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So, I'm thinking about a tank...

June 24th, 2007, 04:24 PM
After visiting MBIE's photo thread, I started to really think about setting up a saltwater/reef aquarium. Today hubby and I visited one of the large fish store chains and took a look around. I'm not sure when I'll do it, but I want to do as much research as I can before I start. Can anyone (MBIE?) recommend a good place to look on the internet for beginner information on starting a tank, or even a good book to buy?

I was also wondering about alot of those fish and where they get them. Do they breed them? Or do they steal them from their habitat? What is more abundant, bred or stolen fish? Cause I'd really want to be ethical if I'm going to do this.

June 24th, 2007, 07:47 PM
I don't know much about reef tanks, Stacer, but around here, a lot of the university biology departments and even some of the high schools have them. You might want to check with some of the schools in your area and find out if they have one--and who maintains it. Usually they're very willing to give you pointers. :thumbs up

June 24th, 2007, 08:07 PM is probably the best website for finding information and asking questions about saltwater. They have a beginner section and there are TONS of experienced aquarists and even professionals to answer questions.

I was also wondering about alot of those fish and where they get them. Do they breed them? Or do they steal them from their habitat? What is more abundant, bred or stolen fish? Cause I'd really want to be ethical if I'm going to do this.

Honestly most SW fish are still taken from the ocean. In general SW fish are harder to spawn in aquaria than most FW fish, but there are a several species where you can get captive bred specimens.
The most readily available captivebred fish are probably clownfish. Many fish stores carry captivebred clowns, or if you ask they can usually order them in.

This thread has a primary list of available captivebred fish, and if you read throughout the thread several other people have posted links.

The harder part is going to be finding somewhere to buy captive bred fish, depending on which ones you want.

Aquacultured corals are fairly easy to find, in fact sells their own.

A good fish store should be able to tell you who their supplier is and where their corals come from, whether they're captivebred, etc.

June 25th, 2007, 10:15 AM
if you are looking to do a reef tank, look into RC for your local reef clubs. it is quite possible to totally stock a reef tank with frags from other people for next to nothing.

a good source of knowledge (ive found) is along with its support forum while the 'off topic' forum there has a good bit of drama, most of the people are amazing and able/willing to answer any question you throw at them.

im not sure what type of fish supply stores out there you have but please... stay away from petco/petsmart type chain stores. they are amazing for anythign furried but finned... terrible. look for a local store that does not deal with dyed fish, has few or no dead fish in the tanks, look for white spots on them, keep an eye out for (in SW tanks) a slimey looking red algae or an electric green algae. that is NOT desirable for a fish retailer.

there are also quite a few symbiotic relationships in SW such as the hosting clownfish and anenomes or the cleaner(peppermint??) shrimp and other fish... which is just super cool. :)

oh and unless you have a photographic memory and bottomless pockets... expect to start your tank up in about 8 months to a year!! :crazy: :laughing:

and if you decide to do a reef.... one piece of equipment everyone forgets to tell you to have is a red lense flash light. :thumbs up

uh, i think thats for my random and scattered thoughts about SW for this morning.


June 25th, 2007, 08:00 PM
I agree with all of that, though saltwater/reef clubs are hard to find depending on the size of your town.
Here there aren't any clubs, but the clubs in the closest big cities often have message boards, or people will be willing to talk to you on the phone if you join. If you don't mind travelling they'll often have meetings and coral/fish swaps and sales. Some people are also willing to ship depending on how fragile the stock is and their experience in doing so.

Also, yes, I agree, don't rush into saltwater. It will probably take a fairly long time just to catch on to all the terms used and get an idea of what types of fish/corals you will be able to keep with your experience level. Corals are also animals, so like fish they require different levelf of water quality, feeding and care, with the addition of lighting. Some corals require HIGH lighting, which can be extremely expensive depending on the size of your tank (and I recommend not starting with under a 55g because smaller tanks water quality will drop FAST, and a tank crash is not fun, especially if you are inexperienced and not sure how to save your stock. Lower tanks are also better since the light has less water to penetrate).
Corals and inverts must also be chosen carefully because believe it or not some will predate fish or other corals. Anemones especially can be aggressive, and large anemones can potentially eat live fish, which is frustrating if you've just spent 30-75 dollars U.S (pretty common price for many SW fish) buying that particular fish.

there are also quite a few symbiotic relationships in SW such as the hosting clownfish and anenomes or the cleaner(peppermint??) shrimp and other fish

