How Do You Set up a Reef Tank?

set-up-reef-tank Credit: Janet Crum/Flickr/CC-BY-2.0

Setting up a reef aquarium is a multi-stage process that involves choosing and setting up the right aquarium for the space, ensuring that the water is at the right salinity and has proper filtration, curing the rocks, and then slowly acclimating the various inhabitants. Overall, the process takes approximately 10 weeks and requires a large tank, filtration system, aquarium salt, live rocks, reef animals, cleaner fish, invertebrates and other fish inhabitants.

  1. Select the tank

    Look for a deep, wide aquarium. The larger the volume of the tank, the more forgiving it is in terms of water quality.

  2. Assemble the tank

    Prepare saltwater at a specific gravity of 1.025. Add sand to the tank, and then add the water. Keep some of the water set aside to wash the live rock.

  3. Cure the live rock

    Rinse the live rock in the remaining salt water. Remove any loose debris, and place the live rock in the tank. Install the aquarium equipment, running it without light for four weeks. Replace 50 percent of the water every week.

  4. Add algae controllers

    Add tank inhabitants such as hermit crabs and snails that eat algae. This maintains the water clarity in the aquarium. Set up the lights for 12-hour increments. Allow the new inhabitants up to two weeks to get used to other inhabitants before moving on to adding corals.

  5. Add beginner corals

    Introduce small coral animals such as button polyps and mushroom coral to the tank. Replace 25 percent of the water, and allow them to acclimate for two weeks.

  6. Introduce larger coral animals

    Add larger corals animals such as tree corals and starburst polyps. Give them around two weeks to acclimate.

  7. Add invertebrates and other fish

    Introduce six new fish to the tank. Choose from fish such as clownfish and cardinalfish. Include invertebrates such as shrimp and feather dusters. Replace 25 percent of the water.