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FAQs about Fish-Only Marine Set-ups

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: Fish-Only Marine Set-ups, Fish-Only Marine Systems 2, FO System Set-Ups, FO System Lighting, FO System Filtration, 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

Rejuvenating an "Old" Tank 7/19/11
<Hello Dave>
Your site is amazing! Thank you for all the great information.
<You're welcome.>
We've had a 125 gallon fish-only tank that, after almost 15 years, became pretty stale and mundane. Thanks to some recent reawakening to the hobby, we added new lighting, did some minor remodeling, and performed a meticulous cleaning.
Over the past six months we've added some live rock, several new fish and quite a few invertebrates. The tank has a large French Angelfish, a Blue Tang, a Longnose Butterflyfish, a Flame Angelfish, a Watchman Goby, an Algae Blenny, a Cleaner Shrimp, a Coral Banded Shrimp, an Emerald Crab, an Electric Blue Hermit crab, a Fighting Conch, Turbo Snails, Bumble Bee Snails, Nassarius Snails, Turban Snails, and Chaetomorpha Algae. We have no corals. We've been pretty good about using our quarantine tank but plan on employing some of the additional methods you've offered here for introducing new animals. It should be noted that the live rock we purchased (perhaps 40 pounds) from our LFS is "live rock substitute" also known as REAL REEF from FHI Coral Farms. Not knowing much about live rock at the time, we purchased it without really researching it first.
<I have seen this product and thought the price was a bit high compared to live rock. I just ordered 70 pounds of good quality live rock from Live Aquaria.com, and with second day air included, it came to about 6.00 per pound. The last advertised price I saw for REAL REEF was 6.95 per pound plus shipping.>
I've worked hard over the past six months to clean up this "old tank" as much as possible, replacing tubing, etc., and now that things have begun to settle down a bit in the tank given all the changes, our water quality is actually looking pretty good (1.025sg, 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, 8.2 pH, 0.5 phosphates, but we're still battling what I think are high nitrates (40-80).
<Not surprising for an old tank. You might want to see if your test kit is measuring Nitrate-N or Nitrate-NO3. We are concerned with the later which would be a much lower reading. If your test kit reads Nitrate-N, you can convert this to Nitrate-NO3 by multiplying
your N reading by .2259 to get NO3.>
We are running a wet/dry filter (Biobale, bioballs) with a protein skimmer and in-line UV sterilizer. After reading several posts on this site, I think I am going to remove the bio balls, but should we make other adjustments to improve biological filtration in such a seasoned, um . OLD tank like ours? Should I invest in some real live rock instead of the substitute stuff?
<I would remove the Biobale/bioballs a little at a time, say 25% weekly.
Do monitor ammonia levels during this transition and act accordingly if ammonia presence is detected. Adding a few quality pieces of live rock will eventually seed your artificial rock. If budget isn't a concern, I'd replace the artificial with live rock.>
Also, given all the invertebrates we now have living with us, should I be supplementing the system with some kind of essential elements or can we count on our salt mix to provide those?
<Regular water changes should provide the elements they need but I would dose iodide/iodine weekly to aid the molting process of the shrimp and crabs.>
I do not currently test regularly for parameters such as iodine, calcium, magnesium, silicate, GH/KH, and dissolved oxygen. Should we add any of these tests to our regimen for a FOWLR tank?
<I would definitely monitor dKH levels as low carbonate levels can result in a low pH which
is not good. For a FOWLER, a pH range of 7.9-8.3 is acceptable.>
My only other heartburn right now is temperature fluctuations of plus/minus 4 degrees per day (77-81deg) thanks to our local weather/ventilation.
<Take two Tums and enjoy your tank, but first set your heater to around 79 degrees.
In this regard you will only have a two degree change in a 24 hour period.
Incorporating a cooling fan into the system will help lower temperature fluctuations as well. Keeping the system in the 79-81 range is much better/safer than having it fluctuate four or five degrees every day.>
I keep reading more and more about how fluctuations in temperature are quite difficult for marine animals to tolerate.
<Yes, if they are sudden or over a short period of time.>
But how much of a fluctuation is an issue?
<I would be concerned with anything over a four degree fluctuation in a 24 hour period.
Another factor is the hardiness of the animals. Damsels and other hardy fish can tolerate a bit more
than this.>
Thank you, thank you and thank you!
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Re Rejuvenating an "Old" Tank... FO  7/19/11 7/20/11

Thanks a million James.
<You're welcome, Dave.>
Very helpful and sounds like a great plan. I'll get the live rock ordered next week and start the swap out process once everything is cured. I'm looking forward to the new adventure. I checked the test kit (API brand) and it's NO3. So, you're not terribly worried about NO3 in the range of 80?
<I am, you misunderstood my statement. If you got a 80ppm reading with a Nitrate-N kit, I wouldn't be concerned. Your Nitrate-NO3 reading of 80ppm is very high and action needs to be taken to reduce this level. Do read here and act. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm>
Am I over-worrying about this amount of nitrate at this point given what we'll change up (removing the bio-bale and bio-balls and adding the live rock) going forward?
<Removing the biomedia isn't going to lower your nitrate appreciably, just slow down the process.>
Several folks have said that API test kits aren't very sensitive and I should just spend the dough on something more accurate like Salifert.
<I wouldn't be concerned with that right now, the API nitrate kits are close enough.>
Enjoy the week.
<And you as well. James (Salty Dog)>
Dave de San Jose

Help with setting up a 125 aggressive /predator tank... Reading      6/12/11
Hi, I see so many options on set ups just want to keep it simple. I would like to stock tank with a Blue Throat Trigger, Volitans Lion, Snow Flake Eel, Dog Face Puffer and something to graze on algae a Tang, Angel or Fox Face? Is this a safe list?
<Mmm, no... the most likely problem fish is the Lion. I'd leave it out... too likely to get picked on>
I plan on 2-3" fish and small eel.
<... won't stay small>
What size sump, Filter socks? Bio balls or just LR and how many lbs.,
<... this is all gone over, archived on WWM>
ASM G3 Skimmer, how deep and what type of substrate,
25watt UV sterilizer, Fluval FX5 Canister Filter along with a sump?
<I would not for reasons stated...>
3- 1300 gph power heads. The tank is a 125 with dual overflows. I've kept reef tanks since 96, this is my first try at a predator/aggressive tank any ideas would be extremely helpful.
I've checked many websites and everyone seems
<Not I, nor the vast majority of our site>
to contradict each other so I figured my last resort would be ask the experts. I do have a massive saltwater library here at home but everyone has there own opinion. Thanks, Vince
<Keep reading; take good notes re options/choices. Bob Fenner>

Set up help. FO SW    2/3/10
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).
<Good. Do "test fail" the whole system, set up and going... to assure there's enough room for transit volume should the pump/s be off>
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.
<Glad to help>
I would like to leave the 175 gal display tank as is if possible with 1.5" of crushed coral aggregate, four very large pieces of clean blue coral that I got 25 years ago, about 8-10 small to med fish and no live rock unless necessary.
<Okay... though I would rather use sand... of greater depth myself>
I would like to use the sump as my "water treatment" center using a protein skimmer, macro algae, live rock and sand/mud if you agree it would help.
<Sounds good; I do>
So here are my questions:
1. Is 20 gal of bio filtration (within the 45 gal sump) enough for approx. 200 gallon of water to avoid using any additional filtration such as wet/dry filter or Marineland bio wheel power filters?
<Can, could be; yes>
2. If I need to add additional filtration, what would you recommend?
<Maybe a good-sized hang on power filter or canister packed with sintered glass or ceramic media>
3. With a FO setup, would I still require 300lbs of LR in the sump?
<Nope... Some would be of use... a few tens of pounds>
Obviously I can't get 300lbs in a 20 gallon sump section. I could put some in the main tank if necessary but I would have to add proper lighting to support the LR.
<Would also be helpful... esp. w/ a lighting regimen set up to be on when the tanks lights are cycled off>
4. What macro algae would you recommend.
<Chaetomorpha or Gracilaria sp.>
5. Should I use a base of sand/mud? How much (2"?) and what type of sand/mud do you prefer?
<I'd use fine sand in the main display/DSB, maybe Eco-System's Miracle... in part of the sump>
6. What brand & model protein skimmer would work best? (I really need help here - too many opinions out on the web - money isn't the major concern).
<A huge topic... I'd read the bbs here for recent/current hobbyist input. Don't skimp here>
7. Is it better to run the Protein Skimmer outside (next to) or inside the sump? I can do either.
<Inside; in a constant depth arrangement>
8. I plan to pump 1200gph through the sump and main tank. I will have separate flow control through the 20 gal bio-filtration area, what would be the best GPH in that section?
<Mmm, less... maybe half this... see WWM re differing plans on by-passing the mud area>
Thank you so much for helping me, things get a little confusing sometimes and a little advise really helps.
Love your website,
<We share! Bob Fenner>
Re: New 180 Gallon FOWLR Aquarium Setup, now FO   3/8/10

Thank you, you really made my day!
<Ahh! BobF>

Marine Set Up/Stocking Level... FO  12/10/09
Hi Team.
I have only just recently started to develop an interest in marine fish and have had my first aquarium set up now for about a month (not including cycling time of course) and up until now I have only been gathering information from the owners of the aquarium shop I visit (assuming their expertise would be sufficient) But I keep reading a lot of information on the internet which is contradicting everything I've been told by the staff in this store. I will explain my problem and hope you will shed some light for me on this...
<Will try my best.>
My tank size is 40gallons (which I bought from their store as well) and I only keep two fish in it. The first fish I was recommended was a Volitans Lionfish (which was added after cycling the tank for two months) and after two weeks of adding the lionfish I went back to the store and they recommended a good fish mate would be a 'Sailfin Tang'. These are both seemingly juveniles (they are nowhere near the sizes I have now read they can reach) But it now seems from the information I have read online that my tank is majorly undersized (and after researching this site, it's what prompted me to write to you).
These fish seem to get on perfectly well for the two weeks I have currently had them together and I haven't noticed any acts of aggression towards each other at all, they mainly just keep to themselves and both eat different types of food (so there is no competition for it) The tang is very active and just laps the tank constantly (only shying away when I approach the tank a little too quickly), whereas the lionfish just hides in a cave and only comes out during feeding.
I am now worried that I will have to quickly upgrade my tanks size (which I am prepared to do as these fish are just amazing) and have read I will need at least a hundred gallon tank. The problem is I won't be able to afford a
tank this size for about four months and so was wondering if my current tank will sustain them for this period of time? (if I maintain it with regular water changes etc) Or should I just take the fish back for an exchange/refund? (which would be a bit embarrassing considering the staff told me it would be fine)
I suppose I deserve it for only researching from one source at first, but I don't want the fish to be affected by this as well.
Any advise on this situation would be great.
<Providing your filtration system (you did not mention) is up to par, you should be fine with keeping just these two fish until larger quarters becomes available.
Do ensure that your filtration system is capable of handling a larger tank or this will need to be upgraded also. Sensitive fish, such as your Sailfin Tang should not be introduced into systems with less than 6 months of operation/aging.>
Many Thanks.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Re Marine Set Up/Stocking Level, FO  12/11/09

