Setting up the Tank…..
When you decide to setup a marine aquarium the first thing to consider is what is it that you want. Do you want a fish tank, reef tank, or both. This will effect the type of setup you are going to build ad the maintenance involved in it. An all fish aquarium is the easiest to setup and maintain and the combo tank is the most difficult.
Saltwater Fish Tank
If only intend on keeping fish the setup and requirements aren’t as rigorous. Of course you can always get a kit from the Store. I have a few listed that you might find interesting or at least get a few ideas. The things you will need:
Filtration (remember you need 3 types)
Canister or sump (mechanical)
Live Rock (around 1/2 lbs per gallon), under gravel filter (Biological)
Activated charcoal and some other type of media (zoolite) (Chemical)
Ammonia, Nitrate, Nitrite, and PH
Crushed coral or sand. If you are going to use crushed coral I recommend an under gravel filter to support biological mass. This will consume some of the sludge that can build up otherwise. If you are using sand only use a small amount less than an inch deep. If you make your substrate to deep or do not add an under gravel filter your Nitrate levels will go up in a year or two and you won’t be able to get it back down.
This is totally up to you. Just make sure whatever you get it is saltwater safe. Not everything made for aquariums are safe for both fresh and saltwater.
You may want powerheads if you added an under gravel filter . If not you may want to look into something to cause a current like a wave maker. You may also look into a protein skimmer but isn’t really necessary, though it will keep
your water clearer.
After getting all your equipment in place it is time to mix the salt and water. This is crucial that you get salinity where you want it. I would advise around 1.023. This is around the middle and is good in case of fluctuation. Your salinity will go up and down with evaporation. Every couple of days you will want to top off your tank with fresh water between water changes. Add the water to the aquarium and turn on the pumps. You will want to add something to cycle(Nitrogen cycle) the tank. Instant ocean make the one that I used Fluval also makes a good starter. Let your aquarium run overnight .
Add Your Fish
The moment you have been waiting for. First do a quick test of all your levels(Salinity, ammonia, Nitrate, Nitrite, ect). Before you go to the store get an idea of the types of fish you want. Do you want a few(1 or 2) aggressive fish or a a community tank. Make sure you know what you are getting if it communal and how big it will get. You don’t want to purchase a $300 dollar Emperor Angel to have to get rid of it the following year because it outgrew your tank.
Reef/Reef and Fish Aquarium Setup
To save you all of the reading I am going to combine the reef and combo tank. The setup is basically the same. It is important that when you setup a combo tank you pay particular attention to the placement of the decor. You want to avoid if possible creating places where waste can collect and you can’t get it out.
I am a firm believer in go big or go home when it comes to filtration. A sump would probably be your best choice for this system. I also believe in going at least 30% bigger than the aquarium you are going to run. This of course is only my opinion. When you get into this hobby you will quickly discover that it can become very expensive. The last thing you want as a new hobbyist is to have literally 1000’s of dollars in corals and find out you added one to many fish. Sometimes fish will grow a little bigger than anticipated and throw your system over the normal threshold. You should also consider around one lbs of live rock to every gallon of water. This will ensure that there is proper biological filtration. Live rock also will house copepods that will also contribute to your biological filtration.
Corals and invertebrates have specific lighting requirement. It is not like a fish tank, corals have zooxanthellae that convert sunlight into food in addition to eating various other food items. Zooxanthellae serve a similar purpose in corals as chlorophyll serves in plants. This is a symbiotic relationship serving both the coral and algae protist. These algal protozoa help the coral survive in nutrient poor waters of the tropics. Sorry, that is the nerd in me coming out, there are plenty of good lighting systems on the market today. Of course to learn more about lighting click HERE.