9 Quality 40 Gallon Aquarium & Tanks Reviewed and Compared


Aquariums come in all shapes and sizes so it may be difficult navigating the murky waters of the aquarium market to find a suitable tank for your next setup. 40 gallon aquariums offer a medium tank which is versatile and able to fit in quite confined areas.

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Perfecto Manufacturing APF97003 Aquarium Tank$$$More details!
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Aquatic Fundamentals 55 Gallon Upright Aquarium Stand $More details!
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Acrylic Rectangle Aquarium 55 Gallon Black$$$More details!
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Eshopps RS-75 Reef Sump - Up to 75 gallons $$More details!
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Common uses of 40 gallon tanks include breeding and small reef setups with plenty of kits available on the market for beginners which include many of the essential accessories an aquarist may need or even stands and custom hoods. With so many choices available for when you’re looking to purchase a new aquarium, below is a brief overview and review for nine popular, common 40 gallon aquariums listed on MyAquarium so that you can make an informed, knowledgeable decision on your next tank.

  1. SeaClear 40 Gallon Acrylic Aquarium

SeaClear 40 Gallon Acrylic AquariumThe SeaClear 40 gallon aquarium is a great new offering by SeaClear that is reasonable value for money. The 36″ wide x 15″ long x 16″ high tank is composed of acrylic material in a rectangular shape providing strength and support which cannot be shattered or chipped unlike glass counterparts.

The tank is built with a wide variety of uses in mind suitable for reef, marine, salt and freshwater setups. Sea Clear products are known for their exceptional quality which is the main focal point of this particular fish tank over other similar tanks. However, the pricing of this tank is a little higher than other competing tanks such that one would need to decide whether their budget would permit a slightly more expensive spend for the extra quality on offer.

Overall though, MyAquarium believes that the price to quality ratio and included hood does match up making this quite a good choice although the lack of accessories which one might find in a starter pack do make this less appealing to the beginner aquarist. The product also comes with a limited lifetime warranty epitomising just how seriously SeaClear view the quality of their products. This particular acrylic tank is also more suitable for a warmer ecosystem since acrylic has much higher heat retention than glass although some aquatic enthusiasts believe it discolors.

However, MyAquarium’s extensive testing along with consumer comments shows that the SeaClear product in particular does not discolor even after long term use quite possibly due to the quality raw materials SeaClear uses to produce their tanks. Overall, the SeaClear 40 gallon tank is a good medium sized tank, one of the better acrylic offerings and excellent for existing aquarists who are just looking for a new, good quality tank without any accessories or extras. Find the latest price and check availability here on Amazon, else find more details on the SeaClear 40 Gallon Acrylic Aquarium here.


  1. Aqueon 40 Gallon Breeder Tank

Aqueon 40 Gal Breeder TankAqueon also provide a high quality 40 gallon fish tank offering providing a medium sized glass tank for aquarium owners. It is technically classed as a breeder rectangular tank with 36″ wide x 15″ long x 16″ high dimensions. All the glass panes aren’t tempered and are ¼ inch thick making them suitable for drilling the mount lighting or filtration. Aqueon utilise a black one piece centre braced frame to prevent glass bowing.

The tank is extremely versatile providing a great setup for reef, marine or freshwater environments or even as a dry tank for reptiles. It doesn’t however come with a hood or any accessories such as nets, filters and lighting which would need to be purchased separately. As a result, a beginner may be more interested in a packaged tank with extras bundled in.Yet for a standard, high quality medium sized glass tank the Aqueon 40 gallon fish tank is extremely good value for money and would overall be great for beginners or pro aquarists alike. Check the latest price and availability at Amazon here or find further detail on MyAquarium here.


  1. Top Fin 40 Gallon Hooded Aquarium

TopFin 40 Gallon BreederConversely, the Top Fin 40 Hooded Aquarium is another competing 40 gallon glass tank offering for use on a table with its light weight and compact setup featuring dimensions of 36″ Wide x 18″ Long x 16″ High. The tank has a sleek black frame providing extensive structural support giving it a sturdy feel and includes centre bracing to prevent glass bowing. Like the Aqueon tank and all the other glass tanks reviewed in this MyAquarium article it is extremely versatile with the Top Fin 40 being suitable for freshwater, saltwater and reptilian use. It is a standard rectangular shape with similar dimensions to other 40 gallon tanks and the glass is of high quality. However, with all glass tanks there is a risk of cracking over time thus acrylic tanks are generally more durable yet have their own downfalls as well.

The Top Fin 40 gallon fish tank is quite good value with a reasonable price point for beginners or professionals looking for a new tank. It does come with a black trimmed hood as standard with a fitting for a fluorescent light sold separately. Other accessories such as filters and nets also need to be purchased separately which detract slightly from the value add although this would mainly affect new aquarists.

Overall, even if one was to purchase all the required accessories separately, total outlay would still be less than some of the more overpriced tanks on the market. In order for use with reptiles the fluorescent light fitting could still be used simply by placing a UV light in the fitting instead making it convenient for use in both niches. The Top Fin 40 is a sturdy, well built glass tank which won’t disappoint anyone looking for a good aquarium deal. For more detail on this Top Fin aquarium read our review here .

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Perfecto Manufacturing APF97003 Aquarium Tank$$$More details!
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Eshopps RS-75 Reef Sump - Up to 75 gallons $$More details!
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Double Aquarium Stands 75 gallon $$More details!
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  1. Clear-for-Life 40 Gallon Uniquarium Fish Tank

Clear-For-Life 40 Gal Uniquarium Filtration SystemClear For Life also produce a 40 gallon Uniquarium made of acrylic with built in 3in1 filtration system. Unlike glass, acrylic doesn’t crack or chip providing a stronger more structurally sound aquarium that will handle almost anything you can throw at it. However, some aquarists say that acrylic discolors over time which may be something to consider however this can be minimised by regular cleaning. The tank is a standard size for 40 gallons with dimensions of 36″ Wide x 15″ Length x 16″ High. The medium size tank is suitable for a wide variety of uses including salt and fresh water.

