If you’re planning to set up a reef aquarium, get off to a good start by doing a little research on the types of inhabitants you plan to keep. It’s especially important to understand their natural environment so that you can recreate a similar world in your tank. Building an aquarium habitat that closely simulates real ocean conditions will allow your reef community to thrive.
Select a location where the tank will be set up. The ideal area should allow you clear visual access so that you can fully enjoy your new aquarium’s beauty and serenity.
Avoid choosing a location that is:
• Near a heater, window or in direct sunlight
• Near other sources where room temperature may not be constant, such as the kitchen
• Too hot or cold, as well as high traffic areas
2. TANK SELECTION
When shopping for a tank, it’s best to buy the largest tank that your home and budget allow. The reason for this is that a larger tank provides a more stable environment and makes the maintenance of water chemistry easier over time.
Reef tanks are available in two basic varieties: glass and acrylic. An acrylic tank is lighter, better insulated, and allows the option of drilling a hole through it for hosing. A glass tank is more resistant to scratches, discolouration, and is usually less expensive than an acrylic tank.
3. PREPARE THE AQUARIUM
Before you begin with your set up, make sure that your new tank is clean. Gently wipe it down with a clean, damp cloth. Rinse with lukewarm water. Never use a bleach or chemical cleaner to clean inner or outer aquarium glass. Never use a bucket that has been exposed to soap, detergent or any chemicals to transport water for your aquarium.
4. EQUIPMENT INSTALLATION
Ensure that all the equipment you buy is designed for saltwater aquariums. Basic equipment includes:
• Protein Skimmer/Filter
• Heater & Thermometer
• Circulation pumps/Powerheads
5. ADD SUBSTRATE (OPTIONAL)
Adding bottom substrate in a reef aquarium is a matter of personal choice. Many hobbyists prefer a "bare bottom" reef aquarium as it simplifies cleaning and allows adequate water flow around the rocks.
If you choose to add live sand, rinse it in salt water first, then add it to the aquarium. The sand will serve as a bed for the live rock.
6. FILL THE TANK
Prepare the salt water: To mix the salt water, fill your container with clean water and add a dechlorinator. For best results, use water that has been purified by a reverse osmosis (RO) system. Add salt mix to the water, following the instructions on the label. Determine the salinity level of the water using a hydrometer, the goal is 1.025.
7. ADD LIVE ROCK
Once you’re satisfied that all your equipment is running well, you can begin adding live rock to the aquarium. The rule of thumb is to arrange the rock so that it takes up about 1/3 of the visual volume of the aquarium. Add other decorations that you plan to use, then finish filling the tank to the intake level of the overflow unit.
8. CYCLE THE TANK
New aquariums do not have the necessary bacteria for your inhabitants to survive. Cycling is a crucial step in establishing the biological filtration for the aquarium.
A water change should be performed every week in the beginning. Replace about 50% of the water. Once the tank is stable, the water change frequency can be reduced.
After the first week begin testing the aquarium water. When ammonia, nitrite and other water parameters are acceptable, perform a water change, turn on the aquarium lighting and add your first inhabitants.
9. ADDING AQUATIC INHABITANTS
The first species to be added to the aquarium should be scavengers to help with maintenance. Add algae-eating species such as snails and small hermit crabs. These are the hardiest species for a new reef system and will help keep any substrate clean and turned over.
Next, add your corals. As with the algae-eating species, you should only add a few at a time and wait approximately two weeks between further additions. This allows your biological filtration to adjust.
The final additions are your fish and invertebrates. As with the previous additions you should only add a few at a time to allow the biological filtration to adjust.
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