5 Gallon Saltwater Tank Build

Magical live rock

I have finally branched out from molecular biology and microbiology in DIY bio.  A number of factors have led me to start a 5G saltwater tank.  The driving force behind this project is an interest in growing aptaisia anemones as an awesome pet.

RIP Magnum, the best fish

The tank itself is a marineland eclipse hexagonal 5G tank.  It was purchased originally to house a betta fish, which later perished (not under my watch).  The tank was donated to the cause of a cool saltwater system some months after that occurred, and needed to be scrubbed.  After removing some mystery goo from the inside, washing crud and freshwater plants out of the gravel, I filled the tank with water and added some water conditioner to remove chloramines and other nasty chemicals,  I set off with my partner in crime/girlfriend to go get some sea-salts, live rock, and a hydrometer.

We ended up in a specialty reef and tropical saltwater shop out on the 9 in Natick, called Tropic Isle Aquarium.  I wish I had pictures of the front of the shop; it looks tiny, cramped, and somewhat sketchy (especially at night).  The outward appearance of the store was pleasantly deceiving!  The inside was well lit, teeming with livestock, packed with good stuff like live rock/sand, and staffed by some very friendly people.  It was very well maintained; we saw one dead fish in the entire store, which had aisle upon aisle of floor-to-ceiling tanks, while at petco we normally see 5-10 rotting and dead fish in maybe one aisle of tanks.  This place was awesome, and I ended up buying 2.5 lbs of cured live rock (WAY too much), a deep-six hydrometer, and a bag of instant ocean that should last for a few months.

The rock in the tank!

Upon the return to the tank, I bravely rolled up my sleeves, got out some measuring cups, and started adding instant ocean (as directed, 1/2 cup per gal).  It turns out that instant ocean is not quite instant.  It does take a little bit of time to dissolve, and it is definitely something you want to add gradually, so as not to accidentally bump salinity up too high.  I would definitely recommend that you get a 5 gallon bucket from your local hardware store to mix the water in.  Once my aquarium was properly salted, I checked the salinity with my sweet new hydrometer.  It was between 1.023-1.024, so it seemed safe.  It was weird to think at this point that the tank was a saltwater tank.  Never thought I would have one of those in my room.

The next step was to add the live rock.  I opted to cover up the heater and the filter intake with rock, to prevent larger organisms (that will hopefully come later) from getting sucked up.  After some arranging, I reinstalled all the cover pieces, and turned on the light.  And then I waited, straining my eyes to see if anything was alive on the rocks.

And then the magic started to happen.

Featherduster polyp, partially expanded.

After some carefuly scrutiny of the rocks, I discovered what I believe to be a featherduster (anemone?).  It quickly retracted back into the rock when I turned on the light, but after careful observation, I saw it slowly swell out of the rock and open its feathery appendages.

A few days later we found two small polyps on a rock, another featherduster, and TONS of “pods” or small invertebrates, and a teeny snail.  The tank seems stable, and hopefully I will be able to add some tough critters in the coming month.  Until then, I will enjoy watching the feather dusters grow.

Featherduster polyp, fully expanded.

2 thoughts on “5 Gallon Saltwater Tank Build

  1. mislaura says:

    That may not be a feather duster….Aiptasia
    Aiptasia is an opportunistic anemone that populates itself like weeds. In certain conditions, a single animal can produce more than 60 offspring per day. Aiptasia is most commonly found on rock cultured or harvested from the Caribbean. A nutrient-rich aquarium is a perfect habitat for aiptasia to proliferate. Not only do they thrive on excess food, they can propagate where other, more beneficial species cannot. Once established, getting rid of these pests can be difficult.

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