Ultimate Newbie Guide

Discussion in 'New To The Hobby' started by anpgp, Apr 3, 2010.

to remove this notice and enjoy 3reef content with less ads. 3reef membership is free.

  1. anpgp

    anpgp Dragon Wrasse

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2009
    Messages:
    2,160
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    So bear with me here, I was bored today and as I was cruising the forums and answering various newbie questions, I came to the realization that I couldn't find a simple guide for people new to the hobby, so I created my own. I pulled from my own experience and from that of others on here. It's a fairly lengthy guide but I hope very useful. If someone sees something wrong or inaccurate in it, please by all means let me know and I'll fix it. I'll put it in the next post and i'll attach it as a word doc as well. I hope that this can help any newbies get their tank up and running. It doesn't go deeply in depth, I tried to keep it very basic. Please let me know what your thoughts are.
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2010
  2. Click Here!

  3. anpgp

    anpgp Dragon Wrasse

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2009
    Messages:
    2,160
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    Words of caution
    • This is not a “must follow” guide, every case is different
    • This is what I’ve learned from experience and fellow reefers, this is not to be taken as a source of absolute fact but merely as a guide.
    • Do your research
    • Even though a fish store owner knows what he/she is doing, they will often try to make a sale before giving you the best advice
    • Never be afraid to ask a question on this forum
    • Patience is most definitely a virtue in this hobby

    Setup
    For the sake of length, I’m going to assume that you already have the majority of your setup, so I’ll just cover a few basics. Lighting in your tank is crucial. Don’t skimp on getting an off brand or eBay brand fixture, you’ll regret it down the road. If possible, I recommend starting with T5 or metal halide, although LEDs are becoming a very good alternative. As far as filling your tank with rock, a good rule of thumb is to add 1-1.5 pounds of rock per gallon of water. This allows for ample space for beneficial bacteria to grow. Skimmers are always a good idea, but not necessary to start. RO/DI units may seem expensive, but if you start out with good water, your headaches later on will be greatly reduced.

    Salt Mixing
    While it may seem like a trivial task, a lot of people make mistakes mixing up their salt. When preparing my mix, I use a heater and pump to keep the water at tank temp and the pump keeps it constantly mixing. Any kind of submersible pump or powerhead will work. I use the stock return pump that came with my Biocube 29. After adding the required amount of salt, I go until the sg reads 1.025. Any level between 1.023 and 1.025 is good to shoot for, but remember consistency is what you're going for. It is best to measure your sg with a refractometer as the swing arm style hydrometers tend to be not as accurate. Once mixed, it is always wise to let it sit for 24 hours before doing your water change. This allows for any undissolved salt to dissolve and for the pH to balance out. When doing the actual water change in a tank with corals, after lights out is always a good idea. This way most corals are closed up. If the mixture is slightly off, this limits the coral's contact with the new water and will limit any adverse effects.

    Cycling
    An often overlooked part for newbies, the cycle is the most important part of starting your tank. I will not go into the chemistry and specifics here, just a way to get through it and general topics about the cycle. The cycle is the process through which your tank builds up a supply of beneficial bacteria needed to help keep levels in check. After you have your tank set up, water, sand, rock (doesn’t need to be all of your intended rock supply), etc. there are various ways to get the cycle going. Adding live rock will get a cycle going but in my experience can result in a longer cycle if used by itself. Adding a piece of raw table shrimp, peeing in the tank, or adding a very hardy fish such as a damsel are ways to get it going. The main purpose is to get the ammonia building up in the tank and yes, human urine is big supply of ammonia. Using a fish to cycle is viewed by some people as a cruel way to cycle as the spike in ammonia is harmful to the fish, it basically burns their gills. During the cycling process you need to have test kits available and test for nitrite, nitrate, and ammonia. You will see a spike in all three levels and an indication as to when the cycle is over is when the nitrate level spikes and then drops off. At this point, you can go ahead and add your first fish. It’s always good to start with something like a chromis, damsel, or clown as they are all very hardy and good beginner fish. As a forewarning, they are very fast and elusive fish so find one you like as they will be hard to catch later on if you decide to get rid of it. During this entire process, some people say to leave lights off, some leave them on; personally I left them on for about 3 hours each day. Also during the cycle, you do not want to do any water changes or run a protein skimmer if you have one, these will prolong the cycle.

    After the Cycle
    After your cycle is complete, a lot of new aquarists like to rush out and stock their tank with everything they want, very bad idea. Livestock needs to be added slowly and with caution. Every species of fish has size and food requirements which need to be considered before your purchase. Also, adding too many fish at once, overloads the bacteria’s capacity to break down their waste. With too many fish added at once, the ammonia and other levels can quickly rise resulting in the death of your new fish. You need to give your tank a chance to build up a supply of bacteria to deal with the waste of each fish before a new one is added. A good rule of thumb is to add one fish at a time and then wait about a week before adding the next and so on. If you would like to add corals, more than one can be added at a time but to start out, I would recommend no more than two beginner corals to start with, to be discussed later. After your cycle is complete, you can go ahead and increase your light cycle to the normal routine, I leave main lights on for 8 hours a day and actinics are on an hour before and after main lights. You can also fire up your skimmer once you start adding livestock. Dialing in your skimmer can be a tricky task and will more often than not result in micro bubbles in your display tank. There are many good threads about dialing in a skimmer as there are many different models and I only have experience with one so I’ll leave it up to you to explore and ask about your specific model.

