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This is How Long Reef Tank Lights Should Be On!


Our reef tanks are a beautiful addition to any home or office so does that mean we just need to keep the lights on when we are there like a freshwater aquarium or do reef tanks need a different lighting schedule? 

For saltwater reef tanks containing corals, lights should be on for 9-12 hours every day. Corals need light to produce food. An algae in their tissue called Zooxanthellae processes light into energy and without enough light, the coral would die. Fish do not require light to survive.

In a saltwater reef tank, light is one of the most important parts of the life support system if you plan to keep coral. Light schedules that simulate both periods of day and night are essential for establishing energy production in your coral but also simulate the natural daily cycle in the wild. During the night, fish need to sleep, the coral will feed and scavengers come out to help clean your tank.

What is the Perfect Lighting Duration for a Reef Tank?

There are many factors that go into this but it all comes down to what type of corals you have and what type of lights you have. There is an endless amount of lighting options that are available to you depending on what kind of coral you plan to have in your tank so here is a good benchmark to start with:

Have lights on for 6 hours maximum intensity – This means your lights at 100%, or all bulbs on

If your corals seem to be going brown, or the colors don’t pop, increase the light period by an hour each week. Brown coloration is a sign the coral is not getting enough light.

If your corals seem to be turning white (Bleaching), reduce the light intensity to say 75%, turn off a bulb or two on a T5 setup or reduce your max intensity lighting period to 4 hours.

These are just a starting point. Every aquarium is different but your corals will tell you. Here are some guidelines for the types of coral and lights available for your reef:

Coral Type:

  • SPS Coral & Clams – Require most intense light for the longest period
  • LPS Coral – Require less intense light, and can be for a shorter period
  • Soft Coral – Requires the least amount of light intensity & period

Light Type:

  • High Quality LED – Produce very high-intensity light. Adjustable color spectrum, timing, and dimming functions
  • Lower Quality LED – Produce moderate intensity light. Adjustable color spectrum, timing, and dimming functions
  • Metal Halide – Produce very high-intensity light. Bulb sets the color spectrum, timers to be used, no dimming function
  • T5 Fluorescent – Multiple bulbs required to get high-intensity light. Bulb colors can be mixed to provide the required color spectrum. Timers to be used. Dimming available only with the right lighting ballast and electronics.

Many reef owners will ramp up and ramp down their lights to help simulate a sunrise/sunset and to help corals get a longer lighting period but at a reduced light intensity. This cannot be done with Metal Halide lamps as they are only an on/off system.

A Typical Reef Tank Light Duration Schedule Could Look Something Like This:

Dimmable LED’s

11am – Lights turn on to 20%
12am – Intensity increases to 50%
1pm – Intensity increases to 75%
2pm – Full Intensity – 100% or All Bulbs ON
3pm – Full Intensity – 100% or All Bulbs ON
4pm – Full Intensity – 100% or All Bulbs ON
6pm – Full Intensity – 100% or All Bulbs ON
7pm – Full Intensity – 100% or All Bulbs ON
8pm – Full Intensity – 100% or All Bulbs ON
9pm – Intensity decreases to 60%
10pm – Intensity increases to 20%
11pm – All Lights OFF

Dimmable T5s

11am – Lights turn on to 20%
12am – Intensity increases to 50%
1pm – Intensity increases to 75%
2pm – Full Intensity – 100% or All Bulbs ON
3pm – Full Intensity – 100% or All Bulbs ON
4pm – Full Intensity – 100% or All Bulbs ON
6pm – Full Intensity – 100% or All Bulbs ON
7pm – Full Intensity – 100% or All Bulbs ON
8pm – Full Intensity – 100% or All Bulbs ON
9pm – Intensity decreases to 60%
10pm – Intensity increases to 20%
11pm – All Lights OFF

Metal Halide

2pm – Full Intensity – One Bulb ON
3pm – Full Intensity – All Bulbs ON
4pm – Full Intensity – All Bulbs ON
6pm – Full Intensity – All Bulbs ON
7pm – Full Intensity – All Bulbs ON
8pm – Full Intensity – All Bulbs ON
9pm – Full Intensity – All Bulbs ON
10pm – Full Intensity – One Bulb ON
11pm – All Bulbs OFF

Non Dimmable T5s

2pm – Full Intensity – Half of Bulbs ON
3pm – Full Intensity – All Bulbs ON
4pm – Full Intensity – All Bulbs ON
6pm – Full Intensity – All Bulbs ON
7pm – Full Intensity – All Bulbs ON
8pm – Full Intensity – All Bulbs ON
9pm – Full Intensity – All Bulbs ON
10pm – Full Intensity – Half of Bulbs ON
11pm – All Bulbs OFF

If your light unit is only a single bulb metal halide or the T5 fixture only has one plug, then all you can do is have the lights on at full intensity or completely off. Set the time for 6 hours and go from there. Corals going brown, increase the On time. Corals going white, reduce the On time.

