~ Planning Is Necessary Before You Take The
by Eric V. Van Der Hope
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Planning Is Necessary Before You Take The Plunge
by Eric V. Van Der Hope
Copyright © 2004 Saltwaterfishpets.com
You cannot underestimate the value of planning when it comes
to starting a Saltwater
Fish / Reef Environment as a hobby . . .
There is simply nothing more important than that!
It's so easy to get excited about this wonderful hobby after
seeing all the beautiful fish
and corals at your LFS (Local Fish Store). So it's no
surprise that many people, without
any thought of taking one step at-a-time, purchase what they
see. There are fish enthu-
siasts that found their way into this hobby exactly this way
. . . However, many of them
discovered that they could have spent less Money, less
Time and less Effort if they
simply planned ahead.
After the initial purchase is made, it's taken home and set
up. After a bit of time has
passed and more thought has been put into it, it's
discovered that there is inadequate
lighting for the system. The filtration system would not be
large enough to sustain the
specific marine environment preferred. Because of inaccurate
advice from a LFS em-
ployee, some expensive fish were purchased, resulting in
their dying almost immedia-
tely after being introduced into the tank (so obviously the
proper time for the tank to be
cycled was not thought through).
Because of Poor Planning, this new fish hobbyist was doomed
from the start!
There is a definite plan of action that has to be
implemented before starting in this
First and foremost - how much money can you afford to put
into this hobby? This one
decision alone could be the
deciding factor to start or not . . .
Anyone involved in this hobby must be well informed of
what's involved. Not one opinion
should be investigated from a good source but a couple.
Getting the same advice from
reliable sources could be a start of a good decision - Do
not be afraid to ask questions
as the more you learn the more you can put to good use.
Once enough thought is put into the size of the tank wished
for, decide where it should
go. The location of the tank is very important as some may
not fully realize . . .
The tank should be close to a water source. It also should
not be placed in the middle of
a room if on a second floor or above (depending on size of
tank, saltwater is more dense
than plain water and with all the base rock, live rock,
sand, etc that's placed in the tank -
it's very, very heavy). Proper support is needed to
withstand this. Placing a tank along a
wall would be a recommended if there is not proper support
underneath the center of a
room or apartment.
Since there will be a need for energy to power filters,
pumps, heaters, lights, etc, a pro-
per power source is needed nearby. Also - the tank should
not be in direct sunlight.
Starting and then maintaining a stable saltwater fish/reef
environment takes a good
amount of time, dedication and more importantly it will take
You cannot haphazardly throw stuff together thinking
everything will be o.k Without the
proper steps, without the proper investigation and research,
without the proper patience,
will prevent the enjoyment of getting the rewards of a
beautiful and colorful marine envir-
Once a decision is made on the setup that is desired -
purchase the necessary compon-
ents. Through investigation, research, and much thought -
you should have a good idea
of where to 'shop'. In most cases you may already know that
you can probably get a
better deal for a particular component from a different
dealer. That fine . . . This is impor-
tant - do not buy your supplies without first finding out
from the dealer if he will agree to
discounting the purchase. In most cases, the LFS will agree
to a substantial discount
due in part to acquire you as a customer. So if you are
going to buy a whole setup, there
should be a considerable mark-down . . . The dealer is
benefiting from your purchase no
matter what - so barter and get the price down! Also, look
for 'starter' packages that have
already been marked down. Never buy the 'sticker' price!
Now that everything has been purchased, assembling
everything is next. The next few
mini-steps are essential to guarantee a successful start.
Make sure tank is level on the
stand. Install all your filters and pumps after rinsing
components. Prepare the water with
the salt-mix you purchased. A good rule of thumb in mixing
water/salt would be approx.
1.5 pounds of salt-mix to 5 gallons of freshwater. Your
specific gravity should be around
1.022 to 1.025 (Don't try measuring the water until
everything is completely dissolved).
Start turning your pumps and filters on to help circulate
the saltwater you've mixed once
the proper level has been reached in the aquarium (Do
not fill water to the top level of tank
since the sand, base rock, live rock or other aqua-scaping
still has not be put into the
Add your substrate - sand, base rock, live rock, etc. The
tank water will be cloudy, this
is normal. Give it time to settle down. The guidelines to
the amount of rock you chose
to put into the tank can be generally said as being 1 to 2
pounds of live rock per gallon
of aquarium capacity. However, much base rock should be
used to build a good founda-
tion for the live rock to sit on. Probably, the tank should
be filled about a third of the way
with enough space between for circulation of water currents.
Now 'seed' your tank. You've actually done this by putting
live rock into the tank. How-
ever, to speed this process up, you can use other
alternatives such as live sand, other
sources of bacterial growth such as filter media from
established tanks or anything else
that has beneficial microbes in it (The goal is to obtain
this from healthy, long-established
aquariums). Then you may start using your lights to help
promote growth. In order to
feed this bacteria - you need a source of food or other
sources of ammonia . . .
You can use a couple of hardy damsels to provide a more
lively scenario to your tank
instead of looking into an 'empty' tank. The damsels are
hardy fish and should be the
only fish you use to get the tank 'seeded' and to begin your
tank 'cycle'. These fish will
help produce the needed ammonia from their waste products.
There are other ways to
'seed' the tank such as introducing a raw shrimp or
other scrap of raw fish. All of these
will add to the 'cycle' of the tank by producing larger
amounts of ammonia into the
It's very important to wait for the 'cycle' of the tank to
complete before anything else is
added to your tank in the form of fish or corals.
