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Old 09/28/2011, 12:39 AM   #1
Sk8r
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HOW TO SET UP A TANK, condensed verions (retitled)

1. if you're going to have corals you need to aim at having either an all-in-one tank---or a sump, skimmer, and good lighting. Your rock and sand take the place of a filter.
a. stony coral and clams: need brighter light, good circulation. For sps (colored sticks) you need high flow and a super skimmer.
b. 'soft' coral is more forgiving, can exist without a skimmer if you don't push it, but it's a good idea to have one.

2. if you're fish-only you can get by with a filter: you have to change it meticulously. Rock and sand will help it out, but are never as strong in the presence of a filter (up and down of food supply as it's cleaned and not) as without one. Still, with big messy eaters, you may need that filter. Putting a little mushroom rock in your tank is still a good idea: spread-out mushrooms are an indicator of good water quality. Shriveled mushrooms are an indicator of trouble---far ahead of when your fish will announce it by showing distress. Gives you a heads-up visual test and helps.

3. TO START: get aragonite substrate, 1 lb per gallon. Dry is as effective as 'live sand'. It all gets live eventually. I prefer medium grade, which does not blow about in a strong current: not as pretty as 'fine,' but in a high-flow tank, it stays put. Do not get crushed shell or coral---it has problems. I lay down eggcrate [lighting grid: Lowes] on the bottom to prevent rocks rolling.
a) rock: you need SOME live rock. about 10% live at 1-2 lbs per gallon. Choose really lacy, holey rock. Limestone. Dry rock will turn live. Takes about 12 weeks to cycle as opposed to 4 with all live rock, but will save you enough to afford better lights.
b) wash the sand before using it. Rock goes down first, then sand, then live rock if you only have a little.
c) use ro/di to mix salt with---usually 1/2 cup salt mix per gallon of fresh water. This yields a salinity of 1.024. Keep it there while you cycle: draw a 'fill line' on your sump or tank representing perfect salinity, and 'top off' with fresh ro/di as it evaporates.
d) marine tanks don't have lids as a rule. But a jump screen is a good idea once you get fish. Most will go airborne if frightened. You WANT that evaporation to go on, and the cooling that results. There are so many pumps and bright lights, heat is your enemy.
e) keep your temperature about 80, day and night. This is another reason to have no lid. It's a good thing to run your lights and everything BUT the skimmer, which just has nothing to skim until you have fish.
f) plan a quarantine tank: no rock, sand, no cycle, just bare glass and water and a heater, not even a light. Keep all new fish there for 4 weeks to be sure they don't bring in 'fleas'. Parasites are not nuisances in this hobby: they kill, and they get into your sandbed and reproduce and infest every fish you own. Quarantine is serious business. You can start a fish in qt 4 weeks before you expect your tank to be ready.
g) don't get 'miracle potions' of bacteria and for gosh sake, don't get a fish. You're good just with the natural dieoff from your rock, but if you just have to do something proactive, drop 4 flakes of fishfood in a day until you spot ammonia in your daily tests. Keep feeding imaginary fish daily---and 5 days after you fail to provoke ammonia, you are cycled.
h) expect sheets and waves of green hair algae. Phosphate is the cause, and rock and sand come in with a load of it. So does conditioned tapwater, which is why we suggest, nay, plead with you to use ro or ro/di water. You can get ro from your supermarket kiosk. Owning your own ro/di filter is a Good Idea, and you reach the breakeven point in about a year for a 50 gallon tank.
i) btw, the optimum tank size is 50-100 gallons for a beginner. The smaller or the larger the tank, the bigger the problems. For little tanks, it's like driving a sports car---every twitch produces a huge, often bad, result. For big tanks---everything is huge, heavy, and spendy, and water changes are (at 10% per week) both spendy and heavy to lift. The 50-100 tanks are middle of the road, let you keep blennies and gobies (50) or some tangs (100). Be sure, however, if the big fish (tangs and angels) are your love, you spring for the big and Lonnnnnnnnnnng tank. These are swimmers, high speed, and they need it, the way you can't keep a race horse in a little pen.
j) read the sticky on acclimation: a refractometer is a very good investment---it saves fish. If you are within .002 salinity, between the fish's bag and your qt tank, you don't drip acclimate: just put them in---and if you've prepared by finding out the salinity the fish's bag will be---you can prepare that tank so there is NO drip acclimation---which can kill. The explanation is in that sticky.
k)don't dose any chemical you don't have a test for.
l) if you have a salinity accident, correct it slowly, no more than .002 per hour. Topping off with salt water is a good way to raise it, just in the natural evaporation.
m) never trust a heater or thermometer. Use 2 thermometers, and touch the glass often in passing, just to be sure.
n) clowns are interesting fish, but they are aggressive---some more than others. The redder, the more so. And you should NOT get an anemone until your tank is about a year mature. Give your clowns a nice hardy coral to wallow in and they'll be quite as happy. Anemones are difficult, delicate, and in the hands of a new hobbyist, downright dangerous to the rest of the tank.

