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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
This is my first post on this website or any fish forum so bear with me.

I currently have a 55 gallon freshwater tank with 7 assorted african cichlids, a bottom feeder, and a pleco. I'm running a Fluval 305 canister on it and i left the HOB Tetra filter on it just in case I needed some extra filtration. I have a 100 watt(I think) heater, and everything works really well. About a year ago I got a Fluval Edge 6 to put on my desk for the baby cichlids or some feeder fish, but then I got ahead of myself. I got tired of that and the babies got too big and I ended up donating my babies to the lfs and ended up trying to start a nano reef. I got that started up with live rock and sand and about a month after that I was overconfident and got a perc. Him and 4 snails and a crab are all in my tank and are well, but, to be honest, I feel bad that he doesn't have space and the water conditions (which are okay, but only with lots of changes) spike and it's extremely hard to clean the sand of detritus and solid waste.

What I'm looking for you guys to help with are the possible logistics of converting the 55gal to saltwater. What should I keep? What could I sell? What should I be wary of? How should I get rid of the fish that I have (and care about)?

Thanks!

p.s. I'll be posting pictures of my setup later today

-EDIT-

Water Natural environment Pet supply Organism Wood

Water Vertebrate Pet supply Fish supply Marine biology

Okay I checked and it's a 200W heater. I also forgot to include that in my freshwater tank I have an Aqueon 950gph circ pump.

I'd also like to ask: is it a big nono to add dead coral that I brought home from hawaii into a starting saltwater tank? If I want to change substrate coarseness can I just mix the sand (Bahamas Oolite Arag-Alive) with a substrate like crushed coral or more coarse sand?
 

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Heres a list.of everything that I can think of that you will need to start you saltwater some you may have but some you may not. Ro/di salt live rock sand or whatever substrate you want powerheads a new light if you plan on keeping corals a salt water test kit protein skimmer refractrometer. Thats just to get started. If you have no problems with goimg out and buying all that find a new home fkr your fish and go for it. I would also do tons of research. You would be suprised how many times that just reading post on this site when im bored saved my butt.
 

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+1 on the research. I had a freshwater background as well and thought that was a good base of knowledge. it helps, but saltwater is a different animal. i'm on here almost every night doing research, always something new to learn. also, besides research, the second most important thing in this hobby is patience. everything takes time. nothing happens fast. if you start the tank, give it time to set up and develop. don't rush into anything.
 

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Have you looked into a sump setup yet? I assume your 55 gallon is not drilled for a sump or overflow. I had a couple freshwater tanks over the years. But I am fascinated by the reef environment. It's more of a challenge but much more rewarding.

To start out, you'll want to sell your livestock and empty the tank. Clean it out good. If you rinse it very well you can reuse your substrate. You'll need to invest. Go buy one of these:

http://spectrapure.com/FACTORY-REFURBISHED/Refurbished-90-GPD-RODI-System

You will need a constant supply of RODI water. You can buy it for 40 cents a gallon or make your own.

Find a good supply of base rock. I just bought some online, here is the link:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00025YRRU/ref=wms_ohs_product?ie=UTF8&psc=1

This is less than a dollar a pound, a great deal. Build a nice aquascape. You can drill holes in the rock and use acrylic or fiberglass rods, or even cut up plastic hangers to fasten your rock and build arches, holes and plenty of shelves for corals etc. This is an important step since it will be tough to change once it's full and coral is growing on your rock. When your rock is good to go fill your tank with RODI water and set your heater to 78 degrees. Go to a live fish store and pick out a few nice pieces of live rock to seed your base rock.

Now starts your cycle. Buy some good test kits for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. Eventually you will want to get a digital PH tester. Get test kits for calcium and alkalinity. The most important advice I can give you is to test your water and keep it perfect. If your water is good your tank health will be good. Do a search and read up on the nitrogen cycle, and new tank cycling in general. While your cycle is underway, get a sump figured out. you can drill your tank or buy an overflow box. Pick up a skimmer to go in your sump.

That will give you the basics to get started. Ask a ton of questions and research anything you want to do before you do it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
Ok I've been doing research and I've compiled this list. Under each category are multiple options to create different possible permutations. Feedback and recommendations are awesome.

