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FAQs on Reef Set-Up 1

Related Articles: Reef Systems, Reef Set-Up, Technology: Putting on the Brakes:  How much is too much? By Tommy Dornhoffer, Refugiums, Reef Filtration, Marine System PlumbingMarine Aquarium Set-UpFish-Only Marine Set-up, FOWLR/Fish and Invertebrate Systems, Coldwater Systems, Small Systems, Large Systems, RefugiumsMarine Biotope, Marine LandscapingFishwatcher's Guides

Related FAQs: Reef Set-Up 2, Reef Set-Up 3, Reef Set-Up 4, Reef Set-Up 5, Reef Set-Up 6, Reef Set-Up 7, Reef Set-Up 8, Reef Set-Up 9, Reef Set-Up 10, Reef Set-Up 11, Reef Set-Up 13, Reef Set-Up 14, Reef Set-Up 15, & Reef Tanks, Reef LightingReef Lighting 2Reef Filtration, & Reef LivestockingReef Livestocking 2, Reef Feeding, Reef Disease, Reef Maintenance, Marine System PlumbingMarine Aquarium Set-UpLive RockLive Sand, Reef Maintenance Biotopic presentations Algal Filtration in General, Mud Filtration 1

Tom Walsh's fabulous (one of two) twenty long reefs

Stocking tank and refugium Hi guys. Great website, it is the best that I have encountered. I have a 45 gallon sw tank with 30 pounds of live rock and about 50 pounds of live sand. Filtration is an Emperor and a Aqua C remora skimmer. Ammonia and nitrites are 0 and nitrates are 20. Current inhabitants are five scarlet hermits, five Nassarius snails, nine turbo, one Astrea, a sand star, a two inch yellowtailed damsel, and a 4 inch lawnmower blenny. I have two areas of questions for you today.  First, I am looking for a "prize fish" for the aquarium and am wondering if there is a particular species you might recommend. <Mmm, a dwarf dwarf angel... a Dottyback species? A hamlet, Liopropoma, Serranus species?... many choices to consider.> Unfortunately, I can't get a larger tank for several years, so that limits what I can keep now. I was looking at dwarf lions, anglers, Hawkfish, dwarf angels, or maybe a maroon clown. I was also looking to possibly add some sort of button or colony polyp and an anemone down the road, but would first need to increase the wattage of the lights. Second, I am also playing with adding a fifteen or twenty gallon sump/refugium to the aquarium. The tank is not drilled and it would be nearly impossible to do so. How could I get the water to the sump? Should I draw it up and over the edge of the tank to overflow into the sump, and how can I accomplish this? Also, what is an appropriate overflow rate; I was looking at either a Magdrive 5 or 7 for return to the main tank. Or is a sump just not feasible and a waste or time, effort, and money? Thank you for your help- Joe P.S. How many watts of light would be sufficient for the refugium? <Mmm, these issues are covered... quite a bit on WWM... I'd read over here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/plumbingmarart.htm and here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/refugium.htm and on to the Related FAQs.  Many good things to read, enjoy. Bob Fenner> 

Reef: Research, Equipment, Research, Circulation, Research - 8/4/5 Hi, my name is Travis. <Hi Travis, Oh no, they set us up the bomb! ;) - Ali here..> Let me take a moment to explain my situation. I started out with a small tank and a big Oscar about 6 months ago. The Oscar got moved to a bigger tank, and he outgrew it. Then he moved to another bigger tank, 75 gallons, and he got ich and died. Six months ago when I bought that Oscar, I had never owned a fish. Now all I think about are aquariums. Anyway, after the Oscar died, I decided that Oscars were not my bag. So what do I do after failing at my first attempt? <Grab several cups of coffee and start researching?> I decide to go with a reef tank. I know, go ahead and laugh, I'm an idiot. So I've got this 75 gallon tank. I put a layer of crushed shells mixed with aragonite sand in it. I then build up the back with lava rock as a base for my live rock that I'll eventually get. I fill the tank with water and mix in the salt mix, and that's where things get complicated. In my effort to get everything right from the start, I will not buy a single live organism until I know everything is set up exactly perfectly. <Good, however your current set-up needs to be looked over and altered, continue to browse this site along with www.reefcentral.com for proper reef tank filtration methods and do some reading. I highly, highly recommend you pick up Bob's The Conscientious Marine Aquarist and read, read and read some more.> I had a Marineland 350 Biowheel filter and a Marineland Magnum 350, both of which I was planning to use on this saltwater tank. I was given advice against BioWheels, so I moved that filter to my other freshwater tank, and I returned the Magnum 350 to the store so I could afford more important items. I then bought what I thought was a good protein skimmer, a Prizm Pro Deluxe (a.k.a. garbage). So the skimmer did not do anything other than fill the collection cup with water and leak, so I returned it. Then I read some more, and decide I need a reverse osmosis unit, as my tap water is high in nitrates (about 30 ppm out of the tap). I also have a "wavemaker" unit that is pretty much 3 295gph powerheads plugged into a power strip designed to alternate them. <Run your powerheads without the wavemaker. This type of 'wavemaker' decreases circulation within the tank, do a search on this as well...In a nutshell a wavemaker "stops" circulation and then turns it 'on' again. Not a very good method and unfortunately many aquarist fall victim to purchasing these devices. A better option would be to purchase, say for example 4 MaxiJet 1200 powerheads and position one powerhead in each corner of the tank. Position the nozzles so they are all pointing to the center of the tank, causing the currents to collide with each other and essentially creating chaotic and random flow/circulation without 'stopping' the circulation.> Now you know what I know, and here is where I get to my questions. What do I need to buy to get my system set up. I will help by suggesting things that I think I need, but am not sure about: I have no stand, but the tank is resting on a very sturdy dresser that is the perfect length. Do I need a real stand? <Here is a picture of one of my old reef aquariums from 4 or 5 years ago... A standard 50 sumpless gallon tank placed on an underwear drawer: http://reefcentral.com/gallery/data/500/8980ProjectReefOLDTANK.jpg So, no you don't 'need' a stand if you are going sumpless, however if you plan on ever adding a hang on the back overflow box, you will need a standard aquarium stand in order to place your sump underneath.> I now have no protein skimmer: what is the best model for my size tank? <Best hang-on skimmer the market now would probably be the AquaC Remora Pro> I do not have a plenum, sump, or refugium: which would be best to keep my nitrates low? <3-5" FINE grain sugar sized aragonite substrate (CaribSea Aragamax select) along with high quality live rock, good quality skimmer, lots of circulation and a low fish bioload.> I plan to only house coral, and coral safe fish/inverts that thrive in average to moderate lighting, because metal halide is out of the question: how many watts do I need? I saw a 90 gallon glass tank with a pine stand/canopy in the paper for $300, is this a good deal? Is there anywhere that can just tell me step by step what I need to do to set up my tank, and what brands of what equipment are good? <The internet, especially this site and reefcentral.com have a ridiculous amount of valuable information. You need to be assertive and take action - READ, research, then do it again. Don't expect everyone to do it for you.> I have no local fish stores, so it's all pretty much internet for me, and I never know what or whom to trust. Also, please while answering my queries keep in mind that I would like my tank to look nice and function well, but I would also like to be able to afford to put a fish or two in it sometime this century. <Good luck Travis, I'm sure that if you continue your research (how many times have I used that word?), purchase the proper equipment and utilize the proper husbandry techniques - your new reef tank will be a long-term success. - Ali>