Most of all-----come here and ask BEFORE you do something, and NEVER impulse-buy a fish or invert. It mostly ends badly, and sometimes takes out a tank in the process. There's nothing your fish store gets that they won't get again, especially if you ask. Don't buy 'rare' things: translation: it usually doesn't thrive and often dies. Don't buy exotic fish. Same reason. These aren't decorator items. Get tough little guys that eat plain food and can put up with a few beginner mistakes. Leave room in your tank for them to grow. Many fish we keep reach a foot in length: know how big your fish will grow, and pick what will be happy in your tank.

Good luck---and always ask. There's a 'why' for all of this. It's better to know one sure way that works and get experience at this---and then you can try new theories. Don't get in a hurry, don't take chances, and don't shortcut. If there were a faster way, I assure you, everybody would do it. This is a hobby that's been around for more than a hundred years, and people have tried almost everything, finding many things that don't work. We've sifted out the things that do work, and if you can just get through your first year, you'll find this all makes basic good sense.


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Salinity 1.024-6; alkalinity 8.3-9.3 on KH scale; calcium 420; magnesium 1300, temp 78-80, nitrate .2. Ammonia 0. No filters: lps tank. Alk and cal won't rise if mg is low.

Current Tank Info: 105g AquaVim wedge, chromis, royal gramma basslet, tailspot blenny, ocellaris clown, yellow watchman, chestnut turbo snails, bristleworms, couple of hermits.

Last edited by Sk8r; 06/12/2012 at 05:49 PM.
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Old 09/28/2011, 02:33 AM   #2
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Great post and from a newb who has been researching for weeks now I can only say....

I wish this was posted a few weeks ago Just the kind of "get started" or in my case re-started (been out of the hobby for 15 years) information I needed.


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Old 09/28/2011, 07:31 AM   #3
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great thread!


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Old 09/28/2011, 09:04 AM   #4
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thanks so much for this Sk8r. Great info. you, Michael (optimus prime) and WaterKeeper (Moe) are life savers.

could you please give a bit more insight on what "good lighting" and "brighter light" is (step 1 and 1a). i think i have the answer, but am wondering what *your* take is... t.i.a.


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Old 09/28/2011, 09:25 AM   #5
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After a few months of research this kind of brings it all together. Thanks for the basic walkthrough.


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Old 09/28/2011, 10:02 AM   #6
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Thanks for the great post, Sk8r! I (and I'm sure all the other newcomers) really appreciate the thorough and easy-to-understand way you explain everything

We're currently in the waves-and-sheets of hair algae stage right now Any tips on the best way to remove it? We've tried pulling it out by hand, but it's so dang slippery!