Convert to SW Research

Key:
* = Required
~ = Item Marker

~~ = Favorite
+ = Desired
& = Required for initial startup

*Substrate:
&~~2 x $33.99(bulkreefsupply.com) FL Crushed Coral Arag-Alive! Live Reef Sand 20lbs
~2 x 33.99(BRS) Special Grade Arag-Alive! Live Reef Sand 20lbs

*Powerhead:
~~$2 x $270.00(VorTech.com) VorTech MP10 200-1500gph
~$29.99(amazon.com) - Hydor Koralina Evolution Circulation Pump 550-600 gph

* Protein skimmer:
~ $148.99(amazon) - Coralife 05272 Super Skimmer with Pump, 125-Gallon
~ $189.99(BRS) - Reef Octopus NWB110 4" Pinwheel In Sump Protein Skimmer 75-100gal
~~ $129.99(aquacave.com) ASM Mini-G Protein Skimmer 75gal
&~$150(craigslist) - Bubble Magus BM-NAC7 cone protein skimmer 130-180gal - used

* Pump:
~ $59.33(amazon) - Rio plus 2500 HP Aqua Pump, 782gph
~ $89.99(amazon) - Quiet One Lifeguard Aquarium Pump 991gph adjustable
&~ $35.99(craigslist) - Quiet One Lifeguard Aquarium Pump 819gph adjustable - used

Overflow Box:
~ $64.95(amazon) - Eshopps PF-800 Pverflow Box 125 gal tank
&~~ $79.99(glass-holes.com) - 700gph Overflow Box Complete Kit

* RO/DI System:
~~ $129.99(spectrapure.com) - Referb. 90gpd RODI system
~ $152.99(BRS) - BRS 4 Stage Value PLUS RO/DI System 75 gpd

* Lighting:
~~ 2 x $279.00(rapidled.com) - Onyx by Rapid LED
~ $419.99(BRS) - Maxspect R420R Razor LED Lighting Fixture - 16000K (120W)

& Testing:
&*~~ $39.99(BRS) - Refractometer for Reading Salinity With Calibration Fluid

~~ $15.99(BRS) - Salifert PH Test Kit
&*~~ $19.99(BRS) - Salifert Cu Test Kit
~~ $19.99(BRS) - Salifert NO2 Test Kit
~~ $24.99(BRS) - Salifert NO3 Test Kit
~~ $19.99(BRS) - Salifert KH/Alkilinity Test Kit
&*~~ $19.99(BRS) - Salifert NH4 Test Kit
&*~~ $23.99(BRS) - Salifert Ca Test Kit
*~~ $26.99(BRS) - Salifert PO4 Test Kit
+
+~~ $49.99(BRS) - Hanna Checker PO4 Colorimeter

* Base Rock:
~ $41.59(amazon) - Carib Sea Aquascaping Reef Rock 50lb
&~~ 67.08(amazon) - Carib Sea ACS00370 South Sea Base Rock for Aquarium 40lb

~ $94.62(BRS) - BRS Reef Saver Dry Aquarium Live Rock
*&~~ appx. $72.00(lfs) - Seed Live Rock 6lbs



* Salt Mix
~~ $62.99(BRS) - Instant Ocean Reef Crystals Salt Mix 160gal
&~$52.00(lfs) - Instant Ocean Sea Salt Mix

Carbon Reactor:
+~ $69.99(BRS) - BRS GFO & Carbon Reactor single
 w/pump

_________________________________
__________________________________
Total Initial Startup: $533
Total Favorite: $1371 :help: --> Needs Updating
Total Desired: $1506 :eek: --> Needs Updating

These numbers will give my Dad a stroke. Help please!

Thanks!
 

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*Protein skimmer:
~$148.99(amazon.com) - Coralife 05272 Super Skimmer with Pump, 125-Gallon
I have this exact skimmer. It's pretty good. I get no microbubbles at all. It has a nice big cup to catch skimmate and it's easy to attach a tube to direct skimmate into a bucket (I use an old milk jug). My only complaint is that for the first 2 weeks it ran really wet and I had to empty it daily. It was difficult to adjust. Now it's settled down though and works great. It takes about 2 weeks to fill up the milk jug. I just cap it and dump it in the trash and use a new jug, no sense emptying it and having to smell that nasty stuff :)

I also have an ASM skimmer. It's rated for up to 75 gallons. I like it better than the Coralife. It just worked, perfectly, right out of the box and has been plugging away like a workhorse ever since.

