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Old 01-12-2008, 01:03 AM   #1
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Reef Tank with Live Plants?

I'm a newb to the site and to saltwater aquariums. I did have a freshwater 10gallon tank but it busted when I moved several years ago and I never really got back into it.

My guy at work just started a reef aquarium, so I decided to do some research. Turns out my boss had a 55g tank and stand, and just gave it to me, though it's missing the hood and didn't come with any of the other parts except what I think is an air pump. I'm fairly comfortable with DIY stuff, so I've been doing quite a bit of reading into what it would take to build a reef tank in a cost-consciencious and cost-efficient manner.

In the books and sites I've been looking at, it sounds like there are fish that eat "live food", to include stuff like seaweed and general plant-like stuff. What I can't seem to find the answer for, is if I put live rock on the left side of the aquarium, and live rock on the right side, will there be an unbalancing of the system as far as chemicals and other bacteria, if I were to plant some greenery somewhere in the middle? Will they die off? Will they grow? Will they live well with the reef system? Would I need additional filtration? Bad idea?

At the moment, the tank is sitting empty in my living room, waiting for me to build a simple sump that I can stick a pump, skimmer, and heaters into. And to selectively buy the rest of the parts needed. I'm in no rush, but would like to have something viable to support at least an anemone and a breeding pair of clownfish for my niece to look at when she visits in the spring.

Is there a way to determine if a tank is made of glass or acrylic?

I've got a bunch of questions, but these are probably best to start with.


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Old 01-12-2008, 01:17 AM   #2
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Welcome to TRT!

There are lots of good people here tons of good info.

Firstly, there is no such thing as a cost effective reef. JK! You can save some money here and there but doing it right will cost you a good chunk. In terms of skimping, 2 areas you don't want to: 1. Skimmer 2. Lighting. Just as well you didn't get a hood as if it was a FW setup the hood/lights would be useless for a reef.

As for "plants" you probably don't want any in your display. Most of us battle to keep things like hair algae and other "plant" life at bay (or at least a reasonable balance). Many people grow Macro algae in their sump with the most common being Cheato. This is done for nutrient export and can also help balance PH at night if a reverse lighting schedule is used.

Anemones are some of the hardest animal to keep and most require very high light, so figure that into your equation. I don't normally recommend an anemone for beginners and not until the tank has seasoned at least 6 months.

Lastly, a glass tank will be a bit more green if you look at the edge of the pane and will have visible silicone at the seams. Acrylic is more clear and the edges are normally either bent with no seams or solvent welded with no silicone. A standard 55 is likely tempered glass.

The most important thing when considering a reef tank is research. Read, read, and read some more. This is one hobby where patience is definitely a virtue.

Good luck, and ask all the questions you want. Like I said there are good folks here who are happy to lend a hand.
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Old 01-12-2008, 08:39 AM   #3
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Welcome to TRT!!

because of the amount of flow in a reef tank the entire water column is the same. even the biggest tanks in the world will have the same water chemistry though its entire volume.

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Old 01-12-2008, 04:14 PM   #4
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I had considered growing some macro algae in mine (haven't done it yet) I think it would look neat. Check out
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Old 01-12-2008, 04:49 PM   #5
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You can get it going a few pieces at a time, just dont buy cheap parts as you will end up re buying better ones as the cheap ones fail.

I kept macro in my display for a long time and it was a great filler and kept the tank Nitrate free. I banished it to the fuge in my sump as the corals needed more space.

Your idea for live rock placement is fine.

My advice is to get some salt water and live rock it and a power head and heater and let it cycle. (you may want to place a tank in the stand for a future sump before filling, and decide about drilling the tank)
In the mean time build a canopy to add a retrofit light of your choice and budget. I recommend 4 T5 HO 54 watts or better for anemones.
Then save up for a return and a good skimmer.
All the while researching captive care of Anemones and Clownfish.

Conserve. Respect.. Enjoy...
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Old 01-12-2008, 05:40 PM   #6
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Old 01-12-2008, 05:56 PM   #7
HOW MUCH!Ok I will take 2
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Old 01-12-2008, 07:53 PM   #8
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The good news is you don't need an anemone to keep clown fish. They do just fine without a host. In fact, if you buy a tank raised clown (which I definitely recommend) there's no telling what the little guys will host. When my nieces come they love to look at the clown fish, having no idea that in the wild they form a symbiotic relationship with anemones. They just look at nemo and smile happily.

Welcom to TRT
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Old 01-13-2008, 09:05 AM   #9
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i would not recommend using macro algae in any reef tank. they produce growth inhibitors that make growing corals very difficult. then there is the holocarpy problem with most Genus's of algae. they can wipe out an entire system when this occurs.

if the nutrient levels are high enough to grow algae, than they are prolly to high to grow corals.

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Old 01-13-2008, 11:44 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Geoff View Post
i would not recommend using macro algae in any reef tank. they produce growth inhibitors that make growing corals very difficult. then there is the holocarpy problem with most Genus's of algae. they can wipe out an entire system when this occurs.

if the nutrient levels are high enough to grow algae, than they are prolly to high to grow corals.

Why Geoff why ? You knew I would have to respond to this, right? I think you just like to rattle my cage from time to time. (Geoffme)

Most of the organisms we keep have some means of acquiring real estate. In other words, inhibiting the growth of the organisms around them. If we started eliminating organisms based on this fact we wouldn't have much left in our tanks. It is my belief that any ability caulerpa may have to limit the growth of coral would be far outweighed by its ability to remove phosphate alone. Which is most likely the number one growth inhibitor in any reef tank. Due to the fact that we have no reliable means to test for phosphate, the use of algaes like caulerpa can help to insure that phosphate levels remain low. Which would greatly increase the growth rate of corals.

