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Author Topic: RE:Marine Reef Tank Basics  (Read 7543 times)

Offline geno555

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RE:Marine Reef Tank Basics
« on: May 02, 2009, 11:15:28 AM »
This will be a series of articles written over a space of months to try and offer what advice and knowledge I have for anyone wishing to get into the hobby of Marine Reef Keeping Techniques.

I will do my best to keep them short, well as short as I can, for this is a subject that is very detailed and requires and lot of time and studying to ever hope to become successful.

You are blessed if you live here in the RP for you are close no matter where you live to a coral reef or barrier of some size.Please remember some areas are considered protected under the laws of the RP and some are not, but if you have any questions just ask with a smile and you will uusally have permission to take  a few samples home, just know the proper techniques for keeping them alive until you get them in your tank.
Lesson one to follow:

So you want to start in the Marine Reef Saltwater Tanks?

I have wrote some articles before about this wonderful and exciting hobby and will do my best to give you some guidelines as to what you need to know, where should you start, what basic are involved.

First you need to know right up front this is a very time consuming and can be initially expensive  for I am going to guide you in setting up a Marine Reef Tank with Live Rocks and a live deep sand bed.

I have been involved with this hobby for over 15 years and even with all the work and expense the end results way out weight the work. For there is nothing more tranquil or peaceful than having a blue moonlight light on at night and watch your many health species of marine fish of all colors, blue, green mushroom, florescent blue and red electric clams, Fish lined up at a cleaning station maintained by small cleaner shrimp that eat the small pieces of dead skin that sometimes forms on the fishes gills.

It is a thrill like none I have ever experienced and once you are hooked that monster of a 180 gallon tank you have now, will soon  have you planning like me for my next tank to top out at 750 gallons.

But back to Basics.

What size tank should I start with? Well for me I say the smallest you could go would be 30 gallon  and even then you would only be able to have a couple of yellow tailed blue damsels as fish and maybe a mushroom or polyp or two.
Remember the more water you have the less change you will have for a disaster to cause you to lose live stock. And the one cardinal rule of the Marine Industry just like the Hippocratic Oath is to “do no harm”

For example you have a 30 gallon tank, you live in the RP where you do not either have central air or window AC’s. The inside ambient temperature reaches 98 degrees which it can do, I have experienced it.Now  your live stock is pretty much use to a temperature of no higher than 79-84 at the highest, even over a shallow reef on a cloudless day with the sun at high noon the first inch or so of the water might rise some, but if so the fish just go lower into a cooler environment.

The higher the temperature of the water the less dissolved OX2 it can hold. If your OX2 drops below a certain level you will start seeing disaster.

Now where do you suppose that happens the quickest in a 30 gallon environment or one more than 3 times that size , your right, a 30 gallon if not cooled off, can lead to disaster within a couple of hours, if not outright killing your stock putting so much stresses on them they will become open to other illnesses .

The hundred gallon of course takes over 3 times as much time to cause a drop in the OX2 level thus allowing you at least time to correct the situation.

The solution equals the more water you have the less change you have for a Marine accident.

The other solution plan to have your tank in a room that is temperature controlled. You mean I have to buy an Air Conditioner to have a Marine Reef Tank, simple answer if you leave in the RP especially the Southern Islands the answer is before you even think about this hobby realize it is not cheap, this is not a 49cent goldfish bowl with a 49Cent goldfish bought from your local pet store, no this is a huge investment in a very hard working and serious hobby that takes lots of reading, studying, maintain and observing your tank

But you can do this, I am as dumb as a pounded nail, and if I can do it so can you. I promise you. ??? :o ;D

After awhile like in 3-4 years you will be so adapt at your hobby the first thing I used to do In the morning was to take a brief look at the tank, I could notice any subtle change in fish behavior, nervousness, change in water color or smell, in fact I got into this terrible habit of  sticking my finger in my tank every morning and I could tell without using the hydrometer( all terms will be explained later) what my specific gravity was and be within a tenth of a point correct every time.

