Advice for a new Reefer -

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ichthyoid

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When we set up our first reef tank, the excitement/energy/enthusiasm is typically very high! We hopefully also get some great advice about why patience & consistency are so important for achieving and maintaining success. Perhaps not so much advice about how to make these happen. So here’s some of my $0.02-

-everything will be great at first. Until your energy & enthusiasm begin to wane. Don’t worry it happens to most of us. What to do?

-we are all focused on getting our tanks set up, cycled and then through ‘the ugly’ phase. We sometimes get a little distracted, from the consistency part especially.

-after some time, life gets in the way & our attention to detail & discipline begin to suffer.

-very few people are able to avoid this and to maintain the discipline required longer term. To consistently manually top off the water & dose the needed supplements. Very few, trust me on this one!

So, here’s a few suggestions I would make for anyone setting up a first reef tank. These will help to simplify & automate essential tasks. So you can spend more time observing & enjoying your aquarium. Which is why you are getting into this hobby! It may not guarantee success, but they will get you headed in the right direction -

1- this is not an inexpensive hobby! Many have found ways to save money, but it is more difficult to do inexpensively. Why? Big systems are inherently more stable & costly. Smaller systems while less costly are also inherently less stable.

So, automation is often utilized to help keep these systems running and stable and it costs money. You have 3 basic choices-
-high tech/highest cost/easiest & most stable
-low tech/modest cost/fairly easy & stable
-no tech/lowest cost/most work & least stable

Some may argue with these scenarios, but in general, when using tried & true gear, they paint a pretty accurate picture overall. I’ve tried all 3 and now prefer high tech because it maximizes my enjoyment. I am busy & time is limited.

2- buy an ATO (auto top off) device to keep your salinity stable, by automatically adding water to compensate for evaporation. This will greatly enhance stability. I like the Tunze Osmolator’s, but there are others that work. If money is a big object, there are some DIY ways to do this also, if you are handy.
Cost $100-200 new

3- buy a programmable doser which uses a peristaltic pump (aka- tube roller design). The Kamoer brand is popular & affordable, but there are others. *Some are able to run continuously, most will not! So plan accordingly on dosing schedule(s). Also, there are some DIY ways to save some $$.
These can be had for $ ~50-150

4- Start with the simplest & most reliable supplement(s) you can find, to begin with. If you want to get into more & more advanced ways to maintain water chemistry, I suggest you do it after you’ve had some time to learn and tasted some success. Otherwise you may become discouraged and/or waste a LOT of money trying/learning/failing, etc. Many start by just doing water changes to keep water chemistry stable & find success.

However, that said: The best single product I would suggest is to start by using Tropic Marin’s All for Reef. It is a true one part additive, which will give you good results if done correctly, by following their directions.
Cost varies, but the powder is the least expensive. Just don’t mix up more than you need for a couple weeks.

You will use the dosing pump to deliver the All for Reef in consistent doses and adjust as indicated in their directions.

5- buy a temperature controller as a backup to your aquarium heater. I like Eheim-Jager heaters and Ranco temperature controllers. Though Ink Bird is another, less costly, controller. A heater with a stuck thermostat is one of the top reasons for failure/everything dying in a reef system. Buy one as insurance!
If you go top shelf and buy an Apex type aquarium controller, that can be used instead.
Cost -$40-60 (much more for the Apex!)

6- buy a good set of basic test kit(s). Salifert, Red Sea, Hannah are all good. I have not had good luck with API, you get what you pay for. The pH, ammonium & nitrate will be needed when cycling the tank. Later, you will find that Alkalinity is one of the single best indicators to test for, as an indicator of reef function & health.

A way to measure salinity also will be an ongoing necessity. So a refractometer, floating style or conductivity meter are options for this. You also need to calibrate most regularly, except the floating kind. Just validate the floating kind when purchased & then you are good. A good refractometer, or Hannah conductivity meter may be more practical though.

7- Seek out and establish a good relationship with your local fish store (LFS). We have a list of sponsors at the bottom of the home page here. To begin with take your water there for testing. They may charge a couple of bucks which is reasonable. You can also repay them later by buying from them. One of the greatest joys is shopping for and finding that perfect specimen you’ve been looking for. No one other than your LFS can offer that experience. You will also need them at some point, maybe in an emergency, trust me on that!

