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How to build a FOWLR Aquarium (fish only with live rock)

  • Jeff Johnston
  • Jul 22, 2016

Although it is tempting to start with a small aquarium because of the lower start-up cost, you often pay for it in the long run. With small tanks, it is much more difficult to maintain stable water parameters and for this reason fish loss and a frustration are all too common with new hobbyists.

We generally recommend starting with an aquarium that is 30 gallons or larger which goes a long way in terms of having a good first impression with the aquarium hobby.

Aquamaxx recently released an entire series of rimless low-iron aquariums and what you see here is the Premium 64-gallon tank. This glass aquarium features 12mm low-iron glass that is ultra-thick and crystal clear. The smooth beveled edges and the 3D laser-engraved logo make these aquariums look just as good empty as they are when full.

When looking at filtration, it can certainly be over whelming for a new hobbyist. An effective filtration system is crucial for success because filtration is what keeps your water clean and ensures a happy and healthy environment for your fish.

One of our favorite filter options for fish only systems is the Eheim Classic canister filters which have long been known as one of the best, no frills canister filters available.

The 2217 model is a perfect fit for this 64-gallon tank as it has plenty of space to hold all the biological, mechanical and chemical filtration. The lid pops off easily allowing for easy access to the media trays. The filter comes with all the necessary media you need to get started but we definitely recommend a little upgrade by adding a bag of premium carbon or all-in-one chemical filter media, such as the AquaMaxx All-In-One. This will help ensure optimum water quality and clarity through the various stages of learning associated with keeping your first aquarium.

Hang-on power-filters are also a pretty common choice for new hobbyists but they tend to have significantly less space for filtration media and are better reserved for freshwater aquariums and quarantine tanks.

Staying with the same brand of high-quality products, we chose to add a 250 Watt Eheim Jager Heater to maintain stable water temperatures and remember the general rule for choosing a heater is 3-5 Watts per gallon.

Having some extra safeguard equipment will really help you avoid some frustrating ailments when building your first tank. Adding a UV sterilizer is perfect for fish only systems because not only does it kill off algae spores to reduce algae problems, it helps to reduce water-borne pathogens and parasites to help keep your fish healthy. The Aqua UV Advantage 2000 15W simply hangs on the side of your aquarium and can be connected right to the outlet of the canister filter.

 A couple of Hydor Koralia Evolution powerheads will also come in handy to help with water movement, gas exchange and help keep detritus suspended for easy removal via the canister filter.

Another piece of equipment we strongly recommend is a protein skimmer. Although not absolutely required, protein skimmers are highly effective pieces of filtration equipment because they pull waste out of the water before it breaks down. Therefore, your water is kept cleaner, your fish healthier and less frequent water changes will be required. The AquaMaxx HOB-1 is hand-down our bestselling protein skimmer and it just so happens it is perfectly sized for this tank and hangs nicely off the back.

For the aquascape, we have selected a good variety of dry rock. A mixture of the AquaMaxx EcoRock, Tonga branch and shelf rock was used. When putting this together we used minimal amounts of rock with the intent of leaving plenty of swim room for fish inside the tank.

The tank is now ready for sand and finally water. When filling your tank for the first time, the aquarium water will be cloudy for a few days. This is completely normal and water clarity will continue to improve as you move through the cycling process.

As with any aquarium, it is important to allow your new aquarium plenty of time to cycle and establish a stable population of beneficial bacteria. 4-6 weeks is usually more than enough time and you can learn all about the cycling process by checking out the video link in the description below. 

Remember, patience is the key to success when keeping an aquarium. Do not rush anything, especially during the cycle stage. In our next video installment, we will revisit this tank, go over the process of stocking your new aquarium with fish and talk about some lighting choices so be sure to check back in with us.

Take Care and Happy Reefkeeping.

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