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Publisher and Editor:  Eric V. Van Der Hope


From the Desk of Eric V. Van Der Hope
Sunday, May 9th, 2004 ~ 2:37 p.m. (PST)
Re: Volume 1, Issue #2
Subscribers: 42


By subscription only! Welcome to your issue of "The Reef & Saltwater
Fish Keeping Cheat Sheet
" -
A Newsletter For The Serious Reef Keep-
ing and Saltwater Fish Hobbyist.

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1 - EDITOR'S RECOMMENDATION ~ Planning and Research

It's never too much to plan and research your aquarium set-up. As a matter
of fact - I strongly encourage everyone to continue to ask questions even if
you have the slightest doubt of something. So I encourage your continued
education on all aspects of this hobby - for it will help you in the long term.

This leads me to the benefit of this section of the newsletter.

This section of the newsletter will be dedicated to a recommendation from
me to you. I will only do this if I've personally used the product or book my-
self and am completely satisfied with the outcome. I will not recommend to
you something I haven't personally experienced myself and if I'm not 100%
satisfied with it!

It is your choice to decide if what I recommend is something that could be 
of benefit to you.

In future contributions here you will find a variety of excellent books for
reading and education purposes and maybe even certain types of tank com-
ponents that will add to the success of your enjoyment in this hobby.


==>  1   -  Editor's Recommendation  ~ Planning and Research
==>  2   -  In This Issue
==>  3   -  Comments from the Editor
==>  4   -  Feature Article ~ by Eric V. Van Der Hope
==>  5   -  This Month's Tip ~ Problem With Algae . . . ?
==>  6   -  Ask Us
==>  7   -  Disclaimer
==>  8   -  Privacy Policy
==>  9   -  Contact Information
==> 10  -  Subscribe and Unsubscribe Instructions



Welcome to all our new readers as well as a gracious thanks to my loyal
readers who have supported me from the start. We now have 42 active

I have taken the time to write an article that is geared towards our new
hobbyists. However - it can also be of benefit to anyone reading the material.
I encourage all to read it.

If you haven't already visited the Fish Forum - you should. It's getting off to
a splendid start. I encourage you guys to use it. It a great community where
we can all come together to ask questions or to add your contribution of ad-

You can access it via my webpage or simply by using the url below:

I hope you all the success in your endeavor to have and maintain a wonder-
ful saltwater/reef environment. More importantly, I hope that you will benefit
from the advice given through this newsletter and website.

Remember, if you have questions or concerns or would like to contribute in
one way or another - I encourage you to use the Forum to get 'the word out'.

I hope you've had a productive weekend but relaxing!

I'll talk to you later and hopefully meet up with you in the Fish Forum.

My warm and gracious thanks . . .


Eric V. Van Der Hope
Publisher and Author

P.S. A copy of the latest ezine will be available online after each printing.
Click on the url below to access the ezine.

Questions or Comments, send your feedback to address below:

4 - FEATURE ARTICLE ~ by Eric V. Van Der Hope

Planning Is Necessary Before You Take The Plunge
by Eric V. Van Der Hope
Copyright 2004

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, pur-
chase what they see. There are fish enthusiasts 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. Be-
cause of inaccurate advice from a LFS employee, some expensive fish
were purchased, resulting in their dying almost immediately after being in-
troduced into the tank (so obviously the proper time for the tank to be cy-
cled was not thought through).

Because of Poor Planning, this new fish hobbyist was doomed from the

There is a definite plan of action that has to be implemented before starting
in this hobby.

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 proper 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 patience.

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 re-
wards of a beautiful and colorful marine environment.

Once a decision is made on the setup that is desired - purchase the neces-
sary components. 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 important - do not buy your supplies
without first finding out from the dealer if he will agree to discounting the pur-
chase. 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 dissol-
ved). 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 tank).

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 a-
mount 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 foundation 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. However, 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 intro-
ducing 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 system.

It's very important to wait for the 'cycle' of the tank to complete before any-
thing 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 properly.