Caulerpa can go holocarpy. Its tendency to do so can be greatly reduced by using a 24 hour photo period. The danger posed by caulerpa going sexual/holocarpy is grossly overstated. In all the years I have kept caulerpa and the countless times it has gone holocarpy in my systems, I have never lost an animal due to this. Not one. I have had some pretty massive events where you couldn't even see through the tank, and yet by the fallowing morning the water was clear and everyone was alive and well. In all the studying and researching I have done along with surfing this site and others like it, I have been unable to find one example of caulerpa crashing a tank. I simply don't believe it is possible. Tanks crash due to many causes. We call them tank crashes because all or most of the organisms in the system die. I believe that the rummer that caulerpa can crash a tank most likely got started due to a tank crashing when the cause was not known. When the caulerpa died along with everything else, it got the blame for the crash simply because of its obvious impact on water clarity when it dies.

Algae can survive on surprisingly little in the way of nutrients. This is why small patches of algae can show up in the healthiest, most meticulously kept reef aquariums we have. Just like it does on the reef itself. It is impossible to have a healthy reef aquarium where the nutrients are so low that algae can not grow. Have you ever seen a reef tank that can't support turbo snails because they starve to death, or a tank where you never need to clean the algae off the front glass? Even in my tank with the competition from the algae I have in the refuge, I still have to clean the front glass about once a month, and I maintain a small population of small turbo snails in the display. Coral grows fine when the nutrients are high enough to grow algae. They just don't grow well when these nutrients are abundant. Which is what can happen when there is not enough algae to remove these nutrients.
"Most of the failures with marine aquaria are due to lack of knowledge of the biological processes that occur in the aquarium." Martin A. Moe, Jr. 1982

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Old 01-13-2008, 11:54 AM   #11
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Hi Kernel, welcome to TRT My suggestion at this point is to mix up some salt water using RO/DI and find the Live rock you want, buy it and get it in the tank and let it cure and cook for 2-3 months. Meanwhile do a lot of research and figger out what kind of tank you want, that way you can plan for that biotope and aquire needed equipment accordingly
Again, Welcome to the board
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Old 01-13-2008, 12:55 PM   #12
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Given your recent introduction to the hobby and your interest in anemones and marine flora, I'd like to encourage you to consider trying something few "newbies" (or veterans, for that matter) have been doing-- running a temperate marine set-up. These were common in the earlier days of saltwater aquarium keeping, but became increasingly arcane (if not "specialty") as tropical critters began to flood the US market. The improved availability of tropical aquarium livestock has been a blessing. However, it's hard for some old-timers to understand how temperate aquaria have been pushed to the wayside altogether, as they have some unique and desirable characteristics of their own. For example (and this is for you), most temperate organisms, particularly the intertidal critters that you will find in the aquarium trade, are adapted to 1) widely fluctuating physio-chemical conditions (ie. temp, salinity, pH, etc.) and 2) waters that have high nutrient content, and are therefore "forgiving"-- that is, highly suited to shaky aquarium conditions. Additionally, they are usually must easier to propagate. In this way, they are especially decent "starter" critters. Of further interest to you, perhaps, is the fact that the temperate waters of the world harbor some of the most fascinating, colorful, and hardy anemones available to aquarists. If you do any further research of your own on this subject, you will notice a difference between these two distinct environments that is far most significant than the difference in temperature itself; tropical marine environments (at least the ones we tend to replicate in our displays) are dominated by corals, while temperate environments are usually dominated by kelps, seagrass and macroalgae (due not only to higher nutrient availability but to higher dissolved oxygen concentrations). Thus, if your primary interest lies in marine flora, you will be awestruck by the beauty and diversity you can showcase in a marine garden. You might find something that catches your eye in the way of coldwater plants or anemones at or Welcome to the forum, and best of luck...
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Old 01-13-2008, 01:02 PM   #13
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I agree with Doug1. A rubbbermad tub and live rock are a good start. Live rock is more expensive than you would think. But buying it 2-3 months before everything else will make the cost easier to swallow. After that I would say a nice skimmer, then lights. As far as plants go, I really cant think of much. But if you have ever seen a tank with nice live rock Ill bet you didnt miss the plants. Might think of so interesting corals that are bright frowspawn. Or a nice pulsing Xenia. They have a plant like look.
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Old 01-13-2008, 01:47 PM   #14
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you can see in the lower left hand corner all the plants i had ,i no
longer have any of this and wish i did but it was a nice snack for my tangs..
at one piont i had this growing all the way across my sand bottum looked
really cool but then i started parting some out to friends for there tanks and of course the tangs
all had really good treats and know i cant find anymore; (....not the best of picture....

"We never know the worth of water till the well is dry"
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Old 01-13-2008, 02:03 PM   #15
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OUCH, quit poking me.

the last time i scraped algae off of my front glass was 2 weeks before Christmas when we were going to have company (imagine that, forced maintenance). the only algae i scraped off was coralline. i do not have any algae growing in my system at all except a few Valonia spp. and they seem to defy the laws of biology. i go weeks/months without scraping algae off the tank glass. if i could only find a way to keep coralline algae from growing i would have it made.

i have lost corals from Caleurpa going holocarpy. granted this was before i understood what was going on, and the holocarpy was the straw that broke the tanks back and caused the tank to crash. have never had Caleurpa recently enough that i would let it grow enough to go holocarpy to see if coral loss would occur if the tank was not on the brink anyway.

as for the growth inhibitors, that is why carbon is used so much in mixed reefs. it removes most of these growth inhibitors from the water column. whether they are from softies or algae. if you plan on keeping a mixed reef than carbon will be in your future.

if you just get rid of the phosphates than you will not need the sand/algae. just break that downward phosphate spiral.

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clown fish , coralline algae , macro algae , power head , pulsing xenia , turbo snail

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