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[salt tank information] [fishes] [building new tank] [disease recognition]

                                                                     [invertebrates] [starfish, snails] [crabs] [anemone]

Let's see now how we can build a tank 
 Choosing the tank.                                                    
As I already said a tank must be  more than  200 litter.  All hobbyists should know already that it is 
very common to do a mistake but the smallest the tank is, the greatest the danger exists for your fish
 because in a big tank the parameters of water are more stable and you can eliminate the danger in 
case of a mistake. And you should also take into consideration that taking care of a big tank takes less 
time and effort. Despite all that,  it is possible to build the ideal biological conditions even in a 100 litter 
tank. As a general rule, every mistake in the maintenance has serious consequences.
 let's imagine now that you've just bought a 250litre tank.
 You bring your tank home. The next step is to find a perfect place for it.  You must 
remember only two rules.. 
 First : never put your tank near the window, because sunlight will increase unwanted 
algae growing and it will raise the temperature levels, and we do not want that at all. 
 Second: keep it away from the doors because doors open very often and your fish can get
Well,  when the right place is found it's time to fill your tank with water. You can do it 
by using the rubber (bought from the pet store) , or you can use any other way you
prefer. Fill only half tank. Here we need to put salt within it so as to make the water 
salty as it is in the ocean and the sea. 
                Personally I use two different kinds of salt.
   1. Red sea  salt.                                            2. Instant ocean salt.                   
If you fill half tank it should about 125 litter. You need about 4 kg  of salt for the beginning.  Sea's 
salinity is 1.022-1.025 and  the temperature is around 25 C. Put the salt in and put two power heads to 
circulate the water.  Turn on the heater in 25 C.  and let it function for 24 hours. 
The next day, measure the salinity with the hydrometer and the temperature with a thermometer and 
if the special gravity  is more than 1.025  add some fresh water if  it is less then put a little  more salt
 and leave it for 2 more hours. 
Hydrometer               Thermometer                                           Power head    
After that get the power head out of the tank.
At this point you need sand and crushed corals.  The most important role of the aquaria bottom is to
 provide additional vital space for bacteria that need oxygen in the upper levels  and for the bacteria 
that live without oxygen  in the lowest levels. For the salt tank you need crushed corals because the 
high content of oxide calcium contributes in the stabilization of the PH. 
                          Aragonite sand         Crushed corals  
Some kind of fish like gobies need a zone of sand because during the night they use to hide in it. The
 depth of the crushed coral and sand must be 6-10 cm. Crushed coral is dead coral from the reef sea's 
which you can buy from the pet store, it's totally inexpensive . You need about 15 kg. Do not forget to 
rinse it well under warm water before place it because of  the rubbish and dust.  Put the crushed corals
 into the tank and above it put  20 kg aragonite sand or (live sand)( personally, I didn't buy it, but made
 it myself). 
After your reef bottom is ready put back the power heads. One goes on the left side of the depth and the
other on the right. Make sure that they are not moving the sand. One or two cm above the sand 
is a good place for them. At this point you have to buy some rock. Preferably live rock. Live rock is full 
of live organisms mixed with sperm of invertible, microscopic crabs and shrimps. Also it is covered by 
beautiful red, pink, and purple algae. In the beginning take about 5 kg live rock. The animals that live
on them will immigrate to the sand and make colonies there with the beneficial bacteria, and in a 
while your sand will become live. (it worked fine for me and I didn't have to give more money in order
 to buy live sand). The fish, the crabs and the other animals in the reef tank need places to hide. You 
can easily create caves and places to hide with rocks such as lava, tufa and other. Just use water proof 
non toxic silicone. You can decorate your tank by using your imagination. There is no limit in 
creation........Under the rock constructions it is advisable to place Plexiglas in order to avoid the 
breaking  of the glass. Put your structure within and place the live rocks above.
So it's time to install the filter.
 Personally I use canister filter made in Italy  by Fluval company.  Before you buy the  filter that you 
decided that suits you,  tell the pet shop guy about the measurements of your tank and
 buy one scale bigger ( for example a 250 litter tank needs 300 litter filter). The bigger 
the better, as a general rule. Install your filter by using the instructions. Run the  air 
