View Full Version : Stop Tank Confusion!

Typical Tony
10-19-2011, 11:06 PM
A guide to an Easy, Stress-Free Saltwater Tank


The biggest problem today in the salt water tank world is that you, as a salt water tank
owner, have a confused tank and you are like 98% of all the other tank owners out
Tank Confusion Starts Online
If you look at the internet forums today, youʼll see lots of people asking lots of questions
and getting lots of very different answers. For example, hereʼs a question I saw asked
last week on a reef keeping forum:
Q: “What coral is best for beginners?”
Answer 1: mushrooms
Answer 2: zoanthids
Answer 3: leathers
Answer 4: Xenia
Answer 5: Green Star Polyps
How the heck do you know which one to go with? You could do more online research
and get more information on each type of coral, see what fits in your budget, see what
looks pretty, etc. Or, you could grab one of each, plop them in your tank and see what
happens. This approach is known as “hoping for the best” and leads to you back online
posting in the “help” threads in the emergency forum.
And, if you bought some of all the above, youʼd end up kicking yourself down the road
when you want to switch to hard corals because the Xenia would have taken over and
the mushrooms would kill anything they touch.
A similar type of question/answer confusion shows up on the equipment side.
Q: What skimmer should I buy?
Answer 1: Vertex
Answer 2: Euro-Reef
Answer 3: Bubble King
Answer 4: Deltec
Answer 5: ASM
Answer 6: Reef Octopus
Other than seeing what fits in your budget, how would you choose? Maybe youʼd try
one brand and it works okay, but you find out that it is really for high-end tanks and
youʼre just getting started. You could have saved a bunch of cash if youʼd known that

The problem? Online forums leave you with a tank that has all different types of
equipment you donʼt need. Some pieces arenʼt needed at all and other equipment is
total overkill.
Hereʼs an example.
I was talking to a newbie reefer the other day and his tank is just finishing cycling. Heʼs
excited - almost time to add the first fish. But first he has to get his calcium reactor up
and running.
Why would you have a calcium reactor on a brand new tank that has no coral in it -
hence no need for a reactor?
Thatʼs like saying you need to figure out how to drive a formula 1 race car before you
learn to drive the family mini-van.
The result: confused tank.
Yes, you can do research online and read peopleʼs reviews and see what has worked
for other people, but how would you know is right for
The truth is, youʼll never find that answer on the
internet forums because no one is asking the real
question of:
“What is your tank personality”?
Yes, YOU have a tank personality. A tank personality
is how you approach your tank.
When you know your tank personality, you can make faster buying decisions that leave
you with the right equipment, fish and coral for your tank. The end result...a successful
tank that looks beautiful and makes you happy.
3 Distinct Tank Personalities
Tank Dabbler
Just because you are a new salt water tank owner, you are NOT automatically a tank
dabbler. You could be years into the hobby and be a tank dabbler.

As a tank dabbler, you want your tank to look great, and you do not want your tank to be
your life.
Your day consists of counting your fish (make sure theyʼre still there and alive)...then
head to work. Easy...done.
You do monthly water changes and periodically test your water parameters. You don't
keep any corals, so there isn't much else to do.
You don't need high end equipment. Period. Don't buy a calcium reactor no matter what
Joe Blow says on the forum. Why? Because you don't have hard corals. You don't
need it!
Being a tank dabbler doesnʼt exclude you from having a really nice looking tank. You are
just clear that you arenʼt willing to move heaven and earth to keep it that way.
You know if you're a tank dabbler. You're a fantastically busy person who wants to
enjoy the sexiness and beauty of a reef tank without killing all your free time and
spending all your hard earned cash on tank stuff. Good for you! Live large.
Reef Enthusiast
The day you buy your first coral, you are a reef enthusiast.
As a reef enthusiast, buying and successfully keeping
corals is clearly your life blood. It marks the beginning of a
new relationship with your tank. You immediately re-work
your tank to match up with your new personality.
Youʼll find out that some of the fish you have either eat or
nip at corals. You gotta get
'em out of there and trade them
back to the local fish store ASAP.
Next thing you know, you are getting interested on what
the calcium, alkalinity and magnesium levels of your tank
are. Before, as long as everything was alive in your tank,
that was fine by you.
As a reef enthusiast, it's time to UP the education! You start reading about T5 and metal
halide lighting and light temperature and which corals live best under what lights. Itʼs a
priority to get your nitrates and phosphates as close to zero as possible. Adding vodka
to your tank isnʼt a party foul, its actually something to consider doing immediately.
And then, its garage sale time! The “starter” protein skimmer that you bought to start
your tank...gotta go. Now spending $300 on skimmer isnʼt out of the question. You arenʼt
© 2010 Mark Callahan - http://www.mrsaltwatertank.comgoing to spend $600+ on a cone skimmer, but $300 is manageable. If you bought a
starter set of lights...they have to go too. A swing arm hydrometer...junk. You need a
Your tank is undergoing a remodel and how you approach your tank is too. You are now
making sure that the next fish you purchase wonʼt become the grim reaper for your tank.
Likewise, you are interested in which equipment would give you the most performance,
and the most variety of corals for your budget. How can you make your tank thrive with
the resources you have? And youʼre willing to sink some more cash into your tank if it
will help your corals thrive.

