Posted: 2009.03.10(Tue)17:12 Post subject: New 90g Reef Aquarium
Well my dad and I finally got around to setting up our seven year dormant 90 gallon reef aquarium. 3 weeks ago he finished his new office in our unfinished basement and we filled the tank up. We also added some rock from previously when we last had this tank set up. we probably had about 100-150 pounds of once live rock. We then put in 10 pounds of live sand and let the tank sit for the past three weeks.
So last night dad comes home from shopping with 3 juvenile (about 1 to 1.5 inches) yellowtail damsels and three same sized domino damsels. These are the first saltwater fish I have ever really been able to enjoy as I was only 6 when this tank came down last time. They are absolutely vivid I seriously think my next project for my 45 gallon in my room will be a FOWLER tank.
The tank itself is 48*18*25. The filtration consists of an overflow box that drains down into about a 20 gallon sump full of biological and mechanical filtration, with a whole bunch of bio-balls the water is then sucked through a pump and back into the tank.
We do intend to add something along the lines of 40-50 pounds of new live rock to seed the tank in the near future. We are also going to add some low light hard and soft corals for the tank as the idea is that this will be a reef.
I want the final stock to be fish wise
3x yellow tail damsel
3x domino damsel
8-10x random smaller gobies
1x mandarin dragonet
1x flame angel fish
1x coral beauty angel fish
2x (girl+boy) false percula clownfish
I do have a few comments as you get this process started. First, you should be aware that adding any Centropyge species of angelfish to a reef aquarium is taking a risk. You are further increasing this risk by adding both the Flame Angel and the Coral Beauty Angel. I would suggest that you consider a Zebrasoma Tang species, such as the Yellow Tang, as an alternative to both of these fish.
Also, Centropyge Angelfish are risky when mixed together in smaller sized aquariums, such as your 90 gallon. I am personally setting up a 180 reef and I am not 100% confident in mixing 2 species from this genus together. This is my favorite genus of fish, so I will probably give it a go, but it is a risk nevertheless.
I also have long term concerns with water quality. In a reef system, your goal should be to eliminate Nitrate buildup and to stabilize alkalinity and calcium levels. The use of a bio filter in the sump will make this process extremely difficult. I would instead suggest that you use live rock and a protein skimmer as your only filtration source. You will find this to be a tremendous advantage in a reef environment, or any marine environment with live rock for that matter.
I'm glad to see you getting this moving, you are wise to plan out your stocking list in advance. The one that jumped out at me was the Mandarin Dragonet, they are unsuitable for most hobbyist tanks due to a need for live food. They usually starve under average care so please avoid this species. The groups of identical damsels is also a common mistake; we have all done this but it leads to trouble. Please refer to this article for more details on your livestock:
Mark is right, your trickle filter is going to become a nitrate factory fast, and many inverts are sensitive to nitrates. Most reefers seek nitrate levels at zero to 5 ppm and that's going to be difficult unless you plan for it in the beginning. When you are shooting for a successful reef tank, even the basics like substrate and filtration choices can come back to haunt you here. Typically, we see aquarists trying to turn a "fish tank" into a "reef tank," and the results are often disheartening.
The soft coral setup is certainly do-able, but all corals require advanced care/knowledge, and you will probably need a chemical filter to help remove their associated toxins. Your research will lead to happiness, please review this article, and note Myth 4 regarding quarantine and Myth 15 regarding reef systems:
http://www.aquahobby.com/board/viewtopic.php?t=24970 _________________ Keepin' marines happy for 25 years
I didn't mention it in the post above (forgot) but we do have a protein skimmer running on the tank.
I did read both articles, the Only reason I put mandarin dragonet on there was to see if a 90 gallon wold be enough to allow it to feed on natural copepods.My dad was shopping when we bought the damsels but I'm not to worried as they seem pretty mild mannered now.
Just to clarify my dad did at one point have a healthy tank with thriving inverts corals and fish but unfortunately this was taken down due to the fact that we moved 500 miles from home.
Honestly I was worried that the stocking levels would be to much for a 90 gallon to handle.
So basically the bio filters will remove all nitrite in the tank but load it up with nitrate? Which then turns into nitrogen, correct? isn't that the same as what live rock does? _________________ God created all the fish in the sea, he just gave some more than others, cichlids rule!
