Brand new tank setup and a few questions.

Discussion in 'New to Reefing' started by kwsm, Feb 27, 2010.

  1. kwsm

    kwsm

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    I have recently started up a 55g SW tank. Though I've been wanting a SW tank for years now, I only recently had the opportunity to go through the motions. All of my reading over the past couple years is really paying off now that it's practical, but there is a significant amount of varying opinion out there on the web.

    What I have right now is a hand-me-down 55g tank with a HOB filter, heater, and powerhead. I have not purchased a protein skimmer yet. I have about 30lbs of live rock mixed with a bit of cleaned up Tufa rock, and just used rinsed silica sand for the substrate with the intention that over time it will become live sand. The lighting I believe is just the generic fluorescent lighting.

    The tank has cycled quite nicely (I think). But I'm unsure because of the time frame in which it seems to have cycled. My levels are all back at zero when the tank has been set up for about a week. On the recommendation of the internet and the guy at my LFS, I also used Biozyme to help kick-start everything. Assuming my tank was cycled, I added 2 damselfish, a couple hermit crabs, and a Turbo snail. Now I'm second guessing whether or not a tank could actually cycle that fast and if I'm putting my creatures in jeopardy by adding them too fast.

    Which brings up another question. It is obviously a good idea to "take it slow" between adding your fish and other creatures, but what exactly is a good time frame for "slow"?

    Between the guy at my LFS and the internet, they basically told me that I would not need a protein skimmer until the tank was a bit more established (around 6 months or so according to the fish guy). Differing opinions? Agree?

    While the two damsels were living quite harmoniously in the tank together at the LFS, I expected some sort of territorial squabble in the new tank, but what happened was one chased the other to a corner of the tank, where he hung out for a day or so, but somehow got sucked into the intake of the powerhead :( Right now we have a piece of the sponge filter media cut and slid over the end of the powerhead to avoid future occurances. Is this an acceptable solution? What else has anyone used to avoid fish getting caught?

    I am also having a slight issue with my heater. I don't know whether it's no longer working correctly, or if I just have yet to find that perfect setting. During the course of the day, the temperature fluctuates quite a bit. We set the heater on an appropriate temperature by the gauge on the front and it got WAY too hot. The thermometer read that it was 90 degrees! So we turned the dial down a bit. On waking the next morning, it had dropped to the end of the green zone on the thermometer, so now slightly cold. We turned the dial just until the heater clicked on, and now it seems to be on the warmer side again, though not as hot as it was. Should I buy a new heater? Or is this one fine, I just need to find the setting? (Pretty sure I already know the answer to this but the temperatures aren't fluctuating as much as they were before)

    Last question, I promise!

    I wasn't planning on having a reef tank due to the lighting and time requirements for corals. However, I have come across a couple sources that say that some corals don't need the ultra-expensive lighting. So what sort of lighting would you need for these seemingly easier corals, and how much would it set me back? The trace elements and such that you would have to add don't concern my wallet as much as a whole new light setup.

    And if indeed, all corals are going to be too hard on my pocketbook to begin with, what would you suggest I could add to bring some color and variety to my tank? The live rock is nice but still rather flat and boring to draw attention from a non-reefer.



    Thanks in advance for having the patience to read my overly-long newbie questions!
     
    kwsm, Feb 27, 2010
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  2. kwsm

    Bifferwine I am a girl

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    Hi and welcome to the site!

    The sooner you can get a protein skimmer the better. Your tank will be perfectly fine without one, as long as your bioload is low. What you have right now -- 2 fish -- is low. But you should think about getting a skimmer if you are going to add more fish, and definitely when you keep corals.

    If you used mostly live rock, it's possible that your tank cycled quickly, or skipped the cycle altogether. Keep checking for ammonia and nitrites though, because adding fish in the beginning will usually start another cycle.

    As for taking it slow, add no more than one fish every 3 weeks. You need to give the bacteria in the tank time to catch up with the increased waste of adding a fish.

    Healthy fish will usually not get caught in a powerhead. If one damsel is being aggressive towards the other, this may not be a situation you can fix. Damsels are highly aggressive and will often kill the other fish in the tank. I had a damsel that would even rip to shreds the corals I would put in his territory. That's why they usually aren't recommended for community tanks -- they just don't get along well with others. If one damsel keeps bullying the other, you should probably take one or both back to the store and get friendlier fish.

    It sounds like you've got a bad heater. It shouldn't swing that much. You can buy controllers for heaters, but they can be pricey. You may want to return it and get a different one.

    With your standard fluorescent strip light, you won't be able to keep any corals, not even low light corals. There are non-fluorescent corals available, but they can be expensive and you have to hand-feed the constantly.

    I recommend either a 4-bulb or 6-bulb T5 setup for your tank. T5 lights will allow you to keep any kind of corals you want. Even if you don't have corals, your rock will slowly start turning purple from coralline, which is a good thing. And you will start to see tons of neat critters growing on your rocks.
     
    Bifferwine, Feb 27, 2010
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  3. kwsm

    andysgirl8800 Blenny Badlands

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    Only a week's timeframe I would consider a little early. Most tanks cycle slowly, over a period of 4-6 weeks. It is usually better not to use an additive to cycle your tank becuase it doesn't allow enough time for enough good bacteria to grow.

    A good timeframe would be about 5 weeks between livestock additions, particularly fish. In your case, with a quickly cycled tank, you may want to wait even longer than that. Right now, your good bacteria population is very small. When you add a fish, you increase the "bioload" of your tank, which means you have more waste in the tank. The bacteria population will grow to accommodate that new bioload, but will take some time. Adding too many fish at once, or not allowing enough time between additions will overload your bacteria's population size and they will not be able to handle the increased waste. This leads to very bad things in your tank, including a total wipeout. Take everything nice and slow. Nothing but disaster happens quickly in the saltwater world.


