It's worth noting that a marine tank has its costs directly related to its size. Since I needed to save money, I set up this tank in the most economical way I could, like this:
- I chose a tank size thinking mainly in the setup/maintenance and also lighting costs. Since I didn't want HQI lighting because they heat the water too much, I opted for fluorescent tubes, which limited my coral choices to those less demanding of light. Thus, I chose a 70 cm tank so I could use 60 cm tubes (20 W).
- I opted for a tank with a rear sump, because, although I consider a separate sump in the stand below the tank the best option in terms of volume, esthetics and ease of maintenance, the money aspect took precedence.
- I calculated the nominal tank volume, disregarding the sump, and used it to calculate the number of light tubes (about 1 W/L). I also calculated the amount of substrate to reach 12 cm in height. Nowadays I would choose to put a little less Halimeda (about 20 kg), or better yet, would use live sand in smaller quantity (8-10 cm). This type of substrate greatly accelerates the cycling period. Continuing with the calculations, I added 15 kg of live rock (15% of the display volume) and chose a skimmer, considering the space available in the sump and ability to remove waste. I like to have a skimmer that's rated for twice the size of my needs. This is one of the few items where you can't save much, and any attempt to do so can result in painful costs later.
- Then, I calculated the circulation in 2000 L/h (20 times the display volume). I opted for a single pump in the sump for that. I could have opted for several smaller pumps inside the display to help, but I'd already made that choice in a previous reef and I didn't like the results, esthetically. Nowadays there's a variety of equipment to help circulation, such as wave-makers, rotators, etc. However, I just added a PVC pipe flow distributor for economy.
- For heating, I used a brand name thermostat calculating 1 W/L, since I live in a hot region. As for cooling, I added two 12x12 cm fans, connected to a digital controler. The best option to me would be a chiller with heater but, besides the noise that my fans make when they're on, I don't have any complaints. It's worth saying that the prices of aquarium chillers are very high, at least here in Brazil.
- For water, I bought a deionizer filter from a friend and synthetic salt. I also installed a UV filter to help with possible pathogens and algae control. I left the tank running without lights for about a month, to eliminate any excess organic matter and avoid possible infesteation of algae. Then I turned on the lights, increasing the photoperiod gradually, controlling with two timers. One for the actinic light (turning on first and off last, to simulate sunrise/sunset) and the other for the whites. I believe this reduces the stress in the animals.
- About one week later I added the clean-up team (animals that feed on algae and detritus). The best known around here are hermit crabs, turbo snails and brittle stars. From then on I started monitoring the cycling with tests, until no more ammonia or nitrite were detected.
- Then comes the best part, adding the main animals. I chose fish that were compatible with the tank size, with each other and with corals. As for the corals, part were bought and part were frag gifts from fellow fishkeepers. I gave preference to soft corals, since my lighting is inadequate for hard coral types (SPS and LPS).
In summary, this reef became an eye-catching setup and no one who comes to my house without saying something like “Look, it's a Nemo couple”.
I'd like to thank Marcos, not only for featuring my aquarium, but mainly for the creation and maintenance of this wonderful website, regarded as one of the best and most encompassing in its category. Thanks!