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Hi everyone!! Ok. I just bought a 55 gal square tank. I have been re-searching setting up a reef tank online and by reading books on it but I would rather defer to people who are out there running tanks already. I am trying to stay within a tight budget but I do know that setting up a reef tank is expensive. I've figured that to start my reef tank I will HAVE to have a good skimmer, either VHO or MH lights a powerhead, a heater, substrate and live rock. Here are my questions. First and foremost what lighting do you all recommend? MH, VHO? I have even heard people mentioning PC lighting? How do you set this lighting up? I've been told that I will have to build a drape over the top of the tank. Is this true or can I put it on top of my tank with a ventilating/fan system? Next question: live sand or crushed corral? I've heard the benefits of Live Sand but also understand the horror it can be to maintain. What are your opinions. Do I have to have a sump? I've heard that having a sump would be a good idea. What is the easiest and most cost efficient way to do this? I don't want to drill holes and get all fancy. Rubbermade container? What is the best skimmer out there? Should I skip the sump and go with a CPR bakpak or would I be better off with a sump and an excaliber? Any other brands that are good? (SeaClone, prizm etc) Someone told me that they have there tank set up with a CPR bakpak, a Whisper filter (for mechanical filtration and carbon) two powerheads and a ton of live rock. Others have told me use a sump, one powerhead, an excaliber skimmer and no mechanical filtration) If I go with a hang on the back filter like the whisper...what is the best (whisper, penguin, aquaclear, tetratec?) I guess I've written enough of a novel...for now....I just have SOOO many questions. Thanks in advance for your help and expertise.

Sarah
 

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Hi Sarah, Welcome To The Reef Tank!!!

It's good to have you here. Now to start on your questions...
The first rule of reef keeping is...There is no single way to do things that is best. Every tank is different, but with that said I wil answer as much as I can.
Well, to start off, what are the dimensiona of your tank?

A good skimmer is something most reefs will need, and it is always better to go with quality right from the start. As for lighting, it all depends on what you want to keep (what type of corals). For stonies, I recommend MH's, but for anything else, VHO's will work just as well. I actually have PC lights on one of my tanks and I really like them. They are very similar to VHOs, in fact I have heard some people call them compressed VHO tubes. Basically, they are compact, and intense. The "setting up" part will rely a lot upon what equipment you choose. Just a side point, you will probably need more than one powerhead to achieve good water movement in the tank. I am a little confused (surprise) about the drape, are you talking about over your hood? As for live sand or crushed coral, LIVE SAND! I don't know who told you that a deep sand bed (a live sand bed) is a horror to maintain, but they are wrong, and you can tell them I said so <IMG SRC="smilies/wink.gif" border="0"> If anything, it is the other way around. Regarding a sump, on a 55 gal it isn't needed, but over time you will wish you had one. The easiest way have a sump is just to use a rubbermaid container, use pvc from the bulkhead, put in a pump, make a line from the pump to the tank, and then let her rip! OK, I see now that you dont want to drill holes, now I am confused (again, sorry, it's what I do <IMG SRC="smilies/wink.gif" border="0">) Do you have a tank with holes drilled in it, or is it solid all the way around? Now, on to skimmers, I think that the best skimmer for your tank would be something like an AquaC remora pro (no sump) or an AquaC Urchin Pro (with sump). Or if you want something even better, you could go for an AquaC EV-90, that is if you have a sump. I have a CPR BakPak 2R on a 45 and it does an OK job, it could work on a 55 but that is reaching the limit to what it can handle. Don't waste your time with a seaclone, they are junk. Reef tanks don't need mechanical filtration, only some run carbon, but I don't think anybody runs a mechanical filter. Just keep the questions coming, we will be here to answer <IMG SRC="smilies/smile.gif" border="0"> Have fun, good luck!

