Marine Setup Step 6 - Add the Rock and Substrate

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Assemble rockwork on bottom before adding sand for maximum stability. Edward Kadunc

[edit] Step-by-Step
Aquarium Setup

  1. Investigate
  2. Make Lists
  3. Buy Your System Components
  4. Assemble and Test Your Gear
  5. Mix the Seawater
  6. Add the Rock and Substrate
  7. Rest and Test
  8. Inoculate Your System
  9. Add Herbivores
  10. Add Hardy Fishes

[edit] Filling and Aquascaping

By Robert M. Fenner from The Conscientious Marine Aquarist

  • Once assured that you have no leaks and all equipment has passed a freshwater test, you may now begin to fill the system for good.
  • Unplug all electrical equipment and remove the lighting hood. If you have premixed your saltwater in separate storage containers, empty the tank and all filter chambers of the freshwater used in the test and discard the water or use it for watering the plants.
  • Fill your aquarium with your premixed saltwater, but not all the way to the top! Leave the water level at least six inches below the rim in order to accommodate displacement from your arm, other gear, substrate and rock, and any decor.
  • If you have opted to mix your saltwater directly in the display tank, add freshwater and the correct amount of salt mix now, being sure not to overflow the system.
  • Restart the pumps and heaters and allow the salts to dissolve overnight. The next day, you will likely have to adjust the specific gravity of the water (see Step 5). At this point you may wish to sit back and let things run for a day or so to clear.

[edit] Aquascaping

  • Ideally, you will be using live rock to build your aquascape. See Your First Marine Aquarium to see why live makes sense. Keep the rock damp while the aquascaping is being done. Do not allow live rock to dry out or get too warm or too cold. Cover with newspaper dampened with saltwater if the rock is going to be sitting around for any length of time.
  • If using faux corals, dry (dead) coral rock, or bleached coral skeletons, rinse each piece carefully and place in the aquarium.
  • Be sure to leave room — 3 to 6 inches — on all sides (or at least near the front glass and two end panels) for later access with a cleaning wand or your hand.
  • Snug the pieces of decor together and ensure that everything is well stabilized. It makes good sense to do your rockwork directly on the bottom of the tank, rather than on a bed of sand. Burrowing animals can easily topple an aquascape resting on sand. Don’t feel the need to rush. Use extreme care when placing rock or corals into the tank—these can very easily scratch acrylic or even break glass if dropped or allowed to topple over within the system. See Aquascape Ideas for some inspiration on how to arrange things naturally.
  • Step back frequently as you assemble your reef or lagoon to get an overall view of how things are shaping up. The “perfect” arrangement takes time.
  • Keep your own safety in mind. A lot of corals, shells, and some types of rock are extremely sharp and pointy. Cuts, gashes, and scrapes are easy to come by, especially with large pieces. My advice is to acquire a pair of long plastic gloves and always use them whenever you have your hands in your tanks (and avoid using the gloves for anything other than your aquarium).

[edit] Add Substrate

  • Before adding your substrate or coral gravel, rinse it in batches in a bucket reserved for aquarium use. Put five to 10 pounds of sand at a time into the bucket and set it in a bathtub, shower enclosure, or outdoors. Run freshwater from a faucet or hose into the bucket while swirling the sand with your hand, akin to rinsing rice before cooking. As the water fills and overflows the bucket, it carries off the dust that you have stirred out of the substrate. At first, the rinse water may be quite cloudy, but it will gradually clear as more dust is rinsed away. Don’t worry about it being absolutely clear; this dust is harmless, but can cloud the system for a day or two if you don’t rinse the bulk of it away first. (If you’re using live sand, do not rinse it.)
  • Gingerly pour the rinsed substrate into your tank to a depth of 1 to 2 inches, wafting it up to and under the edges of your rocks and other decor.

[edit] Recommended Reading

[edit] Good Books for Beginning Marine Aquarists