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Old 09/28/2011, 10:03 AM   #7
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Such an informative thread. Thanks


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Old 09/28/2011, 10:30 AM   #8
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Lighting: as an example [I'm no expert at lighting] ---I run a 54 corner tank with one 250 watt 10,000 k metal halide, in a fixture set on a fake tank rim 9" above the water surface, and flanked by 2 actinics---I run all lights together for about 6 hours and the actinics only (separate timer: get timers from Lowes) for an hour before and and an hour after the mh cuts in: hence I have a dawn and twilight in my tank. This one mh gives me good coverage in my wedge tank, and makes the pretty ripples work, like strong sun on clear water. This lets me keep anything from softies (which have to be on the bottom, and somewhat sheltered from the light) to sps corals, which want to be on top of the highest rock, and which love bright light and hyper clean water. I have a middle of the road skimmer, and do not maintain hyperclean water---I have a busy life, I travel, and yes, I have some particulate in the water, which cuts down on how much lights get to the corals. So what thrives insanely in my tank is lps (large polyp stony, particularly hammer and frogspawn)---it doubles in size every few months, and since it now covers all my rockwork, this is a wall-to-wall condition. (I also supplement calcium, via kalk drip, which is how I feed this monster).

But metal halide is extremely spendy, and the bulbs burn---not OUT---but DOWN, becoming bad in 6-8 months. MH is beginning to be replaced by LED lights, which use less power, and go a long time without going 'off' in spectrum. Pricey to start but cheap to operate and no frequent replacement cost.

Next down is T5, which can keep LPS corals quite nicely, and again, use less power and are cheaper to replace.

Common T8's are perfectly fine for fish-onlies.
And a little old household CFL bulb at 6500k is just fine for your fuge lighting (refugium: a green plant area in your sump.)


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Salinity 1.024-6; alkalinity 8.3-9.3 on KH scale; calcium 420; magnesium 1300, temp 78-80, nitrate .2. Ammonia 0. No filters: lps tank. Alk and cal won't rise if mg is low.

Current Tank Info: 105g AquaVim wedge, chromis, royal gramma basslet, tailspot blenny, ocellaris clown, yellow watchman, chestnut turbo snails, bristleworms, couple of hermits.

Last edited by Sk8r; 09/29/2011 at 10:51 AM.
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Old 09/28/2011, 10:32 AM   #9
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Very helpful post, man. Reading on this site really has helped me put things in perspective, even with me moving an already established tank. I am really going to take it slow. And I've even decided what to do with a 33 gallon flatback hex that I've had forever, and could never really decide what I wanted to do with it... nearly selling it a couple of times. It will now serve as my SW QT tank. Much to my wife's chagrin, I'll be moving it out of the bedroom, to serve this purpose.

There is a very cool site, that does a lot to educate us newbies. Thanks again.

-Rich


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Old 09/28/2011, 10:52 AM   #10
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Another note: how hard is coral?
Not hard at all if you mean lps and softie. SPS stony is bleeding edge, spendy, and most of it difficult and subject to "I-dunno-why-it-died." If you want to get your feet wet with that class, montipora is about the best place to start.
With lps, start with hammer, frogspawn, or caulestra (candy cane). They'll keep you amused and grow fast if you keep your water nice and supplement calcium and have at least T5 lighting. The conditions that favor lps and sps also keep clams happy. Avoid the Australian corals until you have a stable tank: acans and duncans are just a bit fussier. You can put hammer in as soon as you've stopped making gross mistakes with your water: it is a living filter, so it will improve your water quality on its own.
Softie corals: actually like lower light, and are great filters, but they spit when annoyed. In the great ocean, this keeps enemies at a distance: in a closed tank it comes round again and hits them, sort of like spitting into the wind. They get madder, do it again, and you get coral-wars going as everybody goes hysterical. Carbon can clean coral spit out of the water and prevent this circular firing squad event. This is why it's hard to mix types, as lps with softie, etc. You'll have a far easier time if you pick a type and stay close to it for a while.
Mushrooms are corals. Plain old discosomas are very prolific: don't let them or green star polyps (look like grass) get onto your main rockwork, or you may have to sell your rocks off. They can absolutely take a tank. The more colorful spendy sorts, of course, don't reproduce nearly that fast. Even fish that are a problem in a reef often won't bother mushrooms and buttons, so if you want a known coral eater but also want the 'reef' look, buttons and discosoma mushrooms might be your answer.
Anemones are a lot like mushrooms, but are far more mobile (yes, mushrooms can 'walk', but do it very slowly. An anemone can walk across your tank inside five minutes, stinging things you didn't think it could reach. They don't mix well with corals. They can also turn loose, puff up with water and whiz about your tank, orbiting many times in 5 minutes, and ending up in any unshielded pump intake, where they get shredded and their stinging cells (which do operate perfectly well post mortem) circulate to reach every fish and coral you own. This is why we advise not to try anemones for months and months. They can be a perfect pita. You can 'herd' mushrooms (just turn their rock and they'll hike up over a few days to reach the light, or even go onto another rock that's blocking their light.) But nems cannot be 'herded' into the position you want unless you're good at sculpting water currents, and can shape the water so the nem will want that spot you want it in. I'm not kidding. Sculpting water is a necessary skill for people who want nems, and it doesn't come early. Any crisis of water quality can send a nem into a tizzy, and if a nem ain't happy, nobody in the tank is safe. So wait on those.
The good news is that clowns will accept hardy corals as a substitute. Hammer is particularly good at this. It has tentacles just like a nem.

