Where I am now and direction to go now?


Reefing newb
Ok, well after lots of work I now have for my complete set up.

System is a 65 gallon tank, 30 gal sump(half full), 2-3 inches sand and crushed coral mix in tank, 3 inches live sand in refugium, small clump of macro algae in refugium, 150w MH, 130w blue actinic flourescent, Corallife 125 protein skimmer, and it has been up right around 2 months. Protein skimmer and sump have only been going for 3 weeks to a month at most.

My water parameters are (before I do todays water change)
Ammonia - 0
Nitrite - 0
Nitrate - 20ppm
pH - 8.2
salinity - 1.020

Livestock now (after some fishing and crabbing)
1 single poor lonely chromis
3 left handed zebra crabs
5 turbo snails
one hitchhiker snail I just found (no idea what kind but real small).
(Damsels and Sally lightfoots in the refugium going back to the LFS later today)

I did over feed a little hoping to keep the two sally lightfoot's full before I got them out as my nitrates have been at 5ppm the past 2 weeks.

I plan on doing a 25% water change today and add in a higher salinity of make-up water.

Here is one question. I have a base water volume of 80 gal with right around 100 lbs of rock. My base calculations show that ignoring the rock my 20 gallon water change would need to be 1.032 salinity to achieve a 1.023 final salinity. I know that this is to much though. How can I take into account how much water my rock displaces without removing it from the aquarium again? Is there a better way to adjust salinity levels than what I am doing? Is my math off maybe? It's been 15 years easy since I have done dilution calculations and the gears are a bit rusty. Also, by my calculations this will only drop my nitrates down to 15.25 ppm. Should I do another 25% tomorrow to get them down even more or wait another week? I use a powerhead to blow off all the rocks before I do water changes as well.

My second question is with these parameters how long do you think it will take with me doing proper weekly maintenance before I can add a few easy corals? I want to add 2 hermit crabs along with 3 chromis tomorrow if I can. I know my bioload is fine with that as I had 6 fish with no deaths except from crabs and powerheads(both problems fixed) and my parameters were fine with the only nitrate boost being this week(I think it was my overfeeding that did it). Could I potentually add in a few soft corals next weekend provided my nitrates stay down with water changes?

Another question is should I start testing now for all the reef stuff? I was planning on getting a reef test kit during my weekly LFS journey today as well.

Well I hope this isn't to detailed but wanted to give everyone as much info as possible. I'm getting eager to get those first few corals in the tank.

Thanks for everything everyone. I think things are going well, and all the work has been well worth it so far.

Brian :surfing:
For your first question,When you mix your water for the water change go ahead and get your salinity to about 1.025.Just mix up some extra saltwater and use the extra to top off with for evaporation.
If you want to get some good corals,I would try maybe some xenia,or even some mushrooms.I would say that your overfeeding is what caused the nitrate spike,so some easy corals should be fine.
I would also go ahead and be testing for alkalinty and calcium.I personaly try to keep my alkalinty between 9 and 12 DKH and calcium 400 to 450.
Thanks Yote. Using the saltwater as a top off until my saltinity is higher sounds a little more controlled than trying to do it all in one step. Probably better for the aquarium too. I was looking at the differant Zenia corals and the Kenyai tree(sp?) corals for starters. I saw they were recommended on other threads. Going to have to look at the mushrooms more for a better idea on how they will look and how to care for them.
I agree with Yote. Work on getting your salinity up gradually. If you use saltwater to top off evaporated water like Yote said, you can eventually get it up to where you want it to be. Xenia, mushrooms, Kenya trees and zoanthids are all good choices to start off with. I would wait a couple weeks to make sure you can maintain your nitrate levels before adding any corals though. Unfortunately math will not be able to predict your nitrate levels after a water change as rock and substrate can all continue to leach nitrates out into the water. 20 isn't bad, so I'd say just start doing regular water changes, maybe 10% weekly, and if it's not helping enough, change more water.

I also second Yote's suggestion to test for alkalinity and calcium. I'll add phosphate to that too.
Ah good suggestion. I completely forgot about phosphates after my algae problem subsided. I'll be testing and tracking all these new parameters this next week to ensure things aren't fluctuating or anything before adding any corals. I think a few chromis should be fine though. I did completely miss that rocks would add to my nitrates. I thought they would just add good things to the water.

Well I'm off to the LFS. I'm going to repeat many times on the way - I'm only buying test kits, chromis, and salt.
I would add to Yote and Biff's great suggestion that leather corals(i.e toadstools and finger/devils hand coral) make good new corals.Low nitrate such as yours may actually beneficial to mushrooms.
Ok now I have enough new information to be confused. I got some new water testing kits and they tell me all kinds of differant things. Also, the alkalinity is read in ppm??? I got test strips for some things and what I think are the better dropper type tests for others.

My results today are:
Ammonia - 0 ppm
Nitrite - 0 ppm
Nitrate - 20 ppm
Calcium - 300 mg/l
Alkalinity - 240 ppm or 300 ppm the 2 colors are almost the same
pH - 8.2
Salinity - 1.021 almost 1.022

This is after I did a 15 gallon water change yesterday with DI water and reef crystals salt.

It looks like everything is ok except for the calcium by what the test results say. Is this correct? Is there a conversion for alkalinity from ppm? I thought calcium levels and alkalinty followed each other so why would one be good but the other low? They only had test strips for alkalinity so should I get a better test kit for it? Information overload here.

The local fish store was out of phosphate test kits and I would have to order an $80 test kit for trace elements. Do I need to test for trace elements? The fish store guy told me no that you just dose for them and thats it and the test kit would be a waste.
Your calcium needs to come up To about 400. I dont know about the alk. Here is a link to making your own two part calcium and alk additives. I use the calcium and it works great for me, however I have not tried the alk part yet so I dont know. I have hear alot of good things about the home made additive from other reefers. In this link the vid is in the second row down and the third clip to the right.Reef Videos
Also here is a link to a calculater to get your water to were it needs to be with the chemicals before you start your normal dosing.Reef Chemistry Calculator