Yup, notice the shrimp in front of my anemone? He doesn't leave that rock 'cause he decided to host the anemone :D

I'd also add, get GOOD live rock. Either bring an experienced person with you or learn how to figure out good or bad liverock. Good liverock will have TONS of cool organisms on it, sometimes even nice corals. Fun to look at and can potentially save you money from having to buy every single thing for your tank. If the rock is cured that is especially nice since you'll spend less time waiting to add fish and other creatures. (Cured means the rock either hasn't "died" in the process of being shipped, or has been kept in a curing tank so that it's been "brought back to life" and hosts plenty of nitrifying/denitrifying bacteria. Think that's the simplest way I can put it. Any decaying stuff has also been removed. The rock is safe and ready to be added directly to your tank).

Yeah, I'm probably getting ahead of you here :laughing: , those are the basics though.

June 25th, 2007, 08:55 PM
:offtopic: -ish


so with LR, is there a way to cure it to save as many of the organisms as possible?? i would think that it would be better to cure (as nasty and stinkey as it is) yourself to ensure you save as many of the cool (and even not so cool) things on it. i mean, how can an octopus survive curing LR?? would something like Bio-Spira help the curing process??

(can you tell i have some huge blanks?? heh)


June 26th, 2007, 06:39 AM
Saltwater setups cost about double what a freshwater setup does, so my $1,000, 100 gallon freshwater setup from 5 years ago would have cost $2,000 back then, don't know about now :eek: .
Most saltwater fish are wild caught.:sad:
It's recommended that a saltwater setup be at least 70 gallons, but 100 gallons or better is best. IMO a proper saltwater setup should be at least 250 gallons, but that's just my opinion.
Now I've had tanks all my life, and I have a 100 gallon one, but because I don't believe in harvesting animals for the pet trade form the wild, I've never even considered setting up a salt water system. The fish are stunning though so I can see why so many people get into trying them.
You can get some amazing freshwater fish too. There are freshwater puffers, rays, flounders, the queen of freshwater fish the discus. A lot of the ciclids are amazing too. It's a lot easier to feed and care for a fresh water setup as well and you can have the pleasure of breeding and raising most fresh water fish.
Whatever you decide, I hope you enjoy the hobby. Like I said, I've been keeping aquariums all my life and can't even get to sleep without the sound of a tank in the room. :laughing:


June 26th, 2007, 09:06 AM
discus.... :cloud9:



June 26th, 2007, 11:01 AM
I know, I haven't tried Discus yet either....some day when I get brave enough. :laughing:


June 26th, 2007, 12:54 PM

so with LR, is there a way to cure it to save as many of the organisms as possible?? i would think that it would be better to cure (as nasty and stinkey as it is) yourself to ensure you save as many of the cool (and even not so cool) things on it. i mean, how can an octopus survive curing LR?? would something like Bio-Spira help the curing process??

(can you tell i have some huge blanks?? heh)

Ok, just a preface. When most large SW stores cure liverocks they're doing it large pools with very large skimmers. They get liverock shipped in and of course that liverock will have some die-off because not all the organisms are going to survive being shipped. No matter who is shipping the liverock you will have some die off. The skimmers remove all the waste that's caused by the die off on the rock, there will ALWAYS be some die off because obviously the rock will be out of water for some amount of time, and some organisms just can't survive that.

All curing is is waiting until that die off has completed and until the waste from the die off has been processed by your nitrifying bacteria and taken out by a skimmer. Once the water that the liverock is in shows no ammonia or nitrites for an extended period of time the liverock is "cured".

Small amounts of liverock can also be cured by yourself in any container with powerheads and saltwater by doing water changes to remove the waste. Much like cycling a tank you monitor the ammonia, do water changes periodically and wait until nitrites and ammonia have disappeared. In fact you can cycle a tank with liverock. I wouldn't do this with completely fresh uncured liverock because you'd have A LOT of waste, and I really wouldn't wanna deal with that in the actual tank, but when you buy liverock at the store that has been cleared of most dead organisms, you can put it in your tank, monitor ammonia/nitrites, keep doing water changes and wait until your liverock is cured. Cured liverock is basically like a cycled tank.

