Gravel Aquarium Vacuum Cleaner & Fillers Review Guide


As an aquarist, by now you understand how imperative it is to put in a significant amount of effort to keep your aquarium clean. Not only will this help to make your aquarium more aesthetically pleasing, but also it’ll help to ensure that your water friends thrive, survive and keep you amused for many years to come. In order to keep your tank’s water fresh, you’ll need a sufficient fish tank cleaner. For tanks with gravel, a gravel vacuum will be a necessity. Within this guide, you’ll learn more about these items and their importance.


The Importance of Aquarium Gravel Cleaning


As a fish owner, it is your responsibility to maintain your fish’s environment keeping it clean whilst balancing chemical levels. Whilst filtration is essential, you will also need to get your hands dirty periodically. There are a handful of aquarium gravel cleaners and they’ll certainly be able to help. Remember that a great amount of debris and uneaten food can shrink to the bottom of the aquarium and into the substrate. Without an efficient aquarium gravel cleaner, these abnormalities will be nearly impossible to remove. Below, you will discover a breakdown of the benefits of cleaning your aquarium’s substrate with the best gravel vacuum.

  • Removal of Stubborn Debris – Some debris, such as uneaten food, waste and plant debris will get stuck in the aquarium’s substrate and will be difficult to remove by traditional methods. Unless you’re willing to empty the entire contents of the tank, you should opt for a sufficient fish gravel cleaner. Whether you’re using an electric model or a manual gravel siphon, the tool will provide you with an effortless way to remove this debris, without putting your fish through too much stress. This will help to prevent large quantities of nitrate and ammonia from growing in your tank.
  • Maintaining Consistent Water Chemistry – At this point, you should already understand the important of consistent and appropriate water chemistry. Certain species require a particular pH level, in order to thrive. Allowing the debris to decompose in your tank will result in a pH change. Therefore, a gravel cleaner for aquarium should be utilized to remove the debris and to prevent your pH from being altered.

7 Most Effective Gravel Fish Tank Vacuum Cleaners & Fillers

 


With the information above, you can see how integral a gravel vacuum cleaner will be to your aquarium and the fish living inside. Below, you will find a breakdown of some of the best gravel vacuums on the market.

  1. Top Fin Aquarium Gravel Vacuum

Top Fin Gravel CleanerAquarium maintenance can be a pain, but if you are equipped with the proper aquarium gravel vacuum, the task will be much easier. The Top Fin manual hand pump is suitable for all aquariums and it is available in small, medium, large, and ex-large. The PVC hose is extremely flexible, so you can clean all of those hard-to-reach areas without difficulty. The Top Fin aquarium siphon is equipped with an easy-start mechanism that will definitely come in handy and this is much simpler than having to do the hand pumping action, just to get the water to suck up into the vacuum.

The Top Fin aquarium vacuum cleaner is equipped with a clip that will attach to any bucket, so there will be less mess to have to worry about. The Top Fin gravel vac is designed to separate the gravel from the water, which will prevent you from having to remove the gravel from the tank.

You will find that the wide-mouth nozzle offer much quicker cleaning, so you can get on with your daily chores. The siphon gravel cleaner is overall the best manual pump on today’s market and it is a very good value. Check stock availability and purchase from PetSmart here.


  1. EHEIM Quick Vac Pro Aquarium Electric Vacuum

EHEIM Quick Vac Pro Gravel CleanerTaking care of your aquarium can be a tough job, but it is a vital part of keeping your fish safe and healthy. That is exactly what the EHEIM gravel cleaner can do and it will allow you to do it with ease. If you are an avid aquarium owner, then this is one product you do not want to pass up. It could very well be the best gravel cleaner on the market.

One thing that sets this electric suction pump apart from siphon cleaners is that there are no buckets or hoses required for the operation. You simply just insert the suction end of the tool into the gravel and push a button located at the top of the handle. The waste will be removed and deposited into the super-fine mesh cartridge. The EHEIM quick vac is also battery operated, so you will not have to worry about trying to find an empty electrical plug and running an electrical cable. It is designed to do all of the work for you, so you can rest assured that your tank will be clean and free of toxins.

The battery can operate for up to 4 hours, which makes this a premium cleaner that will last a lifetime. This EHEIM Electric PRO Gravel Cleaner is available to purchase from Amazon, click here.


