View Full Version : help!!! - beginner tank setup

05-29-2011, 06:39 AM
Hi Everybody.

I have no experience with fw or sw tanks before but I'm planning to set up my first sw tank. There's just a few questions that I need some help with. Feel free to suggest anything that I need to be aware of or need to know~ :biggrin:

I'm planning to set up a 22g (36"x12"x12") tank and raise a pair of clownfish, several shrimps and some corals.
I've done some research on corals and here's a list of corals that I'm interested in getting that are more for beginners (I think):

Leather Umbrella Coral
Toadstool Mushroom Leather Coral
Green Star Polyps
Colt Corals
Fox Coral
Palys Coral
Kenya Tree Coral
Blue Clove Polyps

Now I'm having some trouble picking the right equipment for my setup and I want to get the best bang for the buck~

I read that a reef tank needs 4-6 watts per gallon and I was wondering which type of lighting I need to get: PC, T5HO, or MH lighting
and how much wattage do I need for my tank?

I was looking at the Aqualight High Output T5 30" or the Coralife 36" 2x96watt light. Any suggestions?

I have access to a free Koralia 3. Is that enough flow for my tank or not enuf?

As for the filter, I read on some sites that live rock is the only filtration that you need. Is that right? Or should I put a HOB filter? And if so, is an AC 30 good enough?

Any suggestions on this or any other pointers would be GREATLY appreciated! :biggrin: THANKS!!

05-29-2011, 02:53 PM
Welcome to the forum & the salt water community. Take your time, keep researching & get your budget ready for a bit of a hit initially & some continuing expenditures over time.

With respect to lighting, advances in this technology, particulary the advent of suitable LEDs for the hobby have pretty much made the watts per gallon rule of thumb obsolete. You really need to look specifically at each technology and match it to what your ultimate goal is. Each type of lighting produces a different ratio of lumens per watt. I would recommend, if you have the budget, try to go for LEDs right from the start, particularly for the smaller system you are planning. They use less power & provide more flexibility as to configuration as any other current technology offered in our hobby. You should have little trouble getting plenty of coverage at a reasonable price with LEDs on a 22 gal.

The Koralia will be a good start, but you may require additional flow as the system takes shape. No worries there, this can always be added. There are some innovative new products out there for flow as well these days. EcoTech VorTech & Tunze are major players, more costly than most, but also durable & offering plenty of options.

Live rock, sumps & skimmers are the mainstay of most marine systems these days. There are successful, nice looking system that run sumpless & without skimmers, but it's probably not a good way for a novice to start. If you have room for a sump, that can be a great addition to provide extra water volume and house equipment such as heaters/skimmer so that your display may be kept free of these items. HOB filter is fine, can act as a sort of refugium as well if you decide to go sumpless.

A couple of other things you might find helpful, an RODI system for pure water & some sort of top off system to compensate for evaporation.

I believe there are a few 'sticky' threads in the forum that will answer many of your initial questions as well. Have a look around & I'm sure you'll find plenty of great info to make the entry into the hobby smooth & relatively painless.

05-29-2011, 03:11 PM
I think the last post pretty much covered it but because you are new to keeping any sort of aquarium I would consider going with a larger set up if your budget can handle it. You would more than likely be ok if you have done a lot of research and are the type of person who pays attention to detail but its never a bad idea to start off with a larger aquarium. Yes its more expensive in the long run but it will be easier to start with and not too long after you get into the swing of things with your 20 gal you will probably be looking to upgrade anyways! Oh and read,read, and read some more. There are a ton of great stickys, articles and threads on this site and a few others like it. Good Luck!

05-29-2011, 03:21 PM
A korlia 3 is way too much flow. It's even a lot for a 90gl tank. How many shrimp are u planning on keeping in this 22gl?