A Stunning Reef Needs Good Lighting

Keeping lights constantly on is also not recommended! This will stress the fish, overexpose corals leading to bleaching and lead to unwanted algae growth. The main thing you want to achieve is to try and have the lighting schedule on for as much time as you are in the room. If the aquarium is in an office, start the lighting period at 7am, so the lights are on for your viewing pleasure while at work.

If the aquarium is at home you will want to have the lights on in the evening when you are sat relaxing. In this case, start your lights to come on early afternoon so you get the viewing pleasure. There is no point in having a beautiful reef aquarium if the lights go off when you finally get to sit and enjoy it. So long as the lighting schedule stays consistent your fish and corals will know no different. This is where timers come in!

Light Timers and Dimmers For Reef Tanks

Aquarium lighting should simulate as close as possible the behavior of natural sunlight as well as the day and night cycle.

Using timers in conjunction with lighting equipment removes the necessity of manually turning the lights on or off. A process that could be, and usually is very unreliable! There are times when you are simply too preoccupied to turn the reef tank lights on or off or there are days when you’ll simply forget altogether, then what about vacations! Successful reef tanks are all built around consistency and stability. As humans, we are hopeless at both of these!

Timers are a perfect way to ensure that the lights go on and off at the same time every day. This regulates the day/night rhythms consistently.

In the real world, the sun rises gradually and sets just as gradually. This can be somewhat simulated by dimmers. They allow for low-intensity light at the start of the reef tank’s day cycle then another low-intensity period before the start of the night cycle. 

For lights like non-dimmable T5s and Metal Halides that can only be turned on and off a timer or a series of timers used on individual or pairs of bulbs is a great way to increase or decrease light intensity as well as duration. Simple electronic plug-in timers like THIS ONE from Amazon.com are a cheap, but very effective way to automate your lights.

Plug-In Timer
Plug-In Timers are Perfect for Non Dimmable Reef Lights!

Dimmers are usually built into the light fixture and are configured either by a digital display, app, or online dashboard. Many dimmable T5 & LED light units can also be controlled by aquarium controllers like the Neptune Systems Apex to allow for all your aquarium equipment to be controlled from one location. These dimmable units may seem pricey but when light plays such an important part in the health of your coral, they are worth it!

The control you can get from the online and app dashboard for your lights is phenomenal! The amount of things you can do is truly mind-blowing and warrants a whole article all to itself. Sunrise, sunsets, coral acclimation programs, lightning storms, moon tracking, are all but a few of the features most dimmable LED and T5 fixtures are capable of.

Measurements of Light In Reef Tanks

As coral owners, there are two measurements of light that are of particular importance to us. The first, Light Intensity or PAR is important for how much light the corals receive, and the second is Color Spectrum. Corals only produce energy from certain bands within the color spectrum. Ensuring there is enough light within the correct wavelengths is very important. The color spectrum also dictates what color our tank water will appear.

Light Intensity

The intensity of light is defined by a metric known as PAR. PAR stands for Photosynthetic Active Radiation. As the name implies, PAR is a metric related to the support of photosynthesis, the process that the Zooxanthellae algae in the coral tissue use to convert light to energy – Very similar to plants.

In general, aquarium lights with higher wattage have higher PAR and therefore higher light intensity.

The Various Coral Types Require Different Light Intensities to Thrive:

Soft Corals50 – 100 PAR
LPS Corals50 – 150 PAR
SPS Corals200 – 300 PAR
Clams100 – 300 PAR

The only way to truly know how much PAR your lighting system is giving out is to rent or use an aquarium PAR meter. PAR value decreases with water depth, so knowing what your PAR levels are at various depths throughout the aquarium can help you decide what corals to place where in the tank.

