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Saltwater Aquarium/Converting fresh to salt...


QUESTION: Hello there. So, I've been doing freshwater tanks for about 20 years now and I want to say I'm pretty well informed and knowledgeable of keeping and breeding freshwater fish, as I've had over 200 different species in the past two decades. My thing is, I tore down my 20 gallon fresh and wanted to try my hand at Salt. I've had salt before, 9 yrs ago, but I had A LOT of help so it was easy for me then. I understand doing a 20 gallon saltwater tank is not really a good idea, but I plan on being up to date, daily, on my tank, constantly checking parameters for a healthy nano tank. So, My friend gave me the canister filter (kept the water inside it too), his sand bed, his live rock and 1/2 the tanks water (mind you, his tank was also a 20 gallon). I set it all up in my 20 gallon, and topped it off with pre made nitrate/phosphate free saltwater from a LFS. I know it takes a while, sometimes quite a few months for a saltwater setup to cycle, but, because I have his already mature sand bed, the filter in which the water in it and everything else in it wasn't touched, and half his tank water (and also the live rock), would it be safe to assume that it's going to cycle a lot faster? I tested the parameters yesterday. Nitrates, Nitrites and Ammonia are at "0", and the pH is at 8.0 (I know it needs to be a little higher) and the Kh is at "9". Being as he gave me his sand bed, I've already been seeing TONS of thriving spaghetti worms, bristle worms, isopods and I even saw a Narcissus snail come up from the sand bed last night, and he seemed to be happy. Any help would be great! And thank you in advance!!!

ANSWER: Good morning Rich:

Thank you for the question, and for providing the detailed information... this always helps out.

My reply:

Based on what you've told me, it sounds like you are doing everything correctly. You have definitely sped up the maturing time, and perhaps if your parameter readings stay where they are, you should be able to slowly start adding marine life.

I do always recommend to add beneficial bacteria, which helps the colonies of beneficial bacteria's to accelerate growth. Beneficial bacteria are the microscopic microbes that do all of the breaking down of the biological processes, keeping deadly ammonia and nitrites down.

One such good product that I have personally used is ATM's colony. See it here listed below.

I wish you the best of luck with all of your future saltwater aquarium endeavors.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Also, I have a Rena XP2 Canister filter on my tank. It has 300 ghp flow. Do I still need a powerhead? Or is that enough of a flow in the tank?

Yes, I would recommend to add a small powerhead. Perhaps if your budget allows, add an Ecotech Vortech MP10 Impeller Powerhead Pump; this will provide you with the proper ebb and flow that most saltwater reef aquariums require. See the link below in regards to this product. Thanks!


Saltwater Aquarium

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David Ocreef


Technical saltwater coral reef related aquarium questions are welcome. Coral, invertebrate, and peaceful species of saltwater fish questions are welcome. Questions asked on Saturday and Sunday will be answered the following Monday. REMINDER: Please check the answers pool to see if your question has already been asked and answered. Questions typically are answered within a 48 hour period, however sometimes it may take longer.


I possess over twenty-five years of hands-on experience and knowledge in the ecology of aquariums. Beyond the traditional, I have successfully tested and sustained environments that have been uncharted territories for hobbyists, for decades. I am the first to admit I don't know it all because there will always be something new, amazing, and exciting to learn about, as discoveries are made. It's a hobby one can never outgrow, or grow tired of.

MASNA - Marine Aquarium Society of North America. Director of Orange County Reef Aquatics -

Publications,, and many others.

After High School, my experience and love of marine animals influenced me to take up studies in Marine Biology. Throughout college, I studied Microbiology with an emphasis on Marine Life, as well as numerous other sciences. I continued to advance in this hobby, by building a dozen or more saltwater ecosystems all utilizing Microbes as the major source of my filtration method.

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