FAQs on Marine System Set-Up & Components 29
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Marine Set-Up 28, FOWLR Set-Ups, Reef Tank Setups, Small Tank Setups, Moving Aquarium Systems,
Related Articles: Marine Set-Up, Marine
Planning, Getting Started with a Marine Tank By
Adam Blundell, MS, Technology: Putting on the Brakes:
How much is too much? By Tommy Dornhoffer Reef Set-Up, Fish Only
Systems, Fish and Invertebrate Systems,
Small Marine Set-Ups, Large Marine
Systems, Cold/Cool Water Marine Systems, Moving
A mix of encrusting sponges. Sipadan 08
Small Marine Aquariums
eBook on Amazon:
by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Small Marine Aquariums
eBook on Amazon: by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Small Marine Aquariums Book 3: Systems
eBook on Amazon:
by Robert (Bob) Fenner
To the staff at WetWebMedia: Help w/ new SW set up
Hi, my name is Mary Wheelehan, and I am greatly in need of your
I am currently in my senior year of high school, and I have been working
on an extensive school project concerning the care and keeping of marine
aquariums. For the past year, I have been gathering information through
a variety of sources (including the magazine Tropical Fish Hobbyist,
through which I found your web address) in order to best educate myself
for this year, when I will actually be purchasing an aquarium in hopes
establishing a successful community of marine fishes. I'm writing in
hopes that one of the staff members will consent to help me through my
project for the rest of the school year.
This would primarily include email communication whenever I should have
a question about my tank, and a small
presentation of my work to you at the end of the year. Please tell me
what you think of this, and hopefully you'll be able to help me create a
tank of happy, healthy fish!
Thank you so much!
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
I'm considering a 50 -60 gallon
tank and am pondering a first marine experience.
How expensive is start up?
<A few to several hundred dollars likely>
How much time is needed for maintenance?
<A few hours a week>
I have had a large fresh water Amazon tank before and enjoyed raising
<Ahh, harder to keep Symphysodon successfully than a simple salt set up>
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Bacterial Bloom? 2/19/14
Hi! I recently started (1 week ago) a new 95 gallon reef
tank using Dr. Tim's one and only, three fish and a small cleanup crew.
<... I would have held off on the last>
Immediately afterwards, my tank water got cloudy and has remained ever
<Yes; not uncommon... microbial population explosion most
I know he states on his website that the bacterial bloom I'm seeing
isn't the bacteria in the bottle and that it can be attributed to the
faster growth of heterotrophic bacteria. The only additional
things I'm using is activated charcoal and running a skimmer. All
parameters look good (ammonia, nitrites and nitrates are all zero).
Water changes seem to have no affect. Is there anything else I
can do to assist in clearing it up? UV? Air stones?
<... sparse feeding; no more livestock; patience>
<Welcome; Bob Fenner>
Refugium LED lighting... 90 gal., SW likely set up q.s
Long time no help! Much has happened since you straightened my
tank out. Unfortunately, a flooding was one of them. I had to break that
amazing tank down. I gave away thousands worth in live stock.
Now we are moving to a house and i want to start planning the new
version. There are several ?s.
1) the 90 gal tank stayed outside under an awning for about 2 yrs.
will it be ok? I bought it new in late 2004!
<Should be if there was no water in it during a freeze.>
2) i need a new stand. Threw out the old due to rot. Not taking chances.
What you recommend?
<Anything you wish provided it is constructed for aquarium use or built
well enough to support 1,000+ pounds.>
3) i think my AquaC 120 is still ok but if not... It was outside
<Well that is easy enough to check and same as above regarding
4) the tank is a predrilled oceanic with overflow left of center.
Should I redesign the overflow?
<For what reason? What is the size of the bulkhead?>
I've seen various overflows and i would imagine that my older tank
design may not be as good. I can't move the drilled hole but i can
redesign the overflow if worth it.
5) need sump/refugium. Want to do it right. Suggestions? Can build one
but still need design.
<Might want to peruse here and related articles in the header.
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/refugium.htm . I also suggest the
use of LED lighting for your refugium. Very economical and long
6) i read you started a business selling this stuff? Which one?!
Would log e to order.
<I do not build sumps/refugiums but I do sell Orphek LED Lighting.
You can contact me at
email@example.com with any questions you may have.>
7) backups: what ways can i make this one from becoming an insurance
<Design/build a sump which can support the flow rate and water should a
power failure occur.
Never rely on check valves, they have been known to stick.>
Many more questions before i start but don't want to overload!
<No problem. James (Salty Dog)>
Advice; using WWM 8/22/13
Could you please give me a recommendation for my 150 gallon reef
aquarium I am setting up.
The over flow with go into a sump. Your advise on protein skimmer and
return pump would be appreciated.
<... this information is posted... in FAQs archived on WWM>
I am leaning towards a exterior return pump. I will eventually add a sea
grass refugium. I have read your articles and have studied a
lot but still would value your opinion.
<...? On what?>
The head area for pump return would equal 12 feet considering 1 foot per
90 degree on return. There are two overflows. Sincerely , Suzy
<Keep reading. Bob Fenner>
Outdoor Saltwater Aquarium 8/9/13
I have searched your site and not been able to find a single question
addressing this issue. Sorry if I missed it. I am considering moving my
300g saltwater aquarium (reefish) outside. I am in the process of doing
some renovations out there and I need to decide relatively soon whether
or not I need to make a place for it. It is currently housed with 12
flasher wrasses, goldflake angel, regal angel, powder blue tang, and 6
yellow tangs. It is also housed with 20-30 corals of varying sizes, but
I stop short of calling it a reef tank. Fish have all been in tank for
6+ years except for the yellow tangs, I tend to lose 1 every 2-3 years
for unknown reasons.
