Reef Aquarium Diary - Part 2 - Lets get wet!

Reef Tank Diary -  Part Two

OK so ive just finished filling the thing with RO Water (well nearly finished) another trip with the water barrels to collect a further 300 litres is required and then I can get the salt in and mixed, turn on heaters, pumps and filters all up and running for the initial cycling period.


We used a great big water butt and numerous other containers to hold the water and used and old beastly Aqua Bee pump and garden hose to pump it through the window straight from the car!! I knew that big pump would be handy one day!

So far so good.

The sump is all setup and ready with Filter sock (we went for a reef roller - which takes the pain out of constant sock changes) and gotta say I love it already - the 2 x 300w heaters are also down there, along with a Nyos Torq reactor which will house Rowaphos and carbon chemical media. There is a growlight for an algae refugium (that reminds me need to get some cheato!) The DC return pump is also setup and has been tested - its a fairly inexpensive Jebao 5000 which seems pretty quiet and you can adjust the flow! it also looks attractive in blue, superb value if you are on a budget.

return pump

Return Pump -  A thing of beauty and superb value for money

I was happy and maybe a little surprised that so far none of the plumbing has leaked -fingers crossed it stays like that.

I managed to safe a few quid by picking up some of the equipment on ebay and facebook - founds some great bargains on the 2 Kessil A360's and got them at a fraction of the cost for new ones, likewise the reactor and auto topup are second hand.

Still on the shopping list is wavemakers and a Seneye probe (mainly to check the PAR of the lights) - I will look out for a good deal on both. Im going for the Jebao Sine Wave SLW30 wavemaker as have one on my existing tank and I love it, its powerful, quiet and has a low profile - the one I have has proved reliable for well over a year. I did consider the Ecotech MP40's but apart from the cost - the gap between the tank and the wall (its in a n alcove) would not have sufficient space for the magnets. Anyway call me a cheapskate but I believe many of the imported products are just as good if not better than some premium brands in some cases (do your research though!)

sine wave pump
More decent kit that does not break the bank! -SLW30 Wavemakers - we need two of these one at each end of tank.

So it will be nice to get this finally cycling - oh I gotta add the live sand soon too.

Just in case anyone is interested here's a breakdown of all equipment needed so far, I would recommend nearly all this to someone setting up a new tank.


AQUARIUM (Obviously!) - dimensions approx 6ft x 2.1ft x 2.1ft - 650 litre main display volume.

SUMP TANK (To house filtration and equipment out of sight from main display)

STAND - standard MDF in Blue

HOOD (we wanted a front opening hood but many run reef tanks open top, I hope we don't get any overheating issues - will make sure there is plenty of ventilation for gas exchange)

PIPEWORK / PLUMBING (not always supplied with custom built tanks, we paid extra for a kit that included pipework and unions, ball valves,glue) You usually have to assemble yourself - follow instructions or there are some great videos on youtube about aquarium plumbing.

RETURN PUMP - this pumps water from sump to the display which then overflows back to sump, it passes filtration and is cycled back to the tank in a constant loop - most people will want something quiet, most modern models are.

LIGHTING - Proper reef lighting is required if you want to grow coral / anemones. Soft corals dont need it too bright but it does need to be in right spectrum. Anemones and SPS Hard corals need lots of light! I pl;an on checking the PAR readings to ensure there is enough light spread in this pretty deep tank. I went for KESSILS which give a great shimmer effect.

HEATERS - to maintain a constant temperature - about 26 degrees is recommended - a temperature controller is recommended - by a reliable brand as swings in temp are not good for corals.


LIVE ROCK - The most important function of rock is to host beneficial bacteria essential for the nitrogen cycle! - Use plenty if you can - You can start with dry rock and wait for it to become biologically active or buy rock that's already cured.

There are loads of man made and natural options these days.

I will be using all the rock from my old tank but have already made a new  aquas cape from dry pieces in the new tank (these were cemented together and I drilled some holes for acrylic rod supports) hopefully I have left enough room for the existing rock and corals when they get transferred.

SAND - Not actually essential but very attractive and has its benefits such as more area for biological filtration and buffering capacity (use the correct sand type for reef aquaria though such as aragonite) Live sands come with beneficial bacteria so I opted for Caribsea to kickstart the cycle on this new tank, 2 x 20 litres bags - hopefully thats enough. Many people dont recommend deeper than 1" these days as otherwise it can become a nutrient sink and cause problems later down the line.


SKIMMER  - Removes waste / proteins. we are gonna use our existing Reef Octopus skimmer from the old tank - no need to move it yet though. 

REACTOR - For phosphate remover and activated carbon. Picked up a NYOS Torq which looks pretty cool, easy to adjust flow and change media - pump built in.

ALGAE with GROWLIGHT - I will be growing Chaetomorpha  algae in the sump - the idea is it outcompetes any algae in the display and soaks up waste nutrients keeping water quality high - you must use a decent powerful light to get the best of of this though. Clumps of algae should be harvested regularly to in effect export waste from the system! If you run the algae light at night time this can help balance out any drops in PH when the main display lights go off too.



Auto Top Up System - there is an extra reservoir in the sump which holds pure RO water. When water evaporates from the return pump chamber, automatic sensors activate a small pump to top the water back to the correct level - this could also be done with a  jug manually if you mark your water line but topping up every day can be a chore - plus if you go away you know your salinity is not going to swing and the pump wont run dry!

Test Kits - Generally the most important are NITRATE / PHOSPHATE / PH ALKALINITY / SALINITY if you are keeping a well stocked tank with hard corals / SPS then CALCIUM & MAGNESIUM tests will be needed - you can also send your water off for a full analysis by companies such as Triton but we are getting more into pro territory here. If you are a beginner or just want to keep it easy then hardy fish and the hardiest of corals such as soft corals are highly recommended. 

TOP TIP! - forget manual refractometers and swing gauges - get yourself a reliable, accurate and easy to use digital salinity meter like those from Milwaukee - its the best bit of reef kit ive ever bought and if your gonna spend a fortune on fish and corals then less than £100 for one of these is surely worth it.

salinity checker - refractometer best

One of my fav bits of kit - would not be without it now - simply put a drop of water on it, press the button and hey presto your salinity reading!

I like to keep my tanks at a constant 1.026


TO BE CONTINUED.....................part 3 here>>>>>>

go back to part 1 here<<<


aquarium products - Coral Fusion Food / Reef Roidz