8- most brands of sea salt will work. Especially when cycling and maturing your reef system. Once you are established and seek to grow more demanding corals, your discretion may dictate better salt mixes. The best way to choose one is buy a brand which will give you the water chemistry profile you are seeking to maintain. Makes sense, right!

9- a protein skimmer will be needed at some point. I suggest you research thoroughly and plan investing in one, sooner than later. Their primary function is to manage waste but gas exchange may be just as critical, especially if the system is well stocked with fish. There are many styles, so read reviews before buying.

10- lights are required for growing coral and to view your display. Corals don’t recognize the brands, just photons of light. Budget according to your aesthetic/functional needs, their performance & the reviews.

11- the aquarium is what will house the reef and which you will look at. There are many types of design, including all in one’s and those having overflows to a sump. I prefer a sump as it provides an area below to house the filtration. Both types will work. There are 2 main types of glass. I like low iron glass.
-regular glass, lowest cost, has a green tint
-low iron glass, higher cost, most clear
Go look at the tank before buying one. Set up & running if possible? Or one similar to it.

12- educate yourself! I’ve saved the best and most important for last. I’ve been in this hobby a very long time and learn something new every week. Read everything you can. Find a mentor that will help to guide you on your aquatic journey. Someone that lives close by & hopefully has a well stocked fish room is a big bonus. Especially in times of need/emergencies!

If you have questions, ask before spending the money and/or making mistakes. We’ve made them all & then some! Which is a BIG reason why we have this reef club.

Shameless plug-
Please consider becoming a supporting member. The $2.50 per month that it costs is nothing compared to the value it has provided to me. I have no doubt that you will feel the same!

So welcome to this amazing hobby & the ARC! 😎
 
When we set up our first reef tank, the excitement/energy/enthusiasm is typically very high! We hopefully also get some great advice about why patience & consistency are so important for achieving and maintaining success. Perhaps not so much advice about how to make these happen. So here’s some of my $0.02-

-everything will be great at first. Until your energy & enthusiasm begin to wane. Don’t worry it happens to most of us. What to do?

-we are all focused on getting our tanks set up, cycled and then through ‘the ugly’ phase. We sometimes get a little distracted, from the consistency part especially.

-after some time, life gets in the way & our attention to detail & discipline begin to suffer.

-very few people are able to avoid this and to maintain the disciple required longer term. To consistently manually top off the water & dose the needed supplements. Very few, trust me on this one!

So, here’s a few suggestions I would make for anyone setting up a first reef tank. These will help to simplify & automate essential tasks. So you can spend more time observing & enjoying your aquarium. Which is why you are getting into this hobby! It may not guarantee success, but they will get you headed in the right direction -

1- this is not an inexpensive hobby! Many have found ways to save money, but it is more difficult to do inexpensively. Why? Big systems are inherently more stable & costly. Smaller systems while less costly are also inherently less stable.

So, automation is often utilized to help keep these systems running and stable and it costs money. You have 3 choices-
-high tech/highest cost/easiest & most stable
-low tech/modest cost/fairly easy & stable
-no tech/lowest cost/most work & least stable

Some may argue with these scenarios, but in general, when using tried & true gear, they paint a pretty accurate picture overall. I’ve tried all 3 and now prefer high tech because it maximizes my enjoyment. I am busy & time is limited.

2- buy an ATO (auto top off) device to keep your salinity stable, by automatically adding water to compensate for evaporation. This will greatly enhance stability. I like the Tunze Osmolator’s, but there are others that work. If money is a big object, there are some DIY ways to do this also, if you are handy.
Cost $100-200 new

3- buy a programmable doser which uses a peristaltic pump (aka- tube roller design). The Kamoer brand is popular & affordable, but there are others. *Some are able to run continuously, most will not! So plan accordingly on dosing schedule(s). Also, there are some DIY ways to save some $$.
These can be had for $ ~50-150

4- Start with the simplest & most reliable supplement(s) you can find, to begin with. If you want to get into more & more advanced ways to maintain water chemistry, I suggest you do it after you’ve had some time to learn and tasted some success. Otherwise you may become discouraged and/or waste a LOT of money trying/learning/failing, etc. Many start by just doing water changes to keep water chemistry stable & find success.

