The Reef Tank banner
1 - 20 of 71 Posts

Fuzzy Stick Crazy
7,319 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The Reefkeepers Rulebook - Must Read!


I had this idea today that there is no one consolidated place for a new reefer to find good advice on what rules to abide by when starting a reef tank. Alot of newbies make the same rookie mistakes over and over again and I want to start a thread listing all the rookie mistakes you made when you stated out. Then we will make a list of rules for newcomers to follow so they dont get frustrated/overwhelmed and quit.

General Rules
  1. Build your tank around your livestock, not your livestock around your tank. Plan on what you want to keep before you buy.
  2. Research everything before you buy it. Especially livestock.
  3. Be patient, nothing ever happens fast in a reef aquarium
  4. Reefkeeping is more of a science than a hobby. If you don’t like science, you will struggle with the more complicated aspects.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you don’t know how to do something DON'T play trial and error. Seek detailed advice.
  6. If you have a problem, find and treat the root cause. Never the symptom.
Equipment/Maintenance/Setup Rules
  1. Don’t dose anything you dont test for
  2. Keep a log of all your aquarium parameters and maintenance. Document with pictures.
  3. Always use Drip loops and a grounding probe
  4. Wet/Dry and HOB filters are better suited for fish only tanks.
  5. If you spend more $ now, you will save yourself even more down the road. (aka dont buy crappy equipment)
  6. Water Changes are essential for removing unwanted nutrients and adding trace elements.
  7. Always use RO/DI water to prevent unwanted nutrients and minerals from entering your system
  8. Know what it takes to maintain a healthy sandbed, SSB or DSB.
  9. Buy a skimmer designed for a tank twice the size.
  10. The more complicated your equipment is, the more time it takes to clean and maintain it.
  11. The more complicated your system is, the more likely it is for something to go wrong.
  12. Don't skimp on a heater, one day it might get stuck in the on position and cook everything.
  13. Level your tank BEFORE you add water.
  14. Once water is removed from your tank. Don't put it back in. Replace with fresh ASW.
  15. Some useful tools for maintenance
    1. Single sided razorblades. Great for scraping algae off GLASS tanks walls. Not acrylic. Also good for cutting hair algae off LR
    2. Toothbrush. gentle and stong enough to clean algae off stony corals and LR. Be careful scrubbing fleshy areas of corals
    3. Tukey baster. Good for blowing detritus off your LR into the water column
    4. Some stainless steel/ plastic tweezers. good for picking tufts of hair algae as well as placing small coral frags.
    5. Gravel Vaccum. Great for cleaning your sand bed and sucking up any alage you scrape off the walls
    6. Magnetic algae scraper. Good to cleaning off glass/acrylic without getting your hands wet.
Livestock/Care Rules

  1. Understocking is better than overstocking
  2. When researching livestock, focus on compatibility (with other livestock and tank size), bioload, and feeding regimen.
  3. Give your livestock a variety of foods for better health
  4. A good lighting system is essential to healthy corals. This includes a good lighting schedule (timers are important)
  5. When buying live rock, cure it before it enters your tank. This prevents nuisance algae and hitchikers.
  6. Before you buy livestock, take a detailed look at it before it is bagged up. That way you can have a baseline for what healthy looks like
  7. Don't buy any livestock that your LFS just received. It’s too much risk. Let them sort out the issues. Special orders excluded.
  8. Quarantine your livestock to prevent disease in your display tank.
  9. When placing corals, think about the direction your water flow is coming from, not just how strong it is.
  10. Overfeeding is worse than underfeeding. Only feed what your livestock can eat in under 5 minutes.
  11. The uglies (algae blooms) are a natural part of initial tank startup. Do not panic and try to remove it all at once.
  12. The best way to combat hair algae is manual removal.
  13. Recommended water parameters:
    1. Ammonia, Nitrite should NEVER read above 0ppm with livestock in the tank.
    2. Nitrate and phosphate should be at 0ppm or as low as possible
    3. Calcium should be no higher than 480ppm and no lower than 380
    4. Alkalinity/Hardness should be between 8-11dKH with no sudden changes
    5. Magnesium should be around 1250-1350ppm
    6. pH should be between 8.0 and 8.4 and kept as stable as possible
    7. Salinity/Specific gravity should be around 1.025 +/- .001 and kept stable
    8. All other trace elements like iodine and strontium should be replenished with water changes.
this is a work in progress that I hope will take off. Try to keep your rules/rookie mistakes consise. I dont want a detailed analysis on the nitrogen cycle for example.

I'll keep updating this post periodically with the whole list.

111 Posts
Don't be afraid to ask why things are happing, then ask again, and then ask some more
also don’t start blindly, read a couple of how to books to start so you don't get overwhelmed all at once when you set it up all wrong and have to restart

Little Monster
838 Posts
I'm a huge beginner and I think 1. is the one I always miss. As long as it looks good, i'll buy it... Better start changing :)

506 Posts
QT your livestock and dip your corals.

Premium Member
7,375 Posts
I want to start a thread listing all the rookie mistakes you made when you stated out.
You have a great idea here, but if I listed all my rookie mistakes, this would be the longest thread in TRT history.:lol:

I think #7 can go up for debate.
This is a little off topic, but what is the benefit to having a wet/dry in a reef tank? Maybe we should start another thread on this subject so we don't hijack this one??????????

The Dude
468 Posts
My only rule I think people should follow is research and more researching... Find what you want and figure what you will need then start and go slow. My only tank I have now is pretty bland because its been up for only a year so far. couple of frags and fish. I try to go really slow. The hardest part of reef tank keeping is patience. I go to the LFS at least once a week and still I don't buy till im ready

little crazy
1,358 Posts
Yeah but it's also how you how you use it. Conventional use of wet dry isn't ideal for a reef tank. And I agree LR and flow are all that are needed other than WC's and detritus removal.

270 Posts
As a newbie, I'm trying to take my time and research as much as I can....but there's SO MUCH to absorb! I would ** love ** to see something like a consolidated list to help folks like me who want to do the right things and set a good example by setting up a healthy, vibrant, successful tank.
1 - 20 of 71 Posts