Setting up a reef tank
So these are the basics to setting up a reef tank, there are many different ways of doing it so don't shoot me if I forget something[emoji12]
Firstly you've gotta buy the tank. Deciding on what size tank is probably the most important thing, too small and it will be difficult to keep stable. So my advice is go for the biggest tank your budget allows. IMO 250-500 litres is a great size to start with. Boyu tl 550s are also a very nice all in one setup and so are the red sea max series. These tanks are nice as they include everything you need with the tank. Although some of the equipment may need to be modified or changed. Two of the last few tank of the quarters have been All In One tanks.
So once you've decided on your tank size you'll have to decide what you want to keep. What you want to keep determines what equipment to buy.
If you want fish only or of you want corals as well. Maybe you want fake corals, personally not for me but each to its own. So if you want corals you have to choose, mixed reef with sps lps and softies or a softy and lps tank. IMO a softy and lps tank is a good way to start in the hobby.
First thing is filtration. You get mechanical, biological and chemical filtration. They're usually run in this order.
Mechanical would be filter socks, skimmers etc.
The heart of your system is your skimmer. There are ways to run a tank without a skimmer but for a noob I highly recommend it. Don't skimp on the skimmer and buy a cheapie. Rather go for a reliable good brand such as reef octo, bubble magus, skimz, tunze etc. Not gonna name all of them. A rule of thumb is to have a skimmer rated for twice the size of your tank. So if the skimmer is rated for 600l it should work fine on a 350 litre or less tank. This all depends on what you're keeping and how many fish you plan to have. If you only want a few fish with softies or fake corals then a skimmer rated for the same amount of litres or slightly more is fine.
Biological would be bioballs(not recommended), refugiums, DSBs, algae scrubber and Liverock. This removing nutrients using a natural process. Refugiums with macro algae and algae scrubbers remove nutrients. The rest mainly provide an area for bacteria to colonize to break down nutrients.
Chemical is Phosguard, carbon etc. Carbon is mainly used to remove harmful things from the water and to polish it.
The whole point of filtration is to complete the nitrogen cycle. The nitrogen cycle is: ammonia - nitrite - nitrate - nitrogen. Basically the waste starts off as ammonia which is very toxic. This can be in the form if fish poo, left over fish food or other decaying matter. Having any ammonia present could be toxic to your inhabitants. Bacteria then breaks it down into nitrite. This is also toxic and there should also be no nitrite present. Nitrite is then broken down into nitrate which is not toxic unless it's in huuuuuuge quantities. Though having high nitrates could fuel algae growth. Nitrates is then broken down into nitrogen which leaves the water and goes into the air.
Once you have all your equipment it's time to set up your tank .[emoji2]. First you need to fill it with water.
You should use ro water. Not tap water. You can buy a ro machine and make your own or you can buy water from the lfs. It's usually R25 per 20 litre drum. Then you need to add salt. A few good brands are red sea, blue treasure, aquavitro and Seachem. Use around 40 grams of salt per litre of water. So if you need to make 200 litres then you'll need about 8kgs of salt. Once you've added the salt let the water mix with the flow pumps on. Then test the specific gravity with a refractometer. The reading should be 35ppt. If it's too high add some ro water and if it's too low add some more salt. Once you've got the specific gravity to the correct level make sure your temperature is correct too. It should be between 24-27 degrees Celsius.
Then leave it to mix for for a day. This isn't a must but personally that's what I'd do. Then it's time to add your substrate and Liverock. Now the cycle can begin. Please don't use fish to cycle your tank!!!!
Then you can add a food source for the bacteria so that the cycle can start. A piece of shrimp, fish food etc. You can also use pure ammonia from the supermarket. Your ammonia levels will now increase. As the bacteria breaks it down the ammonia levels will decrease. When your ammonia and nitrite readings are 0 the cycle is complete. The cycle time can range from a week to 2 months. If you add a bacterial source such as stability, special blend etc. The cycle will be short.
Now that the cycle is complete you will start to see algae growth. This is perfectly normal and is nothing to worry about. Diatoms, Green Hair Algae and Cyanobacteria are all common algae to experience during or after the cycle. As your tank matures it will go away naturally.
Now you can add the tanks first inhabitants. The clean up crew. This is usually some snails and hermit crabs, not shrimp! Start by adding a few snails, the amount of snails depends on the size of your tank. The next week add some more snails and a few hermit crabs.
Wait another one or two weeks and now it's time for your fist fish. Usually a hardy first fish is put in.
Slowly increase your bioload by adding one or two fish every few weeks. Don't add too many fish at once, or overstock!
Some advice :
Decide on a fish list and know what fish you want to keep instead if just buying any fish that you see. First check th compatibility with your other fish, corals and inverts. So have your list that you've researched and only stock with those fish and inverts.
Decide on what type of corals you want to keep before you start. Sps, clams and anemones being quite hard. Lps is once you've started to get the hang of things and softies can basically live anywhere, so very easy. The type of corals you want to keep influences quite a lot of equipment. Your lights, better light for more difficult corals. Wave makers, the amount of flow for different corals. Bigger skimmer for ULNS.
Read, read and research some more [emoji106]