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6. 55 Gallon Reef Tank
Reef tanks should be filled with live rock and the focus and excitement will be on the corals and invertebrates, not the fish. Smaller numbers of less aggressive fish that won’t feed on the corals are kept in these systems. Do not heavily load these systems with fish but make sure you have algae eaters - either fish or invertebrates. This solution lists the recommended supplies and equipment for setting up and maintaining the perfect 55-gallon reef tank.

Choose one from a local dealer where you'll buy fish. Since this is the vessel that keeps your your fish alive and your spouse from killing you for damaging the floors, be willing to pay a little more for a quality name brand such as All Glass Aquarium Inc., Oceanic or Innovative Plastics.

Hood/Lighted Hood
Only purchase an aquarium with a glass top. Plastic hoods are not acceptable for saltwater setups. Plastic hoods limit the ability to add extra lighting and do not prevent “saltwater creep” from causing a mess. Standard lighting fixtures are acceptable but opt for higher quality lamps such as the T-8 Reef Sun by Zoomed. These lamps are designed specifically for saltwater. If a heavy blue coloration or stronger lighting is desired, consider purchasing an Aquatic Life T5 HO Link Marine. These great fixtures are available in configurations bright enough to keep corals and they look great.

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Stand or Cabinet
Make sure the cabinet is properly constructed for handling up to 10lbs per gallon of water. If something other than an aquarium stand is used, it should be able to support the weight and hold the entire rim of the aquarium bottom level with no spaces between the rim and the support.

Filter Selection
This system requires advanced protein skimming and added circulation. Skimmers should be considered mandatory in these systems. There are two options for the “ultimate configuration” The first option leans more toward a “Berlin type” system and it incorporates the MR500 Trickle Filter and a skimmer. This system will work if the focus is on invertebrates and not a heavy fish load. In “Berlin” style systems the sump is used for housing larger skimmers, carbon etc. Some keepers even remove the bio media once the system is established. It is always best to have a quality built filter, like the Aquarium Life Support Systems units, that can be modified and used for any type of system in the future.

Because the tendency is to put too many fish in a reef, the second option, using the
P1000 Trickle Filter is preferred. This system can be used for either a Berlin configuration or as is with great results. Keep in mind that protein skimming is mandatory in reef systems.
Option 1
MR500 Trickle Filter, Package #2
This Aquarium Life Support Systems package includes:
MR500 Trickle Filter w/ 1/2" Locline Return
Micro Siphon Box
Surge 3500 Pump
22V Skimmer

Option 2
P1000 Trickle Filter, Package #2
This Aquarium Life Support Systems package includes:
P1000 Trickle Filter w/ 1/2" Locline Return
Mag 5 Pump
Micro Siphon Box
1/2" Combo 90
1/2" FiptxI
22V Protein Skimmer

For Drilled tanks with Overflows:
P1000 Trickle Filter, Package #3
This Aquarium Life Support Systems package includes:
P1000RR Trickle Filter w/ 3/4" tubing and no return
Mag 7 Pump
22V Protein Skimmer
1/2" Combo 90
3/4" Clamp for pump

View All MR500 Options View All P1000 Options View All Skimmer Options

Pumps for Additional Current
Added flow is always recommended in a reef setup. Use a SICCE Voyager, or consider the Wave Surfer Controller used with powerheads.

• Hydrometer
This important instrument is used to measure the salt concentration (salinity or specific gravity) of the aquarium water. A good economical and accurate choice is the CoraLife Hydrometer. Another quality hydrometer is the Ammonite Hydrometer.
  • Synthetic Sea Salt
Brightwell Neo Marine, 50# bag, because of its high quality and repeatable performance, is used for all EPA lab testing studies. Tests have shown this to be a superior aquarium salt. For other high quality salts available online, see SeaChem Reef Salt.

For saltwater enthusiasts with an interest in a more precise and sophisticated instrument to measure salinity, the Milwaukee Refractometer with automatic temperature compensation is a consideration.

• Grounding the tank
Grounding the tank prevents more sensitive species from getting Lateral Line Disease. The origins of this ailment are controversial. A Titanium Grounding Probe eliminates one of the suspected causative agents.

• Substrate
40lbs Choose a CaribSea product. Natural, calcium based substrates are best for saltwater aquariums.
• Fish Food
Nutrition is second only to filtration importance. Saltwater fish should be fed 80% frozen foods since these foods most closely match their natural diet.

• Water Conditioner
The water must be conditioned and prepped for aiding the slime coating of the fish. AquaLife Complete is an excellent dechlorinator and it detoxifies chloramines if they are present.
• Do not overfeed the fish. Feed fish only what they will eat in two to three minutes 1-2 times per day. Vary the diet. Different types of frozen foods from Ocean Nutrition and San Francisco Bay with VitaChem dripped on them combined with occasional feedings of OSI foods will ensure the health, longevity and color of your fish. It is important to try and duplicate the foods eaten in the wild.

• Starting Bacteria Culture
Use Activate Saltwater. Seeded biological media is sometimes available to speed up the cycling process. Super Porous Filter Media is an excellent media for this purpose.
• Algae Scrubber
Mag-Float 130 cleaning magnet for glass
Magical Cleaning Rod 22"
• Fish Net
Fish Catcher Net
• Thermometer
Hagen Thermometer, Floating

• Never underestimate the importance of water testing. Fish trapped in water with even small amounts of ammonia and nitrite can die within hours. Water test on a regular basis and be prepared to act quickly is something goes wrong. A Mini Master Test Kit Freshwater & Saltwater contains accurate testing supplies for pH, ammonia and nitrite.
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• Do a 25% water change monthly or a 10% water change twice a month. Remember to dechlorinate the water and adjust it to the same temperature as the aquarium water.

• Always add a high quality dechlorinator anytime tap water is added to the tank. AquaLife Complete is an excellent product that not only dechlorinates but adds important elements to maintain slime coat integrity and reduce stress. AquaLife Complete also detoxifies chloramines if they are present.

• Keep the aquarium between 76-78°F. The best fully submersible heater is the Hydor THEO UL Heater 150W.

• The pH should be 8.2 High quality salt such as Brightwell Neo Marine has added buffers and with proper water changes, pH should be stable. Aquavitro Salinity is sold only at our local store. For other high quality salts available online, see SeaChem Reef Salt or Marine Salt. However, if water changes are being done and pH is a problem, use Marine Buffer by SeaChem. Further information is available on water parameters in the Log Sheet section.

Further Reading:
9. Mixing Saltwater
11. Supplements & Additives
12. Understanding the Nitrogen Cycle

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