My new tank - step by step account

wayne

Elite Fish
Oct 22, 2002
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#21
Got the T5's in , nice.... in a shallow tank like this I think it's pretty close to a 150 Watt halide in intensity. I had to saw out the preffited/preformed fluorescent fixture with a handheld jigsaw. Brutal but effective - took maybe half an hour. The T5's are a Deltec retrofit incidentally with a nice lip to hang on a hole in the hood, plus gullwing reflectors.www.d-daquariumsolutions.com
I did have a pretty fine growth of hair algae on the back wall of the tank but this has all gone now. Coralline growing quitewell on juwel internal filter box and some bare rock in tank
 

wayne

Elite Fish
Oct 22, 2002
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#22
6 weeks or so into having the tank setup and I now have a fish in there. At last? Well maybe it's not such a long time? It's a 1 1/2 inch common clown whos now swimming around relatively happily checking out his home and avoiding the overterritorial shrimp. I'd like to get another, but I'll have to wait till the only shop I really trust gets more stock in.
FYI I did not quarantine this fish! Naughty? Well kind of. I know it's been sitting in a dealers tank for some months , in a standalone tank and has been fine there so I think that effectively that was a quarantine. Acclimaiton by drip took about an hour and of course I discarded the dealers water.
I intend to try to get another clown quite clickly, but after that drop to stocking at a rate of no more than a fish every month or so to give the tank time to adapt and catch up.
Fish options for a tank of this size are quite limited. I will likely try to get a 6 line wrasse or Rainsfords goby, one of the more peaceful pseudochromids and a small centropyge like a rusty. And that will be that. And maybe not the pseudochromid.
 

wayne

Elite Fish
Oct 22, 2002
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#23
Summary so far - 6 weeks, nearly 7 so time for a resume. In terms of the nitrogen cycle this tank is cycled, but that doesn't really meant it's stable or complete yet.. There are undoubtedly new populations of organisms growing, and old ones are still dying, and this is likely true in a micro scale too. My main concern is that I have brown algae on the top of my sand bed, which may or may not be diatoms. This is the only problem algae i have now, as my coralline is developing , and i have a couple of clumps of caulerpa (nummilaria?) growing. I am disappointed by the rate at which my sand bed is NOT becoming live - not much apart from a few worms are visible. I wil likely have to make an effort to seed from an established reef somewere locally.
The original aim of this project was to produce a viable long term relatively low maintenance marine aquarium for as little cash as was possible, but somewhere along the road it grew a bit. However the original aim was good, and I think possible.

An original list of kit was
Juwel rekord 110 litre with dual light hood, 40 watts fluorescent light
Swap out one bulb for 12000 K NO
Extra powerhead (Juwel kit comes with 600 l/h pump + heater)
Aragonite sand (dead) - adequate for 1 inch base
Salt
Hydrometer, test kits, esp pH, kH, ammonia, nitrite
10 - 15 kilos live rock

And I reckon you can run with that lot as long as you are diligent in waterchanges, not overfeeding, not overstocking and generally being smart. You're relying on liverock and extensive water movement to filter the tank, but you have to understand this is quite limited though it will be a lot better than a UGF filtered system or one filtered in a style similar to FW tanks. Of that lot the tank kit and live rock were the most expensive parts. This , for me, is a baseline setup. I have no idea how much this would be in the US, but I don't think you can go much lighter and get good results.

However after adding a skimmer and upgrading the lighting, the 2 logical steps, and adding some polyps I guess I'm now close to a reef in setup though that isn't what I would call it - it still feels like a FOWLR to me. This isn't really important.

This has been an interesting progress, and I suppose I should make an effort to keep this up to date over the coming months, though frankly there won't be a lot to say...

Lessons so far
KNOW YOUR ENEMY - research, research, research. Don't trust your local store unless they're obviously good. Once you've done your research properly you'll know what to look for, what not. UGF's, damsels to cycle and a Moorish Idol sir - give that store a miss! 5 fish inc. a tang and an angel in a 10 - you're on the wrong planet. Know what you're buying before you give away your money. Don't trust the internet - do the classic paper reading. I see the same questions again and again on different sites, including this one. If you can't be bothered to do this reading, don't expect success. You can't expect to fix stuff repeatedly - prevention is the best cure, especially in small tanks.

