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Don’t Get Overwhelmed By Your Saltwater Aquarium – Tips For Success

By Fish of Hex on

Travis: What's up guys? Welcome back to another video. My name is Travis. Today, I'm going to be giving you some tips to help you not be overwhelmed by your saltwater aquarium. Now, the idea for this video came from a few comments that I got over the last couple of weeks as well as a few emails. Now, it just seems like when you guys are starting to have problems and you're just not being successful, it's usually because things are too complicated.

You're getting overwhelmed on all the information and ins and outs of this hobby.

In this video, I just want to give you tips to help you focus on what's really important and what's going to drive your success. Once you get to that point, you can go ahead and add different things to make the hobby or your saltwater tank a little bit more complicated. With all that said, let's go ahead and get started. My first tip is to keep your setup as simple as possible.

Now, when somebody comes to me and they have a problem, it's usually because they have too much going on with their setup.

Now, the very first thing that I ask people is, "Hey, let me see your setup. Let me see what you have going on because I really get a good idea of where the problems might be coming from." 9 out of 10 times is because they're running a piece of equipment that they don't need, maybe they're running a GFO, bio pellets when you don't need it.

Or they're going down the ZEOvit route and then mixing multiple programs together, different dosing or different programs with different types of equipment that just don't work well together, and because people are getting all this information from YouTube and anybody who has a microphone and a video camera can put out advice. Maybe you don't want to listen to me, who knows, that's why I put the 300 in all my videos instead of my face because the 300 is my proof that what I'm talking about actually works.

My face doesn't do anything but cause shit in the comments section apparently. Anyway, what I would recommend is keeping it as simple as possible. Here is my example of a basic beginner setup. Now, it's going to be a drill tank preferable with a sump.

Now, a good portion of that sump is going to be refugium where you can grow chaeto. Now, you're also going to have a skimmer that's rated for at least double your water volume. Between your weekly or bi-weekly water changes of 10 to 20% and your skimmer and your refugium, you're really going to take care of all that excess nutrients. Now, when it comes to heaters if you don't want to go the route of an aquarium controller like an Apex or a ReefKeeper, I would recommend that you send a little bit extra money on good heaters with reliable thermostats running multiple heaters at the same time in your sump.

Also, having backups of those heaters maybe one or two, just laying around just in case one was to fail, you can catch that and fix it pretty early on. When it comes to return pumps and the lighting, that's pretty much up to you. It really is dictated by your budget and really what you want to do.

I always recommend the XR15 with the T5, that's what I have over the 300. Now, I do run AP700 over my frag system and they do just as well. It's really going to come down to whatever works best for you. Now when it comes to the beginner setup and your overall thought process, keeping it simple and keeping it basic is really where it all comes back to. You don't want to be out there adding additional coral foods or dosing 2 part when you don't need it or just going down the route of making things more complicated.

This setup that I just said with a basic 10 or 20% water change on a weekly or bi-weekly basis is all that you need. Take out the macroalgae when it's getting full, clean the skimmer cup every couple of days and that's it. You can really go along way with just having that setup and without spending all the additional money and making things too complicated, adding maintenance when you don't need it. That setup alone will get you well through into SPS territory with no problems, trust me on that. Let's go to move on.

Moving on to my next tip and that is focusing on the basics. This goes along with our previous one. We're going to specifically talk about water parameters and dosing. Now, when it comes to water parameters, there are a ton of them out there especially when you start looking at ICP test.

Now, in the beginning, you do not, let me say it again, you do not need to be doing ICP test to see if you have enough manganese or iodine in your tank. That is just ridiculous. You don't need to be focusing on that. What you should be focusing on would be your alkalinity, your calcium, your salinity, your temperature, your magnesium, your nitrates and phosphates, your NO3 and your PO4.

Now, once you get comfortable with everything and say you have an aquarium controller that takes care of your temperature, you can just monitor it through that. You can cut out calcium and just focus on your alkalinity, salinity, magnesium maybe once per month. Then, of course, your nitrates and phosphates to make sure that those are an appropriate level. Now, that's it.

You notice that I didn't say anything about pH, that's because, man, if I get another email about pH, and watch this, everyone's going to send me emails about pH now. pH just forget about it, forget it even exists. All you really need to do to benefit your pH to make sure that it might be an appropriate range it's just plumb your skimmer intake line outside, such in some fresh air, open up a window, that's it.

Run macroalgae with the lights on while the main display is off, the macroalgae will pull off the CO2 to grow et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. It will, in turn, elevate your pH. Other than that, forget about it. Moving on to the basics of dosing and this is something that people really take to an extreme. They think they got one coral in their tank, it's time to start dosing kalkwasser, get the calcium reactor up and running or even start dosing 2 part.

That's not necessarily true. When you get to the point of where your water changes can no longer keep up with the calcium or alkalinity demand of your tank, that's when you'll start supplementing with 2 part, calcium reactor, and/or your kalkwasser. We talked about this in previous videos and I'd be happy to go into more detail later on if you guys want. Just put it in the comment section, let me know. Now, when it comes to taking care of the dosing, there's another side of it.

Not only is it those major elements of the calcium alkalinity magnesium that people worry about, but it's also all the small stuff. People do one ICP test and find out that their manganese is low or they don't have enough freaking boron or whatever in their tank. Then they start dumping in reef fuel or reef plus going on and buying all these individual supplements from Triton method and dumping it in their tank, just to come to find out that you don't really need it.

