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richast

Fish or Coral First?

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I have a new 29gal tank that has just finished cycling and has been stocked with about 10 different snails as my initial cleaning crew. Assuming everything goes well with the snails over the next week, what should I add next? I want my tank to be a REEF tank with only a few fish/inverts. The fish I want to house are Clowns or Cardinals and a sand sifting goby and pistol shrimp. So, would it be better for the reef to let the tank mature with fish first or go ahead and add corals first or both? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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I usually add fish before corals just so they can help beef up the biological filter before adding corals, which tend to be more expensive. Honestly, I don't think it makes a huge difference which goes in first.

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If you start with corals go with some of the hardier easy to grow ones first. Either way stock slowly. I would not do both fish and coral at the same time for your first inhabintants.

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I generally add my fish first. The reason for this is, the fish are normally most prone to or develop diseases early after acclimation, if you have a thousand dollars worth of corals and then you add fish that get a disease you will have to pay alot of money to find medicines that are not copper based and if you didn't know that it could be all your corals and invertebrates gone. Don't add all the fish together, add, say the clowns, let them get established and settled in for a month, or a few weeks and also to gradually increase the bio load in which the filter takes on. Then add one goby, wait a couple of weeks and add the cardinal/s, whatever you do make sure that you're patient as this is a very important process. Don't rush it and do research on fish compatibility. When all the fish are added, wait another month and then start to add your first hardy corals and keep building them up week by week until eventually you will have a flourishing reef.

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Hi,

 

I had my tank cycled and had the same question. My first add, after the CUC, was a discosoma. I added it on friday and so far is doing well.

 

My next addition is going to be a fish.

 

And after the fish, I will add things as slowly as I can, giving at least a couple of weeks in between.

 

At my LFS I was adviced not to add a lot of stuff at the same time, but also not to wait 3 months... If you add live stock gradually you favor the bacterias to appear at the same time rate.

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I added two clowns first, then couple zoas then my six line wrasse and cleaner shrimp. everything was about a month apart. (based on paychecks) after that it was coral.

 

hope that helps...

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In my two tanks I added the CUC....wait...corals...wait some more...fish. Has worked well for me.

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I generally add my fish first. The reason for this is, the fish are normally most prone to or develop diseases early after acclimation, if you have a thousand dollars worth of corals and then you add fish that get a disease you will have to pay alot of money to find medicines that are not copper based and if you didn't know that it could be all your corals and invertebrates gone. Don't add all the fish together, add, say the clowns, let them get established and settled in for a month, or a few weeks and also to gradually increase the bio load in which the filter takes on. Then add one goby, wait a couple of weeks and add the cardinal/s, whatever you do make sure that you're patient as this is a very important process. Don't rush it and do research on fish compatibility. When all the fish are added, wait another month and then start to add your first hardy corals and keep building them up week by week until eventually you will have a flourishing reef.

 

I will have to use an automatic feeder due to me having to be gone for 3-4 days a week? Do you have a suggestion on a High quality Flake or Pellet food? What do you think about New Life Spectrum?

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fish first, then corals for me. i personally like to have my levls bouncing around with no corals in the system.

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Fish can go that long without food, as long as your pod population is good you will be fine. May I ask why you will be gone 3-4 days a week?

 

My only concern with automatic feeders is if they trip out your tank is as good as done. All the excess nutrients will cause a huge crash.

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If you follow the advice of some of the beginner books they say add cuc, then corals then fish. I have added things in very random order. I guess I'm not compliant..lol Really, if you add somewhat slowly and keep checking your parameters and follow tank maintenance and regular water changes you will probably be okay.

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Oh my gosh Gerber, my fish are such piggies that when I walk by they think they need to be fed. I feed mine 2-3 times a day. They'd probably call animal cruelty if I waited that long...lol

 

Do you have someone that could stop by on the 2nd day to feed them richast.

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Corals first. Here's why.

 

Over time while establishing a tank you are trying to increase the population of bacteria and microorganisms that will filter your water. That is why you stock a new tank slowly, so that the growth rates of these microorganism populations can keep up w/ the waste. By starting with corals, which output significantly less waste than fish, you are not overwhelming the filtration capabilities of a new tank nearly as much as if you have a fish that you are feeding which also adds a lot of extra waste.

 

I highly recommend adding zoanthids, gsp, and mushrooms right away. Then wait about a good month before adding any fish.

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I started with a good size CUC and then added some fish. So far so good!

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@richast Think of coral as part of your CUC rather than another livestock item like a fish. 

 

Coral will consume dissolved nutrients like a plant.  Corals will also consume particulate food in a range of sizes.  In addition, corals will help to balance the tank by producing a natural coral-friendly carbon source - coral mucus - to grow coral friendly bacteria.  This is GOOD for the tank.

 

Feed very little to none while they grow in/before fish are added (should be weeks to months ideally), but DO keep a close eye on alkalinity if you add stony corals.  This is similarly important (along with watching calcium) for your coralilne algae, which may be the #1 preventer of new algae settlement.  Keep those two parameters STABLE.  Whatever corals you pick, they must remain healthy to outpace algae once you start feeding the tank.