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 pro-
duced 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 balanced home for your fish pets which includes regular water
changes, the adding of nutrients 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 suc-
cessful 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 stepping stool towards success.

  1.  Do your homework - Learn, investigate and implement (Invest in some
       good saltwater fish/reef keeping reference books to get yourself educa-
       ted with a proper foundation).

  2.  Affordability - How much are you willing to spend on this hobby? You
       need to project some figures so that you can realistically know if this
       is a good or bad idea to start in the first place. There is the initial cost
       of the tank setup and then there will 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 Invertebrate, Reef only, Reef/Fish combination). The cost of the
       system will vary depending 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 be more expensive). Fil-
       tration as well as other factors will set the standards for how extensive
       your setup will be and how much planning ahead you will need to think

  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 un-
       necessary stress and could easily crack, break or loose it's structural

   -   Tank should be near power source, water supply and out of direct sun-

   -   It's also very important that if the tank is on a 2nd story or higher floor,
       proper support should be investigated. Do not put a fish tank directly in
       the middle of the room. It's recommended that since there is more sup-
       port 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 requirements of your tank. Purchase the necessary equipment ta-
       king considerable measures to make sure you get the best discounted
       price on all components.

  7.  Assemble tank, stand, components and other accessories.

  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 water.

  9.  Add substrate - the sand, base rock, live rock, etc. to the tank (This is
       assuming that it's 'cured' live rock).

 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 introduce 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 dam-
       sels, or a raw shrimp or other scrap of raw fish to introduce more am-
       monia 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. Re-
       member, that each time you introduce a new tank-mate - you've es-
       sentially started another nitrogen cycle. High level of ammonia and Ni-
       trites can be deadly for less hardy fish and corals.

 13. After the tank is properly set up and is running smoothly, it's a ne-
       cessity to test the water regularly until you have cycled your tank. 
       Even after the tank has been cycled - regular testing must be imple-
       mented. In order to do this properly you must have the proper test 
       kits (Make sure the test kits are not out of date!). Maintaining proper
       levels of Ammonia, Nitrites, Nitrates, pH, the Calcium levels and
       Phosphate levels cannot 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 and coral live in harmony! Investigate what lives well
       together and what does not. Then, proper steps can be implemented
       when introducing to a system even on what order the fish or corals are
       introduced into the tank. Success of the tank also comes down to the
       compatibility of the inhabitants.

 15. Setting up a tank is a large part of this hobby. However, it's the main-
       taining of this environment at acceptable levels that will require regular
       work and patience. Maintenance does vary between systems, however
       this one principle does not differ in 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

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:
and you can receive his Free Newsletter valued at $79.00 if you sign up now.
Discover Exactly How to Build A Perfect Aquatic Life Environment For Your
Marine Fish Pets . . . Without Having to Do It the Hard Way!" The latest pro-
ject he is working on is a book entitled: "A Practical Guide to Saltwater Reef
Keeping . . . Including Saltwater Fish Only Systems. Follow the steps to en-
sure proper planning of your fish pet home - from choosing the right aquar-
ium, placement of your tank to researching the potential cost in maintaining
a complete setup. Visit for further inform-

5 - THIS MONTH'S TIP ~ Problem With Algae . . . ?

Common sources of Algae growth can be . . .

1. Your lights - Make sure that you have fresh lights - you will see a notice-
    able change in algae growth if you have old lights that need replacement.

2. Overfeeding.

3. Your source water - Do not use non-purified tap water.

4. Inadequate skimming.

5. Nitrate problem? If there is unusual amounts of algae growth, there is
    usually large amounts of nitrates in the water. If this is the case - check
    your filter media. There is a variety of filter media that contributes to high
    Nitrate levels.

6. A good source of live rock should bring down your Nitrate levels and slow
    down algae growth.

6 - ASK US

Do you have any questions about fish keeping? Contact me and I will do my
best to help you.

Send your email to:


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for questionable information, I also claim no responsibility for the legality or
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Eric V. Van Der Hope
Publisher and Editor - 'The Reef & Saltwater Fish Keeping Cheat Sheet'
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