15 Steps to Starting a Saltwater Aquarium: The Lasse Method

VR28man

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Hello @Lasse

Thanks for this; my tank recently just died and I'm planning a new one.



One twist is that I might choose is to do a seagrass aquarium, i.e. with a decent sandbed and one of the easier seagrasses (e.g. Halophilia sp.) and maybe some macroalgae like halimeda. I will talk with one of the macroalgae dealers here in the US, but I'm thinking of doing the seagrass/macroalgae one of two ways:

1. adding it all at the beginning when I add the substrate. This is what the planted talk folks seem to generally recommend. I will try to get the seagrass seller to scoop up as much of the seagrass's substrate as I can (i.e. buy the seagrass and then hopefully they'll include say 5x5x5cm of substrate that surrounded the seagrass)

2. adding it at the same time you recommend adding soft corals. My main concern in option #1 is that there will not be enough nutrients to keep the seagrass running. (macroalgae is not a worry because it's more easily added)

I will use live rock straight from the ocean, filter media (seachem matrix) that's already loaded with bacteria, as well as as much live sand straight from the ocean as I can (for about 3 inches/5.5cm of sandbed)

Anyway, thoughts and suggestions appreciated.
 
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Lowell Lemon

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@Lasse
Thanks for a great explanation of how to start a tank with little or no stress! I have followed these methods dozens of times for customers and store owners. Works great every time. Live rock or live sand is a great way to get biodiversity started.

We used to set up total systems for pet industry wholesale shows around the country using these concepts. Fully stocked in a day and broken down and delivered to a local customer on the 3rd or 4th day. This requires using mature live rock as the base and we often used (wet/dry) filters that were mature as well. We used (wet/dry) cause that is what we were selling at the time! Worked great then but is laughed at now lol. The wet/dry filters were great for oxygenation without skimming.
 
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Hello @Lasse

Thanks for this; my tank recently just died and I'm planning a new one.



One twist is that I might choose is to do a seagrass aquarium, i.e. with a decent sandbed and one of the easier seagrasses (e.g. Halophilia sp.) and maybe some macroalgae like halimeda. I will talk with one of the macroalgae dealers here in the US, but I'm thinking of doing the seagrass/macroalgae one of two ways:

1. adding it all at the beginning when I add the substrate. This is what the planted talk folks seem to generally recommend. I will try to get the seagrass seller to scoop up as much of the seagrass's substrate as I can (i.e. buy the seagrass and then hopefully they'll include say 5x5x5cm of substrate that surrounded the seagrass)

2. adding it at the same time you recommend adding soft corals. My main concern in option #1 is that there will not be enough nutrients to keep the seagrass running. (macroalgae is not a worry because it's more easily added)

I will use live rock straight from the ocean, filter media (seachem matrix) that's already loaded with bacteria, as well as as much live sand straight from the ocean as I can (for about 3 inches/5.5cm of sandbed)

Anyway, thoughts and suggestions appreciated.
Love the project!!!

Seagrass is plants, not algae as many believes. It means that it is probably a nutrient uptake through the roots. Without knowing a lot of how to run a seagrass culture - I spontaneous would chose option 1 and look closer into the Walstad method (a lot of other links in the article) I this case - you have nutrients in the bottom layer of the sandbed and need not to worry about early lack of nutrients. There is also some algae from the at least the genus of Caulerpa that have been reported to take up nutrients through their root system. Combine this with a decent light (all seagrass bed I have seen in nature is in very shallow water), Good internal circulation (preferably as alternating waves - back and forth) in order to counteract the formation of micro environments with high oxygen levels. Look closer into the siesta method.

Skimming ? I do not know but during dark hours - you probably need extra oxygen into the system if you get it dense populated with plants and algae but it is a double-edged sword - you will use valuable CO2 too. You have to find a balance here

You need to combat the microalgae too - a huge and multifaceted CUC could be a good help, Hermits, snails, crabs and shrimps. Maybe not urchins and sea hares

If you start it - make a build thread!

Remark. I would think twice according to use a separate denitrification equipment like Seachem matrix - I´m not sure if it helps or hurts

Good Luck

Sincerely Lasse
 
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@Lasse
Thanks for a great explanation of how to start a tank with little or no stress! I have followed these methods dozens of times for customers and store owners. Works great every time. Live rock or live sand is a great way to get biodiversity started.

