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Coral Vue Hydros

Newbie's First Tank -- 29G Reef


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Hey everyone!


About six months ago my partner started a freshwater aquarium. I had one as a child but to be perfectly honest hated it. The fish were boring, our plants were plastic, and everything I put into it died. But my partner really had a magic touch and his aquarium came alive; seeing it was highly inspirational, and I started doing a lot of research as to why he was successful when I had been, uh, somewhat less so. I learned a lot about fish tanks, cycles, what fish need, and how to keep them happy.


That research eventually turned into scoping out my own reef tank. I was fascinated by the idea of corals, specifically softies. I'm only lukewarm on fish, but corals are really cool -- if it were up to me I'd like to be considered not an aquarist, but an underwater gardener. With some helpful members of this very community I assembled a shopping list, and about a week ago I started putting my plan into action. Armed with dangerous amounts of Internet knowledge, a kind ex-reefer friend who's now way into freshwater planted tanks, and a high-quality local fish store, I've begun a reef. And because this community and its articles have been so helpful to me in my journey, I wanted to share my discoveries and journeys back to everyone else. Who knows, maybe someone will learn something from what I do -- or, more likely, I'll learn something from all of you.


I was on a pretty stringent budget for my reef tank and surprisingly I stayed well within it. Through a combination of Craigslist, leaning on friends, and some good ol' fashioned haggling I like to think I got a pretty reasonable deal for my tank. But I'll let all of you be the judge of that.


So let's get started, shall we?


The Setup


They say an image is a thousand words, so:




I got the tank and stand for $99 total from an extremely nice fellow breaking down his freshwater tank. At 30" long, 12" wide, and 18" deep I was worried I wouldn't be able to reach into it well, but on some attempts I find it very reasonable to get all the way into it. Its capacity is advertised as 29 gallons, though actually I think it's a bit smaller. It's made by All-Glass Aquariums, and I don't think there's a whole lot special about it, to be perfectly honest.


The light on top is a 30 inch AquaticLife T5HO 4x24 Watt with 2 moonlight LEDs that are totally awesome. Total wattage for the tank is 96, or about 3.3 watts per gallon. I picked up the lights after shopping around for a deal online and getting MarineDepot to send them to me for $238.99. Quite a bargain consider they're usually forty bucks more expensive.


I don't have an RO/DI unit, so my friend and I went to get distilled water from the grocery store.


How much distilled water, you ask?






30 gallons of water set me back about $25 at 86 cents a gallon. I bought a pretty good sea salt mix for $20 and whipped it all together, resulting in this frothy mess:




There's one of my two power heads in that picture, a Hydor Koralia Nano 425gph powerhead ($26). The other one is just like it and I left them on overnight churning water and combining sea salt.


When I came back the next day, the mixture had achieved a specific gravity of 1.023, was up to 79 degrees, and looked perfectly clear. Of course I didn't bother taking pictures of it before I moved right on to the next step: adding sand and rock!


I bought 30 pounds of sand from the LFS for $50ish, if I remember correctly. This is just aragonite stuff, nothing that special about it. It has some bigger chunks of rock that are pretty impressive in it, but mostly feels like crushed coral. As for live rock, well...


This guy in my neighborhood was breaking down his 300 gallon(!) tank. I took the opportunity to take some live rock off his hands. Unfortunately during his breakdown his params went all out of whack, and some of the pieces I received had bubble algae all over it. I spent a lot of time with a toothbrush scraping it off, and left it sitting in a darkened salty container overnight hoping that would dissuade it from ever returning to the tank. The upside? I got 30 pounds of live rock from this guy that had been sitting in his tank for 10 years for only $40. No fooling.


I added the sand and live rock and was rewarded with pictures like this:




I really felt like a mere 30 pounds wasn't enough to construct the aquascape I wanted though. So through the magic of Craigslist I found another guy in the area breaking down his 150 gallon, and got from him another 30 pounds of rock. I had to pay $80 for this second infusion of rock, unfortunately, but it was well worth it. The result was this aquascape which I proudly present to you. Please ignore the salt stains, I haven't managed to clean the other side of the tank yet:




Nothing is epoxy'd together yet... a lot of it just fit together in that configuration.


