This post is part 1 of the epic reef series.
Here you will find all the equipment we have procured to create our saltwater reef.
Aquarium / Tank
The first element that must be decided is the size of the desired tank. An aquarium too small may be difficult to stabilize for a beginner because of the strong fluctuations you get in a small volume of water, while a tank that is too large will be expensive and could be difficult to bring to equilibrium if it deviates too much. According to the measurements of where we will install it in the house, we chose to start with a Seapora 90-gallon, 4-foot long tank (48 ” long x 18 ” wide x 24 ‘ high). As it will be on display in our living room, we decided to have a nice custom cabinet built (coming soon). Unfortunately, we can not fill this aquarium right now, because it would be impossible to move it later on. Plexiglass panels were also placed at the bottom of the aquarium to protect the glass from the sharp corners of the rocks.
It is also useful to have a small side aquarium that can serve as a hospital or transitional / quarantine area for the adaptation of new fish, invertebrates or live rocks. We therefore equipped ourselves with a small 10 gallons for this, and because we had the chance to have access to beautiful live rocks that needed to be housed quickly (see Part 2).
Finally, since we were eager to begin our setup, we also found an inexpensive well-equipped 30-gallon aquarium on the used market, so we temporarily set it up to start building our ecosystem with a mix dead rock and live rock until the cabinet for the 90-gallon is ready (see Part 3).
For our 90 gallons tank, filtration will occur through the sump in the cabinet below the aquarium (see Sump section below). Nonetheless, our 10 and 30 gallons tanks are equipped with filters, respectively an AquaClear 30 Power Filter and a Fluval Filter C3.
Water Heater and Controller
Once again, we have selected multiple heating products depending on the size of our tanks. For the 10, 30 and 90 gallons aquariums, we have 50W, 100W and 250W water heaters. For a better temperature control in the largest aquarium, we also procured a controler that includes a probe. Finaly, we have a 500W water heater to rapidly heat the water that we add when we do a water change.
When deciding on the lights you will use, you need to consider what will be living in your aquarium. Reef tanks where you intend to grow soft and hard corals have higher light requirements than fish only tanks. We chose a model (AquaIllumination Prime LED Light) and bought 3 lamps that will allow us to grow corals and that has a programmable interface, so we can adjust the mix of white, red and blue lights over time. The frequencies of light are important as you want to minimize the frequencies that favor undesirable algae growth. There is even a lightning simulation function, but who really wants that??? As the 90 gallons is not yet installed, we used those lights on our smaller aquariums.
Reverse Osmosis Unit
You can not use tap water in an aquarium because it contains chlorine that would be extremely harmful to the aquarium ecosystem. As water changes are to be made regularly, it is useful to buy an osmosis unit that can turn tap water into osmosed water to which you can add the appropriate salts and minerals for life in the salt water aquarium.
The purpose of circulation pumps is to ensure that water is flowing everywhere inside the aquarium. I was told it is better to have many medium and small pumps than just a large one. That way, you can create more currents in your tank. We now have one 425 GPH pump for the 10 gallons tank and two 600 GPH pumps for the 30 gallons. We will decide on what we need for the 90 gallons once it is filled with the rocks and we know how the water flows inside the tank.
Reef Sump, Protein Skimmer and Return Water Pump
The sump will filter the water from the 90-gallon aquarium. It will be located in the cabinet under the aquarium. Our aquarium model has holes that are planned for the sump pipes. Since it is lower than the aquarium, a return pump is needed to send the water back to the aquarium. The skimmer is another element of saltwater filtration that is used to remove unwanted organic compounds in combination with the sump.
Products and Measurements
In order to obtain salt water from the osmosed water, we need to add salt and other minerals. We use a mix called Reef Crystals which contains essential ocean reef elements in concentrations greater than those found in natural sea water. A salinity refractometer is necessary to make sure that the water salinity is at the appropriate 1023-1025 level. It is also useful to have a test kit to measure other water properties such as pH value, and nitrite, nitrate and ammonia levels.
Another useful tool is a magnetic cleaner for aquarium glasses. It allows you to rub them from the inside without having to plunge your hands into the water.