5 easy questions coming from a beginner

LifeOfAquatics

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1. Do I need a protein skimmer for a 20 Gallon long tank? I’ve seen many mixed opinions
2. Is a HOB filter ok for a reef tank? I originally thought so and bought one rated for a maximum of a 33 gallon tank but very recently I saw a few people say there are like detritus factories and stuff. I really don’t want to buy a protein skimmer especially if I go with such a small tank like say a 20-29 gallon. Would the HOB work fine with live rock and live sand? I also plan on replacing the pads once a month or so.
3. Should I get a 20 long or a 29 gallon? I originally wanted to get a 75 gallon but chose to instead go much smaller and get some other stuff I want with the leftover money. But a 29 won’t cost too much more than a 20 long right? The sand needed would roughly be the same, just the live rock is the only difference. But a lot of people have said that 29s are awkward in shape and are odd to aquascape, 20 long would be nice cause I would have more light options since the tank is shallow, PAR would be greater. What would you suggest?
4. Tying in with my previous question, should I get a 20 long, 29, or a 40 breeder? I want to save money and dont feel like buying a protein skimmer. I really want to buy some other stuff as well, what do you suggest?
5. so in my HOB it has a blue pad with carbon in it, how often should I change this out? Once a month? Week? And instead of buying new pads, can I just use big 6 foot pads that I can cut into the shapes I need for my tank (there are like pond filter pads, the big blue ones I forgot what they were called)? Basically, the mechanical filtration is the one that needs replacing every week/month right?
 
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So the answer to all of your questions is, it depends.
1. What livestock do you plan to keep?
2. How often are you willing to do water changes?
3. How much time are you willing to spend on maintenance?

your live rock and sand will be your biological filter. You’ll need some mechanical filtration to get the big stuff out of the tank. Depending on livestock you may need chemical filtration like carbon and GFO.
Essentially, you need enough filtration to export excess waste and nutrients from your system. The lower your bioload, the less filtration you will need.
For stability reasons more water volume = much easier to succeed, especially when you are first learning. The lower the volume of water the more impact from small changes. Even evaporation, in a small tank the salinity can change quite a bit in a day or two if you aren’t utilizing an auto top off (ATO).
 

davidcalgary29

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Those questions are actually very hard to answer without knowing how you want to stock it. :)

You don't need either a protein skimmer or a HOB filter for a marine tank; your substrate and (eventually) live rock does that work for you.
 

Rtaylor

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Your best option might be to look for a used AIO (all in one) aquarium as it gives a bit more space for filtration options. Then you won’t need a HOB filter either. Just a return pump (which is usually included).
 

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1. Do I need a protein skimmer for a 20 Gallon long tank? I’ve seen many mixed opinions
2. Is a HOB filter ok for a reef tank? I originally thought so and bought one rated for a maximum of a 33 gallon tank but very recently I saw a few people say there are like detritus factories and stuff. I really don’t want to buy a protein skimmer especially if I go with such a small tank like say a 20-29 gallon. Would the HOB work fine with live rock and live sand? I also plan on replacing the pads once a month or so.
3. Should I get a 20 long or a 29 gallon? I originally wanted to get a 75 gallon but chose to instead go much smaller and get some other stuff I want with the leftover money. But a 29 won’t cost too much more than a 20 long right? The sand needed would roughly be the same, just the live rock is the only difference. But a lot of people have said that 29s are awkward in shape and are odd to aquascape, 20 long would be nice cause I would have more light options since the tank is shallow, PAR would be greater. What would you suggest?
4. Tying in with my previous question, should I get a 20 long, 29, or a 40 breeder? I want to save money and dont feel like buying a protein skimmer. I really want to buy some other stuff as well, what do you suggest?
5. so in my HOB it has a blue pad with carbon in it, how often should I change this out? Once a month? Week? And instead of buying new pads, can I just use big 6 foot pads that I can cut into the shapes I need for my tank (there are like pond filter pads, the big blue ones I forgot what they were called)? Basically, the mechanical filtration is the one that needs replacing every week/month right?
1. No. You just need another method of nutrient export, etc. though.
2. Yes a HOB works fine, I don't really see why they'd be the detritus factory to the degree that people normally say they become. Question is, what will you place in the HOB though. That's the important bit.
3. This is more of personal preferences, though yes, you might need like more lights or whatever with a 29 gallon long, and that might blow out the budget. The thing is, if you go for a different brand, there may be other options that is both larger in size and still can use the same light as a 20 gallon tank. What tank were you looking at exactly?
4. As above. Plus, I had tanks up to 40 gallons with a HOB and a skimmer. A skimmer is not necessarily if, again, you have a method for nutrient export.
5. What brand is this? Every brand is different. If it has carbon its primary role would likely be chemical, not mechanical filtration. But depends on the brand and product.
6. Generally when you ask for recommendations, please write out what brands and products you are talking about. There are soooooooo many different products and brands, and it all matters.
 
