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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
HELLO FORUMERS! I am brand new to the reef scene. This weekend i'll be picking up a 55 gallon tank that my dad has laying around not in use and beginning what i'm sure will be a long project. I have been reading anything i can find about setting up and starting a reef tank and all this absolutely fascinates me. My goal over the next month or so is to get all necessary components that i need to start getting water ready. I am trying to figure out what all i need and what each component does. LOTS TO LEARN! If anybody has some extra time to give me a crash course in what all i need in the way of electronics i would appreciate it greatly. I plan to go as slow as i need to so that i can create a perfect ecosystem for the future fish and coral. I don't have a very big budget to start with, just trying to keep the wife happy and start a new hobby, but i do understand short-cutting and buying crap will only set me back and cost me more money. I would appreciate any and all tips, tricks, or info anyone has for me. Thanks for reading! Hope to get some good info!
 

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I started by checking out a book. The New Marine Aquarium: Step-By-Step Setup & Stocking Guide by Michael Paletta. TONS of informaion there. It'd be hard to do a step by step here, based on all the different methods, equiptment, and basic preference everyone uses here. This book has great basic fundementals to get you started. Or simply read the sticky posts at the top of this forum :)
 

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Welcome to the hobby! This place is great for information. If you ever have questions on diff brands or forms of equipment, its no secret, we love to brag about our equipment. Lol. Ask away.

And +1 to the sticky threads.
 

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Get a good lawyer! :nhl_checking: Between the time spent on the tank and the second job trying to pay for all the stuff you'll never see your wife! :jester:

Ok...a little exaggeration... :no: (a little)

Watch the ads here, you can get a lot of "gently used" stuff for much cheaper than retail. If by "not a big budget" you mean less than around $200 (that is what it means to me), you'll be wanting to cut a lot of corners. And there are definately ways to do that with DIY and such, without compromising your system.

The tank is probably the cheapest part, so if it is a bit scruffy/scratched and you have a nice light, equipment, and corals, you might regret it later since it is the hardest part to swap out.

Stuff to start: skimmer, lights, pumps for circulation, live rock.
Optional but recommended: sump, return pump

Then there's the reactors, the controllers, ato, dosers, and a lot of other stuff that will decimate the budget in a real hurry.
 

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Save the next three years of your life and just send me 4500.00 and you might even get to keep the wife! haha

Just kidding...kind of ;-)

Read, read, read, plan, read, re-read, re-plan, then post, then read, then buy something, then read, then regret your purchase.... so on and so fourth. Rinse and repeat.
 

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I don't know if you've discovered Wet Web Media yet. If not, check it out. There is a wealth of information on that site. When my saltwater addiction began, I spent hours and hours doing research there.
 

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If a little budget is indeed $200 you might as will start fresh water. If you do it, it should be done right or not at all imo. You need a tank which its free, should be drilled, sump which you can get a cheap one or diy probably $50, skimmer is important so usually $200 for a decent one. Hob skimmers are junk IMO but better than nothing, lights are very important, figure a few hundred there at least and that's used. Leds are the new thing but can be expensive. Depending on what type of coral you may need a pellet reactor $100, could get a calcium reactor for $200 our more, heater for 30 to 50, figure about $100 to $200 sand and look in the selling forums for rock as it's usually $2 to $3 per lb. probably 60lbs or so will be needed if not more. That's to get the tank up minus the reactors.spend the money on good lights and skimmer or you'll be sorry and probably have issues. Then it's time to stock your tank which is whatever you want to spend. There are free be frags, cheap frags and if you're hardcore there are thousand dollar frags lol
 

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Ok, I've done this for years, and I can get things done cheap. I set people up all the time who are on budgets, and you can keep a nice well kept saltwater aquarium for less money than most people think.

You just have to be patient. There is a saying that works well for saltwater, you can have it good, cheap, and quick, but you only get to pick two...

cheap and quick isnt good
good and quick isnt cheap
good and cheap

The facts are, good and cheap takes time. Keep in mind, cheap is a relative term...

The best way to setup a saltwater aquarium cheaply is to focus on the essentials.

Tank
Sand / Rock
Salt water
Heater
Water Movement
Lights
Life

The trick to keeping the cost down on these is to buy used.