Lights and Hoods? - 8/20/03 Hello <howdy!> I have been reading a lot of your wonderful suggestions on various lighting. It seems that MH lights 10K are a common theme when trying to illuminate a tank for most inverts. <correct and fair to say... a safe choice> Also, it seems to be recommended to hang them 6-12"'s above. <yes... 9" being ideal for many for optimal spread versus intensity> My question concerns the prefabricated hood which are fan- cooled and perhaps stand three inches at best above the glass canopy. Is this a problem, say in a 46g bow tank? <hmmm... it depends on the species of invert being kept. Some will favor or tolerate it... others will suffer light shock. And the lamps have a worse spread the closer they are to the water (not maximizing light delivery). For such fixtures... simply prop them up or suspend them higher to get your 6-12"> ... and more specifically would a 175w 10k Aqualine bulb be enough for soft corals and perhaps an anemone (haddoni or bubble tip)... <it would likely be enough for either, but you must know that the anemone should not be kept in a tank with corals. Motile cnidarians (the anemones) are a recipe for disaster with sessile ones. Issues of movement, allelopathy and simply catastrophe from the inevitable walk through the reef full of corals. Anemones need species tanks> ... or should it be supplemented with a pair of NO, VHO, or PC's and if so 6500k or actinic? <only for aesthetics if you like> As always tanks a lot for the great advice. Regards, Steve <best regards, Anthony>

Information on reef set-up Hello Mr. Fenner, <Hello> I have been looking for information regarding REEF setup and maintenance for fish and invertebrates (some easy to keep coral's), and while surfing came across your Q&A board. I previously (two years ago) had an all fish marine tank. However, I had to leave it with family when I moved from the east to the west coast (BTW the tank is still thriving). Now that I have acclimated, I want to get back into the serenity an aquarium can offer and wish to graduate to REEF keeping. <Ah, great> I am currently building a stand for my 75 gallon (48x18x20) tank and have ordered a 4x65 watt JBJ lighting system, other than this, I have no other equipment. I am looking for good up-to-date information regarding the how and what to do (or more importantly what not to do) regarding reef-keeping. I have the patience and consistency necessary to keep the tank, I do not have the knowledge or experience of how to keep the tank functioning (in particular: other hardware/equipment, filtration, feeding and water movement) <And it appears you have the intelligence, drive to weather the amounts, kinds of controversy... the various disparate opinions on "how you might go about aspects of this project"> If you would; provide some direction on literature and any helpful information with the knowledge I seek. Any of your suggestions will be greatly appreciated. <Do take a look at the hobby magazines in the US... the acronyms, FAMA, AFM, TFH... do you recognize these? They have websites (listed on our www.WetWebMedia.com links page). Is there a "marine club" nearby you? Maybe ask the Net, your local fish store/s... and join up... am out on a Tank Tour (L.A.) right this AM... Yikes. What books have you? There are some new winners... I have posted several reviews of some of them on the WWM site... for easy reading I'd review John Tullock's "Natural Reef Aquariums", more heavy duty? Sprung and Delbeek's, Fossa and Nilsen's "Reef" works... There are a few listservs and bb's on the net that are worthwhile to sort through, including their archives... links to these on WWM as well... > I have looked at the Q&A on the board and am impressed with your responses and the light-hearted but informative way they are delivered. Thanks for being there for folks like me. Fred. <And folks like me. Bob Fenner>

Fish, Feeding, and the Captive Reef Hello, I have never written you before so this is a first.  (Hello there, salutem dicit) I have been into the saltwater aquariums now for about 3 years and micro-reefs for about half of that time. My wife and I currently keep a 72g reef with 8g in the sump and a 6g refugium. Our fish are currently a boxfish (he is on the way out as he is nipping), 2 squarebox Anthias, 1 algae blenny, and a mated pair of saddleback clowns. (Perhaps your Boxfish has a bad temperament... perhaps a nutritional deficiency...) I have a couple of questions. For one with the removal of the boxfish would you consider the bio load low enough to move in our flame angel from another tank? (Yes, this should be fine) I have spoken with several people who run tanks that they don't directly feed the fish. They dose DTs or some type of plankton and invertebrate foods. Obviously the Anthias make this an impossibility in our tank. But what are your thoughts on leaving the reef as a self sustaining ecosystem? Are we (the reef keeping hobby at large) advanced enough in our filtration to achieve this type of balance? (Yes... given considerations to 'relative sizes of sumps, refugiums...' types of livestock... as you bring up so well with the zooplanktivorous anthiines... you would need relatively large, vigorous refugia...) In the event that you didn't directly feed your fish what invertebrate supplementation would you add? (Hmm... large amounts of nano and micro-plankton for sure... but best to culture crustacean and soon, worm larvae for such feeding...) What fish are capable of foraging enough to survive in the modern micro-reef? (The large sink of the open ocean washing over such reefs... a higher level of primary productivity than captive environments... a few other factors I'm sure you and I could define, elaborate on...) Your response is appreciated. Thank You, Doug Brummett (Thank you my friend... much more to chat over as time goes by. Bob Fenner)

Reef tank prep... RO, pumps, fish mixes... I need to buy a few more items before my tank will be ready for live rock and I am seeking your advice. First off I need a Reverse Osmosis filter unit. I know you prefer the hardware store type but I am unable to find any at the local hardware stores. Could you describe the difference between a "bare bones" RO and a regular one?  <You can order all types on the Net... A bare bones model IMO lacks a reservoir system... and maybe in-line "pre-filter" mechanisms (which may be worthwhile if your source-water has a great deal of metal, variable sanitizer... solide en toto in it (these also can be gotten separately... most are particulate/diatomaceous earth, activated carbon types filters... that connect between the tap-source and the R.O. unit)> The one thing that there isn't much information about on your site is RO. Can you recommend a good one?  <A good model? They all have to pass "good enough" certification for human drinking water safety/use... And there are lifetimes "worth" of items missing from the WWM site...> I was thinking along the lines of a Kent barebones 20 gallon a day.  <This is a good (re-labeled) unit... It is not made by Kent...> Another item I need is a return pump for my sumps. I am on Albert Thiel's reef mailing list and everyone one there likes mag drive pumps a lot, nut you tend to like Eheims.  <The Mag line are good units> The mag drive I'm looking at is one fourth of the cost of the Eheim that is 100 gph less. Do you like Magdrive? My next question is about my tidepool one wet dry which I am going to use with another sump for macroalgae. I have read not to use carbon or filter pads with reefs because the corals eat the stuff that is filtered out with these products. Would you use the filter trays?  <Just the pads for sieving out particles... and activated carbon once a month...> And would you keep the BioWheel in?  <Doubtful... perhaps just the first month or so as the system is/was breaking in> I know its early to talk fish but could you comment on this list? 1 powder blue tang 1 royal Gramma 2 percula clowns 2 firefish (red or purple) 1 Fiji damsel?------------optional Thank you in advance Andrew <Study up on the Powder Blue... not easy to keep... pest importers... I would choose between the Gramma and Firefish... occupy similar habitats... likely aggravation here. Bob Fenner>

Planning for a larger reef Hi Bob, Happy holidays to you. Are you familiar with the Tenecor Berlin System Acrylic Aquariums? I am currently research on upgrading my 60G reef to a 100-125G tank. It appears that Tenecor's tank also come with an option for "Simplicity Plus" which puts all the plumbing behind the tank vs. inside a sump below: http://www.tenecor.com/aquar/simplicityrect.htm <Yes, helped my Brother in law with getting one of these from the Phoenix fabricator> What do you think of these designs? I am rather attracted to them since it avoids having tubes and potential leakages as the setup ages. <They're fine... well built... though I'd size up the sumps... make more room for fitting light, placing live rock, macro algae... maybe allowing flexibility for folks who'd like to build a refugium or plenum or mud/live rock and macro algae filtration there...> Are there other acrylic tank brands you'd recommend? <Certainly. Sea Clear/Tradewind/Casco, TruVu, San Diego Plastics... many many more> Thanks for your advice. Brian <Depends on where you live... cost-wise for shipping... and if you can get by on a stock size (much less money than custom)... but there are plenty of worthwhile manufacturers about. Bob Fenner>