<With you so far>
Anyways, the place I am considering moving the tank would be outside,
completely in the shade. My "vision" is to have the tank surround on 3
sides by stone work and concrete a build insulation into the tank on the
bottom and those 3 sides. The front would obviously be exposed so that
the fish could be viewed. I would create a rain proof cover (the sun is
completely blocked by vegetation, but rain gets through) over the tank
but the lights that are currently on the tank would still be used (3
metal halide lamps). I would also have built an insulating cover for the
front for times when I may be gone for the weekend, or during a busy
So I only see 3 problems. 1) algae - but have I done enough to "protect"
my tank from yellow sunlight that is algae causing. 2) heating and
cooling the tank. I don't think heating would be that hard, but wonder
how tough it would be to cool the tank in the summer.
<How hot does the ambient get there? The mid eighties F should be fine
w/o a chiller>
Was thinking maybe allowing the tank to get up to 82 or so in the summer,
which may make that more practical. This would of course exacerbate the
algae problem. 3) My tank is perfect where it is. They say never change
something that is working.
Any thoughts? I know this is such an open ended question but I don't
really know how to be more specific. Thanks for your website and your
help when I need it!
<Can be done. Years back I helped install a few such systems outdoors.
As you state, incident sunlight and heat/cooling issues are the real
sources of trouble. Will you be outside (enough) to enjoy this system?
I hope so.
Re: Planning Question... SW Sys. 7/13/13
As promised here's a quick video of the tank layout. I also have an old
55g tank in the boiler room I plan to use for QT. Any comments are
Still a bit unsure where to put the RO/DI since I want to set up an auto
<Great to have the bathroom, sink, drains behind the tank for ready
use... And I do like/appreciate the good use of flexible tubing (as
opposed to rigid) for ready movement, change of the mechanical plumbing
under the tank... I would use extra length (you can get at hardware
pressurized lines for the RO/DI of course... for when you'll want to
pull the entire unit out/forward for work; mainly replacement of
Further ideas? I would paint/coat the wood under and above the tank now
(before setting up the system w/ biota, water)... even though you have
the air vent & humidastat... and just to make sure, you do intend to
remove the polythene cover twixt the tank, over your lights? Bob Fenner>
Re: Planning Question 7/14/13
Yes on the plastic off the lights. I'll be sure to paint the trim before
I put water in the tank.
I just made a cardboard footprint of the tank to plan the aquascaping.
Feeling good about my design. I'm planning to use some 1/2 inch PVC
"stands to help me build some towers to hide the returns. I'm guessing I
can get a little closer to this than the walls since the overflows are
Questions about the products I bought/buying/Marine Set-Up
I have a few questions about my saltwater setup that I plan on doing
this winter. I have gone through a good portions of the articles on WWW
which have given me the confidence to tackle this project but I still
like to get your opinion if that is ok?
As this is my first saltwater tank it will be a learning experience for
sure. For stocking my plan is to do a few fish, maybe start with some
green Chromis and some easy corals (still need to do more research on
the corals on which ones are easy/hardy). The tank I am using is a 90
gallon non drilled tank with a store bought stand. For the filtration I
went with an Eshopps PF-800 overflow box which will drain into 30 gallon
tank that I will use for the sump,
<Mmm, can you return this overflow? Much better off with an overflow
that allows use of an Aqua Lifter Vacuum Pump. This greatly
minimizes/eliminates air bubbles trapped in the siphon tube which
causes you to restart the siphon often enough to learn new cuss words.
My choice would be a CPR CS100 with the Aqua Lifter Vacuum Pump.
Take a look here.
The return pump is an OTP-3000 with 3/4" clear flex tubing for the
return hose. I'm pretty sure that this will give me enough gph flow.
<I'd go with the next model up to make up for head loss. You won't get
anywhere near 650gph going into the tank.>
I plan to add 2 power heads to the main tank for water movement but I
haven't decided on which ones and what sizes/gph I want to go with yet
so I am open to suggestions. For the sump and skimmer this gets a little
tricky. With my stand I only have 22" from the inside bottom of the
stand to the top of the front access door with a few inches past that so
my options on a proteins skimmer are kind of limited due to height
restrictions. So far one of the better options more reasonably priced
options I have found is a Reef Octopus NWB-110 which will go into the
first chamber. I have read a few reviews on this skimmer but do you or
anyone on the team have any experience with this type of skimmer like
how easy it is to setup/tune?
<I've heard good reports on Octopus skimmers but you may want to post
this question on one of the marine forums and get input from others that
actually use them.>
After a few baffles I plan to fill the next compartment in the sump with
live rock only to aid in the filtration.
<Not really necessary with live rock in the main system.>
Lastly will be the return pump will be in the last chamber. Do you think
with the sump, protein skimmer and powerheads that there will be enough
water movement and filtration?
<Yes, but go with a couple of MJ1200 powerheads and preferably the
inexpensive Aquarium Systems Wavemaker.>
Back to the corals the tank gets some indirect light from a west facing
window which isn't enough to support most corals and it just so happens
that I got a very good deal on an Aquaticlife T5 HO 6-lamp light fixture
with lunar LEDs. This partnered with some sunlight what would be my
limitations/concerns on what I could successfully stock?
<This should be fine for most corals if not all. What type of lamps come
with this fixture?>
Thanks for taking the time to help!!!
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Re Questions about the products I bought/buying/Marine
I'm kind of stuck with the overflow box and return pump.
<OK. The pump will work well since you are going to be using additional
means of water movement.>
I won't be back to the store I bought them from till December and I got
such a good deal on them I doubt they will take them back. I knew the
gph would be a little on the low side with this setup so I wasn't
planning on over stocking with fish. This is not my ideal setup but with
out having a drilled tank and my wife putting her foot down on me buying
a different tank I will just have to make this work the best I can.
I had a couple of local people recommend the Octopus skimmer but I don't
have my heart set on it. Is there is a different manufacturer that you
have had good experience with?
<AquaC is a very good manufacturer and is based in California.>
My initial thought was to put live rock in the sump to help compensate
for the lower gph I will end up having. Is this a bad idea?
<With two additional power heads you will have enough water movement.>
If so what would you recommend in the sump for additional filtration if
not live rock? Sand bed or just leave it open?
<Maybe a small bag of carbon. The live rock will take care of
Thanks for the help!!