  1. Python No Spill Clean and Fill Aquarium Maintenance System

Python No Spill Gravel CleanerIf you have an extremely large fish aquarium in your home, which requires routine maintenance that you dread tackling, you will need to purchase a high-quality manual hand pump. The Python No spill aquarium maintenance system is designed to quietly sift the debris out of your tank, without disturbing your precious fish.

Not only will this aquarium vacuum pump suction up the largest debris, but it is also capable of adapting to your kitchen faucet for refilling. The faucet fitting is constructed out of brass, so it will never rust or tarnish. If you fail to remove the debris in your aquarium, toxins will build up over time and make your fish very ill. Of course, maintenance is not an enjoyable task, but with the Python, you will have everything that you need at your fingertips.

The 25’ hose will be long enough, so you can drain the water away from your home or down the sink drain. The extremely large gravel tube will allow you to clean larger areas, so the job will be completed in a timely manner.

If you are looking for a manual hand pump that is capable of draining and filling, you definitely should keep the Python on your list of prospects. This is a good value quality cleaner that will last a lifetime. Check availability and buy the Python No Spill Clean and Refill system at Amazon here.


  1. Aqueon Siphon Vacuum Aquarium Gravel Cleaner

Aqueon Gravel Siphon and Hand PumpIf you’re looking for a great overall value, you should definitely check out the Aqueon Gravel Cleaner. Despite the affordable price tag, this product is capable of getting the job done! The Aqueon Siphon Vacuum Gravel Cleaner is very versatile and available in various sizes, including 5, 9, 10, and 16 inches. This helps to guarantee that you get the precise size for your tank’s dimensions. It is also available in three unique styles, mini, medium and large. This ensures that your fish tank gravel cleaner is perfect for the unique size of your substrate!

Although this product is somewhat basic, it is ideal for quick water changes. Take note that this is a self-priming fish tank siphon. You might have to get a little sweaty, in order to make the water drain. The Aqueon fish tank vacuum is drain only, so you’ll need to refill the tank with a separate bucket of water.

For the price, this gravel cleaner delivers excellent suctioning power, which will be powerful enough to separate the debris from your gravels. For easier use, this cleaner is equipped with a bucket clip, which keeps the hose inside of the bucket throughout operation. This will help to prevent spills and will quell your worries, so you can focus on the task at hand. Overall, the Aqueon siphon vacuum aquarium gravel cleaner is an excellent choice for those that aren’t afraid of a little hard work and are on a budget, check availability here.


  1. Python Pro-Clean Aquarium Gravel Washer and Siphon Kit

Python Pro Clean Gravel CleanerCleaning and maintaining your aquarium can be a big job, but that is exactly why the Python gravel cleaner was invented. It will help you keep your aquarium in top condition. This fish tank vacuum cleaner has a manual hand pump design, which means that you will need to do a bit of pumping action, before the water will suction up into the tubing.

You will need an empty bucket to hole the dirty water and debris, so be sure to keep this in mind, when purchasing this fish tank gravel vacuum. It is designed to separate the gravel from the water, so you will never have to worry about removing the gravel from the tank, before cleaning.

This Python gravel vacuum comes equipped with 72” heavy-duty tube will not chip or crack, even after years of use. The tubing is very flexible so you will not have any problem guiding it wherever you want it to go and you will be able to clean in those hard-to-reach areas.

You can purchase a squeeze starter bulb that will attach to the Python, which will turn the manual Python gravel vacuum into a hand pump. This is a very good value Gravel Vacuum and re filler that you should not pass up, check availability and buy from Amazon here.


  1. Lee’s Ultra Gravel Vac, Self-Start with Nozzle and Hose Clip

Lee's Self Start Gravel VacIf you’re looking for an affordable, manual fish tank gravel cleaner vacuum, with a little something extra, you should definitely check out Lee’s Ultra Gravel Vac. This specific vacuum offers a handful of features that aren’t available with other manual models. This gravel vacuum aquarium cleaner is equipped with a convenient self-starting siphon feature. This helps to get the water flowing, without excessive pumping. The vacuum’s nozzle is extra wide. This helps the user cover a bigger amount of space within a shorter period of time.