This particular model is one of Clear for Life’s premium products and includes filtration system making it reef ready or good a freshwater plant setup. The Clear For Life group are known for their exceptional, high quality products and the 40 gallon Uniquarium is no exception backed by a limited lifetime warranty. This particular tank doesn’t include lighting, a hood or other accessories but the quality tank and filtration system provide excellent value for money and any extras can be purchased for quite a reasonable price separately. This makes it a great tank for experienced owners and beginners due to the high quality nature of the product and the minimal maintenance required to run this tank smoothly.


  1. SeaClear 40 Gallon Junior Executive Aquarium Kit

SeaClear 40 Gallon Junior Executive TankSimilarly, SeaClear also produce a similar sized 40 gallon tank called the Junior Executive Aquarium. This is another high quality, premium rectangular acrylic tank similar to the Uniaquarium with a similar excellent value for money proposition. The tank is standard, rectangular with the dimensions 36″ Wide x 15″ Long x 16″ High making it suitable for even fairly small spaces as far as aquariums go. It is extremely versatile and suitable for reef, marine and freshwater setups and is a much loved favourite of aquarium owners.

SeaClear also include many extras with this package including a hood, fluorescent lighting, power filter, plastic plants, net, fish food and water conditioner making this the perfect beginners package. As a result, this tank is amazingly good value for money and provides everything you need to get started. Experienced aquarium owners who may have some if not all of these extra goodies already should still consider this option to the high quality nature of the tank and great price. This means that even with the inclusions it could still be more cost effective than purchasing a tank on its own and having a few extra plants or nets to manage your tanks is always handy.

Therefore, the SeaClear 40 gallon acrylic aquarium junior excutive kit is a great, quality product which provides a more rounded package than what Uniaquarium and Sea Clear has to offer. Its reputation among aquarists and impeccable history built on quality makes the Medium Executive Aquarium a great investment for anyone looking at a new tank. If you’d like further detail on the aquarium read our complete specification and review here or to check availability from Amazon and purchase click here.


  1. Grreat Choice 40 Gallon Glass Breeder Aquarium

Grreat Choice 40 Gallon AquariumConversely, there are also many glass offerings in the 40 gallon tank space. We have already examined Sea Clear and Aqueon’s offerings yet there are also other glass options in the medium sized tank market which may be worth considering. The Grreat Choice 40 gallon glass tank is a fairly standard rectangular glass aquarium with 36.3″ Wide x 18.2″ Long x 16.8″ High dimensions. It is technically classified as a large breeder tank but can be used for almost any purpose. It comes with a stylish black trim and tempered bottom ideal for those who wish to start a saltwater aquarium or nano reef.

It is a simple, stylish, structurally sound tank, great for beginners to saltwater setups. It doesn’t include any extras like a hood, filter or net and these would need to be purchased separately however for a simple, tank it is cost effective and comes with a limited lifetime warranty for extra assurance. The Grreat Choice 40 gallon tank is ideal for someone on a budget or who is expanding a more professional setup and already has many of the accessories required to run and maintain such a tank. Check availability, or find out more information about the Grreat Choice 40 Gallon tank here.


  1. Aqueon / All Glass 10037 37 Gallon Aquarium

All Glass Aqueon 10037 37 Gallon AquariumAqueon also offers another medium sized tank in this range, the 37 gallon All Glass / Aqueon 10037 rectangular aquarium. This is slightly smaller in capacity than 40 gallon offerings but still fits the size category and is another alternative option for those looking for approximately 40 gallon sized tanks. It is made of glass, with the slightly different dimensions of 30.3″ Wide x 12.5″ Long x 22.8″ High and is extremely versatile for marine, freshwater or reptilian use.

The simple Aqueon 37 Gallon fish tank design comes with a modern black or oak trim creating an extremely sturdy product although with any glass tank the potential of cracking and chipping remains. The frames are once piece with central bracing to prevent cracking and bowing, providing and overall lifespan increase however a lifetime warranty is not included. The tank is extremely reasonably priced, providing great value for those on a budget or just looking for a cheap tank to quickly increase the capacity of an existing setup. No accessories are included in with this aquarium either including hood making it less attractive to beginners however these can be purchased separately at minor expense.

Overall MyAquarium believes is a great budget tank with a wide variety of uses that would suit any aquatic fanatic however there are also many other good options in a competitive marketplace. Check availability and purchase from Amazon or read our indepth review of the All Glass 10037 Aquarium here.


  1. Marineland 37 Gallon LED Hood Aquarium & Stand Ensemble

Marineland 37 Gallon Aquarium EnsembleMarineland produce a nice 37 gallon glass fish tank sold with a stand that is compact and great value for money. It is a standard rectangle with 30.3″ Wide x 12.5″ Long x 22.8″ High dimensions with sleek black quality trim centre braced to prevent glass breaking and increase structural strength. The tank is packaged with a LED light hood as standard and a two shelf stand providing a modern ensemble and a convenient location to display your new tank. The tank is extremely versatile, suitable for freshwater and marine species and the inclusions make it great for the aquatic enthusiast or beginner alike. The slightly smaller capacity of the tank may make it easier to clean than larger 40 gallon alternatives and being glass it will not discolor as much as acrylic allowing for better viewing.

Marineland are renowned for their high quality products and this 37 gallon fish tank & stand is no exception backed by a 1 year warranty although some acrylic and even glass tanks such as the Great Choice 40 gallon aquarium offer a lifetime warranty. This is a very good tank though that is great value for money and comes with a nice set of inclusions. MyAquarium recommends this to be perfect for the beginner or home aquarium owner due to the value on offer, beginner friendly nature and included stand which would suit the home or office. For further details, specification and our review read our guide here .


  1. Marineland 38 Gallon Aquarium Starter Kit

Marineland 38 Gallon Bow Front Fish Tank KitFinally, Marineland also produce a 38 gallon glass bow front tank slightly larger than the 37 offering fitting nicely between a 37 and 40 gallon tank. Being slightly smaller it may be a little easier to clean than 40 gallon alternatives and has the fairly compact dimensions of 32.2″ Wide x 17.12″ Long x 25.7″ High. Marineland is known for producing high quality aquariums and the 38 gallon starter kit continues this trend.

The tank has a curved glass bow front making for a spectacular viewing experience and perfect for the home or office and suitable for fairly small spaces. A sturdy, black frame encapsulates the structure which provides a simplistic, modern touch. This package is excellent for beginners containing many extras found in similar starter packages such as the SeaClear Executive Aquarium. Included are a net, day and night lighting, hood, 200w heater, penguin filter and filter cartridge providing everything you need to get started at one low price providing good value in a simple, comprehensive package.