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
The light comes stock with:
(4) 36" T5 HO 39W Actinic / Blue Lamps
(1) 36" T5 HO 39W 10,000K Lamps
(1) 36” T5 HO 39W Purple Lamp
(4) 1W Lunar LED`s
<Mmm, wonder what a purple lamp is, thinking high range UV. I'd
replace the purple and one of the actinics with 10K lamps.>
Crushed Coral Substrate- PLEASE RESPOND... learn to/use WWM, SW set
up f' 10/10/12
Hello My question is very simple; do you recommend using crushed coral as a
substrate for my marine tank set up?
<Often so; yes... along w/ other calcareous substrates. This is posted/archived
i am in the process of setting things up after months of research.
My Display tank is 150 gallons and sump with refugium is 50 gallons.
I plan on using crushed coral DSB in the display and refugium. Any advice on
this would be greatly appreciated.
<... Please read here:
scroll down to "Marine Substrates....", "DSBs...">
Thanking you in advance Kerry PS other equipment that I have:3 Kessil A350 LED
Coralife 220 protein skimmer and 1 hang on Prizm skimmer
Coralife 500 gal Calcium reactor
1 phosphate reactor
1reactor with carbon
I plan on using Chaeto in the refugium
I also plumbed a closed loop system with a quiet one 3000 driving the flow and a
large SCWD 1"
<See WWM re this/these... Closed loops are passé. Bob Fenner>
my return pump is a Mag drive 1800I also have JBJ Ocean stream 1600GPH power
heads on a wave timer
Time to ask the experts; actually, to read
After years of fresh water fish keeping I have decided to try my hand at a
saltwater. Go me! I have a few questions that I can’t seem to get figured out
well enough for my liking.
The tank I plan on converting is an non drilled 90gal tank that sits in my
living room. I have been reading for days about filtration for this as well as
asking the few people that I know that have saltwater setups and I have been
unable to come up with a good solution for this tank. My plan is to do a few
fish, live rock and some coral but for now I just want to get the water flowing
and worry about stocking later. I know a sump would be ideal but since I haven’t
set one up before I am more than nervous about getting the plumbing wrong and
flooding my living room plus I want to keep the canopy on the tank so tall
hanging filters won't work. A canister seems simple enough but this the best way
to go for good water quality?
<Not the best, no; but can be made to work. I'd just read re>
And if I go with the canister what is the best choice for a protein skimmer?
<... this too is posted, gone over and over... Let's have you either read a good
overall marine aquarium book or two or just scan through here:
I don’t want to break my bank on this but I do want to get good quality and easy
to maintain products to keep the livestock healthy and happy.
I have gotten so many different opinions
<... look for the facts, rationale behind such... Like all fields, some
viewpoints are (more) valid than others>
and read so many different articles I’m down right confused. I have asked my LFS
all of these questions but they keep trying to sell me on all these different
<Tis their job>
Since my tank isn't drilled it’s hard to find things up here that don’t require
to be plumbed
<Available on/through the Net...>
and I can still use my canopy.
<Can be easily modified>
I want this to be a fun project this winter without a major incident like
flooding my house when the power goes out.
<More than understood. Bob Fenner>
Drawing Board, SW set up 5/6/12
I am planning to set up a larger system. I currently have a 55, and
decided it was way to small. I am planning to get at min. a 175 gal. I
do not currently have a sump and thought the 55 would work great for
I was thinking it would be better to just drill holes into the tank and
allowing it to overflow as water is pumped back to the system, as
opposed to doing a syphon overflow box.
<See WWM re... agreed as well>
I would probably also have several powerheads in the system.
<Several, as in the M.E. "many"? Not necessary. Two good ones
well-placed will do>
The design I had in mind would only have one pump in the sump that would
pump water into the display tank. The idea is that the same amount of
water is added as leaves the system. It also would protect from issues
with a power outage because the holes would be on the same level. Is
this a good idea or not really?
Should I attempt to assemble
something similar before using the actual tank just to make sure it
<... better to plan all out on paper... tools, materials, steps to
New Tank/Marine Set Up 5/2/12
Hello WetWeb Crew,
<Hello Erik and Eric>
My friend is looking to start up a 55 salt water tank. He
is willing to put about $250 in after the purchase of the tank.
<Mmm, not much to work with there. A decent protein skimmer will
run over 150.00.>
He was just wondering what type of filtration method would be the best
<Best to start by reading here.
And an index to our marine articles can be found here.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Erik and Eric
Tank Setup, acrylic manuf. sel.,
plumbing, circ. 4/13/12
Hi Bob and crew,
First off I'd like to say the site you have is just awesome, so
<Glad you enjoy and thank you.>
I am getting ready to finish part of my basement and I am going to be
putting in a new setup down there. Part of the wall will be bumped out
and the tank will be viewable from the front and right side and I will
have a small fish room to the left. Also, this will be my first attempt
at a reef tank. I wanted to run the setup by you to get your opinion. I
currently have a glass 150 gallon FOWLR and I am looking to purchase an
acrylic 75 x 24 x 28 tank from Envision Acrylics. Have you heard
anything on this company or recommend anyone else?
<Mmm, they do have a notable list of clients. I would be happy with
Since I am able to customize it I was wondering what would be the best
configuration for the two overflows. Should I put two boxes in the back
corners, a trapezoid in the middle with two drains or I've seen
coast to coast external overflows. Is one better than the other? I was
leaning towards the trapezoid in the middle
with two drains in it.
<I would lean your way as well.>
As far as the drain size, would two 1 1/2 in pipes with Durso's be
Looking on your site a 1 1/2 in pipe should handle about 750gph, and if
I'm correct I want the tank to turn over 3-5 times.
<Actual flow rate will depend on your plumbing, avoid elbows if
possible or other restrictive fittings. You should easily get 800gph
through each drain. See here.
The tank is about 220 gallons plus about a 50 gallon sump, so I was
thinking about 900-1000 gallons per hour? The two 1 1/2 in pipes will
give me 1500 gph so I would have a little bit of cushion.
