In setting up a new tank, the most important thing to remember is: PATIENCE. One of the important components of a marine system is the community of tiny microbes that will begin to grow on all all the surfaces in the tank. While the algae are visible and often unwanted, the bacteria are usually invisible and much desired. Many species of Nitrobacter, Nitrosomonas, and other gram-negative bacteria will populate the unseen areas of the aquarium rock and sand. They grow much more slowly than other types of bacteria. It will take a week or two to allow them to even reach marginal population sizes. Their importance lies in their cycling of nitrogen compounds in the aquarium. Fish and other animals produce nitrogenous waste that will build up and kill them. There are no mechanical filters that can remove these wastes. They have to be "biologically" filtered. Most filters simply allow the proliferation of these nitrogen-cycling bacteria, which maintains good water quality. These nitrogen-cycling bacteria ARE the biological filtration of a marine aquarium.
Next, all marine systems should employ a quarantine tank that serves as a staging area between a store system and the home aquarium system. The quarantine tank should be a 10 gallon aquarium with a good lid (to prevent jump-outs), heater, and power head. It is much simpler to treat diseases in a small aquarium than a home aquarium. All new additions should be observed for two weeks for addition to the show aquarium.
The procedure for quarantine tank implementation is:
Fish should be carefully picked for your home aquarium. Do not try to match colors or sizes. Each fish genus has behavioral peculiarities which will not be adjusted by your home aquarium. Some species are more aggressive than others, some whole fish families have issues that must be addressed. Each fish sold at SeaScape Studio is described on the web. Its size, natural feeding habits, and general natural history are described. Consider using this or a good text to research which fish would be best for your system. It might be great to have a 1 inch yellow boxfish in your 29 gallon nanocube, but when it reaches 10 inches you will have a problem....
- Pick a simple aquarium, from 10 to 50 gallons. Use siphoned water from your show aquarium to fill the quarantine aquarium - that way the fish can move form the quarantine tank to the show tank without much acclimation. Use a power head and a sponge filter to maintain the quarantine tank water quality. Put only small PVC pipe pieces or other materials on the bottom. Do not put in live rock or sand.
- Get water quality test kits - pH, ammonia, nitrite, etc...
- Get a basic first aid kit. This would possibly include: kanamycin, furanace, and a copper-based medication. If you can get it - praziquantel - for worms. These will kill most parasites you will encounter.
- After floating the fish bag to equalize temperature, dip new additions in a bath of filtered fresh water (RO or DI) for 2 to 10 minutes, with constant observation throughout. Dip water must be the same pH and temperature as the water it is dipped from, which should be the same as the quarantine tank. If a fish seems overly stressed, they should be immediately moved to the quarantine tank. A dip solution can be 1 oz of 37% formalin to 5 gallons of filtered water, or 8 drops of methylene blue per gallon (up to 50 mg/L).
- Observe all newcomers in the quarantine tank daily for 2 weeks and be prepared to remediate any parasitic problems that appear. The tank is small and parasites get out of hand quickly.
- After two weeks of normal fish observation, the fish can be moved to a small container and, with a drip hose, be acclimated to the home aquarium. If the fish develops any type of disease, it must continue to be quarantined for two weeks AFTER its infection is completely clear.
Some general livestock guidelines
- Use the size of your aquarium as a general guideline for fish and invertebrate selection. Some fish are very active and need larger space than other fish the same size. Other fish are sedentary and can tolerate the opposite.
- If you have a reef system, pay close attention to "reef compatibility" guidelines. Many fish, such as triggers, butterflies, and angels pick at the polyps of corals. Some invertebrates, such as shrimp, crabs, and starfish, do the same. Consult our guide or a good text for compatibility information.
- Pay close attention to temperament. Aggressive fish, such as some tangs, dottybacks, angels, and clownfish may pick on other species of fish. Even though no two fish are the same, use the general guidelines available here or in a good text to build the type of aquarium you want. If you wish to have tangs, then you will need to mix them with other aggressive fish to avoid deaths in the aquarium. Peaceful fish will be harassed by aggressive fish if they are mixed together.
- Consider only buying one species of a particular fish unless you know that multiple members of the species can co-habitate in an aquarium of your size. While some fish, such as damsels and cardinals, can tolerate one another well, other species will fight with each other, some until death. It is always safer to house one of each species than more than one.
- A tool you can use to help in your decisions is the species selectors here at SeaScape: