Since this is a single web page, it could not of course be all
inclusive. I will try to at least give you a starting point to
work from though. Please keep in mind that as with everything within
this hobby, there are many methods that can be used. All to reach the
same end goal. Which is your first decision to make. What is your goal
with this new setup?
1. Pick your tank,
acrylic or glass
? And its a good idea to buy the largest one
that you can afford right away, most of us have gone through at
least 3 tanks before we were satisfied with its size, unless of
course you have a specific tank in mind such as a small desk tank
for your office.
2. Decide right now what your tank will hold, will it be fish
and so on, this decision will dictate what equipment you should
have. A fish only tank will not need reef grade lighting and has concerns of its own.
3. The rest of the tips will assume a reef tank is being set
4. Get a RO/DI water
, this is THE most critical piece of equipment that I can
think of. It will provide ultra pure freshwater for making up
your saltwater and to replace what freshwater has evaporated. By
doing this from the start, you will avoid alot of water quality
and algae issues that any one who has ever used tap water can
5. Research what lighting systems
suit your needs. You can buy ready to use systems or you can buy
the components separately and save some money. Keep in mind that
a good rule of thumb for a reef tank is a minimum of 5 watts per
tank gallon size. (example= 100 gal tank should have 500 watts of
light over it.) This can be accomplished with using METAL HALIDES
or VERY HIGH OUTPUT or POWER COMPACT systems/bulbs. Keep in mind
also that the bulbs used in these systems should be of at least
6,500 to 10,000 Kelvin, which is the color rendition of the
6. Research and decide what filtration
you will use, I prefer to be able to use the best of
each type of system. The following items go a long way in helping
your tank remain stable and to provide many other benefits.
My list of what I feel is the bare minimums for starting a
reef tank using what I like to call, a "natural" method, one that does
not rely upon equipment to such a great extent as is possible.
1. A tank/stand combination
2. A RO/DI water unit
3. A reef grade lighting system
4. A skimmer
- its use will depend on your system, its occupants and what goal you
have set for this tank as well as how you plan to get "there".
6. Enough salt mix to fill your tank plus the sump.
7. A Hydrometer
8. A sump
(with plumbing parts and pump)
9. Test kits for detecting Ammonia, Nitrites, Nitrates, PH,
10. An aquarium thermometer
11. A water heater
12. Enough Reef Sand to have at least a two inch layer on the
13. Base rock, at least 1 pound per tank gallon size. Live rock
to be added after the system has cycled.
14. A 10 gallon
for future purchases. (research how to
set one up and use it).
15. Some form of nitrate export right from start up of the tank, mangrove plants
and/or macro algae grown either in the main tank itself, or as is usually done, within a separate refuge system
or a compartment of the sump used as a refuge area.
Each of these items will take some research on your part to
determine what you feel is the best model/make.
The best advice anyone can give you is to spend ALOT of time
researching every detail and get alot of opinions. There are
plenty of hobbyists out there who are willing to share their
lessons learned the hard way. (as I am now).
Once you have learned just about everything you can think of,
then its time to set up your tank and get it going. This is where
your patience will be tested. Once you have everything set up and
running, you will need to cycle the tank. For the methods and procedures to do this, please read my page concerning CYCLE METHODS.
CLIMBING THE BIOLOGICAL LADDER
- With every new aquarium set up, it never fails to amaze
me that the first life forms going into the aquarium are those that
should be the last ones going into the aquarium. Which is the cause of
just about all of the problems encountered with newly established
systems. If we were to follow the natural chain of events that will
occur within our aquariums, and give such events their due time to get
established, much trouble can be avoided. If you wish to have a much
more successfull and enjoyable experience in starting out. I suggest
that you stock your new aquarium as such:
Please read Number 15 of THIS ARTICLE
1. Place a two inch layer of dead "play" sand within your aquarium and
fill the tank with saltwater. Add your ammonia source, such as a small
piece of shrimp or fish meat and allow the tank to get past its initial
cycle. Once you have detectable nitrates of .10 or more, remove any
remains of the shrimp/fish meat and do a large water change.
2. Add another two inch layer of live sand on top of the play sand layer.
3. Add your base rocks and live rocks, wait three months and let the
algae bloom happen, which will take up waste and further the "cycle"
4. After three months, add a variety of herbivores and let them eat the
algae that has grown and now provides really clean water, this article
will be of use to you - Clean up Crew
5. Wait another three months, during this time the algae will get
eaten, coralline will grow and you will become much more familiar with
water quality issues and gain the experience of maintaining your
system. This time is also well spent studying and planning for your
future livestock additions.
6. After those three months are over, then begin to add your corals
untill you have what you consider to be a reef. This process should
take you a few months and is best if you stretch it out over the course
of six months. Doing so, gives the biology of your system to further
mature or stabalize.
7. NOW you can add a fish! and continue to stock your preplanned fish
at the rate of one every two months. Do not forget to quarantine each
As you can see by how it should be done, you are allowing the
biology of the system to become established and able to handle each
step up with the addition of ever higher life forms. It makes no sense
to add fish as the first occupants since all the lower steps are not in
place and able to help you keep your fish alive. Please be patient
and do it right, for the sake of the animals involved.
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