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Old 12/30/2006, 01:05 PM
Gervais Gervais is offline
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Is SW really this labor intensive

My teenage son has expressed an interest in getting a saltwater tank in the 55-75 gallon range. He has a 20 gallon freshwater tank currently. He takes care of it himself by daily feedings and about once a month he siphons out the waste from the gravel and cleans off any algae from the glass. It is a healthy tank and we haven't lost many fish at all in the past couple of years. He has been a pretty responsible young man caring for his FW tank so I was open to the idea of getting him a larger tank.

I have been researching into saltwater systems from this site and am glad I did because it is full of some very knowledgeable people.

The more I read, I am getting a little apprehensive about his venture into SW. It looks like it is extremely labor intensive to maintain a SW tank for a teenager that is always on the go with an active social life. I thought it would be similar to his freshwater tank where he would just need to do a monthly vacuum of the tank gravel and cleaning of the glass, clean filter...

The more I read about maintaining salinity, 30% weekly water changes, sumps, refugiums, lighting, I am getting worried about it. It looks like this is a huge amount of time and money to invest and I am afraid it may be too much for him to handle.

Do saltwater tanks really require this much frequent weekly maintenance or can they be maintained once per month like his other tank? I think he is just wanting a fish only tank because he has not talked about all the corals as much as he has expressed an interest in collecting certain fish.

I guess to sum up what I am trying to find out:

Can a lazy aquarist maintain a saltwater tank or is it something that has to be maintained every day/week. Are there people out there maintaining on a monthly basis only with success?

Also can anyone point me to a freshwater forum similar to reef central so I can research large freshwater tanks. If it is easier to maintain a large freshwater tank I may try to steer him in that direction.

Old 12/30/2006, 01:18 PM
jdk504 jdk504 is offline
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Anything worth doing is worth doing right. If everything was easy everyone would be doing it. Now that being said I remember when I was a teenager and I could barely take care of myself lol. Having pets is a great way to learn and reiterate responsibility in a young mind. Let him know if you do something you do it all the way or not at all. I think this will be a great venture for you and your son. Getting started is the hard part, I'll be honest it's work, but once you get up and running the system basically runs itself and you won't regret it!

Good Luck,

Old 12/30/2006, 01:21 PM
Shagsbeard Shagsbeard is offline
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It used to. It's changed a lot in the last five years or so. My fresh water tank requires more care, and it's only 10 gallons. The skimmer has helped SW care a whole bunch, as has the use of live rock as a filter.

'Once a month' is out of the picture though. There's a major bit of maintainance once a month or bi-weekly in water changes, but there is daily, or near daily bits of maintainance that needs to be done too, like dumping out the skimmer cup and topping off the evaporated water (can easily be automated).

Many people do a 30% water change once a month. To do that much each week is very wasteful. If your tank is properly skimmed and you feed responsably, you shouldn't do more than 10% a week and 5% is plenty.

A sump/refugium actually makes maintainance easier rather than harder. Your refegium will help stabalize your nitrogen cycle making water changes less necessary (the refugium will lower nitrates removing that motivation for waterchanges).

It's not a huge amount of time. It can be a huge amount of money. Plan on $1000+ for even a 40 gal, but he should really start with a 75 gal and plan on spending about 3k.

I'd say, without personal experience, that it would be just as hard to maintain a 75 gal fresh water tank as it would be to maintain a salt water one. It's going to be a lot more interesting, which could help with the "lazy" aspect. I teach colege, and I have concluded that teenage "laziness" is very often simply that they aren't being presented with anything interesting to do.
Old 12/30/2006, 01:22 PM
BiggySmalls BiggySmalls is offline
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i am 15 and i have had a 24g nano cube for 2 months so far and it hasnt been much diff then freshwater other than...

algea breakout on most new tanks

some fish are difficult to care for

i'd say a 10-20% water change weekly or bi weekly

more expensive, live rock will cost alot, but if he wants a fish only u dont have to buy alot of it.

