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New Big Reef Tank Setup

Cool Breeze

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Ok so this is my first attempt at a large saltwater tank. Currently I have a 3 gallon setup growing some polyps, shooms, rici and feather dusters. With one false clown, crabs, and snails.


I was planning on setting up a 55 gallon tank when I came across this one on craigslist. The guy was moving offices that day and had no way to move it. He told me if I would take it I could have it for free. The stand needed a lot of love but I have refinished everything but the canopy now.






It's a 185g tank that is 8 feet long. It came with enough live rock to fill a 60 gallon trash can to the top. Which is where it sits with the skimmer that came with it hooked up.



I'm hoping to move the tank onto the stand this week. My first question is what is the best way to do this? This thing is very heavy. Double thick glass on the bottom, glass bracing the top, and built in overflows. And there are 2 steps up to my front porch.

This setup came with a 60 gallon trickle filter. I'm thinking of adding a fuge to it.



I need any suggestions on additional equipment or changes to current equipment I might need. Also any tips or tricks for an easier setup will help.


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Welcome to the big leagues! :lol:

As for moving the tank, Lots of help. Some glass moving suction cups would help too if you can find some to borrow or rent.

I would do some research on that skimmer. It looks small to me for a 185g tank. Also we need to know what kind of tank you are wanting to set up to know what other equipment you might need. (ie a calcium reactor)

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There are a lot of options. This is the one piece of equipment I would not skimp on if you want to have a mixed reef. Deltec & Bubble King seem to be the most popular for SPS large tank keepers. I have a Euroreef on my 125 that I love, but I have heard their quality has dropped off in recent years. Go on Reef Central and search for skimmer suggestions. You will find TONS of reading.

I would also look into a sump instead of the trickle filter. It will give you more room for your equipment under the tank and would require less maintenance. Another couple things to look at are lights and flow. SPS need lots of both.

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  • 1 month later...

My husband and I set up a 210 gallon tank when we moved down to Austin earlier this year. It has been interesting, but I found that setting up a large tank like this is alot of work compared to our 29 gallon biocube that we started out with! We have a sump, which we really like. We also got a large Fluval for the additional filtration of the water to ensure parameters stay where they need to. When we had our first algae bloom, we put the Fluval on and within 24 hours the water was crystal clear. We have a Coralife protein skimmer, which I'm not 100% happy with, but it is doing the job. We were actually able to fit it under our tank in the cabinet and in the sump. I would certainly recommend looking for a skimmer that you can fit in your sump under the tank...if you can't find one like that, be sure you leave enough room behind your tank and just hang it on the tank itself (I don't think that this is a very nice option personally).

Other than that, we have put a ton of live rock in the tank (that was the most expensive part...you are lucky you got it all included) and put about 1/3 of it in the sump and the rest in the tank.

We have gotten our fish population going and have a Sailfin Tang (not the Hawaiian one, but these guys are great. Not too aggressive, reef safe, and beautiful), a male Square Anthias (he hid for a week after we got him, but that's normal), a blue chin trigger fish (one of the few reef safe triggers you can get -- he also hid for about 3 days after we got him), 11 blue green chromis, a pair of tomato clowns, and a blue streak wrasse (these guys aren't easy to keep, but ours eats plenty of mysis so we are able to keep him alive without problems). We tried a couple of long fin heniochus, because my hubby has always wanted a Morish Idol which you just can't keep in captivity.... No luck with these guys. We had one get popeye, and after a week in quarantine with meds he died. The second we got contracted some kind of parasite while in quarantine prior to putting into the main tank. We took him back to our LFS, and found out that he just didn't make it.... Butterfly fish our tough ones to keep, but I think if you can keep their stress down and get them acclimated o.k. they are great fish to have. We will try another at some point.

My one word of advice in regards to adding fish to the big tank.... QUARANTINE first. We have found that this is the best way to catch any diseased fish prior to putting them into our healthy tank. If you don't do this, and you get an infected fish in there....it could really cause problems.

Next, we are moving on to corals. Yeah!