Ok , ok enough with the speeches when do we get to the good stuff.

To build or buy, what type of material to use in either case?
If you are one of those DIY sorts of guys can cut and work with Plexiglass, I say either way is fine. But to think you’re going to save very much money building a glass 100 gallon tank, especially if you count your labor you are sadly mistaken. 100 gallon tanks are made by the Millions in China imported to wall mart where you can buy one for 89,99.

My chose between glass and Plexiglass,

Glass vs Plexiglass aquarium: Which is better?

Neither one, really.

Each has their own strengths and weaknesses. Plexiglass scratches much more easily. It is weaker, but less brittle than glass. Glass is cheaper. Plexi is easier to drill if you want to do a reef tank.
Plexiglass is much lighter and easier to drill for a reef tank, but scratches so easy and the starches are almost impossible to get out and you end up with little tiny green line of algae growing in there which you cannot get to.
Plexiglass can be molded into a lot of unique shapes that glass cannot, but glass is cheaper.
For extra large tanks, most prefer the strength of Plexiglass but for me I go with thicker glass, use more braces and turn out just fine

Personally, I like glass.

Ok you’ve decided, now want to jump right in, but I am going to try to make this not in one post but over the next several months so as not to bore my best buddy Wayne from these damn great American ‘Epics” that he loves to read  ?
Simple volume of water calculators for aquariums.

•   Measure your aquarium from the left edge to the right edge. For example, my aquarium measures 18 inches.
•   Measure your aquarium from the bottom edge to the top edge. My aquarium is 12 inches.
•   Measure the aquarium along the side from the front edge to the back edge. Mine is 12 inches.
•   Multiply the three measurements. I got my small calculator and carefully entered 18 x 12 x 12 = 2592 cubic inches. Then multiply that number by 0.00433 to convert from cubic inches to gallons. I got 11.2 gallons of water in my aquarium.
To get a more accurate answer I realized I should have measured inside the aquarium. Measuring inside I get 17.75 x 11.75 x 11.75 = 2450.6, multiplied by 0.00433 is 10.6 gallons. So measuring inside the aquarium instead of outside reduces the volume from 11.2 to 10.6 gallons of water inside my aquarium.

 Or simply go here (jack, billy, greg) if this link is considered inappropriate please remove it. Thanks Murf

If the link if found to be not following policy then all you have to do is type   in Google  “Aquarium Volume Calculator”
Happy Reefing.

Ps, and please just wear a tee shirt the next time you swim around a coral reef  and leave off the sun block, it is toxic to most of our marine sea  buddies.


The “Murf”


Offline RUFUS

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Re: RE:Marine Reef Tank Basics
« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2009, 01:05:02 PM »
Too much info for my brain... ;D


Offline geno555

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Re: RE:Marine Reef Tank Basics
« Reply #2 on: May 02, 2009, 04:36:56 PM »
Too much info for my brain... ;D

no way brother , just take one of them labels off a of course used bottle of redhorse, go to wall mart by a male Siamese fighting fish (beta) for 1.49cents put him in the bottle fill it half full with water, feed him once  week, don\'t worry over the water changes or cleaning this suckers breath air just like us...or better yet just forget everything i just said, leave the label on and just drink the red horse, so sayeth the Murf :)

Offline RUFUS

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Re: RE:Marine Reef Tank Basics
« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2009, 12:04:10 AM »
I haven\'t had a RedHorse in over 2 years...
I do have a friend that is pickin me up some San Mig...
At this point, close enough   ;D

Offline geno555

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Re: RE:Marine Reef Tank Basics..Lesson 2
« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2009, 12:35:05 PM »
Water Parameters

Before going any further I will try to explain what you need to do to maintain the water, in a closed system Marine Reef, live sand bed aquarium.
This is hard stuff but your success or failure and possible loss of thousands of dollars in livestock make it essential that you understand the below.
I am not trying to dissuade anyone from setting up a marine reef tank; I am only trying to teach you step by step so your hobby will bring you much pleasure and a new earned sense of Marine Biology. I am neither a chemist, nor have my degree in Marine Biology but still had to learn all these things, and because at first I was very hardheaded? Hmm what’s new about that…I failed many times until someone an older marine reef keeper from Florida took me under his wing and ask me if I wanted to succeed in this hobby  I would need to follow his instructions and studies to the last letter.

