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  1. #1
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    Looking to dip my toes in

    I was recently introduced to reef tanks. I have kept fresh water in the past, but seriously considering getting started with salt water.

    What are some beginner mistakes that I should avoid? I have done research and found a bunch of "how to set up your new tank" sites, but they make it sound like everything always goes according to plan.

    I'm looking to go 40 breeder or 55 with a sump, and I don't mind doing some DIY to save some money, so I'm probably going to go for a used tank and baffles for the sump.

    Any pointers for the new guy?

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    don't buy any fish or coral without researching. Know your parameters and your limitations. some small stuff is trial and error but when it comes to the costlier things you want to avoid the error as much as possible.

    Welcome to the hobby!
    "WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME??"
    -Fish probably

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  5. #3
    Princess Trainer trackfast's Avatar
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    Make sure your tank is properly cycled before adding any livestock. Using a bottled starter is fine and it does cut down on the time needed to cycle. Pet Supplies Plus is having their $1/gallon sale so you might be able to find a 40B depending on location; and I did see a 55 (non reef-ready) for $35. Sale goes until Sept 26 (?). If you're drilling your tanks you can get glass hole drill bits from Amazon, Walmart, or some hardware stores. Drilling the glass is something to definitely do slow. Dry rock vs live rock is up to you; both have pros and cons. Good luck and welcome to CR !
    Last edited by trackfast; 09-14-2018 at 02:06 PM.
    Don't be an a**. Treat others like you want to be treated.

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  7. #4
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    I would suggest going with 40B. It is a bit small but the foot print is excellent, much better than 55. Another advise that I will give is very radical and that is don't go for sump. This is first foray in this world, so do not complicate it. You will quit it. Sumps bring their own issues in this hobby. In my opinion, sumps really are an important factor if your going 75+ or 90+.

    My 2 c

    Chio

  8. #5
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    I will agree and disagree with the above. Sumps do complicate things, but they also simplify others. Where they can be a pain is needing a return pump and extra plumbing. It gives more system volume, a place to put a heater and skimmer and more room for live rock instead of packing the display tank. You can fit all that in the main tank, but takes away from the aesthetics. I will really depend on what you plan on keeping when it's all said and done. An SPS tank is a whole lot more complex and needs more solid parameters than a ZOA tank.

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    Premium member Sawdonkey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by troublemaker View Post
    I will agree and disagree with the above. Sumps do complicate things, but they also simplify others. Where they can be a pain is needing a return pump and extra plumbing. It gives more system volume, a place to put a heater and skimmer and more room for live rock instead of packing the display tank. You can fit all that in the main tank, but takes away from the aesthetics. I will really depend on what you plan on keeping when it's all said and done. An SPS tank is a whole lot more complex and needs more solid parameters than a ZOA tank.
    I agree with this. A big part of keeping an aquarium is aesthetics. Without a sump, things start looking pretty junky...pretty fast. Even a simple 10-20 gallon tank with one baffle to house your heater, skimmer, and return pump will really help keep things in check. On top of that, without a sump, youíre limited to hang-on-back skimmers and in my experience, they arenít very effective. Plus, the whole stability thing with having more water volume.

  11. #7
    Senior Member ultimatemj's Avatar
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    A fresh water tank is like getting and maintaining house plants...it requires you water them and dust them off once and while, but its not really much of a burden. Fresh water tanks a little more than that, but...

    A reef tank is more like getting a dog...it's a burden, but if you have a routine it doesn't feel like 'work' and the resulting satisfaction is very rich. The routine can be simple, but it takes a commitment.

    IME, the 2 primary issues for new reefers are 1) speed and 2) stability.

    Issue with speed is folks tend to come into wanting/expecting results fast (weeks). But unless you are experienced and have a system to jump start yours, it takes months. Adjusting your expectations and slowing down also helps you avoid easy mistakes that can come by rushing.

    Issue with stability is you need to develop a routine and do your best to avoid knee jerk reactions to address something in/with the tank. In the beginning the routine needs to include daily evaporation top off, biweekly 10% water changes, and cleaning/harvesting any algae growth. Parameter testing cadence depends on the age and what's in your tank, but in the beginning you will want to monitor ammonia and nitrates. Once things things are running you can drop the ammonia testing and add Alkalinity and Phosphates. And I agree with the comments above about sumps...they add water volume which helps stabilize parameters, provide a place for ugly equipment, and provide a place for what I think is a big big helper...

    Which is the one thing I'd encourage you(or any new reefer) to do is add and grow macro algae as soon as you get the system running. It will consume much of the nutrients that (if you don't add it) will become the common new reefer frustration >nuisance micro algae<. You want to get the macro growing before any micro shows up on you glass and rocks. The easiest and most common approach is to use a sump and cheap grow light to grow chaeto.

    My 2cents~

  12. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sawdonkey View Post
    I agree with this. A big part of keeping an aquarium is aesthetics. Without a sump, things start looking pretty junky...pretty fast. Even a simple 10-20 gallon tank with one baffle to house your heater, skimmer, and return pump will really help keep things in check. On top of that, without a sump, you’re limited to hang-on-back skimmers and in my experience, they aren’t very effective. Plus, the whole stability thing with having more water volume.
    Guys if you read my post you will notice that I am not against sumps. I even ran the sump and know its benefits. All I was saying is that the sumps are far more useful if used on a larger systems say 75 gallon and above. For small setups, you don't even need a skimmer. I am firm believer of keeping things simple and have managed my tanks with little to no interference. no skimmer, no water changes every week. My method is tried and tested. Try to make as little changes as possible. Consistency is what gives you success.

    Thanks

  13. #9
    Senior Member ultimatemj's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ssky View Post
    Guys if you read my post you will notice that I am not against sumps. I even ran the sump and know its benefits. All I was saying is that the sumps are far more useful if used on a larger systems say 75 gallon and above. For small setups, you don't even need a skimmer. I am firm believer of keeping things simple and have managed my tanks with little to no interference. no skimmer, no water changes every week. My method is tried and tested. Try to make as little changes as possible. Consistency is what gives you success.

    Thanks
    Pics?

  14. #10
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    I'd say:

    Don't be afraid of DIY. I drilled my first tank that I garbage picked and it worked fine. Depot/Menards are your friend, but LFS is best for things like bulkheads, etc. Find yourself a good Local Fish Store, and ask tons of questions.

    That said, don't try to skimp or go too "used" on the important lifeblood-of-the-tank stuff. DIY is great, but there is absolutely no substitute for a good-sized, good quality skimmer in your sump (if you end up running a sump--I do but to each his/her own). Also, a new heater and a new return pump are good investments. Don't go used unless you know for a fact that it's in good shape. Not worth a tank crash to save $20.

    In my first year I had a small tank, and I used to buy saltwater from my LFS before I had my RODI system up and running. If you're only buying 5-10 gallons a week, it's doable and makes water changes easy, plus excuse to go to LFS more often and ask questions. It does absolutely cost more over time than making your own, but for me it worked for awhile.

    Skimmer - buy a good one, even if it means buying a used good one. I had an Odyssea ps75 and it wasn't worth even the cheap $40 price I paid. Found a used SCA-302 used locally for $50, and my tank became instantly cleaner overnight. Look around on the marketplace here.

    As for lights, people can chime in. I'm not too experienced, especially with lighting, so I'll leave that to the experts around here. I used LEDs that are better than chinese black boxes, but not much, and were small and not really scalable for the 55 I'm currently building, so I'm waiting to see what people say about that, too.

    I really like the sump setup, for what it's worth.

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