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FAQs about Fish-Only Marine System Filtration

Related Articles: Fish Only Systems by Bob Fenner, A Marine Fish-Only Set-Up Checklist by Bob Fenner, Creating a Marine Fish-Only Aquarium by Bob Fenner  FOWLR/Fish and Invertebrate Systems, Reef Systems, Coldwater Systems, Small Systems, Large Systems, Plumbing Marine SystemsRefugiumsMarine Biotope, Marine LandscapingFishwatcher's Guides

Related FAQs: & By Type of  System: Small Tank Setups, Large System Filtration/Circulation/Aeration, & By Aspect and Gear: Biol.: Biological Filtration, Denitrification/Denitrifiers, Fluidized Beds, DSBs, Plenums, Algal Filtration, Mech.: Marine Mechanical Filtration, Power Filters, Outside Power Filters, Canister, Cartridge Filters, Undergravel FiltersWet-Dry Filters, Phys.: Ultraviolet Sterilizers,   Ozone, To Skim or Not to SkimBest Skimmer FAQs, Chem.: Nutrient Control and Export Chemical Filtrants (e.g. Polyfilter, Chemipure, Purigen), Carbon, Mud/Algal Filtration Phony: Magnetic Field Filtration, & Troubles: Bubbles, Noise, & Fish-Only Marine Set-ups, Fish-Only Marine Systems 2, FO System Set-Ups, FO System Lighting, FO System Skimmers, FO System Livestocking, FO System Feeding, FO System Maintenance, FO System Disease, FOWLR/Fish and Invertebrate Systems, Reef Systems, Coldwater Systems, Small Systems, Large Systems, Marine System Plumbing Biotopic presentations

Small Marine Aquariums
Book 1: Invertebrates, Algae
New Print and eBook on Amazon:
by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Small Marine Aquariums
ook 2: Fishes
New Print and eBook on Amazon: by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Small Marine Aquariums Book 3: Systems
New Print and eBook on Amazon:
by Robert (Bob) Fenner

Filtration 10/20/10
Good Afternoon,
<Hello Chris>
Could you advise, if I were setting up a fish only tank without live rock or sump, what water volume turnover should I aim for in relation to system volume? i.e. How many times per hour should the external filters turn over the tank volume for an average stocked tank?
<I would shoot for at least 10x.>
I may use live rock to "seed" the sand, filters and decorations with some critters and microscopic life initially, but would be removed when fish are eventually added.
<I would suggest keeping the live rock in the system although live sand alone can work providing your fish load isn't too high, and this will largely depend on the square area of your tank in relationship to its volume. Do read here.
<Ditto. James (Salty Dog)>

Fwd: Set up help.  2/6/10
Did not receive an answer at my e-mail address.
<Mmm, unusual>
I tried looking on your website but I got totally lost after hours trying to find the response.
Thought I'd resend it.
WetWebMedia Crew,
I have a 175 gal FO tank that I'm redoing to include a new 3 section 45 gal sump (8 gal input w- skimmer section/ 20 gal bio filtration section/ 5 gal return section, leaving 12 gal of space in case of power failure). I have read for hours on your wonderful site but I need some additional clarity and advise. Your help and expertise would be sincerely appreciated.
<Is here Les: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FOSystemFAQs.htm
Ref# Set up help. FO SW 2/3/10 Set up help. FO SW 2/3/10, bio-filtr.   2/6/10
<Hey Les>
Thanks you so much for taking time to respond to my original email concerning the set up of my sump. Novice like me are truly blessed to have access to your website, assistance and expertise. I have just one follow up question.
I have a 175g marine FO tank (5 med & 5 sm fish) with crushed rock bed, large dead coral but no live rock. I'm installing a 45g sump that includes a 20g bio-filtration section. I wanted to use that 20g as my only bio-filtration (besides my skimmer).
<Mmm... for the record, skimmers don't provide much of any biological filtration>
I planned on using LR, macroalgae and sand/mud, but my plans were put on hold when read that 1.5 lbs of LR per gal of water was recommended. So I immediately sought your advise because I couldn't put 250-300lbs of LR in the 20g bio-filtration section of my sump.
When I asked you if the 20g bio-filtration section in the sump would be enough bio-filtration to support the 175g tank + 45g sump water volume (without any additional power bio-filtration besides my skimmer) your response was <Can, could be; yes>.
<<And still is>>
I'm perplexed by your response. Sorry for my confusion. Would you mind clarifying. How would you set up this 20g bio-filtration section in the sump to handle a 175g tank + 45g sump volume of water?
Thanks again,
<Actual "bio-filtration" will/does occur on all hard surfaces (and detritus in and amongst) as well as on much livestock... The added material in your refugium should be more than adequate in addition to the bacterial action elsewhere. BobF>