<Do you plan on supplementing the actual flow in the tank with
I would shoot for a total flow rate, including powerheads of at least
This leads me to my next question. For the return pump I would like to
do an external pump, I was looking at the Iwaki's or the
Reeflo's. Should my return run over the top or should I run the
return to the top of the tank through the back and use loc line? Should
I use 1 inch or 3/4 inch piping for the return?
<I would incorporate the returns in the overflow box and would go
with the output size of the pump.>
I was thinking of coming up from the pump to the top of the tank and
branching off a T fitting to the right and left side. Based on this,
which pump would work the best? I was looking at Iwaki MD40RLXT,
(don't know if this is strong enough).
<I would opt for a pump that would put out at least 2000gph. You
should put a ball valve on the pump return for controlling the flow
I also plan on using a Vortech for additional flow so it would not
totally rely on the return for flow.
<Great, you have answered my question above.>
My last question, I promise, is it safe to use the sand and live rock
that I have currently in my FOWLR setup for the new tank. It has been
up and running now for about 3 years.
<Mmm, depends on how nasty it is. Likely full of detritus/waste. In
my opinion it's not worth the trouble and time to clean the old
sand. Better to just replace and start anew.>
Sorry for being so long, I just want to make sure I do it right the
<Do plan carefully.>
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Re Tank Setup, through-put size, pb....
Thanks for the reply. I have a couple more questions now after reading
your response. Based on your response and checking on pumps of 2000gph,
the piping for the return would have to be 1 inch. Should I have one or
<A one inch line coming up and teed off and reduced to two 3/4"
You said to run the return through the overflow box. Would I want to
run it over the top or would going up half way and putting a bulkhead
<Bulkhead fittings through the overflow. Envision Acrylics should be
able to do this for you. They will place the returns in the proper
Just tell them or whoever what you want to accomplish.>
Do they make any type of loc-line type returns for 1 inch piping?
Everything I see is either 1/2 or 3/4 inch, so what would my options be
with a 1 inch return pipe?
<You will be teeing off into two 3/4" lines so there will be no
Also, I will not reuse my sand from my current tank and I assume the
same would be said for the live rock?
<The rock could be bleached and put through several rinsings and be
seeded with a few pieces of fresh live rock. You can use the old rock
as base rock to build up bommies or whatever plan you have.>
Last question, are there any other acrylic company's you would
suggest looking into?
<The Aquarium Company does nice work at reasonable prices. Might
want to give them a call at (888)989-8988. Bob may input here with
Thanks for all your help!
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Fish Tank/Marine Set-Up
I have a 50 gallon mini ocean aquarium (self-contained). It was a gift
to my biology classroom. I would like to set the tank up for
invertebrates - coral, anemone, worms, sponges, etc...
<Some will not be compatible with others.>
I have 5 pounds of LR and about 1/2 inch of base.
<Not enough rock.>
It has been going for about 2 months. Unfortunately I am having a
hard time getting it started. Everything I have put in it has died
except for a little yellow goby. I also have fuzzy green and reddish
purple algae growing on my other rocks and bottom. My levels are
salinity 1.02 ppm;
<I'd get this to 1.024-25>
temperature 79 f , pH 8.2, Nitrite .05,nitrate 5.0 and ammonia
<Nitrite and ammonia both too high. Should read 0.
Ammonia at this level is lethal to marine animals.>
I know my ammonia is high but I am not sure how to get it down and I am
not sure what animals to start with. Obviously we are all novices at
this endeavor. I have read a lot on line and I have a pet store man
trying to help. Your site seems to be the best to answer direct
questions. My students call it "The Tank of Death". Do
you have any suggestions on what to do?
<Yes, start by reading here and related articles found in the
James (Salty Dog)>
New to SW... 11/14/11
Hello I inherited a tank from brother n law. Its a 4foot 45gallon tank.
It has an aqua c H.O.B skimmer with MarineLand 1200 powerhead and 2
Hydor 4's (older model). I have ocean sand and supposedly live rock
with 1 clown fish and 1 hermit crab. Its what survived. Question on
skimmer...when I turn it on it makes lots of noise and white bubbles
forms up middle tube to overflow rectangular box. It should be black
foam coming up right?
<Mmm, darker, yes. Let's have you contact AquaC and chat w/ them
How do I know if rock is actually alive?
<Visually... seeing things growing on it>
I did notice one night a clear spaghetti looking thing coming out of a
hole in the rock. And there is tiny green pointy things growing on
And I have both Hydors pointing at each other near top of the tank.
When should this tank establish itself and how do I get skimmer working
properly and quiet?? thanks guys
<Mmm... well, best for you to go back a few steps... read a good,
complete general marine aquarium handbook. You can borrow such from a
Neale has a list re... but better for you to do a search on the Net re
others reviews as to what is helpful. Alternatively, you're welcome
to read through WWM's root web starting here:
"New" old saltwater tank
I have a 55 gallon saltwater aquarium that my wonderful husband just
bought me as a birthday present. (It is the first tank I've had in
12 years) He bought it from private sale from a man (had it for 1 yr)
that had bought it from private sale from another man (unknown how long
he had it).
While some of the filters and the tank and stand are newer, the water
in it is at least 2 yrs old, it has a couple of inches of sand on the
bottom and a single layer of rock on the bottom- it's currently a
fish-only tank. It has 2 large bio-wheel filters on the top, a power
head, 2 heaters, 2 aerators, and a sump running to a 15 gal high
underneath that has a filter w/ Biowheel, rock and shells for
substrate, and a mesh baggie with "something" in it. A
powerful pump (500g/hr) brings the water back to the main tank. It
currently has 4 fish in it, all established but I'm afraid are
inappropriate for this size tank; a green Bird Wrasse 5-6", a
Niger Trigger 4", a Sailfin Tang 3.5"
<Needs more room than this>
, and a Maroon Clown (yellow-striped) 3". Each of them looks
fantastic and all are eating and behaving normally. Oh, and there's
1 hermit crab.
You need to know I live in Oklahoma, and after this year's drought
our water here is worse than ever for a variety of toxins and
concentrates that were already a problem.
