5 easy questions coming from a beginner

ReefBeta

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HOB filter will mainly served as bio filter and mechanical filter with floss. The mechanical filter is basically the same as filter sock. It won't be nutrients factory if replaced properly. But just like sock, if you don't clean it for too long, it will be major detritus trap. Bio filter part is not really relevant for reef tank because the sand bed and rock is much more efficient at it. So HOB filter can be useful, but there are other options that works better.

In terms of tank size, 40 breeder > 20 long > 29.

Sounds like budget is your main concern. If it's my budget build, I will go with a 40 breeder with this Reef Octopus Classic 1000 HOB skimmer. I had kept a 55 gallon with that skimmer being to solo filtration equipment for several years, and it worked pretty well. Its last chamber can even be used to run some media like carbon in a media bag.

Also a skimmer make it possible to run carbon dosing. It will be dirty cheap to do it with vodka. Carbon dosing is efficient enough to drive your nutrient to undetectable level, so you won't need another method like refugium or algae reactor, another save of cost.
 
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adittam

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Beginner reefer here as well who has gone through a lot of the same questions recently. One of the ways I’ve saved some cash is by using the ongoing promo petco has which is 25% off online purchases with in-store pickup (must spend at least $50, and the discount maxes out when you hit $50 off, so after that, start a separate order). If you go with a HOB filter, I’d recommend going a lot bigger (at least double) whatever size tank the filter is rated for. Aquaclear HOBs work great, and they make one rated for tanks 40-70 gallons that would be perfect for a 20-30 gallon tank. https://www.petco.com/shop/en/petcostore/product/aquaclear-70-aquarium-power-filter
 

adittam

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If you want more options for fish, go with a 40 breeder instead of the 20. Lots more swimming room.

I was going to go with a 36 gallon bow front, but decided to go with a 46 bow front instead so I have more fish options. I still can’t get anything like tangs or butterflyfish, but at least I can do a wrasse or coral beauty angel now. I’m running it with a canister filter, which is a step up from HOB, but not as pricey or complicated as a skimmer.
 
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What's the main reason you take on DIY reefing projects?

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