Start small, or go big?

timbo227

New member
I'm completely new to the hobby of reef tanks. I've been doing quite a bit of reading/research before I try my first tank, and my original plan was to go big, and get a tank I could grow into, but I've read of so many who started with a smaller tank to get a handle on thing first.

My long term plan is a 130-180g mixed reef tank with a display refugium (like, long-long term). I'm perfectly happy to take it slow and steady with big tank as I learn the ropes, but if it's worthwhile to start small, I'm willing to give that a go too.

Do you recommend starting small, or going straight for the tank I really want, provided I do plenty of planning and research?
 

BigBlueTang

New member
I'm completely new to the hobby of reef tanks. I've been doing quite a bit of reading/research before I try my first tank, and my original plan was to go big, and get a tank I could grow into, but I've read of so many who started with a smaller tank to get a handle on thing first.

My long term plan is a 130-180g mixed reef tank, and with a display refugium (like, long-long term). I'm perfectly happy to take it slow and steady with big tank as I learn the ropes, but if it's worthwhile to start small, I'm willing to give that a go too.

Do you recommend starting small, or going straight for the tank I really want, provided I do plenty of planning and research?

I am completely new too, however I have done at least 9 months of research and my tank is still dry. I think as long as you know what you are doing, and you make a plan, you should go for the 120, but not the 180. The 180 is way too easy to overstock
 

alexgv14

New member
I think a lot depends on your budget but I found a common theme in reef central where tank owners are constantly getting bigger and bigger tanks. I started out with a 30 gallon, then 120, then 200, and now 135
 

ChimolaFish

New member
Id say start with something that would allow you to get a small tang, like a Kole. So at a bare minimum 75 (or 90) or maybe find a custom size like my 115 that is 6ft long. You're gonna want to go bigger, so might as well bite the bullet if youre just going to upgrade from a 120 to a 180.
 

DasCamel

New member
Depends on you and your budget. I jumped in 150 last year w/o regrets. If I had the space would have done 200.
 

IanWR

New member
The deciding factor on tank size may be your budget. Fit your tank comfortably within your available funds. I might like to have a 300+ gallon tank, but I plan on staying married so I'll stick with my 72.
 

Tin Man

New member
I have a 125g that has been empty for a few years. I ran it with a large bio-ball hazard sump for years and closed it after a tank crash and job circumstances had me on the road every week. Now I am stepping back into the hobby with a live rock and QT approach that are new to me and I feel like a beginner again. SO, my approach was to find a used Biocube 29 for the office (purchased from a member here - thank you), which I started to cycle two weeks ago using 30lbs dead rock and 2 bags of live sand and a frozen shrimp. I am learning as I go and my thinking is making mistakes on a 29g will be cheaper than making them on the 125g. One thing that is constant on the forums is the need to go slow, which for me means testing what I am (re)learning here on a small tank before (re)starting a larger tank.
 

greaps

New member
I would go small personally. The actually tank you buy is one of the cheaper components in the hobby. Live stock and lighting is much more expensive. I would go no larger than a 120g.
 

TDB

New member
Bad things happen faster in a small set up . I think if your budget will allow a good starter would be 75 to 90 if not buy the biggest your budget will allow to do it right. Take your time this is not a sprint it is a marathon.go slow and good luck.

There is tons of information here on RC read on !
 

SaltyDoug

New member
I would try to snag a used system off craigslist in the 40 to 90 range.
That way you get a better handle on what your going to want for a stocking list in your bigger tank. Also you'll have practice getting the rock work the way you want.

Now that I've had my 92 corner for a few months I have the entirety of a 180 planned out in my head if I can commit to the plunge, though it looks like a 120 will be more realistic for my budget.
 

ReefsandGeeks

New member
I've had my 40 for 10ish months, and it took me a whole month or 2 to wish I had a bigger tank. If you do propper research before hand and go slow with any changes to your tank (stocking, dosing, temp changes...etc) than you shouldn't have any problems with a larger tank if you can afford it. There are ways to make it more affordable, like buying a used tank or setup from craigslist or from a local forum. Just looking around it would be easy to get a tank or setup 80% off of retail in good condition. That's what I'll be doing for my next tank, which I plan on going for around 200 gallons. If doing coral, you can get frags instead of colonies, go to frag swaps or buy from local reefers who will usualy give realy good deals when they go fraging their tank. Plus a larger tank doesn't need to have any more livestock in the begining than a smaller tank. It will look empty, but you'll always find more coral or fish you want to add to the tank and a large tank gives you plenty of room to slowly add for a while.

I'd sugest realy trying to figure out what livestock you'd like before setting up a tank though. Like if you put a puffer fish or some non-reef safe fish in the tank now, you'll eliminate your option of eventualy adding coral, or shrimp, or likely some small fish. Just helps to know what your ultamate goal is so you don't see a realy pretty fish and impulse buy it, only to regret it a few months down the road because it isn't compatable with something else you wanted to buy.
 