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LifeOfAquatics

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Those questions are actually very hard to answer without knowing how you want to stock it. :)

You don't need either a protein skimmer or a HOB filter for a marine tank; your substrate and (eventually) live rock does that work for you.
Hello, yes sorry I should have included my stocking ideas. So for the 20 long I'm planning no more than 5 fish with 4 being my safe number. I plan one clownfish, one firefish, one lawnmower blenny/watchman goby/jawfish (the tanks footprint is the same as that of a 29 gallon so jawfish should work i believe). I am also looking at a small dwarf angel like a pygmy or a cherub but I am unsure yet. I still want to add maybe 1 or 2 more fish max but nothing too crazy.
 
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LifeOfAquatics

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Your best option might be to look for a used AIO (all in one) aquarium as it gives a bit more space for filtration options. Then you won’t need a HOB filter either. Just a return pump (which is usually included).
Hmm, I'll look into those actually. In the meantime, could you please answer my other questions? Thanks!
 

davidcalgary29

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Your best option might be to look for a used AIO (all in one) aquarium as it gives a bit more space for filtration options. Then you won’t need a HOB filter either. Just a return pump (which is usually included).
You know, I really think that the Evo is the perfect starter tank. I've had to make a few minor upgrades (that pump), and it doesn't offer as much flexibility that a larger tank would, but it's a really neat little unit. It's a great place to start until you become more comfortable with marine systems.

OP: just read your stock list. I'd ditch the clown and go for a goby, firefish (goby), a blenny, and maybe an orchid dottyback, as well as coral and some inverts. Dwarf angels are really not a good idea for a 20 or 29g build.
 

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Hello, yes sorry I should have included my stocking ideas. So for the 20 long I'm planning no more than 5 fish with 4 being my safe number. I plan one clownfish, one firefish, one lawnmower blenny/watchman goby/jawfish (the tanks footprint is the same as that of a 29 gallon so jawfish should work i believe). I am also looking at a small dwarf angel like a pygmy or a cherub but I am unsure yet. I still want to add maybe 1 or 2 more fish max but nothing too crazy.
A dwarf angel and a clown get too big for a 20 gallon tank. Your stocking options, especially on the 20 gallon are really limited to the few fish that are only 1-2”. And probably only 4 of them (maybe 5 or 6 if they are all under 1.5”). Once you get rock in there, there isn’t as much space as you’d think.
 
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LifeOfAquatics

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1. No. You just need another method of nutrient export, etc. though.
2. Yes a HOB works fine, I don't really see why they'd be the detritus factory to the degree that people normally say they become. Question is, what will you place in the HOB though. That's the important bit.
3. This is more of personal preferences, though yes, you might need like more lights or whatever with a 29 gallon long, and that might blow out the budget. The thing is, if you go for a different brand, there may be other options that is both larger in size and still can use the same light as a 20 gallon tank. What tank were you looking at exactly?
4. As above. Plus, I had tanks up to 40 gallons with a HOB and a skimmer. A skimmer is not necessarily if, again, you have a method for nutrient export.
5. What brand is this? Every brand is different. If it has carbon its primary role would likely be chemical, not mechanical filtration. But depends on the brand and product.
6. Generally when you ask for recommendations, please write out what brands and products you are talking about. There are soooooooo many different products and brands, and it all matters.
Hello, for 1, what would be a suggested method for nutrient export? A fuge? I could do a mini diy in tank internal sump i suppose to hide my heater and to have a really small fuge. Would a hob fuge work? Are those even safe?
for 2, what would you suggest i place in the hob filter?
for 3, i was looking at the 20 long tank mainly as i love the dimensions of it. as far as lights go, i haven't decided yet since i am still planning on whether or not to do sps in the future. this is my first time in saltwater so i am unsure. any suggestions? definitely soft corals and eventually some easy lps corals.
for 5, I'm not sure rn but it was a Walmart filter that i picked up cause my other filter broke. it had like 100 gph and came with a yellow plastic pad and a blue pad with carbon on the inside. ill let you know tmw what brand it was. i might switch to an aquaclear tbh cause i could have a mini fuge inside the filter i think. thanks!
 