Lesson Two follows:
Water Parameters
What they are and how to achieve and understand them.
•   Take the time to learn and understand the saltwater aquarium water parameters that are most often tested for your saltwater fish to thrive and survive!
Beneficial bacteria in the biological filter convert toxic ammonia into nitrite (also toxic).
Testing is essential and once you have detected its presence, you should take all the necessary steps to remove it.
High levels of nitrite in your saltwater aquarium can quickly lead to fish loss. Even small amount of nitrite traced in your saltwater causes stress to your fish.
See the suggested level of this parameter for your saltwater aquarium on the chart below.
o   Nitrate

Nitrate is what makes an aquarium\'s biological filtration system function and stay in balance. Nitrite is converted into nitrate during the cycling process.
Nitrates are not as toxic as ammonia or nitrites but they are harmful and will stress your fish at high enough levels.
Constant water changes are ideal to remove nitrates in your water. See the suggested level of this parameter for your saltwater aquarium on the chart below.
Parameters    Suggested Level:
Reef Aquarium    Suggested Level:
FOWLR Aquarium    Average Level:
Coral Reefs
Specific Gravity    1.023 - 1.025    1.020 - 1.025    1.025
Temperature    72 - 78°F    72 - 78°F    82°F
pH    8.1 - 8.4    8.1 - 8.4    8.0 - 8.5
Alkalinity    8 - 12 dKH    8 - 12 dKH    6 - 8 dKH
Ammonia (NH3)    Undetectable    Undetectable    Near Zero
Nitrite (NO2)    Undetectable    Undetectable    Near Zero
Nitrate -
Nitrogen (NO3)    < 1.0 ppm    < 30 ppm    < 0.25 ppm
Phosphate (PO4)    < 0.2 ppm    < 1.0 ppm    < 0.13 ppm
Calcium    350 - 450 ppm    350 - 450 ppm    380 - 420 ppm
Magnesium    1250 - 1350 ppm    1150 - 1350 ppm    1300 ppm
Iodine    0.06 - 0.10 ppm    0.04 - 0.10 ppm    0.06 ppm
Strontium    8 - 14 ppm    4 - 10 ppm    8 - 10 ppm

Understanding pH and Acid

What is pH and Acid and how are they related?
The pH (Power of Hydrogen) is the measuring unit of acidity or alkalinity on the water.
The degree of acidity or alkalinity is determined by the amounts of acids and bases in the water. It ranges from 0 to 14.
If both are present in equal proportion (as in pure water), then it is neutral or 7. A reading of 1 is very acidic and a reading of 14 is very alkaline.
pH is measure on a logarithmic scale, meaning that each point is ten times greater or lower than the one before. Let’s say an increase from 8.1 to 8.2 means the level has raised ten times.
So this means that when it rise, a huge change in the water chemistry happened.
Saltwater is alkaline, one characteristic of saltwater is having a high pH level. It should be about 8.2 for saltwater. You must maintain this level or a range within 8.1 to 8.3.
Low pH in saltwater aquarium is hazardous and will result in excess toxic ammonia.
It is very important to maintain the correct pH and to avoid changes in pH.
When pH fluctuates…
The amount of carbon dioxide and fish wastes in the water influence the pH in your aquarium. Too much will cause the water’s pH to drop.
A quick fact is that during nitrogen cycle, acid is produced and alters the pH in your saltwater aquarium.
It is always good to have a pH test kit in handy. This is important when monitoring the quality of your aquarium water. It is also pretty simple and easy to use.
Try monitoring the pH and acid level every week to detect any changes. When you experience a large drop, this means that there is an increase in carbon dioxide or the nitrogenous fish wastes.
Another solution is to aerate the water and a partial water change. This will help in keeping the normal pH level.
There are two ways on maintaining pH level in its normal saltwater range.