This innovative package by Marineland is one of the more all inclusive glass tank packages all for a very reasonable price. This would be a great investment for the beginner or casual aquarist for use in the home or office to make for the spectacular viewing for small marine or freshwater setups. This makes it a good, reliable choice which provides value for money in the medium sized class of glass fish tanks.


Aquariums come in all shapes and sizes with different price points, inclusions and uses. Above are just some of the medium sized fish tanks available and the advantages and disadvantages which come with each piece. Every fish tank is different, from breeding tanks to reef aquariums and small household tanks which maximise the viewing experience. Choosing a 40 gallon aquarium can be difficult however with the information at MyAquarium we hope to make that process just a little easier with our vast knowledge across a wide variety of tanks and setups. If you are looking for larger aquariums, need a setup guide or extra information on maintaining and running an aquarium, look through MyAquarium.net for more helpful content.

If you are in the market for larger 55 and 75 gallon tanks, we have similar guides at MyAquarium.net which can be found at the links below:


Marine Fish & Coral Reef Tank FAQ’s


Getting Started

Just What Is A Reef Tank?

Basically, a reef tank is a mini ecosystem that is enclosed, and looks just like a micro tropical reef.  Each of the life forms inside correspond to one another just as they would in the wild.  It gets technical but each creature, whether fish on down to microorganisms, complete a series of cycles that accommodate each other.  Fish, shrimp, bacteria found in the food and rocks, the lighting system, oxygenation systems, the reef that aids for filtration and shelter, all correspond in an equilibrium like one would find in a real reef.

How Big A Tank Should I Purchase?

To answer this requires realizing that the bigger the container, the less impact errors will have on the ecosystem itself.  Only one mistake could upset the entire apple cart with a small tank, so it’s good to consider a larger one just to be on the safe side. You need room for the life forms, support materials like reef and coral, equipment for oxygenation, and of course for display.  The creatures need that room to move about and not get bored and not bump into one another.  The method most recommended in regard to this is the “Berlin Method”.  This process entails a protein skimming, lots of strong lighting and rock.  However, freshwater filtration and biological filtration like trickle filters and canister filters.  In addition, HOB or Hang On Back filters should not be used in the marine aquarium. The reason being is because they can clog up with materials and send dangerous nitrates back into the ecosystem which can harm the life forms in the environment.

How Much Maintenance Is Required?

Maintaining this type of aquarium calls for adapting to size and volume. Primarily, changing the water is the biggest issue.  Ignoring this can lead to disaster.  You should test your water often, and this cannot be understated.  If you’ve got a large amount of creatures in your aquarium, you’ll have to change the water more often than the recommended 4 weeks.  Two weeks is the best bet here.  At least 20% of the water every 2 weeks should do it.  In addition there is checking all equipment, making sure nothing is dirty, clogged, tangled up.  Keep the outside glass clean without debris on it, and check for any vermin that might have been curious enough to get caught in something, like ants and such.

The Kind Of Test Kits You’ll Need

Testing the water parameters of your tank regularly will be the difference between success or failure of your reef aquarium.  Below is a list of recommended test kits for the specific functions, as well as to the time schedule you’ll need to follow.  It’s adaptable, so it’s not written in stone, but a good foundation guideline to follow.

  • Alkalinity (Check 2/4 weeks)
  • Ammonia (Check during cycling)
  • Calcium (Check 2/4 weeks)
  • Magnesium (Check 2/4 weeks)
  • Nitrite (Check during cycling)
  • Nitrate (Check during cycling)
  • Phosphate (Check every 1/2 months or when algae issues occur)
  • pH (Check every 4 weeks or after a large water change)
  • Salinity(Check every 4 weeks or after a large water change)

These test kits are the standard and should be used.  Check the expiration dates of each of these.  Of additional note, some or actually the majority of phosphate kits aren’t efficient enough to detect the levels you need for a precise reading.

How Much Does A Reef Aquarium Cost?

Depending on the size of the aquarium, the equipment needed, the type of fish, and other life forms, the cost of a reef aquarium varies to a good degree.  The average run of the mill size tank is not going to be cheap.  You will find that some aquariums can range for a few hundred dollars, to thousands, to upwards of a hundred thousand dollars and more.  Some people just go all out for these aquariums, and some fish are very expensive.  Same with some coral and other creatures.  The materials the aquarium and equipment are made out of counts too. Take a look at our 55 Gallon and 75 Gallon Aquarium guides to find a reef aquarium that suits both your budget and aquatic needs.

Take into account, that you’ll be spending money up front.  Things like the cost of the tank, heating, lighting, power heads, cooling, reactors, and more.  You’ll be using artificial saltwater, or even natural seawater.  The continued maintenance costs involve test kits, replacement bulbs, additives, energy bills.  To cut costs, educating yourself is paramount.  There’s a plethora of information on the web alone.  Message board forums, Facebook pages, and even clubs that may be found locally.  You’ve got to really dig in deep here.  You’re going to be managing an entire min I ecosystem and the creatures inside.  Their lives depend on your continued attention and care.  Just like a real ecosystem, should one thing go wrong, you could collapse the entire thing.  This is why reading and asking questions is not only essential, but mandatory.  Networking with other aficionados may gain you discounts on equipment as well.  Talk to the manufacturers to look for any breaks and discounts and freebies as you can get your hands on.  Check reviews of materials and services.  Don’t leave one stone unturned and you’ll save money from the start and in the long term.

Essential aquatic knowledge

Just What Does Cycling Mean?

One of the most important duties with a reef aquarium, outside of putting water into it, is cycling.  Cycling is the bio filtration process that lets your tank mature to a level to allow for enough bacteria volume to bring about the breakdown of toxic ammonia into nitrite and then into nitrate.  You can not have a reading for ammonia higher than 0. It will take somewhere between 2-4 weeks to achieve this but you should have a 0 reading for nitrite alone, usually taking 4-6 weeks, before even putting any creatures into the tank.  It will take about 90 days for the cycling process to be complete.  The only way to hasten the process is with very high quality live rock.  Make sure to read every detail about cycling.  It is the fundamental process whereby your aquarium will be built upon.  Make a mistake at this step and you’ll be in for a world of hurt.