all of the equipment might cost alot s othat is why i went with the nano cube which is an all in one tank, has everything i need, but ur son is looking for a bigger tank so if u want to save money u could look into used parts on Ebay

if he wants a fish only you dont need any special lighting, the real good lighting is for corals
Old 12/30/2006, 01:26 PM
BiggySmalls BiggySmalls is offline
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Shagsbeard wont the cost be cut down on the 75g from 3k to a little lower because it will be a fish only and he wont need good lighting or that much live rock unless he wants some. he could just get base rock
Old 12/30/2006, 01:35 PM
xenon xenon is offline
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Shagsbeard hit the nail on the head.

SW is 10x more interesting than FW so he will be more interested in taking care of it. Heck you might even be interested in taking part because in my opinion is quite rewarding.

I say jump in head first and go all the way. Goodluck
90g AGA with 120lb of cooked Hatian LR, 40g sump, Mag9.5 pump, Tek Light 4x54w T5, Euro-Reef RS135, Vortech Power Head, SpectraPure Maxcap RO/DI
Old 12/30/2006, 02:36 PM
SgJsg35 SgJsg35 is offline
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I would say go for it its not any harder than fresh water,in fact I change only about 5% of my water weekly.With freshwater I was changing about 40% bi-weekly,but I had oscars and other big cichlids that are sloppy eaters.If you dont overcroud and overfeed waterchanges shoudnt be a issue.
hadooun haqil khairun min sadiqin jaahil
Old 12/30/2006, 02:45 PM
Randall_James Randall_James is offline
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To Reef Central Gervais

IMO it is very labor intensive in the initial stages. After a tank stabilizes it may take an 10 or 15 minutes a day to do the basic stuff and perhaps an hour a week in other services. I think if it was any less time, it would be a piece of furniture and not a hobby. The other side of the coin is you can spend an hour a day fiddling around and have plenty to do.

I might disagree on the water change amounts, I think 10% a week is cutting it pretty close and 20% gives a nice margin of safety. I do at least 25% per week but have no reason to use any additives and only buy 1 test kit per year. Yes there are tanks that run on short water changes but I think they are more prone to algae problems as well as a few other issues.

Water changes are a complete thread to itself but 10-20% per week are accepted norms and unless you have only fish, 5% is a bit risky to your livestock. If you have $$$ wrapped up in nice corals, the costs of 20% changes are minimal when compared to the costs of replacing them or the additional test kits and additives required to keep the water parameters in the happy range. It can all be done with water changes.

To answer your last question "can a lazy aquariest..."
Sure, a fish only tank does not have the water quality requirements of a coral tank. I would suggest a barebottom tank or one with very little substrate and a normal load of live rock. The live rock will provide natural filtration and you do not "have" to use a skimmer or sump. I would only press that the weekly water change or at least every 10 days be maintained

Costs: You can get a NICE turnkey 75G system with a sump, pumps and lights for under $1000, just watch the used equipment forum here on RC

I think a teenager with a well kept saltwater system has a source of pride myself. If he has taken care of his FW system as you state, I would not hesitate if he is wanting to make the move
"It's a dog eat dog world and I feel like I am wearing milkbone underwear"