Question about little white things In advance, I would like to thank you for answering everyone's questions. You are extremely insightful <Maybe I'll start a riot!? You're welcome> and are an asset to anyone who is running an aquarium. Now, with all that said, I was hoping you could help me with a problem I am having with my tank. It is about a 35 gallon tank and I have two damsels and a yellow tang in it. It is a fish tank and I also have some snails and hermit crabs. Recently (maybe two weeks ago), my father "stored" some live rock in it overnight (he bought it by me and then took it home with him). <Yikes, start of "looking a gift horse in the face" Trojan sort of story> Ever since then, I have been seeing little white things - fuzz ball looking things that look like a white fuzz ball with a spider web around them (kind of little insect looking things). These things are all over the glass on the inside. Everyday they seem to be multiplying. I am writing to ask a few questions: 1. Have you heard of this and know what these things are? <Yep, likely some type(s) of amphipod, other crustacean group> 2. What should I do? <Probably nothing... they too shall/will pass, maybe actually beneficial> 3. To get rid of them, how do I do it? <Let time go by, underfeed, perhaps add some sort of (other) predators...> 4. Any other info would be great. <I'll say! Let's see, "Things are not always as they seem", how's that?> Unfortunately, one of my damsels is starting to become discolored...and it only started after I started seeing these little white things. <Likely unrelated... they "just do that" for what who reasons... if only one, don't be(come) overly concerned> Thanks in advance, Mike <Be chatting my friend, Bob Fenner, kia orana>

What is the difference btwn "Hard bottom reef" and "true" coral reefs? I am trying to find out the main differences between the two, but there is not much specific info. out there. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you. <Well, this is a new one/terminology on me... maybe try the listservs that cater to marine aquarium hobbyists... You can find their URL's on our Links Pages at www.WetWebMedia.com Bob Fenner>

I'm a new reefer hi, I just ordered your book and cant wait to get it. <Know you'll enjoy, benefit> The purpose of this email is to ask you a question.   You being a "Big Dog" <Woof> I feel kind of silly asking you this but I am trying to stock my tank and I think if I were only to get one persons opinion I would want yours.  You come highly recommended among your peers.  <What exactly was it that P.T. Barnum gets most quoted for...?) If you don't feel the need to answer this I will not take offense I know you are busy but I figured if you had a minute maybe you could give me a hand.  here are my tank specs:  20G Long 30 in to be exact and 13in high and equipment is a penguin 660 ph and a penguin 150 BioWheel.......and obviously a heater and a thermometer.....I use RO water now its been about a month since I did my last tap water usage.........I have a cc bed right now.....I have about 15 lbs of ltr. and am buying another 8-10 soon. current inhab.s are as follows (as well as complimentary corals on their way) 2 tomato clownfish both pretty small one is border line medium......a 1in blue damsel and a blue velvet damsel. I think that is all the fish I will be having. <Good idea... will be a bit psychologically crowded>I would have liked a different fish w/ more color.....maybe I'll get a tiny goby later on......<and likely new, larger tank/system>.also, I have a tennis ball sized hitchhiker giant Condy anem. I have 2 Hawaiian hermits*I think that's what kind they are called* a midget blue legged hermit also I'm iffy on the name of this guy. and my latest addition were 3 turbo snails. From two of my good buddies who shall remain nameless unless they feel the need to let everyone know how great of guys they are  I am getting a couple stalks of xenia and several different kind of mushrooms. I am running 2X55w. pc's 12hrs a day 1blue and 1 white. for the 4hrs I am home I add an additional strip light its just a 20w. fluo.'. and in the am and pm I run blue only for a dusk and dawn kinda thing. now if you could please help me decide what to put in here. right now all I know I want for sure are a cleaner shrimp and a green goddess *echinoderm but its not an echinoderm* the echinoderm will be hard to find but I may just have to order it some time. I may be switching to a play sand bed if my cash flow gets moving upwards pretty soon.. but just for the sake of argument tell me what I can do w/ this set up. I mainly want coral and invert suggestions. i.e. specific shrimps, crazy stuff like echinoderms that wont eat coral, corals, anything active that will not mind being seen the majority of the day.... I hate stuff that is hiding 23 of the 24 hrs. of the day. I am totally open to suggestions......the anem wont be a problem he hasn't moved in nearly 1.5mnth. so I think he found a good spot and now both of the tomato's want him.........please I would greatly appreciate your help.....I know its mostly personal preference but frankly I like everything. I'd really appreciate a hand. thank you for your time Respectfully yours Jon <Do make a big pot of java or whatever akin to this "most widely abused psychoactive drug" that you prefer, if any, and go directly (do not pass Go...) to our fab website:   Home Page and read the two survey pieces stowed there on selection of livestock for marine, reef systems... and follow the internal links to so much more... and do keep good personal notes... Be chatting, Bob "Chihuahua boy" Fenner>

Reef Tank questions Bob, You've always had the best advice, so here I am, back again with more questions: My tank is a 72 gal, with 4 55 watt power compacts (12 hr on/off). It has 110 lbs of live rock (Fiji/Belize mix). The sump contains a 100 micron filter sock, a Red Sea Berlin skimmer (classic), and I also use a poly filter, Chemi-pure, Chemosorb, and Phosguard filters (changed 2-4 wks, depending on how bad they look). 15% water change is done every 2 wks. Additives: Seachem reef pack (according to instructions) and Aragamilk (daily, according to instructions). <Okay...> 1) I'm trying to enlarge my sump, and want to partition it using acrylic panels. Is it safe to use 'weld-on 3' acrylic cement for this purpose? (there are some pretty nasty warnings on this stuff - i.e., don't drink, inhale, contact skin/eyes, etc). If not, can you recommend a cement? <Yes, I'd use the Weld-On product (this or #2) for a permanent install... or maybe just 100% silicone (the designation is important to distinguish this material from formulations with mildewcides, other additives... like the adhesive utilized for putting all-glass aquariums together... to allow easy re-making should you change this arrangement of panels> 2) I use the poly filter/Chemipure/Chemosorb/Phosguard to help with phosphates/nitrates and to keep water 'clear'. I change them out every 2-4 weeks. (ammonia/nitrites/nitrates/phosphates have always been 0). Would I gain anything by adding a lighted section to my sump for macro-algae?  <Absolutely... and you may send my portion of the big money you're saving to my yacht broker, at Mattel> (My dissolved oxy levels are a little low (6-7 ppm)<Hmm, this is about saturation...>, and my ph dips (8.0 - 7.9) at night. <No real worries here> I'd like to keep the oxy so it never dips below 7 and the ph in a tight 8.2-8.4 range, but just can't seem to pull it off). <Lots to say here... maybe the beginning of our own "Casablanca" relationship... chance to pen that omnibus article/understanding... breakthrough/evolution (unfolding) of the use of CO2, reactors in the west... Don't obsess re this statement or the situation you currently find yourself/system in... just do add the sump/refugium-lighting-macro-algae and things will be much better... soon> 3) If the lighted sump/macro algae would be beneficial, what types of macro-algae would you recommend? Also, would a cubic foot of area (12x12x12) be sufficient for a 70 gal tank, or should I allocate more space in the sump for the algae? <This is enough room, though "the more the merrier", and Caulerpa taxafolia, C. sertularoides and any type of genus Halimeda are my faves, but others will do> 4) If I go with the lighted sump/algae, should I drop the 'Poly/Chemipure/Chemosorb/Phosguard' combo? If I keep it, should it follow/precede the algae in the sump (I was thinking it should follow, to give the algae a chance at the nitrates/phosphates and to allow the chemfiltration a chance at the algae's leached compounds). <You will likely find there is no advantage/use for the Chemosorb and Phosguard products (this is a certainty Bob, just state so), but I would periodically replace the Chemipure (mainly activated carbon to all you future browsers) once a month... and maybe the Polyfilter (tm) product every blue moon> 5) Even though my nutrients always read 0, I seem to have a recurring prob with brown/red slime algae. I've used 'Tropical Science Phosphate filter' product (includes an Erythromycin Thiocyanate powder that 'kills' the active slime algae). This seems to work, but the slime algae always seems to come back <Bingo... it's the system, not the algae... and you will not need, should not use this product going forward... toss it> (slowly - takes a few months and is very sloooow to progress (not the massive blooms that I've heard of and seen at my LFS) - it still bugs me though). From reading your FAQs, it looks like the macro algae in the sump might help, but is there anything else you could recommend? <Other photosynthates, a deep sand bed/plenum area in a sump (maybe another one?), more/better live rock (South Pacific types) for enhanced denitrifation (switch, add some more every six months or so...)> (I turn the water over roughly 14x every hour when the main pump and powerheads are totaled. 2 of the powerheads are on timers, while the other is a zoomed that has a constantly cycling output, so the current should be highly variable and I don't think its part of the prob). Would extra filtration (UV/Ozone) help? <Yes... nominally... (Bob, that last adverb, is it helpful? Ridiculous. Let's go somewhere where the water is clear and warm and go diving!... The ozone would definitely help... and a dryer for the ozonizer... then the ultraviolet sterilizer... in that order or "utility/helpfulness"... but I would put the resources into the sump(s) first... and Do let us/you consider the many advantages of a carbon dioxide/biomineral reactor... Where's my crystal ball at this AM? Oh there it is. Sure as heck, there's one in your future.> 6) One last ques. I have LPS, soft corals, gorgonians, clams, and hope to add fan worms and SPS in the next few months. Are there any dwarf angels (eibli, keyhole, flame, coral beauty, pygmy) that would be safe in this tank? <None absolutely... but I would not be dissuaded from trying any of these... as your system will offer plenty of other diversions, food sources for the potentially nippy> I've had some people indicate that the angels might go after the tube/fan worms or nip at the clams. <Yes, all are possible> Thanks again -sorry for the large amount of ques, but your advice is just the best (if you could bottle it, you'd make a fortune!) <Hmmm, Bob in a bottle? You're making me thirsty! Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