What Is Meant By Live Rock?

When you hear the term “live rock” in regard to an aquarium, it basically means corals that are inhabited by bacteria that are beneficial to the ecosystem of the aquarium.  These corals are Aragonite, the left over coral skeletons.  It’s  a porus rock where the anaerobic bacteria and other creatures inhabit.  The live rock serves as a source of free nitrogen gas, created by the anaerobic activity of the bacteria within.  This process performs a natural bio filtration.

What Is Meant By Base Rock?

When someone refers to “base rock”, it’s actually the same as “live rock”, made from Aragonite, but doesn’t have the bio organisms dwelling in it.  If necessary, the base rock can be converted to live rock.

What Does A Calcium Reactor Do?

A calcium reactor is a chamber that contains calcium carbonate media.  Using a bubble counter, the chamber is injected with CO2 gas, which serves to increase or decrease acidity, thus making the media to breakdown. Using a continuous calcium supplement to your coral, the carbonate is drip fed into the tank. Find out more about CO2 in your reef tank on our detailed FAQ here.

What Is A Protein Skimmer?

To remove excess waste from the aquarium, a skimmer is used.  Foam Fractionation is the term used for Protein Skimming, the two are interchangeable terms, using a device that creates very fine bubbles that express as foam and the organic impurities get attached to it.  Then the foam is removed from the device to a collection cup that is later thrown away.  This device is of utmost importance and thorough study in how it operates is recommended.  Further detail on protein skimmers is available at the reef keeping website here.

What Is A Chiller?

Just as it sounds, a chiller is a device to cool down the water of the aquarium. If yo live in an area where the room is cool enough, you r lighting may be sufficient in keeping things at the right temperature, however, if not, you need to keep the temperature low enough to keep things from heating up in your tank.  Some lighting can be too much and heat things up.  The best target for temperature should be about 77 degrees Fahrenheit, or 25 Celsius.  You should be concerned if your tank’s temperatures rise above 81 degrees or 27.5 celsius at that level of temperature, you will definitely need a chiller.

What Is Kalwasser / Limewater?

From the German language, the word, kalwasser is basically the word, limewater. This is saturated calcium hydroxide.  It has a high pH between 12-12.5.  Using top off water, it is dissolved in a slow drip feed.  This helps to maintain pH and alkalinity as well as add important inorganic calcium to the tank.  You’ll need to add 1 teaspoon of the kalwasser powder to about 1.3 gallons or 5 liters, of water, mix it up good and add slowly, 1-2 drips per second, is best done.  Use your own discretion here depending on water volume etc..

What is activated Carbon?

To purify the water, activated carbon is used.  It will eliminate that yellowy tinge or film, that is seen in an aquarium.  The water clarity is important to your aquarium in several ways, allowing light to do its job for plants and allows you to see what’s going on, as well as prevent disease.  Basically the simple route is using a filter sock and putting it in an are where the flow is slow to moderate. The carbon media is porous and thus attracts and eliminates metabolic waste.  Just use 1 cup for every 50 gallons or 190 liters of water.  Of note, use the best activated charcoal.  It will server you better in the short and long term.

What Is Reverse Osmosis?

To separate solids from water, the process of reverse osmosis or RO is done.  It is a purification procedure that has the water under pressure and forces its way through the RO membrane.  On one side of the membrane, there is a s solute where pure water passes out the opposite side.  Done correctly it will reduce impurities in the water by 95%.  It is also used in accordance with DI, aka, Dionization, to create the water of the highest purity.

What Is Deionization?

The process of water purification known as deionization, where water is slowly passed over some ion exchange resin, often, small beads, that attract ions such as copper, iron, chloride from water.  Combined with RO, the process creates highly purified water that is used to replace water from evaporation.  It doesn’t create any nutrients to the ecosystem and won’t create algae growth.  It can achieve 99% of water purity.

What are Phytoplankton?

The microscopic gloating plants like algae and diatoms are classified as phytoplankton. Phytoplankton is subject to motion and are not mobile in themselves.  You can’t see them other than by microscope.  They are eaten by zooplankton like amphipods and copeods.

What are Zooplankton?

The tiny creatures that swim about in the water column are known as zooplankton. They’re tiny invertebrates and are mostly categorized as cladocerans, rotifers, copegods.  They’re at the bottom of the food chain and eat phytoplankton.  They in turn are fed upon by fish and larger creatures.

Water Chemistry

Alkalinity

Also known as “buffering capacity”, alkalinity is the measurement of the amount of water used to neutralize acids without compromising the pH.  Due primarily to natural amounts of carbonate, bicarbone, and hydroxiide ions found in the water. The measuring of alkalinity is in kH, mEq/L, ppm.  The proper measurement should be between 7-11kH (2.5-4.Omeq/1 or 125-200ppm CaC03).  It is generally maintained by using baking soda in 1 tspn per 45 gallons by approximately 1kH), the use of a Calcium Reactor or a drip feeding Kalkwasser.

Calcium

The importance of calcium cannot be understated here.  It is an essential element of a reef tank.  The corals themselves use calcium to build their skeletal structures from the calcium carbonate that is extracted from the water. Calcium measurements come in ppm and are maintained between 380-450 ppm calcium ion (950-1125 ppm CaC0 equivalents).  The levels of the calcium should be maintains by using a Calcium Reactor and dosing is in the amount of calcium chloride dehydrate (CaC12), kalkwasser, (limewater) or other alternatives.  If you’re mixing CaC12, its solubility in the water at 20 degrees Celsius is approximately 75g per 100 ml.

Magnesium

The third most essential element that is dissolved in seawater is magnesium.  It is in an abundance about five times more than calcium.  It’s important for the biological processes of every known living organism.  It is measured in ppm and must be maintained between 1250-1350 ppm.  The levels of magnesium should be maintained by dosing magnesium chips to a Calcium Reactor or by the mandatory amount of magnesium chloride hexahydrate (MgC12) aka “magflake”.  There are other alternative names.  If you mix MgC12, its solubility in seawater at 20 degrees Celsius is approximately 170g per 100 ml of seawater.