Tank:
You are getting the tank free, and that's great! As mentioned above, if it is in good shape its worth it. If it's all scratched up or leaks, its not.

Sand / Rock:
Typically you can get this when someone is shutting down a tank. There is a huge hassle when buying used sand. You have to clean it, and let it re-cycle before putting fish or coral etc in your tank. Its cheap, but again... it takes time! Live rock can be gotten pretty easily around $2/lb and you should start with 50lbs (In my opinion) this will be the bulk of your initial cost.

Salt water:
The cheapest way to start this is buy buying a case of saltmix, (you want at least enough for 100g. You need to have enough to make all your water, and some to do water changes in the future. You should be able to get salt for around $50-60 for a 200g mix case, or 160g mix bucket. Then go to your local grocer and buy r/o water.

Heater:
I suggest buying two used ones (new if you have the $$$) and set one a degree or two cooler than the other. This ensures if one fails, the other will kick on and keep everything from dying. You don't need two right away, so feel free to only buy one for now.

Water Movement:
Find a used Maxijet 1200 or a hydor korilla 4. Put it on one and face it up toward the top of the water. This is aerate the water and mix it around at the same time. Eventually you will definitely want to add more, and position them better, but this works for a starting place.

Also, put your heater in the corner that the pump is pushing the air towards, as the water crashes against the side of the tank, it will be forced downward and the heated water will mix better with the colder water settled at the bottom of the tank.

Lights:
Anything cheap will work for now, you are not adding any coral for a while so save your money, and keep an eye out for something used. Just make sure the bulbs are newer, and meant for saltwater. You don't want to start out with a huge algae problem.

Life: (the fun part!)
The bacteria you need to keep the cycle going will be in the sand and rock. The bacteria is what makes "Live" sand, and "Live" rock...

After you setup the tank with everything above, wait till the next morning. grab a sample of the water, and take it in to your local fish store and ask them to test it, and write the parameters down for you. You should do this at least every other day for the first week to watch the tank cycle and find balance. Most fish stores should be ok with this, they know you are new, and you will probably buy the fish from them if they build that relationship with you. If they aren't willing to help, or offer advice, GO SOMEWHERE ELSE!

Once the tank is cycled, buy a pair of ocellaris or percula clownfish first. Do not buy "damsels" Clownfish are in the damselfish family, and are just as hardy but far less aggressive and more likely to get along with other fish you add in the future. If you absolutely hate the look of clownfish, do a little research to find other non aggressive hardy fish that you like. You only want to add one or two fish at first, so don't go and buy a school of chromis or anything just yet...

The trick is to keep a well balanced reef, Bacteria is your biggest filter on a saltwater tank, and the most important. Fish will create waste that is toxic and will need to be broken down into less toxic material and then removed from the water. At first, this will be done through the live rock and sand as well as regular (I suggest weekly 10%) water changes.

Don't worry about the sump, protein skimmer, reactors etc just yet. You have just the basics here, and we've been keeping saltwater tanks without those things for years.

As your tank finds balance, you can add things, but make sure you keep it balanced. for example,

After you add your first fish, and the tank balances out, then add some snails. Give it some time, and add a shrimp or a crab...

ALWAYS MAKE SURE THEY ARE SAFE TO ADD. If you add something that isn't reef safe, and then add something from a reef, just count on loosing it. Back when I worked in the fish business, people would always bring in chocolate chip star fish that another store sold them. This always ticked me off, and a few stores got to hear my Opinion on their business ethics and quality of staff... long story short, people would buy them for their reef tanks, and the things would devour all their coral almost immediately! Our tanks were littered with them in our sumps...

Be smart, and research what you want to buy before you buy it. If you want a reef tank (an aquarium with live coral) then make sure you buy only "Reef Safe" creatures.

Also study out sensitivity and toxicity of the creatures. Another popular problem I saw were sea apples, cucumbers etc... People love them because of their colors, but when they are ticked, or die, they ink... and the ink is toxic!

As your tank grows, so with its needs. That's when you will need to upgrade things, and help keep the balance. The only time you need to add additional filtration equipment to your system is when it isn't properly balanced. This is where I will probably get flamed, but everyone has a right to their opinion and in my experience this is the case.