UGF Alternatives Fish Only 4/23/2009
Good Morning Crew!
Many thanks to all of you, I have been very happy with the site and all the advice.
<Thank you for the kind words.>
I am looking at changing the filtration for my 55 gal. tank.
I've gone out and bought a protein skimmer, which I haven't set up yet.
<This will go a long way towards improving water quality.>
I am considering abandoning my UGF. I know from research that when maintained properly they can be very effective and easy filters to have and I've since changed my die hard perspective on they're 'un-cool-ness'.
<They have their advantages and disadvantages. Overall, there are much better alternatives out there though.>
I believe I would be much better off converting to a FOWLR tank.
<I agree. There are many advantages to converting to live rock>
I find that the plates get caked with detritus easily. I must confess that I work long hours and I am not always able to take the time to clean the plates properly. As a result, my Nitrates and phosphates stay higher than I would like.
<Not surprising.>
I have been doing small water changes, and completely cleaned the gravel which is about 3-4 inches deep,
<Do try to change 10 - 15% per week.>
What I'm having trouble with is all the options I has in converting and I don't know what would be best. Should I remove the plates completely, cap them and leave them, or just clean under them and replace them. I believe this to be the least traumatic. I've used this filter for as long as the tank has been running and I'm comfortable with it. I've gone through your site, and read the articles, such as the pros/cons of UGF by Bob.
Any advice you could give would be a big help.?
<Hmm, for a setup like this, I would clean under the plates and cap them off (just leave them in place). Add cycled live rock, about one pound per gallon of water in the tank, and get the skimmer running as soon as
possible. Additionally, if a sump or refugium is not practical, I would look into getting a canister filter for mechanical and chemical filtration, and adding a power head or two for additional water movement.. These,
along with regular water changes, and you will see a dramatic improvement in your water quality and livestock health.>
<Best of luck and do send a follow up when you get your new setup>

Fish Only Tank, 120 stkg., filtr.    7/23/08 Hey guys thanks for your time. I am looking to convert my 120 tall to a fo system. I would like to have a dogface puffer, niger trigger and a Humu. <Mmm, do make sure all are getting foods> No live sand or rock. <I would use LR...> I was wondering if this tank is big enough for all 3. <A bit crowded psychologically, but with proper set-up, maintenance, could be made to work> I currently have a Rena xp3, a magnum 350 deluxe with bio wheel and a penguin 330. Would this filtration be enough for what I hope to do. <Mmm, I would look into other types of filtration other than canister, outside power... and have more circulation. Likely otherwise you'll be constantly fighting the mal-affects of nutrient accumulation> Also, is it a must to have a skimmer? <I definitely would with this set-up, stocking> I have been told it is not but I will need to do more frequent water changes than if I did. <False economy... more expensive, less fun...> I have a 35 gallon reef with a rio nano skimmer but I'm sure it would do no good on this system. Thank you for your advice, it is greatly appreciated. <Mmm, do a bit of reading here: http://wetwebmedia.com/marine/index.htm the first Index... on FO set ups, the second Index on Filtration... Bob Fenner>

FO filtration  11/24/07 Hello Bob, <Campbell> How are you? <Fine thanks> I am at the planning stage of a non-predatory FOWLR with Inverts system where the main display will hold approx 900 litres (240g US) 8'x2'x2' but I am in a bit of a bind over filtration. The system will have a sump measuring 84" or 92"x18"x18" or thereabouts and I have read so much about filtration, from yourself, Calfo, Tyree et al that I seem to have hit a spot of "analysis paralysis" <Heeee! Good term> What I am hoping to achieve is a nice balanced system that provides a steady supply of, supplementary, planktonic food for some of the fish I would like to keep, IE Anthias and Mandarins or Scooters, but where Nitrates are not going to be a concern when the bigger fish, Majestic Angel, Powder Blue Tang and Raccoon Butterfly, are introduced. I'd prefer not to use a skimmer, if possible, and my head is full of Bio-towers, DSBs, Cryptic zones etc I seem to be a bit lost. <Mmm, all good technologies, possibilities...> Can you help at all? <In what way? Choices in gear?> Thanks in advance, Campbell P.S CMA is a great book, thanks for writing it, I just wish everyone would take your advice and quarantine their animals. The number of sad tales of, totally avoidable, wipe-outs and near wipe-outs, especially to Whitespot (C. Irritans) on the Internet these days makes one want to weep. <Thanks. Please make it known specifically what you have concerns re... Bob Fenner>
Re: FO filtration... still way too general  - 11/26/07
Hi Bob, <Campbell> Thanks for your reply. <Welcome> Sorry my first email was a bit ambiguous. I am seeking your advice on how best to setup the sump and filtration to efficiently process waste and reduce nitrate but at the same time provide a nice level of planktonic food. <I see... there are "many roads" to accomplish this... and much depends on other goals... how much time you want to invest in investigating, funds to be committed, ongoing time to maintain... Choices> As I said I have about 7 foot or so to play with so I want to do the best I can for my fish in the space available. Is a skimmer a must in this setup or would a small-ish bio-tower and massive DSB be a better option, by massive I mean approx 48" to 60" long by 18" wide section. with 6" deep sand. Regards, Campbell <I would have a small skimmer... and run it at least on a punctuated basis... no bio-towers... Do like DSBs... much more to go over... Again, the shortest path here of self-discovery/enlightenment is for you to peruse WWM... the second sub-index of the root/marine web... Filtration. I would get/use a RDP lighting rig... culture a couple of species of macrophytes... Please... keep reading, take good notes... and we'll be chatting. BobF>