    Oh NO, Algae!
    Each new tank will go through its phases of algae outbreaks but don’t get discouraged, each one can be dealt with and beat. A good start is to always use RO/DI water to keep phosphates down. As your tank matures, algae outbreaks will diminish with time but beware, if you neglect your maintenance duties, they will come back. There are many types of nuisance algae and to keep this guide short, I will just provide you with the following link: Nuisance Algae. It’s a thread created by one of the forum’s sponsors and gives great identification pictures and tips at fighting each type of algae.

    Diving into Corals
    In my opinion one of the most rewarding parts about this hobby is watching corals grow and propagate. Every coral is different and each one coral’s living requirements can be vastly different form another’s. So, I will just give a few good ones that have very basic requirements and are good for beginners. First up is the mushroom coral. These guys come in every color imaginable and spread relatively quickly. They need low to moderate flow and lights ranging from very high output fluorescent to metal halide to LED will suffice. Zooanthids are another very colorful and easy to care for coral. Requirements are the same as mushrooms and some say the spread even faster. Kenya trees and toadstool leather mushrooms are also very easy to care for. I wouldn’t place them under very high output fluorescent though, but some have done it. I would stick with power compact or better. Granted these aren’t the only beginner corals, this is just to give you an idea of what you can start with and keep in mind that you should do your own research on each one before you get one.

    Keeping things going
    Once you have everything up and running and are doing great, there are a few things you need to make sure and do to keep things going smoothly. You need to keep up with the testing of your water parameters; this will become increasingly important as you increase your livestock. Weekly to biweekly testing is often a good idea when starting out. As your tank matures and becomes more stable, you will be able to test less often. Regular water changes are a good idea as well. This helps to replace trace elements that get used up. The recommendation is a 10% change every week. You will hear from various people different recommended water change schedules, in the end it boils down to you. General cleaning is always a must as well. Salt creep is something that needs to be kept cleaned off. If a piece were to fall in the tank and land on a coral, the dramatic salinity change would kill it. Equipment should be kept in good clean working order to prevent pump burnout and poor performance. Light bulbs need to be changed even before they burn out. The time between bulbs depends on what type of lighting you have. Power compact is recommended to change every 8 months or so, T5 every 12-16 months, and metal halide approximately every 18 months. Again, this isn’t a definite schedule, as bulbs age, you can experience an algae bloom or decreased coral health; these are both signs that a change is in order. Another crucial item is evaporation top-off. Many reefers on here employ and automatic top-off unit, ATO. The purpose is to replace evaporated water with fresh water as the salt does not evaporate out. Keeping your tank topped off will help to keep the salt level in your tank stable. Fluctuating salt levels will result in poor health for both corals and fish. Remember, always top off with fresh water, not salt water.

    Closing
    As previously stated this info comes from my personal experience as well as the insight of fellow reefers and may not be the case for all tanks. You should always do your own research if you are unclear on a topic and feel free to post any questions.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Apr 4, 2010
    ripley23, DLaratro, reef713 and 7 others like this.
  4. anpgp

    anpgp Dragon Wrasse

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2009
    Messages:
    2,160
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    No comments anyone?
     
  5. Dingo

    Dingo Giant Squid

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2009
    Messages:
    4,767
    Location:
    New Freedom, PA
    This is amazing! Great jobbb!
     
  6. 4phish

    4phish Montipora Digitata

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2009
    Messages:
    1,055
    Location:
    Northern Ky
    Just read. Very well put together. I did not know you could pee in your tank to get the cycle going!
     
  7. UnderTheSea

    UnderTheSea Feather Duster

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2009
    Messages:
    211
    Location:
    Colorado
  8. Click Here!

  9. blackraven1425

    blackraven1425 Giant Squid

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2010
    Messages:
    4,780
    Yeah, technically it will cycle the tank, urea is just our bodies way of excreting nitrogen. You'll just get all sorts of other chemicals in there that you really don't want in the water. Nearly any chemical in your body will show up in urine in some amount, from hormones to preservatives from your food.
     
  10. anpgp

    anpgp Dragon Wrasse

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2009
    Messages:
    2,160
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    Thanks, glad people are finding it helpful. I was wondering if there is a way I could get a mod to make this a sticky.
     
  11. reefmonkey

    reefmonkey Giant Squid

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2010
    Messages:
    4,427
    Location:
    SE South Dakota
    Good job! Informative but not boring. I'm sure it will help any new comer that reads it;)
     
  12. FindingNemo

    FindingNemo Astrea Snail

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2010
    Messages:
    38
    Location:
    California
    salt mixing and salinity levels?

    and thanks for putting this together!