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Discussion Starter #1
I am currently not shopping around for a reef tank, but I would like to know more about the salt water side of this hobby. Unfortunately most of these threads are very specific as to their topic, so I would like to ask a general question:

What is the absolute minimum you would need for a (lets say 30g) reef tank? Please be specific about lighting (wattage, type of bulbs, etc), protein skimmers, sumps vs refugium, test kits (what to test for), substrate, salt water (buy or make it), cycling, filters, wave makers...etc.

What exactly does the skimmer do and where should it hooked up. I have seen some in the sump, but can you just put it in line with your filter?
 

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I understand what you are trying to ask but to answer you it helps to know what you are wanting in the end. It could run you anywhere from $15 up to $100 per gallon depending if you can find some used equipment or plan to buy all new equipment and do you want it fully automated or do you want to have a hands on tank and do you want top of the line or or just good quality equipment. With new skimmers you could go with an Octopus 110 for $149.95 and that one is good for up 90 gallons or you could go with a Bubble King Mini 160 thats good for 50-135 gallons for 879.99 this is just 1 example. New lighting could range from $200 up $1200 so you see a little more info realy is needed.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I stated absolute minimum in the title. ;)

If I wanted to setup a 30 reef tank, what things could I not live without? Everthing is new but for example in the case of lights I think I could get 2x48w (96 total) 24" T5 fluorescent (2x 10k bulbs, 2 actinic) for about $100. Basically I am not looking for the best price, just the cheapest equipment that will still get the job done. In this case T5 can still get it done over LED or halide right? If not what difference would I see?

I would expect some hands on with a reef tank but I don't want to have to do much more than a weekly maintance/cleaning. I basically want a list. Brands are not important just yet, but if one or 2 stand out over others in terms of a good bargan, I would love to know. Does this help?
 

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Yes it does. That lighting would be fine other than you would want to change out the bulbs about $22 each, 40lbs of sand $40, 30lbs of dry rock about $2/lb 15 Lbs LR about $7/lb, 2 koralia #2's about $34 each, sump/fuge the price of a 20 long and 3 pieces of glass for baffles and a tube of silicone,
110 Octopus Skimmer about $150, return pump about $35, I would suggest getting the tank drilled so the cost of tank and drilling. I dont have my tank automated so I top off with jugs, I manually dose calcium, alk buffer and PH buffer. These are just my suggestions and you could go cheaper on the power heads and be OK you could also go with a CSS 65 Skimmer for about $120 and it would work but not as good as the Octopus you could also get a hang on overflow like the CPR50 for about $90. I hope this helps and is what you were asking.
 

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Marine Aquarium Expert/Saltwater Section Mgr.
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if you want to do a reef set up and it's your first reef set up i would buy a full used sys.. from someone to see if you like it. you don't want to spend a lot of money and then you find out its not something you want to do. take a look at craigslist lots of good deals on it.and when you find out that you love it and you will LOL then spend the money on the good equipment. and don't get all crazy about the name of things!!!!!!!go by how it performs.
 

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Absolute Minimum depends on what you want to keep, For Instance Soft Corals take an entirely different system then SPS. Also with SPS there other stuff in supplements that are required.
So If your going to do it right, Then start off with Soft Corals. Light requirements are VHO's Minimum. A protein skimmer is a device that extracts protein and other organic matter from water.
They work on the principle that complex molecules are caught in small bubbles. These Molecules are what cause Nitrogen, Phosphate and other problems in your tank. Remove of the complex molecules help prevent future problems.

Prizm Skimmer will do, there are models out there just look for hang on back skimmers rated for no higher then 75 gallons. I say this for it is only a matter of time you will upgrade, and you can really never over skim.

Test kits. Use only quality test kits. I like Salifert. Stay away from the junk at Pet Depot.

Then food, For your corals as well as your fish. Learning to Grow your own Phyto, Brine and Rotifiers will teach you an awful lot plus your corals will love you.

