Basics of the basics of the basics

Discussion in 'New to Reefing' started by Brian041, Jun 12, 2012.

  1. Brian041

    Brian041 Diary of a Salty Madman

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    Like I stated in my profile and intro thread, I am 100% new to the marine tank thing. I was wondering if anyone could explain about them for me. I know that they are COMPLETELY different from maintaining a freshwater tank. Not just with the addition of salt to the water, but also the lighting and current. I guess some of my main questions are:

    - How does marine lighting work and how is it different from freshwater
    - What is a protein skimmer and how does it work
    -What is live rock and live sand?

    I've also done a bit of digging on coral. I originally just thought they were exotic plants of some kind, but after reading up a bit I realized they are nothing like plants. Some are mobile, they eat food, some have personalities and react to different stimulus. In fact, they seem to be somewhat similar to actual fish as far as care goes. So can anyone give me some details on what coral actually is? Will it continue to grown indefinitely? Once it reaches a large size, is it possible to reduce the size and start again from a small size? (I'm not sure about this one, I think I saw a thing on tv way back on how to prevent destroying natural coral, they break off small segments of it and those small segments would eventually grow to a full piece of coral again) feel free to burst my bubble btw. I don't have anything to start a tank yet so I haven't set myself up for a reef catastrophe yet.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2012
    Brian041, Jun 12, 2012
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  2. Brian041

    Bifferwine I am a girl

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    Welcome!

    Corals are actually a type of animal. They are made up of individual polyps, and these polyps grow together to form colonies. Individual polyps usually grow to a certain size then stop, but colonies made up of many polyps can grow and spread indefinitely. Once a colony gets large, you can break it up into many smaller colonies or pieces (commonly called fragging). So if you have a rock that has 10 polyps of a coral on it, you can usually separate that into 10 different polyps and give 9 away to friends and keep one, if you want. :) Then those individual polyps will start to multiply and grow as well.

    Marine lighting is basically stronger than freshwater. The colors are also different, to bring out the brilliance of corals and fish. Corals are photosynthetic (they make energy from the light) so they need special lighting to survive.

    A protein skimmer is a type of filtration system used in saltwater. It mixes air and water at a high speed to create a foam (like you sometimes see washing up on the beach). This foam contains nutrients and proteins, which when they build up to high enough levels, can lower the water quality of your tank. So you remove those proteins and nutrients and organic materials in the foam, which is collected in a cup of the skimmer. It's basically a type of filter specialized for saltwater.

    Live rock and live sand are rock and sand that has been in a tank (or the ocean) long enough to be colonized by the bacteria that breaks down the above mentioned nutrients and wastes in our tanks. Dry rock doesn't have any bacteria on it, but when you put it in a saltwater environment, its surface area gradually gets colonized by all sorts of beneficial bacteria that our tanks need to keep the water clean. Sometimes other hitch hikers (like worms, corals, anemones) come on the live rock too, but at its most basic level, it is simply rock and sand that has beneficial bacteria living in it.

    I hope that helped! Feel free to ask any more questions you have. They say there aren't any dumb questions; that's a lie -- there are. :lol: But none of yours are dumb. ;)
     
    Bifferwine, Jun 12, 2012
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  3. Brian041

    bjohanson1234 .........

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    Welcome. I will tell you right off that salt water, especially a reef tank, is a completely different animal than a fresh tank.

    To answer your questions

    1) You need high output lighting in order grow corals. Unlike a fresh water tank where you only need it to see the fish.

    2) A protein skimmer works by shooting a bunch of tiny bubbles through a column of water. The interaction of the surface area on the bubbles collects gunk and :pooh: in the water. It works because saltwater has different properties than freshwater. It tends to replace canister and HOB filters.

    3) Live rock and live sand also replace regular canister and HOB filters. It grows beneficial bacteria on and in it. These bacteria convert toxic ammonia into non toxic nitrates. You want to aim for 1-2 lbs of live rock per gallon of tank. You can save money by buying dry rock in bulk from either online vendors or you local fish store. Then seeding it with a few pieces of live rock.

    4) Coral is an animal. Most of it has a symbiotic relationship with a type of algae and don't require feeding. But they will take food. There are three basic types of coral. Soft, Small Polyp Stony (sps), and Large Polyp Stony (lps) . Softies and LPS tend to be easier than SPS to take care of and make decent beginner corals. SPS tend to require higher water quality and lower nutrient systems.

    And yes you can frag corals. But that will be for later discussion.
     
    bjohanson1234, Jun 12, 2012
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  4. Brian041

    Brian041 Diary of a Salty Madman

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    Awesome, thanks for all the great info you two. So if theoretically if you had a protein skimmer and live sand, would you need a filter?
    And about the lighting, if I'm going out to buy lighting for a reef tank, what should I be looking for?
    Also, about coral, when I say "coral" does that usually just include polyps? or does it include things like anemones too?
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2012
    Brian041, Jun 12, 2012
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  5. Brian041

    Bifferwine I am a girl

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    You will need rock and sand for sure. Protein skimmer is optional. But if you have those, you don't need any other type of filter.

    The lighting you will need depends on the size of the tank, your budget and what type of animals you are planning to keep. Do you know those?
     
