Should I take the plunge on setting up a large tank - my job might get in the way

carri10

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Hello all.

For a while I have been considering starting a reef aquarium. I’ve always wanted to take the plunge and set up a large mixed reef tank.

I have a question about practicalities, however.

First, a little background about me and my experience that might help you answer my question.

I’m a biologist and engineer by training. I love researching topics and planning execution.

In terms of fish, I kept a successful (very) large-ish soft water amazon-type tank. It had CO2 injection, so a little bit of complexity. It held very stable parameters for years and I learnt the massive importance of strong plant growth for nutrient export and fish quarantine.

So, my question.

I wanted to set up a significant mixed-reef tank (1000L), as automated as possible (water changes, dosing, lighting schedules, chiller, ATO etc). I would run a large fuge with filter mat roller, Chaeto and skimmer. I have a garage where I can set up RODI and salt mixing and pipe that to the tank and a quarantine station.

I want to ask your advice and experience on the amount of work required and if the idea is at all practical. I have just changed jobs and my new role will involve me being away from home 30-50% of my time and working from home for the rest of the week. My family will be able to do basic tasks while I am away.

Question

  • Is it madness to even think about setting up such a tank with that work schedule, or could it be manageable with the right planning? Should I go ahead?
  • Should I instead set up a large freshwater, with automation on water changes, a sump etc to learn about the mechanics of a large tank for a few years before converting to a mixed reef when my job becomes more reasonable? Here I would imagine setting up (at least plumbing) for an eventual reef, but running a freshwater for a while and then converting the tank to a reef (I know this is overkill for the freshwater side)
  • Forget about the whole idea altogether until I am more capable of being at home?

Thanks
Carri10
 
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Quietman

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I think you can have a reef tank on that schedule as long as you make time to do the maintenance when you're home, as we all have to.

I've run high tech freshwater and the level of effort is about half initially when setting up a reef tank. After the first several months to a year it ends up about the same. Most of that is just in learning how the system responds to changes and what maintenance to do when and getting the frequency of testing and which parameters to monitor. Even setting up automation takes an investment of time.

There are some ways to make it easier at first. Go with few fish (or none) at first as the nutrients they add increase the work. Get used to managing the water parameters and automation before adding the fish.

Go with soft corals at first. They're much less finicky and will forgive some neglect much easier than most SPS (or even LPS). Plus cheaper with less destructive pests that can wipe out a tank. You can always move over to SPS later and there's something to be said for maturing a tank for a year before adding high end corals.

Anyway...I envy you starting out on the journey. Good luck!
 
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carri10

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Thanks, Quietman, appreciate the insight, especially the fresh to salt comparison.

I can't seem to edit my initial post. Where I wrote
"I kept a successful (very) large-ish soft water amazon-type tank"
I meant
"I kept a successful large-ish (very) soft water amazon-type tank"
Which kinda changes the way that phrase comes across :)
 
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PatW

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I have SPS corals. I test the water parameters daily which is probably overkill except for ALK. But even ALK would be over kill on a non SPS dominant system.

I have an ATO, skimmer, filter socks, and sump. My tank is cooled by fans controlled by a controller.

So I need to clean the filter socks twice per week.
I have to turn over the chaeto once per day and also add a little chaeto gro for micronutrients that get depleted with chaeto.

You could probably get by testing ALK, CA, Nitrate, and Phosphates once per week.
I check salinity daily but the ATO keeps that steady.
The skimmer needs emptying and cleaning about once per month.
The glass needs cleaning two or three times per week.
Fish get fed twice per day but once per day is enough unless you have something like a dragonet or mandarin.
I do water changes at least once per month.

Most things can be done by non experts but somethings need the main tank caretaker. My tank can go three weeks easily with a person coming in once per day to do routine things and monitoring. If you semi automate water changes, you can even have non expert people do those. With water changes, it is kind of the more the better.

So a well designed system can be done without undue work, but you will still have to schedule time to give it attention. If you have family members who can do glass cleaning and filter socks, you can probably do fine with a couple or several hours once per week.
 

WVNed

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I run 4 tanks 900, 680, 280 and 100 liters all connected together. I only have to do something every 5-7 days. Daily chores like dosing and adding water and water changes are done through automation. The things I have to do can be done ahead of time if I will be gone.
There are times when you will have to take a day to catch up, clean equipment and such.
If there is someone to back you up for those unexpected things that come along you would be fine. As long as they don't resent you spending time on the tank instead of them when you get home.

Have reasonable expectations. A tank run this way is not going to be the peak of perfection all the time. Stay away from the things that are finicky to keep alive.
 

Lbrdsoxfan

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Between a 210, 120 and a 50g, I do about 8 hours a week of maintenance and the 210 requires a 15 minute drive on surface streets to and fro. If your sincerely questioning if you have the time, you probably don't, IJS.
 
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Lavey29

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Irs like having a dog. Why have a pet if you're not going to spend time with him or her? This hobby requires patience but it also requires diligent time and effort to care for the animals. It's a commitment not a weekend golf hobby.
 

livinlifeinBKK

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If you're questioning whether it's too much or not, you're probably better off waiting a little while instead of setting up the tank and later realizing it's just simply too much to keep up with considering your schedule
 

davidcalgary29

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the 210 requires a 15 minute drive on surface streets to and fro.
I'm getting the picture of a top-secret build, filled with those purple/yellow hybrid tangs and peppermint angels, in some super-secure bunker. For Karl Stromberg. 15 minutes on surface streets, but that doesn't include the commute on the Lotus Esprit submarine car to Atlantis!
 
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Lbrdsoxfan

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I'm getting the picture of a top-secret build, filled with those purple/yellow hybrid tangs and peppermint angels, in some super-secure bunker. For Karl Stromberg. 15 minutes on surface streets, but that doesn't include the commute on the Lotus Esprit submarine car to Atlantis!
Lol, if only. It's my 82 year old father's tank. He has been reefing since the early 80's and since I'm the closest to him, it's my problem. My younger brother helps out when I'm not around.
 

Rtaylor

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Sounds like you’re willing to invest in the automation that would make it possible. You can automate testing, dosing, water changes, feeding. About the only thing I can think of that requires regular attention that can’t be automated would be glass cleaning. Family can easily help with that and it’s not a necessity for tank health, just might not look great is all. You can monitor all the automation remotely and even setup wifi cameras if you want additional monitoring ability. Then if there is an unexpected ‘emergency’ like a failed return pump you can see and help walk someone through what to do.
Also a good opportunity to use your FMEA training (failure modes effects analysis) to identify potential failure points, put in redundancies for high risk or catastrophic failures and error proof your system design. Could be a very helpful and useful build thread for a lot of folks if you geek out on that sort of system designing.
 
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carri10

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Thanks All. Really appreciate the insight. Remembering that I will be working from home 50% of the time, it sounds like with careful planning on design and automation it is possible to do. I think I will go for it, now to the planning!
 

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