Reef Junkie
Yep, a junkie. You know who you are.
You are the true addicts of the reef keeping world and you are proud of it.
You can name all the corals in your tank by their scientific name. You donʼt have to test
your tank levels. One glance at your corals and theyʼll tell you which parameter is out of
Spending hundreds of dollars for a couple inches of hard corals is a weekend activity for
you. You scour the internet for the most rare imports of SPS that you can find to grow it
out to pay for the mortgage...or at least your electric bill.
If I show up on your doorstep, Iʼd see that half your
house is dedicated to your tank. Youʼll have pipes
running through the walls and the garage is full of
equipment. Your house might even be falling down,
but your tank is in perfect condition.
For you $300 for a powerhead is a necessary
expense because its the new-new thing. $700 for a
protein skimmer...? You spent more than that on your
Bubble King and now that the new cone skimmers are out, that Bubble King is up for
New reef keeping techniques are hot grounds for arguments and you can back up your
opinion by extensive research. And rest assured that hours, if not days, of research time
will be spent before you make any changes to your tank.
Soaking up every bit of reef keeping knowledge is a daily priority and there is always
something else to have for your tank.

Know Thy Tank Personalities
Until you know what your tank personality is, you will be in limbo about what equipment,
fish and corals to buy and your tank will show it. Youʼll spend way more money than you
need to up front, or youʼll try to cut corners and end up costing yourself headaches in
the long run.
Hereʼs a great example. You are a reef enthusiast who doesnʼt know you are a reef
enthusiast are told that you should consider a media reactor to avoid algae outbreaks.
As an unknowing reef enthusiast, you dismiss the advice because you think you can get
away with just throwing some media in a bag and placing it in the corner of your sump.
What happens next? Algae outbreak. Your sand bed ends up looking like a matt of red
fuzzy stuff from a high school biology class and your rocks look like a healthy lawn of
green grass that most homeowners would envy but you hate.
If you knew you were a reef enthusiast, you would have budgeted another $75 for a
media reactor and media, set one up in your tank and avoided the headaches of trying
to deal with vacuuming out all the algae, scrubbing down the rocks and then adding the
media reactor. Did the media reactor cost you $75, yes. Is $75 worth it to avoid having
to battle algae outbreaks...YES!
When you know your tank personality, you have a fool-proof way to make decisions on
what tank, equipment, fish and corals to buy.
Your Tank Personality Isnʼt a Life Sentence
The best part of knowing your tank personality is that once you know it, you can decide
if you want to change it and what a change would look like and how much it would cost.
But before you change your tank personality, there are three crucial questions to ask
“Am I willing to increase/decrease the amount of time I spend on my tank?”
“Am I ok selling that coral or fish because it wonʼt fit in my tank personality anymore?”
“Is the increased investment ok with me if I change my tank personality?”
If the answer is “yes” to these questions, youʼre ready to change your tank personality.
Keep in mind that if you change your tank personality, life wonʼt be the same on the
other side. Youʼll have to put in more time and money into your tank. Or if you are
scaling back and moving from a reef junkie to a tank dabbler, your high end corals will
lose some of their color, stop growing as fast and some might even die, but these trade
offs will be worth it for the time and money youʼll save.

There is a cost with changing your tank personality, and you can decide if the cost is
worth it for you.
After you change your tank personality, enjoy your new one! Broadcast it to your friends
that you are now a reef junkie and you are looking for high end corals. Or, start selling
your high end equipment because as a tank dabbler, you donʼt need it anymore. Go
spend the money on something else! Get that predator tank up and running that youʼve
always wanted or book a cruise without worrying if the tank with be ok while you are
Ok, Now What?
Your next step is to move forward making your tank fit 100% the personality you have
chosen for it. If you want to change your tankʼs personality, thatʼs great! Do it and own
the new personality! Just donʼt be bipolar and confuse your tank and yourself. Choose a
camp and stick with it.
If you are a tank dabbler, start spending your time looking for really colorful fish NOT
corals that require costly, time consuming equipment. Check out a Niger Trigger fish, or
a One spot Foxface, but whatever you do, DO NOT get a damsel fish!
Likewise, if you are a reef enthusiast, eliminate the fish that are not reef safe. That Niger
Trigger fish that was suitable as tank dabbler, it should go. Ditto for the Coral Beauty
They might be pretty, but they wonʼt make
your tank thrive and will damage your corals.
And get yourself a controller and go plus one
on your skimmer ASAP!
Reef Junkies, start owning your addiction!
Let your buddies know that bringing you beer
on a friday night is ok, but frags would be
better. Schedule in an hour a day to research
the latest topics such as LED fixtures and
cone skimmers. If you have any piece of
equipment that isnʼt top of the line or close to
it, sell it and upgrade. Its time you have the
Be...Your Tank Personality
Now that youʼve figured out your tank personality, you have access to making quick,
informed decisions about your tank that were not possible before.