I'm relieved too hear that my current tank will sustain the fish for the next three/four months (thanks for letting me know) and I apologies for not explaining the filtration system I have installed (so I will do now for extra reassurance, hopefully)
The tank came with a internal filtration system already (but unfortunately I do not know the details of this) and I also was advised to buy a second external filtration system, which is called 'Eheim Ecco Pro 130'
I have taken a reading using the test strips today and it read...
Nitrate: 20
Nitrite: 0
P.H: The colour seemed to indicate between 8.0 and 8.5
KH: 240
I also have two pieces of small live rock in the tank and perform 20% water changes every two weeks (as well as taking out excess dried shrimp daily that the lionfish fails to eat) I also feed the Sailfin Tang 'Marine Flakes' and intend to buy a form of marine algae for it as well.
With this new information, would you still say that I can maintain healthy living condition for the two fish? (if I continue following the same procedures I currently perform)
<I would add more live rock than what you have. Will aid in denitrification as well as giving the tang a sense of security in the form of retreats.>
Sorry for being a nuisance, but your expertise on this matter is greatly appreciated.
<No nuisance, is what we are here for. I will provide you a link to our marine index which will aid you in searching for information.
Again many thanks.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

75 Gallon Setup, SW, FO  2/12/09 Great site. I am preceding to setup a 75 gallon saltwater tank. It'll be my second, I missed em! It will be fish only, Will be using live sand as a substrate. <Ok> Can I put 1 or 2 volitans lionfish (dwarf lionfish if necc) and 1 California stingray in this tank? Sand base will be about 4-5 inches. <I personally would go with the dwarfs, definitely not two Volitans in a 75, one max. As far as the California Stingray (Urobatis halleri), is a subtropical species that gets too big for a 75 gallon tank. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/rays.htm > Any other recommendations as far as livestock goes? <The lions take up a lot of space and limit you to larger fish that will not pick on them. Choose tankmates carefully.> Can I get away with using an overhang filter, like the Marineland BioWheel 400 and a protein skimmer? <Lions can be messy, I would think a canister is more appropriate here.> I hate canisters and refuse to use them. <Ok, but limits choices.> I know live rock is a great addition, but I will not be able to get much unless I build a bridge of the rock so the stingray has his playground. (or just use the live rock as deco/filtration in the corners?) <Forget the stingray, not appropriate here. The lions will appreciate the rock and the added filtration benefit.> Will also be using the max jet for top agitation. <Ok> How do you feel about the SeaClone 100 Protein Skimmer? <I would not spend my money on it.> How long should I wait before putting the Skimmer in use? <Day 1> If you do not like that set up for filtration what would you go with? <Lots of live rock, quality skimmer, good water movement, refugium perhaps. Lots of ways to go here.> Any other recommendations/tips? <Keep on reading.> Thanks ahead for your help! <Welcome> <Chris>

Adding live rock to a fish only tank 03/14/2008 Hi Crew, <<Hello Kathy, Andrew this evening>> It's me again Kathy from Kansas...Brief update 55 gallon, 2 emperor bio wheels, uv sterilizer 15 watt, protein skimmer, 2 power heads at either end. <<Sounds good>> I used to have an UGF but, after reading and reading and reading I ripped it out... slowly and carefully this was around Christmas...things are going okay. <<A wise decision to do this>> I have 1 yellow tang <<Need bigger home>>, 1 tomato clown, banded goby, copy cleaner, royal gamma and 1 yellow tailed damsel oh and two cleaner shrimp...assorted lava rock (yes I've now read about those too! This tank is approximately 15 years old I have crushed coral about 2-3 inches deep...the only piece of live rock that is in there died many years ago. now it just has algae all over it...anyway with all this reading (you guys ROCK!) I'm going to try my hand at live rock again...started out with about 22 lbs...have it curing in a large container with heater and power head for water movement no light just what's in the house...stinky stuff...it seems to be getting better...Liveaquaria says 100% H2O changes twice a week...but I couldn't stand it so i did one two days ago got the rock 4 days ago...smell was better Ammonia low but, nitrites wow...way up there <<As would be expected...but, you don't like the smell??? Breath it in...he he he...its good>> ...so I went ahead this morning and did a 50% change help a little...will probably do another one tomorrow...I realize this stuff will take weeks (driving the hubby insane) but and here finally is my question...when this little rock soup finally is ready (water testing and nose testing) and I want to add it to my main tank...what about my babies in the tank? When I add the finished rock, will I have an ammonia spike...hurting the fish? <<there is always a possibility of this. My advice would be to add in 5 lb chunks and monitor for a week, just to be on the safe side>> If so just be ready for some water changes? <<Certainly>> also will it be okay to just set it on the coral substrate? <<I would remove the lava rock, just have the live rock in there. When you add the rock, ensure it is pushed down through the sand so that the rock is sitting on the actual bottom of the tank. This is to ensure that if, at any time, you have burrowers and they start to excavate, the sand does not give way and the rock collapse?? I was thinking taking out some of the lava rock and maybe using some to more interesting pieces for the base? <<using the lava as base is another option yes>> I hope to reseed the already present dead live rock. maybe this piece should be used as the base? <<Agreed>> I keep reading about the bottoms of live rock turning black more die off...anyway any info I would be ever so grateful! Thanks, ~Kathy <<Hope the above helps. Here is a little reading for you regarding live rock and please also take a tour through the linked articles and FAQ's http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_2/cav2i3/Live_Rock/live_rock.htm>> <<Regards, A Nixon>>

Starting up, FO set-up   02/11/2008 I have read over your site for about a year and half. It is finally time to go out and purchase the aquarium I have waited so long buy! You all have taught me so much and I wanted to thank you for all you have done. I will be purchasing a 225 (72Lx30Wx24H) gallon undrilled aquarium. I will be purchasing the Reef flow Dart pump kit from Glass-holes.com and drill the holes myself. I just wanted to run my setup by You to see if their is any improvements I could make to it or if I should change some of my livestock. <<Sounds good>> First off, I plan to start the system off with 7 green chromis (after the tank has cycled of course). All fish will go through the proper quarantine and acclimation steps. <<Good>> Then add a Tomatoe clown. After the clown I would like to add a blue hippo tang, purple tang and a powder blue tang. All three tangs are of different families. I was wondering if this could work? <<Yes, it would work fine>> I would introduce the tangs 2-4 weeks apart, after quarantine. Then I will add a crosshatch trigger (Male). Finally, after about 6 months to a year, I will add an Emperor angel. I am aware that angels are susceptible to new tank syndrome and I want to wait until the tank is fully established before his introduction. Is this too many fish for this system? Do you see any potential territorial problems? All fish will be purchased as juveniles. <<The Xanthichthys mento is an aggressive fish, and would add this towards the end of the stocking routine. Non issues with the overall stocking level of the tank or the inhabitants>> Protein skimmer will be an Aqua C EV 1000. Will this protein skimmer be overkill for the system? Or should I go with the Aqua C EV 400? <<I would choose the EV400 out of the two quoted. The 400 is rated at higher than your aquarium volume and should suffice>> 2 EcoTech marine VorTech pumps with 2 wavy sea wavemakers attached to the 2 return lines from the sump. I will also have between 200 and 300lbs of live rock split between the sump and the display tank. The sump will be a 100 gallon tank. The sumps first chamber will be for the protein skimmer. The second chamber will be for the refugium and the final chamber will be for the heaters. The return pump (Sequence Dart 3600g/h) will be plumbed externally. <<Sounds like a well thought-out system and configuration and don't see any problems with it>> Thank you for your time. Bill <<Thanks for the questions. A Nixon>>

Re: New Setup, Beginning Stocking... 1/3/08 Hi, <Hello> I have another question. <Fire away.> I have just finished building my system and I am in the process of filtering water through my RO/DI system (this takes some time!). <Sure does.> I have already added aragonite sand to my display tank (~1 inch) and to the lower refugium (6-8 inches) and should be able to start the cycling process in a day or so. My question is when should I introduce macroalgae to the refugiums and when should I add small pieces of live rock to the upper refugium? <The LR as soon as the salinity and temperature is stable, it will help with the cycling process. Give the algae a little longer, maybe a couple weeks.> The idea is to start with a FO only system now and add LR to the display tank and better lights later; <In my opinion it is easier to add as much of the LR to the tank in the beginning, then you do not have to worry about cycling and curing the rock when there is livestock present.> my system at this stage consists of the following: * 150G display tank with 1 inch of sugar fine aragonite sand * 90G lower refugium with 6-8 inch DSB (with Ogo macroalgea --nutrient transport) * 90G upper refugium with no sand (small pieces of Live Rock and Spaghetti macroalgae --- food generation) * 50G sump Thanks for your help, John <Sounds very nice.> <Chris>

Snowflake eel and Lionfish system -- 12/26/2007 I have a 18" snowflake eel and a 8" lionfish in a 180 gallon with a 80 gallon sump. Lately I have noticed when the eel moves around the sand makes the water cloudy so I am thinking it's time for new sand. The sand was some cheap stuff I bought offline when I first added it about a year ago it clouded the tank for 3 days. So I am going to get some descent sand from my LFS. <When you rinse the sand well in a bucket prior to adding it to the tank, it usually will not become very cloudy.> My question is how deep of a sand bed should I have. <Less than 2 inches if the sand is just added to make the bottom look good or 4 to 6 inches if you want a live deep sand bed to get rid of nitrates. See http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm.> Currently I have about 4" of sand but from what I have been reading this may not be a good idea with out having a sand sifter to release harmful gases and such. <Seed it with live sand or some sand from a long running DSB system of a fellow reefer. The tiny critters in there, worms of all sorts and crustaceans will prevent the production of toxic gases in a tank with sufficient current with their digging activities.> Also is it better to have a fine or course sand. <For a DSB fine sand, for a shallow sand bed it does not really matter.> I have 50 pounds of rock is this enough or should I add more. <Your two inhabitants both do not need too much swimming space, so you can add some more for aquascaping and nitrate removal purposes if you want to.> I feed 3 times a week usually krill, clams, squid, and Mysis shrimp. Is this enough variety? <Sounds good. Don't feed too much krill, rather try larger shrimps or prawns.> I always use a vitamin supplement on the food. <That's great.> I am currently not using a protein skimmer would I benefit greatly by using one. <Yes, tremendously.> When I swap out the sand should I put some of the old sand in the sump until the new sand is cycled. <I would not swap all the sand at one time, but if you still decide to do that monitor your water parameters. Putting some of the old sand into the sump is a good idea.> Is there any inverts that might go well with this set up maybe a starfish or large hermit crab? <If your water parameters are good (low nitrates, sufficient pH) you can try some inverts. I would not recommend sand sifting sea stars now, since it will take a while until your new sand bed is populated. Larger Hermits crabs may work, but they should not be large enough to endanger the moray. My crustacean eating morays try to eat smaller hermits, but they are not very successful and skip this behaviour after a few days and accept the hermits as new tank mates. Some Snowflake eels eat snails, but most don't.> Thanks for the help. <Welcome. Merry reefing. Marco.>

