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Frequently Asked Questions
How do I set up and maintain a Quarantine Tank?
A QT tank must be large enough for the fish that are to be quarantined. Since it will be running copper, it does not need live rock and will be a sterile system. It does need mechanical filterization from a hang on back filter or canister and will need weekly water changes to keep the nitrates in check.
With water changes will come the need to add more copper to maintain a proper therapeutic dose. I prefer to use complexed copper because it is less stressful on fish. Provided fish do not show signs of disease, I believe it is sufficient to quarantine new fish for two weeks, but there are many people who believe in a 5 week quarantine.
What type of substrate should I use in my salt tank?
I like to use Aragonite Sand. It is available in many grain sizes and has natural buffering qualities that are good for saltwater and Cichlid tanks. I believe it is fine to buy used sand or crushed coral when available for swim tanks only.
Consider the inhabitance that you will be putting in the tank before selecting the size grain of the substrate. Many sand sifting fish like gobies and sand divers like some wrasses need to have fine sand to be happy as do stingrays and sharks.
If a tank has been treated with copper, much of that copper can be contained in the sand and this should not be used in a reef tank. Only use bagged sand for reef tanks to be sure it is not loaded with copper. If you buy unwashed sand from an existing tank, take about ½ gallon of it and leave it as is and rinse the rest well.
There is too much anaerobic bacteria and other things that have been disturbed by moving the sand and if you start with this you are likely to crash your tank. The same goes for if you move your tank and disturb the substrate.
How do I install a UV sterilizer on my tank?
UVs just need to have water pumping through them. You can hook them up so your return from any pump or filter sends water through them and then back to the tank. For non-drilled aquariums or ones without a canister there are hang on models available.
If the return pumps over 300GPH the UV will do fine for water clarification, but will not have a good kill rate for protozoan which helps with disease control. You also don’t need as large a UV if you are just using one for water clarification. On tanks with a sump you can just use a small submersible pump in the sump to pump water through the UV and Back to the sump.
In this case the UV can sit on top of the sump or be mounted behind it on the back or side of the stand. Bulbs should be replaced every 9-12 months even if they are still burning.
How do I know when to change my RODI cartridges?
It will depend on how much water has gone through the unit and the quality of the water going through the unit. Cartridges last longer if water goes through a softener first. Some RODI units have a pressure gage on the inlet to give some indication of when the cartridges are needing to be changed based on the pressure it takes to push water through them.
The best way to know is to get a TDS meter and test the water coming out of the unit. Some of these are hand held and others go inline and both types are fairly inexpensive. When the TDS gets over 10 PPM then it is time to change cartridges. Change the carbon and sediment filters at the same time.
Change the DI every other time you change the sediment and carbon and change the RO membrane every other time you change the DI.
I have an RO filter that was used for drinking water. Can I use this for my saltwater aquarium?
First you will want to replace the RO membrane and the carbon and sediment filters if the RO has been in use for some time. Next you will want to ad what is called a “piggyback” DI to your RO.
The DI housing and cartridge have an inlet and outlet and you just connect the outlet from your RO into the inlet so that water passes through the DI after leaving the RO.
Is it best to have as large a sump as you can?
When you put an overflow on a tank with a sump, the tank no longer loses any water because the water is kept at the overflow level by the return pump. The sump however loses water as the tank and sump evaporate. For salt water tanks, one chamber of the sump is reserved for the protein skimmer and maintains constant water level.
This leaves 2/3 of the sump, the refugium section and return pump section, for an evaporation reservoir. If the sump is small and does not have an auto top off float connected to a water source, then the sump will need to be topped off often, possibly too often.
A larger sump also allows for a larger refugium section to act as a bio filter with a deep sand bed and macro algae.
I bought a used saltwater aquarium. Should I use the old substrate or buy new?
There are a few things to consider. If the old crushed substrate is more than three years old it would be best to replace it with new aragonite substrate. You can get this in different grain sizes.
The new substrate will have better PH buffering abilities for several years. In selecting grain size you need to consider what type of fish or inverts you will have. Many people with reef tanks prefer finer grains because many of the smaller fish and some inverts are sand sifters or burrowers and do better with fine substrate.
I like to go with special grade reef sand, rather than sugar sand because the very find sand tends not to settle as well when agitated by water movement or livestock. Some people like to use black sand, but in most cases it will make the tank look dark even with powerful lighting.
If you will be starting a reef tank, you will also need to consider if the old substrate was in a tank treated with copper. If it was in a reef tank, then it was not treated with copper, but if it was in a fish only tank then you cannot know for sure.
My aquarium is up and running and I want to install a sump. How do I determine what size sump to get?