Drew
 

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Hi Sarah,

Glad to have you with us and for asking the questions before going out and buying things! <IMG SRC="smilies/smile.gif" border="0"> As you have already found out, this is a very reading-intensive and expensive hobby, even if you shop around for the best deals.
Do you have any current books? If not, I would recommend buying and reading either The Conscientious Marine Aquarist by Robert Fenner and/or Natural Reef Aquariums by John Tullock before making any purchases. The Reef Aquarium, Vols. I & II, is an excellent reference work that you ought to plan on buying.
In general, I would recommend a setup with live rock (55-75 lbs.); Deep Sand Bed (4-6") with a few pounds of live sand on top(Whoever told you a DSB is hard to maintain hasn't used one: they are virtually maintenance free); a sump of at least 20 gallons, more is better; a good protein skimmer(several good choices but depends on whether you go with a sump or not); 3 or 4 powerheads for water movement; the best lighting you can afford (a combination of VHO and MH will let you keep most any type corals. You will need to build/buy a hood to house the lights.); a Reverse Osmosis/Deionizer for water purification; and many other miscellaneous items including test kits.
You will have a much better idea about most of these things after you have studied Fenner and/or Tullock's books.
In the meantime, here are some important articles and web sites that will help you: http://www.rshimek.com/reef/sediment.htm http://www.reefkeepers.org/faq/cache/33.html http://saltyzoo.com:8081/ http://www.wyx.com/iheo/tank/new.htm http://www.hobbyschool.com/reef/ http://www.thekrib.com/Lights/index.html http://www.northernreef.org/sumps101.htm
In addition, look through the Tank Specs Forum Section here on TRT to see how others have set up successful reefs.
I know its a lot to read but since there are some conflicting opinions out there, reading as much as possible will help you make your own informed choices.
Again, welcome to TRT!
Dick <IMG SRC="smilies/smile.gif" border="0">
 

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Hi Sarah, welcome to TRT. I also am curious about the dimensions of a 55g sq tank, I have a 25 that 18" cubed. Tank depth can be the big issue with lighting. I like sumps for a lot of reasons but the main one is that large tanks with hot lights and fans to cool them evaporate a lot of water and a sump with a float valve or switch makes it easy to replace water lost to evaporation and keep specific gravity within acceptable limits.
Plus you can put the heater, skimmer, etc there rather than have it detract from the main display tank.
I worked it out a 24x24x24 cube is approx 60 gallons so I am guessing yours is close, in which case for serious corals a Metal Halide lighting setup with say a 10K bulb would be cheapest. You can do a 250 Iwasaki fairly cheap but may want supplemental actinic lighting. On the other hand a 250 watt HQI setup is a little more but is fine as a stand alone and comes in a slick pendent setup. Bill E uses them, you might look at his website in his profile. If you are looking at a 24" tank VHO is too expensive, PC means 4x55watt, cheaper but still expensive, MH or HQI starts looking good considering the intensity you get for the space
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for all your help guys. The measurements are 24x24x24. So I guess it is actually a 60 gallon. I bought a 15 gallon rubbermade container today. YAY. My first step toward getting the tank up and running. When I say "drape" I mean a hood....how do I build a hood for the MH or VHO lights? I guess you can't just put them on top of the glass top that I have for the tank. What do I do about this? I don't want to have to hang the lights from the ceiling. Again, thanks guys for all your helpful advice.

Sarah
 

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Sarah-
Metal halide lights need to be about 6-8" above the top of the tank and vho about 4-6". This makes most hoods really tall. You can build a generic "Box" hood, add a fan or two in the back or side and fit it with a retro kit.

This link might give you an idea: http://www.northernreef.org/light_box.htm
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Brooke,

How do I build this hood? Is there a kit? Do I have to be a master craftsmen <IMG SRC="smilies/redface.gif" border="0">) I'm an idiot when it comes to woodworking. What is my easiest, most cost efficient ...yet decent looking option.

Sarah
 

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Sarah,

I'm in the process of building a hood for a 55S. The hood design I based mine on was Biil-e's. I don't have his address, but it's in the link sectin of the board.

The hood can be as simple or complex as you like. You could prolly build it with a sheet of 3/4" plywood and a couple hinges.
 

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Sarah,
Hermit is right, your hood can be as simple or complex as you like so long as it provides proper support for your lighting system. Since most of have the aquarium in our living rooms where we can proudly display it, we do want it to look nice. For those of us who are challenged with woodworking, you can get a local cabinet shop or a friend who is a woodworker to build a hood and finish it the way you like.
Here is another simple hood design that can be adapted to your tank and needs: http://www.northernreef.org/light_box.htm
Because of the depth of your tank, metal halides would be the better light source, especially if you want to eventually keep SPS and/or clams. MH lamps generally cover about 24" but since your tank is square, to get optimum lighting for the tank, you might want at least a single 400W MH; two 250's would be even better. You can supplement the light with VHO's or even NO lighting to achieve the color you want or to add a dawn to dusk effect.
Here is a good general article on the different lighting types: http://www.candybass.com/lightingtypes.htm
Doing as much research, reading, and considering different opinions will make it easier to choose the right lighting for you the first time!
Dick <IMG SRC="smilies/smile.gif" border="0">
 
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