BIGGER IS BETTER - yes it is. I'm trying to stock a 30 now, and do you know, not many fish work long term in a small tank like that, so god only knows why so many people try small tanks like 10's. My list is going to be a clown or 2, six line wrasse, a small centropyge and maybe a banggai cardinal and that's it. I'd like a tang, but my tanks obviously too small, ditto butterflies, larger centropyges and so on. I'd like Rainsfords goby, 2 1/2 inches, but guess what , the tanks too small to support a pod population for it to live, ditto mandarins. The list goes on... So the criteria for going into a tank of this size (32 inches long, 80 cms) is small, relatively inactive or at laest not pelagic, peaceful and can be fed artificial/frozen foods. That isn't many. Damsels for example - not really for the long haul, too aggressive.
I can tell you right now, though I like this tank ,I wish it was 4 feet long as you can use so much more stuff. The only way this can work is by concentrating on inverts to keep the interest level up. The concept of a 10 gallon fish only is a joke, you can't keep anything except 2 small fish in it! Long term , that isn't too interesting. Note that if you put much more than 10 lbs of rock into a 10 there isn't much room for a fish! 8 gals real volume, minus a gallon or two for the rocks volume....
Cost shouldn't be an issue here, though it undoubtedly is. However the exact same equipment and quantity of rock for a 10, put straight into a 20 long is going to be a lot better for you and the fish for a negligible increase in cost, just thro the increase in size.

This project has been a lot of fun so far and very interesting. At the moment I'm trying to figure what a bunch of small pink blobs with lilac tips are - chordates, or some kind of primary polyp. I wish this was larger, but I'm glad I have this setup
 

wayne

Elite Fish
Oct 22, 2002
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#25
I think you have to be realistic. Obviously people run reefs that are much smaller than 30 and have terriffic success, but for a beginner the negligible increase in cost to get much bigger than a 10 has got to be worth it. For a reef you're going to need lighting, and frankly the lighting you'd need for a 10 will do a perfectly servicable job on a20 long. The skimmer will be the same, the powerheads et al very similar. The only difference wil be that a skimmer will become more practical, hidable. I don't really buy the space argument, but I guess sometimes it's true. Throw out the television? I guess I need repeat the point -if you take the same 10lbs of live rock, same kit, and just put in a 20 or even a 30 you are really increasing your options for a very small cost increase - doubling your volume of water is more powerful than any amount of filtration.
For FishOnly first define FO. For a FOWLR tank that this was meant to be, a 30 is obviously practical if you know your limits, or rather those of your fish choices. However when people say FishOnly to me I tend to think of non invert safe fish like angels, butterflies, triggers, puffers et al and then for sure , bigger is better. You will actually find that the number of these bruisers you can keep in a 55 is very, very limited. So for me, for people to talk about a 10 gallon 'fish only' is a fast road to disinterest, especially if they're coming from a freshwater cichlid world and just want to test the waters. 'Hmm, these gobies arent nearly as good as my oscars'. If you do have to build a small tank, and i can understand that, learn to live with your limited fish choice, but get some inverts in there to add interest. Also note that a 10 or even 20 with a UGF, non live rock setup is going to be alarmingly unstable. If i only had room for a 10 I'd go for a live rock tank with no fish - they're always the biggest problem
 

wayne

Elite Fish
Oct 22, 2002
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#26
I haven't updated this for a ges. Now 16 weeks in. Things are good. Fish stock is now a common clown and a 6 line wrasse. Corals are 2 colonies green protopalythoa, 1 of yellow zoanthids and a sarcophyton. All seem well thoguh the sarco scared me at the start - it extended on the first day, then didn't again for 2 weeks - light shock I suspect, going from a system with a 150 watt halide behind a cover glass to unshielded T5's.
No real problems thogu hat some point I need to kill out all the aiptasia I have at one end before they become a real problem. Numerous algaes growing. Corallines, green and red brushes, caulerpa, some red balls , caulerpa, padina (nice) and now some lime green 'knobs'. I have also got stacks of small serpulid worms. some bristles, small serpet stars, copepods, amphipods and so on from the live rock. The latest and greates t thing to developa are some white sponges growing in a cave.
Maintenance is check all is running ok, and doing a weekly 10 % (10 litres) water change. I also clean the bulbs reflectors from salt buildup at this time.
Overall this is a really easy tank to keep. I spend much less time on this than I do on my discus. But I can well imagine if you're overstocked it would be hellish.
I should pick up a rusty angel tonight to go into quarantine. I might also change salt from Instant Ocean to Reef Crystals (same manufacturer) as I want ot use the extra calcium to push coralline growth.
 

wayne

Elite Fish
Oct 22, 2002
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#30
Clowns, small wrasse, selected blennies and gobies, cardinals, dottybacks if you pick carefully. There are numerous others. Maybe after 6 months one of the tougher dwarf angels. Give damsels a miss - cheap, pretty, tough as heck and territorially aggressive.
You have a ton more fish options with a 29 than a 20, let alone a 10.
 

