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Advice from LFS guy on FO tank...right or wrong?


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I've been into cichlids heavily for 2 years now, collecting tanks, and finally enough to fill a fish room. I think I've had great success with even the delicate species, and would say I have a indepth knowledge on fish keeping.


I have never kept Saltwater, however. I'd like to for the experience, and also as a present for my fiancee who has always loved SW tanks.


Now then: A friend of mine who works at a LFS, the resident reef geek, talked me into doing it. But what concerned me was his advice: Though I can to some extent understand, his advice is radically different from what I've read in forums.


What I want is a very simple, easy tank. No corals, no clams, no shrimp, just fish. In the future I may upgrade it to a larger reef tank if I like the SW hobby, but for now I just want to properly care for the fish.


Now he said just to get the saltwater ready ( mix the solution ) and in a day or two get my percula clowns. ( Apparently he doesn't believe in fishless cycling. ) Then I can slowly add other fish, such as firefish, etc.


When I asked about equipment he said that he would just use what I have in my inventory. That would include Aragonite for substrate, dead corals & other rock for shelter, normal lighting ( unless I wanted more. ), and any filter would do. He said the protein skimmer wasn't needed, and he uses Aquaclear powerfilters on two of his tanks. ( I do, however, have a Hagen Biolife internal wet/dry filter available. )


He also said he doesn't bother with RO water in his FO tanks, and never mentioned powerheads.


Now, I'm not taking what he said to heart.....I've been going through my books, etc.


But could you please give me some advice?

Simply put, a 30 gallon fish-only tank with white aragonite is what I have. Filtration, lighting, and all that can be changed....


I'm intersted in the simplest, cheaper SW fish.... Percula clowns, fire fish, etc.


Thank you!

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You have to cycle a saltwater tank whether it's a fish only or a reef tank. Some people throw damsels in the tank to help the cycle but I've always felt like that was an unnecessary cruelty when you can cycle in other ways.


Test kits also.


Reading through your post again I am not sure what your specific questions were. Maybe I am just thick today or something.

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Right....I know how to fishless cycle a FW aquarium with pure ammonia. But I've read SW people often use shrimp. Is pure ammonia OK?


Re: Test kits...I have them all already. :)


So, what my questions were exactly were..


1. Was his advice decent?

2. Especially regarding equipment...

Is it OK to use just a normal striplight, a wet/dry filter, and aragonite? Or do I absolutely need powerheads, skimmers, etc...

3. Is it OK to use tapwater for fish-only systems with hardy fish? Or is RO a must?


and any fish suggestions for a 30 gallon would be nice. :)

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A normal strip light is ok


Wet dry is your choice(I had one on my freshwater tanks)

I would go with a skimmer if ya plan on having a heavy bioload

30 Gallon Hmmmmm





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I am new to Nanos but had a heavily stocked 55 gallon Fish Only for a long time including


Picasso Trigger

Niger Triger

Percula Clown

Bannana Wrasse

Scooter Blenny

Golden Headed Sleeper Goby

Purple Firefish

Red Volitan Lionfish

Lawnmower Blenny


And I think your friend is nuts.


First off even if he doesn't believe in fishless cycling using Percula clowns is absurd. They aren't as hardy as damsel fish. Thats like cycling your Cichlid tank with 20 Africans or a Jack, and Oscar, a Green Terror, and Red Devil.


2nd Don't bother with RO and I garuntee you lots and lots of nasty algae in that tank. Doesn't matter if its reef or not, you will be adding all kinds of phosphates and other junk that you don't want in your tank with tap water. Using RO/DI or RO or Distilled or whatever type of water (other than tap), isn't just for the fish. It's to keep out the insane algae.


3rd you planning on using just an HOB filter with media and some biowheels for filtration? No Live Rock, No Protein Skimmer? Nuts I tell ya, Nuts.