A concerned disciple BOB, Thanks in advance for what you have done for me in my hobby. I have written you once before about the use of gelatins and your book a few months back while on vacation. Now that I have memorized most of your book and downloaded most all of the FAQ's <Watch out, there are more most every day> I have a variety of questions. The first of which will be the following. I have noticed that you will not set up a marine system with out the use of a protein skimmer. <In most cases skimmers are a real asset> I have heeded you council and am skimming away. However your book doesn't make a big of deal about the use of ozone but I noticed in one of your FAQ's that you do not set up a system with out the use of one. <Hmm, not so... at least I don't mean to be such a strong advocate... These tools are very secondary in importance to a good skimmer, and let's say a desiccator to dry the air for the ozonizer in turn would be tertiary, or third, less further of importance, utility... but still useful... We have several tanks here... none currently with Ozone in use but do install these devices on very large systems, with variable bioloads where they are of tremendous help in maintaining high water quality, reducing microbial populations and their effects...> (or not as hard a "sell" as the fractionator in the book why not as strong of an opinion). Could you please tell me what you think of a system that has a 200 gal wet dry (Edsel) a 125-gallon tank. (Could this be a problem since the wet dry is bigger than the tank is supposed to match. I thought that bigger was better) XXXXXX <The latter> BOB DOES THIS MEAN THAT A WET DRY THAN THE TANK IS MADE FOR IS BETTER? CAN IT OVER Process so that the bactersomonas can not keep up? <Hmm, don't follow the first stmt... some times a wet-dry (mostly as a sump/place for situating gear, increasing volume... is better than a canister filter as a "either/or" choice... And yes, bacteria of one group easily overwhelm others given conditions that favor one population/species mix over another...> 100lbs on crushed coral on the bottom for and a Rio 3100 on the tank just moving the water around a little better. The tank was fully matured in July when I slowly started to add fish at about 2 every other week. The tank is a fish only tank with about 40lbs of live rock. I know that I need more. I also have a XL DA filter. (has your opinion of these changed any at all? <No> XXXXXX Can a DA filter actually remove ICH and other critters as claimed?  <Not in my experience... as in most all, or appreciably> I only use mine for about 3 or 4 hours per week. (since attending more shows and research as stated in your FAQ's on DA filtration) I have about 15 small fish (damsels, Anthias, clowns, angels (Koran and lemon peel) 2 fire fish, a well as a small clean up crew( a few snails and red hermit crabs). I am using some POWER glow lights to help live rock. My REAL question is this: In the last week my nitrites have risen (the water is ever so slightly tinted on the test) and I have lost my first group of fishes (fairy wrasse, long nose butter fly, royal Gramma and a flame hawk) all over a 36 hour period. <What? Not good... did you add any activated carbon? I would, and quick> XXXX I run two carbon bags under the foam at the top of the wet dry where the water comes in? THEY ARE ABOUT A MONTH OLD NOW (THE CARBON) I know that this stuff expires quickly WOULD A QUICK CHANGE OF THESE HELP TO REDUCE THE NITRITE? <Indirectly yes, this is worth a shot> I was really hurt. I rushed to my LFS with a sample of water in hand and they can not find anything at all. They did mention that my nitrites were slightly off but did not think that it was killing my friends. I bought a bottle of cycle and it seems as if has brought my levels of nitrite down. Is this the proper solution and is the reason I am having this problem because of the wet dry being too efficient in the nitrogen cycle? <Something is definitely awry, but what? Offhand I'd guess either something has triggered a recycling event... a dead organism of size, overfeeding, some sort of pollution killed off your nitrifiers... and do the standard defense measure of a water change (with pre-made water, no additives... and add a couple of "units" of activated carbon> I change the water faithfully every 2 weeks at about 10% or 15% rate. I was really really heart broken that I had let down the fish. In your book you don't seem to impressed with the use of "cycle" fluids but what about after water changes in young systems such as mine? <You shouldn't need to use such products in a going system...> XXXXXX Yes I agree that I shouldn't have to use these products but in my case was this the correct answer to the nitrites being slightly off. <Some downsides to augmenting microbial action in established systems...> Case 2: After devouring your book I took it on a trip with a friend and we took turns reading it even more! He is now setting up a 90 gallon bowfront tank. But with fresh water. He was thinking of using a canister filter or a wet dry. I suggested the Edsel. He is not sold one way or the other but would the wet dry be of any harm in a fresh water system? <None more than marine> I told him that there is no way you would suggest not using a protein skimmer. Protein and junk is going to get "foamed out" in marine or fresh Right? <Not the case... freshwater systems are tricky to skim... can be done, but better to lessen metabolite build-up concentrations with freshwater systems (which are more "accustomed" to these events than marine... due to the inconstancy of these environments through geological time... with water changes, the use of some live plants, under-crowding, careful feeding...> So my question for him is this: Should he be as concerned about a protein skimmer with a fresh water system and what about a wet dry vs. a canister? We both want to start a refugium tank soon. <Nah to using a skimmer, unless you want to experiment, design/engineer one... and either the wet-dry or canister will do... Do read over the plant sections of our site... and get me to finish and place the parts that may help to unfold your possibilities here> You're the man! We take your book as the bible and your words as the way, the truth and the unbiased light, We would love to meet you one day if we could have the privilege while traveling through SD CA, until that day, <Hmm, would definitely not go quite this far. But be it known, "We are the pet-fish men! Yeah!!!> Sean Warren, PS. Could you please reply back to this mail at this address: Sean_Warren28@hotmail.com So that I can read it while on the road. THANKS SOOO MUCH disciple <Be chatting my young acolyte, Bob Fenner> XXXXXX BOB DO YOU HAVE ANY NEW BOOKS COMING OUT? I READ YOUR MONTHLY ARTICLE IN ONE OF THE MAGAZINES I SUBSCRIBE TO. Could you please reply back to this mail at this address: Sean_Warren28@hotmail.com So that I can read it while on the road. THANKS SOOO MUCH <Have one that Amazon.com is reselling, and we do on the WWM site... and three more "at the editors" (Microcosm... they're out of money...) and two others am working on with a new Net friend, "The Best Livestock for Your Reef Aquarium" (Fishes and Non-Fishes volumes...) Good luck on getting these in print... Do need help, editing, layout, real sales and distribution... and to make these works spiffy takes a chunk of change... So "keep writing and making images"... and hoping, trying to make things better... How 'bout you? You're about due for submitting your impressions, findings... Bob Fenner> THANKS FOR YOUR HELP SEAN