The shape of the nozzle also makes this fish tank syphon easier to use in nooks and crannies. This gives you the freedom to get the job done, without the necessity of removing your decorations. Your fishy friends will thank you for keeping the disturbances to a minimum. The Lee’s gravel cleaner for fish tank will give you the capability of removing debris from your substrate, during integral water changes.

Although the Lee’s Ultra GravelVac is somewhat basic, its hand pump functionality is much improved and the 16” hose will be more than sufficient for almost all tanks. Therefore, it is a great overall value and well worth its price! Find Lee’s Ultra Gravel Vac on Amazon here.


  1. Aqueon Aquarium Water Changer

Aqueon Water ChangerAs an aquarium owner you probably know that if you don’t have the right equipment to clean your aquarium, it can make the task nearly impossible. However, it is something that must be done in order to keep your little aquatic friends happy and healthy. With that being said, the Aqueon gravel cleaner & water changer was designed to make those water changes and maintenance tasks a breeze.

The Aqueon aquarium cleaner is equipped with a 25’ flexible hose, but it is also available in 50’, as well. This long hose will eliminate the need for a bucket, which can become extremely heavy, when filled with dirty water.

This gravel cleaner offer diversity, since it can be used to drain the water and to refill the tank. All you have to do is simply twist the valve to make the change and you will be ready to refill the tank with fresh water.

If you are on a tight budget, but will not sacrifice on aquarium maintenance efficiency, you should definitely add the Aqueon fish tank cleaner to your list your cleaning supplies. Find out more information, check availability and purchase online here.


  1. Cobalt Aquatics Power Gravel Cleaner 30-125

Cobalt Power Gravel FilterThe Cobalt Aquatics Power Gravel Cleaner makes the task of fish tank cleaning incredibly simple. The Cobalt Aquatic is equipped with an intake screen that is capable of separating the gravel from the water, so there is no need to remove the gravel from the tank, before cleaning.

This gravel cleaner could not be easier to use. Basically, you have a traditional vacuum that hooks to a power filter. The vacuum will cycle the water breaking loose the debris and pulling it up to the filter, where it will be filtered out of the water through the cartridge. The cartridge is equipped with a micron sock that will clean the water and then put back into your aquarium. The best part is that the housing just attaches right to the side of your tank.

The motor that runs the vacuum is completely sealed off, which means you can clean this tool right in your own kitchen sink, without worrying about damaging any of the components. This really is the ultimate aquarium tool. For more detail, to check availability and purchase visit Amazon here.


Aquarium Cleaning is Essential, choose the best Gravel Syphon to make your water changes easy.

 


At the end of the day, all aquarium enthusiasts will need to equip themselves with an effective fish gravel vacuum. With the information presented above, you can see that it is difficult to name one of these products the overall best aquarium gravel cleaner. Instead, each will be best for unique circumstances. Therefore, you should consider your needs, desires and preferences, when trying to choose a manual or automatic gravel cleaner. This will help to ensure that you get the best product imaginable and one that will fulfill your needs perfectly. For more information on cleaning your large aquarium from MyAquarium read up here.


Marineland 37 Gallon LED Hood Aquarium & Stand Ensemble Review & Spec


Treat you and your fish to a special experience in this premium 37 gallon aquarium and stand ensemble by Marineland. This medium sized tank is a great way to start or to upgrade an existing setup offering great value for money and a high quality, versatile product.

PreviewNamePriceMore Details
Marineland (Aquaria) AML29038 Biowheel Aquarium Kit with LED Light$$$ " >More details!
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All Glass Aquarium AAG10037 Tank, 37-Gallon $$ " >More details!
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Aquatic Fundamentals 20/29/37 Gallon Aquarium Stand with Shelf $$ " >More details!
Click Here

The tank is manufactured from high quality glass providing great views into the tank and includes a modern storage stand ensemble, including two shelves below the tank allowing for the storage of any aquatic accessories and providing a suitable environment to set your aquarium on without the need to buy another piece separately.

Marineland 37 Gallon LED Hood Aquarium & Stand Ensemble

Capacity37 Gallons
DimensionsTank: 30" Wide x 12" Length x 22" High
Stand: 32" Wide x 14" Length x 28" High
Type of HabitatAquatic
ShapeRectangle
MaterialGlass
Warranty1 Year.
What's included?LED lighting and 2 shelf stand.
Price$ - Very Good Value.
SupplierPetSmart. Click here to check availability or Click & Collect.

