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Pod Your Reef

To "Dive In" Or Not?


OceanSideGirl

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OceanSideGirl

I have been on and off of this site for years, very literally. I have had all sorts of small freshwater setups, and have always wanted to start a nano reef, but have been very scared to do so. So, maybe someone would be kind enough to answer some questions I have with their own opinions and help me decide.

 

Basically, I am scared of the cost. I don't want to spend $1000 or more on a 20 gallon tank. Shorcuts: no skimmer, some of the T5 lighting (pretty cheap now it seems), no refractometer, mod my existing AC70 for a cheato refugium with a small led light, seed dry rock with one piece of live rock, make my own saltwater with cheap R/O water from the hardware store (can be bad quality). Go SLOW so I don't lose livestock... it would bother me and probably make me sell the whole thing if I kept losing livestock. Getting away with just nitrate, nitrite test kits. Choosing a few corals and letting them grow out slowly.

 

Also, as touched on above, it seems like reefs have a lot of fatalities of inhabitants. That would bother me.

 

Also, trying to have only cultivated species for the good of the wild reefs.

 

Lastly, am I going to have to spend more time fussing over this tank than I would spend raising a puppy? Is the time commitment huge? I am super busy with work and barely get time to myself these days, so I can't commit a lot of time.

 

Yup, these are the things holding me back. Are there such things as economical, unfussy, spend 5 minutes a day reefs? I am guessing no, so before I finally say that a reef isn't for me, it would be kind of reassuring that I made the right call. Thanks!

 

And hey, since I've spent literally probably hundreds of hours at this point reasearching and dreaming, maybe I should just do it... gosh, I just don't know!

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Hey! So everything you mentioned is a valid concern, but I think there are ways you could set up a tank in your budget and time constraints. You just have to make the right choices from the beginning and like you said, take it slow. I'll try to give you my opinions on the things you mentioned.

 

1) Cost- most people on here are going to tell you not to start a reef if you want a cheap tank. While this is true, it doesn't mean you can't have a reef on a budget as long as you make the right choices.

 

T5 lighting is pretty inexpensive, and in my opinion its great. I had the Odyssea 72W T5 fixture on my 10 gallon and I saw absolutely awesome growth with all my corals (including some easier SPS's) and I really liked the color. That fixture is only $50 brand new and they ship it for free.

 

The AC70 will be perfect and a ton of people on here (including me) have them modded as refugiums.

 

Seeding dry rock is definitely the cheaper route and can still look great. You'll just have to allow more time for the tank to cycle and establish a population of good bacteria. In my new tank upgrade I went with really nice looking dry rock from BulkReefSupply.com and seeded it with the live rock from my 10 gallon tank.

 

I would recommend getting a refractometer because hydrometers can be very off (I know this from personal experience). You can buy a great refractometer off ebay for about $20-$30. I have one from ebay and its been great so far.

 

If you stick to mostly soft corals, you can definitely get away with just a basic test kit for pH, amm, nitrates, and nitrites. If you want to do any SPS corals or a bunch of LPS corals, you'll need a test kit for alk, calcium, and phosphates. Soft corals also tend to be easier and less expensive, so they may be a good bet for you.

 

2) Loss of livestock - yes, it does happen. Like you said, go slow so that you don't rush things and have the tank crash. Also, I'd recommend quarantining fish if you're worried about disease. Also, stick to beginner species that are easy to care for like clownfish and gobies. Don't get anything too exotic that are notoriously hard to care for. Also, maybe just stick to soft corals and some easy LPS corals. Oh, and have a lid on the tank so you don't have any jumpers.

 

3) Time- when you're first getting the tank established you'll invest more time, but once its well established, the time commitment really isn't that high. You'll need to do a weekly water change and parameter testing (usually takes me 45 minutes), feed daily or every other day, and dose anything if needed. When I'm not adding a bunch of new stuff or changing things in the tank, I probably spend an hour or two a week doing maintenance. Its really not too bad.

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Definately do-able. 2 things you shouldnt cheap out on though. GET a refractometer. you can get on for 25 bucks. Also, use RO/DI or distilled, and a decent salt mix.

 

If you dont cheap out on those 2 things, you will be golden.

 

I have had 2 fish losses and 1 coral loss in 3 years, having 2 or more tanks the entire time. There is no reason to lose livestock.

