and a blue legged hermit crab. Also some green star polyps,  mushroom coral, and some other not yet identified (by me anyway) coming out  on the live rock (35-40 lb.). I have a Fluval 304 canister, AquaClear 304  power filter, SeaClone skimmer (hang on the back style, I don't have a sump),  and it doesn't foam very much if any no matter how I set the air flow, a zoo  med power sweep 214 rotating powerhead. Also a 200 watt submersed heater, two  Hagen power-Glo 40 watts ea. and one Hagen marine-Glo also 40 watts.  Substrate is CaribSea's aragonite crushed coral about two inches directly on  the bottom, the liverock sets on top of this. I have read that its a good  idea to raise the rock off the bottom to help eliminate anaerobic areas using  cut sections of PVC pipe. I wanted to ask your opinion about using Plexiglas.  I wanted to cut strips of the correct height and then cut a groove about half  way across the strip, put two together to form a kind of "X", maybe drill a  couple of holes in them for the best water flow and then place the rock on  top. Do you think Plexiglas will leach bad chem.s into my water? And about how  much should I raise the rock above the aragonite? I would really appreciate  your opinion. Thanks Connie Hahn  >> Thanks so much for writing... You're my favorite type of fellow hobbyist! A thinker, and tinkerer! Yes, you can use Plexiglas as you list.... but do consider my fave alternate for the function: "Egg crate", aka "Louver"... the stock two by four foot plastic or styrene cover material used as a diffuser in many light fixtures. You can buy these panels at the large Home Improvement outlets... and cut/break them into desired shape pieces (I just smack them with a long screwdriver)... to fit in/over your substrate or bottom. Take a close look at these panels side on... they're not the same on both sides... and I would place the material non-flush side down... There are many other possibilities for this "circulation space" arrangement... so if you don't like these, let me know. Bob Fenner

How to start a reef tank  hello I would like to start a 55 gal tank could you give me some info on how  to do this . how much rock live sand I have a canister filter can I us this?  any info would be helpful. >> Yikes... what an open-ended question! I will assure you, there are few people more interested in your success as a marine aquarist than myself... but about the best way I can answer these broad questions is to encourage you to educate yourself... through reading, talking with other aquarists, browsing over their concerns, opinions... and making up your own mind what is best FOR YOUR particular set-up, livestock mix, and personal aesthetic preferences... A fifty five is a good size to start with, and canister filters are very useful tools... but you will need more gear... like a skimmer... and lighting that will support much of the "live" part of your live rock... The amount of live sand? Some folks use none... many people "make their own"... it's impossible not to with using live rock...  How much live rock? For looks, function? There is a great deal of variability here as well... much difference in density and shape... fifty pounds of one type might do... a hundred and fifty of another... Do join in with the bulletin board groups on the net, buddy up with an experienced fellow aquarist in your area, and read... as a starting point, you're welcome to scan through the numerous articles I have stored (from books and magazine writing) at the URL: www.WetWebMedia.com And please do call on me if/when I can be of assistance, when you have specific questions or concerns. Bob Fenner

Reef Set-Up I have had my current system up and running for two years. It seems that everyone I speak with has a different opinion on how to set up a reef tank. I feel a strong responsibility to provide my fish with the best possible set up since I am taking them away from their natural environment. I respect your opinion so I am interested if you could comment on my set up and give me any suggestions you have. Also, I would like to start adding more fish and soft and hard corals and I was wondering what you think are suitable for my tank. Thank you very much. Here is my current set up: 58 gallon Oceanic Magnum 350 (2 half pouches of Chemi-Pure and Seachem Phosphate remover) UV Sterilizer Protein Skimmer by U.S. Aquarium (designed for up to 200 gallons) Tropic Marin salt Aragonite