Is a Refugium Beneficial To a Fish-Only System? (Yes!) -- 05/19/07 Hey Eric, <<Hey Daniel!>> Understood, NO medicating in the Main Display; Quarantine tank, only. <<Ahh, very good'¦very good indeed'¦>>    I will put in 4 to 5 inches of Live Sand in, and 25 lbs of live rock for a 30 gallon Refugium, or is that too much? <<Sounds fine>>    Light(s) will be one for 10 to 12 hours/day. <<Are these on the refugium?  If so, then I would like to suggest a macroalgae in place of or in addition to the live rock (why don't you have rock in the display?).  The macroalgae will provide additional nutrient export, is an excellent matrix in which planktonic/plankton producing organisms will flourish, as well as providing some pH support you won't get from the rock.  As for biological filtration alone, a fluidized bed filter is an excellent option.  These filters have tremendous capacity, as well as the ability to quickly 'ramp up' to changing bio loads.  I'm not saying what you have planned is 'bad' nor won't work...just presenting you some options/opinions to consider>> Also, being that this Refugium is primarily used for filtration, OK to have Snails and Hermit Crabs? <<You can'¦>> Not sure what else should go in... <<No need to add anything'¦the refugium will develop its own range of interesting and beneficial biota in time>> Thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it! Daniel <<Happy to assist.  Eric Russell>>
R2: Is a Refugium Beneficial To a Fish-Only System? (Yes!) -- 05/22/07
Hey Eric, <<Hi Daniel>> Hope you had a great weekend! <<Mmm, no...not great>>    My apologies, I have one more question for you: <<No worries mate>>    Per your inquiry, I have no Live Rock in the Display tank because the premise of my 'fish only' system was in case of an emergency/illness, I could treat the Display tank without having to worry about the effects on Live Rock and Inverts. <<This is a faulty/bad premise my friend...live rock or not, you do have biological filters/functions important to the health of the display that will be destroyed by the use of medicants>> In this string, you state to never medicate the Display. <<Correct>> Why wouldn't you do this for a 'fish only' system? <<As just explained>> Are medications (i.e. copper) bad for the Protein Skimmer and/or Wet/Dry filter (Bio Balls)? <<The latter, yes>>    (My 175 bow tank has: Foxface, Queen Angel, Purple Tang, Heniochus, 7 Green Chromis, 2 Neon Gobies, Coral Beauty, Longnose Hawkfish, Six Line Wrasse, and Diadem Dottyback.) <<Very nice...and the addition of a tasteful display of live rock would be welcomed by all>> Thank you! Daniel <<Always welcome.  Eric Russell>>
R3: Is a Refugium Beneficial To a Fish-Only System? (Yes!) -- 05/23/07
Hello Eric, <<Hello Daniel>> Sorry to read your weekend didn't go well, hope things get better for you soon. <<Thank you for this>> Looks like I lied, one more important thing. <<Not a problem...I'm here to assist>> About 4 months ago, I did use copper in the Display tank to treat what appeared to be Ich. <<Mmm...>> The problem was resolved, and the fish today are vibrant and active (though do tend to hide more than I'd like). <<Perhaps a symptom of 'not enough' readily available hiding places...in other words, perhaps the fishes just don't feel 'comfortable' in their surroundings>> I've read on WetWebMedia that copper binds itself to rock and substrate <<To calcareous substances, yes>> - would it have done so with the Bio Balls? <<I think not (plastic), though it would certainly have damaged the beneficial bacteria thereon>> Even though I used carbon to rid the tank of copper, could the Bio Balls now be contaminated, and not operating to the best of their ability? <<I don't think the plastic media itself is an issue, but if you have residual levels of copper in the system this could well be affecting your biological filter.  You should test for copper/try running some of Seachem's Cupramine to see if this causes a change/improvement in behavior.  You don't mention what the fishes are hiding 'in/among' but if this is dead coral skeletons these too could absorb/ be a source of copper left over by the medication>> Thank you very much, I appreciate it! Daniel <<Glad to help.  Eric Russell>>

FO marine filtration   1/30/06 Hi. I have been reading your site but am getting a bit confused. I had salt water tanks in the past but it has been about 10 years and many things seemed to have changed. <Have> I have two local fish stores and am getting contradictory advice. <This has not changed> I just bought a 220 gallon tank and am wanting to set it up properly. My goal is to have 200 pounds or more of live rock and then all fish. This won't be a reef tank. One store says that a good pump and a good protein skimmer added with the rock is all the filtration I'll need. The other store says since it will be all fish, that I'll need the rock as well as a good wet dry filter for filtration. I really want this tank to be successful and plan on going slow with cycling and adding fish but would like to know what is best for filtration. Also one store likes the use of a UV sterilizer and one doesn't so again I am confused. Thanks ahead of time for any advice you can give. Heather <... these issues are covered on WWM, as well as the justification/rationale for the stated positions. My real advice? Get a good complete marine aquarium book and study... learn the background science here re your choices... there are "many roads"... and those stated above are just two of many. Bob Fenner>

150 gallon, filter, skimmer, stocking  12/13/05 Hi, You guys are excellent!! <Thanks! We do our best!> I have had a 10 gallon saltwater with a blue devil and a green Chromis for a year, and I have recently purchased a 150 gallon tank and while cycling I thought I might make a stocking list so as not to get caught up in the impulse buying business. <GOOD ON YOU!> It will be fish only.  I have ordered a Eheim (read you like them) <Best can.s out there. >2217 canister will this be big enough (Eheim says yes)? <Eh, depends on your goals. You can always add another later if you discover you need it.> What skimmer (hang on) would be suitable (brand)? <AquaC RemoraPro, or Deltec MCE600.> I have been window shopping and picked my favorites after weeding out some with other Fish only people on aggression issues.  Please tell me if there are too many, if they are too big, and if they will get along. Other options are welcome.  Remove or add as required.    Large Angel (which one) 1/2 the people say tank is not large enough to house a large angel <Imperator would be my choice!> Pink tail trigger <Excellent trigger.> Naso tang <Uh oh - gets huge, needs swimming room!> A pair of smaller tangs Kole or purple <Kole is okay, Purple gets BIG.> Dwarf puffer <Fun!> snowflake eel or dwarf golden (prefer the snowflake) <Me too.> Will these be fish food? bi-color angel <Not fish food, but quite a gamble on robustness. Put down a deposit on one and have the LFS keep it for a couple weeks or more, before you commit.> tomato clown <Get a good-sized one to start (or a Maroon) and this fish can take care of itself quite well.> I do not wish to overstock or have an aggression problem, and I would need to know what order to add them to prevent territory disputes <Decide exactly what you want first, then worry about stocking-order. Generally, least-aggressive goes first.> I will not be upgrading anytime soon so they need to be happy in this tank as adults too. <Excellent! But you'll have to forget about the Naso for sure.> Thanks for coming to work today!  You are appreciated <You're welcome! Happy Holidays! -Zo>