    I would disagree. The protein skimmer will pull out some of the solid waste in your system, including fish :pooh:, uneaten food, etc. I would connect a skimmer as soon as you have live animals in your tank. JMO.

    I'm not sure what kind of powerhead you are using. Many fish stores, or even online stores sell "filter screens" in varying sizes that you can use, but it depends on what you are currenly using as your powerhead.

    I would strongly recommend a titanium heater. Many have an external thermostat that you can adjust without having to remove the heater from the water. The titanium ones are much more reliable and provide a more stable temperature. Again, JMO.

    This is a tough one to answer. It really depends on what kind of coral you are looking at. Many are categorized as "easy". If you are not really looking to upgrade the lights at this time, you may be able to get away with some mushroom corals...IF you placed them a little higher in the tank. They come in many colors and patterns, propogate quickly (usually) and are quite pretty. They tend to prefer slightly dimmer lighting, so your lights may be ok for it, they just may grow a little more slowly. When you say you have ordinary flourescent lights, do you mean that they are COMPACT flourescents? I think I'd need a better description of your lights to answer you a little better. :)

    You're welcome....and .....welcome to Living Reefs! We're glad to have you!
     
    andysgirl8800, Feb 27, 2010
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  4. kwsm

    andysgirl8800 Blenny Badlands

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    Ninja'd by Biff!! :D
     
    andysgirl8800, Feb 27, 2010
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  5. kwsm

    reeffreak

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    Hello and welcome to the site!

    The sooner you can get a protein skimmer the better. Your tank will be perfectly fine without one, as long as your bioload is low. What you have right now -- 2 fish -- is low. But you should think about getting a skimmer if you are going to add more fish, and definitely when you keep corals.

    If you used mostly live rock, it's possible that your tank cycled quickly, or skipped the cycle altogether. Keep checking for ammonia and nitrites though, because adding fish in the beginning will usually start another cycle.

    As for taking it slow, add no more than one fish every 3 weeks. You need to give the bacteria in the tank time to catch up with the increased waste of adding a fish.

    Healthy fish will usually not get caught in a powerhead. If one damsel is being aggressive towards the other, this may not be a situation you can fix. Damsels are highly aggressive and will often kill the other fish in the tank. I had a damsel that would even rip to shreds the corals I would put in his territory. That's why they usually aren't recommended for community tanks -- they just don't get along well with others. If one damsel keeps bullying the other, you should probably take one or both back to the store and get friendlier fish.

    It sounds like you've got a bad heater. It shouldn't swing that much. You can buy controllers for heaters, but they can be pricey. You may want to return it and get a different one.

    With your standard fluorescent strip light, you won't be able to keep any corals, not even low light corals. There are non-fluorescent corals available, but they can be expensive and you have to hand-feed the constantly.

    I recommend either a 4-bulb or 6-bulb T5 setup for your tank. T5 lights will allow you to keep any kind of corals you want. Even if you don't have corals, your rock will slowly start turning purple from coralline, which is a good thing. And you will start to see tons of neat critters growing on your rocks.

    They see me v.i.p.in'', they hatin'
     
    reeffreak, Feb 27, 2010
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  6. kwsm

    Bifferwine I am a girl

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    You are such a copy cat. Go get your own lines!
     
    Bifferwine, Feb 27, 2010
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  7. kwsm

    reeffreak

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    Huh?
    wha-u-say.

    Me fingers are still cramped from all that typing I did.
     
    reeffreak, Feb 28, 2010
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  8. kwsm

    VAreef

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    As for your heaters I recommend buying 2 heaters that are each half what your tank needs. That way you have some back up. One going to hot won't fry your tank and one turning off wont freeze it. Then tune both in for tank temp.
     
    VAreef, Feb 28, 2010
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  9. kwsm

    Reefrookie Not so new anymore! VIP Member

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    This is the best idea. Plus, you can go one step further and get a controller to operate both the heaters. That way, if one sticks in the on position, the controller will shut them down at the desired temp.
     
    Reefrookie, Feb 28, 2010
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  10. kwsm

    BL1 ............. Moderator

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    You know, I haven't been a member here long but, it seems like Biff does that to a lot of people. I'm starting to think she has all her answers pre-typed and she just copies and pastes the relevant ones in when someone asks a question;-)
     
    BL1, Feb 28, 2010
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  11. kwsm

    kwsm

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    I'm willing to bet almost all the questions on this forum have been asked about 10,000 times anyway :p
     
    kwsm, Feb 28, 2010
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  12. kwsm

    Bifferwine I am a girl

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    No copying and pasting here, but I do have the answers to most questions perfectly memorized at this point! ;)
     
    Bifferwine, Feb 28, 2010
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  13. kwsm

    dcantucson

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    And she types like 2000 words a minute. You have no chance against the Biffster. So don't even try.
     
    dcantucson, Feb 28, 2010
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  14. kwsm

    ltljoker The Great Tang Herder

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    This is Biff when she types [​IMG]
     
    ltljoker, Feb 28, 2010
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  15. kwsm

    andysgirl8800 Blenny Badlands

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    Ha ha!!
     
    andysgirl8800, Feb 28, 2010
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  16. kwsm

    yote Ceritfied Mantis Hunter Moderator

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    HAHAH
    Welcome aboard Kwsm.:D
     
    yote, Feb 28, 2010
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  17. kwsm

    dcantucson

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    Oops, forgot to say welcome kwsm.

    Welcome! :wave: Glad you're here.
     
    dcantucson, Feb 28, 2010
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