The five biggest issues in reefkeeping – solved

Reefkeeping isn’t always as easy as ABC. The perfect reef tank involves work, dedication, the right equipment, patience, and money! Every tank has issues, but they can all be overcome with the right advice from the start.

Algae

Algae affects all ponds and aquariums but that hard, alkaline water, bright surfaces and really bright lighting mean that it affects reef tanks the most. The first thing to do is starve it by using an effective phosphate remover, either in liquid form or in a reactor. Do regular water changes, use strong water flow from wave-making pumps and lots of algae eaters like hermit crabs, snails, tangs and rabbitfish.  

Pests

The most common pests are all introduced via the bases of corals so use a coral dip every time you introduce a new one. Use a Copperband butterflyfish, Aiptasia eating filefish or Peppermint shrimp for Aiptasia, Emerald crabs for Bubble algae and Harlequin shrimp for Asterina starfish. Sixline wrasse and Psychedelic mandarins are best for flatworms. 

Disease

Diseases are common in marine fish as most are wild-caught and we can’t use powerful treatments (because of the corals,) in reef tanks to control them. The best thing to do is to quarantine new fish first in a separate tank, fit a UV sterilizer and Ozone to the main tank and avoid disease-prone fish like Powder Blue tangs, no matter how tempting. 

Compatibility

Fish compatibility can be really tricky to get right as although many species live together in the wild on the reef, many species are intolerant of corals or even their own kind in the home reef aquarium. Research all potential purchases and take advice from books as well as store staff. The first division is reef safe and non-reef safe fish. This often omits many popular species including most butterflyfish, large angelfish, pufferfish, triggerfish and lionfish.

Next is their tolerance of each other. Most tangs, angelfish, and damselfish aren’t tolerant of their own kind being so close, and even for Clownfish, although a pair is ok, three is definitely a crowd. 

Chemistry

The oceans have very stable water conditions and corals have adapted to those exact conditions over millions of years. In the reef aquarium the KH, Calcium, Magnesium, Nitrate and Phosphate should all be tested on a regular basis and managed so that they remain constant. Use accurate test kits, buffers and a refractometer to ensure perfect seawater every time, and the right environment for your corals to grow in.  

Posted by on

Jeremy Gay is an author, lifelong fishkeeper, and aquatic specialist. He's a former editor of Practical Fishkeeping Magazine, UK editor at Reefbuilders, a former aquatic store manager, and has collected fish in Sri Lanka and the Amazon. He's been on tv and radio, contributed to Koi Carp and Gardeners World magazines, been a product tester, a judge, and a product developer. Jeremy is here to guide and advise you on all things tropical, pond and marine, from set-up to stocking, health, feeding to breeding, as well as solving many common fishkeeping problems along the way.


Add your comment




* Required fields