Nitrate

NO3 aka nitrate, is an oxidized ion of the gas nitrogen, and in regard to bacteria that convert nitrate aka NO2, to nitrate, this is known as the nitrogen cycle.  To fight off detrimental buildups of algae from accumulating nitrate, it is mandatory that you maintain as low a nitrate level as possible.  The nitrate is found in measurements of ppm and the right level is between 0-5 ppm in a reef tank. If you have just fish in an aquarium, you can allow for higher levels.

Phosphate

PO4 aka phosphate is a compound of phosphorus which is a trace element that occurs naturally in seawater but at very low increments.  Usually about 0.002 ppm of phosphate is found in the seawater.  Known as an algae fertilizer, it is essential for the growth of algae that is undesirable in a reef tank.  There are several factors by which phosphate levels rise are unfiltered tap water, calcium additives, some salt mixes, activated carbon and kH buffers.  To alleviate the problem, using Kalkwasser can aid in reducing phosphate levels.  It is measured in ppm and is best to be kept at 0.03 and lower.

pH

When we talk about pH, we’re talking about a measurement regarding the acidity aka alkalinity of a solution.  PH is measured on a level of 95 which is the most acidic upwards to 14, the most alkaline with the number 7 being neutral.  That means the solution is neither alkaline nor acidic.  In regards to a reef tank, pH should be maintained at a level of 7.7 to 8.5, or better yet, between 8.1 to 8.3.  To stabilize the pH, make sureyour tank is located in a well-ventilated area, perhaps with some windows open, and the tank has enough water movement.  Reverse lighting can be used if you have a refugium.

Salinity

The measure of the amount of salt in the water is known as salinity.  It is measured in ppt, seawater has 35 ppt, and is based on the idea of what is referred to as “dry weight” of the salt content in relationship of pure water.  Using what is known as “specific gravity”, we’re able to measure the salinity as no other means other than boiling away the water and measuring what’s left will get the level and that’s not a good idea.  It calculates by measuring the relative density of the saltwater to the equivalent volume of the pure water.  Of extra note is that liquids do expand with changes in temperature so the specific gravity is then expressed at a specific measured temp.  Specific gravity should then be maintained to about 1.025 at a temperature of 77 degrees Fahrenheit aka 25 degrees Celsius.  It is of great importance that you use a refractometer to measure the specific gravity as hydrometers are not reliable.

Troubleshooting your Marine / Reef Aquarium

The water in my reef tank is evaporating, what to do?

It’s natural for the water to evaporate.  The trick to remedying the situation is of great importance.  Do not top off the water with more saltwater or seawater.  Instead, use fresh water so as not to alter the pH balance too much.  Evaporation depends mostly on the lighting you use and room temperature as well as sunlight that hits the tank.

The pH levels in my reef tank aquarium keeps dropping, what to do?

Relying mostly on CO2 and alkalinity, the pH levels of your tank can be affected by several factors.  Think of it as a balanced yet delicate biosphere.  When one thing happens to one thing, it has a direct effect on all the other things.  Mostly, the coral in your tank are still growing and building, the little busy bodies they are will use up the calcium thus reducing the alkalinity of the tank’s water.  This can be handled with simple attention to aeration.  Making sure that good ventilation in the room as well as having an overflow chamber whereby the water overflow enters a sump.  It houses the filtration equipment of the tank and the water that pours into it, is then pumped back into the tank.  This helps considerably with gas exchanges needed to keep the pH balance.  Just keep the aquarium aerated well as well as the kH, and the pH won’t be compromised.

Coral problems, how to handle them?

Trying to diagnose why the coral in your reef tank aquarium is suffering to one degree or another, depends on several factors.  Remember, you’re working with an isolated aquatic biosphere, where multiple systems are going on all the time and the imbalance of one can throw off thing for another or all.  There are, however, fundamental things that you can check on to see what might be affecting the coral.

  • The first thing to heck is the salinity. If it’s out of balance by being too high or too low, it will cause your coral to melt.  Generally this is the most regular problem for the newbie.  To handle this a refractometer is the tool of choice for testing  the water. Keep the salinity at 1.025 (+/- 0.002 is the standard ).
  • Alkalinity and calcium are the next on the checklist. Coral use these for building their structures.  There is a small range where this is optimum and should be kept with calcium at 380-450, and alkalinity at 7-11.
  • Next is the flow. In order to thrive, coral need a good flow of water movement.  They use this movement of water to flush out metabolic waste and in respiration and photosynthesis.  Since this important factor is often overlooked, it is the downfall of many a newbie aquarium owner.  Look for a minimum of 10 times the turnover in your aquarium with 20 being much better.
  • Coral placement is next. One might not believe it, but coral are some feisty creatures. They battle for dominance in the tank and will sting one another.  Their aggressive behavior might include them sending out what are known as ‘sweepers’ that can reach 6 inches in length or even longer.  With this battle format, it’s best to make sure your coral has enough room in the tank and enough room away from one another.
  • Lighting is important. You have to have adequate lighting for the process of hermatypic  Or specifically the zooxanthellae that is inside the coral so that photosynthesis is at optimum levels.  Not all coral are the same, so check each of the coral you have to see what their lighting requirements are for safe and efficient maintenance.
  • The variety of life forms in your tank need to be the kinds that are able to interact with one another and the coral. Some fish can damage coral.  They also might cause problems to mollusks too.  Make sure you do the due diligence so that you’ll be populating your reef tank with the right balance of life.
  • There is coral disease Check out the Coral Disease FAQ later for further details.

Finally, there are a number of other reasons that cause coral to become compromised in structure and vitality.  If things are out of your hands, it’s a good idea to use online forums to ask around such on as Reef Keeping.  There are plenty of experts and professionals around who will be happy to help.

The algae is bad and out of control, what to do?

As your reef tank reaches maturity it’s common for algae to go haywire and end up with unwanted algea,  it usually happens during cycling.  It will continue until the live rock is totally devoid of any detritus stored within it.  The live rock will leach and cause nitrates and phosphates that are the fuel for bad algae.  The solution here is to support the war against bad algae with the factors that produce good algae, for example Coralline, the pink calcareous algae and coral.  They’ll beat down the bad algae for the nutrients that are in your tank.  You’ll need good nutrient export, because coal and corraline don’t uptake nutrients so much.  To fight this, use phosphate removers and change the water regularly. The best solution is using a top notch protein skimmer.  Don’t overfeed, or overstock your tank, and do not use tap water to top off your tank after evaporation.  Use the right lighting to best optimize coral growth and not promote bad algae growth.