05-30-2011, 12:37 AM
IMO, the koralia 3 might or might not be enough, depending on which corals you may decide to keep in the future. The lighting should depend on that as well. But then again, you can always upgrade if, say, you need another powerhead. Good luck with your new tank:biggrin:

05-31-2011, 05:16 AM
Thanks for all the input!! It was a lot of help~

I've read a bit on the LEDs and it's quite a new technology. But I'm not sure if it's gonna be enough light for my corals. So I think I might go for the T5HO's as there's more information on it and it seems like that's what most people are using right now.

Any suggestions on the types of coral that are pretty and for beginners? I'm not set on my corals list yet and I'm open to anything.

I think at this point I should pick my corals first. How many should I start with first? 2-3? Or is that too little or too many?

06-14-2011, 11:24 AM
The intensity of lighting will really come downtown what kind of corals you want to keep. One thing I've discovered in my experience with a nano tank us that the difficulty involved comes entirely from the initial setup. If you take your time and do it correctly there is little additional work related to the tank compared to a larger tank.

My 15g is very low maintenance. I don't have an ATO, so the majority if my time spent on the tank is manually adding water every few days and doing a bimonthly water change.

As for your specific questions: what's your end goal coral wise? I started wanting just a FOWLR, moved to sorties, then LPS and now I have SPS. I've probably lost a few hundred dollars on losses from replacing equipment, but it's all part of the process.

If you want to go with corals, look into a decent T5 system, MH or LED. watts per gallon is archaic and not really used anymore. Set your budget around $200-300 for lighting. Maybe try a DIY LED if you're daring, you'll probably be pretty happy with it! And it would allow you to keep SPS, if that's what you're into.

There's other things you can do too. If I were to start over with a fresh setup, I'd go with "dead" rock vs live rock. Having dealt with aiptasia and gha, peace of mind is a huuuuuge benefit. And it's much cheaper.

Welcome to the hobby :)

06-14-2011, 12:08 PM
With the right combination of LEDs you'll be able to grow pretty much anything in a Nano. Yes, probably more folks are using T5HO these days, but believe me, the tide is shifting quickly due to the inherent advantages of the emerging LED technology. In fact, I believe it's been the Nano tankers that have been pretty much pioneering LED systems. You'll be changing bulbs more frequently with T5 and that can be costly over time. Fluorescents lose their intensity & shift colour spectrum fairly quickly whereas LEDs will last a very long time, years, without significant lumen loss or colour shift. Fluorescents send at least half their light output in the wrong direction, requiring highly polished reflectors, and over a salt tank, those highly polished items will quickly get salt spray on them. LEDs run much cooler, use less energy, don't require individual reflectors that will accumulate salt stains and reduce the reflective efficiency. LEDs will give you shimmer similar to what MH lighting provides. LEDs are dimmable, fluorescents not, neither are MH lights. Colour options for LEDs are now also to the point where you have much greater flexibility than in the past. While I still use a combination of MH & T5HO lights on my system, there is little doubt that I'll be switching to LEDs in the very near future. Since you're just starting out, you can save yourself the expense of getting all the T5HO hardware and go LED from the getgo. Makes so much more sense for a Nano system since you won't need near the number of LEDs as on a larger system which will make the initial cost a little easier to take.

As far as coral choice, probably best to start with one or two LPS, softies. Take it slow, too much at once is going to end up with unnecessary loss. That goes for fish as well. The relatively small size of your tank will limit your livestock options for sure.

06-14-2011, 12:48 PM
Congrats on starting your endavour and doing research. YAY FOR RESEARCH!