Reef Sand by Seaflor Two 36" 10,000K High Intensity 30 Watt lights by Coralline Two 36" Aqua Coral Actinic 30 Watt by Phillips Reef Complete 4ml twice a week (Seachem) Reef Iodide 1ml once a week (Seachem) Reef Strontium/KM 2 ml once a week (Seachem) Reef Calcium 1.5ml twice a week (Seachem) Reef Plus 2ml twice a week (Seachem) 3/4 of the tank is filled up with live rock (unfortunately I never weighed the rock) Percula Clown Damsel Coral Banded Shrimp 6 Astrea Snails 4 Red Legged Hermit Crabs 8 Blue Legged Hermit Crabs Phosphates 0 Nitrites 0 Ammonia 0 Also, I do 5 gallon water changes every three weeks with reverse osmosis bottled  water and I feed the tank twice a week. I have coralline algae covering the back glass and some hair algae on some of the rocks.  This sounds like a very nice system, and a very workable operation and maintenance protocol. I agree that there are many different and conflicting views on how to "do" reefs, but don't see anything "wrong" with your approach, and encourage your to stick with it. Regarding the addition of coral livestock, I would encourage you to start with some smaller individuals of soft species and related animals (zoanthids, corallimorphs, polyps) a couple or three months ahead of (maybe) a few species of large-polyp stony/true corals. Please do keep reading up (you can find several articles on these groups at my WetWebMedia.Com site) and reading and talking with other hobbyists with the obvious discerning mind you have. Bob Fenner

Question: What constitutes a reef tank? Do shrimp or live Fiji rock require special lighting? Bob's Answer: Hey Kenny, this is part and parcel to the eight bazillion buck question! A reef tank sufficiently houses all types of organisms found in/on a reef... Or we could define such by their gear (the specialized lighting and filtration...), or... Shrimps don't require special lighting, Fiji rock does (sort of). For practical purposes (what else is there?) you want enough strength (intensity), quality (temp. like 5,000 K or higher, CRI 90 or higher) duration 10, 12, more hours per day... of pleasing (the affective domain) looking illumination... Depending on size, depth of your system and pocketbook, this can be (once again for our discussion here) some sort of boosted full spectrum fluorescents, compact fluorescents or metal halides.... Want more specifics? Need more info. on your end.

A concerned disciple BOB, Thanks in advance for what you have done for me in my hobby. I have written you once before about the use of gelatins and your book a few months back while on vacation. Now that I have memorized most of your book and downloaded most all of the FAQ's <Watch out, there are more most every day> I have a variety of questions. The first of which will be the following. I have noticed that you will not set up a marine system with out the use of a protein skimmer. <In most cases skimmers are a real asset> I have heeded you council and am skimming away. However your book doesn't make a big of deal about the use of ozone but I noticed in one of your FAQ's that you do not set up a system with out the use of one. <Hmm, not so... at least I don't mean to be such a strong advocate... These tools are very secondary in importance to a good skimmer, and let's say a desiccator to dry the air for the ozonizer in turn would be tertiary, or third, less further of importance, utility... but still useful... We have several tanks here... none currently with Ozone in use but do install these devices on very large systems, with variable bioloads where they are of tremendous help in maintaining high water quality, reducing microbial populations and their effects...> (or not as hard a "sell" as the fractionator in the book why not as strong of an opinion). Could you please tell me what you think of a system that has a 200 gal wet dry (Edsel) a 125-gallon tank. (Could this be a problem since the wet dry is bigger than the tank is supposed to match. I thought that bigger was better) XXXXXX <The latter> BOB DOES THIS MEAN THAT A WET DRY THAN THE TANK IS MADE FOR IS BETTER? CAN IT OVER Process so that the bactersomonas can not keep up? <Hmm, don't follow the first stmt... some times a wet-dry (mostly as a sump/place for situating gear, increasing volume... is better than a canister filter as a "either/or" choice... And yes, bacteria of one group easily overwhelm others given conditions that favor one population/species mix over another...