Smithsonian mag was Re: Mandarin Ok reading the article again in the January 1981 Issue of Smithsonian magazine. here's a brief description. First the article is really interesting. Talking about the Carrie Bay Cay off the coast of Belize. How scientists are studying the way urchins and parasites are affecting the Reefs inhabitants. Second the Article goes into slight details about the influences of light on coral shapes stating that the deeper the coral the wider and flatter the corals become. Then it brings up this fact Taken word for word out of the magazine page 42 issue January 1981 written by Lawrence E. Taylor " is prowling along the reef to continue his work on what can truly be called a breakthrough: he and his colleagues at the Museum of Natural History have learned how to keep alive in captivity a small but complete coral reef with its myriad plants and animals, an accomplishment that until a few years ago was regarded as impossible." They state that this accomplishment is actually a research tool that scientists could finally use to be able to study the microsystems within the system that could and would save thousands of dollars in research. Finally the part that I found strangely interesting was that they started to talk about: Mini refugium tanks linked to the main tank Main tank of 3000 gallons. Wave Makers to simulate the oceans currents. Which are 2 large buckets that fill and dump alternately at intervals. Metal Halide? or "Metal Lights" for most needed lighting conditions. simulating dawn, midday, dusk and night Refugium containing sand and turtle grass. Algae Scrubber gone into little detail thinking along the lines of using algae to help come up with ways to feed and unpollute the world. Matthew Steel. P.S the Magazine also has some amusing photos of high tech VCR's and TVs. >> Met up with these folks at a "field trip" in conjunction with the IAAAM (Intl. Assoc. for Aquatic Animal Medicine) meeting in 1982, that coincided with the opening of the new National Aquarium (Baltimore), not the leaky one in the basement of the Dept. of Comm.... and was shown the Smithsonian's version of the minireefs at the time (most natural history museums are virtual necropolises (or is that necropoli?), "cities of the dead" but the Smithsonian's adjunct was and did build a full-scale version that is still in position... with 1kilowatt MH's and their type of algae scrubbers... and the system has not been a (real) success... many losses...  Some more on this if folks are interested. Bob Fenner

Marine Set-up, suggestions for everything! Hi, I am starting a 29 gal reef tank, I already have the tank... but none of the equipment. my question is what equipment would you suggest I get... I am not made of money and as of now can only purchase the bare minimum to keep my tank clean... I plan on buying a pair of true percula clowns... I also plan on, since I am short on cash, buying only 10 pounds of live rock and 20-30 pounds of base rock... the same with live rock... I think I can get away with that by adding some of that "jump-start" stuff to "jump-start" my live rock/sand... for filtration I planned on getting a bio-wheel, and Berlin airlift until I have more money.. for lighting I planned on buying a 55 watt light from... http://www.ahsupply.com/36,40,or.htm would 55 watts be enough.. if I decide to add mushrooms or hardy coral life later on.... I'd probably add about 4 more 55 watts before I add coral....  Thanks,  Mark  >> All sounds fine as you've listed it... you don't need to buy live sand... the live rock will seed whatever substrate you use. Bob Fenner

Live Rock, and Much More I have some follow-up questions from the last time that I e-mailed you. I am wanting to set up a 58 Oceanic reef using the Berlin style of filtration. I know that you prefer the Fiji for its weight and how porous it is. Would the rock from Tonga, Marshall Island, and Manono fit into the same category?  <Yes, all fine sources> Are they all about the same in terms of quality of rock? <Equally variable is more like it... depending on collector, the weather, how long in transit...> I'm thinking about ordering a couple of boxes from FFExpress and placing whatever won't fit into the aquarium into my sump as additional filtration. In my sump (at this point I'm thinking just a big Rubbermaid container--will this be inert?)  <Yes, and very strong... a good choice> I'm thinking about having the live rock, a needle-driven protein skimmer and growing some Caulerpa. Are some forms of Caulerpa preferred to others?  <Yes... some more temperature choices... others aesthetic... some are hard to get rid of if you "change your mind"... but C. sertularoides, C. taxafolia are about best, most available> Will fish eat all forms if I decide to throw some up top for a snack? <Within reason, yes> What are your thoughts about mangroves for removing nitrates?  <Mostly a scam... and can be a big problem getting rid of... I don't endorse their use> I'm also leaning toward hooking up some kind of canister filter to the sump and sticking in a couple of PolyFilters and Chemi-pure. Would you recommend that I put Siporax in the canister or just place it in the sump? <In the canister for sure> I am still a bit confused about live rock/live sand combinations in the aquarium. I know that I don't want to place the rock directly on the sand but I don't see how one can clean the sand even if I put the rock up on the plastic egg crate material. Would it be preferable to buy the live rock branches from Fiji as I should be able to get them up off of the bottom easier?  <Even better to leave the sand in a separate area... cordone it off from the LR or place it in a sump...> What do you think about mixing a box of rocks with a box of branches?  <Should be fine> I have never used sand before and I am a bit leery of it. Am I to assume that if I purchase enough creatures that will get in there and stir up/eat the detritus that I won't have a major problem?  <To some extent, yes... this is the given spiel> I see that you recommend stirring and vacuuming the sand periodically. How can I do this if it is around the rock?  <Harder to do... have to move the rock... see above... corral the area around, away from the LR for the sand, use it in a separate sump, or don't worry> In the past I've used crushed coral and vacuuming it is a fairly simple matter. I can't see how one could vacuum sand without a lot of it being lost. Speaking of sand, where can I purchase aragonite (2-3 mm)?  <Most anywhere... even the Home Depot...> Is this what you would recommend and then placing a little live sand seeder on top of it? How much of each would I need to purchase? <Just use the live rock... trust me> I'm also wanting to get your opinion about lighting. At this point my plan is to use a daylight and a blue bulb on the twin strip that comes with the Oceanic setup and then purchasing a power compact 2x96w (one 6700 and one blue). Will this be enough to keep a wide range of inverts?  <Should be> At this point I'm not wanting to go gaga over the SPS but I've been told by AH Supply that I should be able to keep some with the foregoing setup as long as they're placed high in the water. <Nah... likely will have to add much more intensity> For circulation I'm planning on at least two powerheads in the aquarium (along with the return from the sump). What size/brands of powerheads would you recommend? Would you recommend putting them on some kind of timer for a wave effect? Would you recommend putting some kind of sponge on them or would this just add to my nitrates? <Use some sort of intake filter to keep your livestock out... the Hagen and Aquarium System products are superior... leave them on continuously... and get as many, as large as you can...> I am really concerned about algae problems with all of this lighting. For this reason I want to keep my nitrates, phosphates, and silicates as low as possible. I'm therefore planning on investing in an RO unit but am completely at a loss (even after doing research/reading). I've heard some say that RO units won't remove silicates for very long after the first use. Is this true? <Hmm, yes... generally not a big issue...> Are there some units that will continue to pull out all of these for an extended period of time. In your opinion, what are some of the better models/manufacturers out there?  <Not that important (make, model...) you can fit a contactor on your RO if further concerned... if money no object, look into the Kold Steril unit PolyBioMarine offers> Are they going to require lots of plumbing work on my part or are they pretty much self-contained?  <the latter> Even with treated water I'm thinking that I might have to look into products to take out excess nitrates and phosphates from the aquarium (occurring from detritus, frozen fish food use, etc.). Are there any products out there that you think are worth the money that do a decent job of controlling nitrates and phosphates?  <Not really... better to control biologically in a sump... with macro-algae culture> I assume that I can count on algae growth regardless. In your opinion, what janitors are essential to a reef set up and what quantities would be best with my setup? Will these cleaners also eat the sought-after coralline algae as well. <Much investigation necessary here... and yes, most of the handy dandy types sold in the trade will/do eat encrusting red algae> Finally--and I'm sure that you're glad that this is it--I have a couple of nice perculas in a fish-only tank right now that I'm wanting to transfer to the reef setup. How long would you wait after the tank has cycled with the live rock and my fish have been transferred, before you'd start to add inverts?  <The cleaners? As soon as the tank is cycled. The tougher fishes, a month or two after... the invertebrates otherwise? About the same> I'd really like to get an anemone for the clowns. In your opinion, which species would I have the most luck with given my lack of experience with a reef setup?  <The Bubble Tip, Entacmaea quadricolor> At this point, I'm wanting to transfer the clowns, a flame hawk, a hippo tang, and get a royal Gramma, and a mandarin for the reef. Think it will work OK? Thanks for all of your help! <Probably not the Mandarin... keep reading, dreaming... Bob Fenner> Michael Krogman