TaffyFish

Superstar Fish
Jan 30, 2003
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#31
Am following this thread avidly but standing well back before plunging into SW. Mistakes seem to be costly, lots of research to do.
I have however seen a fish which has seriously tempted me, a mandarin. I saw one in a very low tank with rock and inverts and was utterly captivated, so can you start with 1 or 2 of these plus inverts?
 

wayne

Elite Fish
Oct 22, 2002
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#32
No, not easily. Mandarins are tough, small , very disease resistant and horribly difficult to feed consistently. I hate to think what % starve to death in aquarists plus but the majority of reliable sources say 90% plus. Mandarins feed by sucking small crustaceans off hard surfaces. To provide for this thus requires you have a tank with lots of hard surfaces and an adequate 'tank supplied' farm of amphipods , copepods etc. This is normally advised to mean a bunch of live rock in an established tank without a load of competition else they are horribly prone to starving to death. It's also normally advised to run a refugium as well. People often talk about 75 pounds plus of live rock perfish, in pretty good circumstances. You can mitigate this a bit with a refugium, dosing pods (if they're available), and you might get lucky and get one to accept frozen foods, but that's the exception rather than the rule. If you think you can feed seahorses then you can feed a mandarin long term.
There are , disppointingly, a whole bundle of small, beautiful fish that spring to mind with difficult eating habits such as Rainfords and Hectors gobies.
 

aresgod

Superstar Fish
Jan 14, 2004
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#33
I agree with wayne, but i have two mandarins in my 90 gallon tank, i have a 20 galon refugium on it as well, however i have found that more than anything else mandarins are just lazy, both my mandarins will feed from my turkey baster, when they have my food p.aced in front of them they eat it with out a problem, now however you see at least where i am more and more mandarins that the lfs are teaching to feed, so always ask to see the mandarin eat if you dont have enough critters for them to live on, because otherwise the end result is them starving to death over a 3 month period
Brahm
 

wayne

Elite Fish
Oct 22, 2002
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#35
Tediously well. 6 months old, and everythings fine and stable. 10 litre water change each week with reef crystals and a mid week addition of calcium is really keeping the coralline growing, though I have a large growth of padina plate algae that is also likely using a bunch of calcium.
All polyps growing quite well under twin T5's with gullwing reflectors. I've alread had to frag the sarcophyton once and I'm going to have to do it again pretty soon. I have a bunch of purple star polyps that are growing like fury so I'll likely transplant a section of those as well.
Fish are all well - common clown, 6 line wrasse, bicolor blenny and most recent addition, a small 4 cm bicolor angel that has just come out of 1 month quarantine but is doing well. The tank is too small long term, but right now it's doing well despite the reputation for fragility that these have. I think it's because the tank is 6 months old and capable of feeding it without too much additional feeding. It's taken 6 months to get to 4 fish and I wouldn't want to go any faster.
Other significant critturs are a boxing shrimp (Stenopus) and a blood shrimp (Lysmata debelius), blue and red leg hermits (was 6 now 5 after the Stenopus dismantled one), 3 large trochus, some bristleworms and brittlestars that came in the live rock and a bunch of sponges, worms..... I wouldn't really recommend keeping the 2 shrimps together in this small a tank - it's a bit nervy and the Stenopus is definitely aggressive at times.
So this is very easy. I've just been away for a weeks vacation, plus I've been on a bunch of 3 day trips recently and the tank has survived great which is what I wanted.
My current projects are that I'm selling or giving away all my freshwater fish, including discus, Lnumbers et al as these do require more maintenance time than I can comfortably supply plus I want the tank space to transplant this tank. I am also very strongly motivated to take an acrylic 10 I have and turn it into an upstream refugium
 

dbacksrat

Superstar Fish
Jun 3, 2003
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#36
wow wayne thanks--i've done a lot of research and gained a lot of knowledge since i made that post in january asking what live rock was--i've found your post very informative--i cant wait to get my tank started--thanx :)
 

wayne

Elite Fish
Oct 22, 2002
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#37
I hope it made sense. Originally I wanted it to be a real bare bones setup, which it was. However I guess upping the lighting and then adding the skimmer raised it a bit. I've pushed my luck here only once I think, with keeping the two shrimp together.
I tihnk it's interesting that both of my shrimp moulted this weekend after a larger than usual water change. This kind of indicates that there's probably more of a drain on trace elements than I though, so maybe I should do more water changes.
 

S.Reef

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Dec 1, 2003
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#38
You might want to watch out with the boxing shrimp. I know someone who had theirs rip the claws off a cleaner shrimp. It was a lot bigger then the cleaner so that could be the reason. Just giving a heads up.

Sam Reef
 

wayne

Elite Fish
Oct 22, 2002
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#39
Yes, that's what I was trying to say. I did pick a full grown cleaner. There wasa bit of chasing after a week or so, but they've all settled down.