Reef aquariums are like little slices of the ocean filled with live rock, corals, colorful fish and other unique and beautiful creatures.
They can be expensive but their beauty is well worth the effort. The creatures that inhabit these aquariums are typically caught in the ocean not raised in a tank. A reef tank might include Live rock and live sand (rocks and sand taken from the ocean along with all the creatures and organism that live on them), reef friendly snails, crabs, shrimp, polyps, anemones, and reef safe fish.
Reef aquariums are really just saltwater aquariums with some specialized equipment such as special lighting, a chiller and protein skimmer. The care and maintenance for the two is the same (see my other article below for more details on that).
The inhabitants of these specialized aquariums are very sensitive and special care must be taken to maintain water quality of the tank. The temperature should be kept between 74-78 degrees and therefore, a chiller is recommended for the summer months when the room temperature could cause the tank temp to go above 78. A stable PH and salinity matching that of the ocean is important.
The proper lighting is very important for reef aquariums. Many of the organisms living in the reef require light for food and bright light simulates the natural environment as most reefs are close to the surface and get quite a bit of sunlight. You can purchase lighting that is geared for reef tanks – about 7 – 10 watts per gallon is recommended.
Care of reef aquariums is very complicated and can be expensive. This article talks about the basics, but if you are serious about starting a reef aquarium you will probably want to arm yourself with a good book on the subject.