(Sorry, some of this you may already know, hopefully this wasn't too complicated or confusing for anyone new)

Is there a way to cure it to save as many of the organisms as possible? Other than a large skimmer, I dunno. You're always going to end up with waste in your water depending on the level of die off. Fully cured liverock when transported short distances is going to have very little die off. Completely uncured liverock is going to have quite a bit of die off and produce a lot of waste.
A large skimmer and lots of water changes, monitoring your ammonia/nitrites/nitrate levels just like in cycling a tank with fish, and doing water changes to keep it below a certain level, I'm sure would save some of the organisms, but you'll never be able to save all of them.

June 26th, 2007, 12:59 PM
Ah, discus, yup that's what the 90g my other saltwater fish are in was gonna be for :laughing:

Hopefully when we get our own house I'll have a dedicated breeding room for them, R/O unit and everything.

Saltwater setups cost about double what a freshwater setup does

My 75g reef, used tank and stand, around $1850 U.S for everything, including the initial salt/sand/rock and all the current stock. That price will go up as we add corals and whatnot.

June 26th, 2007, 03:48 PM
Wow, thanks for all of the great info. I've been visiting some of the links that were posted. I can see it will be a long process learning all the lingo and about setup and maintenance as well as keeping everything healthy. I have a feeling it will be a while before I actually start buying things.

June 26th, 2007, 08:50 PM
I was also wondering about alot of those fish and where they get them. Do they breed them? Or do they steal them from their habitat? What is more abundant, bred or stolen fish? Cause I'd really want to be ethical if I'm going to do this.

id also like to point out that harvesting fish can be done ethically-er than some of the methods AND harvesting wild caught fish is the only way some small villages survive. again, here research is the key. if you get your heart set on a certain fish, look up how they are obtained and find a method you are happy with or a different fish. take plecos for example (you know those huge ugly {beautiful!!!} algae eaters in freshwater tanks??) most of them are wild caught, there are villages that catch their stock with cyanide and villages who use nets and traps. most people (who do a bit of research) prefer to shop only for the types of plecos that are harvested with nets and traps or tank raised.

there are also many many people out there who are willing to answer any (even the seemingly dumb) questions out there. i know because i had lots and lots of 'dumb' questions!!!


June 30th, 2007, 04:11 AM
Wow, thanks for all of the great info. I've been visiting some of the links that were posted. I can see it will be a long process learning all the lingo and about setup and maintenance as well as keeping everything healthy. I have a feeling it will be a while before I actually start buying things.

Yup, it took us a few months to even build up the knowledge to try a salt tank even though we already knew quite a bit of the lingo and a vast amount about fishkeeping in general.
Even then we had a good friend, our roomate, who knows a lot about salt guiding us through setting it up and helping us find good stock and liverock.

You'll know the right time to start setting up a tank. When you don't feel lost discussing it with people and you feel you have a good understanding of how the tanks little ecosystem will work.
I would also suggest getting a really good grasp of what to do when potential problems may arise. You'll need to know what medications to keep on hand, which can/can't be used on certain fish, and which can't be used in your tank at all. It well help VASTLY to have a quarantine tank on hand, because if you decide to do a reef tank especially most of the medications will kill your invertebrates and/or corals, and some will even completely kill off your biological filtration which will completely crash your tank.
Some medications also can't be used on certain fish whether they are taken out of your main tank or not. Copper, which is a common medication for marine ich can kill certain fish, such as lionfish.

July 3rd, 2007, 05:09 PM
Hi There Stacer,
Im just wondering, before you plan this saltwater tank, do you have any experience with keeping freshwater fish? If you are one of those with no experience at all, I would highly recommend keeping a freshwater tank first, to get to know the ins and outs of fishkeeping before moving into Saltwater.

I really think the comments about Discus are funny - these are easy fish to care for, really needing nothing special - unless youre talking about wild caught specimens. Captive bred discus are tough, hardy fish akin to ANgelfish in care requirements. Ive been keeping Discus for years, in a community tank, with only 1x weekly water change, with absolutely no problems. They really dont need anything special beyond good filtration (I have 450g of filtration on a 75g tank), regular 1x weekly water changes, a little peat moss in your filters, and a high quality diet. If youre scared to keep discus but thinking of saltwater - I would reconsider. Saltwater will make discus keep feel like raising guppies in comparison.

Theres a few things you really need to know thoroughly before starting a saltwater tank. The first of these is the Nitrogen Cycle. This works mainly the same was as in a freshwater tank, but in a reef tank, stocking too early or too heavily can cause an ammonia spike that will kill everything, even critters.

