55 Gallon Reef


New member
Hi all, I think this is my first real post. I have successful experience with a planted FW tank (more about the plants, less concern witht he fish). I've been doing lots of reading, but I'm stuck on some things. I first started thinking of a nano style tank of around 30 gallons (to keep cost down) - something like 36x12x12. I like the 12" width because it will look uniform as far as width goes next to my planted 10 gallon. Well, I found a new 55 gallon tank 48x12x20, predrilled with an overflow box already installed for $90. I like this idea as it saves me some work even though it's bigger than what I wanted.

So my questions begin:

I've decided on T5 lighting for various reasons. If I go coralife, I can get a 48" fixture at about 112 watts. Not enough to do any good in a 55 gallon tank? A tek 48" fixture gives me 216 watts - still not enough to be middle of the road? I want to light the tank in such a way that I'm not limited in anything I can keep in the tank, without overlighting some things. I don't know whats cool for me yet.

I'm not really planning on anything in particular, kinda build as I go, take things slow, collect things as I can. So I'd like to come up with a medium range light output that will give me tons of options as far as corals and things go.

How do you get to 6-8 watts per gallon of T5 on this tank?

From the nano standpoint, I Was going to build a sump/refugium that was the same size as the display tank, so in this case I'd get another 55 gallon tank. I've read bigger sump equates to better tank health. The LFS guy told me somthing about priming the baffles so they stick when you silcon them in. He said many customers complain that the baffles come loose without primer? Any input on this?

Live Rock
I understand the limitations of a 12" wide tank when placing LR. Any suggestions on getting the live rock solidly in place? I would think I would stack the rock in places up to about 3-4" from the top of the tank. I've read about gluing it together, but is that a proper way to do things? If you glue, or JB Weld, or silicon the rock together, it needs to be dry to do so, right? How does that affect the LR?

If I put a helping of live rock in the sump, does that mean I need more than 55lbs, or does the LR in the sump count towards the 55lbs?

I also can't visualize what 55lbs of LR looks like in terms of mass.

My initial plan was to purchase a 40/60 mix of rubble/larger pieces from premium aquatics and build a scape that way.

Also, from what I've read about LR, you get alot critters just with the rock. With budget and all, it will probably be a long time before I buy lots of cool critters, so my tank will probably only have cleanup crew, whatever is in the live rock and cheaper fish for quite awhile after cycling.

On another note, I've seen some used reef setups for sale in places like craigslist for pretty good discounts overall. Aside from the obvious, like tank condition, equipment included, etc, what are some things to look for when buying a complete setup used? Is it better to just pay the price and start new?


Would I be better off as a newbie to buy something like a Finnex 30 Gallon all inclusive setup? I'm really kind of liking a 12" wide but longer tank though, for uniformity in my tank area. I was also really liking the 12" height, but I've been discouraged by many so far on having such a short tank.

Planning for power outages
Past experience in my home tells me I can expect a couple of outages a year that last from 6-12 hours, and unfortunatly they usually start during the day while I'm at work. Tank will be in the basement where the temp is about 65F winter / 70F summer. I don't have the cash for an automated system, but from what I've been reading, thought a small gas generator, an inverter and marine battery or UPS, and battery operated air pumps that trigger when the power goes out. When talking with some LFS owners, they think that is totally overkill and to just get a generator for when the power is out for longer than a few hours. Thoughts?

All in all I'd like a tank less than 30gal, but the predrilled 55gal with overflow might mean alot to me as far as setup work is concerned.

I imagine this is alot for one post, but I appreciate any and all replies!!!


Don't worry about watts per gallon with T5. A 4 bulb T5HO with individual reflectors in a shallow tank (which a 55 is) is plenty of light for many things. You can't really fit more bulbs over the tank.


New member
As someone with a newer 55 myself...

T5s will be great for you tank if you get the individual reflectors. They are energy efficient so don't apply the watts per gallon guideline with them. I have MHs which I love but they have their own issues.

For the sump/refuge I'd wonder over to melevsreef.com, Marc who is also a poster here has tons of sump info there and we can all answer questions you might have after reading there.

For power outages I'd get some battery operated air pumps and hook them and a heater up to a UPC for minor outages and yes a generator for larger outages.

My last bit of advice, before buying anything...go to http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?s=&forumid=80 and locate your local reef club. Go to their site and find out who is selling a complete set-up or even parting stuff out. You'll get GOOD deals if not great deals and you'll have the benefit of local advice on stores in your area as well as possibly getting discounts. Most local clubs also do demos, tank tours, and workshops as well.