You might notice the skimmer in the back! That, I didn't pay a cent for. My friend had an unused Deltec MCE600 sitting in his basement. When I told him of my saltwater ambitions he generously offered to lend it to me, and I of course jumped at the chance. It isn't on right now unfortunately. The amount of microbubbles it generates in the return stream is truly ridiculous, so I'm letting the water get a little dirtier through the course of the week before I turn it on. As I understand it, the microbubbles are caused by the increased surface tension of newly mixed salt... who knew? Anyway I'm not worried about it for now.


The aquascape was completed yesterday evening. To be fair it was mostly my partner's idea, but hey, I helped execute it. And I think it looks pretty darn good.


And this afternoon I came home from work to discover my first residents!




I have no idea what this little guy is. He looks cute though.




I already knew about this guy (duh). It's some kind of hard coral that the previous guy didn't want to fully remove from the rock. I don't think it'll survive the cycling process, but if it does, that's a nice bonus.




I think this is some kind of sea star.


Anyway, that's all to report for now! The tank has been cycling for precisely one day and I won't even bother testing it for another few days. I have the lights on for four hours a day now, and will continue with that schedule until I see some parameters I like.


Total expenditure to get to this point?


Tank and Stand: $100 (the guy I bought this from also included a heater that I didn't mention earlier)

Lights: $240

Powerheads: $52

Water: $25

Salt: $20

Live rock (60 pounds): $120

Skimmer: Undying gratitude and $0

Sand: $50

Total to this point: $607


That's a little bit more than I expected actually. It felt cheaper at each individual step, that's for sure.


Anyway, hope you had as much fun reading this as I did writing it. I was hoping to prove that setting up a reef tank, besides being totally awesome as a hobby, also doesn't have to be prohibitively expensive. I'm not sure I've actually proved that, but anyway, I would've had to pay a lot more if I hadn't been aggressively bargain hunting.

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the "cute little guy" is a feather duster worm. It's a filter feeder and completely harmless. The 2nd hitchhiker appears to be a majano anemone, which is definitely not harmless. Kill the little bugger before it gives you and your coral headaches. Oh and :welcome: to nano-reef. You seem to be off to a really nice start. If I were you I would invest in a RO/DI unit, it will pay for itself in time (I pay roughly .006 cents for a gallon of water).

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:welcome: To Nano-Reef!


Tank looks nice. I'm glad you've done so much research. In all honesty though, it's a continuous learning experience. You still have a lot more research to do.


I myself have a 29g tank (see tank thread in signature). I converted it from freshwater and like you I was surprised at how much I spent! Of course I didn't do quite as much research on the equipment end of things so I probably spent more there upgrading things than if I had purchased quality equipment from the start. One thing you should get is an RO/DI filter, or you could buy RO water from a local grocery store that has a refill station (I get it for $.29 per gallon... pretty cheap and I can fill up my own buckets).


I am also a fan of soft corals, but I also like LPS quite a bit. You've got a good light to keep a variety of corals under.


As for your little hitch hiking creatures, they're all good except the last picture, which happens to be a majano anemone. They're pretty cool, but literally one day you'll look in your tank and find them all over the place. They reproduce rapidly and they have a powerful sting to kill off other corals, so most people consider them a nuisance and kill/remove them.


Overall though, your tank looks well thought out and planned. Have you given more thought as to what you will stock? I know you mentioned soft corals, but I can't honestly believe that you will stop there once you get going.


Good luck!

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Thanks for the kind words, but now I'm super concerned about this majano anemone. Will it survive my cycle? How can I kill it quickly?


See, I told you that you guys would teach me a lot. ;)

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oh it'll definitely survive any cycle... They're tough. Do a search there are threads galore on methods to kill these... Some work, others don't.

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I have the same tank and started with 2x koralia nanos and I felt like I wasn't getting nearly enough flow. I've replaced one of the nanos with a K1 and I still feel like its not enough, even with an ac70 and a reef octopus skimmer running. I might not have my powerheads set up in the most efficient manner though.


I like your setup a lot, nice rock!

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Nice looking tank setup .. You have done well picking things and doing research


Keep it up.


To get rid of the pesky nem I would boil water and put it into a syringe (yes while its still boiling) and quickly get to the tanka nd douse the little sucker in scalding water.. This will kill the flesh it contacts. If he manages to survive that it wont be by much.. one more of the same should kill him good. (its how i remove aptasia also)


Others super glue over them.. if you can totally cover him this is my 2nd choice as coraline will cover the glue soon enough..