Then you do your next ICP test in a month and find out everything is sky-high. The reason for that is if you don't really have a lot of coral in your tank and you're not really uptaking a lot of calcium and alkalinity, then you're just not using those elements up. Of course, dosing them is not going to aid you in any way. I'd rather have a lack of an element, like not enough of it than have too much of one because that's definitely going to add some problems to the system.

Now, for those of you who want to take care of those minor elements, just go ahead and do a bi-weekly water change to 20% with a quality salt. For me, personally, I like to use the Fritz blue box for the extra potassium that they have in there and that's it. They will replenish those minor elements and you'd be good to go because trust me, if you have a lack of manganese or a little bit less boron than the recommended point zero, zero, zero, zero point that they recommend, then you're going to be fine. Trust me.

Just do your water changes with a good salt and it'll take care of all that stuff. It could even take care of all of it for the entire lifespan of your tank. I will get into detail later on when you might want to consider transitioning to maybe dosing reef fuel, or reef plus or even dosing potassium and stuff like that. As you guys have seen that I do actually dose that stuff to the tank because those specific elements get used up a little bit more than just the basics that the salt can actually take care of during those water changes.

Moving on to my third tip here and that is being consistent with your maintenance. That is going to be your weekly, maybe your bi-weekly or even your monthly water changes. Just pick a day that you want to take care of it and just get it done. Now, I know things come up in our lives and we get distracted. For me, personally, I have water sitting in my mixing barrel for a week before I get a chance to get it done because I say, "Hey, I'm going to sit down and get this water change done today.

Then I get distracted with other things or something comes up with the business and then I end up holding it off for an entire week. If that happens, it happens. It's not going to make or break your success. Just make sure you try to stick to a schedule of maintenance. That's not only just for your water changes but also for your equipment maintenance. You want to make sure that your return pump is running well.

You want to make sure your skimmer is working efficiently to make sure that it's pulling out a good amount of [unintelligible 00:08:15] dialed in properly. Powerheads are cleaned and all that good stuff. Pulling out the macroalgae, maybe changing filter socks, all that kind of stuff is important. Very basic but making sure that you're consistent with it is really what's going to determine your success. The next thing you should be doing when it comes to your maintenance is tracking it.

Tracking when you should be cleaning your skimmer. I like to do it every three to six months. Putting that on a calendar. It can be a basic program like an AquaticLog or you can have a calendar up on the side of your refrigerator that says, "Clean skimmer." Just go ahead and get it done. The last thing you want to do is not do the maintenance on your equipment and then come to find out four or five months later you're starting to running to algae issues.

Then you come to look at your skimmer and the damn thing is not even working properly because it's full of junk that you should have cleaned out four months ago. Just making sure that your maintenance is taken care of and that you're tracking it. Then on top of that tracking your water parameters. It's nice to know when you test your alkalinity a week apart or two weeks apart, you can see what it was previously to get an idea of where it's fluctuating. If you're adding a lot more corals, of course it's going to fluctuate downwards.

Then you might need to either do more water changes to keep up with it or even start dosing something like 2 part to your tank to make sure that the alkalinity stays stable. Tracking your maintenance and your water parameters are all basic things that you should be doing. Moving on to my final tip for you guys and that is to set realistic goals. Now I don't mean just settle for this type of goal, I mean when I first started, my end goal was to have the tank that I have right now.

Granted I would love it to be about four feet longer and two feet wider, maybe a foot and a half taller, who knows. That's my goal but when I first started, it was to have a fully stocked SPS aquapore tank. I love the way that they look, hence the reason why I have them in the tank now.

Now trust me, when I first started a hobby, and what I have right now, all the tanks in between, they didn't look like this, there was a lot of trial and error. You could read all the books in the world. You can watch every one of my videos, which by the way, I'm about to hit 500, which is pretty sweet for three years, and you can watch all my videos, do everything the way I do it and still not be as successful, because sometimes you just need to live it for a little while.

You have to learn from your mistakes, the little things that you just don't pick up in a video and things that I failed to mention sometimes. You just have to live through these experiences and set these smaller goals. In the beginning, you should be like, "Hey, I'm going to have LPS in my tank." Well guess what? You get your basic setup, get your soft corals in there, your zoas, your mushrooms and then go ahead and buy that torch or that hammer or that frogspawn, put it in there, see how it does, "Oh great. Now I got 5 to 10 hammers and torches and stuff like that and the tank is doing really well. Now I want to have my first SPS."

Well go out and get a bird's nest, something simple, and continue that process, and then eventually, "Hey, I want to have a whole bunch of acropora." Go out and buy some easy acropora, some cheaper acropora, by the way you can get at, a little bit of a plug in there. Then you can go ahead and just live through those experiences and work your way up because eventually you will have a fully stocked SPS tank if that's what you truly want.

My goal here on the channel is to give you information to help you avoid some of the mistakes that I've made and just give you the heads up just like in this video on what you should be focusing on to quickly aid you to getting to your end goal. With that said guys, that's about it for this video. I hope you enjoyed it. If you have any questions, put in the comment section. If you want to add anything to this list, again, put in the comment section and I'll see you guys later. 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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