pump. Make sure that bubbles are going into the filter, because the beneficial bacteria need oxygen to 
live and break down the wastes. Dichloride the water by using "stress coat" product which also consists
Aloe Vera, an ingredient that helps the fish. Then add into your tank at the first, second, seventh and 
fourteenth day a product called " stress zyme" that helps in growing the beneficial bacteria .
                stress coat                                                                             stress zyme
 In the end turn off the light for a week. Do not be afraid if during the "cycle" your live rocks loose 
coralline algae. It will come back quickly. 
   Now let's discuss about reef tank lighting. Lighting is probably one of 
the most important factors for a  healthy tank and for the growing of corals . You have to realize that 
all the animals on earth need light to grow and live. Corals themselves do not require any special 
lighting .It is the one-celled algae, known as zooanthellia,  that needs special lighting. The algae and
 zooanthellia are obligatory symbiosis of each other. This algae is important to their host animals 
because it removes toxic metabolic wastes products from the corals. The same waste products are 
required nutrient for the algae. In return the algae produces glucose which is high energy food for
 corals. For example , in the presence of bright light , the algae removes carbon dioxide from the water
 and produces oxygen.
Corals do not live at the surface of the sea, but  underneath, where the light is a little more blue. That's 
why the 30% of tank lighting must be Blue. Totally you have to put 4-6 watt per 5 litter. So if the tank is 
250 litter you need, 5 watt per 5 litter = 250 watt-260watt.  80 watt must be blue actinic light, and 
170-180 watt white. Use neon lamps. They do not  warm the water too much . (I do not write about 
wavelength. It's not interesting at all. )
Make a 25% water change after a week has passed and add "stress zym". 
For the water change you need a kind of a big canister filled with dichloride water where you will add 
the salt and  you will leave it so for 24 hours. A power head must be functioning within it. 24 hours is 
enough time for the salt to melt and aerate. Because when you add salt in the water toxic gas is 
produced. After the water change, test the PH, the ammonia and nitrite levels by using  ph ,nitrate, and 
nitrite tests. If still the ammonia, nitrate levels are high and if the PH level is  less than 8.2 to 8.4 (which
 is the natural levels) wait one more week and during it add "Reef Buffer" product or "sodium 
carbonated". If the PH levels are above these parameters, then add the product "Ph Down " (usually it is
 not necessary). And on the fourteenth day, test the water again, make 25% water change and use stress
 zyme .Usually 2 weeks are fine if you are using stress zyme,  if not ,then you have to wait 5-6 weeks. But
from my personal experience  I couldn't wait I was impatient so I used the stress zyme and my filter 
was ready in 10 days. Try the same if you want, but please test ammonia level before putting any fish 
or invertible in the tank.
      PH                                              NITRITE                                  NITRATE
                                                                 REEF BUFFER          PH DOWN
Here comes the most interesting part of the whole process. The big time has come. It's time to buy a 
fish!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! But don't get carried away, only one fish at a time. Before it, do not forget to
install the protein skimmer. 
May be a Percula or False Percula clownfish (Amphiprion).  It is gorgeous, isn't it? I have 
one False Percula, the common name is Ocelarius, and  I call it Kuki.  It is safe for reef and
 invertebrates. Clownfish are not really good swimmers. In Nature they live in Anemones 
because  they are hosts of  Anemones. Try to buy tank bred fishes because they are 
harder than natural ocean fishes. I'll give you more information about clownfish in the
 section about which fish and  invertebrate are safe in a reef  tank. 
   Choosing and acclimation of the fish and invertebrates.
  For the first fish (and be careful only for the FIRST FISH) this acclimation method is just fine.
  When introducing a  fish to a new aquarium for the first time, or adding new fish to an existing system,
 it is important to acclimate  it  to the new conditions. Allowing the new fish to slowly adjust to the new
 temperature and water conditions reduces stress and helps avoiding outbreaks of disease. In the pet 
shop observe the fish you want to buy.It shouldn't have any white spots or damaged skin, or have a 
pale colour. It must be active, healthy , and vivid. Never buy fish unless you've seen it eating. That's 
why it is very useful to choose a fish, give a deposit to the shop to keep it there for a week or two. 
The steps for the acclimation of the FIRST FISH are the following:
 1. Float the bag in the tank for about approximately 20 to 30 minutes (adjusts temperature).

