Stocking the Tank
Finally, the wait is over. We can add something that moves to the tank. By now, you probably have a small crop of algae growing on your glass and rocks. You are going to need some help keeping everything clean, and crabs and snails are just the folks to do it.
Order up your snails and crabs at a rate of 1/2 turbo snail and 1 blue-legged hermit per each gallon of water, so about 20 and 40 respectively for this setup.
When they arrive, acclimate them properly and allow them a few days to do their stuff. They will consume an amazing amount of algae in a short period. Once they have gained a foothold on the algae, it is time to make some magic.
Testing the Tank
No that we have animals, it is necessary to make sure the water quality stays high. Starting now, weekly water test and monthly water changes become necessary. The maintenance portion of the hobby has begun in earnest. Create yourself a log sheet, like the one found in Tullocks, "Natural Reef Aquariums", do your water tests, and keep a record.
Adding More Animals
Now that the tank has stabilized, we can add things that are a tad more interesting than snails. I would suggest that when you decide what type of fish and corals you are going to put in, research each animal individually and pay close attention to their compatibility with others.
To start your tank out, I recommend a selection of stony and leather corals. Research each individually for their hardiness. Start with easy corals and the hard ones become easier to keep. I recommend the 9-for-$99 deal from Jeff's Exotic Fish. Choose some hardy species, making sure to check the books beforehand for their lighting and water requirements. From Jeff's list I recommend the following easy to care for species:
For our tank, I like the idea of a pair of juvenile False Percula clownfish (Amphiprion Ocellaris). Make sure that you get tank raised as they will fare much better. I know that Aquatic Specialists has them, as that is where I got mine. Be aware that there is no requirement for fish in a reef tank, but I like them, so I have them.
Make sure when you stock your tank, you go slowly. You do not want to significantly increase the bio-load all at once. The biological filter needs time to respond. Since fish cause a significant biological burden as compared to corals, add no more than two small fish, one large fish, or several corals at once, allowing a week or two for the filter bed to recover.
Lastly, I would recommend adding to this tank a couple more maintenance animals. The first is a burrowing starfish. The starfish will eat detritus and keep the sand stirred. The second is a pair of peppermint shrimp. These shrimp are a tad shy, but will keep the tank clean of nuisance glass anemones called aiptasia. Throw in a couple of feather dusters and you have got a decent reef tank.
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