More questions Bob, Hello, I hope all is well. You may or may not remember me, but we have conversed many times via digitized electrons. I'm the one who sent you the pics of the fire shrimp that died for no apparent reason... I initially started with a 30 gallon tank and have upgraded to an 85 (NEXT tank? 150 or 200, so help me god...). I have had this tank running for about 7 months, with some of the bio cultures transferred from my initial tank to this new one when I initially set it up (I seeded the gravel, I suppose you could say, as well as moving the live rock to the new tank... (it now has about 80 pounds of rock in it... Should I add more?) <For looks? Who knows. For function? Maybe> ). I have some fun on occasion looking for new critters with a flashlight after the lights have gone down! I see lots of little "shrimp" type things; probably in the low hundreds, as well as 3 or 4 crabs I don't remember buying ;) I also have some marshal island rock that has these little worm type things that come out of the holes... I assume they are harmless? <For the most part, yes. Otherwise, you will know> Anyway, I have a couple of little coral polyps and I recently dropped in a mushroom (NO idea what kind of coral it is; it is a common one, but I got it as an excess from a friend's tank so I didn't get the actual name...), as well as some yellow "star" corals (they were being sold as live rock because most of them died off and there were only a few on there, so I decided what the hey...). I also got another Sebae anemone (who seems to go in and out of what I call "comfort"; he shrivels up, then he blooms... Shrivel, bloom... Not related to time or lighting or anything I can put my finger on, really...). Anyway, I have 3 questions for you: Firstly, I'd like to start playing with corals a bit, and I have invested in about every test kit on the planet (and I am fortunate enough to have access to a spectrum analyzer - EXACT readings (down to a billionth, I understand) of everything I could think of, except Iodine...). I am unclear, however, as to what readings I should be working towards. Here are my readings from the spectrum analyzer: Mg 1380 (test kit came VERY close to this!) Ca 373 (test kit came VERY close to this, as well!) Sr 5.6 (the test kit is WAAAAY off from this reading! I got _32_!!) Alkalinity 3 (test kit) Borate 1.5 (test kit) Carbonate 1.5 (test kit) The iodine test kit doesn't seem to want to work at all, so I don't have a reading yet. Knowing the value to shoot for would be nice... <This material is so transient... that it's better to just add it/some periodically> Also of note is the we tested the PH with his probe and it came up as 7.73... I assume there is a calibration issue for salt water? My FasTesT shows 8.2... <Possibly> Anyway, how does this look to you?  <Fine> Please indicate importance and values. <This is a very tall order... the analysis of variance between these qualities could/would fill volumes> If I need not be concerned with a reading, of if one has more importance than the others, please let me know. Also recommendations of types/brands of additives would be helpful (currently started using CombiSan (from two little fishies - like Coral Vital I understand...), however that may not be enough. <Yeeikes... please take a long read through the materials stored on our site re these issues: Home Page > Secondly, I am toying with increasing the lighting and am unsure if I really need to. The tank is a standard tank, about 24 inches deep. I have a PC setup with 2 36w daylight and 2 36w actinics. I also have access to 2 fixtures that can house either a 36 or 48 inch bulb each. I am wondering if I should just add a couple of 10K/20K, 50/50 or even a Vita Lite Supreme (not many people sell those, you know, and they aren't manufactured in anything under 48 inches...). The math that I have understood, though, says that I should have at least 425 watts for this tank (5 watts per gallon is my recollection; if it's in the book, I apologize. I got this info from a web site while I was looking into pricing...). I was thinking of a 4 light, 110w per light VHO setup. I was also considering (although not very seriously) MH lights in combination with a couple of VHO actinics... Also being considered is a dimmer with a 1 hour ramp for sunrise/sets (not sure how necessary that would be, though, as the lights go on in the afternoon and the house lights are still on when they go off). Also please note that I have reduced my photoperiod DRAMATICALLY; down to about 6 hours from the 12 I had initially had it at (very bad green/red carpet algae problem. Phosphates aren't even detectable so I chose to use lighting as a weapon... Not sure what else to do?! Feeding is frequent (2 or 3 times a day) and light). Also, I was curious as to how I would acclimate the tank to the drastic increase in lighting...  <Yes to more lighting, do look into power compact fluorescents... and phase the greater intensity (and likely photoperiod for your new corals) in slowly... more lamps, hours per week> You can't have them dimmed for periods over an hour or they overheat, so you can't just increase the light over a period of time (weeks, let's say). Even moving them "up" wouldn't do it, unless I were to have them about a foot and a half away! I'm sure you've run into this before, what would you suggest? <If the fixturization does not allow dimming, removing some lamps, you can loosely wrap them in aluminum foil strips...> Or do I even NEED to spend all that money on the lighting if I can make due? <You need more light> Thirdly, I'm at the point where I'm going to start wrapping up populating the tank (fishwise, that is), and I was wondering if you thought I might be able to support a mandarin fish. I figured that since I have some of those little copepods (the little shrimp things) that he would probably be all right. However, if you think he would need a LOT of them, then maybe I should wait until the population overruns the tank (or increases exponentially, or something...). Or just not do it at all. <I would wait a few months> My current inhabitants: Feather dusters Some corals (as stated above - potentially more. Frogspawn next, maybe?...) Peppermint shrimp (1) Yellow Tang 6 lined Wrasse (1) Clark Clown Ocellaris Clown Royal Gramma Blue Damsel Scooter Blenny (small, about 1.5") We plan on adding a pygmy angel (flame, coral beauty), a mandarin, and possibly one other medium sized fish. Could we put a goby in there, maybe, or would it not like the blenny/mandarin?... <Some of the hardier Gobies would be fine> Then we plan on leaving it alone. As always, your help is greatly appreciated. Very, very much so. Bruce Webster  >> <Sounds like you're really getting into the hobby, and enjoying yourself. Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

RE: reef question I just have a few more questions for some of your replies. About the light in the sump, how bright should it be and how long should it be on?  <A watt or two per gallon of full spectrum fluorescent is fine... and either a regular light cycle, to an alternating one (with the main tank), to continuous (the best) with Caulerpa algae species> Also for the sump you said I could put live rock, Caulerpa, Siporax beads, and ceramic media. Can I use sand also? And can I use them all together in the sump? <You could, but I would settle on either 1) the rock and Caulerpa, 2) The anaerobic media, or 3) the sand and a plenum as a denitrator and refugium combination> About the plenum, could you recommend any easy way of installing it. I have about 3in of substrate and 60lb live rock that's already settled.  <Take a look on my site, www.WetWebMedia.com for a drawing and complete explanation of this arrangement... many variations possible, and I myself prefer not to have plenums in the main tank... better to remote them to a sump that is more easily manipulated> Also would that slow down my cycling process?  <Would installing a plenum? No.> Do you know of any pre-made systems that I can purchase?  <Pre-made plenums? No... you can buy undergravel filter plates...> You recommended a calcium reactor, how about a uv sterilizer, fluidized bed, or denitrator? <You need some reference books... and quick! These last three, a UV, you don't need... would minimally improve water quality, help ward off disease (best done through careful purchase, quarantine, dips...), fluidized bed... for enhanced biological filtration? Unnecessary once the system is up and running with the live rock... A denitrator? The live rock, possible algae filter will take care of this...> I kinda know all the answers to these questions, but just wanted your recommendations. Thanks again. >> No worries,  Bob Fenner