There are several kinds of Saltwater tank - Fish Only, Fish Only with Live Rock, and Reef tank. The easiest of these is the first, then the second. Reef tanks require a good amount of pocket cash (some frags/anemones/corals can cost hundreds of dollars). Reef tanks take patience - many people start the reef and run the reef for 1-2 years before adding any fish at all. Some critters like anemones look fabulous, but if something goes wrong and god forbid your beautiful 1-2 foot across anemone dies - it will release enough ammonia to kill everything in the tank. Care must be used.

Alot of saltwater fish are being captive bred these days - ask a reliable, honest fish store owner/manager which are captive bred and which are not. Many fish stores will mark fish species as captive bred or wild caught.Most suppliers will mark fish.
Many clownfish, goby species, and tangs are bred in captivity. Green Chromids and others are as well. If you want to be ethical, which is understandable, you will be limited in fish choice, but it can be done.

Research! Dont just buy a fish and think it will be ok in the tank. Many saltwater fish need huge areas of territory, and in a confined tank space, its impossible to keep more than 1 of certain kinds of fish.
Most salt water fish get very big. Make sure you know what youre getting into. And the final advice of mine, is always understock. Sure, it may not look like you have much fish now, but those tiny little yellow tangs get huge! Plan for that.

Good Luck! I havent had the guts (or the major cash) to do saltwater yet.
Ive heard a well stocked, well maintained saltwater tank of 100g can easily cost you 10,000 dollars to set up and stock, between the equipment you need, filtration, refugia, stock, etc.

July 3rd, 2007, 08:20 PM
More great advice, thanks Sneaky. I did have freshwater tanks when I was a kid, but that's not really experience as my parents did most of the work. Perhaps I should start small and easy and work my way up. I was so taken with all the beautiful reef tanks set up in the fish store with the bright fish and the symbiotic relationships, I really had no idea how much work it really is!! I'm in an apartment right now and hope to buy a house in the next couple years, perhaps I'll use this "renting time" to hone some tank skills.

July 4th, 2007, 12:04 AM
I will agree that getting to know FW first helps with certain things with keep saltwater, but it's definately not a prerequisite.
I know several people who started out with saltwater and I actually had to give them information and help them with setting up freshwater tanks, even though they were extremely knowledgeable about saltwater and had kept saltwater tanks for years.

When setting up saltwater, especially a reef, there is so much new knowledge you have to learn that knowledge about FW isn't as much help as you would think. It does help somewhat to generally understand how to care for fish in general, whether FW or SW, but having a vast knowledge of FW will be little help in actually setting up a SW tank, especially a reef.
I think it's a bit of a misconception. FW is easier so doing that first means SW won't be as hard, not necessarily true IMO.
Most of the knowledgeable SW people I had help me with my tank setup knew little or nothing about keeping FW fish, though they had BEAUTIFUL SW tanks and very healthy fish/inverts/corals etc.

Starting with FW will help you understand FW and very little else. Until you actually decide to start learning about and setting up a SW tank your prior FW experience isn't going to be as useful as you think.
I had the same misconception about SW when we first started "Oh, I'm so good at keeping FW that now I'm ready for SW". Well after talking to tons of SW people and actually setting up a tank I came to realize that many people do just as well if not better going with SW first instead of trying to learn about FW first because then you're not trying to apply FW tactics with your SW tanks. If you go with SW first you're starting with a clean slate instead of asking people "well this is how it is with FW why is it different in SW?", and that can be very frustrating to yourself and the SW people you're trying to get information from.
No matter which you go with first you're going to have to gather a pretty large amount of information and actually keep a tank before you gain experience. Set up as many FW tanks as you want and it's not going to give you anymore experience keeping SW than if you set up no FW tanks and learn about SW and set up a SW tank instead. I have 10 FW tanks and have helped several people set up large FW tanks, but going to SW made me feel out of my element, so someone is going to feel a bit overwhelmed at first no matter how much FW they've kept. Just IMO. Or maybe I'm just not putting myself in a newbie's shoes because I have so many FW tanks already and I'm used to fishkeeping? I don't think so though, all my fav. saltwater people have never kept a fw tank or are just now doing so.

Hey, not that I'm trying to deter anyone from freshwater, that's still my favorite type :p
There are TONS of interesting FW, and oftentimes it's so much cheaper to keep FW (Unless you're like me and start falling in love with rare and expensive fish). FW can also be MUCH more of a challenge and very rewarding if you start keeping sensitive/rare fish, or decide to try and breed a fish that has yet to or rarely been bred in captivity.