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Thanks. I just got the tank put onto the stand last night now it's about half full of water. The live rock and sand has been curing in the garage for a couple months so it will go in as soon as I get everything plumbed up. Then all I have to do is finish the canopy.

Since the rock and sand should be fully cured how long do you think it will take to cycle?

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3 weeks.

That should be enough time bur keep in mind that every tank is different. Also keep in mind that just because your rock is "cured" doesn't mean it won't take longer than if it hadn't been. What? Wait that doesn't make sense does it? Ok well let me explain a bit. By removing all of the rock work and storing it in tubs for several days/weeks and having the tank broke down for as long, you'll have disturbed the balance of the tank. The rock work and sand will definitely cycle, it's a matter of how clean everything was before you got it or a matter of how well you broke down the tank. I'd be willing to say that most of your uncured rock is probably cleaner than any old hobbyists rock work. The amount of waste that gets trapped in our rockwork is unreal. If you've ever tried to rinse an old piece of live rock after removing it from a tank, it's nasty.

So your tank could cycle in as little as a week or takes as long as 6 months. Generally 3 weeks or a little longer seems to be about the accepted wait period. Always test your parameters when you feel it's safe to make sure it's safe. Also test your water soon after adding any new inhabitants as each addition, especially in the beginning, will make your bio-filtration work overtime until it can balance out. Usually I see that folks with a larger tank will add several new fish in the first go around and then add less and less from then on. So you can imagine the first spike will be quite large and with an immature filter.

And as a final note, the longer you wait to add anything the better. A couple of hermits and or snails would be good in the beginning but if you can wait 6 months to begin adding fish/corals, your bio-diversity will be huge. The "pods", snails, worms, sponges, etc.. will be able to breed, multiply and establish themselves in a predator free environment.


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We brought rock with us from Ohio when we moved down here. We kept it in a garbage can with salt water as well. However, we ended up having to re-cure alot of it. I think that my husband didn't have the salinity high enough. However, we got some live sand and a few new live rocks from the LFS and we were able to put in our cleaning crew after 4 weeks.

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Ok I stayed up way to late last night getting this thing running (hooray red bull). I put almost all the rock in I have about 20 lbs in a buddies tank I need to pick up. I still need to arrange them the way I want them.





Look like I will still need about 50 lbs more of rock. Also a couple gallons more of bio balls to fill the overflows.


After seeing the rock that came out of the bottom of the trashcans, the rock is not as cycled as i thought it was. Patience is not something i'm good at. lol Oh well now for the waiting game.

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Quick suggestion. If you are going to get more live rock...look into smaller pieces that you can put in the back where the bio balls seem to be. You can remove the bio balls, and put live rock in there instead. We removed all of our bio balls from our 29 gallon biocube as well as from our sump and are using just live rock.

Patience....ahh... I know all to well of what you speak. The good news is that if the rocks don't look too cycled...you can always invest in a bag of fresh live sand (unless all of the sand you have is new and live) and that will get the cycle going rather quickly. For us we, we had an algae bloom in about 3 weeks. However, we waited 2 months before we put fish in. With bigger tanks, the set up time can take alot longer than with the smaller ones. I think it is better to wait vs rush everything and lose live stock to.

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Ok after 4 days the ammonia, nitrites and nitrates are at zero. I guess the several months curing the sand and rock worked. I moved a couple snails and crabs in, also 1 fish.




The rock turned out awesome the pics don't do it justice. Looks like I still need another 100 lbs or so.

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wow man, i didnt relize you had that thing set up already? it huge!

i would try to put those bioballs into a mesh bag to make them easy to remove. your going to want to rinse the detritus out of those things periodically and pulling them out 1 by 1 just makes it that much more grueling! it'll make you want to pass up on regular maintainance which will, in the long run be bad for the tank. that is if you decide to keep them? alot of people will tell you to lose the bioballs becasue they become a nutrient sink, which is bad for keeping SPS. thats why you want to rinse them out every so often. it gets all the organic gunk out of them before it can dissolve into the water column.

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