4th Yes I think you need power heads. I had two Rio 600's in my 55 gallon tank. Fish love current man, plus it helps with the O2 exchange.


If you were me I would cycle it with some nice live rock and get yourself a good protein skimmer.


Email me if you have any specific questions and I will be happy to help you out. billdemartini@charter.net


Good luck and welcome to SW!!!!!



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Your friend is a retard. Or at least irresponsible. You must use RO water at least RODI better. Also shrimp are not tough to keep, a couple of cleaner shrimp are always good to keep parasites at bay. Also DO NOT read Billdemart's stock list, that many fish of the size they get to is disgusting husbandry. I don't know how he fit those fish in a 55 and I don't want to know. The triggers alone get 10"+ (19 for the niger) and when they do half of those fish are going to be food. But they won't get to full adult size anyway in that situation because they will get too stressed and die. Too bad, his other advice was good, hopefully he will learn not to overstock. A powerhead is essential IMO. The fish need the current for oxygen, exercise, it also keeps the food moving. Skimmer is the only mechanical filtration I like, If you pull the media out of the penguin you can put a picollo skimmer in there. Great little skimmer. I did the same with an aquaclear200 filter, I would never bother using the AC the way it was intended for SW. DO NOT under any circumstances cycle with a fish. 1) it is cruel 2) the only fish that will live through it is a damsel. Pound for pound the most aggresive fish in the water, so unless you want it to be the ONLY fish in your tank, don't bother. READ everything under the "information" button at the top of this page. Please, please, consult us before any fish purchases. There are many constraints involved. There are many fish that are very small but need LOTS of space, fish that should be bought in pairs, 3's, or singley. Plus many other variables. Diet for one, some need long established tanks etc. PM me if you have any questions, I would be glad to help. Also Aquarium chat is a great place to get quick info. ALSO do not forget your test kits!!!

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About my fish...


I didn't mean that as a list of fish you should keep, sorry I should have been more clear. I had that tank for a long time and when I wanted more fish, I started a 40 gallon tank along side my 55 for the new fish. My neighbor also has a 120 gallon tank who I gave many of those fish to when my tanks could no longer hold them. I also traded some back to the LFS, because they didn't get along properly with my Picasso (I wouldn't recommend this fish btw, mine was mean as hell).


Was just trying to give you an idea of the fish I kept.



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I don't think your friend's davice was very good, but neither was it as bad as to deserve such slamming, so I slightly disagree with zizmans and billdemart.


Properly dechlorinated tap water would be allright for FO, if you don't mind some algae. Algae are more of a nuisance on reef setups.


Tank bred clowns are also very hardy, even as much as some damsels. There are better alternatives to that in cycling, of course, but it is not too far-fetched.


And if you keep your stock low and do frequent waterchanges, then the filtration suggested may be allright. Often times we are lazy with waterchanges and overstock fish, then a skimmer would come handy.

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Well, thanks for the responses guys!


I thought he was a bit off on his facts....

Right now I'm still reading, reading, and reading.


....I'm considering a still simple but a little more involved tank. Perhaps I will put in sand instead of Aragonite, get some LR, and of course I WILL fishless cycle. But money constraints are always there....for the price of this one tank I could setup multiple cichlid tanks! lol...ah well.


If I get LR, do I need a skimmer?

If I get a skimmer, do I need LR?

If I get LR, do I need DSB?


Also, on actually setting up the tank. Do I need to mix the salt, let it sit for a day, THEN add LR? And should I cycle with pure ammonia, or with a decaying shrimp?


As for the water change & test kits: Well, I already own all the test kits except hardness & calcium....and I do water changes every week, same day & time as every other week. ( I am, after all, a fish geek. )


As for the fish....

I absolutely want a percula. Should they be single or paired?

Damsel fish I really like, but have heard they will beat up clowns.

Fire Gobies I also really, really like....pairs, right?


Right now I guess it's just an issue of getting the tank ready, then getting the clowns. Everything else won't happen for a few months, I assume.