<Do look into a Reverse Osmosis unit for your pet-fish and potable
The man we got the tank from said he just put the Tapwater into the
tank mixed with Instant Ocean salt (no other chemicals!).
<Is fine if the tap is okay>
He also said he's never vacuumed the substrate and rarely performed
water changes. The water is crystal clear and algae growth is minimal.
The rocks don't look "live" which surprises me. They are
lightly dusted with algae, shouldn't they have growth on them?
<Not necessarily much... IF there was little introduced>
Here's the main problem- I tested the water and pH was 8.0, Ammonia
was 0, Nitrite 0, but nitrate was 160!
Also, my SG was a low 1.010!
<Ahh, this might well account for the lack of rock-life here>
We accidently knocked the sump out of the bottom tank and poured around
7 gallons out on my living room floor, providing an opportunity for a
water change. My Tapwater, after treating with Amquel and Marine buffer
read 0 for all parameters. I added the 7 gallons back to the tank
slowly over 2 days because I'm afraid of my water being too
different for the system. I also have been raising the salt content
slowly- it's now 1.014. I added Marine buffer and have the pH up to
8.2 now. After testing the water again, the nitrate levels are still at
least 160! I read your pages on high nitrates and was thinking about
changing all the filter pads for sure. There are these blue and black
plastic balls with holes all through them that are in each of the
filters as well- what are these and should I change them out, too?
<Mmm, they are "bio-balls"... there are quite a few
varieties... And you can/could change or not. Please read here re:
Do I need a protein skimmer?
<Mmm, in almost all marine set-ups these are worthwhile:
Is my sump considered a refugium and as such, should I maybe focus on
creating a biological control for nitrates?
<Mmm, I didn't read re what is there... But you can:
and the linked files above>
I have never had a sump before, so I don't fully understand how to
<Read... Your system is a mix of older tech. (the wet dry media) and
newer (sump)... there are "many roads"... paths one can
choose in keeping marine systems; with their assigned
promoters/adherents and detractors... Whatever works is fine>
My goal for this tank is to have a fish only with live rock. I want to
put cured coraline covered live rock into it as soon as possible. Do I
have to wait until my nitrates are under control or is live rock
exactly what I need to help bring the levels down?
<Yes; I would. Too likely problems w/ the current water quality. For
Thank you for your help!
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: "New" old saltwater tank, set
Thank you so much for your fast and helpful response!
I have ordered a protein skimmer (Coralife 33000 Super Skimmer w/pump,
65 gal), and I'm hoping this is a good enough skimmer to do the job
for my tank. Much to my delight, I have a RO filter system on my
kitchen sink so maybe there's still hope for my Oklahoman
I decided to remove the bioballs after reading up on them, as it would
seem in this established tank they are more likely to be nitrate
factories than helpful.
I have my SG up to 1.015 and still working on raising it. Do you have
any suggestions for raising the salt content as quickly and safely as
<Best to do as you are... elevate gradually w/ water changes (weekly
I have been taking a gallon of water from the sump and adding another
1/2 cup Instant Ocean and then pouring it back in a few times a day
thus far. I am so grateful to have a resource like your site available-
<A pleasure. BobF>
New Tank Questions 6/6/2011
As always, thank you for continuing to build up the WWM site
Â it is a precious resource much appreciated by all of
us aquarists who continue to learn so much from you every
I am upgrading to a 175G tank from a current 36G that has been
running great for the past year. I'm thinking of starting it
as a FOWLR with a few hardy inverts, and ideally add corals over
time. I have a few questions but first let me describe the
* Oceanic 175G (72"L x 19"W x 29"H)
* Precision Marine R36 Refugium (about 20G of water here at
target water height)
* The sump is partitioned into three compartments: water drains
& skimmer, refugium, return pump)
* Return pump is a Syncra 5.0 Aquarium Pump 132 (1320 GPH at
* In-tank powerhead: Tunze Turbelle Stream 6065 (1717 GPH at
* Protein skimmer: Precision Marine RL175
* Lights: Coralife Aqualight T5 HO Double Strip 72" (4x 10k
Actinic, Moonlight LED's)
* Auto-top off: Tunze Water Level Controller 5107
I started the tank five weeks ago with 160 lbs of live sand
(Caribbean aragonite) and 90 lbs of Fiji/Pukani live rock.
<... how was this cured?>
Water parameters seem to be now under control: specific gravity
<A bit low>
alkalinity at 200 ppm, pH at 8.1, temp at 78-79F, ammonia and
nitrites below detectable levels (using Salifert test kits) and
very faint traces of nitrates. Had to add a small fan blowing
over the sump to bring temperature down because otherwise it
climbs to 82F.
<This is okay>
Only livestock is three Turbo snails (added two days ago to graze
on the green hair algae that is appearing on the live rock).
So here are my questions:
1. I have physical filtration (socks in drain pipes, foam filter
material in sump between refugium and return chambers, protein
skimmer), and biological filtration (live rock, live
sand)Â. Do I need to add something else to the setup for
chemical filtration? If so, what would you suggest?
<Perhaps a unit of Chemi-Pure or equivalent>
2. I am thinking of adding a 2" sand bed
<Better that it be thicker... four or more inches>
in the refugium with Caulerpa Â
what would be your recommendation?
<Not this genus. Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/refugalgfaqs.htm
3. I have been monitoring ammonia/nitrite/nitrate levels over the
past four weeks and didn't see a spike (I.e. ammonia levels
only rose to 0.1 or so). I was assuming that the die-off from the
LR plus a bit of food (3 cubes of frozen food) that I put in
would be enough to trigger the cycle (I'm trying to do a
cycle without killing fish!)Â. is it possible that my tank
hasn't cycled at all?
<Not likely. More probable it has cycled up to the current
capacity for conversion... I'd keep feeding "a bit"
(a few flakes or pellets) of dried-food daily>
4. The water in the tank was clear the first two weeks but now
has turned greenish due to an algae bloom (see pic).
