Snailcollector, I don't want to cause a lot of trouble with what I'm
about to say, and I know that I probably will, but it needs saying
All too often I see people trying to start a reef tank on the smallest
budget imaginable, and all too often I see people fail miserably in the
attempt. Reefkeeping is NOT the arena in which corners should be cut.
The reefkeeper, and indeed every other aquarist, has a moral obligation
to provide his critters with the best possible care. Reef critters NEED
good care, because they are not accustomed to adversity and cannot well
That said, Florida reef critters are a lot tougher than pacific ones,
due to seasonal temperature swings and hurricanes and such, and they
make excellent reef tank subjects. There are other advantages as well,
such as the lack of those blasted planarians which so heavily infest
pacific tanks. Another major advantage is the closer proximity of the
rock to the USA, which means it arrives fresh and ready to use even
uncured. I've NEVER had to cure florida rock, and the survival rate of
the encrusting lifeforms is very, very high.
As for your live rock, which in itself will be a filter, use rock from a
company called Tampa Bay Saltwater. While wild harvested carribbean rock
is still available from places like Haiti, it's generally not as good as
the cultured stuff from T.B.S.. One nifty thing about T.B.S's rock is
that it comes with corals already growing on it, and this is the only
way to legally get carribbean corals, such as one of my personal
favorites, Blue Rose Mancinia.
While you're-in-it, see if you can get your live sand from them as well.
Before all the bans and stuff, it was well-known that the Tampa bay area
had THE best live sand to be had-in-any price. Otherwise, get that
Bio-Active stuff that comes in a bag. It's clean and works well, albeit
with a complete lack of critters.
So, between the Aqua-c skimmer, the GOOD live rock, and the sand, you
already have THREE forms of filtration in your tank, and things are
looking good. Add a canister filter, or better yet, an algae/mud
refugifilter, and you'll be hard pressed to fail.
I'm almost afraid to ask what you'll be using for lighting the tank,
given your small budget, but the lighting is even more critical than the
filtration. A proper lighting system for a tank that size can cost
hundreds, it's true, but without it no amount of other work you do will
save your reef.
I guess what I'm saying all boils down to this:
Reef taks are expensive, and they require a lot of planning. However, if
you take your time and do the job right, from the very start, you will
be richly rewarded indeed. Cut corners-in-you system's peril.
Oh, one last thing:
DO NOT FAIL TO QUARANTINE ALL YOUR FISH. The carribbean has some nasty
critters in it which can wreak havoc if you let them. One of them in
particular is Neobenedinia, a nasty little gill fluke. If you let even
one of these little beasties into you tank, then every other year all of
your fish WILL die, and it'll drive you crazy.
Of course, that's just the bad stuff. On the other hand, and more in
keeping with the NATIVE aspect of this email list, you can always enjoy
catching your own critters on a trip to the beach, and most of them will
do remarkably well in aquaria. You can even leave a poster with you name
and number on it-in-all the peirs, so that if someone catches something
nifty they can call you. I've gotten lots of big Soldierfish, Bigeyes,
Creolefish, Flying Gurnards, small eels, Triggers, and even Angelfish in
this way, and I got them Cheeeeep! Of course, for a small tank like
yours, a snorkel trip up and down a jetty can get you oodles of small
fish ranging from wrasses to blennies to damsels to jawfish to gobies to
drums and pretty much everythin else in between.
My first saltwater tank was a failure of the worst sort, and still today
I hang my head in shame-in-having been so stupid. My second one was a
success, though, and all because I decided to plan ahead a bit. If YOU
plan ahead, you can save yourself a lot of money, hassle and hearbreak.
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