Saltwater Noob


New member
So, I posted in the new to saltwater section on the main reef central site and it got deleted. I have a few questions as I am new to salt water. Maybe you local guys can help me out.

I have been big into freshwater tanks all my life. Recently, I have decided to get my feet wet in the saltwater scene. I have a 29gal tank I would like to use to start a saltwater tank. I figure start small and then go big once I get everything down in a small tank.

(Please, feel free to correct me) When setting up a saltwater tank, I know I should get live sand and rock, get established saltwater and let the tank cycle for about 2-3 months. What chemicals am I checking when I test the water? How often am I checking and changing water? How do you tell when a saltwater tank has cycled and is ready for coral and or fish?

What type of lighting (i.e. bulbs) should I use? How big of a refugium or do I even need one with this size tank? what size protein skimmer?

I am sure I am missing some pretty important questions, if so, please, fill me in :)


Elite Member
Welcome to the hobby... your thread is still there--->

To answer a few of your questions; with saltwater, especially if you're planning on a reef tank, stability is key so the larger the tank you can get to start with the better. In general smaller tanks can be more of a challenge than larger tanks. As far as live sand and live rock, you can start with dry sand and rock and it will become 'live' from the cycle. The cycle shouldn't take more than a month. To start, you will want a test kit for ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite and a means of checking your salinity. As with most anything, saltwater is no exception to the old adage "there's more than one way to skin a cat". In this hobby you can ask a question and get ten different answers from ten different people and all may be a good way to skin a cat. Some people do a water change daily, weekly, monthly, etc while some people never do water changes. The cycle is basically the tank getting it's nitrogen cycle started. The basic idea is to get your sand, rock, and saltwater in, throw in a chunk of shrimp from the supermarket, and as it decays the needed bacteria will establish a population in the tank. During the cycle you'll first see a spike in ammonia, then nitrite, and lastly nitrate. You'll probably need to do a water change to bring the nitrate down but that's not always the case. Everyone does things differently in this hobby and in time you'll develop your own routine. Do lots of reading and research in the forums, read threads and see what some of the successful people in this hobby have done to become successful and develop a plan of attack...:blown:

As far as lighting goes, LED's are becoming very popular but how much light you need really depends on what you plan to keep, what kind of budget you have to work with, and your own color preference.

As far as adding fish and corals, you can add a few fish as soon as the cycle is done, most soft corals are a whole lot less demanding than hard corals so you might want to start out with a softy. LPS are fairly hardy and SPS in general are the most demanding in terms of stability and light requirements.

Good luck with the new tank!:dance:


Premium Member
The best investment I've ever made for my tank, i think, would have to be an auto top off for my top off water. I put kalk powder in my top off water and the ato slowly adds the top off to my tank. Like jtrasap said above, stability is key. The ato helps with that tremendously.

As for lights, my favorite look on a tank has got to be metal halide with VHO actinic supplementation. I tried LEDs, and have a full spectrum par38 bulb on my tank right now, and haven't been happy with the color. The growth from my corals have been fine under LEDs, but the color was so much better with MH and VHO? Just my 2 cents.

I agree with jtrasap on the cycle process, too. Read as much as you can in the forums before jumping in.

Good luck!

logan 12

New member
I always have been a big fan of T5 HO's, gotta use ATI bulbs though in the fixture. This is a photo of my old 55 gallon before I had to take it down. It is running 4 ATI blue plus bulbs, 1 ATI Aquablue special and a GE 6500k (for coral growth). I have ran PC's a long time ago they are just out dated technology. The MH's are nice but heat seems to always be a issue with them, I did run a coralife 150watt MH over my 29 gallon when I had it for a while. In the summer time I had to run a fan across the top of the tank, and top the water off a bunch because of evap H20. LED's seem to be the next big thing, just see some sketchy ness to them at this point. And the initial price is a killer for most of us.


john reefer

New member
I'm fairly new to but I switched to salt 2 years ago, and have had good luck w/ T5s as well.Plus a lot of people are getting rid of them now for led so you might be able to buy them cheap. The best advice I can give so far is be patient and buy the best equipment you can afford especially the protein skimmer.


New member
I am currently running a 29g reef tank. I am using a 150w DE phoenix MH bulb and a reef octopus bh1000 skimmer and I'm pretty happy with how it's going right now. I have a small fan that is set to run while the MH is on and it blows on the surface of the water. The back of my canopy is open and this setup does fine with keeping water temp where it needs to be and not too hot.