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Reef Aquarium

Reef aquariumIntroduction To many people, the thought of maintaining a reef aquarium is an impossibility. That may have been the case 15 years ago, but the truth is that you can keep a beautiful and thriving reef, provided you are willing to dedicate some time and a chunk of money. Over the last decade, there has be a great deal of advancement in the knowledge of the needs of corals.

The Aquarium As you decide on the size aquarium you will purchase, you must keep in mind that larger volumes of water are more stable than smaller bodies. For that reason, we recommend using a 55 gallon tank. It will be best to attain a large tank from the beginning. This will keep you from needing to purchase and set up another tank as your reef grows. It will also alleviate stress on the inhabitants as they would otherwise get moved from tank A to tank B to tank C. The corals and fish in a well kept reef can grow to a descent size in their first year.

Decorating the tank is personal preference. We recommend using fine sand such as aragonite instead of crushed coral as fine sand provides better denitrification and aragonite has more trace elements in it. The substrate bed should be 1-2 inches deep. For the most part, one pound per gallon will give you a substrate depth of one inch. Any live rock that is used should be placed directly on the bottom of the tank and not on the top of the sand to avoid it toppling over. Make certain that any structure is sturdy and secure, either using putty or cable ties to fasten them if necessary. However you decide to decorate your aquarium, your goal is to provide shelter and security for the fish while keeping the tank easy to maintain and visually pleasing.

Filtration We recommend using a sump design with wet/dry filtration. Sumps are capable of moving water through the filter media at rapid rates, ensuring that the tank's water is turned over several times an hour. By incorporating wet/dry or trickle filtration into your sump, you will be increasing the efficiency of breaking down nitrites. It will also increase the total amount of dissolved oxygen in the water which is vital to keeping large reef alive. Chemical filtration is may also be used to give your water a crystal clear look. This is easily accomplished by placing a bag of aquarium carbon in an area of high water flow within the sump. Carbon will aid in removing impurities from the water such as fats, acids, proteins and dissolved wastes as well as giving the water a polished look by removing discoloration.

In your filtration, it is strongly recommended that you invest in a quality protein skimmer as they will be the single most important piece of equipment in your aquarium's design and can dictate how successful you are at keeping a thriving reef for any period of time. A protein skimmer for all intensive purposes is a cylinder that has water pumped into it. At the same time, micro bubbles are also injected into that water column. As the bubbles rise to the collection cup at the top of the skimmer they collect fats, acids, proteins, mucus and a number of other wastes. Ideally, you want to adjust your skimmer to collect a liquid that has the hue of green tea. By doing so, you will keep your nitrites and phosphates lower and remove wastes more rapidly than by collecting a dry foam.

Other types of filtration that you may choose to utilize in your filtration system are fluidized sand beds, diatom filters and U.V sterilization. Fluidized sand beds are no more than an enclosed cylinder filled with fine sand in which water is pumped through the bottom and flows up though the sand and back out. As the water flows through the sand, it keeps the sand suspended and fluidized, therefore allowing beneficial bacteria to colonize each and every grain of sand greatly increasing the surface area for nitrification to occur. Diatom filters are not as popular as they once were and have been replaced with micron filters. The function is still the same while the design differs. For diatom filters, diatomaceous earth is used to cover a filter bag creating a mechanical filter that allows only the absolute smallest of particles to pass through it. These filters are not intended for prolonged use, as they quickly become clogged and backed up and need constant maintenance. Instead they are normally used for short increments of time, such as one day a week for example. The benefit of these filters is providing crystal clear water. They also filter such small particles that they may be useful in eradicating parasites such as ich from the water column. U.V sterilizers are normally, as are the previously mentioned filters, used in conjunction with a main filter. U.V sterilizers pump water though a cylinder and by a light that emits strong U.V radiation. This dose of U.V will kill a number of organisms ranging from various parasites to types of algae. They are very useful in preventing green water in your aquarium.

Lighting and Heating Ideally, most reef aquariums can be kept between 78 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Assuming that your tank's temperature does not fluctuate more than 2-3 degrees in a 12 hour period, you should not have any temperature related issues. Keeping your aquarium's temperature as constant as possible is absolutely essential to the well being of your reef. A standard aquarium heater of appropriate wattage (approximately 2-3 watts per gallon) placed either in the tank itself or in the sump/refugium should be sufficient.

Depending on what type of light system you decide to use will impact potential temperature fluctuations. Metal Halides produce a lot of heat as a by-product in order to emit the type of light that it creates. That excess heat could easily effect your tank,s temperatures. On the opposite end of the scale, T-5 lights are of a fluorescent design and do not produce nearly as much heat as your metal halides and therefore will not cause your tank to overheat.

It is almost always easier (and cheaper) to heat a tank than to cool one. If you find that your tank either: A) Stays above 82 Deg. Fahrenheit or B), fluctuates more then 2-3 degrees in less than a 10 hour period due to either your light system or the climate you live in, you may want to invest in a chiller. Chillers are cooling units that are an external device that can be plumbed directly into your systems filtration unit. It will not allow your tanks water temperature to exceed a pre-set temperature (i.e. 78-80 Fahrenheit).

Feeding When it comes to feeding corals, they can be broken into two groups. Those that need to be fed, and those you can feed but do not need to.

The majority of corals contain an algae called zooxanthellae. Due to the presence of zooxanthellae, these corals are capable of producing their own energy in a way similar to photosynthesis and do not need to be fed. These types of corals are called Zooxanthellates. Zooxanthellates do not require feeding but will accept food when offered.

Corals that are Azooxanthellates lack the zoozanthellae and are therefore not capable of producing their own energy. This group of coral needs to be fed if it is expected to survive for any period of time. Their dietary needs may vary greatly from species to species and appropriate research should be done to determine the best types of food for a given species.

There are many types of foods available for reef aquariums. Cyclo-peeze, phytoplankton, zooplankton and marine snow are just a few types that are readily available. The polyp structure of a coral may also dictate it's diet. For small polyp corals, the above mentioned foods would be best, however for large polyp corals, they can be fed larger items such as a piece of krill or brine shrimp.