First Saltwater tank - 55 Gallon

Sean W.

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Hi everyone!

I'm very excited to begin the build thread for my very first saltwater tank ever! I have been keeping freshwater tanks for the last 20 years or so, ever since I was a kid. As I advanced in the hobby, got a little older and began to make more money, I transitioned into higher tech planted tanks with high light and Co2 injection.

I have noticed over the last few years that I tend to get bored very quickly with my freshwater tanks, at risk of sounding arrogant, I felt as tho I had mastered freshwater tanks and they just weren't rewarding to keep anymore. I considered it a long time if a tank was up and running for more than 6 months before I tore it down to try something else. Never satisfied.

Keeping a salt water tank was as much a fantasy as going to the moon to me, I simply thought it was just unobtainable, never going to happen. I always thought tho that mayybeeee one day, just maybe, I could have a saltwater tank.

About 5 months ago, I started the research process of getting into saltwater. I think with the experience of 20 years in freshwater, I was feeling pretty confident that now was the time to make the jump.


Before we begin, I did want to show a few of my previous freshwater tanks that I'm particularly proud of!

75 Gallon high tech planted


5 Gallon high tech planted


Low tech 75 gallon


Low tech 30 gallon


Low tech 40 gallon breeder



So here is the current setup.


This was a previous freshwater planted 55 gallon that I tore down and transitioned to saltwater. As unfortunte as it is that I used a 55 gallon, I couldn't have anything deeper than 12", and 48" was about as wide as I could go, so a Petco 55 gallon was the way to go.


The plan is to keep it as a FOWLR for the first few months while I get the hang of keeping a saltwater tank, till I get in a groove. This will also let the tank establish itself and get super balanced before I start putting corals in.

I am also thinking of keeping this as a soft coral tank only. I actually really like soft corals, I like things that have motion, that move and sway in the flow of the water, to me, THAT is what a coral is. The fact they tend to be easier to care for, often cost less and are more tolerant of mistakes make them that much more appealing to me. I know there is an unspoken "stigma" in the hobby that soft corals are for noobs, and are less impressive than a SPS tank, however I really like them and I think that's what I'm going to go with.




Current stocking is:

1x Absolute zero Clown fish
1x Snowflake Clown fish
1x Royale Gramma Dottyback
3x Hermet crabs
















Here is a video I took too, it's in 4k ;)


Now lets take a look under the hood... I think this is where a lot of you reefers are going to scratch your head and think, "what the heck is this guy doing".





So, under the blanket is a SunSun 704B Canister filter, rated at 525GPH, chalked full of golfball sized lava rock and some mechanical filtration. It's under the blanket because my tank is in my front room and I wanted to make it as inaudible as possible. There are also a few towels under the blanket as well, wrapped all around the canister filter.

I didn't go with a sump for a few reasons.... I didn't want to drill my tank, I didn't want to use an overflow box, I don't think it's possible to get a sump as quiet as the canister filter under the towels and blankets - tho I imagine some will disagree with that statement; this setup is absolutely inaudible, I already had the canister filter and I don't plan on stocking too heavily, I didn't want to deal with all the cost associated with a sump... Lots of reasons, hopefully I don't get beat up for using a canister filter.

Next to the blanket is my 20G tall freshwater / salt mixing tank. Again, I imagine this is something that few of you have seen before. This tank is both my freshwater top off reservoir and my saltwater mixing tank for water changes. 90% of the time it is holding freshwater that I use for topping off evaporated water, for now I'm doing this manually instead of with an ATO, I do it once a day and it takes me less time than it does to feed the fish. I imagine when I get annoyed with it I will switch to a proper ATO. I'll get into how I do my top off and water changes momentarily.

The reason for this 20G tank under the display tank is because I live in a TINY 300sq/ft studio apartment in Pasadena, I simply do not have any room for a proper saltwater storage/mix station.

This tank has a 700gph inline pump with an elbow I designed and 3D printed to get as much of the water in the tank out as possible. This pump is used for both top offs and water changes.