Don’t panic if you see green hair algae aka bryopsis, cyanobactira, and diatoms before the tank reaches maturity and equilibrium It does take time so patience is a virtue here. Just be professional and consistent with your maintenance.  In addition, activated charcoal can help fight off hair algae.

The coral growth in my reef aquarium is poor, why?

The culprit here is low calcium levels, pH being compromised, and alkalinity.  As mentioned earlier, there is a balance of these factors that must be maintained or one will compromise one or more other factors thus leading to problems like low coral growth.  Do what you can to maintain the proper stable parameters.  Try dosing the tank with small amounts on a more regular basis instead of large amounts.  Phosphate is also a corporate in the cause of slow coral growth and can contribute to bad algae.

What is the cause of the gold and brown colored stuff on my rocks and glass?

Enter, the diatoms.  When diatoms gain ground after the tank has finished cycling or when new animals or rock are added to the tank, diatoms might arise.  They feed of nutrients so it’s best to do what’s possible to minimize nitrates, DOC’s, and phosphates. Silicate is a major reason for diatom growth and it comes from tap water.  Use filtered water instead to top off your tank.

What is the red slime like coating that is on my substrate and rocks?

Cyanobacteria is the probable culprit here, aka Red Slime Algae.  If the slime has bubbles in it, it’s a clear indication of cyano.  Cyano feed off nitrates, phosphates, and DOCs.  Try reducing these factors and make sure the tank has sufficient ventilation. CO2 is another source of food for the Red Slime.  Proper lighting helps to fight this too.

Coral Disease

Bleaching, what does that mean in regard to coral?

When coral turns white from the tips downward, it means excessive lighting is at the root of the problem.  The coral is white but it’s still alive.  Try dimming the lighting and let the coral repair itself.

Just what is STN/RTN?

The definition for STN/RTN is Slow/Rapid Tissue Necrosis.  The prefix defines just how quickly the process of necrosis occurs.  STN/RTN occurs when coral starts to bleach from the base of the coral upwards.  STN is generally caused by the intro of a new colony that suffers from stress.  The coral that is stressed produces chemicals that produces extreme reactions in the other coral.  It’s time to get rid of the bad coral colonies to a tank where you can quarantine them.  Changing the water and carbon will assist in the removal of chemical messengers from the water.  RTN is generally caused by a sudden and abundant change in the parameters of the water.  It is advisable to double check before adding any additives.

Acronyms

The field of reef tank aquariums is so specialized it has its own nomenclature, thus a series of acronyms that are part and parcel to everything.  Below is a list of acronyms that should assist you in understanding the hobby and industry.

  • ASW = Artificial Salt Water
  • BB = Barebottom (no substrate)
  • BR = Base Rock
  • BS = Baking Soda (sodium bicarbonate)
  • CC = Crushed Coral
  • CL = Closed Loop
  • CUC = Cleanup Crew
  • DI = Deionization
  • DOC = Dissolved Organic Carbon
  • DSB = Deep Sand Bed
  • EC = End Cap (light)
  • FO = Fish Only
  • FOWLR = Fish Only With Live Rock
  • FFS = Favourite Fish Store
  • FTS = Full Tank Shot (photography)
  • HO = High Output (light)
  • HOB = Hang On Back
  • HOT = Hang On Tank
  • LFS = Local Fish Store
  • LNS = Low Nutrient System
  • LPS = Large Polyp Stony (coral)
  • LR = Live Rock
  • LS = Live Sand
  • MH = Metal Halide
  • NSW = Natural Salt Water
  • NO = Normal Output (light)
  • ORP = Oxygen Reduction Potential
  • PAR = Photosynthetically Active Radiation
  • PC = Power Compact (light)
  • PH = Powerhead
  • RSM = Red Sea Max (aquarium)
  • QT = Quarantine Tank
  • REDOX = Reduction / Oxidation
  • RO = Reverse Osmosis
  • RODI = Reverse Osmosis / Deionization
  • RTN = Rapid Tissue Necrosis (coral)
  • SB = Sandbed
  • SG = Specific Gravity
  • SPS = Small Polyp Stony (coral)
  • SSB = Shallow Sand Bed
  • STN = Slow Tissue Necrosis (coral)
  • TDS = Total Dissolved Solids
  • ULN = Ultra Low Nutrients
  • ULNS = Ultra Low Nutrient System
  • UV = Ultra Violet (light)
  • VHO = Very High Output (light)
  • WH = Wiring Harness (light)
  • WC = Water Change

Chemical Acronyms

  • AC = Activated Carbon
  • KH = Akalinity
  • CA = Calcium
  • GAC = Granular Activated Carbon
  • MG = Magnesium
  • PH = Acidity/Alkalinity measurement
  • PO4 = Phosphate
  • NH3 = Ammonia
  • NO2 = Nitrite
  • NO3 = Nitrate
  • Livestock Acronyms
  • BS = Brittlestar
  • BTA = Bubgle Tip Anemone
  • CB = Coral Beauty
  • CBB = Copper Band Butterfly
  • CBS = Coral Banded Shrimp
  • GBTA = Green Bubble Tip Anemone
  • GSP = Green Star Polyps
  • LMB = Lawn Mower Blenny
  • LTA = Long Tentacle Anemone
  • PBT = Powder Blue Tang
  • RBTA = Rose Bulb Tip Anemone

I hope you find the information and advice MyAquarium has given you useful, if you are looking to buy a 75 Gallon or a 55 Gallon reef tank, please take a look through our guides. Failing that if you would like further advice on setting up an aquarium, choosing an acrylic or a glass aquarium or even just want more information on your fish tank’s manufacturer delve a little further in to the MyAquarium guides to find out more.


CO2 in your Planted Tank – FAQ’s Solved!


  1. What purpose does CO2 (carbon dioxide) serve for a planted tank?

Carbon dioxide is the raw material that plants use during photosynthesis to convert light into food, fiber, and other forms of biomass.

  1. Will CO2 harm my fish?

CO2 will not harm the fish in your tank at normal levels (below 30ppm), but above this level is a different story altogether.

  1. What levels of CO2 should I have in my tank?

A majority of people with planted tanks maintain a stable CO2 level of 20 ppm, though this may be hard to do the do-it-yourself method. You will find a more extensive explanation is question #6.

