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Living Out Loud
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Now this next part really requires patience and lots of it.

10. Let the tank run with just the live rock for about a month. I know that is hubris! It is a complete affront to yours and my good healthy American lifestyle of instant gratification. Damn it we want our burgers in a minute, our photoes in an hour, and our reef up and running as soon as cycling ends! My God, how can I be such a cruel taskmaster?! Simple, and please please pay attention. You are "seeding" your tank and one very important thing as well. You are giving time for any hitchikers on the live rock to show themselves. Aiptasia, Anemonia, parasitic bristle worms, and the dreaded mantis shrimp to name a few. To test for a mantis shrimp just put some raw squid in a mantis trap and drop it in on the sand. Leave it in there overnight. If it is trapped in the morning you are golden, if it isnt I promise you dont have one because after 2 weeks with no food you could feed him the squid by hand he would be so desperate. I usually replace the squid every other day or so before it really begins to foul, this keeps the denitrifying bacteria working while there is no bioload. The "seeding" is allowing all the tiny critters to prolifterate and create a minor food source for your fish. If you are going to use a refugium now is the time to hook it up and drop a piece of live rock in it, use the piece that seems to have some tufts of hair algae or Halymeda on it. You MUST dose Kalwasser during this time to give the coralline algae a good chance at getting started covering your base rock. Check calcium and DKH during this time and keep it at good levels, they will need it.

11. Did you do it? Did you have the patience to wait at minimum a few weeks, at best a month staring at your beautiful blank canvas? First, give yourself a pat on the back and give your tank its first dose of Iodine and then go ahead and reward yourself with your corals and inverts, NOT FISH! Whether they are store bought or online they should be attached to a small stone. I use the coral dip made by Warner Marine Research before placing any corals in my main tank. It has worked wonderfully for me with new specimens. Place all these in the bottom 1/3 of the tank and NOT directly underneath the halides for a week, even if they are light demanding SPS corals. They need time to adjust to your tanks light intensity and Kelvin temperature after being in a dealer tank, if they were bought online they have been in pitch black for a few days. After the week is up, move them to where you like them, the spot you have learned they need to be, and where you can see they are thriving. Watch them closely, if they are mushrooms are they straining towards the light? If so move them up. Are they laying extremely flat? Then move them down or near an overhang. If they are SPS are their polyps extending and the UV pigments coming back? If so, they are happy. Once you have them all arranged then go ahead and secure them in place. Let the tank go as is for 2 weeks to a month in this state...once you are confident in your corals/inverts health move to the next phase.

------REMEMBER to leave room for growth. I always buy my corals, polyps, clams, etc as small as possible. It is a great feeling of satisfaction to watch a tiny 2" square of Xenia cover an entire rock, or a beautiful bed of Zoanthus on a rock and you know they started as 3-4 single polyps.-----

So the tank is running great, the corals are thriving....but there isn't any movement. Time for the 1st fish. I bet right about now you are thinking I forgot about that dumpy little dime store corner filter eyesore in the tank huh? That $10 purchase is about to save your buttocks.

Run back to the LFS and get the cheapest crappy little 10g tank you can. Perform your first 20% water change on the main tank and deposit the old water in the 10g. Take that corner filter and drop it in the 10g with the old water.....you have now set up a quarantine tank with nearly identical water parameters of your main tank. Only overlook this step at your own peril. There is nothing worse than trying to give a fish a dip in Ich medicine and chasing it around the maintank with a net. Leave the fish in the tank for at least a week. Make sure it is feeding and shows no signs of Ich. Medicate if you must...and always feed a flake with some garlic on it. After a couple weeks, take him out and drop him in the main tank. Now it is ready for your next inhabitant. Repeat this step EACH time you add a fish and replace quarantine tank water with main tank water. Once you are done adding fish clean the little corner filter and put it away. When you want a new fish restart the process all over again...this discourages "impulse buying". Since I do this in coordination with water changes I only add a max of 1-2 fish a month.

You have now succesfully set up your reef tank. It has taken a minimum of 2 months and usually 3 months before I put my first fish in. From there it takes about 4 months for me to be done adding fish.

One last bit, here is the order I add my fish:

1st always the algae blenny, 5 turbo snails, and 10 blue legged hermits. ( Cater amounts of each to your tank size)
2nd the sand sifting Goby.
3rd any reef safe wrasses go in now. (Six Line, 4 line etc)
4th if you are having any type of schooling fish (Anthias, Cardinals)
5th Pseudochromis Fridmani (pound for pound the most beautiful fish imho and always a staple to me)
6th 1 dwarf angel genus Centropyge (Eibli or Lamarck angel usually)

You can now begin the arduous cycle of monitoring water parameters, feeding, testing, etc. However, you also get to begin staring into the glass with childlike wonder and what you have created. You can marvel at the growth of your corals and feel pride about it, you can share the fun of the hobby with others at the LFS or online, and most of all you have gained a knowledge and respect for these delicately balanced ecosystems which if we lost would mean the end of life on earth.

I hope this helps people out. Please add any comments, criticism, etc. Thanks in advance for reading.

The only thing left to do now is just wipe your nose prints off the glass.
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just to add on to step 12:

community fish listings for 20gal:
#1
1.Clean-Up Crew(5-10 blue legged hermit crabs, 5-10 turbo snails, watchmen goby(sandsifter), algae blenny)
2.pair of ocellaris or percula clownfish
3.centropyge angelfish(purple fireball or flame-back fireball are the best choices for this size tank)

#2
1.clean-up crew
2.pair of firefish(any kind)
3.Chrysiptera damselfish(yellow-tail or azure are the best choices)


29gal/30gal
#1
1.CUC(10-15 of each invert)
2.pair of ocellaris or percula clownfish
3.yellow-headed jawfish(a deep substrate is required)
4.pygmy/fireball angelfish(tank still a little small for other Centropyge's)

#2
1.CUC
2.pair of firefish
3.small basslet(Pseudochromis or Gramma are the best choices)
4.6-lined wrasse

40b/55gal
#1
1.CUC(15-25 each invert, 2 algae blennies)
2.3 green chromis
3.pair of clowns(any type besides spine-cheek maroon)
4.basslet(any type besides extremely aggressive dottybacks and marine bettas)
5.ANY type of Centropyge angelfish(finally)

#2
1.CUC
2.pair of firefish
3.pair of clown gobies
4.any type of damselfish besides gregories, jewelfish, humbugs and neoglyphidons
5.6-line wrasse





hope this helps!
 
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