Last edited by Randall_James; 12/30/2006 at 03:02 PM.
Old 12/30/2006, 02:54 PM
CookieJar CookieJar is offline
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I've been in the hobby for about 1 year and went straight to SW, because fresh water is just plain bland in comparison. I was concerned about the maintenance time, but I was happy to find out that the time 'required' to maintain my 55 gal was about 2-3 hours/ month, and that includes feedings that take 2-3 minutes/ day.
It's one of those things that you can spend a little or a lot of time, depending on your goals and what you want to keep, how clean you want the tank to look, how much you tinker, etc.
I bought a used 55 gal complete setup for $450, and it was essentially 'plug n' play', although moving took the better part of a day. But with the established tank I didn't go through the tank setup process. The main thing to keep in mind if you want a low maintenance tank is to get animals that are hardy and most tolerant of changes in water quality and salinity. For instance, mushrooms, kenya trees, Green Star polyps and a lot of other 'softies' are very easy to take care of. Same goes with fish. So I suggest getting easy to take care of critters and that way he starts out with successes and down the road if he's more into it he can try more advanced stuff.
my $02. Good luck!
Old 12/30/2006, 03:04 PM
rayjay rayjay is offline
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First of all, you have to take all replies with a grain of salt, I believe the expression is. We are all prejudiced in favour of salt tanks.
Other than that, we many times can't come to a consensus on most topics related to the hobby other than it costs more than fresh water.
There are many different methods available now to succeed in this hobby with some hobbyists succeed using any system, while others have trouble getting any system to work for them.
Some say salt is as easy as fresh, but in my experience, for the first year and more, until the tank has matured, it is more work, and sometimes, if you have some problems, it can be much more work.
However, I find that after a tank matures, it is slightly less work than my freshwater tanks ever were.
Cost varies with the size of the system, the choice of inhabitants and equipment, skill level of maintainer as to his/her ability to DIY on things, and, costs are ongoing much more than freshwater. i.e. buying salt, test kits etc........
Using simple systems accompanied with DIY projects is the most economical way to go, but entails more work/maintenance than more expensive and automated systems do.
It's best to do a lot of reading first, and to decide just what you want to end up with, and know, that in most of our cases, the addiction causes us to rethink our choices after we've been in the hobby a bit and that can add to the cost of making changes to accommodate our new direction.
Many start, thinking they only will be doing a fish only tank, only to get caught up in things and have to upgrade equipment and lighting because they now want corals etc........
In my case, after going reef, I then wanted fish that couldn't go in the reef and had to add fish only tanks.
After first switching a 30g fresh tank over in Jan 94, I now have 10 tanks totaling 590g plus the sumps.
If you decide to give salt a go, it would be best, after researching, to decide on a method of filtration and stick with advice of those most experienced in that method, relying on those to answer queries you may have, for it can be extremely confusing getting answers from so many hobbyists with different systems and background experience, as many of us seem to think our ways are the best and sometimes the only way to go. (of course, we ignore the fact that many others succeed with ways other than we chose)
It has been my experience that once one gets a little bug for something salt, (like your son appears to have now) then another fresh, even larger, will not suffice.
Good luck!
590g soft lps clams tangs butterflies clean wrasses. All tanks lit with NO, most Berlin method. No clean up crews. See website for NO picks. Raise brine shrimp and mysid (email for help growing)
Old 12/30/2006, 03:09 PM
BiggySmalls BiggySmalls is offline
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i wanted a fish only when i started but now i have some green star polyps, corals can be interesting and add color to your tank
Old 12/30/2006, 03:10 PM
Randall_James Randall_James is offline
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10 tanks at 590G = the cat lady down the street
"It's a dog eat dog world and I feel like I am wearing milkbone underwear"
Old 12/30/2006, 03:19 PM
dkh0331 dkh0331 is offline
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A lot of reefers, myself included, probably spend more time here on RC than working on their tank(s).

Too young for Medicare

Too old for women to care
Old 12/30/2006, 03:41 PM
edwing206 edwing206 is offline
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I'm 15 and I have had my 30 gallon SW tank for a little more than 2 years (august when I turned 13). I support my tank with my 50 bucks a month allowance and it does just fine. The water changes are not at all hard to do, cleaning the glass is easy with a mag-float, skimming keeps the tank healthy and live rock is used for filtration. If he is really committed to going saltwater and he does hes research, he will be fine. And like dkh said I spend more time on RC than I do cleaning my tank. Like shagsbeard said it can be expensive though. good luck
All Hail Jimmy Page.

