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Re: Marine planted tanks

I have a few comments about keeping a micro-reef
and cultivating marine "plants."

First of all, don't bother with all the fancy stuff.
It *can* be done cheaply.

* My tank is a 20g long -- height only 12".
* Lighting is 2 powerglos and 1 marineglo.
* 1 powerhead for circulation.
* 1 aquaclear with an empty basket for circulation.
   (until I can afford to get a second powerhead)
* a dolomite substrate
* more than 1/3rd of tank volume is live rock, 60%
   of it uncured.
* a heater
* bought a few hardy corals
* sea salt mix
* no fish, since I want this to be low maintenance.

For the first 1.5 years of setup, I used a cheap protein
skimmer to get rid of excess "scum" since I had a lot
of uncured live rock. After the system settled, I
removed the skimmer.

In this simple set-up, the lighting is too low for some
of the high-light corals but it's amazing what I've been
able to get away with.

The uncured live rock (Gulf maricultured) supplied
most of my inverts and macroalgae. A few pieces of
cured rock was used at the base, and the uncured rock
with the interesting stuff on the surface. The uncured 
live rock I bought came with a gorgeous purple brain
coral, a gorgonian, several other misc. corals and a few
different and really pretty macro-algaes. The thing I
loved the best was the coralline algae coating some of
the live rock. It's mostly purple with bits of red and
orange in some places.

Once a month, I supplemented nutrients like iodine,
calcium, and a general-purpose reef supplement. The
tank was topped off occasionally with tap water (not
RO water!). Due to time constraints, I stopped doing
water changes about 6 months ago and the tank *did not*
suffer. When I was more diligent, I did 25% water
changes once a month using water purified by Aq.
Pharmaceuticals's tapwater purifier (again, RO water
was not necessary for my setup).

Oh, and to feed the corals & polyps, I used a commercial
liquid food that simulated plankton. And I would throw
in leftovers from the fishies' dinner (baby & adult brine
shrimp, tubifex worms, daphnia) to feed the larger coral.

People in the reef community tend to fuss over their setups
with lots of expensive gear. But if you want a cheap and
entertaining microreef, with hardy organisms and gorgeous
macroalgaes, it's very easy to do and less maintenance than
a planted tank.

- sg

Shireen Gonzaga
Baltimore, MD