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Losses can and will happen. It's the nature of the beast.

 

As for cost, I am debating what kind of tank will be my next tank, and every time I add things I up end back up at or above the 1K mark. However, that's because of some silly wants I have.

 

That being said if you can get into a solid 10 gallon tank for not that much.

10 gallon tank - 13$

AC70 DIY Fuge - 70$ modded

Used MH 150W or T5 setup - 50-100$

Sand - 10$

Base Rock 8lbs @3$/lb- 24$

Seed Rock (2lbs) - 10$

Heater - 25$

Power Head - 30$

 

Total ~250

Just add water, time, and live stock.

 

Alternatively, browse craiglist and look for used setups. With TIME you'll come across a steal.

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With these peoples.advice, dive in.

 

I am starting nice tank and I dont even have a steady income. I am only 12 and make most of my money from collecting coins.

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Do it! The trick is to do it right the first time to aviod additional spending. Veng's list seems pretty good, however if you have the cash I'd go all with cured live rock. You get so many interesting critters to stare at before you get your fish that way :)

 

Keep it simple and stick with hardy fish and corals. Zoa's are pretty, as are the mushrooms and cloves. They're relativly inexpensive and spread quickly.

 

Best of luck and a warning: it's addictive...

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+1 to pretty much all mentioned.

 

Quality water changes and good live rock make it easy. Check local for sale listings to keep costs down.

 

I picked up a BioCube 29 with approx 50lbs of high quality live rock, lights, stand, test kits, timers, and lots of other goodies for $150. And just picked up about 60lbs of amazing base rock for $20 that will be going into a 46 bow front....also from Craigslist.

 

Take your time gathering what you need while researching, set it up right from the start, go slow and you'll have a beautiful tank that doesnt take too much time or money....unless you want it to :D

 

If you can give the tank an hour a week or so, I think you'll be fine.

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however if you have the cash I'd go all with cured live rock.

I'm a huge fan of starting with all cured live rock if you can afford it. Hitchhicker identifcation, and sometimes removal is all part of the fun. But base rock is better than no tank. :P

 

I picked up a BioCube 29 with approx 50lbs of high quality live rock, lights, stand, test kits, timers, and lots of other goodies for $150. And just picked up about 60lbs of amazing base rock for $20 that will be going into a 46 bow front....also from Craigslist.

These are exactly the kind of deals you can find on craigslist with time. Use the time you're waiting to do your research and know what you can keep and what is trash, so when you find deal you can move on it!

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You don't have to spend a fortune to start, but one you get hooked, prepare your wallet, LOL!

 

I started with an already established BC14. It wasn't in the greatest shape, and at $300 I may have overpaid? It was basically complete with powerhead, UV, LR, LS, 2 fish and a TON of miscellaneous items. I felt it was a fair deal at the time. Since then, I've invested at least that much or more to make it what it is today, but I could have easily left it the way it was. With a small tank, you can buy the SW or RO water at the LFS or wherever, and its not a big deal. At the beginning, I would spend more time with the tank, because I went through a few minicycles, and a bout of algae and then worse cyano.

 

Now, the tank is on cruise control. I dedicate maybe 5 minutes a day between feeding, topping off, and I rarely have to scrape the glass anymore. I do one waterchange a week, that if you set it up properly, does not take much time at all. If I test my parameters, I might spend 15-20 minutes, but I do that MAYBE twice a month.

 

I think if you sitck with a nano, at some point the maintenance is not that bad at all, you just have to do things right and keep a close eye on things, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy it or have to have your hands in something all the time.

 

Here are some pics of where I started and 1 month ago when I added some corals hence the crappy looking montis. Today, everything looks great and the montis are growing. I'm installing LEDs either this week or next. Remember what I said about prepare your wallet :o:P

sss.jpg

IMG_0092.jpg

 

Its not the nicest tank around, but it makes me happy. And I get a lot of compliments from friends and family too. Now I'm spending the big bucks and building a custom 100 LOL!

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I skimmed the above and it's all very good advice. I would like to add that being on a budget can be a great thing because it forces you to go slow. My tank isn't very pretty in the full tank shot, but when I sit in front of it and watch how all the living things interact and do their thing, it's amazing. My tank is for me. I am just as interested in the worm as the zoa. I started my tank 4 months ago and have not spent more than $100 at a time and I've spent maybe a few hundred. I already had the tank and some old equipment in storage though. I'm working on upgrading it as I go.