When I last drained my tank, I took a gallon of water out at a time and used a sharpie to mark each gallon on the side of the tank. When I want to do a water change, I drain the display tank down 20 gallons, then flip a switch pumping saltwater I made a day or two in advance. When the 20G tank is empty, I refill it with freshwater, which now becomes my top off reservoir. With the 3D printed elbow, I'm able to get almost every last drop out of the reservoir, leaving the freshwater truly fresh.






Here we can see the "brains" of my operation. I used this 8 outlet powerstrip, each plug with it's own switch. When the display tank needs some topping off, I flip the "WC/ATO" switch for a few seconds and all is well. When I need to mix salt water, I flip the "mix pump" switch. Water change I turn the "filter", "WV MKR" and "Climate" switch off, flip the "WC/ATO" switch - turn the "Mix pump" off. When Water change is done, turn the filter, climate and wave maker back on.

It's a pretty streamlined system that I put an immense amount of thought and effort into.

The "Climate" is an "Ink Bird" controller, it has both a "cooling" and "heating" outlet that it controls. Since it's summer here in SoCal, I have it controlling the two fans on top of the tank, during the winter, it will control a heater.

Whew.... that was a long one. I hope I explained myself well enough and I look forward to comments, questions, concerns and feedback.

Thank you for your time, I'm excited to be here.
 
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spfahnestock

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If no one has told you already welcome to R2R.

Your freshwater tanks are amazing. My son has one and for me it seems more difficult that my saltwater at times.

I think you are off to a decent start with your new tank. I would like to say what many people may have and will most likely tell you in this journey. Nothing good comes quick in saltwater so go slow and let it grow.

As for soft corals many people prefer them for the character they provide a tank and I am not sure why anyone would classify those that keep soft corals as "NEWBS". Lets be honest this is your tank and what you do with it is your call not anyone else. Just do what makes you happy.
 

revhtree

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This will be a prize winning reef one day! I'm calling it! :) Welcome!
 

New&no clue

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For starters I am not a fan of freshwater tanks, I don't think they are very pretty... BUT OMG those tanks are beautiful, I cannot wait to see what you come up with in the saltwater world. I'm jumping on the bandwagon with Rev and saying your tank will be a winner one day.

As for softies they are my favorite as well. I have two tanks, one is 99% softy (1 LPS snuck in). The other started as a softy and then transformed into a mixed tank. You never know where this hobby will take you. If you haven't seen it already one of the best Softy tanks I've ever seen is MikeC's Softy Tank. This is what inspired me finally jump into saltwater last year.

 

revhtree

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Maybe once or twice but that’s all!
 

muzikalmatt

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I totally agree with @New&no clue ! Typically I'm not a fan of freshwater tanks, but yours are absolutely gorgeous! It's clear you have creative vision and an eye for aesthetics. Applying those same principles to a saltwater tank will surely result in a stunning tank.

Your setup looks like it's off to a great start and I'm looking forward to see how it progresses. @New&no clue also beat me to it! I was going to post MikeC's softie tank as an example/rebuttal to anyone who thinks softie tanks can't compete with the best SPS tanks out there. His tank is jaw-dropping and a perfect example of how beautiful a soft coral tank can be.
 

Fishy65

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Your set up looks great. There are lots of ways to dive into this fintastic hobby. All the puns intended... let us know what questions you have along the way. Your freshwater tanks look amazing, im sure your softy tank will look great. There are many closet softy lovers here. I love them for the same reasons as everyone else, easy, forgiving, and the flow and motion is amazing.
 
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Sean W.

Sean W.

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Thanks everyone.

I think the only question I have right now is what center piece fish should I get?

I'm leaning towards a dwarf angle... I know they can be hit and miss with corals... Either a potters, rusty, coral beauty or flame... hmm..

I was also considering getting a sailfin tang and keeping him until he gets too large, and swapping him out at the fish store for a smaller one, rinse and repeat.
 
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Sean W.

Sean W.

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I wanted to talk about how I engineered the solution for my water changes and top off return pipe.

