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Nano reef tank, luxeries & necessities


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Heya :)

I recently have been thinking about getting a reef tank. Since I would like to spend around 500 dollars ( obviosuly less if I could ), I have decided that a nano-reef tank would be best for me. At first I thought all I could afford would be around a 5-10 gallon tank. Then I started looknig into packages b/c I heard that I could do bigger tanks with a 500 dollar budget (exlcuing coral and fish and LR)... One of the first packages i saw was and 18 gal m-tank, here is a link. http://www.finnex.net/pages/product/MTank.html

After looking aorund and talknig to different people, I was told it wouldnt be good enoguh for hard and soft corals, ( I want a lgihting system strong enough for both types of corals if possible, but if not i can deal with it .) After talking in a reef chat, I was told to jsut customize my own tank package and do a 20 gallon long. A particular person talked to me for a long time, he told me I could do this for around $500 (jsut the appliences and tank.)He said for a basic start up list he would reccomend getting 2 AC 401 or 301powerheads http://store1.yimg.com/I/pet-guys_1805_1437295

He also said I would not need a filter because of the live rock and live sand, is this true? For the lighting he suggested metal halides, since they would be strong enough for all corals. Then he told me they are around $300-400 bucks... since im on a budget I cant really do this ...Then he said if i want cheaper I could do a power compact lighting system which he said would be around $150, but with this he said I could do soft corals, and maybe a couple types of hard. Does anyone know of a good cheap lighting system that I could do hard and soft coral under? Is hard coral even worth spending more on to get the better lighting systems? The other thing I get confused about is the difference between a powerhead and a pump? what is better, and what are the good and bad things about each? He also said a protein skimmer is always good but not needed for a 20 gal. He said I could always get one after I have all my liverock set up. What is a good, basic cheap skimmer that I could get? Another product that he reccomended getting is a new thing that makes water current, its 59.99. If i did get it, I woudlnt add it for a while. Here is a link with a video explaining it. http://vmatrix.com/clients/3IQ_scwd/video/



These were the eqipment he suggested getting. Is there any other things anyone can think of, or any substitutes for any of the things he suggested that i would need, or could get? It was estimated like I said that I could get the tank and eqipment for around 500 bucks, is this realistic? I can always increase my budget I have done a lot of loonking around at reef keeping, and I use to have a 29 gallon SW tan without coral, before I switched it to a FW. I just dont know much about the products for a reef tank. When I look around I see so many differnt set ups that people use. Im trying to get a feel for what is a somewhat cheap, but at the same time a very good setup. If anyone knows of any good lighting systems, protein skimmers ect ect, or any other set ups that I could do, I would love to hear. I also could REALLY use any good suggestions on how to start up my tank.


Thank you SOO much to anyone who takes the time to read what i said and helps me



p.s. He suggested a 20 gallon long, is there any other size tank that I could get that might be better? :) :) :P :woot:

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numbers may be a little high for simplicity sake.


1. 20g glass tank from petco....30-35 dollars

2. aquaclear hang on back filter ....30 dollars

3. heater .... 20 dollars

4. 175 MH HQI ... 260 dollars (ballast 110, bulb 70,pendant 80)

5. 2 powerheads ....2X 15 dollars...30 dollars

6. test kit... 20 dollars

7. thermometer ... 5 dollars

8. salt mix .... 20 dollars

9. 20g of RO water from fish store... 10 dollars

10. powerstrip for plugs .. 10 dollars

11. gfci for outlet ... 10 dollars

12. 30 pounds of argonite fine sand ...25 dollars


475 dollars total



that will get you on your way. some of this does not HAVE to be purchased right out of the gate (the two powerheads for instance) and the lights could absolutly wait until after you cycle your rock (lets say a month after the rock goes in). in fact, you could easily get lights for 100 dollars that would be good for 6 months or so (or longer depending on what your inhabatants will be). you can use that time to frequent the classifieds at reefcentral watching for used lighting. that way you can cut the price a LOT. many say 'just as well spend it now' but that advice only holds if you actually have the money now. it does not mean you cant do it cheaper by waiting and watching if you are shrewd.





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Thank you very much Nalbar, that was exactly the type of help i needed. :)

a couple questions...

the lighting system you suggested "175 MH HQI ... 260 dollars (ballast 110, bulb 70,pendant 80)" would that be good enoguh for all coral, or just soft? Also, would you suggest that I buy offline or at a LFS?


Thank You VERY much for helping me :)



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175w will be good for everything, including clams, SPS, and anemones. on a 20L you probably will have to put lower light things towards the 'ends' of the tank. a 250 watt is actually the same price and could be kept higher above the water, lighting up those areas more. but we are only talking about about 4 inches each side anyway. you really cant get that lighting at your LFS. they charge to much and are limited in what they offer. hellolights (a sponsor of this site, click on the 'sponsor' button above to see the list) or marine depot (also a sponsor) are great outlets. i prefer hellolights and customaquatics myself.


now my cost list above does NOT include a canopy. its 'open top', which is all i have over my tanks.


i cannot overstate that a great deal of the stuff on my cost list is NOT absolutely needed when you start up. its stuff that you will EVENTUALLY need for sure though. you can actually start up a reef tank for under 200 (not counting rock) and then purchase as you go. its just better to have the stuff handy instead of running out to buy it when you do need it.