 

The only livestock I've lost is a couple snails cause hermits murdered them lol. But my fish have acted weird a few times and I panicked and almost canceled a weekend trip. First lesson learned... don't panic... it will be okay. It was just the clowns showing off their antics.

 

This is the best site I've ever seen. I'm on another reef forum and people there must have tons of money to blow cause people like me, without the newest, nicest equipment, are peons. But the people here are great at brainstorming and giving you advice to make things work with your situation and constraints.

 

People are also nice and pay it forward. I just got 5 species of coral for free from a local guy who was tearing down his tank to build another.

 

If you are patient, spread out your costs, and wait for deals, then :welcome: the hobby!

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Oh, and PS, don't worry about fatalities. A lot of fatalities are due to buying inappropriate or difficult to care for specimens. There is always the chance of buying a sick fish, but there's not much you can do to control that. Other casualties may be the fault of the tank owner by not having the water quality where it needs to be or not providing the right environment for their fish and corals. Research your purchases.

 

I have had 1 casualty, and it was one that I was destined to fail if I had researched. I bought a pretty green goni when I first started, and later realized these things are near impossible to keep in captivity. Well, the inevitable happened and I lost it, but i should have known that BEFORE I bought it. Good luck, and just do it! :D

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I had a lot of the same worries you have, on top of being told by everyone I was nuts. I decided to pull the trigger for several reasons, but here's what I've found so far:

 

Cost can be pretty reasonable if you plan ahead and plan out a full tank before buying anything, there are examples of this above. This is the cheapest way to go. I did not do this and found myself replacing pieces as I upgraded.

 

The livestock worries was also big for me, this is my first tank, period. no fw no sw no anything. So i was scared I'd fail miserably as a lot of my friends have in the past with both sw and fw tanks. So far i have admittedly killed 2 fish, a baby clown and a young clown. the older one died from ich and the baby never acclimated. thats 40 dollars of livestock I killed. I also lost a sexy shrimp recently (i think unless ones just hiding). Anyway I have kept alive all of my corals, a fire shrimp 2 sexy shrimp a pompom crab a clown and a pygmy hawk. I think that's not awesome but an ok percentage. I still regret buying the baby clown, he was the size of my thumbnail, super cute, but far far far too young to be moved to a tank alone.

 

For me I do not spend a lot of time on my tank a week (other than looking at it). I spend maybe 5 min every other day feeding. and a half hour once a week doing my wc and making sure my ro water tank is filled. I also make a trip to my lfs once every 3 to 4 weeks so I can pick up new salt and ro water (I have 1 5 gallon tub for ro and2 5 gallon tubs for salt, just watch to make sure the salt water doesn't sit still too long). But compared to a puppy or dog i'd say its way way way way less. but maybe thats just me. (i have an 8 gallon tank so I'm very small compared to most).

 

 

If you do pull the trigger look for local used items on local forums or on here. this will save you a ton. add on patience (waiting for your tank to be healthy, corals to grow and deals to come) you won't have to spend a ton of money.

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You don't have to spend a fortune to start, but one you get hooked, prepare your wallet, LOL!

 

I started with an already established BC14. It wasn't in the greatest shape, and at $300 I may have overpaid? It was basically complete with powerhead, UV, LR, LS, 2 fish and a TON of miscellaneous items. I felt it was a fair deal at the time. Since then, I've invested at least that much or more to make it what it is today, but I could have easily left it the way it was. With a small tank, you can buy the SW or RO water at the LFS or wherever, and its not a big deal. At the beginning, I would spend more time with the tank, because I went through a few minicycles, and a bout of algae and then worse cyano.

 

Now, the tank is on cruise control. I dedicate maybe 5 minutes a day between feeding, topping off, and I rarely have to scrape the glass anymore. I do one waterchange a week, that if you set it up properly, does not take much time at all. If I test my parameters, I might spend 15-20 minutes, but I do that MAYBE twice a month.

 

I think if you sitck with a nano, at some point the maintenance is not that bad at all, you just have to do things right and keep a close eye on things, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy it or have to have your hands in something all the time.

