Uniquarium 55 gallon & a newb

Chadsterzzz

New member
I'm brand new to saltwater tanks and although I had a freshwater oh so long ago (doesn't mean much in this new day and age).

I was recently given a 55 Gallon Acrylic Rectangle UniQuarium Aquarium 36x18x20 by a friend. http://www.acrylicaquariumsdirect.com/55gallonacrylicrectangleuniquariumaquarium36x18x20.aspx
The tanks has some scratches which I've bought the Novas 1,2,3 kit and buffer set to get rid of. I've bought a few books, listening to a few podcast and I'm currently doing my best to learn all I can before I make the next step of setting it up.

After doing some reading here I've found out one really good bit of information"¦ that this tank isn't all that good and thank GOD I didn't spend the money to buy it.

I am going to keep the tank (heck it was free) and from what I've read 55 gallons seems to be a good starting point for a beginner. Sadly the information about a good setup for this tank seems rare at best. I can't seem to find a good blog, youtube or forum where someone is listing out some good setups, upgrades or general modifications that should be done to this tank. Although some have said that the back can but cut out to give the 4" or 5" back to the fish, I'm not sure I'd want to go that far"¦ heck I'd be afraid of doing more damage than good.

From what information I have read the built in sump isn't that good nor is the optional skimmer built to fit in the back chamber the best quality (http://www.preferredpetproducts.com/venturi-protein-skimmer.aspx). I have read that I should put some crushed live rock in place of the bio balls and also put chaeto into one of the chambers as well.

Again I've read some not so positive reviews of this tank (rear sump), lost space and the cost of a new one seeming to be the main reasons (there might be more or less but that seems the main points). At some point I do plan on getting something better but since it was free I feel like it would be a good starter/learning tank.

So now to the main point/questions I have:

1) How should I set up the rear area of this tank? Would the live rock, chaeto be the best method for this tanks filtration? Are there any other things I should do/shouldn't do back there?

2) Is there a better skimmer that would fit in the rear chamber? Is this really for those who go reef and not really needed for a fish only system?

3) I've read the Live Rock and Live Sand is a good thing to do in just about any tank"¦ yes I've also hear the opposite of this as well, but since the systems built in sump doesn't seem to be the greatest it sounds like a good idea.

4) What power jets should I get for this system? I've heard 2 on opposite sides pointing at each other would be good idea.

5) Is there any advice that you all could throw my way on setting her up that I might not be obvious to a newb?

6) Any idea on the max number of fish I'd be able to get in there (I want it to be a community tank and smaller fish for sure).

7) At some point in time is there a possibility of getting some small coral in there?


Any advice, help or direction is VERY much appreciated and wanted.

Thanks,

Jim
 

sweetyness

New member
You are not alone!

You are not alone!

:bounce1:Hi Jim! I have a feeling you and I are going to become good friends! I just got back from my LFS with a brand new 55 gal Uniquarium and couldn't be happier! I was thinking of starting a new built post when I ran across your posting. When I researched this tank I could not find hardly anything about it online! But I did finally conquer my 28 gal. Nano Cube tank so with the extra gallons and room this one should be much easier (knock on wood).

I got into saltwater tanks almost 2 years ago with a 24 gal. Nano Cube. These have the same back chambers as the Clear For Life Uniquariums, just much smaller! Through many trials and tank crashes, algae outbreaks, aptasia (nuisance anemones), red slime outbreaks, fish & coral deaths in and out of the water, etc. etc., I still do not consider myself and expert- BUT I feel I have found the way to keep an all-in-one type aquarium balanced and happy. Many hours, dollars and tears later, I have a balanced beautiful flourishing tank.

I will be more than happy to tell you my plans for my new tank. It is not up and running yet, so who knows what surprises may be in store, but we can go through them together if you want! I plan to take what I have learned and what works for my Nano and apply them to this new tank build.

One thing I have found to be true when you search for help with reef tanks, is that there are many different opinions on the best way to do anything! I have never heard so many different views. My head was spinning. I'd follow one advice, and then when it didn't work I'd find another post that said don't do that. This sand, that sand, this additive, that one, and on and on. I finally started listening to my experienced local fish store owners. Not the guy at Petco, but the guy (or gal) that's had saltwater tanks all their life and knows their stuff. It is usually much simpler than you may think.