> 100lbs on crushed coral on the bottom for and a Rio 3100 on the tank just moving the water around a little better. The tank was fully matured in July when I slowly started to add fish at about 2 every other week. The tank is a fish only tank with about 40lbs of live rock. I know that I need more. I also have a XL DA filter. (has your opinion of these changed any at all? <No> XXXXXX Can a DA filter actually remove ICH and other critters as claimed?  <Not in my experience... as in most all, or appreciably> I only use mine for about 3 or 4 hours per week. (since attending more shows and research as stated in your FAQ's on DA filtration) I have about 15 small fish (damsels, Anthias, clowns, angels (Koran and lemon peel) 2 fire fish, a well as a small clean up crew( a few snails and red hermit crabs). I am using some POWER glow lights to help live rock. My REAL question is this: In the last week my nitrites have risen (the water is ever so slightly tinted on the test) and I have lost my first group of fishes (fairy wrasse, long nose butter fly, royal Gramma and a flame hawk) all over a 36 hour period. <What? Not good... did you add any activated carbon? I would, and quick> XXXX I run two carbon bags under the foam at the top of the wet dry where the water comes in? THEY ARE ABOUT A MONTH OLD NOW (THE CARBON) I know that this stuff expires quickly WOULD A QUICK CHANGE OF THESE HELP TO REDUCE THE NITRITE? <Indirectly yes, this is worth a shot> I was really hurt. I rushed to my LFS with a sample of water in hand and they can not find anything at all. They did mention that my nitrites were slightly off but did not think that it was killing my friends. I bought a bottle of cycle and it seems as if has brought my levels of nitrite down. Is this the proper solution and is the reason I am having this problem because of the wet dry being too efficient in the nitrogen cycle? <Something is definitely awry, but what? Offhand I'd guess either something has triggered a recycling event... a dead organism of size, overfeeding, some sort of pollution killed off your nitrifiers... and do the standard defense measure of a water change (with pre-made water, no additives... and add a couple of "units" of activated carbon> I change the water faithfully every 2 weeks at about 10% or 15% rate. I was really really heart broken that I had let down the fish. In your book you don't seem to impressed with the use of "cycle" fluids but what about after water changes in young systems such as mine? <You shouldn't need to use such products in a going system...> XXXXXX Yes I agree that I shouldn't have to use these products but in my case was this the correct answer to the nitrites being slightly off. <Some downsides to augmenting microbial action in established systems...> Case 2: After devouring your book I took it on a trip with a friend and we took turns reading it even more! He is now setting up a 90 gallon bowfront tank. But with fresh water. He was thinking of using a canister filter or a wet dry. I suggested the Edsel. He is not sold one way or the other but would the wet dry be of any harm in a fresh water system? <None more than marine> I told him that there is no way you would suggest not using a protein skimmer. Protein and junk is going to get "foamed out" in marine or fresh Right? <Not the case... freshwater systems are tricky to skim... can be done, but better to lessen metabolite build-up concentrations with freshwater systems (which are more "accustomed" to these events than marine... due to the inconstancy of these environments through geological time... with water changes, the use of some live plants, under-crowding, careful feeding...> So my question for him is this: Should he be as concerned about a protein skimmer with a fresh water system and what about a wet dry vs. a canister? We both want to start a refugium tank soon. <Nah to using a skimmer, unless you want to experiment, design/engineer one... and either the wet-dry or canister will do... Do read over the plant sections of our site... and get me to finish and place the parts that may help to unfold your possibilities here> You're the man! We take your book as the bible and your words as the way, the truth and the unbiased light, We would love to meet you one day if we could have the privilege while traveling through SD CA, until that day, <Hmm, would definitely not go quite this far. But be it known, "We are the pet-fish men! Yeah!!!