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Hmm, I'll look into those actually. In the meantime, could you please answer my other
I did, it depends. Someone else answered as well. You need enough nutrient and waste export to match what the tank imports. Bigger is easier. How often to change a filter pad? When it’s dirty. Yeah you can cut them from a roll.
 

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My 20 long no skimmer or filter judt water changes started 4months ago
 

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LifeOfAquatics

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You know, I really think that the Evo is the perfect starter tank. I've had to make a few minor upgrades (that pump), and it doesn't offer as much flexibility that a larger tank would, but it's a really neat little unit. It's a great place to start until you become more comfortable with marine systems.

OP: just read your stock list. I'd ditch the clown and go for a goby, firefish (goby), a blenny, and maybe an orchid dottyback, as well as coral and some inverts. Dwarf angels are really not a good idea for a 20 or 29g build.
would one ocellaris clown not work? and i and trying to avoid any dottybacks due to their aggression. the only blenny I'm considering is the midas blenny, those are stunning. what abt one clownfish, 1 firefish, maybe a midas blenny, maybe one banggaii cardinal, here ill just tell you everything I'm considering and could you tell me what the best combination of fish in your opinion is? also im prolly going to ditch the angel idea ngl,

possible options:

1-2 clownfish
1 firefish
0-1 midas blenny
0-1 lawnmower blenny/watchman goby/jawfish
0-1 cardinal fish
0-1 possum wrasse
0-1 scissortail dartfish (idk abt this one i legit thought abt it like 5 mins ago)

that's abt it this is prolly gonna be a 20 long tank and i honestly have no clue abt the dartfish i added it like 10 mins ago off of a whim, was gonna research them later this week.
 
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LifeOfAquatics

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My 20 long no skimmer or filter judt water changes started 4months ago
really pretty tank! hope for mine to look something similar in terms of rockscape. if you don't mind, could you tell me your fish and coral choices? also the light your using. thank you! and again, wonderful tank!
 

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Hello, for 1, what would be a suggested method for nutrient export? A fuge? I could do a mini diy in tank internal sump i suppose to hide my heater and to have a really small fuge. Would a hob fuge work? Are those even safe?
for 2, what would you suggest i place in the hob filter?
for 3, i was looking at the 20 long tank mainly as i love the dimensions of it. as far as lights go, i haven't decided yet since i am still planning on whether or not to do sps in the future. this is my first time in saltwater so i am unsure. any suggestions? definitely soft corals and eventually some easy lps corals.
for 5, I'm not sure rn but it was a Walmart filter that i picked up cause my other filter broke. it had like 100 gph and came with a yellow plastic pad and a blue pad with carbon on the inside. ill let you know tmw what brand it was. i might switch to an aquaclear tbh cause i could have a mini fuge inside the filter i think. thanks!
1. Fuge or algae turf scrubber works, yeah. Hob fuge works, yes. Not sure why it won't be safe.
2. Mechanical filtration, then biomedia. Chemical filtration last, only when/if necessary. I like Poly-filter as a chemical filter medium as it changes color as it is used up.
3. Again, do you have a brand of tank you are looking for? It is supposedly standardized, but I have invariably seen heaps of different tanks listed as '20 long' or whatever and have different dimensions. Suggestions for lights imo would then be an AI Prime or similar, since that can work for soft corals and stuff, but then also work for LPS and eventually SPS if you go down that route.
5. Coolio.
7. Re: fish, one clownfish works. Does not have to be a pair.
 