Before I answer your questions, I’d like to reply to some of your comments:

  • Clear For Life tanks an one of the best acrylic tanks you can buy- superior acrylic strength and brightness, seams are chemically sealed and not glued. I’ve read lots of great reviews on their quality. It may be the back chamber filtration system that people bag on. My goal is to create a clean minimal system that doesn’t have all the pipes and hoses and under cabinet sumps & skimmers and stuff. Trying to make it as easy to maintain as possible. We will see if I am successful!
  • This tank is a great first tank, I’ve been told the smaller the harder to balance (hence the 24 gal. lessons). Consider it not a 55 gal. with lost space, but a 41 gal. with a 12 gal. refugium/sump. (Considering water level, approx. 53 gals., but then sand and live rock will take up some of that room as well. (Novia works great for scratches, btw)
  • These tanks are expensive, but you got yours for free! And my local fish store gave me a great deal since I am a regular customer, so I lucked out.
I’ll put more detail in my build post (which I hope to get to soon!) but I’ll answer your questions with my opinion:

  1. My plan for the back chamber is (right to left looking at back):
    • [*]1ST chamber: API Bio-Chem Zorb & Phos-Zorb
      [*]2nd chamber: Skimmer (my lfs owner says Hydor is the best for this, Koralia Slim-Skim fits & it’s up to 65 gals.)
      [*]3rd chamber: Heater
      [*]4th & 5th chambers (where bio balls were): live rock rubble bottom half & chaeto algae on top with fluorescent lighting (same as my HOB refugium except leaving out the magic mud & sand base since I do not want to have to change the mud every year). I run the lights from 11pm to 6am to help keep PH balanced during the night.
      [*]6th chamber has the return pump​
  2. Hydor mentioned above.
  3. Live rock is a basic for a balanced saltwater tank. I use sand, some people have bare bottom tanks, but I like the look of sand. I’m only putting 1” down, so little biological help. I decided on CaribSea Seaflor Special (I’ve had crushed coral w/ sand, too coarse, & then fine sand, way too messy.)
  4. Ocean Dual Pulse Wavemaker with 2 Koralia Powerheads (alternate back & forth to simulate waves). In my Nano I have smaller Koralias on each side on the back wall by the corners, one higher than the other. (I don’t like the look of then attached to the sides) The flow circulates around the front rounded corner edges. LFS expert says a single Vortech is the best.
  5. The tank needs to fully cycle before you add fish or coral. If you buy some live rock that has been in a balanced fish/coral tank it will speed that process up (search for tank cycling to learn more, plus can your friend help you at all?)
  6. I’ve heard it said 1” of fish per 5 gals. (tail not included) which is conservative, but it all depends on how balanced the tank is- how well it processes the fish waste and how much you feed. Start snails, hermit crabs, shrimp that eat extra food & unwanted algae).
  7. Coral: Absolutely! But that also depends on what lighting system you have. Some take stronger light than others. I went from compact fluorescents to Metal Halide and now ordering Current TrueLumen Pro LED strips for the new tank, (to cut down on electric bill and lower the MH heat output!) Start with what are considered easy keeper coral.
These suggestions are based on my personal experience. I’ll let you know when I start my tank build blog. Congrats & welcome to the hobby! (ie. obsession :spin2:) Get ready to be sucked in!
~Jana
 

sweetyness

New member
When I searched for 55gal. Uniquariums the only current post besides yours was this one: http://www.nano-reef.com/forums/lofiversion/index.php/t289706.html, and they love the tank! Keep in mind there are many brands of uniquariums, but from the measurements I know yours is a Clear For Life. If your friend sent in the warranty card, or has the original receipt it has a lifetime warranty against defects, a rarity from what I've read.

The first one I looked at was a 50 gallon where the length 36" & the height 20" are the same as the 55 but it is only 15" deep, which means the display part is only 10.5" deep- too shallow in my opinion for rocks and sand area. But I loved the tank so looked online and found the 55 with an extra 3" depth, just enough extra room inside and still fits in the space I have for it. Wanted a bigger tank but not a 48" beast :). I saw you lucked out on the brand and size. (lots of inferior acrylic tanks on the market, these are brighter & the best quality acrylic along with the SeaClear brand) have fun!
 

sweetyness

New member
Hi! It's been a long time since I've been on this website. Unfortunately I had to sell the 55 gallon tank I built after about 2.5 yrs. due to money and time constraints. But the answer to your question is yes- my setup worked very well after some tweaking to get all of the right components & water. Let me know what you'd like to know. Although it has been several years, the biggest challenge I found solutions for was the water not staying clean enough. And coral not thriving in places where there were water flow issues & light problems. I bought a used VorTech Wave pump (pricey even used) but it was amazing! Made the rank come alive just like you are looking into the ocean. Lots of settings too.
I also found a Hydor slim skimmer that fit in one of the back compartments. The one Area that still needed improvement was the lighting. I had metal halide in the tank previous and the coral loved it. For this one I bought LED steps that were supposed to be good ones (and not cheap) but the coral did not do as well. I was looking into trying to find better ones before I sold it.
I also hired a tank service company to come once a week and found out the Catalina Island water I was using is not as clean as the mixed commercial salt. Switching over helped keep it cleaner as well. Took a while, but once you have it dialed in upkeep is much easier.
 
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