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Old 09-07-2011, 05:50 PM   #1
Little Fishy
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saltwater on a budget Questions

I am new to saltwater. I purchased all of my equipment from the local newspaper adds. Here is a list of what I currently have.

200 Gallon reef tank 7 foot by 2 foot by 2 foot
Tons of sand and crushed coral. About 3 inches in the bottom and only used ½ of it.
Under gravel filter
Magnum 350 canister filter – hoses were not long enough so I got a water hose from walmart and used it to extend the lines to fit under the tank. This is not a regular hose but a water hose from the RV section.
4 power heads
Enough salt to mix 500 gallons of water

Still need to purchase
Live Rock

I have a TON of questions. There are so many things I have read on saltwater that I would like one place to ask questions and get advice. (I chose you guys so be nice!)

1. Can I use sandstone and lava rock for the base for now? As I get money I will be adding live rock one piece at a time. I live in AZ and got of it from the desert at 130 degrees. I had to use gloves to move the rocks into the car. Will they grow algae after a few months?
2. Can I use the underground filter? Some say yes and some say no. I figured it could not hurt as long as I used one power head to blow water down into the base and one to suck it out and into the sink when I do water changes. This should keep the gunk from building up in the filter. The filter only covers about ¼ of the tank. The others were placed in there but capped off.
3. I can build my own hood but should I use plexe glass to cover the top of the tank. Some say yes because it will stop the evaporation of the tank. Some say no because of the OXY and GAS exchange that happens on the surface of the water caused by the power heads.
4. I found some lights at wal-mart that should work. They are regular shop lights and they have 6,500k bulbs for them. Will this work?

The wife put me on a STRICT budget ($250 so far). I don’t mind how long it takes to setup as long as I can do it for cheep and add as I go just to get some life started in the tank.
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Old 09-07-2011, 05:53 PM   #2
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what type of tank will this be? fish only or reef?

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Old 09-07-2011, 06:10 PM   #3
Little Fishy
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wow...interesting project. people will cry foul at 6500K, but I have one of those and one actinic and it's fine...I'm assuming the fixture is a T8 or T5 or something, so I'd go to the local fish store (LFS) and get an actinic for 50% of it...and if it's for corals, you'll need more than two bulbs...morel like 6 or 8 probably.

I wouldn't mess with the under gravel filter...I'd actually take it out--too afraid it would cause problems...in general, I'd say that anywhere you can keep something simpler and effective: do it.

As for the rock, I have always wondered about lava rock...tons of it in central oregon. obviously you'd need to give it a little bit of live rock to get it kick started, but it'd give a cool look. I'd look for someone near you willing to give/cheap sell a tiny piece of live rock to kick things off. I would definitely NOT use sandstone, the key for rock is being super porous...if your sandstone is anything like ours it's a far cry from porous. You want lots of surface area for bacteria/other bugs to call home.

For the plexi: I'd do it. I wouldn't try too hard for a perfect seal, but I'd do it. mostly, your gas exchange will be covered by a protein skimmer...which is a very important thing to add to your list...especially if you put a top on the tank.

another thing you'll probably want (a must-have if your on a well) is an RO/DI unit.

Don't take me as the sole advice though...I've been studying this stuff pretty hard for about a year, but I'm not an expert.
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Old 09-07-2011, 06:10 PM   #4
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Welcome to TRT

Honestly, a 200g tank is going to have expenses comnensorate to its large size, like keeping a 20g vs a 200g.

Power consumtion, stocking a 200 so it looks good, heating/cooling, etc.

If you go FOWLR, you might get by with a canister, but I doubt it. A decent skimmer will gobble up your allowance.

Maybe FW would work?

Good luck to you as you proceed.
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Old 09-07-2011, 06:55 PM   #5
Little Fishy
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My idea is to start small and expand as I go. When I am done in 1 year (my goal) I would like a reef tank with a few animals and some coral and stuff. Not a lot of stuff at first. Just one or two. I was told that a good fruval will take place of a protene skimmer if there was not a huge bio load on the tank. Right now it looks like 2 damsels 2 yellow tang 5 turbo snails and 20 hermit crabs. Maybe a few more but not a lot - again my budget. With the rocks I thought maybe I could make some. I have read of type II Portland cement and some of my left over sand and crushed coral would work if I cured it and soaked it for 35 days before adding it to the tank. Can i just remove and cap the underground or do I need to totally remove them?

I thought that the sandstone was more porous than the lava-rock... that's why I chose it. Wonder if allot of small lava-rocks piled up would work?
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Old 09-07-2011, 07:05 PM   #6
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Welcome to TRT!!!!

here is my $20 setup, right there in the center of some pictures at the end you can see my Portland creation...