The name's Luis. Don't ask.
Old 12/30/2006, 03:42 PM
t5Nitro t5Nitro is offline
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I started with a 46 gallon, 5 months later (now) upgrading to a 125, was planning on a few corals (have a full reef going, mixed at that). The hobby gets really fun once you start up and the tank is running. From FW to SW, the most I ever had was a beta tank and jumped right into a saltwater tank. Usually I would think having FW experience would help, I had no problems with it. Key is taking things slow, adding certain things too early isn't great. In about a month or so you should be good to start putting in a fish or so. I do a 7% or so water change each week, clean the filter once a month (you don't need a filter, live rock/skimmer could be your filter), in the 125 gallon I am going to use my filter just to run activated carbon to keep the water nice and clear (skimmer does that too). I would go with the biggest tank you can afford now because the hobby gets more fun as the tank ages and you'll find out things you want can't fit in small tanks. I like tangs which is the reason I'm upgrading, 6 foot tank. Have fun!
Before you go and buy a tank though, probably research the fish he wants to keep first, just to be sure you know what kind of tank size and requirements the fish needs to thrive (check out the reef fishes forum on RC).
Old 12/30/2006, 03:51 PM
1SickReefer 1SickReefer is offline
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Originally posted by Randall_James
10 tanks at 590G = the cat lady down the street
"The fewer the facts, the stronger the opinion."
Old 12/30/2006, 04:22 PM
Paul B Paul B is offline
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As was said you will get more opinions than you want. I had fresh water for about 18 years and salt water for 36 years. I have never not had a fish tank. I think fresh water tanks get dirtier and require more maintenance than a fish only salt tank. Of course, saltwater fish cost more and you have to buy salt which is about 50 cents for enough salt for a gallon of water give or take 10 cents. I do not believe you have to change water every week or even every month in a fish only tank. Fish do not require any special lights, you only need enough light to see the fish and regular flourescent lights are fine. Saltwater fish need no extra doses of anything, no chemicals, just food which should be frozen. The less the better. I would not feed them every day, just about five times a week or if you want to feed every day just a little. I would get a skimmer and also a wet dry. A wet dry would only be used for a fish only tank and it would greatly help with water quality and oxygenation. Most people do not like them but I do for that type of tank. If fish get a paracite infection in a fish only tank you can just put medication which would be copper right in the tank. Many fish like damsels are less than $5.00 and are hard to kill.
These are my opinions to add to the other opinions that you will get too many of.
Good luck.
Old 12/30/2006, 04:27 PM
smcnally smcnally is offline
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If he is really interested, get him into a local club. Our local club has quite a few young reefers. We have a few that are around 15 years old and they participate in our clubs forums just as much as the adults.
Old 12/30/2006, 04:37 PM
sir_dudeguy sir_dudeguy is offline
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i'm 18 in like 17 days....honestly its not that much different than freshwater once you get it all set up. The most important thing ( of them) to take into account is keeping up with top offs. If you do that, you will at the very least have success with a fish only saltwater tank (provided you do your normal water changes and stuff of course..again..nothin really different than freshwater as far as that).

Also...someone above (paulb) said that freshwater tanks can get dirtier than salt tanks. I didnt really read the rest of the post but i just saw that one part. But i really agree with him there. Freshwater tanks dont really "clean themselves" so to speak, like saltater tanks can. There are so many different creatures that help clean the tank in reef tanks. And for a fish only tank, it would be even easier. Make sure the salt level is right, top off every day, make sure it cycles correctly, and then just keep up with water changes.

Someone above also said this...THE HOBBY IS ADDICTING.

