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Looking into a 20L and have some questions.


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I have never kept a saltwater tank before (I do have a 55 gallon planted though) and am very interested in setting up a 20 gallon long saltwater tank. I have to keep the budget as low as I can since I have to buy a car in a month or so.


This is what i was thinking of getting:


-20 long aga tank: $28

-20lbs aragalive sand: $30

-50gal bag reef crystals: $20

-2 maxi-jet 400 powerheads: $24

-skilter filter: $35

-penn plax power filter converted to fuge: $0

-Coralife Digital Thermometer: $5.59

-Instant Ocean Hydrometer: $6.79


Thats what I have planned so far equipment wise... Good choices? Anything I forgot?


I want to keep a pair of clowns, a coral banded shrimp, an emerald crab, some snails, some hermits, and if there is any room left maby a goby or something small. For corals I wanted to keep mainly zoas and also some GSP, xenia, a few mushrooms, ricorda, and anything else that can survive under my light which brings me to my first question:


I was thinking of using compact flourescents. I know it isn't the best but just about everything else is out of the question because the fixtures cost so much. The Coralife Aqualight fixture looked nice to me. Will 65 watts be enough over 20 gallons to grow the corals I mentioned or will I need more?


For the filtration I like the idea of a fuge but don't know if I have the money to drill the tank for a sump. I have an old penn plax power filter I can mod into an "aquaclear fuge" to keep some cheato in. I don't know what your opinions on the skilter are but I thought it will give me some form of protein skimming for realy cheap + a filter sponge and carbon if needed. As long as it is reliable I don't mind if it isn't the best skimmer available.


The live rock will probably be bought at a pet store near me because I realy want to be able to pick out the shapes I want. I figure I just have to wait a little while longer for more life to grow which is fine. I was thinking 15 lbs or so should do. I don't like the look of a rock wall.


My last worry is waterchanges. I have city water and don't have the money to buy a RO unit. I was thinking of buying pure water from my supermarket and using that. Since it will still cost a lot buying the water, how many waterchanges a month would be necissary? I was hoping I could go twice a month and topping it off when the water got low. Will that be enough?


I know there have probably been millions of posts like this but I promise I have been reading a TON and it would make my life a lot easier if anyone could point out flaws or problems in what I am planning. Also any suggestions or advice is appreciated. Thanks everyone!

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hmm, you should have stopped at 'i'm saving money for a new car'. this isn't a budget hobby. it can be if you know what you're doing ahead of time, downsize your setup (even smaller than 20g), and spend where you should. but that still comes to a decent price tag ime, about $500 for a good-looking setup.


you want ghetto? you can do that for $50 and have a couple of clowns for a FOWLR and technically you're in the sw hobby. just barely though. :P


prudently, i'd suggest you get the car first and digest that. then go for the tank setup fullblast. it'll also allow you the time to let your system set up/cycle/etc.


of your list, i'd suggest keeping only the following:



(1) powerhead

digital thermometer


everything else, doubt bother with...yet.


i'd suggest replacement items of the following:

refractometer ($40) instead of the hydrometer

dry sand instead of the live sand

premium live rock (you didn't list rock but i assume you want it, if not leave it off)


the LR will seed the sand, plus the initial frags you get will also accomplish that.


save your money for the best lights you want, doesn't matter whether it's T5's or VHO or MH's. don't settle for PC's or T5's or whatever. you WILL end up upgrading eventually, so my thought is do it once. (my pers pref is MH, i figure the next upgrade after that is sunlight and that's always free!)


take your time and save the money. start the setup now minimally and by the time the car thing rolls around and is settled (1~2 months), you should be primed to populate/stock the tank. hth

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agree with tiny. jumping into a nano tank is not inexpensive esp if making other major purchases like a car. you may plan on doing it low budget for a while, but upgrades and tank stock will leave you cash poor.


i'm happy to see that you have a plan. tiny gives very good advice that i does not need repeating. getting good lr into salt water would be the first step. finding decent rock can be difficult depending on where you live.


i'd also reconsider the skilter because it doesn't do as good of a job as a proper protein skimmer. as you may have noticed new skimmers are being introduced for nanos that may be a better buy (disclaimer: i have a used remora skimmer).


water changes are dependent on the bioload. given your shopping list, you may want to change at least a couple gallons a month, probably more. clean water is still pretty cheap compared to algae in the tank.

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As Tiny said it's not cheap.

I'm a newbie and I just set up a 20 long(3 months old).

I had the tank, stand and i'm already into this for over $500.And I only have a couple damsels and a few snails and crabs.The lights and live rock are most definetly your biggest expense.As most people here will tell you.Once you get hooked into this hobby you're never really satisfied with what you have.There's always something more powerful or better to be added to your set up. :lol:

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Agree with other posts. Keep in mind that this is a small system and can not handle much of a bio load. Water changes are your best bet to success. As far as buying 'pure water' I am not sure if it is any better than your tap water. First of all test your tap water for phosphates and ammonia. If it tests ok then it is not too bad to use.

Lighting should be in the range of 6 to 10 watts per gallon unless you only have fish then lighting is just so you can see them. Mushrooms generally do not need a lot of light.

Start slow. Wait a few weeks after cycling before you add any life but make sure ammonia is being generated so that the bacteria have what to live on. Add snails only if you have algae that they can feed on. Any crabs can be a problem especially in a small tank. Keep away from damsels. Put in the goby first and then the clowns a few weeks later.

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