We used to set up total systems for pet industry wholesale shows around the country using these concepts. Fully stocked in a day and broken down and delivered to a local customer on the 3rd or 4th day. This requires using mature live rock as the base and we often used (wet/dry) filters that were mature as well. We used (wet/dry) cause that is what we were selling at the time! Worked great then but is laughed at now lol. The wet/dry filters were great for oxygenation without skimming.
IMO - the wet dry filters are great in many aspects. For the moment - I´m playing around with a filter that´s is easy to convert into a wet/dry mode. It has been in my thought for a long time. Another - now forgotten method - is the downstream skimming method. It is basically a trickle filter with free access to air and could be easily constructed with help of the level differences between DT and sump. We hope we will be able to do this in the new tank at the maritime museum - for gas exchanging, nitrification and pree skimming.

Sincerely Lasse
 
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blstravler

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This is spot on how I started my tank. The only thing I did differently was once I added a CUC I also started to introduce a very large population of Pods. Something to be said for simplicity. Excellent write up!!
 
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Bruce Burnett

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Not exactly the way I have done it but so close. Been doing that way for years just don't bother with crabs as part of cuc.
 

VR28man

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Love the project!!!

Seagrass is plants, not algae as many believes. It means that it is probably a nutrient uptake through the roots. Without knowing a lot of how to run a seagrass culture - I spontaneous would chose option 1 and look closer into the Walstad method (a lot of other links in the article) I this case - you have nutrients in the bottom layer of the sandbed and need not to worry about early lack of nutrients. There is also some algae from the at least the genus of Caulerpa that have been reported to take up nutrients through their root system. Combine this with a decent light (all seagrass bed I have seen in nature is in very shallow water), Good internal circulation (preferably as alternating waves - back and forth) in order to counteract the formation of micro environments with high oxygen levels. Look closer into the siesta method.

Skimming ? I do not know but during dark hours - you probably need extra oxygen into the system if you get it dense populated with plants and algae but it is a double-edged sword - you will use valuable CO2 too. You have to find a balance here

You need to combat the microalgae too - a huge and multifaceted CUC could be a good help, Hermits, snails, crabs and shrimps. Maybe not urchins and sea hares

If you start it - make a build thread!

Remark. I would think twice according to use a separate denitrification equipment like Seachem matrix - I´m not sure if it helps or hurts

Good Luck

Sincerely Lasse

Thanks, @Lasse ! I was going to expound a bit more, but that might derail the focus of this thread. So I've posted it in the macroalgae subforum. :). (link to be added here momentarily. Link is here: https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/seagrass-nano-lasse-vs-walstad.706309/)


The only point of the matrix would be as location for nitrifying and denitryfying bacteria, since this concept would go fairly light on live rock. But the deep sand bed would be another area for those bacteria.
 
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Are you saying that the Freshwater & Saltwater bacterial strains are the same?... or that there is overlap?.... because I was under the impression that there was NO overlap in the strains.
....
6) Add some nitrifying bacteria every day for three weeks or inoculate with detritus from an already functioning aquarium every day. There are many special bacterial strains available to buy, including a mixture of nitrification and break-down bacteria--avoid them in the beginning--only the nitrifying bacteria are of interest. I normally use a freshwater product--Sera NitriVeck--and dose 20 ml per 100 liters/day. Do you have an old aquarium running? Then take and turn out the filter in a few liters of water--fresh or salt--does not matter. Put it in the refrigerator, and then pour in an appropriate amount every day into your new aquarium. At the start of an aquarium it can be a good method to use an internal foam filter, which helps the nitrification to start. It can later be removed if you want.
 
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Yea - according to my experiences there is at least an overlap or adaption. The amoniumoxidezers are many and from many different types of organisms - including bacteria, archaea. fungus and probably many more. The nitrite oxidizers are fewer - known to me - bacteria from the genus nitrobacter and bacteria from the phylum nitrospirae. The last step. nitrite to nitrate have I - many times (when the process "hung" up just before the second step - indicated by high NO2 readings) - initiate and speed up with help of no marine organisms (reaction in 24 hours). However no controls - but I have done it very frequently and it is a strong indication that it works. My favorite nitrification bacteria in a bottle is SERA Nitrivec and it is for freshwater. Have also started with sludge from working freshwater aquariums.

Sincerely Lasse
 
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Ryebreadiest

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How would this be modified for a very small tank (under 25l) that may not have a fish?
 
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You could use a shrimp or some hermits instead of a fish if it is a very small aquarium that you do not want a fish into. However - there is small gobies that is excellent in small aquariums. Maybe not starting fish but interesting things to have in a nano.

