Nothing Good Happens Fast in a Reef Tank

Perhaps you have heard the saying that nothing good happens fast in a reef tank. It is so true. Patience is a key ingredient for success in this hobby, on a number of fronts.

Avoid Instant Gratification

Let’s start by talking about instant gratification. A “new” reef tank can look very sparse with a lot of open space. You scope out a beautiful mature reef and you want to get to the same happy place with your tank sooner rather than later. Big mistake. Instant gratification can be a killer in this hobby so the best tactic is to practice patience and take things slow.

ghl mitras

When you start a reef you begin the cycling process by adding rock and, in some cases, sand and bottled bacteria. You then add some fish to help grow the biological bed. Fish loses can occur if you add too many too soon so it is really important to go slow on this front. The new biological bed will struggle to process all of the fish waste, increasing the chances of fish dying due to ammonia or nitrate poisoning.

Respect Learning Curves

What about adding corals? When is it safe to do so and how many can you add in the beginning? Some feel it is ok to add a decent amount of coral early on but I advocate taking it slow. Why? Well, I like to take time to get a feel for a new system. What does that mean? Let me explain with some analogies. I like to bike and a number of years ago I picked up a new bike and it took time to get comfortable with it. The new bike was better but it was different. I had the same experience recently with a new pair of skis. You get the most out of new equipment when you have time to learn the nuances of that equipment.

Learning curves also exist for reef keeping equipment. For instance, skimmer performance can be dependent on a number of variables. What is the optimal water level in the sump for a skimmer? How high up the skimmer neck should the bubble/water line be? Manuals make recommendations but every skimmer is different and requires time to master.

Bubble King Supermarin 160 with Red Dragon X DC 24V

With my new peninsula tank build a design flaw wiped out nearly half of my fish population. My peristaltic dosing pumps were setup about five feet off the ground with the dosing containers right below the pumps. This was a HUGE mistake. The containers should have been on the floor or just above the sump to avoid any back-siphoning. Sure enough, 1000 mls of ammonium nitrate back-siphoned into my sump while I was cleaning the dosing heads. The fish perished due to this sudden infusion of ammonium.

ghl doser pump maintenance

I have been keeping reef tanks for years and never thought this type of thing could occur. Lesson learned. Can you imagine if I had corals in the tank and had this type of overdose with a supplement that could impact corals? This is why I like to work out the kinks before rushing to fulfill a grand stocking plan.

Don’t Tinker

It is also important to be patient by not messing with the tank. Plant some frags and just leave them alone. SPS will take longer to encrust and color up if they are constantly touched and moved around the tank. Avoid resetting the clock by tinkering to achieve a better look. I don\’t touch corals unless they are exhibiting serious signs of stress. Quite simply, keep your hands out of the tank as much as possible.

jason fox homewrecker

What about a frag that is drab and dull after you put it in the tank? Pull it because it looks like a turd? No, give it time to develop and realize its potential. A healthy tank will bring out the best in corals. I have had many unsightly pieces turn into gems after being in my tank for many months.

Avoid the Quick Fix

Patience also helps when dealing with certain types of tank issues. For instance, problematic algae like cyanobacteria can be fought via chemicals or natural means. Using chemicals can eliminate the cyano quickly but there can be negative side effects. Chemiclean apparently contains erythromycin, which can kill many species of bacteria. The question is does it impact “good guy” bacteria that are part of the nitrogen cycle? Some reefers have had tank crashes after using chemicals to treat cyano.

A safer option is to go the natural route by increasing flow, siphoning out as much cyano as you can, performing regular water changes, using a good skimmer, not overfeeding the tank and employing a good clean up crew. Another key is to remove as much detritus as you can. Yes, this is a much longer process but it does address the issues fueling the cyano. Chemicals are only a band aid.

There are many more examples of how reef keepers can benefit by having patience. Shortcuts usually don\’t pan out too well. Reef keeping is a marathon, not a sprint.

Additional Resources

If you would like some help with a new tank build, including help designing a custom aquarium, or help re-configuring your current setup then you can visit this page for more information. And if you are looking to add some equipment, I do sell GHL, Pax Bellum, Reef Octopus Calcium and Kalk Reactors and Royal Exclusiv products, including Dreamboxes, which is the equipment I use and recommend. I also sell Reef Brite metal halide and LED fixtures as well as Maxspect & IceCap Gyres.

As for additional insights and information, please explore my many other reef tank and SPS related articles as well as my YouTube channel. For an even deeper dive into reef tank care you can check out my Reef Keeping Master Class. This online course is an immersive and one of a kind educational tool designed to help reef aquarium hobbyists build and maintain a beautiful SPS reef tank. The course is a series of video presentations with some supplemental video from my YouTube channel. There are also quizzes to help students retain and understand the information presented in the course.

Need some frags…..I can help with that as well 🙂 Please visit my SPS Frag store to see what is available.

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