2. Gently empty the bag into a 5 litter bucket. (make sure there is enough water for the fish)

3. Run a piece of air line tubing from the tank to the bucket. 

4. Start siphon 
5. Tie a knot in the tubing to control flow rate, adjust to 1-3 drops per second.
6. Allow to drip until the bucket has three or four times much water as when you started (should
     take a couple of hours).
7. Gently net fish and place it in the tank.
This method is fairly simple and doesn't require a lot of work on your part, but it does require a little
                                        SLOWER ACCLIMATION = BETTER ACCLIMATION
Then observe the fish in the tank for about 10 days and make 10 % water change. Feed it two times per
 day in the morning and in the evening as much as they consume in two minutes. Do not overfeed 
them!!!  Generally clownfish accept all kind of food live or frozen, flake food. Personally I feed my
 fishes with  frozen worms and twice a week with flakes. 
It is advisable to use a quarantine tank for better acclimation, for disease treatment and for  protection
 of your main tank. Quarantine tank is a smaller tank (approximately 50 litters) with corner (sponge) 
filter, heater, air pump. There you place a fish by following the above steps of acclimation except the 7. 
Keep the fish in the quarantine tank for about 2 -3 weeks. This is a very wise move because in this way, 
you eliminate the parasites and the diseases in the main tank, in case the fish is infected. If something 
is wrong with the fish, you must provide the appropriate treatment for it. We will discuss disease 
recognition and treatment in the section of Diseases. If everything is ok,  put the fish in the main tank 
following the above steps.
After 10 days it is time to buy some shrimps. One of the most common shrimp is Cleaner Shrimp. 

Cleaner Shrimps (Genus Lysmata). It is the most important animal in the tank keeping, in my opinion, because they provide the first help in tank. Cleaner shrimp eats the parasites that may attack the aquaria. It climbs on the fish and cleans it very quickly. In many cases the fish itself goes to the shrimp when it feels that it needs  cleaning. So as you can see it is important to have two cleaner shrimp in a 250 litter tank. Choose two of the most active ones in the pet store and make acclimation, as mentioned  above. Cleaner shrimp eats also the food that falls on the bottom. They won't refuse any kind of  food. I'll give you more information about cleaner shrimp in the section about fish and invertebrate.

The most common and physical problem in aquaria is ALGAE. The most common kinds of algae are: 

Cyanobacteria (red  slim algae). Cyanobacteria are really photosynthetic bacteria. Typically it is red in colour, but also found in green and blue-green. It forms slimy sheets on aquarium surface, rocks and substrates. Cyanobacteria will also trap air bubbles under the sheet. This algae is caused by excess nutrient in the system. The best way to get rid of  it, is to siphon as much as possible, make 25% water change and  turn off the neon light and leave only the blue one for about two or three weeks. After a week  if it is necessary repeat the water change  and siphon again the algae if it grows back .   This is an important process before buying any coral or anemone, because they need a lot of light. It will not harm your clownfish or shrimps. It worked for me just perfect.  When you turn back on the lights do it gradually and not suddenly so as to avoid stressing your fish.

Diatoms (dusty, rust coloured) Diatoms are probably the most common form of algae found in aquariums. Every new aquarist find diatoms in his tank at the end of his cycle. Diatoms are easily controlled through the use of grazing snails. If you find a bloom check out your silicate, as they are incorporated into this algae.        

Hairy Algae Hairy algae are very common pest algae in reef aquaria. The most common cause of hairy algae is phosphates and nitrates. I have already mentioned in the section of filters, how to get rid of the unwanted  algae. Another way is to have turbo snails in your tank, hermit crabs, golden head goby (which also melts and refreshes the sand). All the above animals eat hairy algae on a premature stage of growing. There are nice cheap packages of algae cleaning animals that you can find in pet stores. Using algae eaters such as Tangs (fish), snails, amphipods and copepods can also be useful. You need to keep the hair algae at bay so the coralline algae can take hold and grow. Small blue legged hermit crabs or scarlet hermit crabs are included by some also.                                                                