    Bifferwine, Jun 12, 2012
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  6. Brian041

    Brian041 Diary of a Salty Madman

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    I was planning on a micro reef tank since I don't have a huge amount of room. My 55 freshwater takes up most of the room in my humble abode. So I guess tank size would be between a 5-10 gallon. I thought about doing a 2.5 gallon like I had seen, but I feel like that's pushing things a bit too much. I figured I'd have maybe a Red Striped Goby which is an inch. I'd also like to add a red legged hermit crab as well. I was planning on doing a DIY filter I've seen made for small saltwater tanks. But I'm open to other suggestions. Like I said, I'm still in the planning phase, so I'm still flexible. As for my budget, that's flexible too. If I can get the fish and coral I want, I'll spend what I need to make it work.
     
    Brian041, Jun 12, 2012
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  7. Brian041

    Bifferwine I am a girl

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    Small tanks are tough, I'm not gonna lie. The bigger they are, the easier they are -- more water to dilute out the inevitable mistakes you will make. :lol:

    If a 10 gallon is the biggest you can go, then do a 10 gallon. That size tank is still very touchy though. There are lots of nice pico (5 gallons and under) setups that you can buy as all-in-one systems, but they can be very hard to maintain.

    For fish, the rule for saltwater is 1 fish per 10 gallons, maybe with 2 total if you choose your fish wisely. The stocking limits are much more strict than freshwater (where you can have dozens of fish in a 10 gallon).
     
    Bifferwine, Jun 13, 2012
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  8. Brian041

    Brian041 Diary of a Salty Madman

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    Right, I've heard all of this and seen expert fish keepers do these. So, what do these guys do that sets them apart from beginners like me? Better equipment? daily monitoring of water parameters?
     
    Brian041, Jun 13, 2012
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  9. Brian041

    Bifferwine I am a girl

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    Bifferwine, Jun 13, 2012
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  10. Brian041

    Brian041 Diary of a Salty Madman

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    Brian041, Jun 13, 2012
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  11. Brian041

    Bifferwine I am a girl

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    I don't think it's either of those. In fact, the more "expert" you get, the less monitoring of water parameters you seem to do. More of just knowledge and intuition of what is right and what is wrong? Most of us that have been in the hobby for a long time can just look at our tanks and tell you if something is out of whack -- and what that is. We know if something goes wrong, when to panic and when to take it easy. A familiarity with livestock is a must, and that's something that you only acquire over time -- what are good fish and bad fish to keep, what gets along with each other, what corals are easy or hard, how to care for and feed each individual (because sometimes each coral or fish has different needs), the placement of the corals -- where they need to go in your tank in relation to your lighting and flow, etc.

    If you want to start small like a pico tank, by all means go for it -- but just know that they are more challenging than larger tanks and beginners can easily get overwhelmed and frustrated with "newbie" problems like algae and want to give up.
     
    Bifferwine, Jun 13, 2012
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  12. Brian041

    Brian041 Diary of a Salty Madman

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    Makes sense. I know when my first betta I had when I was little died, I was pretty bummed, but I do a bit better now and know a lot more than I used to. So any tips for a newbie like me to keep a reef tank? check water parameters every day?
     
    Brian041, Jun 13, 2012
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  13. Brian041

    little_fish Moderator

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    Research, research, research!

    Which you are already doing so you are on the right track :)

    The other best tip i can give is: nothing good happens fast or cheaply in this hobby.

    And when i started, i tested my water pretty frequently, at least twice a week. But you really do get a feel for the tank and the creatures and i now only test maybe once a month.

    I would start by figuring out what is the largest tank you can have, and then work from there on the equipment you need to run a successful tank, then move onto livestock options. Its a little hard to give recommendations without know what directions you will be move in :)
     
    little_fish, Jun 13, 2012
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  14. Brian041

    chichimom79 reef junkie

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    Hi Brian! Welcome aboard!
    One site that most of us frequent is Live Aquaria. They have some pretty good info on specific needs for different fish and coral. Browse their site when you get time. I am not a complete noob, but recently got back into the hobby. I am religious about my tank and am still having a nitrate spike for some reason currently. Please browse my ten gallon thread if you would like some ideas about equipment and such. Nano tanks are pretty unforgiving. If you can go with a bigger tank, I'd advise it for a beginner. Also, as long as you have at least one pound of live rock per gallon, you can skip buying the skimmer. Just be good about keeping up on your water changes. Good luck and be patient :D
     
    chichimom79, Jun 13, 2012
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  15. Brian041

    Brian041 Diary of a Salty Madman

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    Haha liveaquaria is where I got the fish sizes from. I look at that site a lot.
    For water changes for...let's just say for the sake of argument, a 5 gallon tank. How often and how much water should I change out?
     
    Brian041, Jun 13, 2012
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  16. Brian041

    Bifferwine I am a girl

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    I'd do something like a gallon weekly.
     
    Bifferwine, Jun 13, 2012
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  17. Brian041

    Northstar24 The Tang Herder

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    Welcome to the site. As part of the research process, I would buy a copy of The Conscientious Marine Aquarist by Robert Fenner - its pretty much the bible of this hobby
     
    Northstar24, Jun 13, 2012
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  18. Brian041

    Dana42078 Dana

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    +1 at being able to look at my tank and know something isnt right. Its prolly been 6 months since ive tested ANYTHING =X lol

    Welcome to the site and enjoy your stay.
     
    Dana42078, Jun 13, 2012
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