*Pump:
~~$59.33(amazon) - Rio plus 2500 HP Aqua Pump, 782gph
I have the Rio plus 1400, rated for 420 GPH. It's not a bad pump but I can't speak to how reliable it is since I've only had it a month. It is quiet. I use it in my RODI reservoir and I can't even hear it running. I also have a Quiet One Lifeguard pump that I like a lot better:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000256E76/ref=wms_ohs_product?ie=UTF8&psc=1

More power, and adjustable flow. It's also quiet.

*Overflow Box:
~~$64.95(amazon) - Eshopps PF-800 Pverflow Box 125 gal tank
It seems we picked out a lot of the same stuff. I have a larger version of the Eshopps overflow box. Mine has dual overflow tubes. I like the dual tubes because if one of them gets blocked, the other one will prevent the tank from overflowing onto the floor. It works fine, is well built and sturdy. However, this one item is by far the most noisy of all my aquarium equipment. the water flowing through the tube gurgles loudly.

Here is what I recommend:

http://www.glass-holes.com/700-gph-Overflow-Box-Complete-Kit-gh700kit.htm

This is a complete kit to drill your aquarium and attach a permanent overflow box. It's quiet and about the same price, and comes with everything you need including a diamond bit hole saw to drill your tank. Look on youtube for videos of drilling a glass tank, it's not too difficult.

*RO/DI System:
~$129.99(spectrapure.com) - Referb. 90gpd RODI system
The spectrapure system is a better deal. Not only cheaper but a better system. Don't worry about the "refurbished" label. You will get a system that looks brand new and I doubt you'll ever be able to tell it was refurbished. All cartridges will be brand new. Spectrapure is the recognized leader is this type of system and they do a lot of little extras to make their systems better.

*Lighting:
~~2 x $279.00(rapidled.com) - Onyx by Rapid LED
The onyx is a good light, but consider an Evergrow\Reefbreeders (reefbreeders.com) light instead. The Evergrow light is cheaper and is a great light. Some people will say that the Bridgelux LEDs used are not as good as the Cree in the Onyx system, but there are more of them and they work great. I have two of them myself and I am hosting a group buy right now:

http://www.thereeftank.com/forums/f20/-group-buy-round-2-evergrow-led-lights-209861.html

Testing:
*~~$39.99(BRS) - Refractometer for Reading Salinity With Calibration Fluid

*~~$15.99(BRS) - Salifert PH Test Kit
~~$19.99(BRS) - Salifert Cu Test Kit
~~$19.99(BRS) - Salifert NO2 Test Kit
~~$24.99(BRS) - Salifert NO3 Test Kit
*~~$19.99(BRS) - Salifert NH4 Test Kit
*~~$23.99(BRS) - Salifert Ca Test Kit
*~~$26.99(BRS) - Salifert PO4 Test Kit
+
~~$49.99(BRS) - Hanna Checker PO4 Colorimeter
Great choices. Salifert makes good test kits. Red Sea is also good and about the same price. I would get a digital PH meter like this one:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CH3QZSE/ref=wms_ohs_product?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Along with some calibration fluid:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0063MWYMQ/ref=wms_ohs_product?ie=UTF8&psc=1

*Base Rock:
~$41.59(amazon) - Carib Sea Aquascaping Reef Rock 50lb
~67.08(amazon) - Carib Sea ACS00370 South Sea Base Rock for Aquarium 40lb

~~$94.62(BRS) - BRS Reef Saver Dry Aquarium Live Rock
*~~appx. $72.00(WOF) - Seed Live Rock 6lbs


The Carib Sea is good stuff and cheap. I use it myself. I like how it has all of the little hollows and channels throughout it from the old coral skeletons. It's unique and attractive. It's also white instead of grey or brown (although it'll turn pink with coralline algae) I can't speak to the BRS but it's probably good as well. As for seeded live rock, I suggest going to a local fish store and buying some. You can pick out a rock that is attractive to you instead of whatever they happen to send. Also, you can transport it in a tub of saltwater and keep it covered the whole time.