> Sean Warren, PS. Could you please reply back to this mail at this address: Sean_Warren28@hotmail.com So that I can read it while on the road. THANKS SOOO MUCH disciple <Be chatting my young acolyte, Bob Fenner> XXXXXX BOB DO YOU HAVE ANY NEW BOOKS COMING OUT? I READ YOUR MONTHLY ARTICLE IN ONE OF THE MAGAZINES I SUBSCRIBE TO. Could you please reply back to this mail at this address: Sean_Warren28@hotmail.com So that I can read it while on the road. THANKS SOOO MUCH <Have one that Amazon.com is reselling, and we do on the WWM site... and three more "at the editors" (Microcosm... they're out of money...) and two others am working on with a new Net friend, "The Best Livestock for Your Reef Aquarium" (Fishes and Non-Fishes volumes...) Good luck on getting these in print... Do need help, editing, layout, real sales and distribution... and to make these works spiffy takes a chunk of change... So "keep writing and making images"... and hoping, trying to make things better... How 'bout you? You're about due for submitting your impressions, findings... Bob Fenner> THANKS FOR YOUR HELP SEAN

Reef Tank questions Bob, You've always had the best advice, so here I am, back again with more questions: My tank is a 72 gal, with 4 55 watt power compacts (12 hr on/off). It has 110 lbs of live rock (Fiji/Belize mix). The sump contains a 100 micron filter sock, a Red Sea Berlin skimmer (classic), and I also use a poly filter, Chemi-pure, Chemosorb, and Phosguard filters (changed 2-4 wks, depending on how bad they look). 15% water change is done every 2 wks. Additives: Seachem reef pack (according to instructions) and Aragamilk (daily, according to instructions). <Okay...> 1) I'm trying to enlarge my sump, and want to partition it using acrylic panels. Is it safe to use 'weld-on 3' acrylic cement for this purpose? (there are some pretty nasty warnings on this stuff - i.e., don't drink, inhale, contact skin/eyes, etc). If not, can you recommend a cement? <Yes, I'd use the Weld-On product (this or #2) for a permanent install... or maybe just 100% silicone (the designation is important to distinguish this material from formulations with mildewcides, other additives... like the adhesive utilized for putting all-glass aquariums together... to allow easy re-making should you change this arrangement of panels> 2) I use the poly filter/Chemipure/Chemosorb/Phosguard to help with phosphates/nitrates and to keep water 'clear'. I change them out every 2-4 weeks. (ammonia/nitrites/nitrates/phosphates have always been 0). Would I gain anything by adding a lighted section to my sump for macro-algae?  <Absolutely... and you may send my portion of the big money you're saving to my yacht broker, at Mattel> (My dissolved oxy levels are a little low (6-7 ppm)<Hmm, this is about saturation...>, and my ph dips (8.0 - 7.9) at night. <No real worries here> I'd like to keep the oxy so it never dips below 7 and the ph in a tight 8.2-8.4 range, but just can't seem to pull it off). <Lots to say here... maybe the beginning of our own "Casablanca" relationship... chance to pen that omnibus article/understanding... breakthrough/evolution (unfolding) of the use of CO2, reactors in the west... Don't obsess re this statement or the situation you currently find yourself/system in... just do add the sump/refugium-lighting-macro-algae and things will be much better... soon> 3) If the lighted sump/macro algae would be beneficial, what types of macro-algae would you recommend? Also, would a cubic foot of area (12x12x12) be sufficient for a 70 gal tank, or should I allocate more space in the sump for the algae? <This is enough room, though "the more the merrier", and Caulerpa taxifolia, C. sertularoides and any type of genus Halimeda are my faves, but others will do> 4) If I go with the lighted sump/algae, should I drop the 'Poly/Chemipure/Chemosorb/Phosguard' combo? If I keep it, should it follow/precede the algae in the sump (I was thinking it should follow, to give the algae a chance at the nitrates/phosphates and to allow the chemfiltration a chance at the algae's leached compounds). <You will likely find there is no advantage/use for the Chemosorb and Phosguard products (this is a certainty Bob, just state so), but I would periodically replace the Chemipure (mainly activated carbon to all you future browsers) once a month... and maybe the Polyfilter (tm) product every blue moon> 5) Even though