  1. Are there different grades of CO2?

Yes. In the United States there are two basic grades of CO2. The first of these grades is the welding/food/beverage grade of 99.99% pure CO2, and the other is the Medical grade, which is 99.999% pure. The extra .9 costs significantly more, but you will find that there is very little difference, if any, between the two in terms of their efficacy.

  1. Is there any substitute for CO2?

Seachem makes a product called Excel, which is a source of organic carbon. While this product doesn’t offer all of the same benefits that natural CO2 does, it is a good carbon source for your plants.

  1. Will DIY CO2 work on my tank?

You will be able to make your own CO2 work in just about any tank. The only variable is how much work you are willing to put in to do this. It is extremely difficult to maintain stable CO2 levels if you are doing it yourself. A pressurized system is highly recommended for tanks that are over 25 gallons.

  1. What do I need for a pressurized system?

The minimal requirements for a pressurized system include a cylinder, regulator, needle valve, check valve, tubing, and diffusion method. If you wish to control the flow of CO2 with a timer or a PH monitor, you will also require a solenoid.

  1. What is a regulator?

A regulator is the device that converts CO2 in the cylinder to a lower, safer pressure so the plants in your tank can thrive.

  1. What is a needle valve?

A needle valve is a device that is responsible for lower the working pressure and controls the rate of flow in your aquarium.

  1. What is a diffusion method?

A diffusion method is what dissolved the CO2 in your tank’s water. There are numerous types of diffusion methods, but the main two are active and passive. Active diffusers combine the water and CO2 in a sort of current. Passive diffusers simply release CO2 into the water column so it dissolves on its own.

  1. What kind of tubing should I use?

You will be able to use whatever type of tubing you want, but I highly recommended that your steer clear of silicone tubing because it can lose up to 6% of CO2 per foot. Vinyl tubing is a good option but it can easily break down fast if it becomes exposed to sunlight. The right subbing in your aquarium can make a world of difference.

  1. Will the inexpensive plastic check valves work?

The cheaper plastic check valves will work but only for a little while. Since these valves tend to leak after a while, you should really consider investing in check valves that are made of some type of metal.

  1. What’s a solenoid?

A solenoid is an electrical valve that is typically closed, but it opens up when power is applied.

  1. Will the change in pH from the CO2 harm my fish?

CO2 does change the pH of the water, but your fish will not be harmed in any way. In the wild, changes in pH are typically caused by changes in kH or carbonate hardness, as well as TDS or Total Dissolved Solids in the water. These sudden changes can cause larger fish to experience osmotic shock. A vast majority of fish will be able to handle a more significant pH change because of hardness.

  1. Can I use my spare propane tank for CO2?

No, you definitely cannot. Propane tanks aren’t designed to hold the same pressures that CO2 cylinders are. Propane tanks are welded, whereas CO2 cylinders are completely seamless. CO2 tanks are specifically designed to hold pressures exceeding 1600 PSI. Propane tanks are built to hold 250 psi at most. The standard operating pressure for a CO2 cylinder at 70 degrees Fahrenheit is 800 psi.

  1. How do I know how much CO2 I have in my aquarium?

There are a number of different ways to measure the amount of CO2 in your tank. The first method is to use the pH/kH/CO2 chart, which you can find in my Guide. Keep in mind that there are some problems with this method, including that there can be small inaccuracies in your test kits, which can have negative implications for your tank. The other problem is that if any buffers others than bicarbonates and CO2 are being used in the water, your results will not be completely accurate. Peat, wood, and even some small rocks as well as pH buffers can throw off your results.

Another method that you can use to measure the level of CO2 in your aquarium is to take a water sample from the tank and simply measure the pH. Allow the sample you take to sit for 24-48 hours and measure it again. If you have a drop of even one degree in the pH, then you have 30 ppm of CO2. While it is true that this method works, it can be a bit slow and tedious. There is a new method that is becoming quite popular and it is called a drop checker. I won’t go into too much detail about this method, but you can check out the forums at www.plantedtank.com for more info.

  1. Is the electric method (like a Carbo-Plus) effective at making CO2?

The short answer to this question is no, not at all. You will find that these units cost just as much if not more than a pressurized system. In the long term it is much more costly to run these units than a pressurized system, and they also tend to strip the kH out of the water to make the CO2, which in turn has a negative effect on the water chemistry. With the electrical method you will have a very hard time maintaining healthy CO2 levels, which is why you will typically see these types of products on sale with a fairly huge discounted price.

  1. Will the pH drop/rise from CO2 hurt my fish?

No, it will not. The pH should drop once you have added the CO2 to your tank. If you are using a timer to turn off the CO2 at night, the pH will begin to rise. The changes in pH will not negatively affect any of the fish in your tank, so you won’t have to worry about that at all. This is because in the wild when pH levels rise or fall, there is always a change in the hardness and TDS or Total Dissolved Solids of the water. It is the change in the hardness and TDS, not the pH, that can cause Osmotic Shock among fish. Added or removing CO2 will not change the hardness or TDS, so there will be no effect on the fish.


Substrate in your Planted or Reef Aquarium


  1. What is substrate? If I have gravel in my aquarium, do I need special substrate?

Substrate is everything that rests at the bottom of your aquarium, whether it is gravel, sand, marbles, or anything else you may put down there.

  1. What is “Clown Puke”?

Clown puke is the bright multi-colored coated gravel that many people use to coat their tanks. Using clown puke is completely optional; while some people find it tacky, others absolutely adore it. Personally, we at MyAquarium aren’t too fond of this particular substrate because it just looks tacky.

  1. Do I need some special type of substrate to grow plants in my aquarium?

There is no special substrate required to grow plants in an aquarium. Putting in regular uncoated inert gravel between 1-3 mm in size in your aquarium will work perfectly. At MyAquarium, we recommend that those who are starting out use only a thin layer of ground peat moss, which comes in compresses bales at hardware and garden stores, as a base layer. Keep in mind that you should still be able to see the glass of the aquarium. One ounce of laterite per gallon of water is definitely a good idea, and you will be able to get some mulm, which is the stuff you vacuum out of the travel, from an established tank. You can put some of that underneath the gravel in your tank and your plants will grow to be very strong and healthy looking. Be cautious when it comes to using certain gravel and sands, as some of them contain minerals that can have a negative impact on the water chemistry of your aquarium.