First the saltwater itself has buffering capacity. It is the ability of a solution to resist changes in pH.
It is capable of maintaining the correct pH in spite of all the activities going on in your saltwater aquarium.
Second is it will take care of itself as long as the rules on feeding, stocking saltwater fish and other invertebrates and water changes are followed.
There are a lot of commercial salt mixes that contains buffers. It keeps the pH from falling. But overtime, the buffering capacity of your water will decrease and carbon dioxide or waste build-up will cause the pH to drop.
What are the solutions?
Routine water changes will maintain your pH and acid at desirable levels. But if it falls out of the acceptable range, try restoring it by following this simple guideline.
?   Use a commercially manufacture aquarium buffer. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
?   Add a solution of calcium hydroxide. It is commonly called kalkwasser or limewater. It helps boost calcium level so ph also increases.

Salinity and Specific Gravity

Science developed ways on how to measure dissolved salts in saltwater - salinity and specific gravity.
Remember that you need to copy the natural seawater as close as possible in your home aquarium.
This means that you need to make sure that the amount of salt in your water is correct.
Salinity is the actual concentration of dissolved ion in the water and is not affected by temperature. It is measured in parts per thousand (ppt).
But to directly measure it, you need an equipment which is pretty expensive for an average aquarist.
There is an easier and more practical way to measure the salt level in your aquarium however. It is by measuring or estimating specific gravity with a hydrometer.
Specific gravity is the ratio of densities of saltwater to pure water at various temperatures. Since it is directly related to water temperature, the hydrometer my not be calibrated to the temperature in your aquarium.
Most hydrometers are calibrated at 60°F. So the reading result still needs to be converted to get the actual or true specific gravity of the water. There should be a conversion table included with the instructions that come with the hydrometers.
At temperatures 75°F - 79°F (standard aquarium temperature), the conversion results in the addition of 0.002 to the reading.
For example, if the reading is at 1.023 and the aquarium temperature is at 77°F, the actual specific gravity of the aquarium water is 1.025.
The normal range should be at 1.012 to 1.024. It should also be maintained at a specific level within this range.
Remember that even a minor fluctuation can cause problems for your aquarium inhabitants.
Here are kinds of hydrometers and more information about each of them.
When salt level fluctuates....
EVAPORATION is the main cause of salt level change. When the water evaporates in a saltwater aquarium, the salts don\'t. When this happens, salinity and specific gravity increases.
Monitoring the water in your aquarium is a must. By doing this you can avoid major fluctuation and resolve the problem right away.

•   Aquarium Basic
•   Aquarium Set Up
•   Nitrogen Cycle
•   Maintenance
•   Beginner\'s Mistakes
•   Filter Media
•   All About Algae
•   Live Rock
•   Buying Fish Guide
•   Acclimation Guide
•   Nutrition Info
•   Fish Diseases
•   Treatment Methods
•   Preventing Stress
•   Aquarium Emergencies
•   Public Aquariums
•   Corals
•   Aquarium NEWS!!
•   Best Aquarium Books
•   Aquarium Articles
•   Coupons **NEW**
Carbonate Hardness

Hardness is the amount of dissolved minerals such such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc.
In most water it consist mainly of calcium and magnesium salts, with trace amounts of other metals.
If you water has a high concentration of minerals, it is said to be hard. If it has low levels, it is soft water.
Negative molecules that are typically found in saltwater that act as buffers are called carbonates and bicarbonates.
There is a specific kind we call carbonate hardness that you need to measure in your saltwater.
Checking carbonate harndess (alkalinity)
Measuring carbonate hardness is referred to as measuring the alkalinity. Don’t get this confused though with a pH measurement that is alkaline.
Yes, carbonate hardness affect pH, but you’re not measuring pH.
Carbonate hardness can be measured with a standard test kit. It may be called as alkalinity test kit.
It is usually reported in milli-equivalents per liter (meq/L). The level in your aquarium should be greater than 3.0 meq/L.
How to adjust carbonate harness (alkalinity)