IME there is no set days to curing the cement, it all depends on what you start with (I just happen to have a low pH Portland available here) also it depends on how often you change the water, and how much cement to water ratio you have

also if you want to run an UGF (under gravel filter) talk to PaulB, he will be happy to not be the only one now! he also recommends running it with all power heads going into it, so its a reverse style (RUGF).

another thing, shop light from Lowes, with regular GE 6500k bulbs WILL grow corals, but in a tank that deep, the corals will have to be at the top range, and nothing too light hungry, like some softies.

Last edited by Nate_Bro; 09-07-2011 at 07:11 PM..
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Old 09-07-2011, 07:41 PM   #7
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Just remember to shut off the undergravel filter when vaccuming the gravel. Also if you plan on getting a goby make shure you dont have large grained sand like crushed coral layering the bottom....instead use a powder-like sand.
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Old 09-07-2011, 07:42 PM   #8
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Welcome to TRT Cerasa003!

IME its hard to run an UGF with fine sand....
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Old 09-07-2011, 08:29 PM   #9
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Whew, that's a tough one. Tight budget.
If I were in your shoes and dead set on salt water, here's how I would go about it.

I would set it up first for Fish Only. You can at least have a couple of fish in the tank with nothing else and then you won't be looking at an empty tank.

Then I would start watching craigslist for live rock. If you are patient enough you will end up finding someone who is needing money and willing to sell cheap. You can pick up a few pcs of live rock that way along with possibly a light fixture.

The cool thing about starting with Fish Only is that you don't have to have a powerful light to do this. You will be able to run the 6500k for short periods while you are wanting to view the tank. (like in the evenings after work)

You can use the canister filter if you want but I would probably sell it on craigslist for some cash to put into the tank.

You also don't have an RO/DI filter so you'll have to transport 200+ gallons of water to your tank somehow. You can use tap water but I wouldn't recomend it.

in the meantime, look at building your own DIY light fixture. a T5HO fixture is an inexpensive choice for DIY as you can pick up the ballasts and hardware pretty cheap. T5 bulbs have come WAY down with the introduction of LED. You can get real good T5 bulbs for about $20 now.

Good luck and keep asking questions, Think before you buy and buy smart. This can be an expensive hobby but there are ways to save some major bucks too!
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Old 09-07-2011, 08:45 PM   #10
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I'm just curious is the tank Acrylic or Glass? And how think is it?
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Old 09-07-2011, 09:15 PM   #11
Little Fishy
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Thanks for all the great advice. It is Glass and 1/2" thick. It took 2 of us big guys to move it over 350lbs i think.

This will be a VERY long process because of budget constraints so I am just looking for a starting point. Here is what I think (from advice here) is the best.

Remove the sand stone. I have been using the petco jump start stuff, sentry AQ mardel water conditioner for saltwater tanks 'biozyme'. Use only the lava-rock about 1/2 up the tank. Remove the under gravel filter as it is only in 1/4 of the tank anyway. I will try to find some glass for the top of the tank to cover as much as I can (I think I will add an air stone on one side just in case). Next month I will get the Hood built and start with the walmart 6,500k lights. Two bars or 4 bulbs should be enough to cover the 7' tank end to end. Timer them for 13 hours. They will be hung about 10" above the top glass of the tank under the hood. This will be my setup for about 2 or 3 months. During that time I will try my hand at making the rock one piece at a time. Sat I will be going to home depot to find the cement. I will remove the fake stuff when I have the funds to start buying real plans.

I am trying to upload a few files of how the tanks sits now.
7 foot long 2 foot deep and 1.5 feet wide.

Looks like I need to change the date on my camera...
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Old 09-08-2011, 12:43 PM   #12
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Welcome to TRT!!

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Old 09-14-2011, 05:51 AM   #13
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I figured it could not hurt as long as I used one power head to blow water down into the base and one to suck it out and into the sink when I do water changes.
Don't use the UG filter like that. Pump water into it down the tubes and do it very slow like 150 GPH down each tube. Also put a sponge on the intake so no detritus goes under the fgravel.
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Old 09-14-2011, 09:40 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Paul b View Post
Don't use the UG filter like that. Pump water into it down the tubes and do it very slow like 150 GPH down each tube. Also put a sponge on the intake so no detritus goes under the fgravel.
Paul, are you running crushed coral or what substrate for your RUGF?
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Old 09-14-2011, 10:37 AM   #15
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Welcome to TRT!

As far as the rock goes, check out my build thread in my sig line. I made my own rock for my tank and I am unbelievably happy with it. It cost me about $20, took about a week to get it perfect and a few weeks for it to cure. I highly recommend this method especially if you are on a budget.

Also, aquatraders.com has lights for pretty cheap. For a tank that deep I would go for halides, and I know someone on here has a halide fixture from them and it works well. I love the t5ho fixtures I bought from them (2 of them).
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budget , cheap , lights , questions

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