I took a 1" PVC pipe and drilled 4 sets of holes down the side of it to diffuse the flow from the 700gph pump in the reservoir. I also 3D printed a plug for the bottom of the pipe to keep it looking sleek, this way it doesn't blow the sand all around.






I used plastidip spray paint to paint the pvc pipe black! When plastidip is fully cured, its completely inert and non toxic!

For a siphon break, I drilled 2 holes just above the water line, one just a touch higher than the other one. When water is pumping into the tank, water does obviously come out of these holes, but they are under the lid and since they are the highest holes, they actually get the least amount of pressure, so water just dribbles out of them. When I turn the pump off air gets sucked in through these holes, breaking the siphon.

Conveniently this hole also acts as a water height gauge. The silver probe is the temperature probe for the InkBird temperature controller. You will notice I kept the seam where the wire meets the metal probe above the water line. This should ensure a long life out of the probe.
 
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Sean W.

Sean W.

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I did my first water change today! Didn't go exactly to plan... Apparently a 20gallon tall doesn't hold 20 gallons of water. So when I took 20 gallons of water out of the display tank, I was about 4 gallons short... Go figure. Other than that, the first water change went smooth.

Here is a video showing the process of my water change, pretty streamlined I think!

Today I also grabbed a giant UPS to run my tank in the event of a power outage. I tested it today by unplugging the power and as designed the UPS kicked on immediately and would give me 96 minutes of runtime if the power were to go out! That's pretty good.

 

Jgerm

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Welcome to the salty side! Your planted tanks a look amazing man! That ocd will definitely translate to an amazing saltwater tank. I commend you on going the canister route. I am definitely following along to see the progress!
 
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Sean W.

Sean W.

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hey guys,

It's looking like my cycle is almost complete and I think calcium is where it needs to be to support corals? Especially the soft corals I plan on keeping?

What do you think of my parameters overall?

PH - 8.2

Ammonia 0

Nitrate 40

Nitrite 1

Calcium - 21 drops | 420ppm

GH 180 (10.8?)

KH 240 (13.4?)

Phosphate - Unknown (test kit in the mail)
 
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New&no clue

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Nitrates are high, however, after a water change those should drop, and Alk seems high too at 13.4 it typically should be under 11. What test kits are you using? I see you have a phosphate test coming I would also recommend a Magnesium Test as well. The big three in reefs are Cal, Mag, and ALk. However, the good thing about sofites is they don't use up these elements like LPS and SPS because they don't have a skeleton structure like them. While we still need to keep them in balance they don't get depleted at the rate of stony corals do.
 
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Sean W.

Sean W.

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Man, I gotta say guys, I was hesitant to make the switch from freshwater to salt but that hesitation was misguided. I am having more fun with this saltwater tank than I ever have with any of my dozens of freshwater tanks! And I don't even have any corals yet!

This fish are just incredible, each one has a massive personality that really makes interacting with the tank such a joy! My girlfriend and I will pull up seats to the tank and just watch the fish for a good 30 minutes. So fun.

I have to say my favorite fish in there is my Absolute zero Clown. That guy is ridiculous! He will eat anything I put in the tank, always at the top ready to be the first to grab whatever food I put in. He is a ferocious eater, acting like each meal is going to be his last, so he has to make it count.

I am lucky too that both my clown's get along very well, and swim the entire tank, not sticking to the corner or one side or hide. They are always out and about!

Anyway, I did my best to take some pictures, please enjoy my fish as much as I do!

I invite you to click on the picture to make them larger!



Here is the Snowflake and Absolute zero clown side by side, sitting still long enough to get a picture of both, and they're in focus!


The Royale Gramma Dottyback also did a quick photobomb, I was able to snap an acceptable picture of the whole gang


I am really proud of this picture, my favorite fish, what an absolute beauty. He is very difficult to get a picture of since he moves around so much, but I was able to snap this one


Not to be outdone, the snowflake clown also did a quick pose for me


This pair of fire fish are absolutely beautiful, I LOVE the colors on these guys. I am hoping to get a Purple firefish or two here soon. I asked my LFS to keep an eye out for them


Even the hermet crabs are a lot of fun to watch!
 
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