<Whoa! I'll say!>
Since I am not feeding the tank, I am assuming that it is not
because of a nutrient-rich environment (also tested for and found
<All such is likely "bound up" in the algae et
I shortened my photoperiod from 12 hours a day to 10 hours a day,
but it didn't seem to make an impact.
<I'd turn the lights off for now>
I have not done any water changes as I was waiting for the tank
to cycle before beginning them. The protein skimmer is indeed
filling up a cup every day of very dark-green water. Any
<Yes... as you state, a "bloom", utilizing about all
available and becoming available nutrient. You need to upset this
dynamic... turning the lights off will likely do it>
5. I have hundreds of copepods running all over the tank (very
cool!), but also found a few hitchhikers. They are about a
quarter of an inch long and move around like snails, looking
almost like miniature sea hares I am attaching a picture can you
help ID them to know if they are harmless or not?
<This looks like "Scutus", a gastropod mollusc in
any case. Not likely harmful>
That's where I am at for nowÂ. as usual a BIG,
Texas-sized thank you from Houston!
<Similar capacity welcome from sunny S. Cal. Bob
Upsizing tank? Reading 6/5/2011
Im wanting to upsize my 45g FOWLR tank to a 90g.
<Bigger is better...>
My tank consists of:
30lbs of Live sand
60-70lbs of live rock
Bakpak 2 protein skimmer
2 False Clowns
Foxface Rabbit fish
I know I'm going to need more sand and more live rock. What's
the best way to handle this?
<Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/substrepl2.htm
and the linked files above...>
Is the new tank going to have to cycle?
<Depends on the "quality" of the new LR... I'd
pre-cure outside the system or cure in it sans your to-be-moved
livestock... Please learn to use the search tool on WWM>
Should I put the old live rock into the new tank immediately with the
new live rock if does have to cycle?
<Up to you>
I'd prefer to not have both tanks running at the same time. Since
this will have a mix of old rock/old sand and new rock/sand what should
I do with the fish?
<... take a risk, use cured LR...>
My other question is I'd like to upgrade my lighting on the new 90g
tank with T5 lighting and 2 Bakpak protein skimmers as I wont have the
money for a sump/refugium for a while. Will the lighting and skimmers
be enough to add some corals?
<Again... this depends on the species of "corals" chosen,
Your help would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks in advance
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
BioBubble and Marine Fish 4/27/11
To whom it may concern at BioBubble,
I recently visited your website and watched your informational
Your product, in the suggested uses for small mammals (such as
hamsters, mice, etc) and small reptiles certainly seems interesting and
innovative, as well as aesthetically pleasing. However, I find it
distressing that you would suggest and encourage keeping aquatic marine
life in one of your "BioBubbles." For example, in your video,
you show not just one, but two juvenile specimens of Plectorhinchus sp.
fish being kept in one of your BioBubbles. Please consider the fact
that even one of these fish needs a habitat of several hundred gallons
of water. Similarly, the other species of marine fish (clown fish,
dwarf angel fish, etc.) shown to be kept in your products, require far
more space and filtration than your product could possibly provide (as
it is presented).
Thus, I would like to respectfully, but emphatically, encourage you to
revise your marketing. Marketing your product as a reasonable habitat
for clown fish, dwarf angelfish, and other such demanding
marine life is irresponsible, misleading and likely to incite a strong
negative response from experienced marine aquarists. Furthermore, given
that the marine aquarium industry is already under heavy scrutiny from
the environmental conservation community, it's of the utmost
importance that businesses operating in the aquarium industry
demonstrate themselves to be responsible and educated. When an aquarium
product company presents itself as gravely ignorant of the requirements
of these animals, this only hurts the hobby and industry as a whole. It
will benefit us all if companies producing products for the aquarium
hobby conduct themselves with integrity, educating themselves on the
requirements of these animals before suggesting products entirely
inappropriate for their care.
In a time when many of those involved in environmental regulation and
protection would like to see the marine aquarium industry shut down
entirely, I implore you. Please do not to make yourselves yet
example of the ignorance and irresponsibility that contributes to the
destruction of these fragile marine organisms.
Sara Liva (aka Sara Mavinkurve)
Data posted to form 1 of http://www.apaapproved.com/contact.htm
> This is APA's response (very nice) to the complaint I made
regarding their "APA approval" of the product.
<Well... all right! B>
Re: Data posted to form 1 of
> If you would like to leave feedback about a product please do so
at www.apaapproved.com (Click "Leave Feedback")
> You will note we addressed your concern in our report stating;
> "Be sure to keep the bio load low (limit the number of
inhabitants) in this small environment. Also be careful what species
you mix together. Photo above and on packaging are for unit reference
only and not an accurate depiction of size, number or mix of
> Their video in (sic, "is") new, we have not seen it, and
we agree with you that it is very misleading as far as what can be kept
in the Bio Bubble. We will address it with them immediately.
> Best Regards,
> Jennifer Hughes
> Approval Support
> American Pet Association
Setting Up A Saltwater Tank After 12 Years In
Storage/Marine Set Up - 2/9/11
I am extremely excited my wife has finally 'allowed' me to set
up my 75 gallon saltwater tank.
<Bless her heart.>
After reading many posts on WWM, I am a little concerned about my
dated technology. My current system consists simply of
a CPR 900 wet/dry filter with bio bale, crushed coral substrate and
dead coral/rocks. Before I spend a lot of time setting it up 'old
school,' it would be great to know how to convert or maximize my
FO/FOWLR system. I have a few specific questions based on what I have
read on WWM.
1) Should I convert my CPR 900 wet/dry to a sump? Does
this simply mean taking out the bio bale and replacing with live rock?
Is it possible? And what is the best way to do this?
<Yes, it is possible, simply remove the bio bale. You will need live
rock for denitrification
if you go this route.>
2) If I convert to a sump, do I have to have live rock in the
3) If I continue with the wet/dry, what is the best way to control
<A good protein skimmer and practice a good maintenance
4) From what I have read, the Aqua C Remora seems to be the most
recommended protein skimmer. Will this fit in my converted CPR 900
sump? or do they make a hang system?