YO! It's Andrea From the Inside. SW FO Tank Setup Question (or Even the Pros Don't Know It All.)'¦ Lots to Learn! 10/2/07 Hello SW gurus on the CREW! <Hi Andrea, Mich here... and I'm far from a guru, but here to lend a hand.> Much love from South Denver coming at you. <Ahh, very nice and right on back to you from the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.> I'll be on tonight to check mail, answer questions, and do my duty, yada, yada, yada ;-). I've been a bit under the weather, and sleeping A LOT, so I haven't been as present, my apologies. <What? Who unchained you from the computer? There are queries to be answered!> Anyway, here is my quandary... I may have a little know-how when it comes to FW and planted and BW. <Glad you do, because I don't!> But SW, I know zilch mostly. A little in coral identification, some basics on reef keeping setup, but that's about it. <There is much to learn.> I have a 55-gallon standard tank sitting here empty. It is really starting to bother me, seeing an empty tank. My Multiple Tank Syndrome is very displeased. <Heehee! Seems to be a rather common affliction in the hobby.> So, I am giving serious thought to setting up a FO tank. I am thinking a school of Anthias (sp?) would be pretty, and maybe another centerpiece fish. <Well, Anthias might be pretty, but I would not recommend them as a fish for beginners, and would certainly not recommend them in a FO system. I hope I can dissuade you here.> Here are my questions: I do not want to do LR. <Can be done, but is rather outdated in my opinion.> I am open to LS, even a DSB. <Are beneficial, but do not replace or offer the same benefits as LR.> I'd like to do coral skeletons. <A coral graveyard... rather depressing from my perspective.> Can coral skeletons be safely dyed to a color so that I can make a color scheme? <Yikes! I would not attempt or encourage you to do this. There are some rather colorful artificial corals currently on the market and this would likely be your best alternative.> (I am getting this idea from Bob's fantastical book, "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist". There is a lovely picture of a FO tank set up with just corals and shells in there. That is my inspiration <These pics in particular are so very outdated. FO systems without LR are less and less common as the benefits of LR are so substantial.> (Bob, YOU are my inspiration. *pauses to wipe the brown from her nose*). <Here's a napkin for ya! ;) > Next, where would I go about finding a good deal on some of these fine, large coral skeletons? eBay? Any other good suggestions (wow, what a Newb question)? <Oh, Andrea, you're breaking my heart and I'm cringing at the thought of this... I do not want to encourage the harvesting and destruction of beautiful living corals for the sole means of acquiring their skeleton. Please consider the artificial alternatives.> Third, filtration. Do I get a protein skimmer for a FO tank? <ABSOLUTELY! A system without live rock would get a tremendous benefit from running a skimmer.> Would a canister filter suffice since I won't be keeping corals? <I think the skimmer would be the most important piece of equipment in a FO system. I cannot encourage you enough to get a skimmer.> Would adding an in-tank macro 'fuge help with nitrate use? <Certainly.> What would be a good centerpiece fish? <Really depends on what type of system, you want to set up (peaceful versus aggressive for example) and what you like.> I'd love to do a Pinktail trigger, but alas, 55 gallons is far too small. <We are in agreement here.> What is a good middle ground? No clowns, please. Nothing personal, I'd just rather something different. <Many options to choose from, but I would again encourage you to consider live rock here. LR will provide some natural food sources, habitat, and filtration and benefit the overall health and homeostasis of both your fish and your system in general. You really need to start with research and think about what you are looking for in your system. Think about what your philosophical approach is and exactly what type of microcosm you are trying to emulate.> If this were your FO tank, at 55 gals, what would you choose? WWBD? <I cannot answer this for you as I would not choose to keep a FO only system.> Finally, I love you guys, and your suggestions...Any other thoughts? <Yes my friend, before you even think about setting up that tank, you have a lot of thinking and reading you should do. John Tullock's "Natural Reef Aquarium" might be helpful here and of course CMA and WWM. You might want to look for a local marine aquarium club and talk with other marine aquarist before embarking on this venture. In the long run, researching, reading and asking questions; taking things slowly; and buying a good skimmer will save you lots and lots of money and save lives.> What about pictures for MORE inspiration for fantastic looking FO tanks? <I really don't know where as this has become less and less common through the years.> Thanks muchly. <Welcome and I apologize for the delayed response.> I'll be on later tonight to lend a helping Freshie hand. Very good! Mich> Andrea

Set up... FO SW, reading  -- 9/24/07 I have been reading the articles ontop articles <?> this website has to offer and I am truely amazed and thankful to all of You who make it easy to find the knowledge we need to make sure our creatures of the sea are cared for in the best possible way! I am currently in the process of deciding between a 360 gallon tank (8'LX3'WX2'H) or a 392 gallon tank (7'LX3'WX2.5'H) for a FOWLR set up. The tank inhabitants will be a trigger (clown or niger), <Not the Clown...> an Emperor Angel, Sohal Tang, Guineafowl Puffer, Harlequin Tusk, Blue Hippo Tang and a Clown Tang. Which tank dimensions would you recommend? <The choice twixt these two is more ornamental than functional... I would choose the former> To filter the system I will be employing the use of ATI Bubble Master 250 protein skimmer and a 50 gallon refugium <I'd go much larger> filled with a 4-6" deep sand bed, Live Rock and Caulerpa. <I'd choose other algae> All housed in a 6ft long sump. Would you recommend a wet dry filter for a FOWLR system? <Sometimes> I was thinking of using Vanuatu live rock. My local fish shop told me that it is less dense and is filled with lots of hiding spots for the fish. What type of live rock would you recommend? <Posted...> How many pounds of live rock should I buy? <Ditto> I heard that 1-2lbs per gallon is suggested but wanted to double check just in case. For water circulation I will be using 2 EcoTech marine Vortech powerheads along with 4 Hydor Koralia 4 powerheads. Will this be sufficient water circulation? <Likely so> Thank you for your time in answering my questions. Brad <Keep reading, gathering useful data, opinions... Bob Fenner>

Help... FO set-up, SW   9/10/07 Hi all and congratulations on such a wicked and informative site. You have helped me in the past with my freshwater set up and now I could do with some tips on fish only salt system. I have a 280 litre deep tank with Fluval 405 external filter , ClearSeal 30 powerhead with quick filter attachment and a 300 watt VisiTherm heater, crushed coral sand and a couple of big rocks I also have a arcadia t8 over tank luminaire light system, do you think this is adequate for a fish only system? <Mmm, yes... if not too crowded, nor over-fed... Am not a giant fan of canister filtration alone for marine systems...> my local aquatic centre seems to think this will be fine but as I only converted my tank yesterday and am still a bit new to sw tanks I am unsure if the advice I have been given is adequate? any help or tips would be greatly appreciated. Thanks , Mickey <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/index.htm and take good notes! Bob Fenner>

Setting Up Tank To Run While On Vacation (Not sure what kind of tank yet!)  -- 05/16/07 I've been reading over your site and think it's fantastic. <Thank you.> So much info to learn here. <Yes, I don't think even "I" have browsed the entire site...it is rather large, but that's a good thing.> My reason for writing is a friend has a 150 gallon tank for sale. <Ooooh.> I have been reading up on filtration and conclude you highly recommend a sump with a U-tube overflow for non-drilled tanks. <Though we (read I) prefer drilled (gravity) overflows when possible.> (Yes, it's not drilled) <Oh, okay.> My question is, since I sometimes travel a few days a week, do you think I could use 3 canister filters to run this system? <Depends on what kind of system. Will this be marine, brackish, freshwater? And even within those "types" you can get even more specific. What type of biotope are you trying to create?> I don't want to worry about non-syphon or overflowing while not there. <I 100% understand that.> I would use Eheim's, <'Tis my choice when I go canister.> I think they are a better filter choice. <Compared to the other readily available ones on the market, I agree.> Lastly, what is your opinion on mixing some sand and shells for substrate? <Again depends on what type of tank you are going for. If its calcium based sand/shells, this will buffer the pH to around 8.0-8.3, so it depends on what your keeping.  Also keep in mind that coarse materials tend to trap more detritus and must be attended to.> Thanks for your time, <Anytime.> I love my fish, but need the job to fund them. <I understand that language too. -AJ>
Re: Setting Up Tank To Run While On Vacation    5/20/07
Thank you for your quick response. <No problem.> I apologize for leaving out the important info.. saltwater.. maybe a puffer, lion, a few tank mates. <Large, messy fish, this does change the game a little. Personally I do not like canister filters on marine aquariums, they just end up being detritus traps (nitrate factories). For what you want your going to have to look into a large protein skimmer and lots of water flow.> If possible with these types of fish, do you prefer one Eheim model over the other? <If I had to choose a canister, yeah I like Eheim...but again I don't think a canister is a good idea for a marine tank of this type.> And would two or three be ok? <You would be better off with a HUGE protein skimmer and LOTS of water flow.> My idea with the sand/shell is: the sand will give you the beneficial organisms, while with the messy eaters the shell can be vacuumed. I haven't been too successful vacuuming just sand. <I would look at a live rock/DSB combination. See WWM for further Re:.> Thanks again for your advice. <Anytime, AJ.>

Converting from reef to fish only 5/20/07 Hi, <Hello> I have found a lot of info on converting from fish only to reef, but not visa versa.  <Not the usual path.>  I have a 180G tank, with a 90 gallon sump, skimmer, UV, closed loop return system, MH lighting, 200+lbs live rock, DSB, mushrooms, zooanthids, various "common" marine fish (tangs, damsel, lawnmower blenny, scooter blenny, 6-line wrasse), and tons of hermits/snails.  I have been keeping up with the regular maintenance, but it is becoming more and more difficult to find the time to do so. <Can be time consuming, maybe you need to re-address your methods, cut back on livestock.  What is your normal routine?> I had decided to sell it all off, when my wife suggested to convert it to a fish-only (in the literal sense; no LR, hermits, snails, mushrooms, etc; just fish and artificial aquascaping).  My question is this, is this really going to be easier to maintain or am I kidding myself? <In my opinion can be even more work than a FOWLR, the tank relies on you for even more than with the help of live rock.> I have never had a fish only tank, just reefs.  If I go this route, is there anything you would recommend I keep out of this setup? <Tank, skimmer (need a good one), filters, lights, just off the top of my head.>  Also, I have an RO/DI, would I want to make a fresh batch of water or keep the reef water?  <I would start from scratch.> Thanks, Dave <Chris>