Filtration for a fish only tank  11/30/05 Ladies and Gentlemen, (not sure who might answer this...) <Nods>  My name's Nate and I have a 75 gallon (tall) aquarium. I am in the process of constructing a stand and hood. This aquarium will be a fish only predator tank and I plan on filling it with as many as I can. <Not too many, I hope> I have had several smaller marine aquariums before but always with hang-on or canister filters. My plans were to build a wet/dry as the single form of filtration for this tank.  <Good idea> I have reviewed several of WWM's articles, all of which shun the use of bio-balls, however the majority of these articles are focused around reef aquariums. What would the 'perfect' filtration set-up for this aquarium be? <It depends on stocking densities and how messy the "predators" are. Some people stock fish only aquariums such that live rock and skimmer-based systems could not cope without additional filtration. Additionally, without inverts, your livestock will not be as sensitive to nitrates. However, it is still a worthy goal to keep nitrates as low as possible, and as such I would stock lightly and try to depend on live rock (backed up by a skimmer) for balanced filtration> If you can help me with which and how much bio media I can figure the rest out. <Bio balls are fine... as many as you can fit in the trickle path> Do I need a skimmer or live rock for a fish only tank? <Highly beneficial -- it would make your life much easier in the long run> You guys have been such a great help so far - thank you for your guidance and wisdom <Best regards & god luck! John> 

Big Fishes Need Big Tanks/Big Filtration - 11/26/05 I guess I messed up sending this before. Any advice on this? Thank you.   <<No worries...sometimes happens.>> Hi WWM, <<Howdy>> Love your site!  I'm in a  quandary.  I'm in the midst of renovating my house and have decided that I will not be getting a bigger tank than my current 180g. <<ok>> It has a 10" Arothron meleagris Gold Puffer  <<Also known (perhaps better) as the Guinea fowl puffer.>>  and a 7" Clown Trigger.  Since this  will be their permanent home, will it be big enough for them as adults if I don't add any other fish? <<Mmm...big/robust fishes...messy feeders...pushing the limits here in my opinion...but you can probably get away with it for a few more years.>> If it is, could I at some point add one last fish: a small species of moray, such as a snowflake or jewel, or a  10" max. size fish, such as a Grammistes sexlineatus grouper, or Maroon Clown? <<If your filtration is adequate (wet/dry and/or fluidized-bed filters...large quality skimmer(s)...ozone...chemical filtration...some live rock), I think one of the eels would be the better choice due to their sedentary nature...would also make for a more interesting display, in my mind.>> I had  a large snowflake in with them previously and the three  got along  great and stayed very healthy.  If you say "no", is it because of too little room, or fear of the trigger's temperament? <<The trigger can be/will remain a threat.  I've not witnessed it, but I've heard from more than one source that with the exception of very large (e.g. - Public) aquaria, eventually, one day, Balistoides conspicillum will decide to kill everything in the tank...>> I've grown pretty attached to these fish and would hate to have to give them up to get smaller ones. <<Understood...maybe you should reconsider the larger tank after all.>> Thanks. <<Regards, EricR>>

Filtration question  11/21/05 Hi WWM, I am going to start a 135 gallon FO tank. For filtration I am planning on using two emperor 400s, 2 maxi-jet 1200s, and a DSB to keep nitrates down. This would give me 1390 GPH. Is this enough? <Not the route I would go, but depends on what you intend to keep, and what you want to "do" with it...> If its not, maybe I would add a Fluval 404. Is this needed? <Something more is likely called for in the way of biological, mechanical filtration> Also I have gotten mixed opinions on whether or not a protein skimmer is absolutely necessary for FO tanks. <It is> I like the TurboFlotor 1000multi. Do you think I should add this or anything else? I have limited funds so live rock isn't possible. Thanks, Patrick <Please read on WWM: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/filtration/marineFiltr.htm and the linked files above, until you understand what you're up to here. Bob Fenner>

