Setting Up On Budget
Reef aquariums open up a beautiful and exotic world right in your home. It's truly a feat that live coral from exotic locations can be thriving in a home. However, such a privilege is often pricy for some. It doesn't always have to be. With vast available knowledge, advanced technology and the strong online community of reef aquarists, reef aquariums can now be set up much cheaper compared to a decade prior.
One of the best
ways to find deals on equipment and livestock is through online communities.
There are many reefers who are getting out of the hobby or upgrading their aquariums.
If you happen to live in or near a major city there will likely be quite a few
hobbyists in your area. An excellent place to find out if there are any groups
in your area is ReefCentral.com. Here is an excellent link with many reef clubs
across the United States:
One question that is often asked is what the best tank size is. There is no answer to this but we always recommend a 20 gallon long. A 20 gallon is considered a nano tank but is large enough to prevent wild parameter swings that a 5 or 10 gallon tank would. A 20 gallon long is small and shallow enough to not require high power lighting. A 20 gallon should not require more than 250watt of lighting whereas a 100 gallon could easily use 500 watts. The amount of live rock and sand needed is also greatly reduced.
Seeding dry rock with live rock is another great way to save. Simply use 25% live rock with 75% dry rock to begin your cycle. This proportion could be adjusted of course depending on your patience level and budget. A great place to find dry rock is http://www.marcorocks.com/ for 99 cents per pound. The same method can be applied to live sand.
When setting up a tank there are many things to not skimp on. A refractometer is a very valuable piece of equipment which saves money and headache in the long run. Many reef aquariums have undiscovered problems for months only to find out that their salinity was way off the proper levels. A good quality heater is also important not only for the health of your animals but for your safety. A low quality heater that fails to turn off can mean complete destruction of your tank. It's a good idea to use two low powered heaters incase one fails to shut off. The failed heater won't be powerful enough to overheat the tank right away. A good RO/DI system is also crucial to the health of live corals and other animals and avoidance of nuisance algae. Tap water often contains nitrate, phosphate and other elements that are harmful to your aquarium. It is therefore important to reduce these elements down to near zero. Test kits are also crucial for new reef aquariums. It's better to not test than use a faulty test kit. We say this because inaccurate reading can cause a new hobbyist to begin dosing for stuff that they might not need. Forget using the paper strip tests as we have found them to be inaccurate. Salifert, Seachem and Elos brand kits are what we recommend.
These are very general guides that should help you get started. Keeping a reef aquarium is very rewarding but also a learning experience that takes time. If done right, a healthy aquarium can help recover the initial investment. Hobbyists are always looking for healthy aquacultured frags and selling off what you grow in your own aquarium is a great way to recover your expenses. It's how LA Reefs began.