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Best style of bio filter for 50gal reef tank?

15805 Views 9 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  tdwyatt
Dear Reefer Community,

I'm currently designing a setup for a new 50 gallon saltwater aquarium and I need some help deciding what kind of biological filter would be best. I'm a newbie to this forum and this will be my first marine aquarium, thus also my first reef too.

I've done a lot of reading on types of biological filters, and for awhile I was settled on a external trickle filter with bio-balls. This was the plan until I read a bunch of posts on this forum by experts who bashed on bio-balls because they build up nitrates. Then they suggested the use of a refugium instead, which I really like the sound of.

So here's my question: would my tank be adaquately filtered if I set-up a good protein skimmer, with plenty of live rock in the main tank, and use a refugium to remove nitrates and nutrients?

Thanks in advance
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Well, First and foremost you get the WELCOME TO TRT BANANA DANCE!!!!!!!

:banana: :banana: :banana: :banana: :banana: :banana: :blob:

Second of all, provided you have sufficient LR and a good substrate to give you good bacterial filtration and plenty of sand in the fuge you should be just fine. Thats exactly the same set-up I have sans the Fuge.

Welcome aboard!!!
Whew, I'm glad I got the TRT banana dance hazing over with.

If I may continue with a follow-up question...

With this kind of setup is a sump necessary?

I got the impression from looking at various styles of filtration that usually the sequence goes: from main tank, to prefilter, to protein skimmer, to sump, and back to the main tank. Is it a no-no to skip on the sump?
hehehehe, the other regs haven't gotten to ya yet! :funny:

As far as a sump goes, its a really nice place to house your heater and skimmer. Not to mention its safer to top off into your sump as well as dose any chems (Kalk, B-Ionic) in your sump as well. The sump generally makes your display tank look nicer not to mention it will increase your overall tank volume which is ALWAYS a good thing. If you do a search in the DIY section you'll find some good plans for DIY sumps. Some folks have even retrofitted the wet/dry sumps to operate with out the Bio-balls.

Personally I don't use a sump simply because my wife isn't crazy about the idea of having a bunch of PVC snaking around behind the tank. Not to mention the fact that I really don't have a ton of room to do the kind of sump I really want to do.

Generally its up to you as to wether or not you go with a sump. With a 50 gal system its not a bad idea at all to do a sump. Especially if you have the room for it!
Welcome Greg,
First off, what sort of tank will this be a reef tank or a fish only? What type of skimmer do you plan on using? Some skimmers need a sump to operate. Sumps are great to house the equipment but you can design a system without one.
gregongie said:
Whew, I'm glad I got the TRT banana dance hazing over with.
i still get that dance......but its cuz everyone picks on me
with that being said... i agree with RWD... please tell us more about your set up and how you plan on stocking it :)
LOL Clint, it ain't over yet

:banana: :banana: :banana: :blob: :banana: :banana: :banana:

Welcome to TRT, glad to have you.

More information please, the more accurate informaton the better we can help.
Welcome to TRT...

In my reef setup, I have 2 sumps. The water flow is as follows..

From tank through overflow into Sump 1 (50 gallon rubbermaid)
In the rubbermaid, I run my protein skimmer. (a point to be made is that not all protein skimmers are run "inline". Inline meaning that all the water flowing through the system runs through the skimmer before going somewhere else.) My skimmer draws from the sump and returns to the same sump...

From sump 1, the water travels through 2 1-inch PVC U-Tubes into a 20 gallon tank. In this tank I have my heaters and some LR. The water is pumped from this sump into my main tank.

The main purposes of the sump are;
1. Add additional water capacity to the system.
(in keeping saltwater tank, the more water volume, the easier it is to keep cool, and clean)
2. Provice a place for equipment I do not want in the display tank.

The main part of my filtration system is the LR in the tank, the Deep Sand Bed, and the LR in the second sump. With this setup, I have crystal clear water with 0 nitrates. The extra 50 gallons of water also relieved the overheating problem I had from the pump being submerged.

HTH and again, welcome to TRT...
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Since I'm on a rather modest budget (a high school senior without a job, but a sympathetic family), I was going to make a DIY Protein Skimmer. Actually I found the link at TRT, it's Geoff's model,

Luckily my neighbor has a garage full of power tools and a lot of technical experience, so hopefully he can help me when working with the acrylic and whatnot.

I plan on keeping about 5-6 fish, probably mostly clownfish, and a few varieties of hardy corals. I'm researching invertibrates right now, especially anemones, and i'm still undecided about what exactly to add.

After reading all of your suggestions, I think I'm going to take the best of all of it. Here's what I'm thinking for the waterflow:

From main tank to overflow/prefilter, to sump tank, to protein skimmer, to fuge (20 gallon), then back to the main tank.

This is beginning to seem like a real challenge, but I guess that's what first drew me to the idea of a reef tank (plus it's purdy). I'm predicting it ought to take a few months to set up, so the launch date right now is in october.

Thanks for all your help, this site is a blessing.
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gregongie said:
Since I'm on a rather modest budget (a high school senior without a job, but a sympathetic family)...
DYI stuff and keeping the hobby and technology simple is one of the great ways to save money, as well as researching all your decisions in this sometimes bewildering hobby.

I do quite a good bit of dyi stuff, even for high tech apps like my sump...


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