Split tank, Reef and FO or FOWLER in one box?   12/16/06 <Greetings!  Mich with you tonight.> I would like to start up a marine tank and as I consider  FO vs. FOWLR vs. Reef  it appears that one trade-off with a reef tank is that it limits the type of fish it can support...fish that might be very hard on invertebrates or corals. <Yes, a reef will limit your fish stocking options.  I would encourage you to incorporate live rock into your system regardless.> My question is, can you split a tank...say, a 125 gallon tank... down the middle with  a piece of glass/acrylic that would allow  for half to be Reef and half to be FO or FOWLR?   <In theory, I guess it is possible.  I have never seen it done.  I think it becomes a matter of function.  A reef system requires strong and expensive lighting.  If you are ready to make a financial commitment to a reef, you will most likely also make a commitment to keeping reef appropriate livestock.  The reef system will also require excellent water flow.  A divider would present a challenge as for as water movement is concerned.  A fish only tank would allow you to use certain medications within the display tank that you would not be able to use in a reef tank.  Though a hospital/QT tank is still highly recommended.>   System would have common sump/filtration/refugium/circulation but  a barrier to keep more aggressive fish from reef. <I understand the thought, I'm just not sure it's practical. But then again, we all do things that are impractical at times.  -Mich> Russell Furst   

Adding LR to FO System 8/28/06 Hello Crew, <Hi> I have a question on LR. It would seem after reading your site that having LR in the tank would be beneficial. <A good thing for most any marine tank.> How do you add it to an already cycled and established FO tank and is it worth the effort? <I think it is worth the effort, but that is a subjective topic.  Add a little at a time, preferably cured in a separate container prior to addition.> I have a forty gallon tank with a wet dry filter and protein skimmer built in. <These built ins are usually of dubious quality.> It has a two inch crushed coral bed and some dead corals for decoration. There are also some ornaments (tube sponges and plastic hollow rocks) for the fish to hide in and behind. The lighting consists of an actinic blue and a 10 K bulb I think (will need to check on this). <Fine for LR.>  The inhabitants are a Blue Hippo Tang, <Way too small of a tank for this fish.> Coral Beauty Angel, Purple Strip something that starts with a P <Pseudochromis?  Members of this species are often quite aggressive>, Yellow Strip Maroon Clown <Nice looking, but a very aggressive fish.>, a tiny Tomato Clown <Likely future victim of the Maroon.> and an Algae Blenny. Nitrate 10PPM, Nitrite 0, Ammonia 0, and PH 8.1. If you think that LR should be added how do you do this on an established tank? Thanks for all the help. <See above.> Tom   <Chris>

Remodel of my 180 fish only tank  - 02/16/2006 Dear Crew, At this time all of my fish are in quarantine due to an ich outbreak so while my main tank lying fallow I thought I might upgrade my system. <Opportune time> The tank is and always will be fish only.  I have no live rock, just a wet dry and denitrification reactor. <Would be good, useful to have a bit of LR> There is also a Red Sea Berlin protein skimmer in the sump of the wet dry.  I have to admit before learning of your site, the tank had been treated w/ copper (live and learn).  Since there is no live rock in the system, is it necessary to remove the copper?   <Not likely... is gone> Should I removed the copper and start over using live rock?  The wet dry using denitrifier has always worked for me in the past with nitrates < 10 ppm.  Also, do you have any recommendations on brands of skimmers that would be better than what I have already? <This is posted> Thank you for your input. Sincerely, Jeff <Help yourself. Bob Fenner>

New 125 Gallon Setup II - 02/09/06 Dear WWM Crew (Eric) <<Hi Andrew>> Thanks for your reply. <<Very welcome>> Unfortunately, I am not going to be able to get a 125 gal. <<Bummer dude>> But the good news is that I am going to get a 90 gal. <<Cool!>> I contacted the supplier and found that it is the same deal.  If drilled it comes with two 1" bulkheads and two 3/4" bulkheads (for returns).  They also said that you cannot have them increase the size or number of bulkheads. <<Sheesh!  I would consider looking to a different manufacturer.>> Quite disappointing! <<Agreed mate>> So I was leaning more towards buying a standard aquarium and having it drilled by a local glass shop. <<This (to me) is a better option than ordering a tank that you already know won't fit your needs.>> They can drill any number of holes and any size up to 4".  But they also warned the more holes and the larger the holes the riskier it gets. <<Ok>> I was thinking of drilling two holes for the drainage into the sump.  If I wanted roughly 1000 GPH of flow how large of bulkheads should I get? <<1000gph total?  A pair of 1 1/2" bulkheads should handle this fine.  You'll find flow calculators that will tell you two 1" bulkheads can do it, and yes, they would...but with much difficulty/fiddling/noise.  Take my word and go with the larger bulkheads.  I also want to mention, 1000gph through your sump is likely going to make a heck of a racket...do consider using one bulkhead for the sump return (300gph-500gph pump) and the other for a closed-loop (1000gph pump).  Your decision...just a suggestion.>>   Also, in your last e-mail when you responded: "I was thinking several layers of mesh.  Would this be the proper type of setup to include the bio-balls or something similar? <<I would forego both of these and employ one or two fluidized-bed filters for additional bio-filtration and a canister filter for chemical/carbon filtration..." Did you mean forego the sump or just the bioballs and mesh? <<The latter.  The mesh will be maintenance hassle, and the bio-balls (submerged) will be of little value (much better to add a few pounds of live rock).>> I could go without the sump but thought that the larger the volume of water the better. <<Indeed, do keep the sump.>> I didn't think the system could function optimally on a canister and a fluidized bed filter. <<Used in conjunction with the sump these will benefit a FO system greatly.>> Otherwise I am in the planning stages of the rest of the aquarium. Feel free to correct or add anything) <<There you go...giving me free rein again <grin>.>> I was thinking a thin layer of crushed coral for the bottom. <<1" or less...>> I already have roughly 40 lbs. of live rock and may get more. <<Excellent!  Just don't forget to leave swimming room for the fishes...the 40lbs. may prove to be plenty.>> I was thinking of just a heavy duty plastic container for the sump (With some modifications for skimmer) mostly just to increase water volume. <<This is what many hobbyists do.>> But most of all, I have been thinking about and researching the inhabitants. <<That's good to hear.>> They are as follows: 1. Maroon Clownfish 2. One of the following:     A. Blue Tang     B. Yellow Tang     C. White Cheek Tang     D. Convict Tang <<'B' or 'D' are your only choices for this size tank, in my opinion.>> 3. Flame Angel 4. One of the following:     A. Auriga Butterfly fish     B. Teardrop Butterfly fish <<Both are very good choices as butterflies go...glad to see you did your research.>> 5. Maybe a few Damsels or other small schooling fish. Thanks in advance for wading through my jumbled thoughts and answering my questions. Best regards, Andrew <<Is my pleasure to assist Andrew.  Regards, EricR>>

Saltwater Start-Up - 2/4/2006 Hi Lisa, <<Hi Elise.>> Thanks for your response. <<You're welcome.>> As a matter of fact, I do have a question, on a whole new issue.  I've become so interested in the hobby in the last few weeks that I took the plunge into saltwater, and set up a 75 gallon FO. <<Ha! It is very addicting!>> I have an Emperor 400 on it right now, and I've started with 5 yellow-tail damsels, live sand, and Bio Spira.  I'm thinking of adding an Aqua C Remora hang-on protein skimmer. <<That's a great skimmer.>>  Good idea? <<Sure.>> Should I wait until my aquarium is more stocked? <<No, the skimmer will just produce more skimmate with time.  I personally would have stocked more slowly though.  Are you thinking about adding live rock?>> Thanks again! <<Glad to help again!  Lisa.>>

Fish Only Tank Questions & Cyanobacteria  - 2/4/2006 Good morning fellas, <... and some ladies> I'm building a 5.5 ft long, 2 ft high, and 2ft deep tank into my basement wall (165 gallon). <Neat>   Ultimately, my two feature fishes are going to be a Zebra Moray Eel and a Lionfish.  Because both are fairly docile, I figured they'd get along pretty well. <Should, yes>   Would there be any advantage going with a dwarf lionfish vs. a 'full size' lionfish ??? <Mmm, not really... Larger pteroines tend to be more active, stay "off the bottom" more... and your tank size can/will accommodate> My idea, is to eventually add a larger surgeon fish and one or two angels.  Would a flame angel get along with what I have described here??   <Unfortunately too likely to be inhaled by the Lion eventually> Is it advisable to have a flame angel with another larger species of angel?   <Can be done in a large-enough system> Given my interests above... which fish should be added last... and which fish would be recommended to cycle my new tank on? <Best. None> With a fish only system as described, would crushed coral/gravel be alright vs. sand? <Yes> I'd also like to incorporate some live rock in two of the corners of the tank plus a rocky mound in the centre to give the fish some hiding places. In a fish only system, I wouldn't need the 1lb per gallon that a reef tank should have, correct? <More an aesthetic call> What is advisable? <A couple of piles with caves/overhangs large enough to fit the fishes> Is there a synthetic material that I could use to create my own 'coral reef like' environment? <These are inferior... not useful to maintain water quality> In my 90 gallon community tank, I am constantly battling a Cyanobacteria issue. I have 21 times water flow/hour, a Aqua-C Remora Protein Skimmer that fills 3 cups a week, 20% water changes about every 2-3 weeks.  I only have a few fish, 3 starfish, some larger snails, and some crabs.  I've been using a small powder that clears the Cyanobacteria up in about 3 days... <Not a good idea... just recycles the nutrients... and is toxic, sometimes deadly so, in its effects> but the stuff comes back every couple of months.  Is there a permanent solution to this? <Yes... and is posted on WWM>   I am careful not to overfeed, I have the water flow, the water flow is directed at all areas of the tank, I have good skimming, and I do regular waterchanges.  Frustrated.  Will I still get Cyanobacteria issues in my new larger tank with less liverock or by using a synthetic material to create 'fake' rock work? <Not with "good" planning, execution... look to means for absorbing the excess nutrients, using other/purposeful macroalgae culture and a DSB in a remoted sump/refugium... You'll "get the religion" soon, modify the 90... I assure you. The easiest, simplest means (serendipity) rules!> Regards, Dave Brynlund <Bob Fenner>

Fish-Only Marine System - 01/24/06 Hi guys, <<Gals here too...>> Firstly I would like to say you guys have a very good website! <<Thank you>> Now for my question, I am currently planning a 5x2x2 FO set-up & my fish of choice are 2x baby Volitans lions & a tusk fish. <<Mmm...fish grow up.>> (I might even drop the tusk as I think it will grow too big for the tank, especially when I am going to have the 2 lions in there.   <<Might be fine in this size tank...will depend largely on your filtration/nutrient export mechanisms.>> I know it is a FO set-up so I am assuming I wouldn't need any LR even tho it would be beneficial. <<Extremely beneficial...>> Would this set-up with just a thin layer of coral chips or crushed coral is okay as a substrate?  Without using any LR? <<From a technical aspect, yes, this is possible.  But this type of "bare" display is dreadful, in both appearance, and for the fish, in my opinion.  I'm sure you're trying to maximize swimming room (or maybe just saving a buck?), but look at it from the fishes viewpoint.  A little live rock will not only make for a more eye-pleasing display, but will make/keep the fish more comfortable/healthy (less stress/fewer psychological disorders) than if placed in a barren glass box.  The live rock will also provide supplemental biological filtration...and you'll need all the help you can get with this trio of large (eventually) messy feeders.>> I will be running a Fluval 404 & 304 as well as a 1200lph internal filter <<Internal?  As in undergravel?>> as filtration.  Would this be okay? <<I don't think so, I would look in to the addition of a large fluidized-bed filter as well...and be sure to service those canister filters religiously.>> Cheers SHAUN <<Regards, EricR>>

