Dipping toes into salty water...

Discussion in 'Tank Journals' started by swk, Jan 9, 2014.

  1. swk

    swk Guest

    Hi there. For those that don't know me, my name is Sean, and here's my thread from the "welcome" section:


    So, my plan includes a 40B, with a 20L sump. I can go larger on the sump to say, a 29, if the consensus is that it will provide a huge advantage. The stand will be DIY and will be either wood, or steel with wood skins. I plan to make the height between 30-36" so I have plenty of room to maneuver inside the cabinet. I will be drilling the tank, but I am unsure as to what style system to go with. I would prefer to rig up a herbie as opposed to a glass-holes single overflow with a straight standpipe. I am certainly open to any and all ideas you all have. Consider me a sponge. I'm good at taking advice so throw some my way if you see me veering toward disaster!

    So here's a brief, and probably disorganised run down of equipment and questions:

    #1 - Overflow. I assume a single 1" or 1.5" drain will be sufficient. Is there a way to do a herbie, or bean setup without fabbing an overflow box that's not totally ugly?

    #2 - Return pump. How much flow do reefers prefer to have through the sump? 5x? 10x? I will use a submersible pump for this application

    #3 - Skimmer. Been looking at these 2 models simply because I'm most familiar with this brand and it's overall positive reputation. I also have gift cards to DFS, so I'd prefer to buy from there.

    Obviously the smaller models. Are these ok or are they too big? Any other brands and models I should look at?

    #4 - Wavemaker. I have a mp40w laying around I could use. Too big? If so, I was planning on purchasing the jebeo (sp?) wp25s or 10's. Could really use some advice on this

    #5 - Lights. Although I plan to keep easy corals at first, I don't want to have to purchase new lights to move to sps. My plan to keep things affordable at this point (I have a 2 yr old starting pre-school) is a Reef Breeders value fixture. I assume 1 unit will be adequate if I am strategic about placement

    #6 - Sump. Will be a DIY 20L with filter sock. Is a fuge in such a small setup that advantageous? Will split the drain to sock and skimmer on one side, fuge (if I use on) on the far opposite end with the return pump in the middle.

    #7 - reactors. Do I need them for GFO and/or Carbon?

    #8 - RO/DI. Not on my "need" list as of now.

    #9 - Rock - Was planning dry and soaking in RO to leech phosphates. Cycle will be with ammonia and bacterial starter. Or should I use live rock?

    #10 - Special Seafloor grade from whoeveritis

    #11 - This is where I need help. Can someone help guide me on my questions and point me in the right direction if there's something I missed?

    Again, many thanks and I'm very excited!
  2. swk

    swk Guest

    Of course I forgot at least one thing...

    #12 Dosing - Depending upon need obviously, am getting the impression that 2 part is pretty effective on smaller setups. Is a dosing pump required or can it be done by hand?

    #13 ATO setup. I hear this can make or break an in-sump skimmer. Is that true?

    Ok, done for at least the next 10 minutes......
  3. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    (Nice freshwater tank BTW)

    Sounds like fun!!
    Opinions below, others may disagree.

    Any chance of going larger than a 40B? With salt water, you do not get the fish density, plus
    some of the more interesting fish need more "personal" space.

    Make the sump as big as can reasonably fit in the stand. You ALWAYS need more space.

    Return pump: 5X should be fine, assuming water movement is mostly powerhead based.

    Skimmer : I love my reef octopus.

    Reactors are not required but are nice. You can use media bags in the sump. Although I had one leak recently.

    RODI is probably a must-have. Buy a used one and get new membrane if cost is an issue.

    Dry rock is great. No need for expensive true live rock.
    And less surprise critters.

    Dosing pumps are great. Vacations and forgetfulness really cause issues with hand dosing.

    ATO is only key for your skimmer if there is no separate skimmer section.
    The problem is the water level on the skimmer must be constant.
    But you can silicone in a simple baffle or two to fix that.
    That said, having an ATO is rather nice in general.

    You need to think about Nitrate removal.
    On a small tank, lots of water changes is often fine.
    Consider making a small refugium section in the sump.
  4. mediumrare

    mediumrare Guest

    check out my build thread (link in my signature) for my 40breeder with 20-long sump.
  5. iCon

    iCon Supporting Member

    You have quite a list of numbers but I'll chip in some thoughts for #9 and #10

    Dry rock is fine since you can seed the tank with a single piece of LR from a CLEAN neighbor tank. I'd suggest BRS reef saver or marco rocks.
    For sand - Check out Tropic Eden reef flakes.
  6. iCon

    iCon Supporting Member

    And two 'do nots'..

    Do not overstock the tank. Do not overfeed. :D
  7. swk

    swk Guest

    Hahaha - you are correct there lol! Just like to have the knowledge to attack things the correct way. Especially where live animals are concerned
  8. FeliciaLynn

    FeliciaLynn Supporting Member

    Personally, I think a 40 gallon is a great size and I actually somewhat prefer smaller saltwater tanks to the larger ones. There are different pros and cons to both of course, but I don't hold to the bigger is always better theory in this hobby. I love my tanks and both of my tanks are only 30 gallons and are completely self-contained (no sumps or plumbing). :)

    I think an MP40 is absolutely perfect for that tank. One MP10 wouldn't be enough for a 40 breeder, so the MP40 is great since you can dial it down to just the right flow. No need to go buying another pump if you have one of those on hand!