Thanks SO much..


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Sorry Bill, misunderstood your post I guess. I would pair your clown, when purchasing make sure one is smaller. I would avoid a damsel IMO. Fire gobies are very cool little fish, I have been told pairs, but also in 3 or more.

I would have a skimmer. Even as a "just in case" I'll even make you a little one if you would like. (I'm honig my acrylic skills)

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lol....thanks for the offer! While your at it, build me some tanks too. :)


So, in your opinion ( anyone's, really ) is it OK to maintain simple fish in a tank with just crushed aragonite, and a skimmer?


..and would a wet/dry filter work decently enough?

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No problem Ziz, I wasn't very clear on that, and you were right to point it out, who knows what carnage I could have caused with my vague post... ;)


Zeb it is my opinion that you could definitely maintain a tank with just a protein skimmer for filtration, but of course you will need a heater and powerheads as well.


I ran my tank with nothing but a CPR Bakpak II for the longest time and nothing else but a heater and 2 Rio powerheads.

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That's exactly what I want..... heater, powerheads, and some kind of filter.


One more thing: Do I need RO water for a FO tank?

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Again I say "Yes."


I tried tapwater in my 55 gallon until the algae drove me absolutely nuts and then I bought a tap water purifier that worked reasonably well. If I could do it all over I would have gotten an RO/DI unit.


As it is now with my 10 gallon nano, I have been buying RO/DI water from Publix at 69 cents a gallon ;)



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Remember not to skimp on the heater.There are more crap-out cheap heater stories than I could count. Get a Visatherm or Ebo Jager. They are about $30. I like Visa better. Also Rio brand power heads suck IMO. Most I know use Aquarium concepts. I like the 606 model for nanos. Again about $30. For water I use 5 gal water cooler jugs. I fill them at either LFS or most grocery stores have filling units. Safeway does. About .40 cents per gallon. Or you could just get it delivered for about 1.00 per gallon.

I have 2 bottles filled and I split a line off of a pump for circulation (a must IMO) cheap pump $7 airline $2 air stones 2-3$ splitter .50

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Been there done both.....I had fresh water fish for years and then I decided to go SW as the fish colors were more vivid then fresh. (IMO) Kept all the fresh water gear, heaters, canister filter (fluval), and power heads....worked okay but like the previous post SW takes a little more gear and patience.


A good heater is a must, HOB filters will do the job for fish, but a skimmer is the best way to rid your water of the harmful polutants keeping fish will bring. Remember fish produce way more waste then corals, and most people tend to over stock their tanks to have a variety of fish to look at. Lighting is important but you won't need to spend as much or have the intensity you do with corals. Powerheads a must for circulation. This will keep the water moving and hopefully control algae problems when uneaten food rests on the bottom and decomposes.


Don't use tap water!!! You will be setting yourself up for algae heaven!! I did this to and paid for it when I had an algae bloom that turned my fish aquarium into a green and brown 30 gallon swamp. I spent months fighting it and all kinds of chemicals to boot.


Bottom line, you're doing your homework and that's a great step in the right direction. Most LFS just want to sell you stuff that you may/may not need, and finding one that tells you things that you've read here would also be a good start. Having one person who knows and has been there can save you tons of time and heart ache.



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Thanks, guys...SW will be a nice change, because what really interests me is habitat & body shape. I'm colorblind, so FW does me just fine.....but SW has some very cool shapes and habits.


About the heater: I use all ebo-jagers as it is, so I don't see any changes there.


About the water at grocery stores: Is that truly IO water? I'm thinking of looking into a under the sink type.....a reef friend I know has one, and he likes it.


So, get a skimmer to go with my wet/dry....and some powerheads. ( I think I have a hagen 404 in my closet. ) Lighting I will want to be nice, so I will probably buy compacts....


Sounds good. Now to do it...and decide on fish. :)

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