reef tank with fish

The O.K. Coral: Your Guide to to Starting a Reef Tank

Marine aquariums are breathtaking. It’s not hard to become lost in tranquility while observing them. And one of the most eye-catching beauties in an aquarium is the coral reef. 

A coral reef tank showcases the ocean’s most splendid colors. And reefs come in a variety of color schemes. There’s a reef type for everyone’s preference.

But then again, aren’t all reefs everyone’s preference?

They’re beautiful. There’s no way around it. And who wouldn’t want a personal picture-perfect reef in their home? 

Being able to display your own spectacular reef to family and friends isn’t far from reach. But buying all the necessities needed to maintain a reef tank can be costly. And not knowing how to maintain the reef tank is even more so.

So, if you’re looking into starting your own reef tank, then make sure to keep reading. We have everything you need to know about setting up a reef tank!

Choosing The Right Tank

Before we can talk about how to start a reef tank, we need to talk about how to choose the right tank for the job. Your aquarium tank selection is important when building a reef tank.  

Know what type of reefs you want to house. There are soft coral reefs, stone coral reefs, and algae coral reefs. And the aquarium is dependent open which type of marine life you want to have.

Preserving a reef tank is a huge commitment and takes a lot of hard work and dedication. A good aquarium tank should be around the same measurement in depth as in width. But choosing a standard 48″x18″x18″ size tank is perfect!

And a large tank will allow you to spot possible problems a lot quicker.

Choosing The Right Placement

Now that you’ve chosen a great tank, start thinking about where you want to place it. Be sure that the floor underneath it is strong enough to support its weight. Also, consider natural lighting.

Placing the tank where natural light reaches it is okay. It’s even favorable to certain invertebrates. But ensure that the tank is not in a spot where the sun is strong enough to cause overheating.

You also want to keep in mind that the aquarium’s system will need to be plugged into the wall. So look for a nice spot close to an outlet!

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Find an area where not too many people pass by if you are purchasing fish for your tank. If you only plan on housing the reefs, then an area where people pass by frequently is not a problem. 

But one problem for all aquariums is the surrounding air. It’s vital to have pure air surrounding your aquarium. Candles or air fresheners can cause harmful chemicals to enter the water supply.

But don’t worry! You don’t have to throw away your favorite scented candle. Just move it into another room where it can’t reach the tank.

Keep in mind, you’ll want to have easy access to the entire tank for cleaning purposes. Be sure to find a spot where cleaning will be an easy task for you!

Choosing The Right Corals

The first type of coral reefs that you want to look into are the soft corals. After picking out your soft corals, you can then move onto the stone corals. Beginners should focus more on the soft coral reefs for their tanks.

Mushroom Anemones

These types of soft coral reefs come in many colors! Some require more light than others, so be sure to know how much light yours will need. They do not need to be fed or have strong water flow, but don’t place them too close to stone corals as they can be damaged.

Star Polyps

These types of soft coral reefs come in a variety of colors as well! They strive best in medium to high light. And heavy water movement will cause them to grow quickly!

They do not require feeding either.

Other Corals

There are many other soft corals available for purchase. They are also great stone and algae coral reefs. The most important thing to remember is that soft coral reefs are best for beginners.

And always know what kind of reef it is. This way you will know how to properly take care of it. A great selection of healthy corals can be found at a quality coral farm like Chaos Aquaculture!

Ensuring that your corals are in good health no matter what kind you buy, is an awesome start to your new reef aquarium!

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Setting Up Your Reef Tank

The aquarium requires specific elements to strive. The water temperature should be kept between 72 degrees Fahrenheit and 78 degrees Fahrenheit. There should be a constant water flow with proper nutrient levels as well.

Proper water flow gives the reefs the oxygen they need. Protein skimming and activated carbon keep the nutrient levels where they should be. Do all of this while keeping the right pH balance, and you’re off to a good start!

A reef tank setup is contingent on many different variables. Here’s a list of everything you will need.

  • Aquarium
  • Aquarium Sand
  • Sump Return Pump
  • Protein Skimmer
  • Powerheads
  • Rocks
  • Test Kits
  • Aquarium Controllers
  • Lighting
  • Reverse Osmosis System
  • Climate Control
  • TDS Meter
  • Salinity Meter

Purchasing all the necessary equipment is the best way to ensure proper maintenance. Although most equipment is straight forward, some will need to be specific to your aquarium. We’ve broken down the basics for you. 

All-In-One Systems

These systems feature filters that attach to the back of the tank. It also helps keep that constant water flow going. But they aren’t as flexible as tanks with a sump. 

Sump Tanks

These systems are less complicated. They offer less clutter for saltwater tanks, which needs lots of hoses and equipment. And access to the equipment is easier.

Live Rock 

Live rock is a great way to filter your tank! But a tank housing fish will need a filtration system to go along with it.


Lighting for your reef tank should have low red and yellow quantities and high blue light quantities. Make sure that the lighting does not produce too much heat or UV light into your aquarium. 

Being Dedicated

The decision to become a coral reef tank owner entails dedication. It takes a lot of hard work to maintain the aquarium. And a lot of equipment and knowledge of coral reefs is involved.

But if you can follow this guide, you’ll have yourself an amazing reef aquarium setup!

To indulge more on nature-filled homes, check out our blog about indoor plants! And spruce up your aquarium’s surroundings by decorating the room with the perfect indoor plants!