You will need to determine what shape sump you think you can get through the doors. I would suggest cutting a piece of cardboard, to various sizes until you find one that tells you what size tank you can fit in the stand.
One reason people often want a large sump is because when you set a tank up with an overflow the tank will always stay full to the level of the fins on the overflow box.
As water evaporates from the system, only the sumps water level goes down. The larger the sump the longer you have before needing to ad water. With wet/dry filters that are often used for fresh water, there is generally even less evaporation time because the water level is left much lower to keep the bio balls out of sitting water.
There are two ways to solve this problem. The first requires a water source. A 1/4″ piece of RO filter tubing is connected to the water source (hose bib, sink pluming etc.) and in some cases an RODI filter and then it is connected to a float valve in the sump that keeps the sump at the proper level all the time.
The second way works very well when there is no water source near by. A second tank or container is put under the stand as a water reservoir and a device called an auto top off unit is installed. This device consists of a very small pump that goes in the bottom of the water reservoir, a float that goes in the sump and a device that controls the water level.
The ATO devise gets plugged into the power source and the small pump gets plugged into the device. When the float drops a certain amount the device is triggered to turn on the pump which fills the sump to the proper level.
I have been doing water changes since I set up my tank and the water in my tank is still cloudy. How do I fix it?
If you only have a course sponge in your sump or filter, put some fine bonded filter medium in so the water is forced to go through it after the sponge. In addition to the benefits of reducing nitrates and phosphates, adding Chemipure to your filter will help to give you crystal clear water.
Sometimes there are water born algae in tanks that you cannot see, but that makes the water a bit cloudy. If your tank has just been set up recently give it a couple more weeks then if needed you can put a small UV Sterilizer on the return line from your filter or pump. This will help clear the water
Can you tell me what type of salt I should us in my tank? Also, what advise can you give me if I want to use tap water in my tank?
Let’s start with the second part of this question. First it is best to use RODI filtered water, but if for one reason or another you want to use tap water then there are a few things you should do to lesson the negative impacts.
Use a water conditioner like Amquel Plus when you do large tops offs or water changes. Use Chemi Pure and consider a phosphate reactor. For swim tanks I recommend using Instant Ocean Salt because it is a low cost quality salt.
This can be used for Reef tanks, but you will need to dose more calcium and trace elements than if you use a better reef salt like Red Sea Reef pro which I recommend.
I am moving my saltwater tank. How should I deal with moving the substrate?
It is very easy to crash a tank by reusing substrate if not done properly. Many people buy used substrate or transfer substrate when moving an aquarium.
First off if buying used substrate, if you are not certain that it came from a reef tank and you are doing a reef tank you need to use a copper removal media to remove the copper before adding coral or inverts to the tank. If you buy used substrate that has not been washed you need to rinse it clean and this is the same case if you transfer substrate.
The reason is that too much of the anaerobic bacteria have died off when the substrate is mixed up exposing it to oxygen in the water or air. A few cups of the substrate can be set aside and used to seed the tank, but I recommend using a bacteria starter product like API Quick Start instead.
To rinse the substrate just fill five gallon buckets half way and run a garden hose up and down in the substrate letting the dirty water spill over the top. The best way to take substrate out of a tank is with a wet dry vacuumed which is a great tool for any aquarist to have.
I just got a drilled tank and I am told I need bulkheads to plum it out. What are bulkheads and how do I know what size to get?
Bulkheads are a pluming fixture that goes in the holes in a drilled tank so that it can be plumed for a closed loop system, overflow, or both. Bulkheads come in two pressure ratings, schedule 40 and schedule 80.
Schedule 40 is sufficient for most aquarium applications, but some people prefer schedule 80. Because the hole size is slightly different for each of these, if you have a tank that is already drilled then that may dictate which one you need to use. The first step is to measure the diameter of the hole you need a bulkhead for.
What is a bit confusing is that this does not tell you which size bulkhead you need. The bulkhead size is based on the size pipe or threaded fitting that can go into bulkhead. For a 1”schedule 40 bulkhead you need a 1¾” hole. For a 1” schedule 80 bulkhead you need a 1 7/8” hole.
Once you know the hole size you need bulkheads for you can search on Google for “Bulkhead Hole Size” and find the ones you need. Bulkheads come either threaded or slip on the inside and outside so you need to order the correct combination of thread/thread, slip/slip, thread/slip or slip/thread for your application.
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This store has a fantastic variety of new and used tanks and equipment at very fair prices. They will special order any livestock you want, again at reasonable prices. Owner Chris is very knowledgeable and always willing to give expert advice on care and maintenance.
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