Reef aquarium is a marine tank that sports live corals and marine invertebrates along with other kinds of fish that can survive in a coral reef environment. A saltwater reef aquarium setup at home is actually a great deal and an expensive idea, too. A reef system demands a consistent water supply with a great water quality, which becomes difficult after a point of time.
But, if one learns proper management and maintenance techniques, then it all becomes very easy. Though it is a part of marine aquaria, care and maintenance for reef aquarium is far more different from other ordinary saltwater aquariums.
Factors you should necessarily consider while setting up a reef aquarium are:
The kind of light in your aquarium would depend upon what kind of photosynthetic animals would you introduce in it. Try and arrange a full spectrum fluorescent light. This will ensure that the intensity and quality of the light is just right. To increase system brightness and visual value of the aquarium, fix metal halides and other such novel illuminations. To set up lights in the reef aquarium, one should have the appropriate knowledge of reef life and know what kind of aquatic species live near the water surface, as they are the ones that need increased bright light. The animals that live deep down in the water, will surely require less light. It is very important to plan the positions of the lights, accordingly. You can also make use of natural lighting, if possible.
Water filtration in the aquarium is a must, as the filters will let the water swirl, which ensures that the content of air and calcareous materials in the water is maintained. This is important for most of the photosynthetic reef, especially planktonic algae. Maintain high pH levels, redox, conductivity with no chemical nutrients like ammonia, phosphate, nitrate, nitrite, phenols and cresols, etc. You will have to maintain the same oceanic water currents in the aquarium as it is the basic requirement for the organisms to web, absorb, net, distribute and accumulate, etc. So, make sure that the artificial filters that you install are vigorous and have the capacity to remove excess chemicals and materials from the water.
There are many sub-types of the reef aquarium systems, such as a cold water aquarium, but in all types of reef aquarium setups, energetic water circulation is necessary. Always remember that reef organisms are stimulated by a heavily circulated water flow. Also, heavy water movements diffuse and distribute oxygen and other materials like waste. So, it is always necessary to maintain good water circulation for a healthy aquarium.
It is because of this element that the fish tank will be called a reef aquarium. Use calcareous rocks or sand, as it meliorates the life of the reef aquarium, physically as well as chemically. Water pH gets buffered by this calcareous matter and hence, the water becomes more nutrient-free (this is the normal biological process). One can decide to add almost any reef organism into the aquarium. People popularly add octopus, sponges, mantis shrimp, and several kinds of fish to their aquariums. Breeds like fire corals, fire-worms, and mantis shrimp are the most desirable reef organisms. Always remember that live rock and sand are an inevitable part of a living reef aquarium setup.
Maintenance of the Aquarium
Once you know how to set up a reef aquarium, you must also learn how to maintain it. A functional aquarium processes metabolites to non-noxious forms, quite easily. Always remember and understand the connection between the water circulation and the introduction of the aquarium fish into the system. Make sure you install the protein skimmers into your reef aquarium before the introduction of any livestock to the tank. After making sure that the filters and water circulation are in place, put the livestock and the sand into the reef aquarium. Before putting the sand and the livestock into the reef aquarium, make sure you dip them for a while into clean sea-water.
You will have to wait for more than 2 weeks for the organisms to get accustomed to the setup and to start eating and living together. After the initial livestock gels up nicely with the setup, think of adding some more algae and fish into it. A perfectly installed aquarium is, actually totally maintenance free. Still, being an average reef aquarium holder, one has to spend a few weekly hours in maintaining the water, feeding the livestock, and just playing around without setting any time limits!
Those who don't think they can set up a full-fledged reef aquarium, can always go for the nano setup that is smaller in size, less expensive, and easy to maintain as well. You can also join the free online reef keeper groups and participate in the conversations in order to keep yourself updated.