I currently run a network of tanks totaling over 500g and do not run a skimmer, or a reactor of any kind. That being said, I have roughly 700lbs of live rock spread throughout the system and less than 20 fish. I have 30-40 peppermint shrimp ~20 emerald crabs, hundreds of snails and astrina starfish, lots hermit crabs, mini brittle stars, etc... to put it in short, the system is well balanced. I do have a skimmer I can add to the tank if I would like, but I haven't ran it in a few months, and took it out because it was taking up space. I used to only run it a few times a month.

I do however suggest getting a protein skimmer when you can afford it. It will help you remove organic proteins (waste) from your tank and allow you to have more fish.

Also on your list should be lights that can sustain the coral that you want to keep. One of the best things about saltwater is the coral that you can keep in the tank. There are tons of threads on here discussing what lights are best, and why. Read them and better yet, visit some reefers houses to see their tanks, and make up your own mind on them.

You will also want to upgrade to a sump eventually. Sumps are great places to hold things like skimmers and heaters and other equipment if you choose to add them. You can also hook them up to auto top offs so you don't have to add fresh water all the time to keep your tank where it should be. Sumps add extra space to put more live rock, and even macro algae to help clean the water. The also aid in the aeration of the water and the return will increase the movement of water in your tank. In my opinion, a sump is the best upgrade you can give your saltwater tank, and you will benefit greatly from having one.

All in all, the best way to get your equipment for cheap is to buy a setup from someone who is either getting out of the hobby or upgrading to a bigger setup. Just make sure its a good deal, and the equipment will allow you to do what you want to do.

Most important, read and research as much as you can, and don't be afraid to ask questions. Also, ask questions about the answers you got from the earlier questions...

Have fun, and happy reefing!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Wowww!

VERY HELPFUL GUYS! very impressed with this site!!! you guys are awesome for helping newbies. I found a guy that i work with that used to run a saltwater store. he has a backpack and live rock that he will sell me for cheap. I ran some ideas by him and read all of yours and here is what i'm thinking... he said something about plastic egg crate material on the bottom to keep water pockets under the sand. the explination of how/why it works has already left my brain. but it made sense at the time. so i'll do that and add live sand and water. he will scrub the live rock for me so its ready to go in my tank when i pick it up. so im thinking of adding about 75-100 pounds of rock(whatever i can fit) to help filter. the coral will be my favorite part of the tank anyway and more rock will just mean more homes for coral. then use the backpack as my protein skimmer/filter. also i want to get 2 koralia 3 powerheads. dont know quite where to place them yet but i'll try a few places when i get the tank set up. then when the water is finally balanced out i'll add a few clownfish. another guy at work who said he had a saltwater tank said he used mollys in his tank to start with. anyone tried this? last thing i have to figure out is lighting. there is so much to learn but i think i need to pick out what corals i want first to determine how much light i'll need. i'd say this part confuses me the most. also most of the reading material is filled with words i dont understand. its like a physics class. anyway... thats where im at so far. thank you guys so much for your input. i cant wait to get started.
 

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Welcome Reefermadness!

How long ago did your buddy own a LFS? Things change/advance at an alarming rate-just like with children. What he is telling you MAY have been ok then and now is scientifcally proven to be wrong. I use NO eggcrate under my sand. Does anyone else know if this is the current/best way to do it based on studies by reputable sources?

NEVER cycle a tank with a live fish. That is cruel to the creature. Just toss in a piece of shrimp and let it do it's thing. The biggest thing that you need to be on about is "do no harm". If you don't know about the critter, fish or coral do NOT put it in your tank until you have read about it and are sure you are ready to give it the best home possible. If you are pulling living creatures off the reef to put in your tank, PLEASE be responsible and do the right thing.

Pick out ALL of the fish that you want in your reef. Your wish list will be your baseline for your reef. Add the most docile of them first. Clowns are very territorial and can be a real pain...literally. Mine would tag me HARD and even learned to bite me in the webbing of my fingers. Sounds harmless until your hands are cold and wet, then it hurts.

Welcome to your new addiction! Happy Reefing :victory:
 
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