Note: dip your corals before putting them in your tank---this is the equivalent of quarantining a fish; and if you are uncertain how, ask your lfs to show you how. Dip preparations are available in brand names, have precise instructions, and will kill off coral-eating parasites that may come in with corals. A good thing to remember: "Things ride in on what they eat." If you find a visible hitchhiker on a coral---be suspicious. Be very suspicious. Many, however, are nearly impossible to spot without a magnifying glass: the dip will be your defense against the no-see-ums.


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Salinity 1.024-6; alkalinity 8.3-9.3 on KH scale; calcium 420; magnesium 1300, temp 78-80, nitrate .2. Ammonia 0. No filters: lps tank. Alk and cal won't rise if mg is low.

Current Tank Info: 105g AquaVim wedge, chromis, royal gramma basslet, tailspot blenny, ocellaris clown, yellow watchman, chestnut turbo snails, bristleworms, couple of hermits.

Last edited by Sk8r; 09/28/2011 at 12:11 PM.
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Old 09/28/2011, 11:04 AM   #11
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^ Hoping someone would throw this in!
Thanks Sk8r, you the best (as usual)


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Old 09/28/2011, 11:06 AM   #12
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Oh, yes: the algae tide: when you get the waves of green, look kindly on it and keep pulling and tossing: wind-and-yank with a worn out toothbrush is good. Tossing it means exporting phosphate out of the rock and sand, and the more you toss, the more it's going to leave your tank. Getting something to eat it can help a little, but that creature poo's the phosphate back into your tank, and if you don't have a really good skimmer, it just becomes more algae fertilizer. What CAN get it out of your tank:
A refugium or fuge: a little area of your sump or a tank on a closed loop (a pump hose goes out to a tank that sends it back by something reliable like gravity.) ---that is just like your main tank except it has cheatomorpha algae. This oxygenates and breeds pods (free fish food)---and sops up phosphates. You toss the excess cheato, or sell it, and you watch algae in your main tank diminish.
A GFO reactor little granules of iron oxide inside a tube: a pump sends water in, the iron oxide binds the phosphate, and sends de-phosphated water back to your sump. Costs about 50.00 and can run even on a sumpless tank. Takes about 3 months to really do a job on the phosphate/algae. [caution] If you do too good a job, it can starve your algae eating fish, like combtooth blennies. You must feed them green food like Formula 2 once the algae starts leaving. It will also blitz the pods in your tank, which means starvation for fish like mandarins and scooter blennies. So at a certain point you may want to turn it off and rely on a fuge.


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Salinity 1.024-6; alkalinity 8.3-9.3 on KH scale; calcium 420; magnesium 1300, temp 78-80, nitrate .2. Ammonia 0. No filters: lps tank. Alk and cal won't rise if mg is low.

Current Tank Info: 105g AquaVim wedge, chromis, royal gramma basslet, tailspot blenny, ocellaris clown, yellow watchman, chestnut turbo snails, bristleworms, couple of hermits.

Last edited by Sk8r; 09/28/2011 at 01:48 PM.
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Old 09/28/2011, 11:16 AM   #13
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Dude, you are REALLY helping me shape which direction I think I am going to go, once I get my tank settled in. This is some super info, in a nice, easy to follow, non-confusing, condensed and easy to digest format.