I have a 28gal long and when i was doing my research i got a lot of differing opinions on everything.
Get 2 powerheads not 1. I was going to do 1 but then realized water would only be blowing one way creating dead spots. I got a K1 and a K2 and put them on each end of my tank pointing in different directions to create turbulent water and no dead spots. Now many people thought i was insane and said it would be too much flow but guess what. It wasent enough. Flow from a Koralia is soooo gentle. I actually had to add another way of pushing water so I added a fluval internal filter so i had a powerhead and filter all in one. No Saltwater tanks dont need filters but they sure do help. You need to clean them very often unless you want nitrate to spike. I do because im doing a macro algae tank so i leave the sponges in. I do filter floss in there when needed or carbon when needed. Yes I learned that late. Make sure you have something figured out if you need to add carbon or any kind of media temporarily to remove medicines or particles or whatever. Most people have a sock in a sump. I have no sump.
I manually top off every few days with... GASP! tap water. You need to know your water if your going to do that. Ours is good so i dont have much for worries.
As for lighting. Seariously... go for a 4 bulb T5HO fixture. I did a 2 bulb T5HO for a year. It was great, I loved it but I learned that some of my corals and macro do better with certain bulb kelvins, etc and it was difficult to do configurations with only 2 bulbs so, I went to 4. I love it. I have 2 Hagen Glo T5HO units over my tank which are on timers.
Oh the skimmer. I love my skimmer. Sometimes I hate it though because sometimes I forget to clean it and then the gunk is harder to remove. I just have it on a 5 hours a day cycle. It does really good. I used to have it on for 12 hours but my macro and soft corals werent really enjoying the super clean water. Now that my water is "dirty" they are really enjoying it... those filthy creatures.

As for corals it really depends on what you like. Beginner corals to me are any coral you can just put in the tank and it will grow. If you need to manually feed or it needs regular suppliments it then its not a beginner. Most soft corals are good. Mushrooms, zoas, colt, kenya, etc. But Honestly choose what you LOVE as corals because once they become attached to your rock and grow your pretty well stuck with them... like xenia, or kenya or colt or cloves. Candy cane corals are nice. I have one that I swear is bullet proof and so i got another one. Guess what... It died. Not all coral, even the same species are created equal.

If you go with only a 2 bulb fixture then go for corals that dont mind lower light.

Always understock your tank with fish and CUC otherwise there isint enough food to go around and they will fight eachother or eat eachother. Also, with an at limit or over limit bioload you will be subject to higher nutrients that can be difficult to deal with for a beginner, heck even for a seasoned pro.

In my 28 gal I had 2 clowns, 1 pep shrimp and 2 hermit crabs. Thats all I wanted but then my hubby went out and got me a coral beauty angelfish (my fav fav fav). So im sure im at or close to my limit now and thats all that will end up in my tank. Many people do more but they also have to do larger and more frequent WC and skim 24/7 and feed less just to keep the tank stable.

Do lots of research. I researched for years before starting my first tank, so I felt prepared but while i was buying and setting up i still researched and asked. Never stop, no matter what.

06-14-2011, 03:11 PM
I'll echo what everyone else is saying here and say your lighting ALL depends on what corals you want to keep. But keep in mind that your preferences may change. I am happy I started off with a MH over my 20g from the get go. It quickly went from an LPS/softie tank to a 40g tank packed to the nuts with SPS. Despite what others have found, I've never had heat or significant water loss problems using the big kid lights.

Some other advice for you:
1) Build as big as your ________ will allow you (insert: budget, significant other, building manager, etc)
2) Use a sump from the get go if you can. Adding one after the fact is a pain in the royal arse as I am discovering now
3) Go see some other systems that are up and running to get a better idea of what to do (You're welcome to come by my place to see what I do)
4) Take people's advice but with a grain of salt. Everyone has their own experiences and develop their own methods. I have seen many tanks and do many things that people would call "unconventional" and they have been some of the best tanks I've seen and some of the most successful experiences for me (check out yvr75's tank... no skimmer, no sump, heavily stocked tank and it's awesome!)

07-12-2011, 09:03 AM
go simple. you can run a tank for really cheap, especially for a smaller aquarium. t5ho fixture, 2 or 4 bulb fixture. hydor nano's. no sump, ac50 if possible, because it is larger and can be converted into a HOB fuge if necessary. imo, its more important for you to learn how to keep your stuff alive and thriving before you go and drop a ton of cash on what is considered to be the future of lighting or the so called best form of nutrient export.

however, if you were planning on keeping this tank longterm, then i would recommend you spend more money and time researching on the quality of the products you're purchasing. however i still advocate for a sumpless reef for smaller aquariums.

stress the importance of maintaining water quality. keep your bio load modest and do your water changes. good luck!