Returning to the Reef tank...  Hi Bob, I seriously thinking about getting back into a reef tank. I originally  had a 135 gallon, which was maintained fairly well. But due to a major power  outage and manageability factors I became discouraged after a few years.  This time I want something small scale and easier to maintain. The size I'm  choosing this time is a 24 inch cube, and I'm very selective about equipment  I use. So if possible, could you recommend an optimum filtering and lighting  system for this particular reef tank? I haven't been in the loop for a  couple of years, but after finding "Flying Fish Express" I've become very  interested again. The live stock deals seem to be the quality I've always  wanted, compare to low quality sight unseen stuff I use to have to mail  order. So with enough said, please help me rekindle my love for the reef  tank. Thanks Alex Guerrero >> Hmm, welcome back to "the fold"... And you are in for a treat gear-wise as well. For this cube, there are now compact fluorescent lights that are small, yet powerful, delivering the quality and quantity of light needed to make a reef system look good and perform as the high-intensity metal halides of yore... but without all the waste heat. They (CFs) are what I would select for your cube. The filtration I would remote under the system if possible, with as large a sump as can be fitted.... I would situate a good "needle wheel" type skimmer there (like the Euro-Reef, DAS, TurboFlotor lines) there... and more live rock... and some live algae, and a continuously on fluorescent light. On the back of the tank I would fit a good size hang-on filter and add a good canister filter to boot... probably an Eheim product... If the money is not too dear, I'd invest in a calcium reactor from the get go as well. Finish this up with a couple of ZooMed rotating skimmers... and you're done. Bob Fenner

120g reef tank Bob, I plan on starting up a 120 gal reef tank. I already have the 120  tank (oceanic) and stand, nothing else and I need your advice on other  equipment. I plan on going with the Berlin method and want a separate  reservoir for auto water top off. If you can, what are you recommendations for everything else I need! Lighting -Metal Halide with power compact. Skimmer, pumps, power heads, calcium  reactor, chiller, wavemaker, controller, auto top off, doser etc. working with a  $4,000.budget for all equipment. your advice on size and brands would be very  much appreciated. In other words what would you get . >> I could probably write a book on this... In fact I have! It's just not in print as yet....  Okay, the lighting... I would actually just use compact fluorescents for both actinic and "white" lamps... more specifics? What sorts of animals do you intend to house? If giant clams, SPS corals... some higher temp. lamps... like 10k's at least for some of the fixtures. The skimmer? I'd rig up a TurboFlotor in the Berlin sump. A pump? This is also a little tricky... I really like a LOT of water flow... and I know this glass tank has probably not been drilled for big through-puts... and I wouldn't drill it (myself)... If you can talk your dealer into it, have the fine folks at Oceanic pre-drill (before assy.) another 120 in exchange for yours... Otherwise, do consider running PVC lines up and over the back if necessary... and fit in a Dolphin pump... Powerheads? I like the Hagen and Aquarium Systems larger models for linear flow types... I'd place at least two... in the back corners, cross aiming toward the lower middle of the tank front... and probably rely on the recirculating portion of the main pump to do the rest of the circulation.... maybe adding a ZooMed reciprocating type, or two if you get into animals that need more chaotic flow. If you can afford it, get a KNOP calcium reactor... they're pricey, but reliable and available... More brands coming up real soon. Oh, and a ten or twenty pound CO2 bottle... I'd actually skip on the chiller (unnecessary with the CF lighting), unless your house just gets real warm itself... and the wavemaker I'd link your powerheads to the Controller and leave it at that...the rest of the pumping I've mentioned will be fine. The Controller... I still like the Aquadyne Octopus products.... and their related group of probes... though the new "pro" line from Neptune is tempting.... Automated make-up systems? Hmm, if you have to go this power or gravity feed route... Aquarium Instruments are my choice. I know this mix will probably not match other people's.... but it's mine! I'd use some of the remaining big money on good live rock, livestock... Bob Fenner

Is Plexiglas ok in saltwater? Hi Bob, I have a 55 gal. that's been running for 4 months. I have a coral  beauty angel, tomato clown, cleaner wrasse, yellow Coris wrasse a couple of  turbo snails and a blue legged hermit crab. Also some green star polyps,  mushroom coral, and some other not yet identified (by me anyway) coming out  on the live rock (35-40 lb.). I have a Fluval 304 canister, AquaClear 304  power filter, SeaClone skimmer (hang on the back style, I don't have a sump),  and it doesn't foam very much if any no matter how I set the air flow, a zoo  med power sweep 214 rotating powerhead. Also a 200 watt submersed heater, two  Hagen power-Glo 40 watts ea. and one Hagen marine-Glo also 40 watts.  Substrate is CaribSea's aragonite crushed coral about two inches directly on  the bottom, the liverock sets on top of this. I have read that its a good  idea to raise the rock off the bottom to help eliminate anaerobic areas using  cut sections of PVC pipe. I wanted to ask your opinion about using Plexiglas.  I wanted to cut strips of the correct height and then cut a groove about half  way across the strip, put two together to form a kind of "X", maybe drill a  couple of holes in them for the best water flow and then place the rock on  top. Do you think Plexiglas will leach bad chems into my water? And about how  much should I raise the rock above the aragonite? I would really appreciate  your opinion. Thanks Connie Hahn  >> Thanks so much for writing... You're my favorite type of fellow hobbyist! A thinker, and tinkerer! Yes, you can use Plexiglas as you list.... but do consider my fave alternate for the function: "Egg crate", aka "Louver"... the stock two by four foot plastic or styrene cover material used as a diffuser in many light fixtures. You can buy these panels at the large Home Improvement outlets... and cut/break them into desired shape pieces (I just smack them with a long screwdriver)... to fit in/over your substrate or bottom. Take a close look at these panels side on... they're not the same on both sides... and I would place the material non-flush side down... There are many other possibilities for this "circulation space" arrangement... so if you don't like these, let me know. Bob Fenner

How to start a reef tank  hello I would like to start a 55 gal tank could you give me some info on how  to do this . how much rock live sand I have a canister filter can I us this?  any info would be helpful. >> Yikes... what an open-ended question! I will assure you, there are few people more interested in your success as a marine aquarist than myself... but about the best way I can answer these broad questions is to encourage you to educate yourself... through reading, talking with other aquarists, browsing over their concerns, opinions... and making up your own mind what is best FOR YOUR particular set-up, livestock mix, and personal aesthetic preferences... A fifty five is a good size to start with, and canister filters are very useful tools... but you will need more gear... like a skimmer... and lighting that will support much of the "live" part of your live rock... The amount of live sand? Some folks use none... many people "make their own"... it's impossible not to with using live rock...  How much live rock? For looks, function? There is a great deal of variability here as well... much difference in density and shape... fifty pounds of one type might do... a hundred and fifty of another... Do join in with the bulletin board groups on the net, buddy up with an experienced fellow aquarist in your area, and read... as a starting point, you're welcome to scan through the numerous articles I have stored (from books and magazine writing) at the URL: www.WetWebMedia.com And please do call on me if/when I can be of assistance, when you have specific questions or concerns. Bob Fenner

Reef Set-Up I have had my current system up and running for two years. It seems that everyone I speak with has a different opinion on how to set up a reef tank. I feel a strong responsibility to provide my fish with the best possible set up since I am taking them away from their natural environment. I respect your opinion so I am interested if you could comment on my set up and give me any suggestions you have. Also, I would like to start adding more fish and soft and hard corals and I was wondering what you think are suitable for my tank. Thank you very much. Here is my current set up: 58 gallon Oceanic Magnum 350 (2 half pouches of Chemi-Pure and Seachem Phosphate remover) UV Sterilizer Protein Skimmer by U.S. Aquarium (designed for up to 200 gallons) Tropic Marin salt Aragonite Reef Sand by Seaflor Two 36" 10,000K High Intensity 30 Watt lights by Coralline Two 36" Aqua Coral Actinic 30 Watt by Phillips Reef Complete 4ml twice a week (Seachem) Reef Iodide 1ml once a week (Seachem) Reef Strontium/KM 2 ml once a week (Seachem) Reef Calcium 1.5ml twice a week (Seachem) Reef Plus 2ml twice a week (Seachem) 3/4 of the tank is filled up with live rock (unfortunately I never weighed the rock) Percula Clown Damsel Coral Banded Shrimp 6 Astrea Snails 4 Red Legged Hermit Crabs 8 Blue Legged Hermit Crabs Phosphates 0 Nitrites 0 Ammonia 0 Also, I do 5 gallon water changes every three weeks with reverse osmosis bottled  water and I feed the tank twice a week. I have coralline algae covering the back glass and some hair algae on some of the rocks.  This sounds like a very nice system, and a very workable operation and maintenance protocol. I agree that there are many different and conflicting views on how to "do" reefs, but don't see anything "wrong" with your approach, and encourage your to stick with it. Regarding the addition of coral livestock, I would encourage you to start with some smaller individuals of soft species and related animals (zoanthids, corallimorphs, polyps) a couple or three months ahead of (maybe) a few species of large-polyp stony/true corals. Please do keep reading up (you can find several articles on these groups at my WetWebMedia.Com site) and reading and talking with other hobbyists with the obvious discerning mind you have. Bob Fenner

Question: What constitutes a reef tank? Do shrimp or live Fiji rock require special lighting?

