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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello! I'm new to saltwater (in fact I don't have a saltwater tank yet) but I've run freshwater tanks for years. I currently have a 55 gallon long (48x13x18?) and a 20 gallon tall (13x13x18?) but I'm looking to get into saltwater. I have room for one more aquarium, but it would have to be small (I'm looking at the Coralife Biocube 14g) or I can convert one of my existing aquariums. I currently work at a fish store so buying living "supplies" isn't really an issue as I can get those very cheap. I absolutey want to have a reef tank, but if price limits me to it for a while I can do FOWLR... Which option would be the easiest to set up (converting the 55, converting the 20, or starting a new biocube) and which would be the cheapest? Oh, the fish currently in the aquariums are of no consequence as I can give them to the fish store I work at if I can't keep them and move them to the other tank otherwise. Thank you for any input.
 

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If you work in a fish store wouldn't you be the best person to know what route would be the cheapest and easiest for you to do?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
If you work in a fish store wouldn't you be the best person to know what route would be the cheapest and easiest for you to do?
Actually I only work with freshwater fish in the store. We sell saltwater fish but there's another employee who handles all of that. We also sell coral, live rock, live sand, other aquarium supplies, and I can purchase those much cheaper in the store than online or at other stores. I still have no idea what to do here.
 

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Smaller is always cheaper. And the 14 gallon is also an all-in-one (AIO) tank so it comes with most everything you need for a basic reef. You would have to buy pumps and lights for any tank you convert which can get expensive.

On the other hand, larger tanks will make you happier in the long run since they are generally easier to maintain and give you more room to keep stuff.
 

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Also take into consideration the water you will use. Will you get a RO/DI unit, use distilled water or can you get water from work? Also, for lighting Phane mentioned $99 for an LED light but on a 55g you would need 2 of those to cover the tank as those lights are only 16 inches long. So think closer to $200.

Bigger is always better in saltwater but of course that means more money as everything you buy will need to be bigger and it will cost more to maintain. If you can swing it, no reason to go small unless finances are an issue here.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Money is definitely an issue here... I'm currently a student so finances are tight. If I go with the biocube what modifications would I need to do to make it reef-ready?
 

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I'm a student too, once you commit to spending your loans on tank stuff instead of books, it's not so bad :p
I wouldn't bother with the biocube, I think it would be pretty easy to get your feet wet on the 20 you have. At that size you don't need a skimmer, so you aren't buying gear than you can't use if (when) you upgrade. You could get a cheap light and a powerhead to just try it out for really minimal cost upfront (I'm thinking under $100). Get a couple fish and some easy coral in there and see how it goes. With that setup you could practically start today.

Just make sure you have a realistic expectation for the fish that can live there. Get in the habit of double checking what your saltwater peers tell you on liveaquaria.com here's a link to their beginner section [link] if you filter for 20g tanks there's like 5 fish to choose from, but they're all cute.
Little tanks can go down fast if you have a problem, so if you do the 20 you will have to keep a close eye on it. Something bigger is def more stable, and you have more choices for stocking. That's the basic question.

55's are a lot better for FW than salt. When you put rocks and stuff in the narrowness of the tank combines with the distortion from the water to make anything tall look like a flat wall. If you leave enough room to clean the sand and glass all the way around, you have like a foot to build up from so it's tempting to lean on the glass to create depth, but then you have uncleanable areas which is a nono. I have one and I like it, but it isn't like freshwater where it's just a box of water. For SW you want to plan for rocks and coral.

If it was me I would do the 20 for a while, and when you outgrow it move to something like a 90 or bigger. By then you'll know if you like it enought to buy the gear.

Besides just getting fish at work, if your boss will let you order at cost or buy returned items for cheap, that's huge! I just paid $35 to ship a 1" basslet :doh:
Just my two cents, I'm a noob too

If you ever used copper to treat your FW fish in these tanks, that can be an issue.
 

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I think you could get wet with a $12 heater, a $20 powerhead, and a $15 light (some folks are having good results with just a daylight bulb like you put in a lamp, they're $5 but idk how far you want to push it). plus odds and ends like thermometers, turkey boasters and water test kits. Those add up too, but you'll need them for any tank you start. Just a guess on the prices, maybe ask your boss for a catalog that they order from, or just see what's around the shop.

ETA: rocks and sand and water too, duh!
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I have a high rated powerhead in the 55g, and it uses a Fluval 306 canister filter. The 20g has an Aqueon filter and both tanks have ancient heaters that are no longer in production as far as I can tell. Lighting in the 55g is provided by two Marineland LED lights. Lighting in the 20g is from the built-in LED canopy lights.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Here's the 20g

Here's the 55g

Yes there is a lot of algae in the 55g as I took that picture just before cleaning it
 

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I don't see why the lights on the 20 wouldn't work, same with the heater til it dies. You might not be able to grow much on the bottom, but I think a couple low demand things would be ok higher up, and for the first few months it's really just illuminating your uglies and fish.
But I missed the tall part, that's not a lot of room to swim horizontally :(

Maybe just buy a 40b and move your lights, ph, and heater over from the 55?
 

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I love the way the 20 is now, beautiful. Convert the 55 and use the money you would have spent on a new BC you can spend on equipment. Bigger is better and actually easier.

However, if you are a student will you be moving a bit in your remaining years? If so, again use your 20 and buy equipment.

Just my two cents.
 

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If it's a big box retail store like petco I wouldn't count on the little employee discount being cheaper than online. Not to mention the chain stores horrid reputation for animal care or lack thereof.

Sounds like you're struggling a bit income wise being a student. I hate to discourage anyone from the hobby but it's going to be a lot more expensive than freshwater. You don't have to buy the most expensive equipment but cheap stuff tends to break more often and you wind up buying them twice as often. A cheap, broken heater can easily wipe out a tank as well so it's not just the replacement cost.

Education is very important so I'd hate to see either you or the tank suffer as a result of a very tight budget. I would definitely invest in a quarantine system which is more $$ up front but less in the long run when you prevent an entire display tank from succumbing to disease by playing Russian Roulette.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I'm giving the balas in the 55g to a friend with a 200g so it will be empty anyway. I think I'd like to convert it to saltwater, but I'm not sure what I'll need for a reef tank setup. Do I need a sump tank for it? I can't do overflow tanks on the back, and if I do convert it should I keep the Fluval filter in there? I'm a Freshman in college and will be here for the next six years until I have my Masters. Then I'm moving to Seattle I think to get my PhD at UW.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Oh I actually work at a family-owned fish store- the tanks look like they're in someone's house it's gorgeous and I love the place. Discount is 20% but the prices are already the same as online, so it really is very convenient to buy. I'll have about $1,000 to spend on this in about two months but I'm getting all the planning/research out of the way before I spend any money on it.
 

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No you don't need a sump and you don't need the fluval filter either. In salt your rock is your main source of filtration - or rather the bacteria inside the rock. You will need powerheads for water movement though. In my 55 I have two Koralia 1050s. Corals should wait 3-4 months for hardy softies, 4-6 for LPS and 6+ for SPS. So you have some time if you want to save for nice lighting.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Is it possible to put tap water into the tank, then add salt and treat it for the chlorine or do I absolutely need an RO system? I don't want to have to transport saltwater from the store to my house (as it's about 30 minutes away) and it seems like it would be really expensive to use distilled water (even though I keep it on hand for my terrariums) so if I can't use tapwater the RO is really the only option
 
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