Travis Shears

getting started with reefing

30.01.2021 -- #

One day last year I discovered my partner and I share an interest in aquariums. 👌🐠. Ever since then I wanted to get back into the hobby. Now that we have settle into our new apartment and have plenty of free time I decided to start. With these corona lockdowns I hoped a tank would bring not just something beautiful into our home but an activity to share. As I remember with my freshwater aquariums, the most important thing is research, research, research.

Starting off with the basics of marine aquariums I looked into what water parameters are important to monitor and adjust for. Then moved to more advanced topics like animal aggression dispersion and how order of which fish are introduced to a tank can affect behaviour. The hobby touches biology, chemistry, water flow physics, electronics and basic circuitry, animal husbandry, lighting, and more. The sheer depth is the main draw for me. How cool is it that someday one can keep rare non-photosynthetic corals at home! During this research I’ve taken extensive notes via Notion. In the future I’d like share them on this site as a wiki. For now I’ll share the resources I use the most and a walk though the planning process including the day the tank arrived.

There is a good amount content online related to reef keeping. Bulk Reef Supply has been on my radar since from my freshwater days. They are an e-commerce retailer that makes informative and well produced aquarium educational content. As I’m not in the US I can’t vouch for their products or quality of service but their videos are amazing. In particular their 5-min reef guide series and 52 weeks of reefing series. Beside that I enjoy Dutch reefer’s Reefing 101 series, his calm delivery and beautiful tanks keep me coming back. Red Sea puts out a video series on their Red Sea care program which I found informative and is the main reason I plan to use their system. Other than videos there are ton of forms out there on reefing, ReefToReef being one of the largest. Community experience is useful for those questions that don’t have a clear answer like “how big of a tank should I get?”.

Everything I read said the more water volume the better, only limited by space and wallet. Reef tanks have more going on chemically than freshwater tanks making stability more important. A large water volume dilutes mistakes and mis-measurements. In order to see what would fit I built a series of cardboard cutouts.

near door proposal

near door proposal

between couch and dinning table proposal

between couch and dinning table proposal

The max size ended up being a 1m x 50cm footprint. It needed to be rimless and modern to fit with the rest of the apartment. With these requirements in mind I went to a local fish store, Aquaristik Center Ost, to get advice. At first I considered a custom tank built by them as the owner was persistent. They built nice setups particullarly their stands out of extruded metal that allow for a large sump. Unfortunately, I was unable to come to the understanding with the store owner that I’m interested in reefing as a hobby and not buying a 5000 euro all-in-one supported setup. At this time he tried to sell us on the sangokai method, a method similar to triton or ati but only known here in Germany despite the Asian name 🙄. I knew this was not for me and I had to find other options.

Red Sea Reefer XL300

Red Sea Reefer XL300

Red Sea to the rescue. Red Sea is an international suppler of all things reefing: tanks, supplements, lights, and more. They have well documented English descriptions on all their products and are aimed at Hobbyist. Thats me! Their reefer series of tanks combine a nice rimless tank, stand, and sump at a price point way below a custom tank. What sold me on reefers was all the small design choices:

  • removable overflow weirs, making cleaning easy
  • small gravity fed auto top off system, perfect to get started with
  • split return nozzle allowing for a strong return pump and good flow
  • well planned plumbing with membrane valve to easily control overflow noise
  • well planned sump with removable walls allowing for customisable layout for refugium / protein skimmer placement

With Black Friday bringing down the prices down even further the choice was easy. We went with the Red Sea Reefer XL300 which is 90cm x 50cm x 53cm and 300L total.

packed tank and stand on pallet

packed tank and stand on pallet

unboxing

unboxing

assembling the stand

assembling the stand

After a slowdown a covid related slowdown at the French German border the tank arrived. It was packaged well and assembly was straight forward. The stand is made of plywood with heavy duty plastic doors. At first I had my doubts about the wood’s strength, but it is surprisingly strong and stable. There are rubber screw caps waterproofing the inside and many small adjustable feet to make levelling easy. Everything fit just right and in five hours I had a dry tank stood up.

testing return pump

For the return pump I selected the TUNZE Silence 1073.060. With a head height of approx 1.7m factoring in the turns in the plumbing it provides approx 2,500L per hour flow through the sump. That is 8.3x the tank volume per hour which is right between the 7x - 10x recommendations I read.

washing uncycled dry rock

washing uncycled dry rock

The aquascape, which I’ll write about in a separate post, was complete ahead of time and partially cycled in my saltwater barrel. The parts that did not fit in the barrel I washed with RODI water before placing them in the tank.

filling sump

filling sump

Then came time to fill the system. Getting 300L of saltwater was tricky. I had approx 150L of saltwater in my barrel with partially cycled rock meaning I could not use the barrel for mixing. What I ended up doing was mixing salt right in the tank, getting it heated up properly overnight and putting in the rocks the next day.

filling tank

filling tank

First rocks then sand. This makes sure the larger rocks are solely supported by the glass and their weight is evenly distributed. Sand was added via lowering a cup to the bottom and shaking it out then smoothing things out with a credit card. Carful as I was by the end everything was cloudy.

fish bits for cyceling

after a few days

after a few days

It took a few days for the water to clear. When it did the result was beautiful. A good looking tank, well on it’s way to being cycled. Now I’m planning with glee all the creatures that will go into this tank.

\- [ reeftank ]