my nutrients always read 0, I seem to have a recurring prob with brown/red slime algae. I've used 'Tropical Science Phosphate filter' product (includes an Erythromycin Thiocyanate powder that 'kills' the active slime algae). This seems to work, but the slime algae always seems to come back <Bingo... it's the system, not the algae... and you will not need, should not use this product going forward... toss it> (slowly - takes a few months and is very sloooow to progress (not the massive blooms that I've heard of and seen at my LFS) - it still bugs me though). From reading your FAQs, it looks like the macro algae in the sump might help, but is there anything else you could recommend? <Other photosynthates, a deep sand bed/plenum area in a sump (maybe another one?), more/better live rock (South Pacific types) for enhanced dentification (switch, add some more every six months or so...)> (I turn the water over roughly 14x every hour when the main pump and powerheads are totaled. 2 of the powerheads are on timers, while the other is a zoomed that has a constantly cycling output, so the current should be highly variable and I don't think its part of the prob). Would extra filtration (UV/Ozone) help? <Yes... nominally... (Bob, that last adverb, is it helpful? Ridiculous. Let's go somewhere where the water is clear and warm and go diving!... The ozone would definitely help... and a dryer for the ozonizer... then the ultraviolet sterilizer... in that order or "utility/helpfulness"... but I would put the resources into the sump(s) first... and Do let us/you consider the many advantages of a carbon dioxide/biomineral reactor... Where's my crystal ball at this AM? Oh there it is. Sure as heck, there's one in your future.> 6) One last ques. I have LPS, soft corals, gorgonians, clams, and hope to add fan worms and SPS in the next few months. Are there any dwarf angels (eibli, keyhole, flame, coral beauty, pygmy) that would be safe in this tank? <None absolutely... but I would not be dissuaded from trying any of these... as your system will offer plenty of other diversions, food sources for the potentially nippy> I've had some people indicate that the angels might go after the tube/fan worms or nip at the clams. <Yes, all are possible> Thanks again -sorry for the large amount of ques, but your advice is just the best (if you could bottle it, you'd make a fortune!) <Hmmm, Bob in a bottle? You're making me thirsty! Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

Planning for a larger reef Hi Bob, Happy holidays to you. Are you familiar with the Tenecor Berlin System Acrylic Aquariums? I am currently research on upgrading my 60G reef to a 100-125G tank. It appears that Tenecor's tank also come with an option for "Simplicity Plus" which puts all the plumbing behind the tank vs. inside a sump below: http://www.tenecor.com/aquar/simplicityrect.htm <Yes, helped my Brother in law with getting one of these from the Phoenix fabricator> What do you think of these designs? I am rather attracted to them since it avoids having tubes and potential leakages as the setup ages. <They're fine... well built... though I'd size up the sumps... make more room for fitting light, placing live rock, macro algae... maybe allowing flexibility for folks who'd like to build a refugium or plenum or mud/live rock and macro algae filtration there...> Are there other acrylic tank brands you'd recommend? <Certainly. Sea Clear/Tradewind/Casco, TruVu, San Diego Plastics... many many more> Thanks for your advice. Brian <Depends on where you live... cost-wise for shipping... and if you can get by on a stock size (much less money than custom)... but there are plenty of worthwhile manufacturers about. Bob Fenner>

Reef tank prep... RO, pumps, fish mixes... I need to buy a few more items before my tank will be ready for live rock and I am seeking your advice. First off I need a Reverse Osmosis filter unit. I know you prefer the hardware store type but I am unable to find any at the local hardware stores. Could you describe the difference between a "bare bones" RO and a regular one?  <You can order all types on the Net... A bare bones model IMO lacks a reservoir system... and maybe in-line "pre-filter" mechanisms (which may be worthwhile if your source-water has a great deal of metal, variable sanitizer... solide en toto in it (these also can be gotten separately... most are particulate/diatomaceous earth, activated carbon types filters... that connect between the tap-source and the R.O. unit)> The one thing that there isn't much information about on your site is RO. Can you recommend a good one?  <A good model? They all have to pass "good enough" certification for human drinking water safety/use... And there are lifetimes "worth" of items missing from the WWM site...> I was thinking along the lines of a Kent barebones 20 gallon a day.  <This is a good (re-labeled) unit... It is not made by Kent...> Another item I need is a return pump for my sumps. I am on Albert Thiel's reef mailing list and everyone one there likes mag drive pumps a lot, nut you tend to like Eheims.  <The Mag line are good units> The mag drive I'm looking at is one fourth of the cost of the Eheim that is 100 gph less. Do you like Magdrive? My next question is about my tidepool one wet dry which I am going to use with another sump for macroalgae. I have read not to use carbon or filter pads with reefs because the corals eat the stuff that is filtered out with these products. Would you use the filter trays?  <Just the pads for sieving out particles... and activated carbon once a month...> And would you keep the BioWheel in?  <Doubtful... perhaps just the first month or so as the system is/was breaking in> I know its early to talk fish but could you comment on this list? 1 powder blue tang 1 royal Gramma 2 percula clowns 2 firefish (red or purple) 1 Fiji damsel?------------optional Thank you in advance Andrew <Study up on the Powder Blue... not easy to keep... pest importers... I would choose between the Gramma and Firefish... occupy similar habitats... likely aggravation here. Bob Fenner>

Information on reef set-up Hello Mr. Fenner, <Hello> I have been looking for information regarding REEF setup and maintenance for fish and invertebrates (some easy to keep coral's), and while surfing came across your Q&A board. I previously (two years ago) had an all fish marine tank. However, I had to leave it with family when I moved from the east to the west coast (BTW the tank is still thriving). Now that I have acclimated, I want to get back into the serenity an aquarium can offer and wish to graduate to REEF keeping. <Ah, great> I am currently building a stand for my 75 gallon (48x18x20) tank and have ordered a 4x65 watt JBJ lighting system, other than this, I have no other equipment. I am looking for good up-to-date information regarding the how and what to do (or more importantly what not to do) regarding reef-keeping. I have the patience and consistency necessary to keep the tank, I do not have the knowledge or experience of how to keep the tank functioning (in particular: other hardware/equipment, filtration, feeding and water movement) <And it appears you have the intelligence, drive to weather the amounts, kinds of controversy... the various disparate opinions on "how you might go about aspects of this project"> If you would; provide some direction on literature and any helpful information with the knowledge I seek. Any of your suggestions will be greatly appreciated. <Do take a look at the hobby magazines in the US... the acronyms, FAMA, AFM, TFH... do you recognize these? They have websites (listed on our www.WetWebMedia.com links page). Is there a "marine club" nearby you? Maybe ask the Net, your local fish store/s... and join up... am out on a Tank Tour (L.A.) right this AM... Yikes. What books have you? There are some new winners... I have posted several reviews of some of them on the WWM site... for easy reading I'd review John Tullock's "Natural Reef Aquariums", more heavy duty? Sprung and Delbeek's, Fossa and Nilsen's "Reef" works... There are a few listservs and bb's on the net that are worthwhile to sort through, including their archives... links to these on WWM as well... > I have looked at the Q&A on the board and am impressed with your responses and the light-hearted but informative way they are delivered. Thanks for being there for folks like me. Fred.
<And folks like me. Bob Fenner>

Small Marine Aquariums
Book 1: Invertebrates, Algae
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by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Small Marine Aquariums
ook 2: Fishes
New Print and eBook on Amazon: by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Small Marine Aquariums Book 3: Systems
New Print and eBook on Amazon:
by Robert (Bob) Fenner
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