Bring some of this rich underwater nature into your own environment with a saltwater reef aquarium. Due to advances in technology and equipment, it has now become easier than ever to set up a reef aquarium.
At Aquarium Adventure, we have put together a very simple and highly successful procedure for establishing a saltwater reef. Our method consists of an aquarium, strong lighting, water pumps, protein skimmer, mechanical filter, saltwater, and our key ingredient—live rock.
Setting Up the Saltwater Reef Aquarium
Once the aquarium is in place (keep away from bright sunlight), you must prepare the saltwater. Mix dry synthetic sea salts with tap water and add a water conditioner. Make sure to mix the water the previous day as it takes about 6-8 hours to fully dissolve the salt. There are many brands on the market and most are fine to use. Adjust the salt level of the water (how much salt is in the water) by using an instrument called a hydrometer, which will measure the specific gravity or density of salt in the water. We also offer a refractometer, which is a more accurate way to test your specific gravity. It should read approximately 1.023 at about 76° F.
Now add several water pumps to the aquarium in order to circulate and mix the water and provide the reef with currents. You want to try to prevent any ‘dead’ spots in the aquarium. When placing the pumps think about what type of organisms you wish to place in the aquarium. Some species may like more water movement and some may like more. Place in the bottom of the aquarium, the substrate, rinsed to be free of dust. If you are using any type of live sand, you will NOT want to rinse the substrate. The substrate should be made of calcium carbonate so that it will help with buffering the water, maintaining an alkaline pH.
Install and begin operating the protein skimmer, mechanical filter, and/or sump, heater and lights to the reef system. The skimmer, filter and heater should run constantly, however the lights should be plugged into a timer. By using a timer and a predetermined program, daylight and nighttime can be recreated, automatically. Even if you decide to put corals into the aquarium, only leave the light on for about an 8-10 hour day cycle. If possible you may want to have the actinic (blue) lights come on about an hour before and after the daylight bulbs turn on. This will help to simulate dawn and dusk.
Allow the aquarium to run for 24 hours so that water can mix and clear, substrate can settle and filters, heaters and lights operate consistently. At this stage, the filters, pumps and skimmer can be turned off, so the key ingredients, the live rock may be added.
The live rock is the most important element of the marine reef aquarium. Live rock is actual rubble rock from the ocean’s reefs that have tumbled to the bottom of the reef or washed up on shore due to wave action. You can also find aquacultured live rock. It is very beneficial and essential for maintaining the aquarium water quality. It is loaded with good bacteria, zoo plankton and phyto plankton all necessary for the filtration process of the reef aquarium. For a fish only tank it is suggested that you have about a pound of rock per gallon of water. For a reef aquarium it is suggested that you have about two pounds of rock per gallon. You will want to add as much of this as possible in the beginning. You may add smaller pieces of rock as you go along, once the tank is established. The rock should be stacked to create a reef appearance and to provide lots of nooks and crannies for fish and invertebrates to call home. Make sure that the rock is stable and will not fall once your fish and invertebrates are in the aquarium.
After the environment is created by placing all the live rock, the pumps, filters and skimmer can be restarted. The water pumps may need to be re-positioned within the live rock in order to get good water circulation throughout the reef that has been designed.
48 hours later, this “beginning” reef aquarium will stabilize. Test the water in the aquarium for ammonia and nitrites during the next 4-6 days. It might be a good idea to keep track of all of this information in a notebook. It will help both you and any Aquarium Adventure associates you may work with. The cycling process will still take about a month. Keep testing your aquarium’s water and talking to your Aquarium Adventure associate when you have questions. When test readings are safe (about a month after you started), then fish and invertebrates can be added slowly to the aquarium. Over a period of time, this reef will begin to flourish. It’s easy and simple!
As with any aquarium set-up, options are available for different looks and sizes from beginner to hard-core hobbyist. Added equipment components can increase the quantity and diversity of animals, as well as effect animal reproduction and growth rate. There is also a wide selection of colors and types of “live ocean rock” to create different types of reefs.
Ask you Aquarium Adventure Fish Specialist to review with you, all of the options. Enjoy your tank!
|Live Rock - 1.5 #’s per gallon
|Scavenger Hermit Crabs - 1 per 2 gallons
|Algae Cleaning Snails - 1 per 2 gallons