75G  Filtration Question...But more info. needed - 10/20/2005 Hello, <Greetings!> Great site!  I have made it my ³one stop shop² for advice and help.  I need a little advice about filtration...<Hope I can help.> I have a Fish-Only 75G Marine tank that just started a couple of weeks ago.<Welcome to a new addiction!>  I have an Emperor 400 and a Coralife Super Skimmer 125 gallon for chemical and mechanical filtration.<ok>  I have two powerheads (175gph and 225 gph) - one in the upper left corner and one in the lower right.  I don¹t currently have any live rock but am not opposed to adding some if it is needed.<?>  My substrate is crushed coral.  So far my readings are:  Ammonia  .5<well..?>,  Nitrite 0, and Nitrate 5. Currently I have a small tank-raised False Perc Clown, a blue-green Chromis and a Royal Gramma (small).<At this point you should not have any of these.>  All seem to be happy in their new home. <Until...?>  I would like to add some larger fish (flame angel, yellow tang...) when my tank finishes the cycling process, but am not sure if my filtration is adequate.<Filtration aside, tank cycling should be done fishless!>  Should I add a second power filter?<Possible.>  Switch to Wet/Dry?<Again possible.>  Add a sand bed (replace the crushed coral?)<Again>, Canister Filter?<And AGAIN, possible!>  The back of my tank is already a little busy, so I am not sure what the biggest ³bang for my buck² would be to help my tank stay healthy.<This is all up to you.  What do you want your tank to do?  There are many avenues to success in this hobby.  The most important one is consistency.>  I have read as much as is written on filtration from both this site and Mr. Fenner¹s book and still can¹t decide.<Are you sure?  I mean all?  It seems to me that you have missed much in these writings.  There is not a real direct "formula" for this if that's what you mean.> Thanks so much for your help.  You don¹t realize what you all contribute to this hobby from this site alone! <Brian, please understand that I only mean to help you here, but you have much more studying to do.  It does not seem that you have much of a "game plan".  This is all answered on this site (and in Bobs' book).  Again, you could do any/all of these.  There is no way for us to actually communicate this via email (far to much information to be presented.  Start here (marine aquarium set-up FAQ's) with your research and venture out as you wish. - Josh> Best, Brian

Filtration in a fish only tank Dear crew,              I have been successful in keeping all my freshwater fish and a pond now for 2 years.  I have always seen the saltwater tanks and been amazed by the fish.  For the last two months I have been reading every book and every website that I can find.  I have settled on the size tank, which will be an 85g, and it will be fish only.  I cannot figure out what type of filtration will be best.  The livestock I would like to have is 1 yellow tang, 1 blue tang, 2 clownfish, and 1 porcupine fish.  Decorations would be light, some live rock and some fake corals.  My stand, lights, and hood I can make myself, so I looked into building my own wet\dry filters, but heard they could lead to problems.  Could I use a Whisper power filter 4, a Skilter 400, and 2 300gph power heads?  I would really like the advice on filtration. <You could run your system minimally with the gear listed. I would get at least another power filter and greatly upgrade your skimmer selection. The various types of set-ups and alternative modes of filtration, product reviews are posted on our site: www.WetWebMedia.com for your perusal. Please take the time to familiarize yourself with this information. Bob Fenner>     

Adding Live rock to F.O. system... >Good day Wet-Webbers, >>And good day to you, Lenny.  Marina here. >I have a 140 gal. F.O. system using Bio-balls/Protein Skimmer w/ 50/50 Actinic fluorescent lighting.  I have an aggressive tank w/ lion, purple tang, emperor angel, Foxface, harlequin tusk and Clown trigger.  Is it possible to add a large piece of Live Rock to my tank without changing lighting (or if so, enLIGHTEN me)  I thought doing this would help bring my nitrates down and secondly allow my herbivores to graze on the rock.   >>Of course you can.  Live rock generally requires no lighting unless it has photosynthetic animals or algae upon it that you wish to grow.  However, do know that if it is encrusted with such, it will quickly be consumed.  Also, please know that in order to reduce nitrates, you will need an amount of live rock equal to 1-2lbs./gallon of total tank volume.  A more efficient way to garner natural nitrate reduction would be to plumb in a refugium, where you can put in live rock, a deep sand bed (a.k.a. DSB), and grow macroalgae cultures that will help sop up excess nutrients, and they'll be removed via harvest of said algae.  Please search our site for all articles and FAQ's on refugiums (I do prefer this methodology to plenums) for complete setup and maintenance information.  Also, don't let anyone try to tell you that the wet-dry filtration method is a "nitrate factory".  You will end up with nitrates no matter WHAT method of nitrification is used, and their reasoning is logical fallacy, true sophistry.  What is needed is a method by which the nitrates can be further reduced to their components, ending with nitrogen gas.  This is well-executed utilizing the refugium with DSB. >Right now my tank has lava rock and skeleton coral with Puka shell (Aruba) substrate. >>Begin on our homepage http://www.wetwebmedia.com -->go to "marine aquarium articles" -->go to "set-up" -->go to the sections on natural nitrate reduction, plenums (you'll see what a PITA they are), deep sand beds, and refugia articles.  There's more information there than you can shake a stick at, and by the time you're finished you'll practically be an expert (ex-spurt?)!  Best of luck to you!  Marina

Starting a fish only marine tank Hi guys, you have been extremely helpful in the past and I have a few other questions to ask. <Good to hear> I have a 35g tank with one Aquaclear 200 and one Aquaclear 150 along with 150watt heater. I have been planning to set this up as a African Cichlid tank, but I am so drawn to the Yellow Tangs and Clown Fish that I have to ask. can I use these filters adequately for a fish only marine tank? If this set up won't work, what would I have to change? <For the tang, you need a much larger tank, at least 4' and 6' would be better. The clowns would be OK. I would add some live rock (25-30#) to help with bio filtration and a skimmer would be a great addition as well. A couple of power heads to get some water movement wouldn't hurt. Don> Cheers. Mike

