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Tips for a Successful Reef Tank

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  1. #1
    SaltyDog - Reefkeeper CR Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Colorado Springs,CO USA

    Default Tips for a Successful Reef Tank

    A long time ago when I was much younger and in the company of my studying marine-biologist cousin we tried many ways to see what worked the best for setting up a new system.Mind you this is about 15years old.....but Still a good starting point IMO.But you'll see the reference to I and we a lot throughout...lol

    1. Tank: 30 gallon + 8. Sea Salt
    2. Substrate: Aragonite sand (crushed coral) 9. Specific Gravity meter (hydrometer)
    3. Live Rock 10. Thermometer
    4. Protein Skimmer 11. Test Kits – Nitrite, Nitrate, PH/Alkalinity
    5. Power Heads Optional: 1. Overflow with sump & pump
    6. Heater Optional: 2. Wavemaker
    7. Double Bulb Florescent lighting + Optional: 3. RO water filtration

    Our Recipe: (Steps to Setup at the end):

    Tank Selection – 30 gallons or more (bigger is better!). Long is better than a “high” tank.
    a. Fish swim side to side more than up & down.
    b. A shallow tank will increase the effectiveness (intensity) of your lighting.
    1. Deep Sand Bed – 3+ inches deep.
    a. We recommend using the substrate “Carib Sea “Sea Flor”. You can “seed” your sand with a couple of pounds of live sand if you wish to “jump start” your sand bed but this is not necessary if you use live rock as the bacteria and life forms already present in the rock will migrate to & seed your sand.
    2. Live Rock – approx. 1+ lb for every gallon.
    a. Used in conjunction with the deep sand bed, live rock is the “other half” of Mother Nature’s “natural” biological filtration. Beneficial bacteria lives within the rock just like it does on the filter cartridges of your mechanical (let’s say back hanging) power filters, thus eliminating the need for such power filters.
    b. Make sure to build your rock structure with open spaces so water can flow from the back wall to the front etc. This will also create great hiding & swim through places for your fish!
    i. Types of Live Rock:
    1. Uncured: This is rock that has not been “cleaned”. When rock is collected from the ocean, some of the living organisms on the rock die. The decomposition process adds excess nutrients to your tank. This is totally acceptable for new tank setups as it will “cycle” your tank. Uncured rock is NOT recommended for established tanks.
    2. Cured: This is a process of cleaning the rock. Any dead organisms are cleaned off the rock & should not add nutrients when placed in your tank. Recommended for established tanks.
    3. Protein Skimmer – Venturi type is highly recommended over air stone driven.
    a. We recommend an “Amiracle Venturi” skimmer (we do not recommend using a “Skilter”). Nuisance algae feeds on excess nutrients in the water. A skimmer will remove waste particles not seen by the naked eye thus creating much higher water quality.
    b. How a Skimmer Works – Air is injected into the skimmer’s water column creating tiny bubbles. The bubbles naturally have a “film” surrounding them which picks up dirt as they rise through the water column in their travel to the top of the skimmer’s collection cup where they collect as “foam”. There the bubbles break & release their “dirt cargo” into the collection cup, thus efficiently removing wastes. The waste products are food for (fertilizer) for unwanted hair algae etc.! You see this occurring naturally on our ocean beaches where the waves, full of air bubbles, break on the shores leaving strips of foam on the beach, full of unwanted nutrients & pollutants!

    Lighting: – 3 – 8 watts per gallon (the more the better!)
    Example: 30 gallon tank with 2 dual strip lights - a total of 4/ 20 watt regular flos = a total of 80 watts divided by 30 gallons = 2.67 watts per gallon. Bare minimum for tanks with corals!
    a. Florescent Lighting: We recommend using 2-Triton (white light) & 2-Blue Moon Actinic bulbs (blue light). Fine for soft coral species & some LPS.
    b. VHO (very high output) Florescent. Good for soft, LPS (large polyp stony, i.e., Open Brain, Elegans etc.) & some SPS (small polyp stony)
    c. PC’s (power compact) florescent – same as VHO list.
    d. Metal Halide – Same as VHO list. 10,000k max. Recommended used in conjunction with actinic lighting.
    All lighting types listed above should contain a mix of actinic (blue) and white (6500k min.)

    Power Heads: – Creates necessary water movement – minimum of 2.
    Optional: Wavemaker – This is an electronic unit which automatically turns on & off your power heads creating “wave action” similar to that in the oceans. Just plug your power heads into the unit & select desired wave action strength & it does all the work! We recommend Red Sea Wavemaker Pro.

    Other Optional Equipment:
    1. RO TFC Water Filtration – We recommend the Kent Bare Bones TFC 10GPD units. This is a water purifier which will remove up to 98% of unwanted pollutants in your water whether from well or city delivered. The unit will dramatically reduce the chances for unwanted algae growth!
    2. Overflows w/Sump & Pump – Some tanks are “predrilled” which eliminates the need for an “overflow box”. Tanks not drilled would use an “overflow box” which removes your tank water by means of gravity with the use of a “U” tube which dumps the water into a prefilter box then down a ribbed hose to your sump. The sump is a water collector which can be another fish tank, tote or specifically purchased sump. A pump (in-line or submersible) pumps the water back up into your tank. The return eliminates the use of one power head. The overflow & sump naturally create aeration to the tank as well as can house your heater, skimmer etc. decreasing the amount of equipment in your main tank. Marine tanks which do not utilize an overflow system will have a “film” on the tank’s water surface. This overflow system skims the water’s surface, removing any film generating material. We recommend using an overflow system.

