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Reef tank hobbyists should understand the water parameters that will foster a healthy reef environment in their aquarium. Keeping your coral, fish, and invertebrates happy and healthy is the ultimate goal. Reef chemistry may seem like a complicated affair, but keeping a few parameters in mind can simplify your task. Here’s a list of the most important water parameters to consider, brought to you by the staff at Aquatic Warehouse, a trusted provider of fish tank supplies.
Ideal reef tank alkalinity is 8-10 dkh, but most successful reef enthusiasts keep their ALK between 8 and 9. While that’s a broad range, your goal should be maintaining a consistent level. If the alkalinity level needs to be adjusted, do it very slowly to avoid shocking any of the life in your aquarium.
The optimum level of ammonia is zero. Fish urine and rotting food waste will create unhealthy levels of ammonia. Unlike a fish tank, a reef tank should have no canister or side-mount biological filter. The biological filtration is the live rock surface area or a bio-block type substance kept in a sump. If you have levels of ammonia in your tank, it could mean your system is too new or your biological surface mass is too small.
Nitrite is a byproduct of your bacterial filter. In the filter, bacteria convert ammonia into nitrite. The nitrite is then further converted into nitrate, which is safer than either nitrite or ammonia.
In a well-cycled aquarium, a small amount of nitrate shows your biological filter is functioning. Nitrate levels of less than 10 ppm can be tolerated by most saltwater fish and many types of soft coral, but a level of as close to zero is ideal. To keep the nitrate levels low, purchase a good protein skimmer.
One of the most important parameters for a healthy reef tank is calcium. Corals use calcium to build their skeletal structure and shells. It’s good to aim for a calcium level of approximately 400-425 ppm for the health of your coral.
Magnesium is an often forgotten yet important element for stone corals of all types. At Aquatic Warehouse, we like to maintain the magnesium levels at close to 1200 ppm. We recommend a Salifert test kit for this:
The pH scale determines the acidity of your water. Keeping your reef tank pH levels stable and alkaline is very important. The optimum pH level for a healthy reef tank is around 8.1 to 8.4. This is one level that can rise and fall throughout the day and night because high-output lighting will raise the pH and lights being off will lower it. pH values are more of a concern in the winter in cold-climate homes where the house is tightly closed up and the CO2 from humans and pets builds up and drops the pH. However, this isn’t a concern for the rest of the population.
In a home reef aquarium, high phosphate levels can encourage the growth of algae. For this reason, strive to maintain phosphate levels to less than 0.1 ppm. For specialty corals like small polyp stony corals, the goal is to keep the phosphate at extremely low levels of .02.
The ideal salinity for a home reef aquarium should be a specific gravity of 1.025. This is the easiest way to imitate the salinity of a natural coral reef and keep your tank life healthy. Instead of a cheap plastic hydrometer, we recommend a refractometer for the most accurate testing:
Natural coral reefs maintain a temperature of around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s best to keep your reef tank temperature at around 76 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit, as this temperature slows the growth of algae, and it’s easier to control potential problems that can arise with reef tanks. Strive to keep the temperature consistent. Coral is especially sensitive to temperature change and won’t develop in lower temperatures, and your other aquarium creatures won’t thrive in fluctuating temperatures. You’ll need an aquarium heater. However, if you live in a very hot climate, you may also need to install an aquarium chiller:
Whether you need an aquarium temperature controller or a filtration system for your reef tank, Aquatic Warehouse has everything you need to maintain a healthy aquarium environment. Take a look at our website, stop by our store in Kearny Mesa, or give us a call at 858-467-9297 today.