Good luck.!!

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oh no what have you done.... nothing good can come of this. a reef addiction that has just begun.


well since there is no hope :welcome::grouphug:

29's are a good size to start in think you'll like the extra swim space.

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I have the same tank and started with 2x koralia nanos and I felt like I wasn't getting nearly enough flow. I've replaced one of the nanos with a K1 and I still feel like its not enough, even with an ac70 and a reef octopus skimmer running. I might not have my powerheads set up in the most efficient manner though.


I like your setup a lot, nice rock!


What kind of corals do you keep? I think 2 K-nanos should easily be enough for soft corals & such.


I have 2 K1's in my tank and it seems to do a pretty good job along with a HOB skimmer w/a maxi-jet 1200.

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The majano is coming out today -- just got back from the LFS with a superpowered syringe. I'll almost miss the little guy, but I guess it just wasn't meant to be.


While I was there though, I got my water tested, and, well, imagine my surprise to see this:


Calcium: 3.30

pH: 8.0

Ammonia: 0

Nitrites: 0

Nitrates: 0

Alkalinity: 2.5


My first thought, of course, was "wtf?" How can all my important params be zero? But the LFS employee (and an awesome gal from the Shedd Aquarium who happened to be nearby) agreed that, due to the huge volume of my live rock, I might not get a cycle at all. Said Shedd Gal suggested dumping some ammonia in my tank until it's at 2.0 ppm -- if it's all gone in about 10 hours, then I've already cycled.


I have to say I'm almost disappointed. I was looking forward to a dramatic long cycling time. But hey, I guess this means I get to start my zoanthid collection even sooner than I expected!

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Glad you have your tank up in quite record time m8>> hope you will entertain us with some nice pics after will be 100% filled with live critters :D


Told ya my old tank is in perfect condition :D >> keep in touch



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Glad to see everything is going well.


I would caution you to not get overly ambitious with this new information though. Just because there is 0 ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate doesn't mean that your tank is ready for all kinds of life.


While your tank has the necessary bacteria to process waste (in the LR), there are other things (like a carbon cycle) which are something to consider. Think of a cycle as an equilibrium. Your cycle is never truly over until you are 100% finished stocking your tank. The moment you increase the amount of waste being produced in your tank by adding livestock or other organics, the nitrogen cycle needs to re-establish itself by growing new bacteria which can handle the increase. The key to not having your tank crash is to do this slowly. It needs to mature.


I don't consider myself a cycle nazi, but I would still wait a week or so before stocking, and start slowly. Find a few herbivorous snails to start with. Every week or so add a few more snails/crabs/etc... Once you've got a good sized CUC, then you can start adding fish, and once things settle down add corals etc... A lot is going to happen in your tank in the next few weeks, even without fish or corals! Try looking at your tank at night with a flashlight (a red one would even be better!).


Good luck.

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Good luck.


Hey, thanks for the kind words and advice ajmckay!


John from Reefcleaners got back to me. Super nice guy, by the way, I can't recommend him enough. He recommended this cleanup crew for me:


30 Dwarf Ceriths

9 Nassarius

7 Florida Ceriths

5 Blue Legs

1 Chiton

3 Limpets

7 Small to medium Nerites


I think I'm going to get exactly what he recommended and ask him to ship it next Friday, so that I get it next Saturday. Most of these guys are pretty small so I can't imagine a two-week old tank wouldn't be able to support them.


There's a frag swap in my area a few days afterwards... maybe a good opportunity to get a zoanthid or two and finally bring some color into the tank. :)

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Yeah John is a pretty good source for stuff. He's really active on the forums and he seems to give good advice as well. The ceriths are really small! But they're good for getting deep into the rocks & such. I would personally recommend fewer nassarius to start with and adding some astrea snails (decent glass cleaners). In all honesty though you can add more snails later so just stick with what you plan to order above.


Also, you'll probably be fine to add a few zoa polyps. But then again that's a tough decision. I don't recommend you spend much money with the chance that they don't do well. But then again don't get brown ones just to "have your first coral" and then your tank is covered in brown zoas....

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nice tank.. did you use egg crate on your back wall?


Thanks for the compliment! I have no idea what egg crate is, so I didn't use any in my tank. ;) If it would help stabilize my structures though I would definitely like to hear more about it. I'll research it later, along with some epoxy, to better keep the live rocks together.

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