If the buffering capacity is below the recommended level, adjustments should be made. Your pH will be decreasing as well if alkalinity is not in the normal range.
The solutions for adjusting your pH are also used to increase the carbonate hardness (alkalinity).
?   Water change
When you remove the old water with fresh buffered saltwater (not fresh water!), the buffering capacity will increase. This is the first step.
See this page for more information on water changes.
Test the water again after about a day. If the carbonate hardness is still low, follow the next two steps.
?   Use a commercially manufactured aquarium buffer.
It’s available at most aquarium dealers. It buffers the aquarium water if you use it properly. Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
?   Kalkwasser
Add a solution of calcium hydroxide – kalkwasser. This will increase the buffering apacity (alkalinity) of your water.
Nitrogen Cycle

Nitrogen cycle, cycling, nitrification, biological cycle, startup cycle, break-in cycle – whatever you want to call it, ALL new aquarium has to undergo this process.
It is when beneficial bacteria colonies are established in your saltwater aquarium.
You will learn how it works, how long it takes to get it completed, ways you can do to cycle the saltwater aquarium and the important function the nitrogen process plays to keep a saltwater aquarium working properly.
This process can take from 2 weeks or longer, but there is no exact time frame for it to be completed as each aquarium is different.
Factors in determining where you are in the process are how many fish or other livestock, and organic matter you have in your aquarium.
The three components that are involved are ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. Test your water often during the process and log your readings. This will tell you what phase the aquarium is in.
The best way to monitor the nitrogen cycle is by getting a saltwater test kit that will test the three components involve in the process.
Here is an explanation on how the process works:
When you have finished setting up your saltwater aquarium, you can add some hardy saltwater fish such as damsels – popular fish if you are cycling your aquarium.
Feed them regularly.
You can also use live rock if you want. Dying matter in the live rock produces the ammonia source that you need.
Ammonia level will rise rapidly because you do not have the adequate concentration of the right types of bacteria. The fish will be stressed at this point and will show other signs of discomfort such as rapid breathing. The first stage of bacteria are beginning to be established.
After a couple more days, ammonia level will reach its peak and begins to decline. Ammonia level should read zero as the first stage bacteria will then begin to convert it into the equally toxic nitrite. Nitrite levels will begin to rise. If you have a weak fish, they may not survive this stage. Others will become show more signs of stress.

A few more weeks or so later, nitrite level will reach its peak. Your saltwater fish again will show signs of stress.
Small water changes, up to 20% can help protect the saltwater fish against toxic chemicals in the water during nitrogen cycle.
Second stage bacteria will be present and will multiply. Nitrite level will then drop and nitrate becomes detectable.
First and second stage bacteria are now established at this point of the cycle. It can keep up with the ammonia from the fish, turning it into nitrate and then quickly converting it into nitrate.
The saltwater aquarium tank should now be fully cycled. You can now slowly start adding more livestock in your aquarium.

The Murf


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Re: RE:Marine Reef Tank Basics
« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2009, 09:10:31 AM »

Do you know of any good Marine Aquarium / Equipment suppliers in Manila ?

I have previously kept marine fish back in the UK, and I am maybe looking to get back into it.

Offline Manila Cockney

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Re: RE:Marine Reef Tank Basics
« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2009, 11:31:12 AM »

Do you know of any good Marine Aquarium / Equipment suppliers in Manila ?

I have previously kept marine fish back in the UK, and I am maybe looking to get back into it.

Bio Research, they have small shops in many malls but its best to go to their main outlet in Sucat, Paranaque near Manila Memorial Park. Its a very large outlet and worth going even if you are not interested in buying. You can spend an afternoon there.

