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10 Things Every Beginner Saltwater Hobbyist Should Be Thinking About

By Fish of Hex on

Travis: What's up, guys. Welcome back to FishOfHex. My name is Travis. In today's video, we're going to be talking about the 10 things that you should be thinking about as a beginner saltwater hobbyist. Now, if you like this type of content, make sure you give the video a thumbs up and don't forget to subscribe for more. With that said, let's go ahead and get started. All right. Number one, keeping your setup as simple as possible.

Now, this is something with reefer and call being up now and all the conversations and questions back and forth on that and answering emails.

This seems to be the most common issue that you guys have been having is you have so much going on in your setups. You're always throwing dosing and two-part and all sorts of other chemicals and feeding your corals and all sorts of crap to a system that's just starting up, making it too complicated and turn causing issues.

Now, the problem with having a setup that's very complex is when you do have a problem, it's difficult to pinpoint what that problem might be.

If you're just starting out, what I consider to be a basic setup is a tank that is the biggest that you can either fit in your house or that you can afford. Make it sure that tank is drilled, having a sump DIY or custom, and also having macroalgae growing in one way, shape or form. After that, you're going to want to have powerheads for flow, dry rock or live rock.

I prefer cure dry rock and then some type of lighting T5 LEDs. Doesn't matter, whatever you can afford. That is bare bone basics. No GFO, no carbon, no dosing, no kalkwasser, no feeding corals, no extra supplements for corals, no nothing. Just keeping it bare bone basic and then you can focus on keeping that stable, growing corals, and then you can work your way up to more complex equipment and types of foods and all sorts of stuff like that.

Now, moving on to number two, and this is kind of related to number one, is you don't need to buy the best of the best. What I mean by that is if you guys have been here for a while, if you remember the 125 from a couple of years ago, that tank was completely DIY. I drilled the tank. I built the sump. I really use lower-end equipment like Jebo, return pumps, powerheads, dosing pumps. Use some kind of lower-end reactors and stuff. Guess what? That tank was very successful.

It was only up for about a year and a half. Again, I did really, really well. Now, fast-forwarding here to the 300. Of course, I spent a hell of a lot more money on this tank. I will say it right off the bat. It's because of you guys, the support here on YouTube, the coral sales, the donations, all sorts of stuff, of course, I can't forget the sponsorships, that tank is my dream tank. Yes, I spent a hell of a lot more money. I will say without a doubt. I'm getting the same success in this tank in growth as I did in the 125.

It just goes to show that you don't need the biggest, best thing on the market to still be successful. If you have the money and you want to go ahead and buy higher-end powerheads, return pumps, and go out with a fancy sump and all that stuff, you can. That's one of the awesome things about these hobbies. You don't need those things to be successful. If you want to buy them and you want to have them just to say you have them, then go ahead and spend the money.

All right. Number three, preventing and eliminating pests should be your number one priority when it comes to introducing anything to your reef tank. What I mean by this is starting off right with cure dry rock and stay away from the live rock from the local fish store because you don't really know what you're getting with hitchhikers and die off and the excess nutrients and all the troubles that come with live rock.

Now, it is a benefit of getting all that biodiversity and stuff, but trust me. In the long run, you're better off just curing and using your own dry rock. Now, when it comes to quarantining, I recommend quarantining fish, coral, and inverts. Now, example of inverts is, basically, somebody messaged me the other day and said, "Hey, I started quarantining my inverts because of you and I just found an Aiptasia growing on the shell of one of the snails."

That would have ended up in his display tank and could have spread like wildfire. It could have been a bigger issue than it was worth. Taking that time to quarantining and preventing pests and parasites from getting in your tank and kind of avoiding the whole struggle and that downside of dealing with ich, having to go fallow for 10 weeks, dealing with an Acropora-eating flatworm that will wipe out all your corals.

It's just one of those things that if you just take the time early on, you will be happier and you'll have a better chance of staying in the hobby for the long haul by just not going through those bad experiences. Yes, always quarantine and prevent and eliminate pests. All right. Number four. This is kind of feeding off a number three and that is starting off with easier fish and easier coral.