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>

Tank Upgrade: Marine FOWLR (Equipment and Stocking)  11/30/05 Hello, <Hi Scott.> I had a quick question about stocking. <Sure.> I currently have a 55 gallon FOWLR tank. My wife and I love the blue tangs so we purchased a very small one with the idea of upgrading to a larger tank this summer to fit its growing needs. The tank that I will be upgrading to is a 90 gallon that is 48 x 18 x 25. <If space and resources permit I would much rather see this specimen in a 60' tank, something in the 125 U.S. gallon range.> It is acrylic so I plan on drilling it and using my 55 as a sump. <Good idea.> I currently have all H.O.T. equipment. My first question is, can I use the H.O.T. equipment and just hang it on the sump or do the filters and things need to be in the sump? <You can but in general in sump equipment (thinking of protein skimmers really here) are on average much more efficient. And there is another thing to consider'¦is your current equipment efficient enough to handle the larger volume of water?> My second question is, when considering stocking rates, do I take the capacity of the sump into account?  <Somewhat, a sump increases your water volume and your ability to control nutrients but it does not increase the physical space within your tank.> I currently have the small blue tang, 3 small Chromis, and a small percula clown. About how many more fish would I safely be able to stock?  <Really hard to give out a number, a tang will take up much more space than say a small goby. With your current list I would look into smaller peaceful fish such as small wrasses, cardinals, blennies and gobies.> Thanks for your help.  <Quite Welcome.> Sincerely, Scott Smith <Adam Jackson.> 

66 Gallon Fish Only query Hi Guru's, Great Website. <Thank you kindly!> Well I'm in the process of setting up a Saltwater Fish Only and will upgrade to a FOWLR setup when I get the hang of things. I used to be a good freshwater caretaker but am hooked after snorkeling in the Maldives on my honeymoon....(spent more than 50% of the time in the ocean with our Snorkels....lol) <Egads! You do love the fishies!> Ok I have a few questions regarding my setup...this has been recommended by my LFS here in the middle east (not too many saltwater stores around...so Im sticking to the best of the lot) Setup I have ordered a 66 Gallon Glass tank. 1.2m x 40inch" x 50" Renaissance / Hydor Prime 30 External Filter Aqua AP4 pump Powerhead (don't know the name as yet) <A powerhead is a powerhead> U.G. Filter <Can work but please plan on stocking lightly> Crushed Coral chips...was lookin for Live Rock but no one will Ship to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates...guess normal rock will have to suffice for hiding places <No volcanic rock, please> One 40 watt Fluorescent tube <The fish won't care how much light you provide> Question 1- Is my setup too Basic for a fish only system ? <Nope> I am planning to buy a Protein Skimmer & Live rock 3 months from now when I holiday in the Fiji islands as Im wasted on the cash after the Maldives trip....hahaha <You need a protein skimmer. Get something good> Livestock I would like to have A small Dwarf Angel A small Threadfin butterfly (pair if possible ???) <It will grow. No pairs please> A pair of Clarkii or Fake Perculas Maybe a couple of Dotty or 3 striped Damsel as well. <May I suggest that you stay away from angels and butterflies. They really do need high water quality and they may not survive a novice aquarist just learning the ropes> Question 2- Is this overstocked ? <The level is about right but I wouldn't do the "pairs" that you mention. The dotty back is territorial but beautiful> With a bit of experience I may adopt a baby Powder Blue after 6 months perhaps. <No! These are very touchy fish and your chances of success with this filtration, IMO, is slim to none. These fish are known worldwide as "ich magnets."> Question 3- Is this alright ? <As I suggested above> Please advise me if my hardware & livestock lists need modifying.... <Spend time reading and learning before spending your cash and emotions. Get a good stocking book such as "Marine Fishes" by Scott Michael. It will really make your stocking efforts much easier> Appreciate your response... Best Personal Regards Lyndon <Take care! David Dowless>

Marine f/o tank - newbie                Like many here, I am considering moving from fresh water to salt, fish only.  I have read a great many of the FAQs and articles here, and clearly am among the people who want a nice tank, not a lifestyle. That eliminates reef tank as a viable option for me, from what I gather.  The tank (110 gal) is to go in an office that is relatively short on space, so it will be impossible to have a place to keep a garbage can full of premixed saltwater.  And the tank will be a good forty feet from the tap, which could make r/o a problem. 1) Should I just give up and keep cichlids until I'm ready to devote a basement to saltwater? <Your choice. SW or FW will take a commitment of knowledge, time, money and yessssss...space> 2 If I were to go saltwater f/o, I've read here that live rock and sand are very helpful.  Do I also need all the cleaning critters as well to control algae? <Won't hurt...> 3 Are you able to comment on Tampa Bay Saltwater, they offer a package that comes with cultured live rock, sand, invertebrates to maintain the system for one price, shipped directly to closest airport. <Haven't used this company before. Can't comment. Check out our message boards at WWM> 4) but then  I no longer have a fish only system, do I?  I guess I'm confused about live rock/sand with saltwater. 5. For fish only, do you recommend a UV sterilizer? <No. Mostly useless> 6.  If I do marine f/o, and no live rock/sand, how to start bio filtration. <Read at Wetwebmedia.com> 7. In my current 55 gal African cichlid tank, I had gotten ammonia and nitrites to nothing but couldn't manage to lower my nitrates, and I'm not a good twice weekly water changer, then I found Purigen and my nitrates went from way too high to zero in about a day.  Does this stuff interrupt the biological filter by clearing out the ammonia and nitrite as well (in other words does it starve the bacteria?) <I have no experience with Purigen. Good husbandry will alleviate these problems. SW fish and critters will not survive long term with any amount of ammonia and nitrates. You might be better off sticking with the cichlids> thank you very very much for your help.  Your site is hands down the best aquaria site on the web. <Thanks! David Dowless> Daniel Heller

F/O To Reef Hello, I have a couple of questions on my salt water tank. <I'll try to answer them for you! Scott F. here this morning> I have had set up a 90 gal. f/o tank about 2 years ago. I am planning to change it over to a reef tank. First I would like to know how hard it is to do this, and is it true that I can buy corals that don't need strong lighting. <Keeping a reef tank is within reach of any hobbyist who has a grasp of the fundamentals of marine aquarium husbandry. Great attention needs to be paid to water quality and consistent environmental parameters. Yes, there are quite a few corals that don't need super light intensities to thrive> Can I use my reg. lighting with stronger bulbs? <Well- all depends on the type of "regular" lighting that you use, and the types of corals that you will be keeping> Also I already have live rock in my tank. I would have to say about 40 to 60 lbs.. What would be the fastest and safest way to set up my reef tank? Thank You, Chris <Wow, Chris- so many ways to achieve the same thing! My best suggestion is to do the research on what you'd like to accomplish, then plan your system around this. Try to embrace a "holistic" approach, which considers your aquarium a dynamic environment, rather than relying on tons of technical "props" to do the same thing. Simple, biologically sound systems, with a few technical aids, like protein skimmers, can help you achieve the success that you desire. Do research among the numerous resources that we have on the wetwebmedia.com site. Good luck, and have fun! Scott F.>

Fish Only Marine Setup Mr.. Fenner, <Hi Dan, Craig here this time,> I probably should try to extrapolate an answer to my questions but I'll take the easy way out and just ask you directly. After being out of the hobby for several years my wife and I decided that perhaps the technology had advanced to the point where we could raise fish and be more successful this time around. I just purchased a 175 gal., Oceanic Bowfront, Reef ready tank with an ETSS 800 skimmer and ETSS sump, 135 lbs. of Fiji live rock, 40 lbs. of live sand, 80 lbs. of regular aragonite, and a Spectra Pure RO/DI unit. I have had the tank setup for four months and it is stocked with the following fish;<Boy Dan, all is great up to here. I like as much LR and sand as I can reasonably fit, which brings us to your abundantly clear problem.......where is there room for water with your stock? Are you kidding?> Clown Trigger;<16" aggressive, MEAN fish, needs 100's of gallons.> Harlequin Tusk;<  Blue spot grouper;<  Emperor Angel,<  Blue face,<To 16", needs HUGE system, hundreds of gallons.>  and Navarchus angels;<To 12" in captivity. Angels need on average 10 gallons per inch of adult angel. This fish requires 100 gallons and is a big waste producer.>  Sailfin and Naso tangs; <Need huge systems and room to swim. Strong currents and aeration.>  Dragon goby;  Scott's Fairy wrasse;  and Radiata and Dwarf lions. <Egads, messy, need room 30-40 gallons each, will be harassed by triggers, Angels and puffers...>  As you can see, I have a heavy bio load. <No, you have a septic tank with colors.> To compound the situation my wife and I tend to overfeed.< Dan, I don't mean to be short, but what are you doing?> My dealer assures me that there is no problem but I would like another opinion. <Your dealer is smoking crack. YOU are paying for the crack. I would dump this guy faster than my unemployed brother-in-law living in my garage.> 1.) My skimmer foams constantly. In fact, I can only open the valve from the pump halfway or the foam would pour out of the skimmer. <I'm not surprised. Better get it pumping out thick, dark skimmate right away... empty it as often as it takes, probably several times a day with the soup your cooking> 2.) My nitrates typically run from 75 to 100.<Not a shock, FAR TOO HIGH. You need to do regular water changes, perhaps daily, to reduce waste for this many fish in this little space.> I would like to keep the fish and add more filtration if possible. Every pet shop I visit has a new recommendation but what I need is informed objective opinion. Thank You, Dan Berg <Alright Dan, IMO you have two choices. Sell/return a whole bunch of fish, or spring for a massive upgrade in all equipment, mainly aquarium volume, 1-1.5 lbs Live Rock per gallon, 4-6" deep sand bed, and larger sump/skimmer/filtration to match. Right now the fish are suffering in these conditions. FIRE your fish store, but not before you make them take some of these fish back. How's this for an unbiased, objective opinion? The Emperor alone needs 200 gallons and you have three huge angels, huge tangs, the Grouper gets 18"!!! Honestly, FIRE your fish store. How do you feel about 500 gallons? Before you blow another penny on anything, buy the Conscientious Marine Aquarist by Robert Fenner, it will save *you*, Dan, thousands of dollars and heartache. Please change the water right away and STOP feeding so much!!!!! You're killing them with food and waste. Craig> 
Re: Fish Only Marine Setup
Thanks Craig. Your comments make perfect sense. I will work with my dealer and return several of these fish. All the fish are fairly small right now (2-3") but clearly they're going to run out of room. It's not my intent to make them suffer. Dan Berg <Hi Dan, I'm glad to hear they are small, but if you are feeding as much as I think, they won't stay that way long or your water quality will catch-up to you. Actually it has already and then some. You have about eight fish that range from 12 inches to 18 inches, all of whom need to live in large open areas, so you have to narrow it down. Make sure you take temperament, waste production, food and grazing needs and native environment into account when stocking your tank and returning fish. You have the room and environment for a few of these fish, but not all of them together or as many potentially large (but admittedly beautiful) fish in 175 gallons. Your taste is impeccable, you just need to be realistic about how many fish you can house. Please look closely into the success rate, care, amount of live rock, and room required by some of your Angels. The Grouper can be 18" and the Trigger 16". That's a lot of fish! Err on the side of caution and you won't regret it. You can find a lot of information to help you on WetWebMedia.com. To your success! Craig>

