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Hello all,

I'm new to the saltwater hobby. So new in fact that I will not be starting a tank for a few more months.

Right now I am reading up and trying to understand the fundamentals and various methodologies.

I was hoping for some feedback to point me in the right direction. I plan to start with a 90 gallon glass reef-tank and I've read up on sumps, etc.

What I was hoping you all could assist with was a list of everything I would need to get started, including makes and models you recommend, for my proposed set up. A shopping list if you will.

I would appreciate any feedback you could offer and I'm not opposed to reading up so feel free to drop links or suggest books ,etc. One thing I've already learned from you is go slow, so I think I have that part down.

Oh, and my plan for the tank is to simply have a color explosion of fish, etc. I want it to invoke that double rainbow effect!


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What you want to do on your reef. There are soft coral, lps and sps corals, mixed corals or fish only with live rock, or....

Any idea of what you want to put in the tank yet. This will greatly influence the type of advise you will get.


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What you want to do on your reef. There are soft coral, lps and sps corals, mixed corals or fish only with live rock, or....

Any idea of what you want to put in the tank yet. This will greatly influence the type of advise you will get.

My initial understanding is that SPS are harder to care for but tend to be more colorful? I would say SPS with fish but how difficult would it be to have a slight mix between SPS and LPS?

Thanks for your response, I'm already learning more.

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One of the pervasive myths is that SPS are more difficult to care for. In fact, there's little biological differentiation between SPS and LPS, so little that they are only categorized this way in the aquarium hobby and are diverse enough as groups that they can't accurately be described in terms of care level using those designations.

That said, there are plenty of corals which generally follow with that rule, and with most of the SPS that are considered difficult to care for, it takes cleaner and more stable water parameters to bring out the full color of the coral, whereas LPS typically retain their color in less ideal conditions. This is a gross over-generalization though.

Doing the reading is good, that should give you a good overview of what is needed. I'd say ask specific questions after that instead of just asking for general advice - you'll get better quality advice and more replies.

As far as equipment goes, you'll need several major categories:

Tank and plumbing

Water circulation (powerheads, return pumps)


Temperature control

Waste removal (skimmer, refugium, algae scrubber, reactors, whatever)

Then supporting equipment is something like:

Water purification (RODI usually)

Water testing

Saltwater preperation

Then before you add your main livestock:

Live rock


Clean up crew

There's a lot of kinds of tanks out there and a lot of ways to go with things. If you want to keep corals lighting and flow requirements exist for each and should be heeded quite well - this is how they get most of their energy and release all of their waste. Have a plan for the kinds of corals you want to keep and the livestock you want in the tank before you put it together - do the research on what will eat or pick on what beforehand. And finally, just take your time. I wouldn't say there's a reason to wait long after doing your equipment research and making a proper plan, partly because it will take a while for the tank to get going. The first life in there will be your live rock, then a clean up crew of some sort. At that point it's usually recommended to wait a while, for some species quite a long time, before introducing them to the tank. It will take some time to get to a point where you can keep all of your parameters stable and having an established biological filtration system before you add other things is essential. Stock the tank gradually and keep a close eye on your parameters, as they say nothing good in a reef tank happens fast.

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Thanks for the information. I know my request was quite general but that is because I'm still trying to get a general feel for everything.

One thing I was reading earlier today was a lot of people not doing live rock with SPS. The main concerns they cited were algae and hitchhiking pests.

Is there a major consensus for or against LR in an SPS tank?

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LR is required for any SW tank.

I think what you meant to ask was "do I need LR to start or can I use dead rock?" The answer is...either.

I think most people would say start with dead rock in order to avoid pests (majanos/aiptasia, bad worms/shrimp/crabs). It will become live on it's own.

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I still think the best method for variety and cost is to use primarily dead rock, but use a few pieces of nice looking pest free seed rock. Pest free can be hard to determine, but if it's from another aquarist's tank which is clean or is closely inspected you can determine a lot of what could be wrong with it. There's also the option of curing it a tub which would give you a lot more time to examine it for pests.

Personally I like most of the hitchhikers I've gotten, and I think the biodiversity of some of the larger creatures that come in live rock is better for your tank than just going with all dead and whatever comes on frag plugs and stuff, but with enough additions it could get to a similar level. There's a risk involved though, and it's more expensive... no doubt there.

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This is what I would use setting up a 90g SPS dominated tank. This is somewhat assuming price isn't much of a factor.


ATI Powermodule 48" 6x54 or maybe squeeze in a 8x54"

I would run T5s because the tank is relatively shallow and to help cut down on heat and the need for a chiller.


40g breeder- Ehiem 1262 return pump and a Avast CS1 Cone skimmer (to stay on the cheaper side). I wouldn't run a fuge and would not put baffles in the sump. Run a large powerhead in the sump so detritus doesn't settle. Also run a bag of carbon passively in the sump

Internal Pumps

Tunze Nano Wavebox and Vortech MP40

Auto top off as well.

I would also use dry rock. Consider BRS Pukani dry rock and some of their shelf rock, can really make a nice aquasculpture with it. Seed it with some nice live rock.

Edited by JasonJones
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Aergus, Welcome to the hobby! When people ask me about starting a tank I tell them to start by getting Sprung and Delbeck's "The Reef Aquarium, Science, Art, and Technology" Vol III and first read ch. 5 - Calcium, Alkalinity and pH Maintenance, ch. 6 - Filtration, ch 7 - water motion, and ch 8 - Lighting. I think this is the best place to start. For one they do an excellent job of covering the basics and second they are very unbiased in comparing the different approches. I also tell people to talk to people (like here) and expect conflicting and contradicting opinions and advice. While the info available is night and day from 5 - 10 years ago there is still a ton we don't know and of neccessity much of what we as hobbiests know is based on experiences with our tanks and may or may not translate to different setups and may not yet have any solid research. And when you get to buying livestock you will see better survival rates with farmed or cultured and your best success with corals will be getting local stuff where you can see the animals and match environmental conditions. 2 websites I like are Advancedaquarist.com and wetwebmedia.com. Have fun!

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