    1. Water changes – 10% weekly! Water changes physically removes unwanted waste & replaces calcium & trace minerals your fish & corals deplete during the week. Water changes eliminate the need for additives like Iodine, Calcium, Iron etc.
    a. Do Not mix fresh salt & water & dump directly into your tank! Freshly mixed saltwater needs to agitate/stir at least 24 hours before being added to a tank. Just add a power head to your water container. Though you can’t see them with the naked eye, some salt crystals take up to 24 hours to completely dissolve. Also, fresh salt releases gases which need to escape from the water. These gases can be toxic to your all your livestock.
    b. We recommend using Tropic Marin Sea salt. We’ve found it takes less salt to make a gallon of mix water and it’s also the most complete for trace minerals.
    2. Additives – Marc Weiss/Coral Vital. This will greatly help coral & coralline algae growth (the pretty pink & purple encrusted on the rock & tank walls!). It’s also said to make Ick dormant.

    Steps to Setup your Tank
    1. Place your tank in the spot you want it. Make sure it’s level!
    2. Setup your overflow system (if opted)
    3. Add your water & salt to mix a “specific gravity” of 1.023
    4. Add your heater – set to 78 degrees
    5. Put your power heads in, preferably on both side back corners, flow facing front center. Let your tank water mix for at least 24 hours then…
    6. Add your substrate then live rock. Make sure your rock structure is solid (won’t fall down) with an open channel behind and spaces between the rocks for good water circulation. You may want to lay a few pieces of live rock on the bare tank bottom before adding the sand as the sand will help keep your “base” rock in place. Larger tanks-use “aquarium sealer” to make a base grid.
    7. Patience! Allow at least 3 weeks for the tank to “cycle” then test for NitrItes. When your NitrItes measure low, test for NitrAtes. If NitrAtes are detectable, allow one more week & test for NitrItes again. NitrItes should read ZERO before adding ANY livestock to your tank. NitrAtes should be under 30ppm. Best if at 10ppm or below.
    8. Test for PH which should be in the range of 8.2 to 8.4.
    9. Run your skimmer once live stock is added.
    10. Dose tank with the additive “Coral Vital” as prescribed.
    11. Add “Clean Up Crew”. Cucumbers (clean sand) Astrea or Turbo snails (eat algae) Sm. Brittle Starfish (eat fish waste and uneaten fish food. Adding Hermit Crabs of any kind is not recommended. Even Scarlet Reef Hermits will make a meal of Astrea snails. Hermits will irritate the snail’s foot until it let’s go of what it’s attached to then the hermit will pick at the snails until the snail is devoured. Again, there are other natural methods to use for clean up.
    Please! Do not cycle your tank with a fish (Blue Damsel or otherwise). Though pretty, Damsels are super territorial & will chase & pick on any new fish added after. For any newly Introduced fish this is extremely stressful and many times results in death of the newcomer. Select your fish carefully. Will they eat corals? Will they get along with the other fish you have or may like to add in the future? Will they eat inverts (shrimp, feather dusters etc.)?
    Got ink????Go big or go home......

  2. #2
    SaltyDog - Reefkeeper CR Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Colorado Springs,CO USA


    Increasing Colaline Algea Growth:
    1. Coraline algae loves actinic blue actinic light and hates white light. To give your coraline a boost, increase your blue light and decrease your white light. Coraline grows best deep in the ocean where only blue spectrum light can penetrate. When starting a reef tank, allow the blue actinic bulbs to run 24 hours a day for two weeks. Gradually introduce white light one hour a day while reducing the actinic blues one hour until they match.
    2. If you have an existing tank and want to boost the coraline algae growth, begin using Sea-Chem supplementation.
    a. Two tablespoons Sea Chem. Reef Plus twice a week ***See further note
    Two tablespoons Sea Chem. Reef Complete twice a week
    Two tablespoons Sea Chem. Reef Calcium twice a week
    The capful measures to one tablespoon.
    ***Further note on the Sea Chem. reef plus: make certain to refrigerate this supplement.
    On tanks that have a skimmer make certain to hold off on adding the other two supplements until the skimmer has slowed.
    In tanks that don't have skimmers yet you can add the other two supplements right away.

    Make Up Water:

    1. Week two - SeaChem Reef Advantage Calcium. One tablespoon per gallon of makeup water
    Week three - SeaChem Reef Builder one tablespoon per gallon of make up water.
    Week four - SeaChem Reef Advantage Calcium. One tablespoon per gallon of makeup water

    a. I allow the makeup water to sit out in open air for 24-hours before placing in my tank. If the tank has a sump I pour the water in the sump. If the tank has no sump I allow the water to slowly pour
    out of the gallon container until appropriate level is reached in the tank. Salinity is checked in all the tanks each and every single day. Allow all the containers to set out 24 hours before adding to the tank. We also rinse out the container after each use. We do this for a full week and then switch back to the other.
    Got ink????Go big or go home......

  3. #3
    larryandlaura - Reefkeeper
    Team CR

    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Houghton Lake
    Awards Monthly Giveaway Winner Fantasy Football Champion Referral Award Monthly Giveaway Winner


    What a great write up. Thanks for taking the time and posting this thread.
    Hi my name is Larry and I'm a coral addict!

  4. #4
    SaltyDog - Reefkeeper CR Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Colorado Springs,CO USA


    We used SeaChem alot back then...now its purpleup and some others that work pretty good in helping with the Coraline growth.
    Got ink????Go big or go home......

  5. #5
    larryandlaura - Reefkeeper
    Team CR

    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Houghton Lake
    Awards Monthly Giveaway Winner Fantasy Football Champion Referral Award Monthly Giveaway Winner


    I use sachem reef complete and buffer. Used it for years.
    Hi my name is Larry and I'm a coral addict!

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