  1. Can I not fertilize my plants if I use a fancy substrate?

While it is true that certain specialty substrates contain high levels of minerals, they do not have enough macro nutrients. Even if you have a special substrate in your aquarium, you will still have to feed your plants regularly.

  1. What is the best substrate?

The best substrate is whatever fits within your budget and looks good to you. I personally use SeachemFluorite, which is a combination of Fluorite and fine gravel, CaribSea Eco-Complete, Seachem Onyx Sand, and regular gravel in all of my planted tanks. This setup works well for me. ADA Aqua Soil is one of the newer substrates and it is gaining in popularity. There are a number of other substrates that others like to use, including Profile, Turface, and Soilmaster Select. I highly recommended that you do not use dirt, potting soil, or kitty litter at all if this is your first planted tank. While some people have had success using these substrates, most people’s planted tanks don’t do well with them.

  1. How much substrate do I need?

Most people with planted tanks use 2-4” of substrate. Click here if you want to know how many bags you should use for more common types of substrates.

  1. Can I use sand?

Whether or not you should use sand as a substrate will depend on a number of factors, including which type of sand you want to use. There are some people who use reef or marine sand because they like the white color, but it can lead to two big problems. One problem is that these types of sand can have a negative impact on the water chemistry in the tank. The other problem is that white sand may look good, but not so much once fish and plants are introduced to the tank. The white sand then begins to show everything that lands on it from the fish and no longer looks quite so nice. If you are trying to decide whether or not to use a certain substrate, try pouring a bit of muratic acid over it. If the material starts to bubble, smoke, or fizz, do not use it.

  1. Do I need a substrate heater?

No, you do not. This is the last piece of equipment that you should purchase for your tank, and only if you have a lot of extra money to spend. A lot of people end up regretting putting a substrate heater in their tank because of how plant roots tend to get tangled in them. If you want to save some money and avoid future headaches, don’t get one of these heaters.


Lighting either a Planted & Reef Tank – Frequently Asked Questions


  1. Do I have enough light for my tank?

It is important to have an adequate amount of light for your tank, and you can’t expect the aquarium fixture you buy to come with one. If you aren’t sure whether or not you have enough light, you probably don’t.

  1. How much light is required for my planted tank?

The amount of light you need for your tank depends on a number of things, including the size of the tank and the plants you will be growing. Tanks that are between 20 and 75 gallons should have at least 2 WPF (watts per gallon).

  1. What does WPG mean and how do I calculate my WPG?

WPG stands for watts per gallon and it is a way of measuring how much light you have in your tank. To accurately calculate your WPG, you will divide the total number of watts you currently have by the number of gallons your tank is able to hold.

For example, a standard 55 gallon tank usually comes with two 18 watt bulbs for a total of 36 watts, or just one 40 watt bulb. If you are calculating for the first example, it would be 36÷55=0.65 wpg. If you are calculating for the second example, it would be 40÷55=0.72 wpg. If you have a 55 gallon tank, you will need about 110 watts of lighting. Keep in mind that WPG is based on fluorescent watts and US gallons. Since this measurement is also based on T12 lighting with standard reflectors, you will be able to use more recent technology for better lighting without quite as much light.

  1. Can I use incandescent/halogen lights in my tank?

While it is true that some people have had success using incandescent/halogen lights in their tanks, they are more effective at heating than providing adequate light.

  1. What do the terms “Kelvin” and “color temp” really mean?

Kelvin is used as a way of measuring the color temperature of light. Click on Kelvin for more info. What is really important is that you understand that lights that are in the 5000k-10000k range are most effective for plants. Most people will see plants under 5000k lights as being very yellow looking, while plants under 10000k lights can appear blue. Many of the best bulbs for planted tanks fall within the 6500k-8800k range. GE manufactures a 9325k bulb that is extremely popular with those who have planted tanks.

  1. If I have three 3000k bulbs, do I have 9000k?

No, because Kelvin is measured cumulatively, meaning that is you use three 3000k bulbs at the same time, you have 3000k light.

  1. Are actinic lights good for plants?

There is still no clear answer as to whether or not actinic lights are healthy for plants. A lot of people believe they don’t do much for plants, so I wouldn’t recommend using them. If you have already met the basic light requirements for your tank, you can feel free to use actinic light. Some reports suggest these lights cause algae growth.

  1. Will putting in quality reflectors increase the amount of light in my tank?

No. Reflectors cannot actually produce light, but good ones will get more light into the tank and could reduce the overall amount of light you have to use.

  1. What is the difference between a T12 and a T8 bulb?

When it comes to fluorescent tubes, each “T” is equivalent to 0.125” or 1/8 of an inch. So a T12 bulb is 1.5” in diameter and a T8 bulb measures 1” in diameter.

  1. What’s a PC or CF bulb/light?

A T5 bulb is a bulb that measures 0.625” or 5/8 of an inch in diameter. These bulbs have become increasing popular and they offer an efficient way to light your tank.

  1. What is a T5 bulb/light?

A T5 bulb is a bulb that measures 0.625” or 5/8 of an inch in diameter. These bulbs are also becoming very popular as they can light a tank very efficiently.

  1. What’s a MH bulb/light?

A MH bulb is a metal halide bulb. These bulbs are very powerful and best suited for reefs, but they are a bit too much for just planted tanks.

  1. How long should my lights be on?

You should keep your lights on anywhere from 8 to 10 hours, but there are people who run them as long as 12 hours each day.

  1. Can I leave my lights on longer to make up for inadequate lighting?

Absolutely not. Doing this will not work and it could lead to algae growth.

  1. I have a 4’ long tank. Can I just use a shop light?

You can use any type of lights you want, but it is important to keep in mind that shop lights are not designed to work in most or humid environments like inside of an aquarium. Shop lights are also designed to illuminate large areas and not a specific small area, so they are not more than 60% accurate for this purpose.

  1. What is ODNO?

ODNO stands for Oven Driven Normal Output. This is a method that is used to get as much light as possible out of standard fluorescent bulbs than what they are intended for. While this method does work, it does come with the potential risk of electrical shock and fire. If you want to learn more about these lights, simply Google “ODNO lights”.