Offline geno555

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Re: RE:Marine Reef Tank Basics
« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2009, 12:44:50 PM »

Manila Cockney

sorry about this email , i have written it 4 times but keep loosing it somehow...hey whats new  ;D

The place above is their web site where at the bottom you will find all their contact information.

I know of a couple, but am having a hard time myself changes over to everything 240 for with the amount of equipment I run just needs more transformer space.The cost of buying from the USA where there is a much larger selection also is not to feasible for you at times run into custom issues, somethings that let through other things they hit you with another tax.

I have found so far the most reliable person seems to be  at

You have to write several times to get the knack of actually registering just so you can shop, but I have had several good talks with one of the store managers there. they have some beautiful round glass low profile tanks that I am really interested in but am having trouble getting a quote on the shipping from there to Agusan del Sur for it has to be crated heavily.

They have some really interesting products but you have to do research on each one for most are made in China very cheaply but the one made in Germany and Australia are of a much better craftsmanship and well made.

Round glass tanks seem to be the new wave in design for you get a full circle view from every seat in the room, of course they do take up a little more space than a rectangular tank that can go against the wall  and you would have to get your electrical to ensure that all the connections were well hidden under your table so you wouldn\'t have unsightly wires running every where.

If you get a chance to know and please pass me on what you think of the actual physical presence and the attitude of the people for anyone can have a nice web site, but until you personally go to the shop talk to the owners you in my opinion make a mistake.

I am a creature of habit and usually do things that work for me, so I might just wait till Xmas when BB boxes go on sale in the States ship my equipment through forex, I had 27 boxes sent here before i retired and not one broken or missing item and customs never became involved.

It sure would be nice to have you and others in the hobby for we could trade coral fragments, some softies and mushrooms.Of course with these new round tanks with their low profile the lighting situation will be a lot cheaper, for going through 24 inches of water if even with a metal halide, is a lot harder than 12 inches.

If i can ever be of any help or assistance just let me know, I really can\'t make a move to start until i get this house built for i don\'t want the expense of having to run a \"chiller\" in the aquarium and with CAC that won\'t be an issue.

Please tell the other gentlemen if you get this, for he ask me the same question, for I am going to send this before my server goes down again.


The \"Murf\"

Google \"reef Philippines\" you will also find a wealth of information on there, tanks actually here in the RP so you know they are successful.

Offline fred

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Re: RE:Marine Reef Tank Basics
« Reply #8 on: May 19, 2009, 04:31:30 PM »
I say either way is fine. But to think you’re going to save very much money building a glass 100 gallon tank, especially if you count your labor you are sadly mistaken. 100 gallon tanks are made by the Millions in China imported to wall mart where you can buy one for 89,99.

Tanks that size in Bohol cost 70,000PHP and up..
I can get all the glass 1/4 inch thick(cut and hole drilled) for 10K so decided to do it myself..
My sump will be larger than the tank itself with a section for a large home made skimmer and machanical filter and another for a refugium.. We live 5 mins from the sea so water changes and live stock present no problems..
Looks like I might have to go to cebu for lighting but I should be able to set up the whole shebang for no more than 20K..
I gave up after 6 years before in the UK because the cost of fish.liverock etc was simply too much but here it should be a delight as I drink with the local fishermen!!

Offline Knowdafish

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Re: RE:Marine Reef Tank Basics
« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2010, 04:05:30 PM »
Wow! Alot of good s.w. aquarium info here! Looks like either someone loves to type or is good at cut and paste!  ;D

Offline graham

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Re: RE:Marine Reef Tank Basics
« Reply #10 on: May 01, 2010, 10:47:38 AM »
Wow! Alot of good s.w. aquarium info here! Looks like either someone loves to type or is good at cut and paste!  ;D

Yep, Murf had a lot to say. He was very articulate, sometimes rambling. But his posts were always worth reading. Unfortunately Murf passed away last year. A big loss to the Forum