Unnecessary death to your fish pets
could be eliminated if you take time to wait for the
complete nitrogen cycle. This could
take as fast as 3 weeks or up to 8 weeks to get established
Once you have established your tank, slowly stock your tank
and never add too much at
one time. Every time you introduce a new tank-mate - you've
begun another cycle where
more ammonia, nitrites and nitrates are produced which have
effect on all fish and corals
at different levels.
Once the tank is established, then there are steps necessary
to take to 'Maintain' a bal-
anced home for your fish pets which includes regular water
changes, the adding of nu-
trients and trace elements, the constant cleaning of
skimmer, regular cleaning of algae
and so forth. Much of what you do here, if taken care of
regularly, will make the viewing
of this beautiful marine environment most enjoyable and also
guarantee a high success
rate of keeping a high quality tank.
In summary, the following is strongly encouraged to help
guarantee a successful and
fulfilling start to this marine hobby.
It's important to know that these are just guidelines and
not 'written in stone'. There are
variations to these steps - but if put into practice, these
steps will be an excellent step-
ping stool towards success.
1. Do your homework - Learn, investigate and
implement (Invest in some good salt-
water fish/reef keeping
reference books to get yourself educated with a proper
2. Affordability - How much are you willing to
spend on this hobby? You need to pro-
ject some figures so
that you can realistically know if this is a good or bad
start in the first
place. There is the initial cost of the tank setup and then
be costs on a regular
basis to maintain your tank.
3. Develop a Plan of Action.
4. Decide on the type of setup you wish to take
care of (Fish only, Fish and Inverte-
brate, Reef only,
Reef/Fish combination). The cost of the system will vary
ding on the system that
is chosen. For example, the extreme lighting needed for
reef setups would be
unnecessary for a Fish Only system (buying proper lights for
a reef tank is
necessary for the growth and survival of corals and tends to
as well as other factors will set the standards for how
sive your setup will be
and how much planning ahead you will need to think of.
5. Placement/location of the tank (Once a tank
is full - you should NOT think of moving
it! The tank, as well
as tank stand, will experience unnecessary stress and
easily crack, break or
loose it's structural integrity.
- Tank should be near power source,
water supply and out of direct sunlight.
- It's also very important that if
the tank is on a 2nd story or higher floor, proper sup-
port should be
investigated. Do not put a fish tank directly in the middle
of the room.
It's recommended that
since there is more support along the walls of a room - this
is the safest place for
the tank to be placed unless proper support is below.
6. Once you decide on your system - you know
what is needed to meet the require-
ments of your tank.
Purchase the necessary equipment taking considerable mea-
sures to make sure you
get the best discounted price on all components.
7. Assemble tank, stand, components and other
8. Mix freshwater/salt-mix together. Turn on
pumps and filters to aide in the circulation
and dissolving of
salt-mix as well as the introduction of oxygen into the
9. Add substrate - the sand, base rock, live
rock, etc. to the tank (This is assuming
that it's 'cured' live
10. Begin the 'seeding' of your tank (Assuming that
the previous step did not include live
sand or live rock, you
must now introduce something into the tank that will begin
'cycling' your tank
such as filter media from an established tank. This will
the beneficial microbes
that will help in the 'cycle' of your tank.
11. Add a source for the microbes to begin their
'job'. Add a few hardy damsels, or a raw
shrimp or other scrap
of raw fish to introduce more ammonia into the tank.
12. Completion of a cycle can take up to 3 to 8 weeks
to finish. Only then should you
think of introducing
more fish or corals into your tank. Remember, that each time
you introduce a new
tank-mate - you've essentially started another nitrogen
High level of ammonia
and Nitrites can be deadly for less hardy fish and corals.
13. After the tank is properly set up and is
running smoothly, it's a necessity to test the
water regularly until
you have cycled your tank. Even after the tank has been
regular testing must be
implemented. In order to do this properly you must have the
proper test kits
(Make sure the test kits are not out of date!). Maintaining
els of Ammonia,
Nitrites, Nitrates, pH, the Calcium levels and Phosphate
not be underestimated.
14. Once a decision is made on the type of system to
maintain, careful choosing of the
inhabitants of your
future tank is most important. Not all fish, Invertebrate
live in harmony!
Investigate what lives well together and what does not.
steps can be
implemented when introducing to a system even on what order
or corals are
introduced into the tank. Success of the tank also comes
down to the
compatibility of the
15. Setting up a tank is a large part of this hobby.
However, it's the maintaining of this
acceptable levels that will require regular work and
tenance does vary
between systems, however this one principle does not differ
that all systems need a
tune-up so-to-speak. In other words, a regular schedule of
maintaining the tank
system should be and is the #1 Priority.
16. Now that the tank is up and running - the easiest
part of this hobby comes to fruition;
Enjoying the splendor
and beauty of a tranquil mini-ocean.
Eric V. Van Der Hope is the Publisher and Author of "The
Reef & Saltwater Fish Keeping
Cheat Sheet" - A Newsletter For The Serious Reef
Keeping & Saltwater Fish Hobbyist.
His website is: http://www.saltwaterfishpets.com
and you can receive his Free Newsletter
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Build A Perfect Aquatic Life
Environment For Your Marine Fish Pets . . . Without Having
to Do It the Hard Way!" The
latest project he is working on is a book entitled: "A
Practical Guide to Saltwater Reef
Keeping . . . Including Saltwater Fish Only Systems. Follow
the steps to ensure proper
planning of your fish pet home - from choosing the right
aquarium, placement of your tank
to researching the potential cost in maintaining a complete
setup. Visit the website:
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water Fish Keeping Cheat Sheet"
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