Sincerely Lasse
 

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@Lasse thank you for this wonderful article. I am about 7 days from starting my new tank. It will be primarily LPS and some of the easier SPS, no Acros.
My question regards the skimmer. I like the idea of an oversized skimmer for aeration and gas exchange, but if needed, would an oversized skimmer not be effective in removing dissolved proteins? Everything I’ve seen so far says not to get a skimmer that’s too large. What advice might you offer? Thanks.
 
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The reason why the skimmers was constructed many years ago was just for removing proteins. That´s its job :D. If you chose an oversized skimmer . chose those that have DC pumps and if it shows up that it is to effective - just dial down the pump. For me - the aeration is most important and I´m using an oversized skimmer because of that. And I do not see any negative issues if it is good at taking out most of the proteins too. You can always chose to skim dry,

Sincerely Lasse
 

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Hi, can you explain the purpose of the addition of the potassium nitrate. I am new to this and have looked everywhere and all I see is articles about how to remove nitrates from the system. Thank you in advance.
 
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When you start a new system from scratch - there is no biology int system. Different organisms as algae and corals with zooxanthellae need nutrients. Its als that way that you often get "the ugly stage" when you start an aquarium from scratch. With this 15 steps - I have never get any "ugly stages" in the start. Some diatoms after a week but no mat building benthic cyanobacteria or dinoflagellates. I want to have nutrient into the aquarium asap and meet the green algae growth with CUC. Snails and hermits even fix the diatoms in the beginning. Today - it is accepted to run NO3 levels between 1 - 10 ppm and phosphates between 0.04 - 0.1. If you go too low in nitrate can it trigger a cyano outbreak - IMO. When you start with a fish and very sparse feeding the first weeks - you will not have enough nutrient if the water during the first month if the start is totally from scratch and with dry rocks. I´m not afraid of nutrients in the start - it is today easy to fix that after a month or two. However - the CUC is the key factor.

Sincerely Lasse
 

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For anyone using this method... I'm a bit confused on step 6 (adding nitrifying bacteria). Lasse adds it during a 21 day period. But how much should be added each day? I have a 100 gallon system. 4 oz of Fritz Turbo Start treats 100 gallons. Using his formula, would I add 2 oz EACH & EVERY DAY for 21 days? Or some other proportion?

Or in the case of Dr. Tim's, 8 oz treats 120 gallons. How much should be the daily dose?

Any insight and guidance is appreciated. Thanks!!
 
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It is important to use products that only content nitrifying bacteria - it can´t be overdosed. However - products "full of beneficial bacteria" often content both heterotrophic bacteria and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) - and this can be overdosed. I have no experiences of either Fritz Turbo start or Dr. Tims but what I understand their contents is nitrifying bacteria and no DOC or heterotrophic bacteria.

Do not see my steps as carved in stones - are you hesitant - follow the direction from the manufacturer but use only products that content nitrifying bacteria and nothing else. If you should use the full dose for one day or divided it between 21 days - I would prefer to do a dose every day and maybe overdose that - but still no overdosing if you are not sure that it is only content is nitrifying bacteria. But if you are unsure - follow the instructions from the manufacturer

IMO - the most important steps in my method is the feeding regime - following that regime - there is no risk for NH3 uppbuild.

And as always use your own head and adapt to your own aquarium.

Sincerely Lasse
 

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It is important to use products that only content nitrifying bacteria - it can´t be overdosed. However - products "full of beneficial bacteria" often content both heterotrophic bacteria and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) - and this can be overdosed. I have no experiences of either Fritz Turbo start or Dr. Tims but what I understand their contents is nitrifying bacteria and no DOC or heterotrophic bacteria.

Do not see my steps as carved in stones - are you hesitant - follow the direction from the manufacturer but use only products that content nitrifying bacteria and nothing else. If you should use the full dose for one day or divided it between 21 days - I would prefer to do a dose every day and maybe overdose that - but still no overdosing if you are not sure that it is only content is nitrifying bacteria. But if you are unsure - follow the instructions from the manufacturer

IMO - the most important steps in my method is the feeding regime - following that regime - there is no risk for NH3 uppbuild.

And as always use your own head and adapt to your own aquarium.

Sincerely Lasse
THANKS, @Lasse

I have a better understanding now. The principles behind your method are what’s important. I need to relax a bit more and have more confidence in the direction I’m going.

Jim
 

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