GETTING THE TANK READY
Getting The Tank Ready
- Set-up the display stand remembering to leave room around the tank perimeter for maintenance purposes and power outlet accessibility
- Before setting the tank onto the display stand put in some type of cushion-like material
- Make sure the stand is balanced to prevent tipping
- Once the tank is set and leveled off put in any devices needed to operate the system, but don't plug them in just yet
- You can add unsalted water to the tank and filtration devices.
- At this point you have the option of adding an aquascape, as outlined above, which is a technique of incorporating certain natural and non-natural ingredients i.e. rocks, decorations, plants, to the tank to impart an impression of a natural ecosystem. You can also add a background to the tank as a decorative touch if you like.
For the first day or two the tank system will be operated without the addition of livestock. This is called a wet test and it allows you to make sure that all of the equipment is in good working order and that the tank structure is solid. For the period of this time you will need to:
- Perform a wet test by starting all the equipment and allow the tank to run for 24-48 hours. During this time, check for leaks, trickling or other loss of water, temperature with and without lights on, adjust and fine tune the heater(s), as well as make up the saltwater mixture per the manufacturer's instructions.
- If using a protein skimmer, at this time no waste will be produced until salt and organic matter are added to the tank, but you can check for bubble production, and if using a counter current skimmer, test the air pump operation.
When selecting a sea salt mixture choose one that has a similar makeup as salt naturally found in seawater and one that contains as little contaminants as possible. Make sure that it includes all natural trace elements plus high calcium and magnesium concentrations to promote optimal growth for your fish and invertebrates. It is additionally important to make sure that it contains no nitrate, phosphate, or ammonia to minimize aggressive algae growth.
Hydrometers are instruments that are used to measure the specific gravity of a fluid such as saltwater.
Creating an Ecosystem
Selecting a Substrate
Substrates are surfaces where an organism grows or is attached and therefore is an essential element in any tank structure. It offers an aesthetic appeal, but also serve other functions such as providing places for fish to burrow, stabilizes pH levels and hides the filtration system.
When talking about live rock, it is a misconception that the rock itself is alive. What makes it live are the many forms of micro and macroscopic marine life that live on and inside of it. The rock itself is only made up of the calcium carbonate skeletons of long dead corals, or other calcareous organisms. The use of live rock immediately introduces into the aquarium numerous algae, bacteria and small invertebrates that contribute to the overall quality of the aquarium water. Live rock has just as much, if not more, surface area for bacteria than a trickle filter. Since live rock in the aquarium contains various types of bacteria, algae and corals, waste products such as ammonia, nitrate and phosphate can have a number of fates. Algae and corals growing on and in the rock readily assimilate them. Ammonia can also be quickly converted into nitrate by the bacteria on and in the rock. The algae and corals can either absorb this nitrate, or bacteria in close proximity to the nitrate-producing bacteria can denitrify it.
Caulerpa is macroalgae that falls into the green algae group. It grows in various shades of bright green colors, as well as different forms and shapes - some growing tall, others growing as mats. With over a hundred of this species found in tropical and temperate waters worldwide, two of the most common forms popular with aquarists are the Feather and Grape varieties. Macroalgae uses runners and roots for anchoring themselves in place, deriving their nourishment (nitrates & phosphates) from the water by means of absorption through their blades or fronds.
While it has become easier than ever to find exotic corals from online retailers, the biggest challenge is in handling and acclimating these delicate creatures to an aquarium environment. But with a careful touch and the right approach, experienced aquarium hobbyists can enjoy a beautiful living reef in their own aquarium. A pair of Aqua Gloves or disposable gloves is highly recommended when handling all corals, and will reduce the possibility of irritating the coral. Always handle all corals with a gentle touch in order to minimize the chances of damaging the specimen.
Running the Tank System
Shut down all tank devices and draw out the water. Fill the tank back up with the saltwater mixture. Key points to remember include:
- If the mixture was blended in a separate receptacle you will need to add saltwater to the tank and filtration devices
- Avoid any un-liquefied fragments that have settled to the receptacle floor
- Restart all tank devices and allow them to operate for a few days
- Protein skimmers will deliver oxygen to the water and augment gas replacement
- The technique for in tank saltwater blending is identical to that of using a separate receptacle except you need to operate only the devices required for mixing.
- Once the saltwater is blended add some to the filtration devices and run the rest of the devices as mentioned above.
Over the next few days while the tank is in operation you will need to check the following:
- Water temperature (keep between 72-79 degrees)
- Salinity, adding water to compensate for any that is lost during vaporization and to regulate specific gravity (measure salinity (specific gravity) with a hydrometer. Adjust salinity to the desired level. Adding salt or water as needed can do this. NOTE: Recommended specific gravity is 1.021-1.023 for marine fish and 1.021-1.024 for marine invertebrates.
- pH levels (pH Up raises the pH of your tank, making water more alkaline. This is good for African Cichlid tanks. pH Down lowers pH levels making water more acidic. This is good for egg-laying fish and certain live plants. So basically pH levels will depend heavily on the type of fish you plan to have in the tank. Check with your local pet store regarding the proper levels once you purchase your fish.
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