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  1. #1
    Member Dozerman's Avatar
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    Jan 2004
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    A Long Time Learning--The HARD Way

    I warn you this is long, but I hope worth the read.

    OK, I think I'm finally at a point where I'd like to share my difficult (and expensive) "learning the hard way" marine expierence. You may laugh, you'll probablly cry, but in the end it all works out.

    I started into salt water about 6 years ago, and did EVERYTHING wrong. I mean from start to finish I made every mistake possible. I'd had tropical tanks for several years (since i was a kid) and figured it was time to jump into salt water. I thought if I could keep those delicate little tetras alive I would have no problem at all with big strong ocean fish. So I dove in with both feet and converted a GIANT 10 gallon tank into salt water. Went to the LFS and bought a couple damsels and in they went. The tank cycled (so i thought) I never really tested it. The damsels seemed to be doing fine.

    After a couple weeks I thought that the tank was looking a little small and a little dull. Time to upgrade! I had just dumped out my african chiclid tank, and I mean litterally DUMPED it out along with the last fish left in it (noone told me that if you keep africans eventually you will end up with a tank that has one big bully in it and lots of skeletons). So i set up this HUGE 35 gallon tank and took all the water from the 10 g as well as the sand and fish and in they went. No need to worry about cycling the tank it's all established water right? Off to the LFS. Got me a really neat looking fish, was half blue and half yellow, really pretty. It was called a Bi-Color angel. Into the tank it went. It died 2 days later. Next was a tomato clown. He seemed to do fine. But wait! He needs a home! Wouldn't it be cool to have a clown and one of those anemonie things, so I bought a Pink-Tip, (hey the other ones were sooo expensive!) and believe it or not the clown took to it the second i put it in the tank, too bad he was double the size of the anemonie.
    I went on with the learning process and did finally realize that the tank never cycled properly untill long after several fish deaths.

    Eventually I did get it figured out a little bit and was doing ok with some damsels (from the original 10g) and a few pieces of live rock, think i may have had a dog faced puffer at the time as well. OK time to upgrade!

    This time i went for a MASSIVE 90 gallon. I got the idea that I wanted to go full reef this time. In goes some live rock, some corals, some critters and away we go! Not long after I see this bright white rock where my beautiful goniporia was. See it seemed really odd, one day the tank was (looked) perfect then it was solid GREEN, I mean you couldn't see more than 1 inch into the tank. When it finally cleared a week later I found the white rocks.

    I didn't understand how this could happen, after all I had a big fluval 404 making the water sparkling clean. (protien skimmers, sumps, refugiums, etc weren't in my vocabulary)

    So, finally i decide I better make use of my new high speed internet and look up what might be going on.

    WOW!

    Skimmers....Halides....Sumps....Did you know all this stuff was needed??? I mean..it's EXPENSIVE!!! I'm not paying over $100 for a light bulb! never mind the $1000 for the fixture it goes in!!!

    Normal flourescent lights will do just fine.

    I dont think i need a skimmer.

    25 pounds of live rock is LOTS for a 90g tank.

    Well things DID start to get better not long after this, it cost me some more money (a lot more redoing everything I thought was fine) and i regret to say it cost a lot of livestock as well.

    I ended up with a 90gallon reef with 8 4' flourescents (4 daylight and 4 actinic) a 35g sump growing macro algae, and a homemade skimmer. Nutrients were consistantly high but not excessively and most hardy LPS and softies did ok, not great they didnt show much growth, but at least they didnt die. I kept this setup more or less the same for about 4 years, had very little mortality, tank stayed clean, corals and fish lived. Some died but not before living for quite a while, usually at least several months to a couple years. This past fall I got that strong desire to upgrade again.

    By this time I had a much better understanding of what a reef needs to thrive. I found a 120g reef ready tank with corner overflows, lighting system and stand listed on the net for what seemed dirt cheap. Came with 2x250W MH, 2X6' VHOs, and all for 650 bucks.

    On a sad note, just prior to setting up this tank I finally lost my last surviving blue damsel from the 10gallon tank, almost 6 years I had that little guy.

    Well my tank still isn't perfect, I still need a better skimmer, but its close. My 2 favourite inhabitants now are a big pruple clam and a err...large! carpet anamonie, its almost 18" across fully expanded! and its home to a pair of clowns and a pair of anamonie crabs.

    The only problem i have is an 8" engineer goby, sure he's great to watch, keeps the sand clean, but has a nasty habbit of buryn some of the lower corals.

    So in the end, after a lot of hard lessons, a lot of unnescessary expense and deaths, I learned that the right way only seems expensive untill you compare it with the wrong way. If you took the time to read all this, you got too much free time! But thanks, and if someone new to the reef reads maybe they might learn from my mistakes and save some money and more importantly, some corals.
    120 gal reef-90 gal sump/refuge
    120 gal planted tropical
    120 gal planted catfish/arrowana tank

  2. #2
    ijo
    ijo is offline
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    Great post!!! Your not the only one... very few getting into the hobby do it right the first time. I definitely made my fair share of mistakes and as I continue into the hobby(pushing the limits I might add) I am sure I will encounter even more.

    IJO

  3. #3
    Moderator ShipWreck's Avatar
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    Oct 2004
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    It's like you just wrote my fish keeping biography. :b13:

    Great post.
    Rob
    -----
    Upgrade in the works! Keep looking for an update.


  4. #4
    Senior Member chujai's Avatar
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    Nov 2006
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    yeah it seems like everyone can related to this story.

    no that i have too much time on my hands, just that i work for government hahaha

  5. #5
    Former Moderator a4twenty's Avatar
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    Nov 2006
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    so true, the good thing is now we have boards like this to help do the research. if i had only come here first i could have saved myself loads of money and more importantly so much aggravation :b12:
    `

    120S RR tank with 60G basement sump / fuge

    Return Pump: Little Giant 4-MDQX SC
    Water Movement: MP40W, Seio 1500, (2) Hydor K4's
    Lighting: 400W SE MH with 10K Venture
    Skimmer: Euro-Reef RS250 with gate valve
    Other: RODI, RDSB, PO4/AC reactor


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