New Fish Only Setup >Love your site..... The Faq's have given me an overload of information though, and it always seems to be specifically tailored to each individuals tank.  So here are my questions: I have a brand new 125 gallon glass aquarium... that I'm intending to do FISH ONLY (I like puffers and yellow tangs mostly, maybe a lionfish but probably not).  DO I use a 4 inch live sand bed AND live rock? (only) for biological filtration? >>Not necessarily.   >What is an adequate skimmer for my size tank? >>The manufacturer will have that outlined based on the brand you go for.  I'll recommend Euro-Reef, AquaC, and CPR. >Do I have the tank drilled in one of the corners and install that Richard Durso system with a sump underneath?? >>This is a good method of getting the water from the tank to the sump. >Do I need a sump, [or] is the skimmer with LR and LS adequate with powerheads to move the water around?? >>For fish only..?  Hhh..  If you had a KICK-ASS skimmer, then I'd say yes, depending on what fishes you're housing of course.  I think what you really need are a few books.  "The Marine Aquarium Handbook: Beginner to Breeder", by Martin Moe, Jr., "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist", by Bob Fenner--two GREAT books to start off with that will REALLY help you understand and PLAN (the handbook can even help you build some of this stuff yourself) your system far better than I or our FAQs can, honestly. >ALL of your help is greatly appreciated.  Chris >>In a nutshell, yes, you can filter using a DSB (deep sand bed, not just live sand) and live rock, you'll need COPIOUS amounts considering the animals you mentioned.  In my opinion you might do well to utilize a refugium, either hanging on the tank or underneath.  Skimming, absolutely, righteous skimming (Euro-Reef, spendy, but WORTH EVERY PENNY) can run a system entirely.  The nutshell got big, buy hey.  Marina
New Fish Only Setup
  >Thanks for your reply...  >>You're welcome.  >I went to my LFS and bought the marine aquarium handbook, while I was there I was talking to one of the helpful people (read sales guy) and he told me that they could setup my system for me for 50.00 an hour.  >>Heh.. I guess the price has gone up. I did setup and maintenance for a few years, priced either by the job or at $30/hr. This was back in 1990-93.  >My questions after reading the marine handbook is that I still intend to go FOWLR a deep sand bed (4 inches), invertebrates, Remora Pro protein skimmer.. Sales guy at LFS still says that he recommends a wet/dry filter for this setup..  >>Ok. Nothing really inherently wrong with this, especially if you're not using much live rock. Nitrification has to be accomplished somehow.  >Can you give me advice???  >>Since you have the book you'll be reading that nitrification, the oxidation of ammonia and resultant nitrogenous wastes, MUST be accomplished (this is also called biological filtration). Without it your animals will quickly die, especially given the action of ammonia at the higher pH levels of marine systems. HOW this is accomplished can be a matter of debate, and is very much a matter of personal preferences. Wet/dry filtration is a means of oxidation of ammonia (nitrification), the end result of which is nitrate. With me so far? What your skimmer will do is reduce the amount of DOCs (dissolved organic compounds) that will decompose into ammonia, thus leading to HIGHER nitrate as an end result. Avoid that, avoid higher nitrate. The deep sand bed will allow the creation of an anoxic region in which there will grow (VERY slowly, much more so compared to the aerobics of nitrification fame) anaerobic bacteria the further break down nitrate, partial end result of which is good old Nitrogen gas. Now, the deep sand bed can certainly also be harnessed to handle the nitrification bit, but will be better enhanced by live rock. (This also helps with denitrification.) So, my advice is to read as much as you can, including on this site, price things out (for instance, good quality live rock, at a ratio of around 1-2lbs./gallon, and the wet/dry unit), and make your decision based on the pros and cons of each and what WORKS FOR YOU. As I said, this can be rather subjective. As I also said, a wet/dry can work just fine, heck, you can go with an undergravel filter if you want to. Takes a bit more maintenance, but they DO work. Marina 

Evolve to FO pt. 2 A very good evening to you crew, .....(Evolving to a reef tank from a FO ?)) <I wish you the same! Ryan with you today> A rundown on my set-up first. Should I include a rundown each time I e-mail you?) <Yes, far too little time to find your previous email> 180g tank 20g sump (tank double drilled with two 1 1/2" holes at each end with pipes to surface to skim from top) Both leading to trickle filters with bioballs. <Cool> One goes to a skimmer first, a Turboflotor 1000 and then to bioballs) <I would certainly lose these, a handful at a time.> One goes straight into bioballs, (both have prefilters). Also have a Berlin skimmer in sump driven by  Eheim 1060 which doesn't seem to produce much skimmate at all. <Is it new?  May still be breaking in, or if it's used it may need a new pump> Nonetheless, I think having two skimmers is a great idea! <As do I> Two canister filters (which I hate) one has nitrate reducing granules (haha) one has chemical, (carbon & RowaPhos) filtration. The chemical one goes through UV (55watt) back to tank. <Nice> SG = 1022  Ph 8.2 Temp = 80F Ammonia = 0     Nitrite = 0   Nitrate = 40ppm ....OK, Alk = 4.23       Dkh 11.8  Calcium 270 !.........Now a week later it is 290. I am  raising my calcium by the use of Kalkwasser.........SLOWLY !!! <Have you considered a calcium reactor?  Much easier on your blood pressure ;)  > I would like to fire two million questions at you guys but I know I can't in one go, so here are just a couple? <Sure> First of all. Can I, or rather should I  (once my refugium is set up (DSB LR Macro etc) ) Use an external skimmer, for the supply to the refugium? <You can, but many feel that refugiums provide more nutrient export if supplied directly with tank water.> If yes (and I know you hate to be brand specific but an external skimmer that is rated for around 500G will do fine as my system will be around 250G (I live in the UK).....Any preferences? This will simply run through the refugium and under gravity back to the under tank sump. <I don't know much about brand availability in the UK- For this type of cash I would build my own.  I would look into Euro-Reef's CS series, they're a well-made product if you can get them in your area.> Also I intend eventually (after doing my homework) to keep an Anemone. Maybe a Bubbletip or one of the easiest to keep that may be a home to a clown or two. I have at the moment in my 6x2x2 display, 2x150wattMH and 2x40watt Actinics. Would it be more beneficial to the anemones to install a 3x150watt MH at 14k each and if I do this, would I need to add actinics too? <Certainly would do the metal halide upgrade.  Actinic to personal preference- some prefer this effect more than others.> One more then I'm done.....Promise! <Careful...I have that in writing!> The DSB...... Should it be just fine grade sand? or can I just take out of my tank the mixture of fine (aragonite) and rough stuff  (crushed coral) to seed it? <Yes, but don't mix, just shove a handful of old stuff in a corner where you won't see it.  Leave the crushed coral out.> Anyway I am getting conflicting ideas on how best to make this DSB as I guess the LFS's are trying to sell me Miracle mud etc..........Any opinions? <Isn't right for your application.  Get some aragonite, silica-free sand.  Aim for .2-.8mm grain size, and make sure make it deep- Sand of this quality has a half-life of about 24 months.  Check it out: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm> Very much appreciate the information and support given freely and impartially on this great site.... <Thank you, glad you are a part of it> Cheers, and many, many thanks crew! <Anytime!  Good luck, Ryan> Simon

Starting a Fish Only System Hello, <Howdy> I have been enjoying Mr. Fenner's book, and have found your website to be very informative.  I had seen Mr. Fenner's thoughts cited on several other web pages, and was pleasantly surprised that someone of his stature in the industry would be providing such a service. I was hoping you would be able to answer a few questions that I had.  Intend to start a fish only system, am looking at getting a 90 gal. aquarium, and wanted to gain as much information as possible.  Visited several LFSs and had two recommend starting with a canister filter, and the third recommended an integrated wet/dry with lots of live rock.  I notice in your FAQs that you are not big fans of wet/dry, and was wondering what you thought of starting with a canister filter, protein skimmer, and some live rock. <I would leave out the canister filter... and consider a sump type arrangement instead>   Would it be all right to cycle the tank with 50 pounds of live rock, and add more over time. <Yes> Also, I am refinishing my basement, where I intend to place the aquarium, and was wondering if paint fumes would have any adverse affect on the system during the cycling process.  The fish I am considering would be  neon goby, a percula clown,  royal Gramma, a flame angel, and possibly 2 Heniochus butterflies.  Would the tank be big enough for the butterflies and am I getting to the limit of a 90 gal. or would I be able to add a few Blue-Green Chromis. <Yes to all>   All of these seem to be listed as peaceful, except the flame angel, and I was wondering if you thought they would get along. <Should, yes> Also, with the exception of the flame angel being added last would there be any concerns about stocking order.  Thank you for your time. Sorry for the number of questions, but the wealth of information which you offer can be somewhat overwhelming to one just starting out.   <Glad to share> Thank again, Dan Kohne <Bob Fenner>
Re: Starting a Fish Only System
Thank you very much for your quick reply.  I'm sure I will be back with more questions as I delve more deeply into marine aquaria.  I will also make sure to use the Click to Pay button, and encourage others to do so.  Look at this as a dynamic book, with the ability to converse with the author and consider what that is worth. Thanks again, Dan Kohne <You are welcome my friend. Bob Fenner>

75 Gallon F/O Aggressive Setup Hi to all at WetWebMedia from the U.K. My Name is George I live in London. <Hi George, JasonC here... I once lived in London myself.> Firstly I just gotta say your site is absolutely first class I've been browsing for literally months and there's still bits I've missed!! Basically I've acquired my new aquarium, its a 48x17x22, approx 75 gallons....I think, :-) I plan to set it up as an aggressive tank housing perhaps 2-3 impressive specimens, I've had thoughts about stocking but I would like your professional opinion. :-) <Ok... a 75 really won't fit too much so you'd better be careful.> The tank will be run on one Fluval 204 and an Eheim 2260 for filtration with a Turboflotor 1000 skimmer and 2 1800 litre per hour powerheads for water movement. I would like to add live rock later but at the moment the finances will have to recover first, LOL. <Add the live rock before the fish if you can.> Does this sound like a good setup, for stock I was thinking Harlequin Tusk, Puffer (specific unsure) and a Volitans? <That could work, but again... each of these fish could live in this tank by themselves, they certainly get large enough.> Do these sound like good choices or will the puffer just shred his tank mates? <No, this is a good mix... all the fish would get along.> Any suggestions on stocking would be great as there are so many variations for a tank of this type and I need some of your professional clarification! :-) <There are many choices, and to me... I'm always interested in keeping whatever fish it is for as long as possible. I hate the thought of raising a fish to a certain size and then getting rid of it because I don't have the space. I'd rather see you plan for a different mix that would live well and for a long time in a tank of this size than any one of the fish you list which would outgrow this system.> Also I'm confused by the substrate issue, which would you use in a tank like this, I was thinking a very thin layer perhaps one inch, again am unsure. <That would be fine - easier to clean, probably a good match for such mess makers.> Sorry if my post is very long but you guys are the best and I trust your knowledge much more than any LFS! Kind Regards George. PS. Iv read the "conscientious marine aquarist" its by far the best most honest and inspiring book around! :-) <Cheers, J -- >