Filtration setup on a fish only. 08/03/03 Hello again! <Hi Leo, PF with you tonight> I am planning of starting a 500 gallon saltwater system (fish only), but was wondering for  the filter what should I use , I was thinking about an overflow that will go trough a pre-filter (sponge, foam of some sort ....), after that the water will fall into the bio-balls, to get to the sump where there will be a Berlin protein skimmer,  with the water  returning from the skimmer  to the sump (maybe through  carbon filter not know if needed?) and  then back to the system. Will that system work or should change something , was looking trough your site and now I don't really know what to do ? Also have an U.V but don't know if should use it and where exactly! Thank you again for  your help. Leo <Well Leo, I would skip the pre-filter unless you plan on cleaning it out every day or so, it will become a nitrate sink. As for carbon, here's the FAQ on it: www.wetwebmedia.com/carbonfaqs.htm . I would advise running it for a few days every month with the system you are envisioning. The sump sounds good, but you don't really need the bio balls. Have you thought about a refugium instead? Read more here: www.wetwebmedia.com/refugium.htm . It would not only help filter your water, but would add planktonic life to help support your tank. By placing it first in your system, the detritus laden water would act as fertilizer for your detritivores/macro algae instead of adding nitrates to your system. As for uv, IMO it's not really needed in most cases. Here's some more info for you. www.wetwebmedia.com/marphysf.htm . All in all, it sounds like a nice setup, which I had a 500g tank to work with. : )  Have a good evening, PF>

- Starting a New Tank - Hi, how are you? I want to start a new 55 gal. SW fish only tank. I was wondering what time of filtration system I should aim for. I had in mind to do a sump so.. what would be the best for my system... Berlin system, use live rock and bio-media, canister filter, wet-dry?? <Something similar to the Berlin system is how I would go - live rock, skimmer, sump, good circulation in the tank.> I know that they are all good type of filtration media but what do you recommend the most for an F.O. tank? <Just that, doesn't need to be complicated.> I'm planning to have some hardy species like damsels, clown fish, an angel fish and maybe an anemone. <I'd skip the anemone, but if you insist make certain that you have very strong lighting - metal halide is what you would need.> Should I use live rock in the sump? <I wouldn't hurt.> Use a good filter... <If you used the Berlin method, the filter sock would be more than adequate.> Anyways.. help me, I read some books including yours but I still don't know what would be the best for what I want... If you have some question for giving me a better answer please ask me. <No worries, as I said, the simple approach is the best one.> Thx for your help Very good site by the way an sorry for my English, I'm French :P <Aucun s'inquiète, mon plaisir.> Charles <Cheers, J -- >

Best Filtration for a 110g FO Tank  I'm setting up a 110 gallon fish only tank.  I work at a highly regarded pet shop where everyone is very experienced,  <you're very lucky and so are your customers. I wish I had one of those around when I started>  ..and they are all telling me something different.  <That is not all that unusual in this hobby. I am sure you have heard the expression "different strokes for different folks". There is more than one way to get the same or similar effect >  For filtration for a fish only tank is it better to have a canister and a hang on filter, a wet dry with a hang on, or just a wet dry? What is the ideal filtration for a fish only tank?  < Live rock, sand and a Protein skimmer would be very beneficial. The type of fish you want keep should be taken into consideration when making this decision. For instance Puffers, Eels and Triggers are much messier eaters, heavy waste producers and can have few if any clean up critters in their tanks as most will make meals of the clean up crew. So as a result require more filtration than some of the cleaner less messy fish. I am really not sure there is any ideal. As you can gather form your co workers advice there are different ways to do the same thing. The best advice I can give you is to do some research of your own and once you have done some reading, formulate some questions and ask for trusted friends experiences. You can start with this article Archetypal 'Fish-Only Marine Systems"  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fishonsetup.htm as well as the related FAQs http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fosetupfaqs.htm and  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fosetupfaq3.htm   You could also post here on the Chat Forums http://wetwebfotos.com/talk/ asking what has worked best for folks with your size tank and proposed stock list.  There are also some good threads on http://www.reefcentral.com.  What works well for one may not work well for another. I can tell you canisters are not my favorite filters. I have 2 high end canisters sitting in my garage. They came highly recommended by several folks whose opinions I trust. I find them to be a pain to get out from under the tank for cleaning and media changes and not only that, no matter how careful I was opening and closing them, I always had water on the carpet. Some might say I am just messy :). So guess what.....I didn't clean the darn things as often as I should have and I had some problems in my tanks at the time and lost some fish. It does not matter how ideal something may be if you don't use it properly it could be considered be close to useless, as those canisters were for me.  I am not sure which, if any of the hang on the back filters would be appropriate for a 110g. I have done quite a bit of research and most if not all are rated for smaller tanks. I did come across one hang on the back wet/dry trickle with a skimmer but have no experience with it. It seems from reading the posts on several boards that wet/dry trickle filters are preferred by most FO keepers Most of the folks with tanks over 50g seem to use sumps and refugiums. I can say I personally need something I can get to easily without making a mess. >  Thanks!  <Your quite welcome>, Leslie

FO Marine Filtration, Feeding the Lions Hiya, <Hello there> We have a 75 gal. tank w/ one Fluval 304 and one Fluval 404, very thin substrate, weekly 10% water changes, one Picasso Trigger and one V. Lionfish, now for the question...is the filtration system(s) enough or should we be using something else due to the kids' waste output? <Mmm, could> The Picasso is so easy to feed a variety of frozen food and live gut loaded occasionally as a treat. He'll eat anything but flake food. Now the Lion is a little tougher switching over. Is time a factor here? <Sometimes...> We've had him for one week tomorrow. He's hasn't gone for anything frozen... ya know, the I'm gonna eat dance and then realizes it's frozen and snubs it??? We will try to starve him, but what is a recommended amount of time for the starvation? <Depends on size, state of condition... weeks> He's about 4 inches long, just a baby. We lost a Lion a few years back due to lack of knowledge, and with the help of your website, we are learning quite a lot about all things marine, and we thank you for that! Any help w/ the above is greatly appreciated.  Thanks Jenn & Bob <Glad to share. Bob Fenner> 