Now, if you've been quarantining for any period of time, you've probably noticed that a fish like clownfish, damsels, chromisis, stuff like that are really easy to get through quarantine. When you start quarantining clown tangs and Achilles tangs and those higher-end tangs, you find that they can be quite difficult. Even the mandarin gobies, those guys can be pretty difficult to get through quarantine. I recommend that you start off early on with clownfish, chromis, damsels, some of those easier types of fish.

Wrasses seem to be pretty easy to get through quarantine. Some easier tangs like the yellow tang or the scopas tang, those guys are easy to get through quarantine. Start off there. Work your way through. When you want to invest some money in some higher-end fish that are a little bit more difficult to get through the quarantine process, you will have more experience and know what you should be doing to better the chances of getting them through quarantine.

Now, when it comes to coral, it's kind of the same thing. You want to start with something that's a little bit more heartier. Mushroom, zoanthids, leathers, frogspawns, hammers, torches, those things seem to be pretty common for beginners. Not only are they easier and can deal with the fluctuations and water parameters a little bit better than some SPS, basically, that seems to be the most movement of all corals. That's what people want. They want the movement in the tank.

It just kind of happens to work out that those seem to be a lot easier than some of the higher-end stuff. Now, once you're comfortable with that, move up to SPS. Montiporas, bird's nest, those are easier SPS, and then work up to your Acroporas. I recommend you start with the milleporas. They seem to be a little bit more forgiving than some other types of acros. Just experiment.

Again, start simple. Start with the basics. Get comfortable with that. Learn everything you need to learn and then work your way up. That way, you don't lose any money along the way. All right. Number five, don't try to be exactly like somebody here on YouTube. What I mean by that is build the system the way it works for you. I recommend that you get all the information from multiple sources. Don't just watch my videos. Watch a bunch of people's videos and then come to your own conclusions.

I talked about that before. Be your own person. Develop a system that works best for you, not what my tank is going to look like in two or three years. If you don't like this type of rock scape, don't make it just because it will look cool later on two or three years down the road. Do what works best for you. Now, I do end up getting emails every once in a while with people saying, "Hey, I'm building the exact same setup as you in every single way."

I'm honored and humbled that you would, for one, think that I know enough to be able to put all the money and time into that and then, at two, that you actually trust me enough and the things that I say because I'm just a regular Joe on YouTube. The fact that you trust me enough to be able to invest that kind of money to build that setup, I'm very humbled by that fact. I guess the point is just be yourself and you will be successful.

If something works particularly well for you and not for somebody else and if you got to pull pits and pieces from different channels, then do it. Again, just be yourself and you're going to enjoy the hobby a lot more anyway. All right. Number six, test often and track your water parameters. Now, this is very important as a beginner. You want to make sure that you're keeping things as stable as possible.

Now, if you don't have an Apex or that type of equipment, then you want to test things consistently to keep track of your temperature. You want to make sure that your alkalinity is stable, your calcium is stable, your magnesium, your salinity. You want to make sure all that stuff is stable. Having a program like, which is what I personally use, you can upload those results and then just keep track of everything that's going on with them.

If you get fluctuations, what happened that caused that fluctuation? Testing often, minimum once per week when it comes to testing. As you get comfortable, you can change what you test. For example, right now, once a week, I test nitrates, phosphates, salinity, and alkalinity. That's it. That's all I test because I know everything else is stable based on the calcium reactor and just how the tank is running in general. Until you get comfortable with that, test the basics and test them often.

All right. Number seven, having a set schedule when you do your water changes and when you should clean your equipment. Now, I use the program Aquatic Log just like with number six. Basically, I use that to keep track of when I should do a water change, when I should change GFO, when I should change carbon, and when I should clean stuff like my calcium reactor, recalibrate probes, clean my return pumps, skimmers. All sorts of stuff is all on there.

It reminds me of basically what I need to take care of it because the last thing you want to do is be two years down the road and wonder why your return pump is not working the way it should. You should have went in there a year and a half ago and cleaned it. That way, not only does it work as it should, but it also extends the life of your equipment. Now, one thing that I kind of stress about with people and they don't really realize is how important it is to make sure that your equipment's working as it should. I'm going to do a video here shortly on recalibrating probes and everything here in the fish room since it's been up and running for about a year.

