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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hey there :) I have a question that I’ve tried solving via google but I’m hoping some experts can weigh in directly. I’m considering converting my FOWLR to a Reef. My tank is a 90 gallon bowfront corner tank. It is 12 years old, low stocked, and stable. In the past, we had a refugium plumbed to the tank. However, about five years ago, we had a leak in the bulkhead and had to permanently plug the drain leading to the refugium. At that point, we converted the back drain into a sump. (Therefore, water continues to flow into the back corner and is pumped back into the main tank like any other overflow/sump combo). We keep the filter media, Purigen, and heater in there. This has been working well and the parameters have been stable, but I do regular water changes and I haven’t pushed it in terms of bioload.
A local reef hobbyist recently told me I could add some soft coral to my setup and I immediately shrugged it off since I wrote that off the day we sealed the drain! Of course now I’m considering it and wondering how I could prep my system and test if it is capable. I have the correct lighting, I use RO water, and I understand I will need to dose in the future. I do not want to re-plumb or add a refugium. Therefore, I do not have a skimmer. In your experience, is this even possible?
If so, I’m curious about the nitrate tests for reefs. I have only used the cheap API kits and they basically tell me what I need to know for fish, but they do not give an exact amount. It is also very difficult to tell the difference between the color bands on the lower nitrate levels. The digital tests (Hannah) seem really nice since they provide an exact number, but since I would need calcium, phosphates, etc. I’m curious if there is a more economical way to test to determine if pristine parameters are attainable prior to spending $300 on a test kit :) I can see on here that many are using the Red Sea test kits, but they also involve comparing colored liquid to colored cards which sounds similar to the test kit I have. If you have used the Red Sea kit, how difficult is it to distinguish between the certain levels? Maybe I’m overthinking this, I just know a Reef will require more precision than I’m currently experiencing.
 

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Just some guy, you know?
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Soft coral like a dirtier tank, and there are lots of people out there that run skimmerless softie tanks. Corals like leathers, Xenia, and mushrooms actually can sort of help because they thrive in those conditions and every living thing needs nutrients to grow. Some people have soft coral fuges where they use these coral to lower phosphate and nitrate instead of Macro Algae.

Salifert is my Go To reef test kit, they are reliable, accurate, and a reasonable price. I wouldn't worry about all the kits right now, Soft Corals don't use much CA/ALK so you could get away with regular water changes and a quality reef salt especially in the beginning. I would recommend a reliable refractometer though, lots of FOWLR people use hydrometers because the fish aren't particular about salinity, coral will care. I usually run 1.025-1.026 but I calibrate my refractometer with 1.026 water regularly. The calibration fluid is cheap, under $5.

Whiskey
 

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+1
One thing to note is not get your Phosphate too low as that can cause an outbreak of Dino.
I also really don't think you will to dose running a softies tank.
Corals don't increase the bio-load much so adding them should not be much of a problem.
 

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Shark..but a friendly one
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Hello and welcome to TRT DevParrott! If your Coral curiosity ends with being happy with 'softies', I think you'll probably be good to go with just checking your nitrate levels.

I know folks keeping just fish, typically don't keep track of their nitrates, and they could be off the scale, which would annoy even Mushroom corals. And I use API test kits, and an old 'swing arm' hydrometer to keep tabs on our 210 softies tank.

Don't have a sump, but I do have a skimmer......a LifeReef HOB skimmer. Took me 6 years keeping a tank full of soft corals before I had to begin dosing.....and I have a LOT of Coral. I also vodka dose which may have added to THAT necessity, ain't sure.

One important point worth mentioning......some fish and corals don't play well together. Might want to check, say on Live Aquaria at their compatibility chart to see if your fish, and whatever types of soft corals that tickle your fancy may be will get a long together. A lot of fish view corals as a salad bar.

We love offering advice around here, and hope all the best for Ya,
Hack
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you everyone for the advice! I’m feeling more optimistic about this ;) I just remember all of the mistakes I made when starting the FOWLR and I’m hoping to prevent any type of crash in a currently stable system! It almost sounds like the soft corals don’t require anything more than my anemone already does? (He is the reason I have the upgraded lighting)
 

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Shark..but a friendly one
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It almost sounds like the soft corals don’t require anything more than my anemone already does? (He is the reason I have the upgraded lighting)
Haaaahaaa,,,,,yeah, feel free to lead off with THAT info in the future. Sounds like you are good to go if'n you can keep an anemone happy. 👍
Hack
 

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Just some guy, you know?
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I totally agree, an Anemone has stricter care requirements than typical soft coral does. If I were you I'd get a couple easy frags like Leathers and such and see how they do. I'm betting they do great! Like anything some corals will thrive and some may not thrive as much,.. so it's best not to make any sweeping changes based on a single coral. Instead working with moving that coral in higher/lower flow, and higher/lower light is the way to go. I'd also get a couple different frags rather than just one, because you never know,.. one coral might not like you (or might not be in good shape to start with) when every other one would do amazing if you know what I mean. I prefer to get more smaller frags, and sell the ones I don't end up loving rather than getting a single more expensive and larger one.

One other side note,.. Stay away from Ricks as the first coral,.. they tend to be a little bit more picky then your typical mushroom and are also more expensive usually.

Whiskey
 
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