In the third installment of this multipart series, Reef Tanks on a Budget (Part 3): Other Equipment, we will go over additional equipment for your reef tank.
Editor’s Note: If you haven’t already, please give Part 1 and Part 2 of this series a read first:
- Reef Tanks on a Budget (Part 1): The Tank and Stand
- Reef Tanks on a Budget (Part 2): Essential Equipment
While these are not an absolute necessity to own, many seasoned hobbyists would strongly recommend some of the products below because it will make maintaining a stable reef easier. We have rated each item on a priority level of high to low:
- High Priority: Strongly recommended as it will make caring for your tank a lot easier.
- Medium Priority: A good purchase, but not necessary.
- Low Priority: Nice to have, but not necessary if it doesn’t fit into your budget.
For any reef tank with hard corals, a dosing pump is one of the most useful purchases. Hard corals consume calcium and alkalinity to build their coral skeletons. As these corals grow, they consume more and more calcium and alkalinity. In the beginning, it is possible to add calcium, alkalinity, and other elements by hand. However, this will likely become tedious over time. If a dose is missed, it can impact the tank’s stability and coral health. Adding a dosing pump will automate this daily task.
Priority Level: High for tanks with hard corals; low for tanks with soft coral.
Budget Recommendation: Prices for dosing pumps vary greatly. Lower cost options generally provide basic functionality, while higher-cost options usually offer more features and integration.
A dosing container holds the liquid calcium, alkalinity, and other dosing elements. It also keeps track of the amounts used for each. Dosing containers generally include 3 sections and can take care of all or at least most of your dosing needs.
Priority Level: Medium, especially if you are also using a dosing pump.
Budget Recommendation: Simplicity Aquatics Dosing Container or similar.
An auto top-off is another handy piece of equipment. Water naturally evaporates from an aquarium and needs to be replaced to keep the salinity level consistent. Maintaining a stable salinity reduces stress on fish and coral. As the water evaporates in the aquarium, the salt remains behind, which increases the salinity. An auto top-off automatically replaces the evaporated amount of water. Without an auto top-off, you will need to mark the proper water level in the sump and top off by hand at least once per day.
Priority Level: Medium; it’s possible to survive without one; however, adding one will simplify daily maintenance.
Budget Recommendation: A simple float valve style auto top-off runs about $20. A reservoir to hold the freshwater is also needed.
Media reactors are for running carbon, GFO, bio-pellets, and other filter media. Filter media reduces nitrates and phosphates, clears the water of contaminants and helps improve water clarity as well.
Priority Level: High – if regularly running carbon, GFO, or other media as it significantly increases the effectiveness of the media compared to running the media in a filter sock.
Budget Recommendation: A quality media reactor and pump runs less than $100.
In reef tanks with large amounts of stony LPS and SPS corals, calcium reactors help maintain calcium and alkalinity. Most hobbyists with small to medium-sized tanks stick to two-part dosing. However, hobbyists with larger aquariums and large quantities and sizes of stony corals may have trouble keeping up with consumption from 2-part alone. A calcium reactor uses media commonly made from old coral skeletons. This media dissolves into calcium and alkalinity by lowering the ph inside the reactor.
Priority Level: Low, unless you have a large tank with high levels of calcium and alkalinity consumption.
Budget Recommendation: None. Calcium reactors are not cheap and also require a CO2 regulator and CO2 canister for operation. A ph controller is also strongly recommended.
A UV sterilizer has many benefits in an aquarium. It can clear and prevent algae, dinoflagellates, ick, as well as other parasites and bacterias. They also help improve water clarity. Many seasoned hobbyists swear by a UV sterilizer and consider it insurance for their fish and corals.
Priority Level: Medium.
Budget Recommendation: None. Buy a UV sterilizer sized adequately for your tank.
A controller on a reef tank is like having a second set of eyes to ensure all primary elements are within range, and all major equipment is working as specified. Most controllers can control and monitor pumps, lights, and heaters, monitor the levels of calcium, alkalinity, and ph and allow remote monitoring and control from a mobile device.
Priority Level: High – if you travel a lot; Medium – if you slack on water changes and testing; Low – if you are diligent about weekly water changes and testing.
Budget Recommendation: None. Controllers and all the accessories are not cheap.
If your budget allows some of these additional equipment purchases, it will lessen many of the regular maintenance tasks required when owning a reef tank and allow you more time to enjoy your reef. In our opinion, some of the equipment listed is worth the investment.
If you have any questions about equipment, contact us for more information about Simplicity’s products. Happy Reefing!