I agree 100%
Old 12/30/2006, 07:14 PM
megatsea megatsea is offline
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Hi. My 2 sons started around 12 years of age with fresh water...then by age 14 added a salt water tank. We had 5 tanks running at one point. Their friends had tanks as well. ...but we only had pet shops to learn from....
Anyways, I became involved when my son bought an infected fish from a newly opened fish store for his 39 gallon tank. He had a tang for a year, and 2 other fish as well. They all died shortly, as he relied on the newly opened fish store for advice...but my son was equally at fault as he did not read or research ahead of time....Unfortunately, I had just discovered Reef Central at that point in time too late to help ....wish I had become interested earlier in the boys hobby. To sum it up, I became hooked as I inherited tons of gear and tanks, and started my own tank ... Have been addicted to this forum ever since, have visited many fish shops, bought books and love the hobby. Be prepared to be involved (you already are, you have posted, share, and help him in some of the decisions(not to buy a tang for a small tank!).... My sons enjoy my tank now, but cars,football and girls rule their lives at this stage. Their interest in aquariums did last quite a few years though, wish they had continued. Money was another reason they would not want to start over. They knew how expensive it was to keep with a salt water aquarium, and made a decision not to continue once it was their money paying for supplies and stock. (but they each have a python snake now)
Good luck, and keep posting!
Old 12/30/2006, 07:30 PM
Pistonkev Pistonkev is offline
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If you son is not the flovor of the day type teenage kid go for it. The best peice of advice I can give you is 1) Go slow
2) Don't trust your LFS 3) ask a ton of questions here 4) Don't let your wife find out how much the hobbie costs.
Old 12/30/2006, 07:52 PM
Gary Majchrzak Gary Majchrzak is offline
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Re: Is SW really this labor intensive

Originally posted by Gervais
Do saltwater tanks really require this much frequent weekly maintenance or can they be maintained once per month like his other tank? I think he is just wanting a fish only tank because he has not talked about all the corals as much as he has expressed an interest in collecting certain fish.
I guess to sum up what I am trying to find out:
Can a lazy aquarist maintain a saltwater tank or is it something that has to be maintained every day/week. Are there people out there maintaining on a monthly basis only with success?
First off: you're a great Dad for doing some homework on your son's behalf. No doubt you're footing the bill!

IMO and IME it sounds like your son has at least enough interest to maintain a saltwater FO (fish only) or FOWLR (fish only with live rock) marine aquarium.
Such a system will require at least weekly maintenance once he knows what he's doing. Until he's competent, I would think that daily inspections of the aquarium (at the least) would be required.
FWIW: I happen to know some reefkeepers that got started when they were still in school. One guy is a medical doctor now.
some common aquarium nuisances: Bryopsis,Derbesia(hair algae),Cyanobacteria(red slime), Diatoms(golden brown algae), Dinoflagellates(gooey air bubbles),Valonia (bubble algae)
Old 12/30/2006, 10:02 PM
Jesika_rose Jesika_rose is offline
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Re: Is SW really this labor intensive

Also can anyone point me to a freshwater forum similar to reef central so I can research large freshwater tanks. If it is easier to maintain a large freshwater tank I may try to steer him in that direction.

Thanks! [/B][/QUOTE]

is a great freshwater site. My hubby and I have a 120 gallon Fresh and a 55 Gallon fresh and we love those just as much as we do our 75 gallon salt... The key I have found to any tank fresh or salt... Is to love it... If you hate your tank or not going to want to work on it... we do our biweekly water changes in all the tanks (becuase fresh water does need to be changed biweekly) and we do our maintance but becuase we love the hobby we dont get bored we see alot of people who love the look but not the work and that is when i find things go wrong... you have to care... these animals are living animals and we treat our fish like our dog and cat... So good luck with everything, you and your son will make your choice no matter what anyof us say... LOL
Old 12/30/2006, 10:17 PM
purebullet417 purebullet417 is offline
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im 15 and a 125 gal sw and 45 gal saltwater r less work then my 15 gal fw auto top offs and skimmer makes that alot easyer
Old 12/30/2006, 10:27 PM
Randall_James Randall_James is offline
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Honestly, I think I would consider doing the salt tank in a couple steps to make sure he is ready if you have doubts.

convert the existing tank to saltwater, this is going to take a lot less money and it will provide a great jumping off point (and you will have a nifty quarantine tank if/when you go larger.

If the small tank works out, then go for it. Probably a lot less intimidating like this ....just a thought...
"It's a dog eat dog world and I feel like I am wearing milkbone underwear"

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