That is good start to minimum . Naturaly you will need a heater and such. But that is all found in other threads. Hope it helps.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Now we are getting somewhere. :)

Ok, what is SPS and how does its requirements differ from soft corals?

Do most people use a sump as their only filtration? Do most house the protein skimmer in the sump, along with the phytoplankton? I have heard that some people keep a light on the sump to grow algae so that nitrates and other compounds remain low which keeps them from growing in the main tank.

I have also heard that some use CO2 tanks. What exactly for?
 

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SPS corals are Small Polyp Stoney Corals and can be misleading at times but generaly they require the cleanest water you can achieve and HIGH random water movement and very intense lighting like MH or even T-5 on an IC Ballast with individual reflectors and qaulity bulbs now at the other end leathers they generaly prefer slightly more nutrient rich waters and do good in lower water flow and less intense lighting like PC's and then you have LPS's, mushrooms and Zoas and these can fall any where in the middle depending on the coral. Most people I know use a sump/fuge and skimmer as there filtration along with proper flow and LR in there display. The sump/fuge will usually hold the skimmer, macro algea, and some will add LR and a DSB and it is a good place to put your heater and do you topping off and dosing also with a sump/fuge all evaporation will take place in the return pump section so your water level will remain steady in the display tank. You need to keep a light on your macro and depending on what type of macro you would use it can be a reverse light cycle or be left on 24/7 and that way the macro will take up the trates and phosphates if they are present and will keep your display free of these unwanted algeas. CO2 tanks are used for calcium reactors, I dont use one so I cant help you I just dose everything by hand in my sump. I feel that you should have about 3-6 times your total water volume being run thru your sump and then about 30-60 times your display water volume being circulated with PH's or a closed loop. When a reef tank is setup properly there should be very little work involved to maintain it, keep the water topped off, weekly to monthly WC's, empty your skimmer cup and wipe it out at the same time and remove extra macro from the sump when it gets overgrown, if you go more than a week inbetween WC's then you would need to dose for Calcium, alk buffer and PH unless you have a Calcium reactor and drip lime water (kalkwasser or mrs wages pickling lime) to keep your ALK and PH up where it belongs Hope this helps and keep the questions coming.
 

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I just bought a 29g oceanic cube complete setup with corals from a friend that was moving out of town for 500. including a metal halide add-on. my first reef system. I would highly recommend buying use from someone local.
if I would of bought everything in the tank I would have spent easily 1500.

 

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Buying a complete running used system can work but I have seen many times that several things needed replaced and upgraded and ended up costing close to what pieceing together a system would cost. Tate it looks like you got one of the good used systems out there.
 

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Agreed Archer, Buying used systems can lead real expensive fixes. To many times people can buy the wrong thing and when thier system dont work they unload it on another future reefer.

As for sumps, or what we now call Sump/Fuge, Is a system to clean water of Nitrogen and Phosphates by using Macro algae that eat the molecules that casue problems in the tank. They also hide most of your equipment by housing the Protein Skimmer, Heater, and other filters you wish to have.

If you start with unit go simple at first and then learn so you can move up to more delicate corals later on. This will also give time for your water paramters to stablize. SPS require certain water parameters that do NOT come overnight. Also require differnt light as Archer explained above.

Lets talk fish a minute. Iam a firm beleiver in getting the right fish for your reef. Tangs in 30 gallon is not the right way to house the fish. Tangs generaly in the ocean swim 20 to 30 miles a day so keeping them in such small tank is not wise. They will stress as they grow. I would say a minimum size tank for tangs is a 75 gallon and thats pushing it.