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LOL im sry ... in '175 MH HQI ... 260 dollars (ballast 110, bulb 70,pendant 80)' what does MH HQI stand for, and what is ballast and pendant. Is this lighting system hang down or doe it go over my aqaurium.



So if i were to do this i should definitely do the 250 watt instead of the 175w?


thank you again


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no NEED to go 250w, it just allows the bulb to be higher abover the water, increasing light spread. another option is TWO 70w HQI bulbs. that would be about 250 dollars (maybe less) total and give you light from end to end.


MH stands for Metal Halide. HQI is the TYPE of MH bulb, meaning a double ended bulb rather than a single ended 'screw in' type bulb. the single ended (SE) metal halide systems (also call mogul sockets) are cheaper to buy but more expensive to run day to day. they are also not as bright watt for watt as double ended (DE) bulbs. a 250 SE bulb is about as bright as a 175 DE bulb.


now that i have given it some thought what i would do for a 20L is go with two 70w HQI bulbs. using the 'regent' fixture option that i used on my nano. i LOVE that fixture and would just use two over a 20L. anothe advantage of the 70w is you can fit both bulbs (and the fixture for that matter) in a hood easier if you dont want open top. the problem with one large bulb is you get to much light 'splash' out the front and back.


here is a link to that fixture;





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a suggestion i would like to make is that you start with easy corals and work your way up. you're very focused about having "hard and soft" corals and i think that you may want to do more research into exactly what it is you want. hard and soft corals comprise every coral available to the hobby! you may want to do a bit of research and be more specific like keeping leathers, sps, lps, zoos, rics, what is it that interests you most.


another suggestion is if this is your first tank i would not suggest sps corals. they are for more advanced aqaurists and are extremely difficult to keep alive without almost perfect water conditions. for a new comer i would suggest a few leathers and some zoos. they dont require too much light and that would save you money on your lighting because you would be fine with pc lighting rather than metal halides, not to mention much more cost efficient in the long run(metal halides will hyke your electricity bill through the roof and if you are on a 500 dollar budget you may want to think about keeping some of that in your pocket for when your first bill comes so you can have an idea of what they will be like) metal halides run hot also and you will have to deal with evaporation as well as tank temperature.


all in all its great that you are asking so many questions! keep it up but i would make the suggestion that you steer more towards pc and leathers and maybe even a few species of lps hard corals and away from sps and clams.


hth, steve


not to discourage but mainly looking out for the wellbeing of your future animals until you get some experience under your belt :)

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Ya your right. I was jsut tihnknig aobut getting a lighting system that woudl be there in case some time down the road i want to do hard corals, I can. But i have a lot of rethinknig to do :)


Thank you for your time on answering my questions :)B)

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anytime my friend! its so refreshing to see someone wanting to get into the hobby and asking so many questions and actually LISTENING! lol. im sure whatever path you choose to take(and there are many to choose from) you will do fine as long as you keep asking questions and are receptive of the answers from this great community of reefers!


good luck!



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I'm not sure where you live but check out the used forums and the local reef clubs you could easily find equiptment that others are willing to sell for fractions of the cost. I just set up a 25 eclipse tank for under 400 and that included lights and 15lbs of LR and a bag of LS. I only paid $80 for tank and stand. I don't think my PC is strong enough for hards or clams its 2X65.

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the 20long is a nice tank, but not as easy to light as a 20regular. The general rule of thumb is 1 MH bulb for every 24" of tank, that 20long is 30" so you can see the problem. Raising the light up to 8 or 9" should cut down on the dark spots at the ends of the tank :-) Two lower wattage lights (ie 70w HQI) would give you a better light spread but you are replacing 2 $80 bulbs every year instead of 1 $60 bulb so it's not really worth it unless you're a hardcore SPS reefer.


I think nalbar is trying to confuse us all with his 175w HQI setup, I think he really means 150w HQI. Which will be enough light to keep just about anything you want :-)


One thing that I would consider a necessity is a float switch driven auto top-off. Don't leave home for a couple of days without one :-)



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I've yet to see anyone mention a refugium to you. This may be something you should look into. They have many benefits, and can help prevent some problems that many people have. ie algea

Also, I highly recommend using RO/DI water for your system. Tap water is nothing but problems.

Nalbar makes some good points with his MH option, but as you are first starting out, PCs would be good to keep soft corals, which I recommend you do until you get a year or more experience under your belt. There are some really cool softies that may catch your eye, and give you some experience without busting you budget from the start. Try to put at a bare minimum, 5 watts of light per gal, with more being better. I personnaly have almost 11 watts per gallon over my nano.

Another money saving sugestion that you may try is using "Tropical Play Sand" from Home Depot as your substrate. It's about $5 a bag, and 2 bags would give you a nice sand bed in both your tank and refugium. Live rock will help to turn it into live sand over time.

Mechanical filtration is OK, but not always nessisary provided you have sufficient live rock. Personally, I use 1.5 lbs of LR per gallon of water. This seems to work well without overcrowding things.

Good water flow is aslo key. Water turn-over of 10x per hour being the minimum, and IMO 30x per hour in a reef is optimum.

I'm sure you'll get a lot of differing opinions here as to what works. Most will work, some are just plain stupid.

Good luck sorting them out, and good luck with your new tank.

And welcome to Nano-Reef.com




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