 

Once you add fish, nutrient levels naturally will skyrocket since that's usually when the tank goes from NO FEEDING to LOTS OF FEEDING.  A nutrient spike. 

 

Algae are usually the main benefactors of any big nutrient change. 

 

Unless you want to depend on luck or just like battling algae, minimize this spike/the number of fish added to a new tank at once.  (As long as particulate food sources aren't too available, corals will be able to consume small nutrient spikes, keeping the tank nicely balanced.)

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1 hour ago, mcarroll said:

@richast Think of coral as part of your CUC rather than another livestock item like a fish. 

 

Coral will consume dissolved nutrients like a plant.  Corals will also consume particulate food in a range of sizes.  In addition, corals will help to balance the tank by producing a natural coral-friendly carbon source - coral mucus - to grow coral friendly bacteria.  This is GOOD for the tank.

 

Feed very little to none while they grow in/before fish are added (should be weeks to months ideally), but DO keep a close eye on alkalinity if you add stony corals.  This is similarly important (along with watching calcium) for your coralilne algae, which may be the #1 preventer of new algae settlement.  Keep those two parameters STABLE.  Whatever corals you pick, they must remain healthy to outpace algae once you start feeding the tank.

 

Once you add fish, nutrient levels naturally will skyrocket since that's usually when the tank goes from NO FEEDING to LOTS OF FEEDING.  A nutrient spike. 

 

Algae are usually the main benefactors of any big nutrient change. 

 

Unless you want to depend on luck or just like battling algae, minimize this spike/the number of fish added to a new tank at once.  (As long as particulate food sources aren't too available, corals will be able to consume small nutrient spikes, keeping the tank nicely balanced.)

Awesome info, but not sure if you noticed that this is an old thread from 2009. 🙂 

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I did not.

 

You may have noticed that @Christopher Marks promotes these threads old threads via email and on the website.  I'm pretty sure it's on purpose.  :)

 

I suspect his purpose is the one that served us here.....you got something out of my post in less than a day.  :) :) :)

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Yeah, when I was first getting used to this forum I used to reply to the old ones all the time, before I started checking for the dates. People that were still around were probably surprised when I responded to their posts from years ago. 😊 Sometimes I still like to resurrect old threads and comment on them, and sometimes I just read them for the info. 

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On 3/21/2009 at 6:17 PM, richast said:

I have a new 29gal tank that has just finished cycling and has been stocked with about 10 different snails as my initial cleaning crew. Assuming everything goes well with the snails over the next week, what should I add next? I want my tank to be a REEF tank with only a few fish/inverts. The fish I want to house are Clowns or Cardinals and a sand sifting goby and pistol shrimp. So, would it be better for the reef to let the tank mature with fish first or go ahead and add corals first or both? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Definitely fish and a cheap one at that.  Corals are more demanding with their requirements than Fish are the next logical step in the equation, also as mentioned above it's better to discover parasites, trouble without adding corals.  The issue with corals is that people rarely ever add just one at a time and even a couple of frags easily exceeds the cost of entry market saltwater fish.  

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1 hour ago, Jesterrace said:

Definitely fish and a cheap one at that.  Corals are more demanding with their requirements than Fish are the next logical step in the equation, also as mentioned above it's better to discover parasites, trouble without adding corals.  The issue with corals is that people rarely ever add just one at a time and even a couple of frags easily exceeds the cost of entry market saltwater fish.  

 

The flip side is that corals DO help to bring a healthy stability to the tank in advance of the fish going in.  This includes the corals being the ideal sink for excess nutrients (vs growing pest algae) that generally come with fish.

 

I would also suggest that fish require more care to do properly....which is why so many people still have trouble with fish yet seemingly all of us can grow and frag corals til the cows come home.

 

IMO even stony corals are easier to do right than fish are.

 

I think one of the newb's biggest challenges is to STOP thinking that fish are easy.  

 

It's only easy to drop food in the tank.   The rest of fish care is a challenge for most people.

 

Lots of bogus hobby-grade info out there is partly what feeds into that truism.  The internet tends to magnify that bogus info along with the rest, so it's really tough for a newb to know what's best.  

 

Unfortunately, even though solid academic info is available from the Regional Aquaculture Centers in the US (and elsewhere), it's hard to digest for most newbs.  

 

But if you can grok the writing, they'll give you firm scientific guidelines for everything that we tend to have trouble with, including stocking densities and how to care best for your fish.  It's awesome how seriously they consider fish stress compared to us.

 

If you wanna see what they offer, the "SRAC" (or southern regional aquaculture center) in MS or the Aquaculture archive at U of FL is where I usually turn.  (SRAC is one of the official centers and has a lot more docs, but UFla has some unique docs.) 

 

I've also been compiling (and some interpreting of) science-based info and articles in the Fish section on my blog...including The Fish Guide which attempts to cover only the gaps in knowledge that we have on stress, immunity, treatments, microscope use and general care issues.  (It's not intended as a complete fish guide...it's a compliment to one intended to make you more successful.)