<You need to measure the area in the sump to see if it will fit. The
Aqua C Urchin Pro would be a good choice for your system and it's
footprint is 7.5" x 3 1/4". They also make this model in the
hang on style (HOT).>
5) My wife wants to replace the crushed coral substrate with live black
sand. Is this recommend? Pros and Cons?
<In my opinion live sand is a waste of money. Dry aragonite sand
will soon teem with micro fauna. As to black sand, do ensure it is
aragonite based and not silica sand.>
6) I treated my aquarium with Cupramine in the past. Can I use the same
gear (substrate, rocks, etc...) to switch to a reef tank in the
<You should be fine here.>
7) Would my system need a UV sterilizer? And what size and brand would
<The cost far outweighs the benefits. Best to put the money toward a
good protein skimmer.>
8) Anything else I should do/not do as I start up my aquarium
<I suggest refreshing your mind by reading. Here is an index to our
Thanks so much for your time. Any light you can shed on these questions
would be greatly appreciated.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Re Setting Up A Saltwater Tank After 12 Years In Storage/Marine Set Up
- 2/9/11- 2/14/11
Thanks so much for your quick reply (James).
I concur with others that WWM is invaluable for us mere aquarium
mortals. I live in an area w/o a LFS, so the website has helped me
avoid a plethora of issues. I think I am getting close to starting up
my tank, just a few more questions to make sure I am optimizing my
system. My wife thinks I went off the deep end, 'cause I have spent
the weekend on your website trying to figure everything out. Here is my
current plan with some additional questions. I will convert my CPR 900
wet/dry into a sump with the Aqua C Urchin Pro protein skimmer. I will
have the converted sump empty except the skimmer and the return pump.
This way I will not have as many maintenance issues below the aquarium.
In the aquarium I want to put live rock, and have several options
available. This is where my questions arise.
1) I have not started my aquarium yet (nothing in it), so can I cure
live rock I purchase (e.g., Foster and Smith) in the aquarium? Once
cured then I could start adding fish and other livestock? Is this a
<Yes, and you may want to read here if you haven't already.
2) I may be able to purchase Bali live rock from another local tank
His tank has been going for a couple of years and he just does not have
time. Would this be a good option? If it is simply going from one tank
another, would it have to be cured?
<Should be fine as long as the rock is kept damp and the transition
time is kept to a minimum.>
3) Second part to above question. The Bali rock from above is about 40
lbs and I have 40 lbs of not used cretaceous rock. Would this be an
acceptable live rock foundation? I know it will take awhile for the
cretaceous rock to become alive, will this be ok for my filtration
needs in the short term and/or long term?
<Mmm, likely of volcanic origin, may or may not have contaminants.
Caution advised here.
Bob may input here as well.><<Nothing more than is already
posted on WWM>>
Based on your response I plan on either buying 40 lbs live rock from a
company like Foster and Smith (any suggestions for a reputable vendor?)
or buy the 40lbs local Bali live rock.
<The Bali rock is fine as well as Foster & Smith (reputable
etailer), whatever fits into your budget.>
Either way, I plan on adding the 40lbs cretaceous rock to get up to the
~ 1lb per gallon that I need. Just trying to keep costs down! I thought
I had everything to start up with, but obviously not. My start up
budget is through the roof!
4) My current substrate is 1 inch of Florida crushed coral. Is this
acceptable? Should I replace with a certain depth of sand? Mix the sand
and crushed coral? If I mix the sand and coral, what is the proper
What would be best?
<I would not mix and would prefer sand. A burrowing wrasse may be in
your future and crushed coral is a little too rough for their skin. If
a burrowing type wrasse isn't in your future then a
one inch sand bed is fine. Otherwise, at least a three inch
5) This may be a simple, naive question, but I do not know. In the past
I used a python gravel vacuum to perform water changes. I basically
the bottom, which sucked up the crushed coral a few inches, while the
gunk and detritus continued upwards and were removed from the tank. My
concern is if I go to sand, can I still vacuum the bottom or will the
sand be sucked up and out? Or, because I am using the sand as my
biological filter, should I leave the sand alone and just vacuum within
the water column? If I stay with the 1" crushed coral, should I
vacuum the bottom or just in the water column?
<Vacuuming the sand bed is a good idea but will require some
practice to avoid sucking up sand. I use my thumb/fore finger on the
vacuum tube to regulate flow rate to the point where detritus gets
removed but very little sand.>
My wife wants this to be a reef tank, but I am a little scared. (Ok, a
lot scared) I think we will start off with the foundation live rock and
some reef safe fishes. Once I get a handle on this, maybe in the future
I would like to try some inverts, additional corals, anemones and
supplement with some fancy live rock. Maybe! My wife thinks this is
easy, just plop them in the tank and look at them!
<Not extremely difficult but before purchasing any animal, do
understand their needs/requirements and
ensure you can provide such.>
6) My current lighting consists of two GE aqua rays, fresh and
saltwater, F40T 12 AR FS, 40 Watt bulbs, housed in an All Glass
Aquarium standard 48" twin tube aquarium reflector (120 volt, 80
watt, 60 Hz). It came standard with the tank, stand and hood. My
question is what type of bulb should I upgrade to if I go to live rock
with my set up? I would like to have something adequate for a simple
FOWLR/moving towards a reefy type tank sometime in the future. If I go
all in on the reef, I could purchase different bulbs in the future.
<Lighting requirements will depend on whether you have any
photosynthetic animals on your live rock. If so, your present lighting
would be border line at best.
For corals you will need more intense lighting. A four bulb T5 HO
system should get the job done for you on your present system. Suggest
reading here and related articles found in the header.
Whew! That turned out to be kind of long. But once I get these
questions answered, I think I can start adding water and get going with
some measure of confidence. My next step will be to spend time reading
up on reef systems, reef maintenance, corals, inverts, as I currently
know nothing about them. I am grateful to have a resource/reference
like your website to lean on.
<Yes, read/learn as much as you can before taking the
Thanks you so much for your time! I am looking forward to your
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Have a great day!