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would one ocellaris clown not work? and i and trying to avoid any dottybacks due to their aggression. the only blenny I'm considering is the midas blenny, those are stunning. what abt one clownfish, 1 firefish, maybe a midas blenny, maybe one banggaii cardinal, here ill just tell you everything I'm considering and could you tell me what the best combination of fish in your opinion is? also im prolly going to ditch the angel idea ngl,

possible options:

1-2 clownfish
1 firefish
0-1 midas blenny
0-1 lawnmower blenny/watchman goby/jawfish
0-1 cardinal fish
0-1 possum wrasse
0-1 scissortail dartfish (idk abt this one i legit thought abt it like 5 mins ago)

that's abt it this is prolly gonna be a 20 long tank and i honestly have no clue abt the dartfish i added it like 10 mins ago off of a whim, was gonna research them later this week.
Clownfish can be aggressive, although that's much more a problem when they're paired. Captive-bred orchid dottybacks are not -- at least in my experience -- and I have three of them in two different builds. Most reports that I've read of aggression in this species have arisen out of confusion with this and the purple dottyback, which certainly is aggressive.

Wrasses do not belong in a small build, and are jumpers. Most people seem to be bored with their cardinals.

I really think you should take a look at the Evo build threads. You can, with care, put three small fish in there, including a clown if you really want one. Evos have three other major pluses:

-it has a canopy. Most of the fish on your wanted list are jumpers.
-it has decent (for softies and LPS) stock lighting
-it's an AIO build, and will take most of the guesswork about a potential build.
 
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LifeOfAquatics

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1. Fuge or algae turf scrubber works, yeah. Hob fuge works, yes. Not sure why it won't be safe.
2. Mechanical filtration, then biomedia. Chemical filtration last, only when/if necessary. I like Poly-filter as a chemical filter medium as it changes color as it is used up.
3. Again, do you have a brand of tank you are looking for? It is supposedly standardized, but I have invariably seen heaps of different tanks listed as '20 long' or whatever and have different dimensions. Suggestions for lights imo would then be an AI Prime or similar, since that can work for soft corals and stuff, but then also work for LPS and eventually SPS if you go down that route.
5. Coolio.
7. Re: fish, one clownfish works. Does not have to be a pair.
i thought it wouldnt be safe cause I've heard that hob overflows were unsafe so i thought that a hob fuge would also be unsafe. so do i have to replace the mechanical or the chemical filtration? as for the tank, i was just going to pick a 20 long ( 30 x 12 x 12) from petco during a dollar per gallon sale. ai prime is a bit expensive, especially if i end up not doing sps, any others?
 

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really pretty tank! hope for mine to look something similar in terms of rockscape. if you don't mind, could you tell me your fish and coral choices? also the light your using. thank you! and again, wonderful tank!

THANK YOU! I made this post yesterday check it out. But in terms of fish I have a mandarin ,dragon pipefish, clownfish, firefish goby. And way to many corals to name specifically lol. but a lot of Zoas/palys, Euphyllia, Christmas rock, trachys, scolys, acans, Xenia, bird nest, bubble, torches, toadstool, trumpet,gonioporas,ricordeas, and more.
 

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i thought it wouldnt be safe cause I've heard that hob overflows were unsafe so i thought that a hob fuge would also be unsafe. so do i have to replace the mechanical or the chemical filtration? as for the tank, i was just going to pick a 20 long ( 30 x 12 x 12) from petco during a dollar per gallon sale. ai prime is a bit expensive, especially if i end up not doing sps, any others?
Huh, I have never heard of or experience HOBs overflowing. I guess some brands/products might be badly designed, but all the HOBs I used have no problems pouring all the water back into the tank even at max water pumping.

To be honest I have never had a HOB fuge so I don't exactly know how it works, but plenty of people have them, so there's probably a method to the madness, otherwise it would just have not gained any traction. As for the tank, I get what you mean now. So if you are gonna go for a 29 gallon tank from Petco, a lot of lights that work on a 20 gallon could also work for a 29 gallon, since it is only 6 inches longer. Even an AI Prime would work for the 29 gallon tank you are thinking of. If not AI Prime though, beats me. I am new to the U.S. so a lot of what I used to know... do not exist here. Otherwise I'd just suggest a ComboRay or similar and call it done.
 
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