    I think a fuge will be beneficial because I think macroalgaes make a huge difference in keeping good water quality in smaller tanks. Its also a great place for copepods to breed without being eaten by the fish. Some of the pods will of course end up back in the tank, so the fuge can help replenish the live foods for your fish to snack on.

    I think reactors are one of those things you can hold off on buying and decide if you need them. I run bags of filter media on one of my tanks and have never needed reactors. However, my seahorse tank has more issues with phosphates because of the frequent feedings, so I run reactors with carbon and GFO on that tank. I only added those reactors once the system was all set up and I realized they were needed though.

    Depending on the corals you are keeping and your water change schedule, you may not need to dose alk and Ca at all. I know when my tank was first starting out with mostly soft corals and some LPS, I didn't need to dose at all. I was able to keep everything in range just weekly or biweekly water changes. However, once I added a bunch of SPS corals and clams, I had to start dosing alk and Ca daily. B-Ionic is great for smaller systems and that's what I personally use. I hand dosed it for quite a while, which is easy as long as you can remember to do it daily. I now have a dosing pump for the alk portion but I still hand dose the Ca. Dosing pumps are one of those things I consider an upgrade when you have the excess funds. They aren't necessary, but they make your life easier.

    Dry rock is great! I started both of my tanks with BRS dry rock that I seeded with a few nice pieces of live rock from a local store. Its much less expensive that way and you don't risk having pest critters you have to remove.

    Personally, I'd say get an ATO if you can afford one. I topped off the water in my tanks by hand for the longest time, but it quickly becomes a chore and its easy to forget. Also, on smaller systems the evaporation can make a big difference a lot faster than when you have a large water volume. You can get a JBJ auto top off system for about $80 (cheaper with coupons to BRS) and then a Toms Aqualifter pump for about $15. Its not expensive at all and it saves you the work of constantly topping off the tank. Also, its great to have for when you have to go out of town for a few days and can't be around to top off your tank.

    In terms of lights, I don't know much about T5s so I can't help you there. Although, if your main goal is budget with the lighting, I'd look into LED fixtures. They're a bit more money up front but they're going to save you money long term because bulb replacements every 6 months or so on T5 fixtures can add up quickly. LEDs won't need to be replaced for the lifetime of your tank, they're more energy efficient, and they don't put out anywhere near as much heat as T5s so you won't have to worry about the possibility of running fans or a chiller to cool the tank.

    No need to get an RO/DI unit right from the start. You can always buy RO/DI water from the fish store for now. Then a bit later down the road, when you have some spare funds, you can get your own RO/DI unit. The BRS units are really nice and are very affordable. I personally use their 5-stage system.
  9. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    Good points about the tank size in posts above!

    The main reason I mentioned larger is because of looking at your fresh water tank videos, and all the fish you have.
    I worry you may be disappointed, as I was a bit when I switched.

    Better would be to say : Spend some extra time thinking about what livestock you really want,
    and choose a tank size that matches. If a different size is even an option.
    denzil and FeliciaLynn like this.
  10. HiFidelity

    HiFidelity Guest

    I didn't have enough time to read beyond your first thread so I will throw in a few maybe helpful bits of info for you to look at...

    This will apply to everything you're doing, since you are new & you are starting off with this tank, simpler is better. A reef system can become very very complex these days with the endless list of equipment options, techniques & practices. I experienced this myself a couple of years ago and I still can't stick to one thing or another, once I got my system in cruise control THEN I began to experiment with different things & sticking only to what worked.

    1. you should only worry about the setup you're building and hardware, don't worry about the chemistry just yet, by this I mean don't worry about GFO or dosing just yet, there are so many different ideas & techniques here you will just spin your head making a selection based on reading. Of course we can discuss these aspects in specific detail in the future once you have the essentials put together, but you don't have to necessarily build your system a certain way to accommodate a GFO reactor, one can always be added to any system if needed unless you're crazy like me o_O & decide to build a manifold that runs everything on one pump (mentioned in my thread linked bellow). A good place to start reading about chemistry & dosing is kalkwasser, I'll tell you right now it works great on this size tank & it is the cheapest most stable option for controlling ph, alk & calcium. Don't forget, this part I would just research for now and don't take time away from your build.

    Read these links on down time and save them so you can read it again when you're ready to fill the tank (I read each of these articles at least twice before I could absorb all the info);

    Everything you need to know about kalkwasser;

    Good read on sumps, but the overflow section is a bit dated (many new things have come out since)

    2. pick good quality equipment from the start. I made a big mistake & went with the affordable easy to get into setup, I'm doing more than twice the work now by having to replace my entire setup out and I wish I'd done it right from the beginning.

    3. you will see different opinions on different forums and even from different people within one community, so again this is why I say keep it simple at first until the hardware is taken care of and the basic husbandry becomes second nature. This happens most often when it comes to discussing whether you should dose carbon vs. gfo vs. biopellets etc. etc. you will end up very confused & indecisive.

