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New to Reef Hobby


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Hi guys,


I am converting to marine life from fresh water! Totally lost in terms of how or where I should start planning my reef tank. I am planning on getting a Mr. Aqua 17.1g aquarium. In terms of equipment, where should I start my journey?


Freshwater care is relatively straight forward and easy, but when I think of salt water, i'm thinking that there are much more mechanics to it. What kind of things would I need to be treating the water etc.? Or do I just mix marine salt with RO water and voila? Total noob. Any help would be appreciated :)


Thinking about also getting a Nano Box Light with the Mr. Aqua.


Also questioning on corals and fish both weigh in on the bioload?


Thanks for reading and replying to my noobie questions ;p


...Hi btw! :)

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Welcome! I was in the same position as you a month ago. As for equipment you will need:

Tank, Light, Protein Skimmer, Heater, Sand, Rock, Powerhead(s), Thermometer, Refractometer, Other testing kits. Could be some other optional equipment


A GFCI outlet is pretty important as you probably already know.


As for treating water: Your rock acts as a filter but there are other popular forms of media additives (Carbon, GFO, chemipure, purigen, etc.) RO/DI is king, but distilled will work too. Mostly everyone will advise against tap.


Fish count towards bioload, corals not so much.


Edit: certain corals require varying levels of calcium, alk, and magnesium and dosers could be used to maintain these levels

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Is a protein skimmer really required? I noticed some don't use one, also what is a 'Sump' ?

Some will argue a protein skimmer is not required. After seeing what comes out of the collection cup I opted in for one.


A sump is another tank (usually underneath the display) that is used as a filtration site. Essentially, water is taken out of the display tank, filters through the sumps channels, and is returned back to the display tank.


I used an All-in-one tank because I don't have the plumbing know-how to construct a sump. Here's a pretty good illustration of a sump


I should also mention that some people use sumps to hide equipment. You can place your heater, media, protein skimmer, macroalgae, dosing, and other goodies into the sump.

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Regular wcs are supposed to aliviate need for a skimmer. But I am beginning to lean towards one. Other than chemical warfare and crowding issues, I don't believe corrals add to much to bio load, I could be wrong though.

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What are WCS? Just protein skimmers are pricy for me at the moment (even though reef tanks are a pricy hobby to begin with), I have a small space for the tank so less equipment the better for now. Probably won't overload the tank with too much fish; I just want 2 clown fish.


Any suggestions for a filter? What are soft corals and LPS corals?

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What are WCS? Just protein skimmers are pricy for me at the moment (even though reef tanks are a pricy hobby to begin with), I have a small space for the tank so less equipment the better for now. Probably won't overload the tank with too much fish; I just want 2 clown fish.


Any suggestions for a filter? What are soft corals and LPS corals?

WCS= Water Changes

Are you planning on a sump for this tank? You could drill the tank and plumb one, or get a hang on back overflow (I highly advise drilling, you can also take it to a glass shop if you want to go this route). If you don't want a sump ( I didn't have one for a very long time, if you have space under the tank, I recommend you get one), then you can't really go wrong with an Aquaclear filter.


Soft corals are generally the easiest of all the corals to take care of. These include zoanthids, mushrooms, leather coral, xenia, etc. Check out a site like live aquaria to get a general idea.


LPS corals stand for Large Polyp Stony corals, many of which have sweeper tentacles that can sting other corals, although some of them don't.


Hope I helped

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Ah, that 'S' at the end of WCS threw me off ;p


I probably will refrain from drilling and of the sort, I am by no means a plumber haha. I do have a cabinet I bought from Ikea that has space under and it's pretty concealed.


I was thinking about getting the Fluval C4, what filters would I need for a reef? I'm hearing there are specific ones to use if we plan not to get a protein skimmer? But the live rocks and live sand are the primary filters correct?

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What are WCS? Just protein skimmers are pricy for me at the moment (even though reef tanks are a pricy hobby to begin with), I have a small space for the tank so less equipment the better for now. Probably won't overload the tank with too much fish; I just want 2 clown fish.