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which is why so many people still have trouble with fish yet seemingly all of us can grow and frag corals til the cows come home.

You are going to have to forgive me, but I am going to disagree with that one.  In the first 6 months of my first tank I lost 3 Zoanthid Frags (supposedly a very easy to grow coral), yet I lost no fish in the same time period.   I am not saying your logic doesn't have merit, I am just saying I don't buy that Corals are all necessarily easier to care for than fish.  I agree that there are a number Corals that can be easier than even some Moderate to Difficult to care for fish, but I would still say that the generally Easy to care for fish are still easier to care for than Corals.  There are also things that Corals are far more sensitive to than fish are (ie salinity levels, alkalinity, etc.) than the more hardy fish that are out there.  As mentioned I have no argument with someone claiming it's easier to care for a Euphyllia Coral than say a Mandarinfish, but the idea that any coral is easier to care for then say a Melanurus Wrasse, Ocellaris Clownfish, etc. just doesn't add up with what I have seen and observed from my own experiences, and the experiences of others.  

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Probably doesn't matter, but i think fish, then cuc, then corals makes sense. 

 

Fish add nutrients(that corals can use) and detritus(that the cuc can then clean up). 

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23 minutes ago, Jesterrace said:

In the first 6 months of my first tank I lost 3 Zoanthid Frags (supposedly a very easy to grow coral), yet I lost no fish in the same time period.

No need to apologize for disagreeing!  :)  It's your experience - I'm fine with it and I can deal with it!  :) :)  In fact, I appreciate you for sharing it.

 

The truth is that anything can be done wrong by anyone and obviously doing it wrong will compromise our results.  We have to learn how to do fish or corals correctly unless we just plan to get lucky, right?

 

I'm saying that when you do both fish and corals right (comparing apples to apples), corals are easier.   

 

(forget zoanthids, which are as moody as any person I know, often for no apparent reason at all....lol....not a good beginner coral)

 

Off the top of my head, here's a comparison of care issues for corals and fish:

 

Corals

They have pretty well known requirements.

We can even test specifically for most of their requirements. 

We can even diagnose some nutrition issues visually with corals.

They consume predicable amounts of material that can easily be added to the tank with precision, and over time in an unattended fashion.

They do not usually require direct feeding.

They do not jump out of the tank.

They do not move around in the tank.

 

Fish

...by comparison, are largely mysterious.

They jump.

They have complex social requirements.

There is very little that matters to them that we can test for.

Problems with nutrition generally do not present visually until their immune system is already impacted.

They tend to be fed variable amounts of material a variable number of times per day that generally have to be added to the tank manually.

 

I think you can also look at the Coral care info available from folks like Dana Riddle and Randy Holmes-Farley and compare it with the available care info on fish to see a similar dichotomy....it's pretty clear what to do to keep corals happy.  Fish care info in the hobby, in many ways, is still stuck back in the old days...in a time where antibiotics were as common and used with as little consideration as fish food. 

 

To wit, my copy of Straughan's "The Salt-Water Aquarium in the Home" was first copyrighted in 1959, with my copy coming from a later 1976 printing.  Our guidance on fish disease is rarely much better than what's in this book (QT + meds) and is often much worse - in spite of the book being frozen in 1976...and the book is appropriately conservative, unlike a lot of modern guidance, as well as being much more detailed.

 

He closed out the 6-page section on meds in the 46-page chapter on diseases with this statement:

Quote

It is better to never add copper or any medication to the aquarium if possible, for very often the medications, kill theh healthful as well as the harmful bacteria and destroy the general equilibrium of the aquarium and its ability to sustain the lives of the fish.

The section on seahorses is amazing.  Ever heard of an association between them and (e.g.) small trunkfish and cowfish?  They are cleaners to them apparently!  Small Filefish and puffers might do the same, but are slightly riskier.   

 

I've never heard of this, but I've heard several times of how common and required med's are.  Go figure.

 

The section even has a picture of a microscope and some guidance on using it.  1959.   Try to find that in something written in the hobby on the subject of disease this millennium.

 

Even more amazingly, he ends the chapter talking about how live rock and corals being added to a tank problematic with diseases adds "something" to a tank that causes the aquarium to "flourish and support a fantasstic wealth of both fish and invertebrates."  He saw it all the way back then, but today lots of folks still can't make fish thrive even with live rock and corals.

 

18 minutes ago, MrObscura said:

Fish add nutrients(that corals can use) and detritus(that the cuc can then clean up).

That is true, but the catch is that algae are the real experts at utilizing both of those resources.

 

Giving the corals a head start can be really helpful....to them, the tank as well as the fish.

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I would like to say that I agree with some of the others that hardy fish can be a good way to go. Many people have experience caring for the needs of freshwater fish before getting into saltwater, so they may already be comfortable cycling a tank and caring for fish, whereas corals may be totally new. I started with a snail only CUC, then clownfish, then corals in my two tanks and it worked very well for me. 

 

From my perspective, when someone is new to the saltwater hobby, there’s so much to learn, so it’s good to simplify and not overwhelm people with too much information they aren’t ready for. 

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