However, that said: The best single product I would suggest is to start by using Tropic Marin’s All for Reef. It is a true one part additive, which will give you good results if done correctly, by following their directions.
Cost varies, but the powder is the least expensive. Just don’t mix up more than you need for a couple weeks.

You will use the dosing pump to deliver the All for Reef in consistent doses and adjust as indicated in their directions.

5- buy a temperature controller as a backup to your aquarium heater. I like Eheim-Jager heaters and Ranco temperature controllers. Though Ink Bird is another, less costly, controller. A heater with a stuck thermostat is one of the top reasons for failure/everything dying in a reef system. Buy one as insurance!
If you go top shelf and buy an Apex type aquarium controller, that can be used instead.
Cost -$40-60 (much more for the Apex!)

6- buy a good set of basic test kit(s). Salifert, Red Sea, Hannah are all good. I have not had good luck with API, you get what you pay for. The pH, ammonium & nitrate will be needed when cycling the tank. A way to measure salinity is ongoing, so refractometer, floating style or conductivity meter are options. You also need to calibrate most regularly.

7- Seek out and establish a good relationship with your local fish store (LFS). We have a list of sponsors at the bottom of the home page here. To begin with take your water there for testing. They may charge a couple of bucks which is reasonable. You can also repay them later by buying from them. One of the greatest joys is shopping for and finding that perfect specimen you’ve been looking for. No one other than your LFS can offer that experience. You will also need them at some point, maybe in an emergency, trust me on that!

8- most brands of sea salt will work. Especially when cycling and maturing your reef system. Once you are established and seek to grow more demanding corals, your discretion may dictate better salt mixes. The best way to choose one is buy a brand which will give you the water chemistry profile you are seeking to maintain. Makes sense, right!

9- a protein skimmer will be needed at some point. I suggest you research thoroughly and plan investing in one, sooner than later. Their primary function is to manage waste but gas exchange may be just as critical, especially if the system is well stocked with fish. There are many styles, so read reviews before buying.

10- lights are required for growing coral and to view your display. Corals don’t recognize the brands, just photons of light. Budget according to your aesthetic/functional needs, their performance & the reviews.

11- the aquarium is what will house the reef and which you will look at. There are many types of design, including all in one’s and those having overflows to a sump. I prefer a sump as it provides an area below to house the filtration. Both types will work. There are 2 main types of glass. I like low iron glass.
-regular glass, lowest cost, has a green tint
-low iron glass, higher cost, most clear
Go look at the tank before buying one. Set up & running if possible? Or one similar to it.

12- educate yourself! I’ve saved the best and most important for last. I’ve been in this hobby a very long time and learn something new every week. Read everything you can. Find a mentor that will help to guide you on your aquatic journey. Someone that lives close by & hopefully has a well stocked fish room is a big bonus. Especially in times of need/emergencies!

If you have questions, ask before spending the money and/or making mistakes. We’ve made them all & then some! Which is a BIG reason why we have this reef club.

Shameless plug-
Please consider becoming a supporting member. The $2.50 per month that it costs is nothing compared to the value it has provided to me.

So welcome to this amazing hobby & the ARC! 😎
Great write up @ichthyoid !!
 
Great breakdown for new Reefers! This may get pinned to New Member Q & A
May nothing, it already is! What a great write up Bill, thanks!

Let me ask you all a technical user related question - Would it be appropriate to lock this thread if there end up being a bunch of questions associated with it? I could see this one getting really long and I'd almost rather make a note to "Ask any questions you might have in a new thread!"
 
May nothing, it already is! What a great write up Bill, thanks!

Let me ask you all a technical user related question - Would it be appropriate to lock this thread if there end up being a bunch of questions associated with it? I could see this one getting really long and I'd almost rather make a note to "Ask any questions you might have in a new thread!"
I would lock and sticky this. Questions should be asked in the forum rather than here imo.
 
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