Any suggestions for a filter? What are soft corals and LPS corals?


If you want a nice example of a skimmer-less Mr. Aqua i suggest you check out Scorched's build. Also this months "tank of the month"


Also keep in mind, tanks do have maintenance costs. It's not like after you have the equipment you won't ever spend another dollar. I only say this because you claim skimmers are too pricey for you. The difference in price between the fluval C4 ($55) and PLS-50 ($100) (Skimmer i bought) is 45 dollars.


Running without a skimmer is fine, but if you choose not to because you can't spring the extra 45$ then maybe you're not financially able to get into the hobby.


If money is tight, look into buying equipment secondhand in the classifieds. You can always upgrade when you're able

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Reef Hollister

Another option on filtration would be an AC50 or AC70 with a StevieT media basket. Efficient and not too pricey. Go to the website for InTank media baskets They are sponsors so there should be a link here somewhere. Anyways, communicate with Stevie and he'll get you going in the right direction. He helped me a lot. I know he will tell you that a skimmer will not be necessary with regular frequent water changes on a tank that size.


AC= AquaClear


You will probably need a powerhead of some sort for water flow depending on your filtration system.

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NYR Hmmm I didn't see that one...The skimmers I have been looking at might be the wrong ones (They were ranging around $250-350). $45 isn't much of a difference. Thanks for the tip!



I'll take a look into those options, thanks Reef n NYR!



Would you suggest getting 'Dry' rocks or 'Live' rocks?


I'm leaning towards 'Dry' primarily because I can play with the aquascape more. I am in no rush to toss fish in yet.

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Dry or live is just a personal preference. I did one of my tanks with dry and one with uncured live rock.


Live comes with unwanted and wanted hitchikers, cycles faster, and will turn purple much more quickly.


Dry is generally more porous and has better shapes for aquascaping and has no possibility of bad hitchikers but takes longer to cycle.


If you have room for a sump, I would seriously consider it. While not necessary, it has a lot of advantages and many people regret not adding one after their tank is up and running.

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Hi! I was in your exact position a few months ago. I've had freshwater since I was in college and finally had the time and budget wiggle room to have a go at saltwater, and let me tell you I researched and read for MONTHS befor I started buying equipment... One thing I learned is one reefer or LFS (local fish store) will say one way is better/ the only way it can be done, and another will claim the complete opposite is true... Every tank is diffrent and the number of variables are countelss... Dry/live sand and rock, DSB(deep sand bed) BB (bare bottom), protein skimmer, sumps, refugium, all natural filtration, media reactors, automatic dosers/feeders/ top offs. There are literally thousands of gadgets additives, and other toys/equipment out there, and with technology rapidly changing and improving there's always something new. Hope I'm not overwhelming or scaring you lol you will find what you prefer or read something that will pull you in one direction or another, and what ever it is, will work out as long as you take your time. Apparently patients is key in this hobby... Please keep in mind I'm a newbie too so I'm still learning as well, and this is all personal opinion... But here are a few things I felt were fairly helpful :) welcome to the hobby! Happy reefing!










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I'll tell you my setup and you can decide to do what you like. Like one person said there are a lot of options and everyone does things differently.


The NanoBox light is nice. I ordered one and am getting it this week. The storm controller is a nice option and you can get it or add it later.


Some things you can do without or add later if you like.


I prefer live rock, live sand and a nitrifying bacteria additive because they cycle your tank so you can start adding things.


Premium Aquatics has has all of these and "nano" rock so you can get smaller pieces if you don't like what you see at the fish store. They are at premiumaquatics.com.


These are some other things that I got, some of them from Premium Aquatics or Marine Depot. Shipping is free over a certain amount.