Now in setting up your reef, you will need Live Rock. There are several ways to do this, You can buy live rock or you can buy dead live rock and seed it for coraline growth. Live Rock is term used for micro organisms that grow on the rock that enhance filration. It also adds color to your tank from yellow to deep puple and red. Live rock you buy has major die off of these organisms, it will require heavy skimming to get all the dead stuff that is on the rock. Do not put any fish or corals in the tank until this process is done. It is called Cycling. You most likely will see an algae bloom and Brown spots form on your sand. this cycle has happened to most of us and represents a high rate of phosphates that overwhelm the tank. Phosphate filter will help along with wet skimming and a Macro algae in your sump/fuge.

If you have any questions please keep it up, the more you know the better off you will be.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thanks alot all. I'm familar with cycling in a fresh water tank which usually takes 3-4 weeks from ammonia-->nitrite-->nitrate, during which comes the brown algae bloom. It sounds like cycling on a saltwater tank takes even longer.

I would almost want to keep a non-fish tank and just try to get the live rock/coral up and running for about 6months before getting any fish. I think setting up the reef is most of the fun anyways.

Do most of you all buy or make your own salt water, and if the latter, do you have an RO/DI apparatus? Actually after the initial start up you probably just need to top off without salt right?
 

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I always made my own saltwater using a good salt mix. I also used RO/DI water. It's true that you use freshwater for your topoffs, but you need to do regular water changes of 20% (my preference) at least monthly if not more frequently. And of course water changes are done with saltwater. I used a large clean trash can (plastic) for my changes, with a thermometer, heater and powerhead. I also used a Python to remove the water from the tank and clean it. Others will have their own preferences. However, the single most important contributor to a quality reef is quality water parameters. Good luck.
 

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Saltydad is right on!!! Also about fish, Fish are an important part to reefs. Alot of thier waste do feed corals, so being you want to have corals a few easy fish would benefit your reef.

as for making Salt, I do not use a rodi unit because of water expense here in Arizona. To much going down the drain for me to afford. I use a water service where i get unlimited water in 5 gallon bottles. I use this for drinking as well as my tanks. Like I said the in another post the water quality here sucks. so I wont put in my dogs bowl either.

Water changes are essential to reef as Satlydad stated above. I prefer 20 percent each month. this replaces essential minerals into the water colum. I use a large Brute Garbage can. I place the salt in to the right gravity and let a pump stir it for 24 hours before I use it. This makes sure the water is totaly mixed and temp is correct.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Do you guys just add the water from the garbage can back in with a smaller bucket? Or do you pump it in like you would a sump?

I use a Python for my freshwater tank to both remove and refill directly from the tank, but I have always been weary of doing this since I am adding Prime drop by drop as the water is going into the tank. This may be just fine for most fish, but I am looking at adding Discus soon so the trashcan water prep sounds like a good alternative.
 

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I use a Pump with a dead man switch on the cord. It only runs when depressed. Quick little thing. You can go Home Dpeot and they have them in the electrical Department.
 

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I dont really see what all the fuss is about with skimmers.I had a friend that had a 55 gallon salt tank with beautiful fish and corals for i know had to be better than 5 years,never ever used a skimmer all he had on his tank was a good canister filter decent lights and a cpl powerheads.nothing else all he did was do 10 gallon changes every sunday like clockwork.I think in that span all i ever recall him losing was 1 fish.He changed jobs and had to move and everything was very healthy when he sold it...
 

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IMO the key is biological filtration. A decent powerhead and a HOB filter would work fine if you had between 1-2 pounds of live rock per gallon. I had my 55 running for over 6 months and just got a small protein skimmer. I was fine without nitrates and didn't really need it but got a good deal.

As far as the bare minimum my list would be:

*HOB 60/90 filter from Walmart- 35$
*Maxijet 600- $20-30
*rotating deflector for Maxijet (for wave action) 15$
*Current Nova SLR t-5 fixture 156 watts-$165 (you can grow SPS,LPS, clams and everything
*150 watt heater- 20$
*You can do 1/2 dry base rock and 1/2 ultra premium live rock to save $$ as well. It will all be "seeded" soon.
*Don't waste your money on "live" sand, just get some good dry aragonite- 20lbs. -20$
 
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