So basically the bio filters will remove all nitrite in the tank but load it up with nitrate? Which then turns into nitrogen, correct? isn't that the same as what live rock does?
Actually, nothing is really REMOVED, the ammonia (fish waste) is CONVERTED to a less toxic form of nitrate. Nitrates (NO3) are nitrogen-oxygen chemical units which combine with various organic and inorganic compounds. The most common use of nitrates is fertilizer. These dissolved organic compounds are tolerated to a degree by most fish but without nutrient EXPORT they will quickly build in a system until they become dangerous to sensitive inverts. So what you want is nutrient EXPORT vs. nutrient conversion.
Trickle filters do nothing to export nutrients, but they convert it to nitrate quite well. A well designed skimmer and water changes will help with this export. Live rock can also help to a degree. However a skimmer that is not working properly will do nothing and even a tank full of live rock will have nitrate problems if uneaten food, overcrowded conditions, dead spaces, dirt-filled substrate and slow circulation are allowed to exist in the tank. More below from my archives:
High nitrates are more of an indicator of total dissolved organic compounds and overall system health, such as pH issues. Some species are indeed less/more sensitive than others to DOC's and nutrient/metabolite buildup. For reef/invert systems, most target less than 5 ppm and they often keep sparse fish populations in those tanks to help limit nutrient input. For more robust fish systems nitrates are less of a concern; a 20 to 40 ppm reading is common and can usually be maintained/lowered with efficient skimming and scheduled water changes. While many fish are likely not harmed by moderate or even higher nitrate levels, IMO higher nitrates almost always go hand in hand with a low pH; and pH/alkaline reserve is a much more serious parameter that requires careful attention in all marine systems.
Are you concerned about your nitrate levels?
Well the first thing you need to do is verify your test readings with a second test kit. Have your LFS check the water.
Providing your readings are accurate I would say:
1. Large bio filters, trickle towers, cannisters are not helping, the media is going to convert any nutrients to more nitrates. We don't need more CONVERSION here with your light bio load, what we need is more nutrient EXPORT. I would SLOWLY remove this media in both of them over the period of 90 days, a little at a time. You can leave the cannister or tower system running empty for more circulation.
2. At the SAME time, add a powerful skimmer. Also make sure your skimmer is working; should be removing dark sludge every day for you, if not then adjust it or find one that does. If one is not doing the job you can add another unit, but always start by getting one bigger than the gallon rating on the box. Choose wisely, lots of overated junk out there.
3. Tell me about your substrate; 2-3 inch crushed coral beds, dead sand beds in robust fish displays can all be nutrient sinks/adding nitrates faster than water changes can keep up. Hobby is supposed to be relaxing, after all. A properly balanced basic marine system should only require monthly water changes or less.
4. You may need to look into a deep sand bed (DSB) located inside a refugium (not in the display) there is much info available on the web for that, use your search engine. Also look into an algae filter, which can also be located in a refugium/sump below the tank. Try a big wad of chaetomorpha (not caulerpa) in a reverse lighted sump, that will serve as a great export filter for your pesky nitrates. Plants love consuming fertilizer!
5. Lighten the load! Less is more... less food, less waste, you get the idea. Less fuel for the fire so to speak... stop asking, "how many more fish can I have," and instead ask, "how few fish can I be happy with?" Those few carefully chosen specimens will be more healthy and even have room to grow. _________________ Keepin' marines happy for 25 years
Sorry for getting my nitrites and nitrates messed up but thats what I meant when a said "remove" nitrite. The article was very helpful, thanks for posting.
So that stocking list doesn't look like it is to much for the system to handle?
Is there any other way to eliminate nitrates besides removing the bio filter? What he says is that the bio filter converts the ammonia/nitrites in the tank into nitrates which are then destroyed by beneficial bacteria and algae which build up in the tank.
Currently the tank is still sterile so the damsels are in there to help with the cycling
Don't worry the parameters are still well below anything toxic to damsels. _________________ God created all the fish in the sea, he just gave some more than others, cichlids rule!
Is there any other way to eliminate nitrates besides removing the bio filter?
I answered this above, see no. 1 - 5, you won't eliminate them but you can make an on-going effort to EXPORT them. This is called good maintenance.