I cannot thank you enough.

-Rich


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Old 09/28/2011, 01:52 PM   #14
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This is very helpful. I am about to start a new tank after not having one for 2 years. Thanks for this info!


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Old 09/28/2011, 02:01 PM   #15
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Yet... ANOTHER GREAT THREAD BY SK8R!!!!

I will be adding this to my links for "newbies"


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Old 09/28/2011, 02:04 PM   #16
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Is a 120g standard tank too big for a beginner? I'd like to buy a good size right off the bat and start with what I hope to keep.

Thoughts?


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Old 09/28/2011, 02:07 PM   #17
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Thanks for the algae info!

We don't have a sump yet, so I hadn't looked into GFO reactors; can you give me a little info on how you'd do one without a sump?


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Old 09/28/2011, 03:00 PM   #18
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Hey I got most of my algae off by scraping it off the walls when I do my every other day 10% water change, and also taking a few of the problem rocks out and scrubbing them with a tooth brush it really works... I also added a small CUC 4 turbo snails, and a blue legged hermit crab.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sanveann View Post
Thanks for the great post, Sk8r! I (and I'm sure all the other newcomers) really appreciate the thorough and easy-to-understand way you explain everything

We're currently in the waves-and-sheets of hair algae stage right now Any tips on the best way to remove it? We've tried pulling it out by hand, but it's so dang slippery!



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Old 09/28/2011, 03:31 PM   #19
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Excellent, thanks for the info, it was very helpfull !!!


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Old 09/28/2011, 03:32 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sk8r View Post
Another note: how hard is coral?
Sk8r - I am always amazed at how much useful information you provide in just a few short sentances. Thank you!

Which category would Zoanthids fit into and how difficult are they to keep?



Last edited by Tradewinds; 09/28/2011 at 03:41 PM.
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Old 09/28/2011, 05:30 PM   #21
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Bump for obvious reasons.

Excellent as always Sk8r.


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Old 09/28/2011, 07:22 PM   #22
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Zoas are softies, sharing a lot of the characteristics of mushrooms, except they don't crawl.
They are particularly preyed-upon by nudibranchs: dip is a must! They don't like real high light, and can seal themselves off from the world till the water improves: great survivors, popular with beginners, and cultivated for their colors by fanciers. Just don't get into the high-priced market until you're sure you can keep brown buttons alive!


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Salinity 1.024-6; alkalinity 8.3-9.3 on KH scale; calcium 420; magnesium 1300, temp 78-80, nitrate .2. Ammonia 0. No filters: lps tank. Alk and cal won't rise if mg is low.

Current Tank Info: 105g AquaVim wedge, chromis, royal gramma basslet, tailspot blenny, ocellaris clown, yellow watchman, chestnut turbo snails, bristleworms, couple of hermits.
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Old 09/28/2011, 07:25 PM   #23
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A 120 is a good tank---if you're young, strong, and don't mind carrying buckets, you'll do well. It's just when you get into larger tanks, every task that takes one heavy bucket for a 50 gallon may take three or four or more buckets. Of course your lighting gets more expensive, but you have a lot more room under your stand for a nice skimmer!


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Salinity 1.024-6; alkalinity 8.3-9.3 on KH scale; calcium 420; magnesium 1300, temp 78-80, nitrate .2. Ammonia 0. No filters: lps tank. Alk and cal won't rise if mg is low.

Current Tank Info: 105g AquaVim wedge, chromis, royal gramma basslet, tailspot blenny, ocellaris clown, yellow watchman, chestnut turbo snails, bristleworms, couple of hermits.
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Old 09/28/2011, 07:40 PM   #24
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Sticky this!


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Old 09/28/2011, 11:34 PM   #25
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Sk8r,

Could you explain the fill line on the aquarium and top off a little more.

How do you judge where to mark the fill line and when you top off, are you topping off with ro/di with no salt mix? Or ro/di with salt mix?

Want to be sure I am doing this right on both my main tank and also the quarantine tank.

Thanks in advance.


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