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Odds of success high or low?


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My kids have been asking to switch our 25g Eclipse freshwater tank over to a-- you guessed it-- Nemo tank. I too have been looking for an opportunity to ease into the reef world and have always had a soft spot for a pair of clowns.


Space and money prevent me from getting a 2nd aquarium. I had been told that a 25 would be too small for a FOLR set up, then I found the world of nano's where a 25g is not considered foolhardy.


My goals are:


1. Have two false clown fish, a clean-up crew, cleaner shrimp and possibly a small star down the road, but that’s it. This is a clown only tank. No coral. No anemonie.

2. Prove to the wife that a reef can be a beautiful thing and not an all consuming hobby favored by reef geek mad scientist types (ok, judging by this board I may have to fudge on that point a bit)

3. Set the stage for a future move up to a full reef set-up. This means avoiding any smelly, scary curing process, which I think would probably come with mail-order rock.


This is the set-up I’m thinking of:


- Use the existing 25 g tank with eclipse hood (wife likes clean simple lines).

- 25 lbs of Walt Smith fully cured rock from LFS (New World in NYC or Absolutely Fish in NJ)

- 20 lbs of live sand from Tampa bay saltwater or other source (recommendations?)

- Two power heads for water flow (Rio 200’s?)

- No skimmer, but continue with my weekly 2.5 gallon water changes

- Set up a saltwater mixing/aging station with powerhead.

- I would use store- bought RI water. Eventually buying a RI set-up once things are running smoothly—rather spends money on good rock & stock now.

- Pull the wet-dry out of the Eclipse but use the carbon filter pad changing every two weeks.

- I can’t find a retro kit for by Eclipse 2 hood so I would try to get by with two coralife 50/50 15-watt fluorescents. Possibly get a small LED moon (love that look and it would score points with the spouse)

- Use the existing 150 w ebohager heater


Again, the plan is to limit this to two clown fish not corals, anemone or light needing organisms


The plan:


1. Add life rock after a few days add the live sand or combo live sand and dry sand.

2. Wait for the full cycling. I think this would be short given I’m paying top dollar for cured rock—2 weeks or so?

3. When cycling in done add clean-up crew. Probably ordering a package on-line. I would start weekly water changes at this point.

4. After things are going well and water is perfect add to juvenile clowns

5. Wait for things to go smoothly for 6 months and dump the eclipse hood for better lighting and a skimmer. In a year transfer everything to a 100 g system.




1. Anything I can should do differently to ensure a healthy pair of clowns?

2. How much live sand and from where?

3. What about 10 lbs. of dead base rock from Hawaii and 15 lbs of outrageously expensive NYC area cured rock? Hate to pay so much, but I know a smelly curing process with mail order rock would end my start in the hobby before it began. Reading the boards it sound like even ordering from, Tampa Bay Saltwater, Gulfview or Dr. Mac some heavy die-off would occur. Or am I overacting?

4. Suggestion on a source for a clean-up crew? Captive bred clowns? I have two good local fish stores, NewWorld in NYC and Absolutely Fish in NJ, but they are not cheap.


Thanks for your valued opinions.

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I'm always leary about converting a FW tank because some FW treatments contain copper, but since you were the only owner I'm sure you know what you've put in it. Just double check the ingredients list and if anything that you've ever put in your tank contained copper do yourself a favor and buy a second tank rather than convert yours.

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Congratulations with the leap into the saltwater world, and many props for having done research about what it is you would like to accomplish.


That having been said, the following are simply my opinions (I am by no means a pro at this, I simply know what has worked for me) so please take them as such.


For a fish only tank, the lighting you suggested would be more than adequate. Also, one thing to consider is that if you have no plans to keep corals in this tank, you could run the tank without sand at all. Bare bottom tanks make cleaning up after fish and feeding much simpler. Not sure if you had already considered that option, but just a thought.


The 25lbs of rock for a fish only tank would suffice as well. Most people will suggest anything from 1.25-2lbs for a reef tank, but there is much less of an agreed upon amount for a fish only tank.


With the curing process you were worried about, the smell is not one that you would really notice. If when you received the live rock it reeked of ammonia, allowing it to cure for a few weeks inside your tank will simply get your tank cycle process started in the right direction. While the rock itself might smell quite a lot outside of the tank, once inside and underwater the smell would be considerably less. The basic idea with the cycle process is that you want something to die and create ammonia so you can get the bacteria growing on your rocks. Generally, when buying already cured live rock for a new system, what ends up dying to produce the ammonia you’re looking for are the very bacteria you were hoping to grow. Their death then produces some ammonia and new bacteria grow and feed on the ammonia from the now dead ones.


Base rock can be both a blessing and a curse. Yes, it is drastically cheaper than the live rock, but if it is not quality base rock it will ultimately end up causing you more trouble than it is worth. Often times “base rock” that is sold by local fish stores is not good quality and is loaded with metals that will leech into your system as time goes by. This is not always the case, but just something to be aware about.


The debate about how much sand (should you choose to use sand) is one that seems to be never ending. The upside to having sand is that it’s quite aesthetically pleasing and allows you to have creatures that burrow into it. Also, it is a ripe breeding ground for many beneficial bacteria, pods, and countless other things that you want your tank to acquire. The downside is that some people will argue that you can’t really get it clean. A good cleanup crew will definitely help your sand stay clean, but it is currently thought that perhaps there is a limit to the amount of waste your sand can remove from your system before spitting it back into your tank. If you want to research this further, there are many excellent articles of reefcentral as well as this site that will go into the specifics and present both sides in a much more complete view. Short answer, about an inch should work for what you want.


Lastly, the search for healthy fish is often a hard one. If you choose to purchase a fish from a local store, give it a good examination. Sit and watch its behavior for 30 min or so to get an idea of its health. It should be active, curious and moving around a fair amount. Floating on the top or the bottom with little movement is something you want to avoid quite drastically. Additionally, things like rotting fins, stringy waste that does not fall off when the fish is finished pooping and ICH (white dots on the body, generally around the gills) are almost sure signs that the fish will not make it in the long run. As you will not have any corals or invertebrates in your tank, you will be much more able to treat your fish should they eventually fall ill.



Sorry for the lengthy post and best of luck getting into the hobby.

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SoCal Reefer

You should have an anemonie for the symbiotic relationship between your clowns and the anemonie. Your kids will like it.

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You could put a 175W MH retro over the top of it (running it open top) and have the anemone easily, and it should only cost you...130ish before shipping. All you'd have to do is build a simple housing and you could do the anemone (once the tank is established) Just an idea for something really neat. That's for a probe start its ~20 more for a pulse start...and don't ask me what the difference is I have no idea.

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I am freaking out over Metal Halides, because I'm about to get one, so my advice is rip the top off that sucker and put some MH's on that!!! :P, i like yourgood plan, on a side note. -Matt

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