The single best thing you can do with your tank personality is to become that tank
Start basing your decisions about equipment or fish on the basis of “does it fit my tank
Likewise, when you get advice from people on online forums, ask yourself, “what tank
personality is this person and does this advice fit my personality?” How do you know if
that advice fits your personality? Iʼll be covering that in a report that Iʼll be releasing next
week so keep your eyes on my site for it.
Your tank personality is really a way of life for your tank and as long as you stick to your
personality, the saltwater aquarium hobby is easy, enjoyable and affordable.
This report is a whole new way of looking at keeping a saltwater tank and I donʼt expect
you to get all you need from it. Itʼs just a framework to get started. There is a lot more to
saltwater fish keeping than what is in these pages, which is why Iʼm stocking
mrsaltwatertank.com full of information for each tank personality so that you can be
successful with your tank. Start with my blog post about whatʼs missing in the saltwater
tank world and leave your comments on what your tank personality is and how its
helped your tank.
You can also check out my webTV show, Mr. Saltwater Tank TV, where I interview tank
owners of varying tank personalities and I show you great shortcuts that will save you
time and money.
Lastly, donʼt go it alone. Iʼd like to hear your feedback on the report and how your tank is
going. Feel free to share the website with your your saltwater buddies so that they
understand what the heck you are talking about when you mention your tank
personality. Click here to tweet it/facebook it with them.
Keep watching mrsaltwatertank.com for more great information.

10-19-2011, 11:20 PM
easy saltwater? you lie, you lie, you lie. lol. nah, things are only as hard as we make them. start off with tough and hardy, them move into moderates, then....
always remember the most important thing, have fun!

guppy breeder
10-19-2011, 11:29 PM
Very interesting Tony.

10-19-2011, 11:40 PM
and stress free! omg, you gotta be kidding me. i swear i got into fish to help pay for colage, for my shrinks kids....
nah, i love it all.
Tony,that is a great article you wrote there. to many make things harder on themselves and you've hit the nail on the head. you just have to learn about your exspectations and commitment levels. if you want the most georgous SPS tank, and only fiddle with it once a month, your not being realistic.

10-20-2011, 06:18 AM
Gosh that was funny. Not sure if it was meant to be but it was. Having been in the SW/Reef hobby for as long as I have, I USED to be every one of those "personalities" at some point in the process. Now I giggle at the people taking it so seriously and shake my head at the ones that buy that new skimmer or rare coral and skip the house payment (not hyperbole either; I have a friend that seriously does that!). Reef tanks can be as easy and natural as FW, without all the techno-gadgets and fanfare. I know. I have one. I spend less time on it than my FW tanks. It has so little equipment on it that it almost runs itself. It's so balanced that I rarely even have to clean the glass. I'm almost ashamed to admit I haven't so much as checked a level in over a year with exception of SG. And while it doesn't house $200-an-inch SPSs, it is quite pretty and the corals literally grow out the top of the tank. It gives me a lot of happiness, much more so than some of the high-tech tanks I've had in the past. So, my EVOLVED "personality" is different now than it once was. I guess getting there is the process, and there's probably not a fast track to that mature understanding and appreciation for what a reef tank is and can be. Enjoy your own journey! :)

10-20-2011, 06:27 AM
I liked this article! This is something that comes up all the time with the people I know who have tanks. I think it also applies to FreshWater, just in slightly different ways.

Thanks for sharing!!

10-20-2011, 08:07 AM
Enjoyed this. Much.

10-20-2011, 09:19 PM
anyone have or red The Marine Aquarium Refernce Manual by Martin A. Moe? very detailed, writen with a nice dry sence of humor, with fantastic DIY solutions. has design for an intank wte/dry with protien skimmer, run by one powerhead, made out of pvc pipe. or how to make an overflow box with cerial bow cardboard, masking tape, and epoxy resin. my favorite chapter was on lighting. he exslains candle power. then how scientist wanted a more technical messurement, so the took the average power of sunlight hitting the earth, divided by average distance of the earth from the sun, and came up with the lumin. wich is roughly equal to one candle power...... (i may have screwed up the formula for lumins, but you get the point). laughed my ass off. book is somewhat obsolete now a days, but still great read.

10-21-2011, 06:24 AM
Yes, Trip, I have. Do you remember when the OLD DFWMAS club had Mr. Moe to one of its first events? That was a night to remember! He is an amazing aquarist and master inventor, one of the originals in the hobby. I cherish a set of his books, all signed when he was here. I just was in awe of him back then and hung on his every word. He was a rock star in my world back then. He has a wonderful sense of humor and is so gracious with his time and knowledge. Have you read his Breeding the Orchid Dottyback book, too? I see it at Half-Price books all the time. It's good, too, although, like the others, somewhat outdated for new technology. Mr. Moe is one of my all-time heroes in this hobby. I'm not sure where he is today, but I hope he is happy and doing well.

10-22-2011, 03:24 PM
wow! yes i remember dfwmas, and was there also! had him sign his 2 marine books that i had. i havent read the dottyback book. i looked up his books at amazon, and there were several i havent seen.