Carbon Reactor:
+~~$69.99(BRS) - BRS GFO & Carbon Reactor single

I would not consider this a necessity. Especially not right away at startup. You can maintain acceptable levels of phosphate and nitrate through good cleaning and water change habits. If, later down the road, you find you're struggling to maintain good levels, then you can consider adding one of these. You won't need it right away if at all.

Total Favorite: $1371 :help:
Total Desired: $1506 :eek:

These numbers will give my Dad a stroke. Help please!

Thanks!
There is no getting around it, a reef aquarium is expensive. You can break up the cost though. Get your test kits, rock and overflow (either a HOB overflow or the drilling kit) and pick up a 20 gallon long tank to use as a sump (cheap or free on craigslist). You'll spend $45 on PVC pipe and fittings and acrylic baffles and silicone to get your sump up and running. Go to the grocery store and buy RO water, it's usually about $0.35 a gallon. That is all you need for the first month or so while your tank cycles.

While it's cycling, plan on your next expenses. A skimmer and RODI are important. You could choose to continue using RO water from the store for now though.

After a month or two when it's cycled you'll add inverts and a fish or two. Your freshwater lighting will be OK at this point. By the 3rd month when you're looking at a complete cycle and adding coral, you'll need better lighting.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I updated the numbers again. Thanks for the input, Jay! It's always good to hear how a product works before investing in it.

I'm having a hard time convincing my parents to let me do this tank now that I showed some startup numbers.. I'm 16 and they think that they'll end up doing all the work and upkeep. How much time per week do you think it'll take to maintain this kind of setup?
 

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I updated the numbers again. Thanks for the input, Jay! It's always good to hear how a product works before investing in it.

I'm having a hard time convincing my parents to let me do this tank now that I showed some startup numbers.. I'm 16 and they think that they'll end up doing all the work and upkeep. How much time per week do you think it'll take to maintain this kind of setup?
It would help to write up a maintenance chart so you can show them what steps you'll need to take and when. Shows you're organized and on top of things :)

On a daily basis, you'll feed the fish (it's better to feed a small amount, as much as they'll eat in 5 minutes, twice daily, morning and night). You'll also give everything a good inspection. Just look over the whole setup and check for leaks or anything out of the ordinary. It takes literally 30 seconds.

Every day check to see if your filter sock is overflowing or your skimmer cup is full, if so change the sock and empty the cup. Another 3-5 minute job, nothing big.

Check your ammonia and nitrite levels twice or three times a week while it's cycling. Once it's established, once a week is probably fine. Once the tank is established, check all the levels once a week.

Every other week (after the cycle) do a 20-25% water change. During the water change, use a turkey baster to blow all the settled detritus off your live rock and siphon clean your sand. Also clean your sump. Make sure nothing has settled and collected in the corners. This takes me about a half hour. Then slowly replacing the water takes about an hour, but I use a pump to do it automatically (I turn it down way low). Mix your new saltwater the day before so it has overnight to mix fully. It helps to put a circulation pump or powerhead in there overnight.

Every month I empty my sump completely and wash my skimmer. I also take out my powerheads (another expense that wasn't listed above, you'll want at least two) and clean them really well. Takes about an hour.

Hopefully that will help you get started, and you can convince your folks to pull the trigger on the funds.

If necessary, you could start with just the live rock and one or two small fish. Use your existing lighting and don't setup a sump or skimmer yet. With only one or two fish and regular water changes, the live rock will be enough filter. That way costs are minimal at first and you can show your folks that you are responsible enough to handle it.

Also, check craigslist or your local classifieds daily. If you keep on top of it you can usually find someone who is getting rid of a tank and you can pick up their live rock etc free or really cheap. You can find a used skimmer, test kits (check for expiration) and other equipment that way also.

Taking care of a reef tank is probably double the work of taking care of a freshwater tank. But all told it's not that much.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
So today I found a guy on craigslist and i bought a couple frags for my nano reef and some misc. stuff for the new tank. I added a couple things to the list that I think are a steal(in bold). What do you think?
 

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So today I found a guy on craigslist and i bought a couple frags for my nano reef and some misc. stuff for the new tank. I added a couple things to the list that I think are a steal(in bold). What do you think?
That is a good deal on the pump. Check it out and make sure it works of course. I am not familiar with that brand of skimmer though so I can't speak to it. It's rated for a pretty big tank which is good.
 
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