The tank is reasonably sized with dimensions of 30″ wide x 12″ long x 22″ high with the ensemble taking up extra space. This aquarium also includes a 45-LED light hood adding to the amazing value with these extra inclusions all added into the suite which sells for the same price as a regular glass 37 gallon tank on its own. The tank is suitable for both freshwater and marine species as well as a variety of fish species making the tank extremely versatile with extensive potential for first time aquarium owners to long time aquatic fanatics.

Marineland 37 Gallon Aquarium Filtration

The tanks large size may make it more tiresome and difficult to clean, especially when reaching into the bottom however this is an issue with all medium to large exhibits. Thus, Marineland have developed a very high quality, durable aquarium with lots of extra goodies included as well. This tank is a must not miss product on the market and would be highly recommended to any fish owner looking to establish a new setup or upgrade from an existing tank.


Great Choice 40 Gallon Aquarium Review & Spec


The Grreat Choice 40 Gallon Aquarium is ideal for those on a budget looking to get started with a larger tank. Being 18.2” Long 36.3” Wide and 16.8” this glass tank is technically classed as a large breeder. With the bottom being made from tempered and the main panels is standard glass this is ideal for those looking to start with a saltwater aquarium then potentially drill and start a nano reef.

Grreat Choice 40 Gallon Glass Breeder Tank Statistics

Capacity40 Gallons
Dimensions36.3" Wide x 18.2" Long x 16.8" High
Type of HabitatAquatic, Pet, Reptile (Vivarium), Saltwater, Freshwater
ShapeRectangle
MaterialGlass
WarrantyLimited Lifetime
What's included?Aquarium
Price$ - Very good value budget aquarium
SupplierAvailable to click & collect from PetSmart

When buying this tank you can be reassured of its quality by the limited life time guarantee, double sealed silicone joins and black plastic supports. Many users of this Grreat Choice 40 Gal Aquarium have commented on the high quality and strength of glass continuing to mention visibility and the build.

To get started you just need to add filtration, gravel, pump, heater and thermostat (if you would like a marine setup), cleaning tools, dechlorination and a chemical test kit. Being a glass setup it is unlikely to scratch and can marks can be polished out as needs be. So if you are looking for a medium sized glass 40 gallon aquarium on a budget with room to progress your fish keeping skills that tank is truly a Grreat Choice! Check stock and availability online here.


Marineland 38 Gallon Aquarium Starter Kit Review & Spec


The Marineland 38 gallon starter kit is the perfect piece for beginner aquarists looking for a medium-large size aquarium which includes everything one needs to start a simple setup. The aquarium is 38 gallons in volume, slightly smaller than the standard 40 gallon offerings available with dimensions of 32 x 17 x 26 inches making it perfect for most locations.

Marineland 38 Gallon Fish Tank Starter Kit Specification

Capacity38 Gallons
Dimensions32.2" Wide x 17.12" Long x 25.7" High
Type of HabitatAquatic
ShapeBow Front Tank
MaterialGlass
WarrantyLimited
What's included?Day and Night Led lighting, hoods, 200w heater, net, glass canopy hood, Penguin filteration & filter cartridge.
Price$$ - Good Value.
SupplierAvailable to Click & Collect from PetSmart

The tank itself is made of glass with a curved glass front making for spectacular viewing surrounded by a black frame creating a strong, sturdy and durable structure. Also included are all the basic accessories a novice aquarium owner will need for sound daily operations of the aquarium. These are a Penguin BIO-Wheel filter, a great small beginners filter to ensure clean water built for a tank of this size. Similarly a net, glass canopy and LED lights are also combined in this spectacular package which are all necessities for any fish or aquarium owner. All of these extras are included with the tank for an extremely low price providing excellent value without the product quality being compromised.

Marineland 38 Gallon Bow Aquarium Kit

This innovative package by Marineland has also been well received by aquarium owners worldwide. This is because the Marine 38 gallon starter kit includes everything one needs to to get started in the aquarium world at a much cheaper cost than purchasing a tank and accessories individually making it great value for money. Therefore, this tank is great for beginners and would have to be one of Marineland’s best and most comprehensive medium-large sized tanks on the market. It provides a great, versatile set up suitable for both freshwater and saltwater varieties that would look great in any household. For more information, to check latest price and availability click here.


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.