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Cultivated Reef

Beginner plotting a 4g pico reef


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Hi everyone,


I'm brand new here and quite tempted to poke my toes into the salt waters.


I've been keeping freshwater fish for ages and my currently up and running tank is a 50g planted tank with some tetras, german blue rams and other fun stuff.


Recently I got a cute little nano tank, it's basically a 12" cube (slightly taller so not a complete cube but wont be filled all the way up and holds 4 gallons of water.


My first impulse when I got it was to go ahead and plant it like my main tank and keep shrimp in it but then got the idea that maaaybe it would be fun to try salt water finally.


I've googled around and it's obviously doable doing reef type tanks that small but I don't really know what I've got to do to get that going. The tank comes with LED lights that have a touch sensitive dimmer and some blue LED in there as well. The LEDs are apparently par 30ish at the bottom of the tank. I've not had LED lights before either (have HO T5s on my planted tank), the hood with the lights can come off though even though it's built in so I could change out the lights eventually if it comes to that.


It comes with a compartment for a filter and a heater and I've got one of each of those so I'm all set up for fresh water but, I've got that siren call of trying something new


I guess that if I were to do the jump I'd need a RO unit, salt mix, extra powerhead/wavemaker I guess, sand, live rock and then let things sit and settle for a long while before figuring out where to go from there. Is that about right?


Here's the tank,



I've done a bunch of reading etc. but the prospect of trying saltwater is pretty daunting so I'm I don't really know. Maybe I should just go with what I know and stick with planted freshwater. Any advice?


btw here's a partial tank shot of my 50g planted -> my tank

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I get RO/DI saltwater at a trusted LFS. Reef crystals salt mix is good. 30 par at te bottom is low, for beginner corals I would go with mushrooms, zoanthids/palythoa, and other soft corals. Some hardy LPS towards the top a bit later on would be good. Let the tank cycle, since you know FW pretty well you know what that is. If you wanted FW shrimp there are still VERY cool SW anemone shrimp, cleaner shrimp, etc. :)

If you have any Q's just ask!

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Wow, nice freshwater tank. As good as the ones at the professional aquariums.


Now onto the tank:

Par 30 at the bottom is too low. I would remove the leds and replace it with some high power leds instead.

Filters aren't that great in salt. Just remove the media and replace it with a coarse sponge and some chemipure or purigen.


You need:

-An RO/DI unit, not just RO

-A good salt mix, like red sea. Instant ocean works, but is just not as good

-For a powerhead/wavemaker, just get a pump and a Hydor FLO rotating water deflector. Makes a random wave pattern. Or get 2 pumps.

-Get around 7 lbs of live rock. On a tank of your size, don't even bother with dry rock.

-And as for sand get about 10 lbs of aragonite sand, not freshwater sand or gravel.


A lot of new people are posting recently, and fortunately you seem to have done research. Good luck!

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Did some more research including budget and decided that when I do go for trying saltwater I want a 20-30 gallon tank not a 4 gallon. Ie still a nano but with the start up costs being basically the same I want more space to play with.


Thanks for the help though, and I'll still be lurking around here

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Did some more research including budget and decided that when I do go for trying saltwater I want a 20-30



^^ This...


Keep an eye out for the petco $1 gallon sale and pick up a 40b., Youll be much happier.


Glad to see someone who actually pays attention to their research even when it doesnt turn out the way they want it to., Good luck with your tank :)


and :welcome:

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Yeah I'll have to wait a bit before going saltwater now but it'll happen! and when I do go for it it'll be better than if I'd tried now with the small tank.


And now.. bit off topic since I ended up going freshwater with it but I figured I'd share anyway. I've set up the 4g tank. Very happy with it. No livestock in it yet but the plants are doing ok so far with the stock light.



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  • 2 months later...
I'm jealous! My planted tank looks horrible compared to yours!!!


Thank you! I'm really enjoying the tank, glad I went freshwater with it. What it looks like currently:




Ive been doing a ton of research on saltwater though and am really itching to get a tank but it's not the right time now. I'll be back with SO MANY questions when I can get started, probably next summer

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That tank looks awesome. I almost got a planted tank but my brother convinced me to go sw. I think it's a good idea to get more space because there are so many cool things that just won't fit in a a pico! I'm having to sit on my hands while looking at clams, tangs, etc. I'll just have to enjoy watching my sexy shrimp run around in my 4g.

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Your tank looks gorgeous! I wanted to add though that a 3-5 gallon SW tank is lots of fun too! I had a 3G reef set up on my desk at work (until I changed jobs) and I adored it. Even more than my 14 or 40 gallon tanks. There's something about the tiny piece of the ocean that just makes them feel so awesome. And tiny frags really fill up a small tank quick whereas they look lost in my bigger tank. No matter what you decide in the future I think you'll do great! :happy:

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SOOOOOOOO pretty! It makes my freshwater planted look ghetto. hehe! What are those tall grass like plants in the back? Your pictures make me want to upgrade my freshwater :scarry:

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As others have also stated, nice tank! Something in that size could easily be a softy/invetebrate tank, but as for fish type and count it's pretty limiting. Maybe a pistol shrimp/goby pair, or a maxi-mini anemone + herd of sexy shrimp are the common builds. Some have pushed the boundaries with using this size class as a species tank for a small mantis shrimp and even a pest-centric build!


Is that one of the new(ish) JBJ rimless tanks?

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