Do I need an RO/DI unit? I have a water softener at my home.?
I am converting my fresh water 110 gallon tank into salt water. I know it requires more maintaince and time but can I take alternative paths? Also any tips on starting out? Please and thank you. I also live in Barrie, Ontario. I do not know the tap water levels. I want to pursue the hobby but I do not want to drive to get my salt water or spend hours levelling my water with the RO unit... This is a bummer!
- Anonymous5 years agoFavorite Answer
You definitely will need an RO/DI unit. NEVER put tap water into your saltwater tank. There's all kinds of bacteria in there that doesn't belong in a saltwater system. A lot of people who do add tap water, either by mistake or without knowing the consequences, generally have to tear down their tanks. Cyanobacteria will be the least of your worries. Only use RO/DI, even for top-offs.
If you can't get pre-made saltwater, the hobby is going to be much harder for you. You'll have to get a refractometer and match the salinity and gravity of your homemade saltwater to your tank before you add it. Temperature too. You'll also have to add conditioners, to get the calcium, alkalinity, magnesium, etc. up (or down) to acceptable levels. So, you'll need an API test kit to measure all that.
I've been keeping saltwater tanks for a long time -- but I've never made my own saltwater, for what it's worth. Plenty of people have and do, but I always buy the exact same saltwater from the exact same fish store every week... and I've never had a problem. I also buy all my fish, corals and inverts from the same store as well, after they've been there for 2 or 3 months and are healthy & eating, so acclimation is pretty easy, because their water conditions are almost identical to my own. If you order fish/corals/inverts online, you'll have to acclimate them by drip (preferably), and quarantine them as well, so you don't end up adding a sick fish to your tank.
As for how to get started -- buy live rock. If it's not pre-cured, you'll have to cure it yourself -- meaning, you'll have to go through each hole with a pair of tweezers and pull out all the pests you find in them -- mantis shrimp, gorilla crabs, asterina stars, bristle worms, etc. If you see any aiptasia or brown hydroids growing on it, burn them off.
Then place your rocks on the bare bottom of your tank, before you add sand (if you place your rocks on sand, your snails will knock them over). Arrange them however you want, in a way that won't affect your current too badly. Then add live sand. If you add dead sand, be sure to rinse it first (with RO/DI water, of course). Or else you'll get dust storms for a while until your filter rinses it out.
As for your filter media -- only use a sponge. Don't use bio-balls, or crushed live rock. They're detritus traps. Place filter floss on top of your sponge, and sandwich a small bag of carbon in between them.
Now, add your water. The die-off from your live rocks should be enough to cause an ammonia spike. But if not, add a piece of shrimp or fish food and let it rot in there. Keep testing your water, and after about a month or so (depending on your rocks, sand & filter), your ammonia should go down to 0. Once it does, you can start adding your clean up crew -- snails, hermits, shrimp, conchs, cucumbers, starfish, emerald crabs, etc. And a few small soft corals if you want to build a reef -- or an anemone, if you want to go that route (fyi - they're hard to keep, but should go in before any corals). Whatever you want. Add them slowly, and keep testing your water. Your biological filters will eventually build up, and if your tank can handle it, start adding fish. Not all at once, but a few at a time, with the more docile and less-territorial fish going in first.
Change about 20% of your water once a week, and start adding conditioners like alkalinity & calcium once your levels start to deplete. Depending on how good your cleaning crew is, you may or may not have to clean your glass and vacuum your sand. And that's pretty much it.
The trick will be matching your levels & temperature if you make your own saltwater. The rest is easy.