    I will share my own threads where certain topics you mentioned here have been extensively discussed
    here's one about overflow & plumbing; http://www.bareefers.org/forum/index.php?threads/new-tank-plans-help-me-plan-it.15945/
    I believe this will be very relevant to your needs because I'm pretty much putting together the same thing as you, only difference is my tank/sump are both acrylic and the tank is 45 gal. I spent many hours researching overflow types with pros & cons, I don't believe that I'm putting together the best setup ever but the decisions I made on what to use come from a position a lot like the one you are in right now.

    Lighting, you seem like you prefer DIY so in case you might want to explore that world here's the exciting world of LEDs and the rainbow of options they come with; http://www.bareefers.org/forum/inde...scussion-in-full-spectrum-led-concepts.14120/ this thread grew into a decent bank of great articles and technical data for LED systems.

    Most of all, don't forget to enjoy every minute of this build :)
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2014
  11. swk

    swk Guest

    I am very well aware of the differences between sw vs fw stocking rates. The petro and trophs must be kept crowded like that to keep them from literally killing one another off until you're left with only 1.

    The part about this I'm really started to be fascinated by are the corals. Don't get me wrong, I love the fish, but they will take a back seat on this build and play a supporting cast role to the coral life. At least that's the plan...
  12. swk

    swk Guest

    Thank you everyone for your bits of wisdom. I really appreciate it. Fishkeeping is the only avenue of my life where I am literally capable of learning from others and their mistakes! So please, keep em coming!

    Some specific questions: Do either of the skimmers I posted sound ok for a 40B? Are they too big? Other good brands that're not cheapo, but reasonable besides RO?

    Anyone here use reefbreeder LEDs? Can't beat the price of the value fixture.

    On a side note, I am looking at a 75 gal on craigslist that is a decent deal, and is acrylic, which I prefer. I just think my parts and pieces, particularly lighting, will cost me much more on the 75g vs 40g footprint which I'm not really willing to do until I'm sure that I'm sold on this branch of our awesome hobby.
  13. swk

    swk Guest

    For some reason, this link is busted. I really would like to read it from your description
  14. bluprntguy

    bluprntguy Webmaster

    One of you links to the skimmers is broken, but the other one is a Reef Octopus. I just bought the Reef Octopus Spacesaver (http://www.bulkreefsupply.com/catalog/product/view/id/3047/) and it's awesome. It's really quiet and doesn't need much adjusting. I think you'd be good with any skimmer that they make. Find one that rated at least twice your tank volume.

    With LED's you are likely to want some control of the light, so I'd bump up to the "Photon" if you want to go with a reefbreeders fixture. They are well liked on other boards, but I'm not sure that I've seen one on a BAR member's build yet. You'd be able to grow SPS in the middle, but the far edges of a 40 are probably going to be dark.

    I'm a fan on the AI Hydra. I've had a few lights over my tank and it's the one that looks best by far. I think you might need two, plus the controller, so it would be almost a cool grand in lighting.
  15. HiFidelity

    HiFidelity Guest

  16. FeliciaLynn

    FeliciaLynn Supporting Member

    Couldn't have said this better. Size is really up to what you want to do and what works best for you. Stocking, budget, maintenance, space, etc all come into play when deciding what size tank is going to work best for you. Since you said you are mostly focused on the corals and are trying to stay on budget, something small like a 40 gallon seems like a good sized started tank to me.

    I went the DIY route with my LED fixture on my mixed reef tank. I bought a kit from aquastyleonline.com and built the fixture myself and it turned out to be a lot less expensive than a pre-built LED. For my seahorse tank, I just got a Maxspect Razor Nano, which is a great little LED fixture that's one of the most affordable pre-built fixtures and its awesome because it has full sunrise and sunset settings all built into the light, so you don't need a separate controller to use those features. They make a larger version that would work on a 40 breeder. Here's a link. The 27" long, 160 watt version would probably work best on a 40 breeder. These fixtures have been getting a lot of great reviews on the other forums I frequent and I'm really liking mine so far.
  17. swk

    swk Guest

    Ok! Some progress, thanks to petco. [​IMG]

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Marc and HiFidelity like this.
  18. iCon

    iCon Supporting Member

    Love the free background - You should keep those! ;)
  19. swk

    swk Guest

    Sooooo, next steps are to build my stand, order my lights, and build my sump I suppose. I'm still back and forth as to whether I want to drill the 40 or just use a HOB overflow. I've used them for years on certain tanks and have never had a problem. IMO, they're quite reliable if they're set up with the worst case scenario in mind. As far as other equipment like skimmer and hydrometer, etc, I've just been scouring the forums and craigslist daily.

    Was told by a well respected LFS up in sonoma county that I wouldn't need a skimmer right off the bat since I'm starting with softies and LPS. That sound legit to you guys and gals?
  20. aqua-nut

    aqua-nut Supporting Member

    No accounting for taste! :D

    I vote for painting or using vinyl sign stock. Black is my fav.

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