29 Gal Set-up Oh Great SW Masters... << Sorry, you have to settle for me instead. >> I have been all over the internet and imbedded in reading material, but seeing as how I have a pretty specific issue, I felt it necessary to drop you guys a line. I am converting a 29gal cichlid set-up over to a FO SW tank.  I plan on having mostly artificial decorations (bleached and dried LR, etc), a handful of 5-6 fish, and 1-2 pieces of LR just for filtration and bio needs. My question...I am running a Penguin 170 w/ BioWheel right now with a separate powerhead which keeps the water really clean (especially with my religious water changes).  I would like to be able to make the conversion without buying a new filter. My LFS is recommending just adding a Skilter 400 to my current set-up, but I read little about them that is positive.  Instead of messing with a Skilter, can I just add a good skimmer and keep the Penguin running? << Oh yes of course.  I would clean out that penguin and make it like new, but a good skimmer is a big help. The key here is how many fish you have, and how much feeding.  Live rock will definitely help out, so I highly recommend you get plenty of it.  But your penguin and a good skimmer provide a lot of leeway. >> I'd really appreciate your help! << Now don't write me back asking what is a good skimmer.... because I don't know. >> Thanks, << Best of luck >> Matt <<  Adam Blundell  >>

150 gallon fish only tank Hi Bob and crew, my name is Tim, and I am trying to break into marine fishkeeping.  My store contact told me to read your book, and I have, along with a couple other ones too.  I am extremely lucky in that a family friend is giving me a 150 gallon glass aquarium and a custom stand that they made. <Wow, I'll say. What a gift!> The stand has an aluminum/plywood frame, and so it's super durable, but it is entirely closed, which might hamper my filtration abilities. <Yes, and do take care to not have the aluminum frame interact with the system water... and vice versa> With a large tank at my disposal, I am hoping to raise 2 or 3 larger species in a fish only system with live sand/rock.  After tons of research in-text and online, I have decided upon an Odonus niger and a Diodon holocanthus as my must-haves and possibly adding a Paracanthurus Hepatus and/or an Echidna catenata, if there is room. <Possibly... with attention to make sure the less aggressive feeders get enough to eat> I know that the trigger and the porcupine are aggressive, messy eaters, and I have read up on most of the common filtration methods and components.  I just can't seem to make up my mind on what to use.  If I can get a sump under the stand, I want to run a DIY sump with perhaps a wet/dry (the less time my hands are spent in the tank the better!) but if I can't then I might try a deep sand bed, plenum, or even reverse flow under-gravel.  Either way I plan on using two large hang on power filters that are currently being used on the tank, and a good protein skimmer (do you know anything about the Kent Marine Nautilus? Kent seems like a name to trust. http://www.kentmarine.com/nte.html). <A little... I am a bigger fan of other lines... as you will find by reading through the many FAQs on WWM on skimmer selection>   I also know I want to utilize live rock and possibly sand (depending on if I have a substrate at all), but again I'm not sure if it will be placed in a sump or not. <Some there, some elsewhere>   If you were in my position (assuming the stand isn't an issue) what equipment would you use to maximize cost and effectiveness? <I am given to propose the outside power filters and the external sump and skimmer... as I strongly suspect you will be "upgrading" to more of a reef set-up in several months... You display the inherent curiosity and wonder of a "rapid evolver" in our interest> I plan on keeping the tank in my room, by the way, so a quiet system would be appreciated. <Do investigate the pump recommendations on WWM and elsewhere> I know a fish only tank can skimp on filtration and get away with it, especially with only 2 fish in 150 gallons.  But I want my livestock to be healthy and happy.  Many thanks for producing a great book, and also a great web resource. <Thank you for your involvement and kind words. Do keep looking into your options for filtration till you feel comfortable to proceed. You will know. Bob Fenner>

Starting Off Right! (New Marine Systems) Hello, <Hi there! Scott F. at your service today!> Here is my plan.. I have a 125 gallon aquarium. I also have a Sea Clone 150 protein skimmer, and a Fluval 404 canister filter for filtering. I plan on using 4 powerheads around 250 gph. I'm going to use about 150lbs of live rock and about 50lbs of live sand for seeding and add an additional 50lbs of non-living sand. This is going to be a fish-only tank. No inverts or corals, so for lighting, I will only be using 2- 36" 50\50 bulbs. I'm going to be curing the rock in the tank itself. So is there anything else I'm missing. Since this is going to be my first saltwater tank, I don't want to fail or get discouraged. Thanks for all your input. Joe <Well, Joe- I'm glad that you're planning ahead! That's the key to success! As far as your system is concerned, I am a big fan of protein skimming in any marine tank. Make sure that you really work the Sea Clone, and pull a few cups of dark skimmate every week from the tank. This skimmer has a somewhat checkered reputation for effectiveness, so really make sure it's doing the job...tweak it as necessary to get the right results. In regard to the Fluval- it's a fine filter, but, as with all mechanical filtration systems, it needs to be cleaned and have the media replaced often. If not properly attended to on a regular, frequent basis, the mechanical media within the filter can become "nutrient traps", retaining detritus and other organics that can gradually deteriorate your water quality. Be sure to follow a religious maintenance schedule, including the aforementioned filter cleaning, as well as regular cleaning of the skimmer, and frequent small water changes (like 10% weekly, if you can do it). Stock the tank sensibly, with compatible fishes, and feed them carefully. Best of luck in you journey into the exciting world of saltwater aquariums. Be sure to make liberal use of the vast free information on marine systems that we have on the WWM site! We're here if you need us! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Specific Gravity for a FO Marine Aquarium (8/13/04) What is the lowest advisable permanent specific gravity for a FOWLR tank containing Lionfish and a Porc. Puffer? <1.017 to 1.020> I have heard the lower the S.G., the lower the chances for parasitic infestation (within reason of course) is 1.021-1.022 too low? <Nope should be fine and you can go even lower in a FO marine set up to between 1.017 and 1.020, with the exception of fish from the Red Sea where natural specific gravity is higher @ 1.027, Achilles tangs, some seahorses, and several fish that have symbiotic relationships with invertebrates like clownfish. These require a consistent specific gravity of 1.023-1.025 to thrive. For additional information on specific gravity in marine systems please have a look at this article.........http://www.wetwebmedia.com/spg_salinity.htm

Have I Achieved Overkill? Naw.. So, I'm afraid this is going to be a dumb question, but I'm going to ask it anyway. <<You've got moxxie.  I like that.>> I'm setting up a 65 gallon FO system and I'm wondering if the following equipment list sounds excessive. Attached to one outlet I'm planning 1 power strip/timer with 1 magnum pro filter that came with the tank, 1 Maxi-jet powerhead, 1 heater rated for 40 watts, and 1 pump/air stone like Bob recommends. <<NO airstone for a salt tank, unless you REALLY like topping off and cleaning up salt creep.  Also, the heater is too small, it's not even 1W/gallon.  You need/want 2-3W/gallon.  Yes, I read that.>> (Any recommendations for the pump?) <<MaxiJets are fine.>> Attached to another outlet hopefully coming from a different subsection of the circuit breaker--I'd even get a separate one of those, if I could--1 power strip/timer, 1 Eheim 2235 canister filter, 1 Aqua C Remora Pro protein skimmer, 1 heater rated for 40 watts, and another pump/airstone. <<Same comments as above, then you're set in my opinion.>> It seems to me that if I'm going to be selfish enough to take animals out of their native habitat for my own personal enjoyment or even just one's bread for it, the least I can do is provide them with the best possible living conditions and chance of survival in the event of an electrical flub. Am I overshooting my goal with all of this? <<NOPE!  You're doing very well, with the elimination of airstones in favor of powerheads creating surface agitation, and make SURE each heater can do the job on its own in the very instance there's a problem with one set of equipment.  Otherwise, I think you're golden.  Marina>> Thanks for your time and help. You all are a godsend. Sincerely, Marianne <<You're welcome.>>

Back in the game  10/3/05 Great Site! I'm putting my helmet on and getting backing in the saltwater game (FO with predators).  Going to have a 150 acrylic with three 1.5"-2" overflows going down to my basement were I'll have all the room for any types and sizes of sumps and pumps needed.  <Ahh... very nice.  Basement sumps provide plenty of working room, no worries about messes and a very quiet living space!> Would like to anchor the system around a Huma and a Niger, with that in mind, could I use a skimmer to refugium to sump as my only means of filtration? <If you plan on having a fair amount of live rock in the system, then yes.  Also, don't skimp on the skimmer, larger models by Euro-Reef, All-Seas Marine, Aqua-C, Precision Marine and My reef Creations all offer good choices.  See here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_2/cav2i5/Filtration/Filtration.htm > Was planning on building a 36Wx36Dx15T tank divided in half to give me a large refugium and return sump.  Would those dimensions be accommodating, <There is nothing wrong with those dimensions, although it is generally cheaper and easier to use a standard tank, especially since it will easily accommodate standard lighting fixtures.  Those dimensions translate into just over 75 gallons, so a standard 75g tank may be a reasonable option.> if so, what should I put in my refugium and should it be lighted? Would a Iwaki MD70RLT give me what's needed with about 11' of head?  <For a fish only tank, some rock and either Caulerpa or Chaetomorpha would work well.  Sand is optional, but may cause problems with large amounts of fish wastes.  An Iwaki 70 should provide plenty of flow up to the tank, although you may want to consider some additional in-tank circulation.  With such messy fish, I would aim for 10x the tank volume in total water movement to keep wastes suspended.  Best regards.  AdamC.>

Fish only with live rock I have a 240gallon tank with 6 true perculas and 3 damsels. It's being filtered with an AC500 and an Aquamaster600. I was wondering if I should add live rock? I plan on keeping a couple of angels, and I find that liverock is very beneficial. Now my question is, do I need a lot of lighting to keep the rock "alive" I only have 4x36watt bulbs. I thought I wouldn't need much to use live rock as an additional filter. If I put live rock in there, would the lack of light effect my water quality? And as for skimmer, do I need a large skimmer? like the RedSea Berlin XL? or would regular water changes be ok? Or is the skimmer required for the use of liverock? I would be buying "fully" cured live rock. Thanks. <The live rock is definitely a plus for you and your system. The lighting you describe will work, but barely... many of the organisms that will come in on/with your live rock will perish, and much of the photosynthetic material will just survive, not flourish. I would add at least the amount of intensity you have currently more... Look into totally upgrading into power compacts (the hobby 'zines list kits, and much can be done through the big hardware stores here). And yes to having a protein skimmer... You're soon to be amazed at how much gunk this tool will be pooling out of the water, how much better your system looks, and the improved health of your livestock. Get one whether you use live rock or no, cured or not. Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

