simple steps to success



15 years of experience, I have digested the hobby down to the quick and dirty guide to success.
1) buy an RO system and check water quality before using the RO water. An RO system will pay for itself in time and money vs getting it at a fish store.
2) top off with RO water only
3) get a protein skimmer
4) use scavenger inverts to control algae, I use dwarf crabs, about one for every two gallons of tank
5) Change lights yearly, especially metal halides.
6) no matter what you read, a complete tank cycle takes more like 6 months, not 30 days. Even after every test available for water chemistry says the water is perfect, don't buy expensive live stock until six months down the road
7) DON"T SKIMP ON SALT WATER MIXES. I've lost all my fish with a bad batch of salt from a supposedly reputable brand. I use on Marinemix, it's expensive but worth it.
8) Use a refractor for specific gravity. When making water, a hydrometer is fine to get you in the ballpark, but fine tune with a refractor. This minimizes SG fluctuations and gives you a dead on reading of SG, $50 retail. I let my water change batches mix with a submerged pump and heater for 24 hours before a water change. Changes in temperature and/or salinity can cause stress, disease and even death in tank inhabitants.
9) You will get algae. Purple algae is normal, and can be cleaned with a heavy duty glass cleaner available at Home Depot, clean your glass daily. Brown and hair algae can be controlled by crabs.
10) Don't overfeed. 5 minutes of food is enough.
11) If you do monthly water changes of 20% with Marinemix salt, your phosphate, nitrate, dkh and calcium will be normal.
12) USE LIVE ROCK, 1 pound per gallon. Live rock MUST BE CURED before using. Initially you will need to add an enormous amount of calcium to the water to reach 450 mg/l. Once there, the salt mix will maintain it, but do check it.
13) Read online sources such as Internet salt water fish stores for compatibility and care guidelines. If it says difficult or expert, avoid them.
14) Don't skimp on pumps. A good pump will last for years. A safe idea is to use two return pumps if your tank has two return lines. Then if a pump dies while you are out of town, your fish won't die. I also keep a spare pump om hand for emergencies.
15) Get a good, accurate thermometer. Use adequate heating (and cooling) if necessary to maintain a tight temperature range.
16) Salt water tanks require lots of maintenance, if you invest time daily, you will be successful. Topping off water, cleaning glass, daily feedings, monthly water tests. You don't need to run every test every month. Once cycled, nitrite and ammonia will be zero. High nitrates mean overfeeding and not enough water changes. Though I would not recommend it, a properly balanced tank can go months without water changes. In a reef tank, less fish is better.
17) Keep your return lines near the top of the tank. When the power fails, and it will, the return lines will act as a siphon. The lower they are in the tank, the more water that will drain into your wet/dry filter. Test it to ensure it does not overflow. A saltwater flood is an expensive, avoidable disaster.
18) With live rocks, whatever you place in the tank (fish) will be there forever. The only way to remove a fish is to remove all the rock. Not fun. So if the summary says aggressive or not reef compatible, don't add it to your reef tank.
19) With proper lighting, care, plumbing and feeding livestock can last for years. I have some fish that have been in my tank for over a decade.
20) Stir up the gravel to create a dust cloud monthly and let the filters catch it. Then replace all the filters. Detritus will accumulate in the sand. With sufficient water flow, your tank will be clear again overnight.
21) IMHO you do not need UV sterilizers, calcium reactors, wave makers, and other extras. This is an expensive hobby, save where you can. Don't buy every water test there is. Once established you need check only a few water parameters.
I'm not telling you to cut corners, just telling you what is important once your tank is set up.


Well-Known Member
Originally Posted by Fretfreak13
I thought stirring your sand was a BAD thing?

Stirring up sand that has been sitting a long time is bad because stuff is trapped in it….However keeping the sand stirred up is a good thing, because nothing has been trapped.. Sand sifters work great for that purpose.

tank a holic

Active Member
Originally Posted by billgray22
9) You will get algae. Purple algae is normal, and can be cleaned with a heavy duty glass cleaner available at Home Depot, clean your glass daily. Brown and hair algae can be controlled by crabs.
important that this doesn't mean get some windex
he's refering to a bursh not a chemical
magfloats work great too if used regularly, not the best on the purple stuff though
great advice!!