Today on BRSTV we will show you one of the
easiest ways to get your first reef tank up and running. Hi I’m Ryan your host of BRSTV where each
week we cover a new topic related to reefing. This week we have a special episode for newer
reefers who want to learn the basics of reefing and get an affordable easy to maintain reef
tank up and running. Inside of seven minutes we are going to show you how easy it is to
set up and maintain a reef tank with less than an hour of set up and thirty minutes
of maintenance a couple times a month. I’m going to use this new tank kit which
includes a 20 gallon Nuvo tank from Innovative Marine but you could apply the information
in this video to basically any similar sized tank, especially those in the Nuvo lines which
are designed around making things easy for newer reefers and attractive at the same time. The kit includes a heater, sand, rock, salt
mix, fish food, glass cleaner and a bottle of bacteria to get the filtration started.
First step is to find a nice spot for the tank which is level and can hold a couple
hundred pounds like a countertop, sturdy cabinet or table. Keep in mind whatever you put it
on is likely to get wet occasionally. Try to place the tank in a spot where it won’t
get a lot of direct sunlight. Next add your rock. Try and stack it in a
way that keeps the rock a few inches from the sides and top as well as stable. Pour
in the sand and spread it around the base of the rock.
Mixing the salt water is easy. Rubbermaid Brute brand trash cans are the most common
reef safe containers used to mix saltwater in. Just add the salt to the water and look
through this tool called a refractometer to measure the salinity. The scale inside measures
salt in parts per thousand or specific gravity. More or less just dissolve the salt, add a
few drops of water to the window, close, wait 20 seconds or so and look through the eye
piece. It should read 35ppt or 1.026. Once you have the correct salinity use the included
dechlorinator to make the water safe for the tank.
While you are waiting for the salt to dissolve, take a moment to check all the tubing connections
on the pump and get familiar with the back of the tank. This area in the back is used
to house equipment like pumps, filters and heaters where they are out of the way.
Go ahead and mount the heater, make sure it is placed fairly low so it will stay submerged
at all times. Once you have everything situated pour your mixed saltwater and plug everything
in. Since we are dealing with water the ideal outlet has a GFI like one you would find in
a bathroom or kitchen or a power strip with a GFI built in.
At minimum make sure you arrange the cords in a way that will cause drips to fall off
safely rather than travel down the cord to the outlet which is called a drip loop. Pretty
much every electrical item in the tank will show a quick diagram on how they suggest doing
this properly. The tank shouldn’t leak but if it did this will help keep your home safe
Now that water is circulating we just set the heater to 78 degrees, replace, Install
our lights and the tank is set up. This literally takes less than an hour to do from start to
finish. All we need to do now is wait a few weeks for the beneficial bacteria to build
up and start filtering our tank which is called cycling the tank.
You probably noticed we don’t have an actual filter on the tank like you might expect.
That’s because the filtration is primarily done on the surface of the rock and sand where
beneficial bacteria populate and process the excess food and fish waste for you. Really
don’t have to do anything special to maintain this type of filtration, in fact there really
isn’t much you could do in a normal reef tank to prevent these bacteria from populating
and filtering your tank for you, really is that easy.
While the bacteria would populate on its own over time, new tank owners typically aren’t
that patient and there are a couple of things which are going to speed the process up in
your tank. First we used live sand which contains live dormant bacteria which will help cycle
the tank. Second we are going to use a product called
Biospira which helps cycle the tank quickly. After that you can go get your first fish.
The Biospira and live sand will provide the filtration needed to protect your fish but
it is always wise to select something pretty hardy like a clownfish as your first addition.
After that give your tank a month to stabilize with the lights off before adding anything
new. Keeping the lights off will help reduce algae growth common with new tanks. As a general
rule of thumb I find it is wise to never more than double your fish load in a single month
meaning next month add another fish and possibly two the month after.
Some of my favorite new reefer fish selections for a tank like this are standard clownfish,
purple or red fire fish, shrimp and goby pairs, lawn mower or Midas blennies or an orchid
dotty back. Once the tank is stabilized around your fish
population. You can add some interesting elements like snails, crabs and shrimp. Nassarius and
Astrea snails are popular as well as small hermits, emerald crabs, cleaner shrimp, peppermint
shrimp and pistol shrimp. After that some easy to keep corals as well.
The lights that come with the kit are strong enough to keep some low light corals, as a
beginner is also wise to select some that don’t require much effort like soft or even
some LPS corals. Zoanthids, mushrooms, ricordia, polyps, candy canes, duncans, torch and frog
spawn. Now that the tank is set up there are a couple
ongoing maintenance steps to keep the tank healthy. First is feeding the fish. These
little guys always look hungry but don’t let them fool you. Their bellies are tiny
so a few pellets each is a sizable amount of food.
Easy to keep fish like the ones I just mentioned only need to eat once a day at the most, many
people feed even less. This is a pretty critical point on a small tank like this. Keep in mind
that while the fish need to eat, food is the primary thing that pollutes the tank and promotes
algae growth. You will also need to top the tank off with
freshwater every couple days. Keep in mind that while water will evaporate the salt doesn’t
leave the tank so topping off the tank with new water to compensate for evaporation should
always be done with fresh water not saltwater. We recommend picking up a few jugs of reverse
osmosis or distilled water from your local grocery store for this purpose.
Less frequently, you will need to clean the glass; this Tunze Nano Magnet Cleaner is a
great for a tank this size. You will also need to change the water regularly in a small
system like this meaning every other week. Water changes are the primary method of removing
broken down food and other elements which can pollute the tank over time. Water changes
will also be a new reefers primary method of replacing elements consumed by the corals
in the tank. We want to make sure the water is the same
temperature as the tank and the salt is fully dissolved before we do the change. The kit
includes a small heater and pump for this. I find it easiest to take a minute or to do
this the night before I do my water change but it could be done a couple hours in advance
as well. For a tank this size I would probably do close
to five gallons. All you do is remove the water from the tank and then replace with
your heated, freshly mixed saltwater. There are a hundred ways to maintain a successful
reef tank but I can tell you something for absolute sure, if you are careful about the
amount of food you put in the tank and good about your water changes you are almost certainly
going to have a lot of success and enjoy the hobby.
This video was intentionally pretty high level and provides the elements you absolutely need
to know to be successful with your first reef tank. If you have a desire to set up larger
more advanced tanks and understand the science and equipment at a deeper level we have hundreds
of other reefing videos and don’t be afraid to ask us a question in the comments below
or even give us a call. If you haven’t already hit that subscribe
button because we release new reefing videos every week covering virtually all aspects
of reefing including helpful videos like this one, speaker events, trade shows with the
newest products in our industry, tank build series and even tank tours. See you next week
with another episode of BRSTV.