What he says is that the bio filter converts the ammonia/nitrites in the tank into nitrates which are then destroyed by beneficial bacteria and algae which build up in the tank...
Not exactly, allow me to correct your statement and clarify mine...
The bacteria in the bio filter and/or live rock convert the ammonia/nitrites in the tank into nitrates, which then build up in the tank until they are EXPORTED by water changes or an algae filter as described in my article above. The skimmer is unique, in that it actually short-circuits this process, removing the waste BEFORE it is converted by the bacteria.
Nitrates can also be added when you top off the tank with tap water, (yes, nitrates can exist in your tap water!) along with phosphates, see my comments below on that issue...
In low concentration, Phosphate is actually one of the top essential trace elements considered essential for good marine aquarium water. But higher levels are usually a big problem. Reduction of phosphates (PO4) is important for SPS tanks, because higher phosphates quickly lead to unwanted algae, and delicate corals and other invertebrates are irritated by lots of phosphate. When dissolved PO4 rises above 0.03/4 ppm, you are almost always going to start getting slammed with micro algae blooms (not good).
This rising phosphate scenario is almost a given in marine aquaria; because phosphates come from uneaten food, eaten food (waste), the water used to thaw the food, bacterial die-off, algae die-off, even the carbon we use can leach phosphates into the water. In short, phosphates (like nitrates) are always adding up.
For the basic marine fish tank it's not so critical, but for sensitive reef tanks the ideal level is zero, with an upper level of 0.05 ppm-mg/l to 0.1 ppm considered acceptable (depending on the author quoted and the sensitivity of your animals).
What to do...
Water changes can help, however make sure you're not adding even MORE phosphates with these water changes, because many cities have surprisingly high levels of nitrates and phosphates in the tap water. That's right, test your tap water! Reverse Osmosis (RO) water may be required and is a common choice among reefers, but to be really effective against high phosphates you may need two de-ionization stages (in series) on the RO filter. Yes, these cartridges will need replacing. Another thing that can help reef tanks is kalkwasser solution, which is often used for SPS happiness, and has been associated with lowering phosphate levels.
There are plenty of reliable phosphate removing products, such as Sea Chem's PhosGuard, Thiel Aqua Tech's X-Phosphate, Kent Marine's Phosphate Sponge and Coralife's Phosphate Remover, but these are usually exhausted quickly and are only part of the solution not silver bullets.
Some hobbyists with high phosphates who think they can add these products once every 6 months and forget about it may be in for a rude awakening. For example if you go the Seachem website they clearly state, "in an environment with an excessively high phosphate reading, PhosGuard will exhaust rapidly (4 _________________ Keepin' marines happy for 25 years
I can't even tell you how helpful you've been. Thanks for taking the time out of your day to help a newbie like me.
I really like the idea of an Algae filter, my only question is wouldn't the algae get into the main tank and take over?
Also thanks a million n the phosphates article.I am rally glad we have the best tap water in the country here in Metro-Detroit. The water comes straight out of Lake Huron. So I don't think Phosphates should be an issue. (I'll be sure to test it however,)
Do you have any ideas for a good low light beginner coral that we should start with, the corals won't be added for at least 1.5-2 months
any suggestions would be appreciated _________________ God created all the fish in the sea, he just gave some more than others, cichlids rule!
I do not really consider any corals to be easy, but here are some that require less light and usually get top marks from various authors. Your research will lead to success...
SO-CALLED "EASY" CORALS
1. Mushroom Corals (Actinodiscus)
3. Colt Corals (Cladiella)
3. Star Polyps (Pachyclavularia)
4. Sea Mat and Button Polyps (Zoanthids, Palythoa, CAUTION: can be toxic to humans)
5. Toadstool and Leather Corals (Sarcophyton)
6. Finger Corals (Alcyonium)
Soft corals may be a good choice for you. Here are a few articles to get you started, Scott Michael does a good job here of outlining the pros and cons associated with both softies and stony corals, notice the question is coming from a hobbyist who is converting a fish tank to a reef:
http://www.aquariumfish.com/aquariumfish/detail.aspx?aid=1894&cid=3790&search= _________________ Keepin' marines happy for 25 years
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