Help a newbie get started

Steverino

New member
I need some straight talk from the experienced folks, I am getting some conflicting info from the LFS and older books. I would love to switch over to saltwater after years of freshwater tanks. I have a 90 gallon tall tank, It is 36" wide and 31" tall, somewhere around 18" front to back dimensions. I did the calculations and the actual water volume is around 86 gallons. I have two submersible heaters with external controls. I have a hang-on-back filter which circulates 400 gph, as well as a canister that pumps about 350 per hour. I have a full stand, hood, and a compact light 96W with an additional actinic bulb, and a flourescant light fixture that has two bulbs that I believe are 9625K. I have inexpensive access to a new protein skimmer with a powerhead that is rated for a 75 gallon tank. I see there is always live sand and some live rock for sale in my area (Chicagoland). I don't have any water treatment equipment, no RO or DI systems, I have been using tap water that I often age in a tub with dechlorinator for my freshwater tank. What equipment do I absolutely need to have to get a tank up and running? My end goal would be a tank with a handfull of fish, perhaps some crabs and/or shrimp, very simple at first. I want to start slow, I don't see myself going to a full reef tank, I don't have a ton of money or time outside of work and family, but what time I do have I spend cleaning tanks! I just want to get off the pot and at least get it started.
 

LRS078

New member
Test your tap water on a couple of occasions with a salt water test kit from Salifert or Tetra. Then figure out how far/close they are to workable parameters. Tap water is fine for starting out, just get some dechlorinator, some buffer, and a bucket of Instant Ocean.

If no corals you don't need to worry about light. For just fish or fish/inverts its pretty much for what you prefer. Canister filters are less popular with salty folks but I suggest you do some reading on wetwebmedia or similar. You don't need to go full live rock, perhaps 20% live with the rest base rock will do just fine. Sand/substrate is something to keep under an inch depth for a beginner. Some shopping items: a hydrometer or refractometer for testing salinity, the test kits for salt water systems, filtration that covers mechanical+chemical+biological aspects, at least 10x'ish water turnover per hour. Do a ton of reading in the marine section of wetwebmedia and around this site on tank setup, cycling, etc. If you have any specific questions after that I'm sure we'll all be happy to help.
 

Steverino

New member
Thanks. What parameters should I be specifically worried about when I use the test kits? I currently have pH, Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate kits for freshwater. Are you talking about metals/minerals? (FYI: My tap water is about 7.4-7.5.) The HOB filter and canister both claim they have the mechanical (pads), chemical, & biological filtration, is there a type of filter that is more favored by salties?
 

SW1TCH

New member
A sump/fuge is what most people run. But if you are doing a FOWLR you could just use a wet/dry . And a good protein skimmer.
 

LRS078

New member
Certainly get a skimmer.... There is a standing prejudice against canisters "among salties". I'll let others get into that one but FO/FOWLR folks tend to prefer wet/dry or wet/dry with a fuge/RDSB/etc. Wet/dry's are very good for fish only/fish only with live rock (FO/FOWLR) for the reason that the bioball/biomedia is very efficient at turning toxic ammonia/nitrite into nitrate. That said, getting rid of the far less toxic nitrates becomes the issue. The wet/dry can rapidly respond to varying bioload from the tank where a fuge or RDSB (remode deep sand bed) takes time (month plus) to adapt to a bioload effectively.

The best way to get rid of nitrates for a beginner is just do water changes. Test for your nitrates weekly and when you see them start to creep up past 12.5-20 mg/L or so do a 20% water change. On a properly stocked/designed system you will change 30%-40% water a month. Not so bad on a smaller system, can get pricey when you start talking hundreds of gallons though. Since you are starting out with about a 90 gallon system, a bucket of Instant Ocean should last you at least 4 months with 40% monthly changes. If you find you have to change more to keep nitrates down let us know and we'll see where the snag might be.

Hope this helps
 

Steverino

New member
This is all appreciated. I went to the LFS today and talked to a couple folks to get more info. They suggested a CPR BakPak, as well as some kind of additional filter system like perhaps my HOB powerfilter. Is the BakPak a decent unit, or is there something a little better, or a little less expensive? Theirs was about 175, and I see them new on the net for $130 delivered, or used for as little as $60. Also, they suggested between 1 lb to 1.5 lb per gallon of Live rock, and 1.5 lbs of substrate per gallon.
 

Steverino

New member
And I forgot to ask if I do change 40% water a month, which would be almost 40 gallons, what is the most cost-efficient method, do I need a water treatment unit of some kind?
 

mpoletti

You'll never walk alone
Premium Member
I have a bakpak on my fish only and I am still up in the air. They are not the greatest, but they do help. I have only lost one fish and the that was my own fault. I used tap water to set my tank up, then did my topping off with DI water from the LFS. I do a 10% water change weekly and so far the fish are happy. Hope this helps.
 
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