150 gallon Fish only tank filter choices... Hey guys I want to get a 150 gallon Fish only tank and want the best quality water for my fish. Money is no object. I was wondering if I should get a wet/dry filter system with a skimmer or get a refugium system with a skimmer? What is the best way to go. Thanks, Will <Depends... wet-dries are pretty pass nowadays... but are useful for some folks... mainly with all-fish set-ups. Rather than money, trial and error, I encourage you to spend your time educating yourself re options here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/index.htm Bob Fenner> 
Re: 150 gallon Fish only tank
Thanks Bob, I did some research and for some reason I like the sound of a refugium set up with a skimmer. I did look at many manufactures and ways to set one up and my head is about to explode...Any suggestions on systems you liked, that worked for you? <Not that there is space, time for here. You would do well to peruse the last published effort by Antoine and myself: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/WWMAdminSubWebIndex/dealers_and_distributors.htm as a good quarter of it is devoted to Refugiums... Bob Fenner> 

54 Gallon Corner Setup I want to set up a 54 Gallon Corner Tank - SW Fish Only. I was considering the tank with a built in overflow but I heard it may be somewhat noisy (constant waterfall?).<It's very bearable>  Also, should I go with a wet/dry sump type filter or maybe an Eheim canister for this size tank?<Wet/dry>  I've gone through numerous articles on the site regarding types of filtration and see numerous opinions. I 'm really confused on what to get. I would appreciate your specific input. <Personally I would go with an Ecosystem 60 hang on or sump model.> Also, I've read many of the articles and you guys obviously recommend using Live Rock. With a Fish Only Tank, would I still have good results not using Live Rock.<You will need a biological filter of some sort.>  I've read that if you have to medicate your tank at any time, the chemicals would kill the Live Rock. I will not have a hospital or quarantine tank available. Let me know your input on that. <If copper is used, it certainly won't help the rock any.  Invertebrates will be lost. James (Salty Dog)> Thanks for your help. Mitch

Adding Live Rock to Fish Only 4/17/05 Hello Crew. Just a couple LR questions. I plan on adding some LR to my fish only setup(55g). I currently have a 48" single strip with a Hagen PowerGlo bulb. Is this adequate? Also, do I need to quarantine the rock prior to placing it in the display tank? If so, could it be quarantined with the new fish to aid in filtration. Thank you for always taking the time to respectfully answer my questions, many of which are likely "dumb" questions.  <The live rock will need to by cycled (Even if it is sold as "pre-cured" or "pre-cycled"). No fish are necessary and should not be present. The time it takes to cycle will also serve as a quarantine. You can use just about any kind of container to cycle the rock in, but ideally the rock should fit loosely. While cycling, the rock should be treated like it is alive! Strong water movement, water changes, proper temperature and salinity and maintenance of calcium and alkalinity will ensure that as much live survives as possible. Once ammonia and nitrite are zero, the rock can be moved to the display. Best Regards. AdamC.>

New to Saltwater Bob,  I am new to saltwater aquariums. I had a 30 inch cube glass tank made for a certain location in my new home. The tank has a center column overflow so it can be viewed from all sides. I have ordered two power compacts for lighting. filtration is a wet/dry with protein skimmer. I am still in the design process for the built in cabinet. I would like for it to be a fish only tank until I get more familiar with the water chemistry process.  <Good idea> My question is: I am going for a uncluttered look. A few rocks and miscellaneous for hiding places. To season my tank I was thinking of live sand instead of live rock.  <A possibility... I would use both... or at least some live along with your "base" (non-live) rock... more reliable for cycling... less algae problems down the line> Eventually I would like to turn this in to a Reef tank. When I get more knowledge and funds) Would you recommend that I place some live sand in the sump of the Wet/Dry? And how much would I need to purchase?  Mark McCrary >> <I wouldn't place the live sand down in your sump... Do investigate the possibility, however, of building a plenum/denitrator there with non-line substrates (two grades)... More on this issue can be perused at my site: Home Page , under the Marine Index, terms like "plenum". Bob Fenner>

Just getting started. I am just getting started with a 75 gal tank. I have purchased a RIO 600 power skim and have a wet trickle filter with bioballs. currently I only have 1 40watt light. I am going to the store and buying R/O water to start. Is this a good start. Do I need more lighting  if I want to have live rock. How much live rock should I put in the tank? Being a beginner should I stick with fish only? As much info you can recommend is greatly appreciated. chi  >> Welcome to the ever-fascinating learning, and fun experience of marine aquarium keeping. Yes to more lighting... even if you're going to make this a fish only system, and even more so if you intend to have live rock... Look for full spectrum fluorescent lamps...  While you're investigating matters, do consider getting, rigging up your own reverse osmosis unit... If you consider your tapwater as unsuitable for your marine aquarium, you shouldn't be drinking or using it for cooking... and such units are inexpensive, easy to install... For live rock stocking... more is better... up to a pound to a pound in a half per gallon... Check out the by the "box" deals FFExpress.com has... better to get it and cure it this way. Do consider first going "fish only" until you have a bit of experience... FO systems are more forgiving, less subject to outright problems than fish and invertebrate to reef systems... But do keep looking, studying, dreaming... and direct your livestock purchases to organisms that will mix (not big "eater uppers") for the time upcoming (I sense you're a fast learner) when you'll be craving a reef. Bob Fenner

