First of all, our tank came with a nice mesh lid, which is great for keeping your critters in the tank: it's no fun coming home to find one of them gasping for air on the floor. The lid is made out of mesh so that it doesn't interfere with the lights. Glass lids tend to get dirty with salt quickly and end up blocking the light. Although the mesh helps keep the tank cooler, it leads to more evaporation.
A lid is a an absolute requirement for some fish that are prone to jumping and others, like eels that are known escape artists. Not many tanks come with a lid these days, so make sure you get one if that is the case.
You can use materials that are commonly used to build window screens and found at most home supply stores to make your very own low-cost mesh lid.
Our tank also comes with a magnetic algae scraper which we will be using frequently when we get going. It has two parts: a plastic pad that is rough and sits inside the tank and a magnetic handle that holds it in place outside the tank. This way, we can clean the glass without getting our hands wet.
Next in the list of goodies is a 200 micron filter sock. The sock is attached to a bracket that allows it to rest inside the sump. Water that overflows the tank into the sump passes through the sock, which then catches particles, much like a coffee filter. This will catch uneaten food or anything else swirling around in the tank. This is called mechanical filtration and is a key component of keeping the water clean. That being said, we are responsible for keeping the filter sock clean, one of those maintenance chores that will help us succeed.
Filter Basket and Media
There is also a media basket which is a plastic tower with several compartments and holes between them. Each compartment can hold a different type of filter media. As water passes through the compartments, it flows through the media.
If you want more mechanical filtration, you can use the included fiber balls which are almost like cotton balls and will help trap particles floating in the water.
A small bag of activated carbon is also included, which is chemical filtration - removing pollutants from the water.
Finally, a third bag contains granular Ferric Oxide, or GFO for short. This is another type of chemical filtration that removes phosphates from the water. It's not important to understand what that means yet as we may never use the GFO media. We definitely will not use it from the start.
In case you're wondering, there is a third type of filtration called biological filtration which uses beneficial bacteria to break down toxic compounds in the water. When we start cycling our tank we will establish such bacteria.
Finally, our bundle includes a controllable return pump. This is a key piece of equipment, since it keeps water flowing from the sump into the main compartment which, in turn, overflows back into the sump. This ensures the water is always circulating and being filtered. It also generates a current in the tank, which helps to pick up debris and bring our creatures food. Fish love swimming in this current and corals love to sway in it.
The pump has a controller, which lets us adjust the flow rate and is connected with two rubber hoses to two flow nozzles, which can be moved to direct the flow inside the main compartment.
Since the return pump is such an important piece of equipment and it runs 24 hours a day, it is a good idea to have a second one in hand. Pumps fail: it's not a matter of whether they will fail, but when. Rather than scrambling to find a replacement when it fails, take the time to buy a second one now.
Before we proceed, we need to give all this equipment a quick rinse in regular tap water and then leave it to dry overnight. We have to carefully take apart the pump hoses to do so. You can rinse the pump itself, but don't rinse the controller, since it is not intended to get wet.
We're going to hang the filter sock in one of the compartments behind the left overflow and we're going to place the media basket with the fiber balls in the top section behind the right overflow. This will help us clear up the sand debris from the water. We're going to leave the GFO and carbon out of the tank for now.
Then, we'll carefully put the pump hoses back in place and route the cable to the controller outside the tank.
We're ready for the next step.