Converting fish only tank to reef tank I have successfully maintained a fish only since Oct. '97 and I think it is time to step up to a reef tank. My current tank setup: <Like that bold statement> 45 gal glass tank Amiracle SL-150 (its a wet-dry filter using bio-balls) 1-24" regular fluorescent "full spectrum" light (whatever is least expensive) 1-24" regular fluorescent "Actinic Blue" (whatever is least expensive) Crushed coral substrate about 30 lbs of live rock (probably dead rock now) <Hmm> about 3 months ago I added a new fish to my take that brought with it a nasty bacteria that whipped out all but two of my fish. My remaining fish: Clown Fish: Amphiprion Percula (3 years) Yellow-Tail Damsel: Chromis xanthurus (the fish I lost were my more expensive fish, thanks to Murphy) <Hmm again> My copper test still shows color, although it is lighter than the lowest color on my test card. <Unusual... must be a chelate artifact...> I purchased two barely used ballasts from a local dealer with a great reputation. It cam with 4 96 watt power compacts (2 white and two blue) I made a canopy out of nice oak plywood and solid oak that will keep the lights 6 inches off the surface and it has a 4"fan for the heat. <Wowzah, sounds nice> Okay, now for my questions: Lighting: I have heard many views on lighting I was thinking of going with the 2 blue + 2 white setup but read that it might be best to just do 2 white and 1 blue. <Okay... should be fine> I have also heard everything from 8 hours to 14 hours for lighting. Why the difference and what is the benefit for longer? <Not much... depending on your intent. If "just" for looks (as opposed to boosting photosynthesis, possibly culture...) ten-twelve hours per day is about right...> Filter: Is my filter enough? Or do I need a protein skimmer. <You want a skimmer> What is the difference in what they accomplish? <Well, yes... the wet-dry is principally a speeded up, fast uprampable biological filter... with likely some mechanical filtering features as well (sponge, fiber somewhere in its path...)... the skimmer is to remove undesirable (and some not so) molecules... Once you see what it removes you'll be an advocate...> My filter has kept my fish only tank at perfect levels since about 3 weeks after I set it up. <Time, accumulation of metabolites... trying to add more, other livestock later... would show different results...> Copper: Is the trace amount still too much? I just purchased a bunch of snails that were perfectly happy until they got placed in my tank. All but a few died almost overnight. <Umm, no. You need to remove the vestiges of the copper treatment here. Either activated carbon or PolyFilter placed in your filter/flow pathway.> Substrate: Most of the places around here sell bags of dry sand and will give me some of their live sand to "activate" it. I have heard of GARF grunge and wonder if I should go with that only or as an additive or not at all. <Not at all... your live rock will inoculate the "dead" sand> What about a plenum?  <Time to send you to our collective resource...: please go to, read over the materials posted on our site: www.WetWebMedia.com... under all these terms: "Plenums"... and all else you've mentioned...> I don't want to go through so much trouble of making one and have heard that a Thiel system of dividing the front from the back of the tank with a damn will work batter anyway. Speaking of GARF grunge, have you heard of their reef janitors? What is your opinion?  <Yes... there are better sources, better "cleaner uppers" from elsewhere.> They say you need 1.5 janitors per gallon. One of the local fish stores says he won't sell hermit crabs because they eat the snails. GARF sails a mix of snails and crabs. Well, that is a good start. Have I left anything out? <Much my friend. But there is time. Bob Fenner> Thank you, David Goshorn

Re: predator tank question Thanks very much for the fast reply...I have a few more questions I remembered after I had sent it out. I am agonizing over whether to make the 220 a reef or a predator tank, the more I read the more I want to do a big reef again. <A worthy task/adventure> BTW I'm amazed at the amount of information on your site. Incredible job. <Yes, much input from people who have "done the work"> 1) refugium...whatever I end up doing in the big tank I will have a big sump. In the sump I want to have a nicely sized refugium (Caulerpa, ideally amphipods, shrimp, etc living in it, ala. ecosystem). I will have a large skimmer, probably downdraft (big ETS most likely). Would the skimmer be better before or after the sump?  <Before in your setting> I would assume after so that the refugium can get organic particulates for nutrient purposes. <I would arrange the flow to have only some of the water get pulled out, through the skimmer... the water removed from the main tank dump into an antechamber in the sump, where the skimmer pulls it out... and dumps it (after going through the skimmer) back into the latter, larger chamber of the sump... Placing the skimmer last before the tank will remove too much of benefit to the main tank> My current reef has an ETS reef devil in sump, so I have very little experiences with out of sump skimmers other than a 6' CC skimmer I had on my 72 reef 5-6 years ago. So...skimmer->sump->tank, or sump->skimmer->tank, or try to make the sump big enough to have an in sump skimmer? <Hope this is clear... tank to forward sump to skimmer to rear sump/refugium to tank> 2) Darn the more I think about it the more I want to make the big tank a reef now, not a predator tank, but my 60 cube isn't big enough to be a "predator" tank. Guess I could put a small lion and a small eel in it. I plan to move at least one more time in the next 5 years which is the only thing really dissuading me from doing the big tank as a reef. Moving a predator tank is about 9.76 times easier than moving a reef I would imagine. <Both need not be a giant problem> 3) 6' tank, I assume 3 halides? I have a dual Hamilton 175W system right now. <A good number, 3> I think I'd want to move to 250W, or would 400W be a better choice? <No more than 250 watt IMO... more wattage than this unnecessary and problematic here> CF for a tank that big? Reasonable?  <Can be done... is this 220 have more than twenty inches of water depth? If near this, you'd probably be happier with the MH's...> I like the water shimmer from halides though. <Ah, there's our answer> 4) I guess I'd want a 2' tall tank as opposed to 30" for light penetration purposes. Maybe I'll just go all out and get an 8' tank. :> You said in the previous mail that acrylic is your tendency, even with a reef in a tank that big? <Yes... stock 240's come in 8 by 2 by 2 foot and 8' by 18 inches by thirty inch configurations... I would use the former if going with a stock size> I had a reef in my acrylic 120 and it definitely got some scratches. 180 gallons, that needs about 2-300# of rock and a big skimmer + refugium to remain stable...guess that's small enough that I could keep rock away from the walls in a lot of areas. 5) You seem to be a big needle wheel skimmer fan. Your opinion on those versus a good air injection (Bullet 2/3) or ETS downdraft type design for a big tank? <The needle wheel technology is superior... more removal per pass, less fooling with adjustments, less cost in electricity/pumping to operate... but there is consideration to how much skimming is practical... Bob Fenner> Thanks again! Jeff
Re: predator tank question
Oops I can't believe I missed the fact that the skimmer "after" the refugium would of course destroy or filter or any of the refugium habitants on their way to the tank. <Yes> Thanks for the help...8'x2'x2' or 6'x2'x2' is probably what I'm going to settle with. 1 halide per 2'...175W or 250W, haven't decided. <Okay> Still have to research more to see if I think buying "Miracle Mud" is worth it, but I definitely want to set up a refugium of some sort in the sump. <Keep investigating. You will know> Think I'm settling towards a EuroReef CS8-1 as a skimmer. <A fabulous unit> Thanks for all the great help! You may hear from me again for "verification" before I buy some of this stuff hehe. Jeff <Be chatting my friend. Bob Fenner>

New fish-only tank I have a 125 gallon fish-only tank that I want to cycle. I'll have an Amiracle Sr 200 w/d with Turboflotor t1000 skimmer. I'm interested in using live rock. questions: 1) how much live rock? <Aesthetically? About as much as you'd like... Functionally? A pound to a pound and a half "per gallon"... look for "whole box" deals... > 2) cured or uncured? <Semi-cured (aka as cured) if you can afford it... really is the better deal... as much weight, time is lost in doing this oneself> 3) do I need the protein skimmer immediately? (I have yet to buy it) <I think so, yes. Best to save up, get ahead of the rock ("eat your Lima beans first...)... Please read over the "Live Rock" materials archived on our site, including the numerous FAQs there (www.WetWebMedia.com)> could you also give me suggestions on lighting?  <Read the articles, FAQs on this field on the WWM site as well> my tank does not have a canopy. I want to set up a fish-only tank with live rock for added biological filtration. question: 1) what type of canopy to buy? <Or build... see the "Custom Aquarium"... > i.e. how tall 2) what type of lights specifically? any good brands you would recommend? 3) how much wattage for my set-up? <See the WWM site> thanks for your help, Knef <Thank you for your participation. Bob Fenner>

Aquascaping in a Fish-Only Tank As usual you are doing a great job. <Thank you kindly.> I have a couple quick questions that I have searched the site for that I can't find addressed: I have a 72 gal fish only setup with one 4' 40watt 10,000k light, a 30 gal wet/dry, Berlin skimmer, UV light. My tank is stocked with a blue tang, yellow tang, Picasso trigger, porcupine puffer, and an emperor angel (all five fish are youngsters; I realize they will outgrow the tank). <Agreed, start looking into that 180 soon.> My questions: 1) I would like to change my crushed coral bed and bleached coral / lava rock aquascaping to a sand bed and live rock. Can I have live rock with predatory fish? <Sure> What about a sand bed with the messy feeding that takes place? <I would use a thin layer of sand in the main display. Maybe a DSB in the sump/refugium after some prefiltering.> My tank is reef ready (overflow) so all waste is skimmed off the top of the water; you can't vacuum sand I assume? <You should not need to if you feed properly and have a healthy population of critters to clean the sand.> 2) Do I change out all the bed and aquascaping at the same time or seed it with the crushed coral? <I would remove all the crushed coral at once.> 3) I currently have 40watts of light, should I add more lighting for (live) sand or the live rock? <For the rock, yes.> I own an unused 96watt power compact (two blue, two white) that I can throw on if needed? <Sounds good.> I appreciate you time in answering our questions on a daily basis. Thank you, Mark Hill <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Re: Marine Fish only & sandbeds Anthony, Just a quick thanks. That cleared up a lot of questions.  <very welcome> The fiberglass casting for rock sounds very interesting. I've seen it used in public aquariums in walking areas, but didn't realize it could be used inside the tanks. I would have expected it to fade or release small fibers or particles.  <many colorfast dyes and colored epoxies to detail/seal/color the product nowadays> I will search the net for more info on this method. If you know any resources for learning this method, please send it to me. If not, don't worry about it and thanks.  <I'll have to ask around for current info on techniques. I know that some artists are using mask making F/X methods to add flexible and moving features to the structures!!! Very cool and realistic> Seriously! You guys have been a huge help. My fish are almost smiling from the recent improvements in living conditions the Wet Web Media education system has brought them. Rich <it is a pleasure to hear it my friend. Best of luck and long life. Anthony>

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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