I recently wrote you about me upgrading my 125 FOWLR to an 180 FOWLR. My equipment consist of a 25 watt UV, MAK 4 pump, Turboflotor 1000, Nuclear canister filter, Approx. 150 lbs. of LR. You stated that you would need to know what type of fish my tank would include to determine if the Turboflotor would be efficient enough. Here is a list of what I would like to have. Any other recommendations would be appreciated. Coris Wrasse  Dragon Wrasse Sohal Tang Naso Tang (2) Dusky Jawfish Harlequin Tuskfish Red Sea Sailfin Tang Assasi Trigger <The Turbo floater (I take it this is a 1000 model) should be fine... and if it were my system, I would probably just use this unit...> Haven't had any luck with the large angel fishes I get them when there about 3 inches and they do well for about a week then they start to loose there color and die on me. I'm somewhat afraid to spend any more money on them. <Don't blame you... and the limiting influence may well be all these other fishes... really kind of crowded... psychologically if not physiologically...> With this setup and fish like this do I need to concentrate more on a better protein skimmer or adding a 30 gal refugium with LR? <The latter if not both> If both which one first, How many lbs. of LR should be in the refugium?  <the order stated, and about twenty to thirty depending on shape, density... and with Macroalgae and lighting... simple, on the sump.> Since space is kind of a concern if the refugium is added what I would do is connect my drains to a 100 micron filter bag at one end of the tank and have my protein skimmer next to it then my live rock, (would this be okay?) or does it need to be separate? <Can be together as stated> How can one tell if he has enough LR in a system to maintain it? Will a Dolphin pump be quieter and save me more money in the long run if I change pumps since I will have about 5ft of head pressure? Lots of questions but your assistance would be greatly appreciated. Thank You  <Measures of nitrate are indicative, and the Dolphin/other direct drive fractional HP pump, is a very good idea on all counts. Bob Fenner> 

Filtration for a FO System I currently upgrading my 125gal FOWLR tank to a 180gal. My question is what kind of filtration system would work the best on a heavily loaded system containing a red Coris wrasse, dragon wrasse, Queen angel, Naso and Sohal tangs. More fish will be added later. I currently have a Mak 4 pump, 25 watt U.V sterilizer, Nu-clear canister filter, 1 1/2 gallons of bio-balls, 150lbs. of LR and a Turboflotor 1000 P.S. Would you add another Mak 4 pump and Turboflotor 1000 or sell the skimmer and get an reef devil 750 (would this be just a waste of money.) And far as the mechanical filtration goes is the canister filter enough or is there a better method. <I would stick with your current mechanicals... and put the proposed money into a sump system with live rock, Caulerpa algae and some lighting (leaving it on twenty four hours a day)... rather than going to more skimming, wet-dry... You'll find this gets you the most improved, stable water quality in the long run. Bob Fenner>

Marine Set-Up in Hawai'i (FO Filtration) Hi Bob, A friend gave us a 100 gal tank and skimmer for our shop. <Wow, what a gift!> It will be a fish only tank, no reef stuff since it's illegal in Hawaii. <I understand... an overreaction (among many in gov't)> My friend told me to "ask Bob" for what filter to buy and any other essentials, and he will be getting us your book as a grand opening present. <More gifts!> I am brand new to this hobby and any help would be appreciated. Mahalo, Senji <Please read over the "Marine Aquarium Set-Up" sections on our site: www.WetWebMedia.com and their associated FAQs files here... there are a few "roads" to good filtration... as you will find... depending on desired livestock, budget... even though you can't strictly have "live rock", "live sand", stinging-celled life imported. Bob Fenner>

Filtration I started my 29 gallon saltwater aquarium a few months ago. I have a modified SeaClone protein skimmer (which produces a lot of dark liquid) <glad to hear it...> and a millennium 3000 power filter along with a powerhead for circulation. I have about 10 lbs of live rock, along with 25 lbs of base rock, and a crushed coral substrate. For livestock, I currently have a small yellow tang and one damsel, which is all I plan to get.  <very considerate and light for stocking> There is 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, nitrates are at 10. The question I have today concerns the filter. I wish to replace the millennium 3000 with a canister filter, specifically the magnum 350. Would this filter be overkill for such a small system?  <really almost no such thing as too much filtration... sounds good to me> If so, should I go with the smaller magnum 220 or a different filter altogether? If I did use this, would there be sufficient biological filtration in my system or should I get a bio-wheel to supplement this?  <nope... I wouldn't bother. Do go with your first choice of a larger canister and also consider Eheim units. Better biological capacity> I know that this isn't the best way to filter my system,  <really very fine... not at all weak, rest assured> but due to the cost restrictions with being a college student, this is all I can currently afford. Thank you for answering my questions. Mike <fair enough... and with such a light fish load, do add and enjoy compatible invertebrates and fauna for/from live rock. Best regards, Anthony>

Fluidized Sand vs. Trickle Filter In the "planning stage" for a 200 gal. F/O saltwater system. Will have protein skimmer but requesting comments re: Fluidized sand bed instead of a typical wet/dry trickle filter. Thanks, Skipper30217 <My preference of the two would be for the W/D. Fluidized bed sand filters rob your tank's water of oxygen and can get very funky if you lose power. -Steven Pro>

Small Marine Aquariums
Book 1: Invertebrates, Algae
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by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Small Marine Aquariums
ook 2: Fishes
New Print and eBook on Amazon: by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Small Marine Aquariums Book 3: Systems
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by Robert (Bob) Fenner
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