Bob's Answer: Hey Kenny, this is part and parcel to the eight bazillion buck question! A reef tank sufficiently houses all types of organisms found in/on a reef... Or we could define such by their gear (the specialized lighting and filtration...), or...

Shrimps don't require special lighting, Fiji rock does (sort of). For practical purposes (what else is there?) you want enough strength (intensity), quality (temp. like 5,000 K or higher, CRI 90 or higher) duration 10, 12, more hours per day... of pleasing (the affective domain) looking illumination... Depending on size, depth of your system and pocketbook, this can be (once again for our discussion here) some sort of boosted full spectrum fluorescents, compact fluorescents or metal halides.... Want more specifics? Need more info. on your end.

What is A Reef Aquarium? Lighting? Filtration?

What is a reef aquarium? A reef set-up can be defined in at least three ways; 1) by the organisms it employs and sustains, 2) it's refined equipment (in particular filtration and lighting), and lastly, 3) as a function of the high, consistent water quality the first demands and the second produces.

Reef life is the a priori cause of why aquarists strove so long to ascertain just what it would/does/will take to keep such systems. The beautiful corals and several related stinging-celled animal groups, live algae, sponges, crustaceans, mollusks, the m?ange that makes up "live-rock" and "live-sand" and oh-so-many more used to virtually impossible to keep. My personal odyssey in the hobby, science and business of captive aquatic life spans the recent decades of these endeavors; the 1960's forward. I can remember whole tanks, indeed shipments of marine invertebrates "melting down" due to mysterious "water quality", filtration, lighting, who-knew-what reasons.

Modern reef systems go beyond simply keeping the more delicate fish and non-fish life found on the world's reefs alive; they actually grow and reproduce them; often at higher than natural rates!

Improvements in marine-aquarium keeping equipment get equal credit with livestock collecting and shipping techniques, and hobbyist knowledge as determinants driving reef interest. Especially, light fixtures and lamps/bulbs, and filter gear have allowed the successful maintenance of reef-life. More than new technologies developed for the ornamental fish industry per se, much of our innovations have come from borrowing from other fields. Magnetic-driven fluid-moving pumps with non-corrosive volutes, impellers, seals and shafts came to aquariums by way of the chemical-handling fields. True full-spectrum fluorescent lamps like Vita-lites ™, were introduced back in the sixties for indoor gardening and industrial uses. Similarly, wet-dry or trickle-filter applications are borrowed from turn-of-the-century municipal sewage-treatment principles. Regardless of where they come from, good ideas are good ideas; and these and many more have come to us from totally unrelated fields.

A true oxymoron of reefs, wild and kept is their chemical and physical polar nature; they're both dynamic and homeostatic. Reef aquarists must employ all the tricks available to them; careful d?or selection, sparse , appropriate livestock with careful feeding, diligent maintenance… to provide optimized, consistent water quality.

Due to their geographical positions and biota reef systems are typified as being "stable", "self-adjusting" and "nutrient-poor". The stereotypical reef habitat (there are several classifications of their diverse ecoclines) does receive a pretty regular amount of solar insolation, displays a narrow range of thermal variation, chemical make-up, and other physical factors. Such regularity is more than desirable in a captive reef environment; it is requisite. Temperature, salinity, pH, ammonia/nitrite/nitrates used to be the only water-quality testing concerns of marine aquarists. With reefs we've added reduction-oxidation, electrical current, ultraviolet radiation, phosphates, silicon, calcium, and more.

What is "Reef" Filtration? Rather than any given technique, filtering for reef system's involves various strategies that result in homogeneous, clean, well-oxygenated water. Almost always, reef filtration includes vigorous, non-linear (i.e. chaotic) circulation, generated by one or more fluid-moving pumps and/or powerheads. Typical turnovers are several times per hour; there is no practical limit. Actual filter modes, media and containers are highly variable. Separate sumps/refugia, some fitted with wet-dry/trickle media, rock or sand, protein-skimmer/foam fractionation, re-dox/ozone/ultraviolet systems, calcium reactors, chemical contactors… There are many individual and confluent schools of how to go; Jaubert/NNR (Natural Nitrate Reduction), Berlin methods, electrical and chemical filtration modes… Canister, pressurized, high-tech, low-tech, no-tech… All with their own adherents and acolytes. Are any better than the others? You bet; depending on YOUR application, YOUR pocketbook, and YOUR penchant for tinkering and adjusting. Take a look through your livestock fish store (LFS; yes, another acronym), and the hobby literature. What's hot and available changes each issue. As a conscientious reef consumer, you are compelled to study up and keep current. Just "keep your eye on the prize"; remember, what you are seeking is the most consistent, high-quality water at the lowest hassle and cost.

A few constants (in general). Though I worked for Earl Kennedy in the Philippines in the sixties,

and have seen numerous examples of "live-rock only" systems in Indonesia and elsewhere in the intervening years, most reef-keepers will employ a protein skimmer, aka foam fractionator as their reef filtration principal component. Choose well. Just because it says "venturi" on the label, does not make a given brand, make or model better than one that is not. And, no, price is no good indication of value or relative functionality. Talk with your dealers and other practicing "reefers" (even if you're "out in the boonies", they're accessible via the internet); they are your best source of current, accurate, significant and meaningful information.

Better "live rock" and sand is worth the cost. Which is which? Study and decide for yourself. Are all those meters, dosers and pumps necessary? No, but reliable testing and delivery gear can be of great service to those who will employ it properly. Just as with any tool, neglect or inappropriate use is worse than having none at all. There are only good pumps and powerheads, and "the rest"; you want only the former. One's that are adequately powerful pressure/volume wise, chemically inert, serviceable and reliable.

What about light and lighting in the reef aquarium? Light is very important to reef life. Even for non-photosynthetic organisms the regularity of illumination is of consequence; much of their behavior and endogenous rhythms are tied to light cycling.

There are three aspects of light that concern reef hobbyists; quality, quantity and duration. Photoquality is a question of the "kinds" of light; wavelengths principally. Some radiation bandwidths are toxic, such as far-end ultraviolet. For algae and livestock that harbors endosymbiotic algae, such as many of the true corals, sufficient light of certain wavelengths is necessary to drive the light reaction of photosynthesis.

Photo-quantity is a matter of the intensity or brightness (apparent or not) of light. The number of photons is as important as their wavelength; not enough light, insufficient photosynthesis and way too little, everybody bumping into each other.

Photo-duration is the periodicity of light cycling. Regular on-off light/dark periods are important, and easily achieved with simple to complex timing mechanisms. Gradually turning on and off some lighting is preferable to all on/off, and some sophisticated schemes can mimic diurnal sunniness, moonshine, even every now and then cloudiness!

Happily, there are a few different methods of providing proper light to captive reefs. Most notably, metal halides (MH) and various formats of full-spectrum fluorescents (regular, high, and very-high outputs, compacts). These devices and some more novel types are utilized to provide reef set-ups with adequate quality and quantity light spectra.

 David; what do you think? Too simplistic? Is this about the level of information and reading level you have in mind? Am going to crank out my first feature for you in a few… how 'bout: Get thee to a Refugium? Okay!

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