Coralline algae. The only wanted algae in the tank is the coralline one. It may appear in many colors such as red, purple and pink. Coralline algae needs very strong light and it grows faster if the blue light presents. That's why 30% of the light should be blue. The coralline algae and the corals need calcium for their growth,  and the appropriate alkalinity of the water. I use calcium, magnesium and strontium  to grow my coralline live rock. Those elements are released when the aragonite sand  dissolves slowly and the sand also provides KH alkalinity. I usually add "Iodide", and "Trace Element" and "Vitamin Supplement" such as "Reef Plus". Some aquarists do not even add any other trace elements or iodide other than what the aragonite sand releases as it dissolves. Using "Reef Plus", "Reef Calcium" and "Reef Complete" can speed up the process of coralline growth. The most two common causes of poor coralline algae growth is low PH and KH (alkalinity). The second common cause is the use of excessive herbivores, especially ones that like to eat coralline algae. You can use supplement "Reef Builder" to boost alkalinity and PH a bit and accelerate some cases of slow coralline algae growth. Here are the parameters that your tank should have.

Parameters. Preferable level. Your tank levels. Actions in case of inappropriate conditions.
KH 8-10 dKH   Increase with Reef Builder.
PH 8,0-8,5   Increase with Reef Buffer and  decrease with "Ph Down".
Calcium 400-450 mg/l   Increase with "Calcium-Plus".
Ammonia max. 0,2 mg/l   Add "Stress Zyme".
Nitrite 0,0 mg/l    
Nitrate max. 20mg/l    
Phosphate max. 0,1 mg/l   Hairy algae will consume phosphate and also change the activated carbon.
Salinity 1,022-1,025   Increase by adding salt and decrease by adding fresh water.

 If all above parameters are right you will have a beautiful, healthy tank.

    reef builder (KH)                          reef buffer (PH)                            PH down


          reef complete       iodide            reef plus           reef  trace

                           KH test                                                    Ca test

I personally  use products from the companies such as ReefChem, Sera.... I trust them because of personal experience.

Let's see now. We have one Ocelarius in the tank, two shrimps and a lot of snails and other creatures. It's time to buy a new fish and maybe the first coral or better an anemone for Ocelarius. If you decide to buy an Anemone you need to find which one is symbiotic with Ocelarius. In nature false percula host anemone is "stichodactyla gigantea" and  "heteractis crispa". So you can ask your pet store guy to order for you the host anemone of the ocelarius if he doesn't have it in store, but  they usually have. Make acclimation as you did for the fish and put gently the anemone in the tank. Ocelarius will watch it for a while and then go and sit on it. Sometimes it may take 2 or 3 days but at last clownfish will occupy the anemone. Let's see now what other fish are safe for reef and not aggressive against the clown.

fish        will co-exist       may co-exist     will not co-exist           notes
Angels, Dwarf                  x                      Should be excellent tank mates.
Angels, Large              x   Large Angels may become territorial.
Anthias                 x     Should be excellent tank mates.
Assessors                 x     Should be excellent tank mates.
Basses                    x Adults may consume clownfish.
Batfish                 x     Should be excellent tank mates.
Blennies                 x     Should be excellent tank mates.
Boxfishes                 x     Should be excellent tank mates.
Butterflies                 x     Should be excellent tank mates.
Cardinals                 x     Should be excellent tank mates.
Catfish                   x Adults may consume clownfish.
Comet                x     Should be excellent tank mates.
Cowfish                x     Should be excellent tank mates.
Damsels                   x   Best avoided except for large aquariums.
Dottybacks                   x   Some Dottybacks are very aggressive and are best housed by themselves.
Dragonets                x     Should be excellent tank mates.
Drums                  x   Drums can be aggressive. Clownfish in first.
Filefish               x     Should be excellent tank  mates.
Gobies               x     Should be excellent tank  mates.
Grammas               x     Should be excellent tank  mates.
Lionfish, Scorpion fish                                x Adults may consume clownfish.
Triggerfish                 x   Some trigger fish are incredibly aggressive  clownfish at first
Wrasses             x     Should be excellent tank  mates.
Waspfish                   x Adults may consume clownfish.

So there is a time when you must decide by yourself what fish and what invertebrates to buy for your aquaria..

email me :

Hakob Arakelian
Copyright 2005 [Hakob Arakelian].