 

Here are some pics of where I started and 1 month ago when I added some corals hence the crappy looking montis. Today, everything looks great and the montis are growing. I'm installing LEDs either this week or next. Remember what I said about prepare your wallet :o:P

sss.jpg

IMG_0092.jpg

 

Its not the nicest tank around, but it makes me happy. And I get a lot of compliments from friends and family too. Now I'm spending the big bucks and building a custom 100 LOL!

Not part of the "tang police" but really? A hippo in a biocube 14.

To the op. go for it. You've gotten good advice so far, take it.

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Not part of the "tang police" but really? A hippo in a biocube 14.

To the op. go for it. You've gotten good advice so far, take it.

 

Was waiting for someone to mention the blue tang! Haha!

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Was waiting for someone to mention the blue tang! Haha!

 

Seriously, this whole tang police thing is annoying. The tang came with the tank, I did not put it there the previous owner did. Its upgrade tank is in the works. So far I have skimmer, ATO, Return, Sump, and 2 MP40s. Still collecting stuff and tank will be from 100-150 gallons. Still too small for a blue, but I will never win. No need to kick sand in my face everytime I post a picture of my tank. I thought about taking it to the LFS, but honestly, after seeing the condition of some of their tanks, I think that tang has a better chance in my tank for now and waiting for her upgrade rather than swimming in an infested tank and being sold to some other kid that wants to put Dory in their 8 gallon BioCube. I have no prior experience with any fish tanks, and I was just sharing my experiences with the OP. Take that for what its worth, but my experience with saltwater has been positive, and much easier than I expected. My tank is not perfect, and my fish really do need more space, but like I mentioned earlier, its in the works :rolleyes:

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OceanSideGirl

Wow, awesome advice! I like the cost analysis. My brain has been going back and forth on this issue, but I can definately spend a few hundred without feeling guilty (hey, I don't get cable because I never watch tv... so I can put those savings into the tank). Just getting past $500 up into the thousands is a worry. I am frugal and I don't have a lot of job security - the NDP government here in Nova Scotia is cutting teachers again this coming year. Yikes, it is scary. Anyway, now I have to decide to buy a 10 gallon or to use the 20 I already have. Obviously a 10 would be cheaper to set up... I will probably do that! I'll update, but this is gonna be slow. So I guess I will get to work making a plan. I'll let you know what I end up with. Thank you!

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The 20 won't be any more expensive to get going, just be sure that no copper based medications have been in it. Keep in mind you'll be spending 15 or so each month to keep it going. Even with a little tank, budgeting for an RO unit will save you money. Welcome to the addiction!

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i skimmed most of the replies but i think something that could save you a bunch of money is to buy some stuff used. Most LFS that are not big box marts sell and have used equipment, though some times you have to ask. I got my skimmer for less than half new, heater for my makeup water was half what it goes for new. the guy had boxes and boxes of powerheads for cheap. Lights and filters can be had for cheap both here and at your lfs many times they are in great working order. Your lfs may even have a tank for sale for cheap.

 

One way you might get a break at a lfs is to let them know your interested in the hobby, go into their shop a few times ask questions but dont buy anything. Eventually they might offer you a deal just to get you into the hobby. Be warned though they will try to get you to buy stuff you dont want/need (me buying ''live sand at over 3x the cost of 'dead' sand comes to mind, not kidding you i found a piece of a glass bottle in it).

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I can't believe no one posted this about refractometers. Make sure you get one that is specifically made for salt water because they make them for anything from oil to wine.

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IMG_0092.jpg

 

Its not the nicest tank around, but it makes me happy. And I get a lot of compliments from friends and family too. Now I'm spending the big bucks and building a custom 100 LOL!

dam dude, you need a custom 100 gallons for that hippo tang. Holy crap. And they give me sh!t for having my baby yellow tang in a 24x24 30 gallon.

 

To the OP:

 

When I started doing this I spent $85 on a 3 gallon JBJ Pico with filter and light. That was overpriced and too small. Budget doesn't mean small size. If I were you I would do what everyone has already said...which is:

 

Go on craigslist and spend $200 on a sweet setup that already works

 

Or

 

Petco 10g for $13

Basic filter for $20

Mechanical media for $20

Rock and sand for $30+/-

Light for between $30 and $100 depending on what you want to do (if you like DIY you can set up an led lamp for next to nothing)

Salt for $10

Refracto for $30

 

I put together a Pico with stuff I had laying around for like $100.

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