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How to Setup a Coral Reef Tank

by: Lenny Waters

How to Setup a Coral Reef Tank picture

Creating an eye-catching coral reef ecosystem does not need to be a complicated or time-consuming project. Many are surprised to find just how easy a coral reef aquarium can be as well as the bright colors they will add to any room in the house. Here is a step-by-step breakdown of how to create one of these ecosystems along with a few tips that will allow any living material in the tank to thrive.

Tank Placement Outside of a few odd scenarios, coral reef tanks will do fine in most areas of the home. The primary environmental factor that could negatively impact the living inhabitants of the tank are going to be extreme changes to temperature. This includes placing the tank next to any heaters, coolers, exhaust vents, or in direct sunlight from a window. Keeping the tank away from drafty areas will also help to preserve the quality of the water and make cleanup and maintenance less of a chore.

Dimensions The three primary components of the ecosystems are going to be the tank itself, the filtration system, and the heating or lighting setup. The size of the tank is primarily decided by one’s space and their budget, but there are some other considerations to make. With coral reef aquariums, owners are going to want a tank in which they can easily access the bottom, and this typically means no more than 20 or 30 inches tall. As an alternative to height, having a tank with a deeper width will provide a greater depth of view.

The size of the tank will also help to determine the complexity of maintaining the tanks environment. Larger tanks are more expensive and will require a larger filtration and lighting system, but over time the environment will tend to be more stable. When the size has been decided upon, the owner will then be able to choose between an acrylic case which will be cheaper but prone to scratches and a more expensive scratch-resistant glass tank.

Lighting and Filtration Metal halide lamps are suited for a vast majority of coral and provide the perfect blend of lighting, temperature production, and penetration through the water. In tanks that are 40 gallons or less with a height of 25 inches or less, a longer 250 watt bulb will be enough to reach the depths of the tank. Larger tanks will require more wattage for light penetration, sometimes up to 400 watts for some of the largest tanks. Any tanks over 3 feet long will require two or more bulbs to nourish the coral.

Purchasing and setting up the filtration system of a coral reef tank is one of the most complicated steps in this process. There are two primary choices to make with the filtration system including the style of skimmer that will be used and the tank/size rating. When it comes to the size rating of the filter, going much higher than needed is recommended as the filtration system failing could mean a toxic aquarium. Protein and needle wheel skimmers are the two most popular options and are going to provide the highest quality product for the price.

Selecting the Coral For those that have both time and patience, it will always be best to setup all other aspects of the aquarium and let the environment stabilize before placing any starter coral. This includes letting the filtration system run for multiple days, laying an aragonite sand bed, adding living rocks, and then adding compatible cleaner creatures such as snails. Any non-coral animals inside the tank should be completely compatible with all forms of coral.

For those just beginning with this hobby, it is important to choose coral that thrives in moderate lighting and water movement. This includes a variety of soft coral options such as Cladiella, disc anemones, and green star polyps. As the owner feels more comfortable creating the ideal coral reef aquarium, they can then move onto advanced options that will require more maintenance. Over time, more advanced hobbyists can begin to explore toxic button polyps, finger leather coral, seat mat, and mushroom coral.

The coral reef tanks in the photos and videos on this page were setup by Rod.

How to Setup a Coral Reef Tank photo How to Setup a Coral Reef Tank photo How to Setup a Coral Reef Tank photo
How to Setup a Coral Reef Tank photo How to Setup a Coral Reef Tank photo How to Setup a Coral Reef Tank photo
How to Setup a Coral Reef Tank photo


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