You may already have a stand. Live rock (1 lb. per gallon), live sand (about a lb. per gallon), nitrifying bacteria additive (I used Instant Ocean's from PetCo), thermometer, magnet algae scraper, 50W heater, pump (I'll talk more about that later), siphon, 2 or 3 purified water containers for RO water, 2 buckets for water changes, net, Kent AquaDose 2.5 Gallon for Auto-topoff (Could get later), refractometer (Premium Aquatics sells them for cheap. Your salinity should be 1.025),


Your salinity, stable parameters, live rock sand filtration and bioload are about the only differences between saltwater and freshwater and the difference in organism needs.


protein skimmer (You could get this later. AquaC's Nano Remora is a good one and not too expensive), Reef Aquarium Fishes by Scott W. Michael, Aquarium Corals by Eric Borneman, Corals: A Quick Reference Guide by Julian Sprung, Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Saltwater Master Test Kit (You may want to add Calcium, Phosphate and Magnesium Kits later), SeaChem's Kalkwasser Powder (You can get this later), Ocean Nutrition Formula Two Flakes, Frozen Brine Shrimp and Marine Snow from Two Little Fishies. The food you can get as you add things.


For the pump you could get a MaxiJet 9 or 1200. They say you want water circulation to be 10 to 14 times the tanks volume but people do more. EcoTech's Vortech MP pumps are really great. You pay more for them but they create waves in the tank and simulate reef environments. Your fish and corals will thank you. I have an MP10 on a 14 gallon tank right now.


The Kent Aquadose is a manual drip auto-topoff system. In the beginning you can add RO water when your tank water evaporates. You won't need to add saltwater because the salt doesn't evaporate. The AquaDose is nice because later when your corals start sucking calcium from the water you can replace it with Kalkwasser. This is made by mixing Kalkwasser mix with RO water and letting the Kalkwasser and solid matter separate. Once they are separated you siphon off the liquid part and slowly add it to your tank. It adds calcium to your tank and is buffered. The AquaDose has to be above the tank for it to go in.


The live rock and live sand act as a pretty good filter and if you want to add a protein skimmer later you can.


Usually you do 10% water changes once per week after the first month.


This is by far the simplest setup without using a sump.


You have your tank, live rock and live sand, a pump (hopefully one of EcoTech's), and a protein skimmer.


Things you have in your tank can be very helpful for taking care of other things like algae. Snails, crabs and shrimp help. Specifically, emerald crabs eat hair algae, peppermint shrimp eat Aptasia and if you get in a bind for algae you can always use a Mexican Turbo Snail.


Also, you can add a beneficial macro algae like Chaetomorpha to eat the nitrates and phosphates when they appear. Some people say you need to put this in a sump but I find the main tank to be fine.


Hope this helps and feel free to ask any questions.

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One thing I forgot to mention is water changes. I am trying a mix from PetCo that is pre-mixed saltwater. Alternatively, you can mix your own in a 5 gallon bucket. If the water is room temperature you are fine there and you can use a mix like Instant Ocean or Reef Crystals with a powerhead.

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BOY OH BOY OH BOY. If all this conflicting info hasn't made you crazy by now, nothing will. LOL


I've been at this hobby for only about 6 months and i remember trying to understand all the info people were throwing at me. The very best piece of advice I can give you is very simple. Do what i did when i first started and make the same purchase i made.

Go to Petsmart or Petco or online and buy "The Nano-Reef Handbook" by Chris Brightwell.

It contains all the info you need to develop a full understanding of all aspects of reef-keeping.

Every question you have posted on this thread is addressed in the book and so much more.

It was the best purchase i've made to date in this hobby.


By the way, I am also in the process of starting a Mr Aqua 17.1 gal myself. If you want to follow my build

thread to see how i'm doing it and what equipment I'm using, feel free. It's right here in the beginners forum entitled "My Custers last stand. Mr Aqua 17.1". Just FYI. I originally started this build thread as a 10 gal tank but for reasons explained on page 2 of the thread, I switched to the Mr Aqua 17.1 and will post an equipment list and pics shortly.


Oh yes, I almost forgot. Welcome to the forum my friend. It's always good to chat with new members.

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