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Living Out Loud
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6. Now you have the tank ready to go and the supplies for the aquascape. Think about powerhead placement now. If you are using a sump, you want the current directed towards the prefilter. Don't have every powerhead aiming at the opposite side of the tank from the prefilter. Don't forget a little surface aggitation as well to facilitate gas exchange. This is also a good time to revisit the aquascape. Ask yourself: Do my rocks hide my powerheads? Does my placement of powerheads eliminate "dead spots"? Do the corals and/or anemones have/need a powerhead blowing over them (if they thrive under those conditions)? Again patience is the key here. Having a beautiful aquascape will get you nowhere if all someone can see when they look in is powerheads and wiring in the tank. Don't just think about the rock formation, plan out where every coral will go and leave room for growth.

7. Time to think about filtration now. About 4 tanks ago I completely stopped using any type of chemical or mechanical filtration. I will explain why:

Mechanical filtration most easily defined is the removal of whatever particles happen to drift by the inflow of the filter. They are then trapped by the mechnical membrane and every single gallon of water pulled out from then on is dragged over them as well. These particles are held in suspension on the mechanical membrane until you change the membrane and the cycle repeats itself. In a reef tank, any detritus from fish falls to the bottom and is scavenged by copepods, hermits, shrimp, sand sifting gobies, etc. It is broken down efficiently. In a canister sits there as all your water is dragged over it. Uneaten food is trapped as well and sits there while gallon after gallon passes over it, whereas had it fallen to the bottom it would have been consumed in one way or another. Imho mechanical filtration has no place on a reef tank. However, in all honesty I do have a HOT magnum filter I keep under my tank (unhooked). I keep the Magnum HOT filter for 1 reason only....that will be discussed later on.

Chemical filtration is in the form of carbon or even worse activated carbon. I despise it like I despise the Cuban desert "flan". There is no difference between good flan and bad flan, and to me all carbon sucks. Activated carbon is "activated" by having phosphoric acid sprayed over it. Phosphoric acid = Phosphate leeching. This process etches and grooves the carbon giving it more surface area. Carbon not only absorbs but after it is done absorbing it releases as well, it doesn't just stop absorbing. When handling most carbon your hands turn black...what is that? It is ash and ash can lower PH. (While I realize MANY reef aquariums use carbon and are beautiful and effective, to me it is worthless.) Please understand again this is only my opinion. If you love your carbon and even have a pillow you sleep on full of activated carbon just cause you love to think it is filtering your dreamy time air, thats great. Again, keep what helps you, discard anything I say which does not.

The only filtration I use on my tank is a protein skimmer. Nothing else. I generally go for something in the neighborhood of turning the tank over 5-7x per hour. Example my 58 gallon tank I will use a skimmer which can process at least 250 gallons per hour. If anyone thinks a protein skimmer is unnatural just head to the beach. You know those white clumps of filthy foam you see on the shoreline? Thats the skimmate from the oceans own version of a protein skimmer....waves crashing and creating bubbles. They accumulate on the surface and are blown ashore by the wind. Protein skimmers create micro bubbles which collide with eachother in the contact chamber. The friction creates a charge and since all DOCs (dissolved organic compounds) are polar in nature they are attracted and stick to the bubbles. They then collect at the top of the skimmer and are removed. Easy peasy lemon squeasy.

6. Placement in the house - This is important and needs to be considered. Here are some things which you will want to keep the tank away from: Natural sunlight coming in and hitting the tank, an A/C duct blowing on the tank or directly above the tank (dust), near a doorway (door slams and drafts), traffic flow through the room (you don't need your fish ducking for cover cause you put the tank right off your kids bedroom and they can't resist tapping the glass everytime they walk by), away from TVs (loud sounds), and last and most important near an electrical socket (as my 6 yr old says "Duh daddy."). Also to be considered is where it is pleasing to the eye. My fish tank is always across the room from my lazyboy recliner. I can sit there and watch the tank for hours in comfort with my hand shoved down the front of my pants ala Al Bundy.

To review - You have come up with your type of tank, the aquascape, the livestock, the powerhead placement, the filtration and exactly where you want it. Time to stock it!!! WRONG!!!

7. Fill the tank to 75-80% capacity and get your salt mixed using RO water and put your powerheads in the tank, Throw on the lights, and turn on the skimmer. Have all the powerheads facing the bottom of the tank and let it run for a few days with ALL the lights on for the photosynthetic cycle you want. This will dissolve any excess salt mix AND MOST IMPORTANTLY accomplish you finalizing your baseline temperature in your tank with everything running at full bore. If the tank temperature is shooting up over 82 degrees it is either time to invest in a chiller or time for a fish only tank. Inverts and corals do not like temperature spikes so take a bunch of temperature readings, I mean every other hour or so. Try to do this step on a Friday night so you have Saturday and Sunday to take temperature readings. The reason you only fill it to 75-80% is because all that live rock you are almost ready for will make the water level rise, and you dont need to be wasting pure clear water to do you? Once you have your temperature baseline turn off those lights, and leave the tank in the dark and barren for the night until the next step.....

NOW you get the excitement of cycling the tank!!

8. Remember that pretty little canister filter (Magnum in my case)? Time to fire that baby up now. DO NOT put in your substrate yet. Place the live rock in the tank as loosely as possible on the bare bottom. Only stack it as little as needed to fit it all. For the 1st week I do not run any lights at all, not even actinics. Every hour or so when I am home I grab a powerhead and blow off the rocks in the tank as much as I can to allow the HOT magnum to pick up as many particles as possible. During the first week I begin my daily dosing of Kalkwasser right before I goto bed. While the amount will differ for every tank I know my 58 gallon, when I run it open top, usually evaporates almost a gallon a day. So every night before bed I top it off with Kalkwasser which keeps those coralline algae humming until they can get that much needed light. Lucky for me I have a aunt who is a Gynecologist and she keeps me in supply with IV drippers. I will take a picture of my drip wife thinks it is hilarious that I use an IV drip for my generic version of a dosing pump. However, it works like a charm. One more thing, go to the LFS and grab the cheapest in tank corner filter you can find and drop it in the tank. Most of them require and air pump and an airstone. Let it seed with bacteria. I will explain why very...very soon.

9. Once nitrites and ammonia have dropped to 0.0 time to add the substrate. This has given usually 2 weeks for all the tiny little crustaceans and copepods which inhabit live rock to come back a bit. Add your substrate and finalize your aquascape. If you are using the sugar sized reef sand (oolitic) 1-2 inches is good. For larger sizes 3-4 inches is also good. (REMEMBER if you are going to keep sand sifting fish such as gobies...make sure the grains are small enough to pass through their mouths) Now since you waited to add the substrate till the cycling ended you dont have to worry about brown diatom algae fouling your pretty white oolitic reef sand while the tank cycles. The diatom has most likely come and gone. One more very important step here. Most substrates cloud the aquarium a bit even after rinsing. This is invaluable for 1 very good reason. Put you powerheads in now in their "final" position and turn them on. With the clouds in the aquarium you can get an excellent sense of the water flow in the tank. This is invaluable especially if you are not using a wavemaker. You can see the flow of the water and see if there are dead spots. These usually look like a little vortex of dust. Tweak the powerheads to eliminate dead spots. And let that mechanical filter trap every suspended item you can. After the water clears then unhook it, clean it, and put it away.

last bit in part 3

1,770 Posts
good job. id like to jut add on one little thing:
"RO water" is only mentioned in step 7. IMO it deserves a whole paragraph to itself. what is it? why do i need it in my reef? is it really necessary? -those are all questions viewers might ask:confused:
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