Reef aquarium chores and how to manage them

Reef aquariums demand a stable environment with optimum water quality at all times, but it’s important not to become a slave to your tank or take the enjoyment out of watching it. Divide chores into daily, weekly and monthly. Just 10 minutes a day and an hour a week will keep the tank looking tip-top, leaving lots of time to sit back and enjoy. 

Daily

Check fish health visually and do a headcount. Observe the corals. Are the coral polyps all out? Are the pumps on and the water moving? What’s the temperature? Check temperature quickly and easily with a digital thermometer.

Empty the skimmer cup, clean filter socks and top-up RO reservoir. Clean the glass with an algae magnet.

Weekly

Test water for KH, Calcium, Magnesium, Nitrate and Phosphate. If auto-dosing check there is fluid in the bottles and the dosing tubing isn’t blocked. Conduct a partial water change and vacuum the substrate as you do so. 

Check corals for growth. Are they expanding or putting down bases on the frag plugs? Are any corals stinging each other or fallen over? Feed coral foods and phytoplankton. Add Iodine and Amino acids. 

Monthly

Make frags using coral cutters, epoxy and superglue, and grow them on, on frag racks. Observe the tank’s algae. Is it getting better or worse? Do you need to add more algae eaters and Clean Up Crew? 

Change the phosphate remover and carbon. Wipe dust from lamps. Scrape limescale build-up and salt creep. Change filter socks for new and replace roll in Clarisea if needed. 

Are corals generally better or worse? If some aren’t doing well try target feeding them or moving them into different light and flow. 

Check for pests like Aiptasia, Bubble algae and Flatworms, and appoint appropriate predators as necessary. 

Six-monthly

Conduct an ICP test by post to check that you are dosing the right amount and other parameters are in check that you can’t detect with standard test kits, like Aluminium. Change the UV steriliser bulb and clean the quartz sleeve. Remove the protein skimmer, strip it down and clean it. Create a storm in the tank to lift detritus by putting all pumps on full power. 

Clean pump cages and descale with pump cleaner if necessary. If you’re not happy with your brand of salt, supplements or phosphate remover change one thing at a time and see if there’s an improvement. Add a new, more powerful pump if flow is being restricted by new coral growth. If a coral is being overgrown or overshadowed, consider adding an extra light. And if all is well, treat yourself to a new coral. 

Annually

Check your aquarium for scratches and your cabinet for rusty hinges and water damage. Is it time for a new aquarium? Have your fish outgrown the current one? Test the light output with a PAR meter and adjust the settings if necessary.

Coral sand dissolves over time so top up or even completely replace for a fresh, new look. Get some online inspiration from Instagram and decide what you want from your tank over the next twelve months. Do you want more colour or fewer soft corals and more hard corals? Does the tank need a re-scape with more open areas and more room for fish and corals?     

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Jeremy Gay is an author and freelance aquatic specialist. A former editor of Practical Fishkeeping magazine, he offers a wealth of experience on all things aquarium and pond.


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