Goldndoodle

New member
I did a 28G nanoCube last December - now cycling a 120G setup.

As SaltyDoug said above - check Craigslist for a used setup. I got my 120G tank, stand and canopy off of Craigslist for less than I paid for my nanoCube and stand. I also found a 50G breeder tank on Craigslist for FREE - which is now my sump.

I upgraded my LEDs in my nanoCube last spring - those LEDs cost me about 1/3 of what the new lighting cost me for my new 120G setup.

The cost for the bigger system is definitely higher, but considering I'll soon have 4x the space of my nanoCube - it wouldn't have cost me 4x as much if I had just started with the bigger system to begin with. Here's hoping I can sell the nanoCube setup and recoup some of the money I put into that.

That being said ... I have learned a lot about saltwater systems, fish, clean up crews, corals, etc. over the last year with my nanoCube. The experience with the smaller system is what leads me to a bigger system. Because I loved it so much, and wanted to keep fish that could not be kept in a smaller system (Kole Tang, Diamond Goby, Mandarin), I knew very early on in the nanoCube setup that I would be upgrading, and upgrading big, eventually.

Knowing what you really want out of your system, what corals & fish specifically, will guide you to what you really need. If you know you'll always be happy with a couple of clowns, a firefish some LPS and Softies - then a nice small all in one system is probably what you need. But if in the back of your mind you're thinking Tangs & Mandarins - then you need a big DIY system.

Good luck with your decision. And whatever you decide come back here often and ask lots of questions! These forums are an awesome source of great information!!
 

bpcardona

Trying to hard
I am going to simply repeat what everyone else is saying. It boils down to budget. If you can afford all the equipment for a 180 then go for it. However I would scarfice quality equpiment for size. Typically the bigger the system, the more expensive the accessory equipment. For example, if you have a larger set Up, the amount of water you need to have on hand is higher. Do you have the budget and space for this? However with that said, like others have noted, the bigger the system the smaller the parameters swings. And if there's any secret to reef keeping it is stability and consistency.
 

Sn8kbyt

New member
I am going to simply repeat what everyone else is saying. It boils down to budget. If you can afford all the equipment for a 180 then go for it. However I would scarfice quality equpiment for size. Typically the bigger the system, the more expensive the accessory equipment. For example, if you have a larger set Up, the amount of water you need to have on hand is higher. Do you have the budget and space for this? However with that said, like others have noted, the bigger the system the smaller the parameters swings. And if there's any secret to reef keeping it is stability and consistency.

+1 go as big as your budget affords. My current build is my third setup and at about 300 gallons over all I am in to it about $7000 and it has yet to see water.
 

St Pete John

New member
I am a newb as well with my first tank being around 10 months old.

I went straight to a 180 with a good buy on craigslist and the only thing I regret are the scratches on the front. They didnt bother me when I started but now... I am looking for a 240 lol.

Go big, I love my tank and wouldn't want anything smaller.
 
I am completely new too, however I have done at least 9 months of research and my tank is still dry. I think as long as you know what you are doing, and you make a plan, you should go for the 120, but not the 180. The 180 is way too easy to overstock



Can you, or anyone I guess, expand on this?

Never heard this before, I am looking into a 180 vs 210, maybe bigger.....
 

jonwright

New member
So you are asking folks that are pretty serious about this bhobby what they would do. You aren't asking folks that got it, got over their heads and got out. Just a little perspective.

Starting with a used setup that isn't complicated is a good way to get in and ensure this is what you want to do long term. Lots of used equipment on CL to be had. For tanks don't purchase unless you SEE it with water in it.

If you have a large tank the equipment is more - so if you buy something you don't like you're spending more $$ to figure that out. Chemistry will take a while to figure out. and if you have a disaster it is, of course, much larger with a big tank.

If you start with a 40-90, say, if you get out not a big deal. Not a big deal to sell those, either.

If you get in and decide that the maintenance is OK, your time is OK, and that your $$ is OK you'll be upgrading anyway. And you'll also have a better idea of exactly what livestock you'd like to keep.

I'm on a 3 year plan to get to my 175. And when my 175 is set up - I know it's gonna be right. :D

I've done the 40 (which is now my QT tank), refurbed a 50 that's my "new" display tank that will be a species tank. And my 175 is in my basement man-cave on a longer implementation schedule.

If I got the 40 and then petered out it wouldn't have been that big of a deal with minimal $ outlay.

You'll be researching anyway and with a "simple" and small setup you can then avoid the panic: "My water chemistry is all hosed up and I have $500 worth of coral in the tank!"

It's your thang. Do what you wanna do. If you have $5k burning a hole in your pocket and you gotta get rid of it - go for it! It's fun! :D
 
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