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Soft corals-- what do they need?


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Hi. My 1st saltwater tank is about 6 months old and I started collecting corals already. Most of them are soft corals because I'm afraid to get anything picky until I have more equipment. What kind of equipment do I need to keep the soft corals? I'm starting to look into protein skimmers and RODI filters and (carbon/GFO/phosban) reactors.

Right now I have:

a wet-dry filter with a 1200 gph return pump & bioballs

Some activated carbon in a mesh bag just beneath the drip on the wet-dry... its also probably expired

an AquaClear 110 (110gph) hang on back filter,

2 koralia power heads 400 gph each,

4 bulb T5HO with 2 blues and 2 daylight bulbs and 4 moonlight LEDs (works on dawn/dusk and day/night cycles),

a 2 bulb T4NO with 1 blue and 1 daylight bulb, a heater at 75-80 degrees,

Instant Ocean salt,

A hydrometer, salinity at 1.025 ( I used to keep it at 1.023, and I recently read that is better for soft corals and SPS)

Nitrate only testing kit!

Kent Marine Coral-vite

a turkey baster for dusting corals off and treating them directly with coralvite

Using BCS tap water plus Prime Seachem water conditioner

I feed marine flakes 2-4 pinches of marine flakes per day, or 1 cube of brine shrimp, or 1 cube of mysis/frozen mix (which is REALLY messy), and 3 sheets of nori every day or every other day, algae discs every day or every other day

I get almost a lot of my parameters checked for free at the LFS. I sometimes have a problem with my nitrates being 20-40ppm, my alkalinity is high. Other than that parameters are always good, even pH. I don't think they test for trace minerals.


I'm picking up some Halimeda from a friend, who has also offered to dip my zoas for parasites for me.

I have a Reef Octopus DNWB-150 6" Recirculating Protein Skimmer (500gph) that I'm picking up in two weeks.

I'm planning on switching to Red Sea Coral Salt.

I'm wanting an RODi filter someday...and maybe a Phosban reactor.

My corals:

Waving Hand Anthelia; Xenia; Pulsing Xenia; Kenya Tree; short green star polyps and long green star polyps; large radioactive orange-arm green-eye cloves, mini blue cloves; cabbage coral; 3-4 varieties of palys, some radioactive green, some velvet red; eagle eye, mini dragon eyes, radioactive red and green large dragon eyes, watermelon, eye of rah, and other zoas; 3-4 different colors of mushrooms, including one neon pink; devil's hand leather; red shelf coral; frogspawn; candycane; ricordia.

My fish:

Mimic Tang, Lawnmower blenny, Purple Tang, snowflake clown and black and white clown, flame angel


stomatella, cerith, astrea snails, horseshoe crab, random white sponges, barnacle-like specs (microscopic tube worms?), mini tube worms, bristle worm (ach!), larger tube worms, rotifers & pods, Cleaner shrimp

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Softies don't need much more than water and light.

Personally, I'd get the Anthelia, Xenia and GSP out now before its too late. They are prolific and will grow over everything. And once established are hard to get rid of.

You will need a protein skimmer IMO. There are some who run skimmerless systems but I feel those are best left to more advanced users.

Carbon/GFO reactors are nice but by no means required. They just make life easier for you by controlling algae growth.

Absolutely ditch the bioballs. Replace them with extra rock. BB become nitrate factories.

Buy your own test kits; Ca, Alk, Mag(maybe), pH. And a refractometer to check salinity.

Don't worry about trace minerals. Water changes with a good salt mix are all you need.

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I wish I knew! laugh.pnglaugh.pnglaugh.png You definitely need to understand the relationship between calcium, alkalinity and pH. Randy Farley-Holmes has an excellent article here: http://www.advancedaquarist.com/2002/11/chemistry Delbeek and Sprung havan excellent series of books titled "The Reef Aquarium". Vol III covers setting up systems and is the one I would stongly encourage you to get (they also include Randy Farley-Holmes article in the chapter on alkalinity, calcium and pH mainteneance). Don't get hung up on equipment. This system here is the one I mentioned in your thread on water changes that get's tapwater. It does not have any external or internal filtration, no reactors or skimmers, just 4 small pumps for circulation. The only additives are a 1/4 cup of aragamight every water change and some superbuffer very irregularly:

For something a little more elaborate here's one that has multiple sumps including a mud refugium and cryptic refugiums plus both calcium reactor and kalkwasser reactor but no skimmer.

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I have no protein skimmer is this 75G tank set up for 11 years. No reactor, aroggonite substrate handles buffering and trace minerals. No, RODI. I use ground water direct from the pump with no filtration. Removing dissolved solids from makeup water, then adding solids again in the form of buffers and trace minerals makes little sense to my pocketbook. With respect to ditching bio-balls in favor of reef rubble, it depends on the quality of the reef rubble. At present, your bio balls are processing ammonia and nitrites efficiently. I control my system feeding by nitrate concentration and bio-indicators. If you are showing nuisance microalgae, it is your indicator for excess nutrients. If you are showing nuisance cynobacteria, it is your bioindicator of excess organic phosphate in the substrate. I use a Pinpoint Nitrate monitor and operate my systems between 20-40 ppm.

You have a lot of fish in your tank. It will always run high nitrates unless you starve the fish or bring in excess money and equipment and force the nitrate concentration down. I suggest you aim for softies, LPS, NPS and other filter feeders like feather duster. If you feel adventurous get a Sea Apple.

Hold on for the ride. It can be addicting.

La bonne temps roulee,



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