BTW, I agree with the discus comment. Nice, healthy captivebred discus from a good breeder should be pretty hardy just like a lot of other cichlids.
I think the misconception of them being sensitive comes from 1. As you said, wildcaught discus. and 2. People end up buying poorly bred and kept discus from a pet store or something then wonder why they have trouble keeping them alive. I could start naming off several common fish that are more sensitive to water quality than captivebred discus.

P.S, Where have you been? Seems I've been doing most of the posting around here lately :laughing:

July 4th, 2007, 10:03 AM
I want a huge tank before I try discus, like 250+ gallons. I want a decent school, with loads of plants and a large school of cardinals or neons in with them. It's not the fish themselves that scare me, it's the budget to set them up the way I want. :laughing:


July 4th, 2007, 10:58 AM
I have absolutely NOTHING to add (in a productive way).....however

Every...single...time I read this thread title I keep thinking "Why the HELL would you want to buy a tank? You can't be serious! Its a MILITARY vehicle!"

My mom/brother seems to be rubbing off on me too much.....


July 4th, 2007, 03:53 PM
Hey there,
Mybird - been pretty busy since I finished up my degrees! Seems life got both more and less hectic all at once. Maybe just in a different way.
I agree with your post wholeheartedly, FW is not a pre-requisite for keeping SW, but any practice at how to manage the nitrogen cycle and keep little fish alive is worthwhile in my books.

Stacer - a 10g tank, while small, is actually quite the task to maintain happy and healthily. Small tanks are more senstive and need more work than tanks 10x as large. Being able to stock properly and maintain a small tank would be better practice, imo, than running a huge freshwater tank. I have had little to no problems with either of my 2 larger tanks (25,75g), but the 10 and 5.5 have always given me trouble. Ive gotten it figured out now, and with careful planning have managed to find compatible fish, happy and content in the small tank, with adequate space and numbers of each. I now keep 7 Corydoras Hasbrosus (tiny cory cats 1 inch at maturity, slightly larger for females), and 8 Trigonostoma Espei (Copper Rasbora), as well as a large breeding colony of ghost shrimp and one of cherry shrimp.
Small tanks need better filtration, and doing a tank full of well trimmed and maintained live plants seems to be key. I run 4.6 watts per gallon light on this tiny tank and yet I have little to no algae. The secret lies only in experiencing the proper techniques of maintaining a challenging tank size.

Also, If you wanted to do saltwater, a lot of aquariasts are getting into the Nano-Saltwater tanks now. These are small tanks 3-10g, which host carefully selected fish and inverts suitable for small spaces. These tanks are challenging and rewarding, and wont take up a whole chunk of pocket change. A 10g nano sw with live rock and fish, would look nice, and be a great challenging start to the hobby. I have often dreamed of how nice my little 10g tank would look with some small corals and polyps, and now and then the beautiful purple face of a royal gramma fish popping out - or perhaps a small goby of some kind - the royal purple firefish comes to mind.

I was also talking to a friend last night from my aquarium club who has kept dozens of sw tanks, he says the key to his success is to plan Bio-tope tanks - tanks that contain species from only 1 marine environment, Indo-pacific for example, Carribean, Great Barrier- etc. He said this prevents a lot of stocking issues as there is more chance fish from all 1 environment will know how to get along, rather than mixing fish from all over the world.
Just thought that might be worth mentioning. This is commonly done in the FW fish trade as well, South American-Asian fish are consider compatible tankmates, Africans occupy 2 groups (large aggressive cichlids, dwarf cichlid varieties), and North American fishes are a specialty group reserved to species specific tanks often.

Anyway, enjoying being back posting! Loving all the fascinating things everyone has to say. Enjoying your posts as always MyBird! Good luck in whatever you decide Stacer!

July 4th, 2007, 08:37 PM
while i totally agree with the whole FW/SW points brought up so far i must point out that if you have any doubts of your desire to maintain a fish tank.... keeping a planted FW tank will give you some insight to lighting, supplements, the nitrogen cycle, testing, water changes... the confidence to make the step into SW. :)

if you decide to start with FW (for whatever reasons) get a 29 high so you can use it as a sump later with your SW. :)

from personal experience i *love* my planted tanks. they have so much obvious life in them. in my book a reef tank is the ultimate cool, a planted FW is the ultimate calm.