It's just important that your probes are calibrated so your calcium reactor is working the way it should as well as that your temperature probe is calibrated so you're not up two or three or four degrees higher than you should be, causing problems to your tank. It's important that you have that stuff and that you're reminded if you just can't remember off the top of your head to do those things. That's exactly what I use Aquatic Log for.

All right. Number eight, don't chase numbers, specifically pH. A lot of people like that 8.3 because it's end-all-be-all the best number in the world apparently. Well, I hate to break to you, guys, but the 300-gallon has never seen 8.3. I think on a good day in the spring with a door open all damn day, I could probably get 8.1, 8.15 maybe on this tank, but it's never going to see 8.3 because of the calcium reactor. I get just as good growth as anybody else and the tank is doing quite well.

Don't chase numbers because you're just going to cause unnecessary fluctuations. For example as a bonus, don't use the pH buffers. I talked about that before. If you're dosing to try to get 8.3 with a pH buffer, you're going to cause the fluctuations, the spikes, the swings in alkalinity. You're going to kill shit. It's just not good. Don't chase numbers and you will be better off for it and don't obsess over having perfect levels. That's going to drive me crazy.

Just go within the acceptable range and then just slowly make adjustments to allow those to get up to the optimal range that you feel "to be optimal" and then just leave it as is. All right. Number nine, and this kind of ties in with number eight, is don't overthink everything. Don't try to be perfect because you're going to drive yourself crazy. Understand that you got to keep it simple and, yes, with all the information now and all the different things that people have going on here on YouTube, you're going to overthink things. I find people coming to me with a million different things they want to do on their new build.

Sometimes they're just going to say, "Hey, give me the list. Let me pull out a few things that you should be focusing on." Like the reason why I'm making this video and let's go from there. Let's not overthink it. Let's not make it overcomplicated and then we can progress off of what we build from that. Again, try not to overthink everything. Enjoy the progress, enjoy the rush. Enjoy the experience and the feelings that you get when being in the hobby, the joy of building your tank from nothing until full SPS reef tank.

Enjoy that stuff. Don't overthink and try to get everything all at once. Again, just enjoy it, all right? All right. Number 10 and this will be our final thing that you should be thinking about as a beginner saltwater hobbyist. That is don't be afraid to fail. That is something that I think people are scared of. Failure is one of those things that I never wanted to deal with. It's not a comfortable feeling. The loss of money and the experience of failing is just unsettling and it doesn't feel good. Understand that that's how we learn. We fail.

There's a million things that I did wrong before I built this 300-gallon reef. Kind of the reason why I built this channel is to show you guys the things that I've done wrong and talk about those in videos like this, so you don't have to do them. Understand. You're not going to learn everything overnight. You're going to make mistakes. Just learn the basics and understanding that failure is okay. Just make sure you learn from them and try not to fail later on with the same thing.

That's about it for this video, guys. I hope you enjoyed it. Again, if you like the video, give it a thumbs up. If you have anything you want to add to this list, put it in the comment section below. I'll try to find some helpful videos and put it in the description. If you want to support the channel, check out for coral sales, Fido, NO3, PO4, T-shirts. You know it. It's all there. I'll see you guys later in the week. Peace.

About Fish of Hex

Travis’ main reef display tank featuring many small-polyp stony coral (SPS) is a 300-gallon custom glass aquarium setting on a welded iron stand, both from Custom Aquariums.

"Here you will find everything you need to know to be successful in the saltwater aquarium hobby. I have several video series such as "Beginner Guide to Saltwater Aquariums", "300 Gallon Build" and "How to & Diy". I will teach you how to avoid common mistakes and prevent tank disasters. With thirteen years of experience in the hobby, I plan on sharing all of it with my subscribers. I take great pride in helping others and seeing their tanks grow into amazing works of art makes the time I put into making these videos worth it. Follow me and you will have an amazing reef tank in no time!"

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