R2: Inherited Tank (the journey begins) --
<<Hey there, JR!>>
After all of the solid advice and prompt responses you provided,
I felt inclined to share with you a couple of updates I did on
<<Ah, excellent'¦and thanks!>>
The removal of the bio balls went well, along with the addition
of the RO/DI system. I also read all of your suggested WWM
articles, and more
.....and to my dismay, even if I had the water parameters; my
lighting probably wouldn't support the aforementioned BTA I
was interested in
<<Much too soon to even consider, anyway -- as
.....and that's okay.....you were right, and I was wrong
(sounds like a common conversation between my wife and me).
<<Mmm'¦I do understand [grin]>>
Besides after all the hard work, I found the interesting world of
inverts....but more on that later.
If you have time, I've provided some pictures for your
<<I see them>>
After looking at other tanks, and your suggestions on water
circulation, picture 1 shows my new aquascape. It's a little
hard to see in the blurry picture, but on the left I found some
really large rocks to make lots of holes and crevasses, in the
middle there's actually a big arch that gets a little lost in
the foreground, and on the right I made two caves for the aquatic
<<This looks much better than the 'pile' shown
Picture 2 shows how I ripped out the old sump and flex tubing
from the 2 overflows and cleaned up the salt creep.
<<I would replace that ball-valve on the return pump with a
much more easily adjusted gate-valve>>
Picture 3 shows some of the PVC pipe I installed, and picture 4
shows the final installation of the refugium with a 4 inch DSB
and baffles to separate the refugium/return/skimmer. I hope this
is what you had in mind!
<<I prefer to keep the refugium and sump as separate
vessels when possible, with the refugium draining to the pump
chamber of the sump. But what you have built here is a good
design alternative, with the emphasis being to keep the effluent
from the refugium portion from flowing through the skimmer
And as you can see from the new tank picture, everything is
teeming with life! The rocks have grown a lot of coralline algae,
turning a great shade of green to purple. The fish are loving
their new diet of flake food and Nori for the tangs.
<<I do hope you are feeding a wider selection of foods than
this -- as I have tried to assert before'¦>>
And through water changes, appropriate feeding, configuring the
skimmer (still will be doing a major upgrade soon), RODI,
addition of 10 turbo snails and 30 margarita snails, I have
managed to obtain:
<<That being about 35 ppt (1.025/1.026 spg) I
<<A major improvement indeed! Keep trying to get this last
to around 5ppm or less to provide a bit of wiggle-room re any
Not one detectable spike of anything with the changes, and a
bunch of happy inhabitants.
Truth be told, I wasn't strong enough to go to the LFS
(actually a sponsor of WWM website...That Fish Place, That Pet
Place is local to Lancaster, PA) and not purchase a new
<<I do want to urge caution here. Let this system stabilize
for a while before adding new additions>>
But I researched before purchasing. I received, and acclimated
properly, 2 chocolate chip starfish.
<<Neat animals -- generally quite aquarium hardy -- but not
good choices for a 'future reef system''¦as
your research should have shown>>
And they are still alive and crawling all over the rock and
<<Indeed'¦and likely consuming much of that
emergent 'life' you are seeing on the live
Everybody is very excited about them. And I'll probably get
my hand virtually smacked for this one as well, but I purchased a
pink and green spiny sea cucumber.
I've read the WWM articles on sea Cukes, and so far so good.
He's found a nice spot in the tank with lower flow to spread
out and not be bothered while feeding.
<<Feeding on what? Your tank and refugium are much too new
and unstable for this animal>>
So my long term plans include upgrading the skimmer and lights
for obvious reef abilities (I'll have to be careful what I
choose with the chocolate chip starfish, so I've read).
<<I would replace these outright before adding any sessile
invertebrates -- with a much more reef friendly 'Fromia'
species (and completely avoid any 'Linckia' species of
Starfish'¦no matter what the LFS/anyone might tell you
about their suitability for reef systems)>>
But, truth be told, the lights may not be able to be upgraded for
a couple months. So in the mean time I wanted to thank you for
<<The pleasure is mine'¦>>
I didn't realize how bad this tank was, and with your help I
feel confident enough to have a good foundation to move forward
for the enjoyment of everyone who comes across it.
<<You have made some good changes/progress'¦but
patience is key now>>
In fact, I feel like an old man furniture owner.......any time I
spot somebody interested in the tank at work I end up giving them
the grand tour of what changes I've done
<<Ah yes, one of the many enjoyments of the hobby is
sharing our systems with others>>
......and pointing out things like coralline algae and having
bets on if the starfish will complete his rock climbing without
falling off and ending up upside down (I can't believe how
they can get right side up again so easily! I wish the snails
would learn that trick).
So thank you again, Eric.
<<Quite welcome, JR>>
If you every find yourself in the heart of Amish land
Pennsylvania, stop by and we will be more than hospitable.
I'll keep you posted!
What would you like to see next?
<<That you have added New Life Spectrum pelleted food to
the fishes' diet'¦>>
<<Be chatting'¦ EricR>>
Expert's help please: Aquarium design in Africa
Design assistance needed. 10/26/2010
I'm writing from Namibia in Africa. Small desert country with
literally a handful of marine aquarists.
I am planning to install a 2,500lt system with a sump in the basement
in my new house.
<That would be a very impressive system once it is built.>
I've printed hundreds of pictures and little plans from the web to
try and show the architect and engineer
what I want to done, but this is so hell of a frustrating.
<Do they not understand the drawings, or do they want detailed CAD
drawings? Or do they not wish to do the engineering required to install
such a system?>
Can you PLEASE give me some contacts that will be able to work of plans
and help me putting this set-up successfully together!
<As a North American that has done work in South Africa, I found
http://www.afriline.net/ to be very helpful. Using that, I did find one
company in South Africa: http://www.aquatic-concepts.co.za/ as well as
one online forum: http://www.marineaquariumsa.com/ they may be able to
<I also found many design firms in the United States you can try and
contact as well:
Will to pay for plans.
<If all you need are CAD drawings, write me back, I may be able to
help if you give me some more detail. Sie kÃ¶nnen auf