Bulk Reef Supply has a 7-Day PAR meter rental which you can find HERE

Most good quality lights designed for reef tanks will have spikes in certain wavelengths to ensure the corals get the required amount of correct PAR. Cheaper, no-name lights generally lack this and are one of the reasons why corals will not grow, even though to the naked eye the light looks nice and bright. This is why I always recommend buying the best you can afford and buy it once. So many aquarists buy the cheap lights only to find out they don’t work and then buy the good quality lights later – Money wasted!

Color Spectrum

Color Spectrum is measured in Kelvin or K rating. This is a light metric that has to do with the ambient feel of light in the aquarium. This is also referred to as color temperature. The higher the K rating, the bluer the light. As the K rating becomes lower the light becomes distinctly warmer or yellow/white in tone. 

A good gauge for K rating would be the K rating of a noon day sun which is about 5,500K. The light of the ocean depths can be recreated by using lights with a rating of 20,000K. 

Some aquarists prefer a higher K rating for reef tanks because of the attractive ambiance of the bluish light. High K ratings also penetrate deeper into the tank allowing corals to derive more benefit from the lighting. For reef tanks the typical K range would be 6,000K to 20,000K.

Lighting Options for Reef Tanks

T5 Fluorescents

In T5 fluorescent lights an electric current reacts with mercury vapor to produce light.

A T5 Light Fixture from ATI

Bulb intensity is around 24 to 80 watts depending on its length, the longer the bulb, the higher its wattage. Each T5 bulb comes in various K ratings from a white 6,500K to the deep ocean blue of 20,000K. Actinic bulbs are also available. Actinic bulbs produce very blue light that supports photosynthesis in corals and are generally used to provide a ‘Moonlight’ style glow for late evening viewing.

Most T5 reef tank lighting fixtures come with multiple bulbs and by mix-&-matching the types of bulb color you can fine-tune the color spectrum to suit your particular taste. Most reef tank T5 fixtures also come with either full dimming capability or multiple plugs to allow pairs of bulbs to be connected to timers for individual ON/OFF control.


Metal Halides

Metal halides produce light by running electricity through a compound of metals that include bromine and iodine, this metal halide compound is what gives the light its name. These are extremely high-intensity lights with typical home aquarium wattage ranging from 150 watts to 400 watts. Color temperature is obtained by the bulb/s that are inserted into the fixture. Bulbs vary from 10,000K, 14000K, and 20,000K, and bulb replacement is recommended every 12-18 months to ensure peak performance.

A Metal Halide & Reflector Light Fixture

Metal halides were the ‘Go To’ lights for decades until LED lighting technology came along. Most aquariums that run metal halide lights will require a chiller as the heat radiated into the water can increase the water temperature by several degrees while running.

Metal halides give a stunning shimmer to the aquarium and only a select few LED lights are able to replicate this. The great thing about metal halide lights is they are great for deep aquariums. The light is able to penetrate further allowing for high PAR reading on the sandbed – Great for clams!


LEDs

LED stands for Light Emitting Diode. LED comes in several form factors such as tubes, rails, floodlights, or pendants. LEDs are a group of diodes arranged on a circuit board. Most reef tank LED fixtures arrange the LEDs into clusters under a single lens to help evenly spread the light to give even PAR readings across a 20″-24″ spread.

An LED Light Fixture from Ecotech Marine

Some of the best benefits to LEDs on a reef tank are that they are very energy efficient, colors and intensity can be individually controlled, they can be dimmed to simulate sunrise and sunsets and they are very low-profile units. To help penetrate deep into the aquarium many come with alternate lens covers to help focus the light a little more and by adding multiple units above the tank they can provide tremendous PAR at deep depths.

There are many great LED fixtures on the market and because of this, I created an entire article dedicated to helping you pick out the perfect LED light system for your reef tank! You can find that article here:

Best Reef Tank LED’s – Your Guide For Softies, LPS & SPS 

To Finish

For most reef tanks having the lights on between 10-12 hours will provide the maximum light for feeding your corals and for you to enjoy your aquarium. Be sure to start out at around 6-8 hours when first adding corals to your tank and see how they react. Slowly ramp up the lights ‘ON’ period or their intensity over a week or two after adding your first corals.

Whenever you buy a new coral be sure to place it on the sandbed for a few days before slowly moving up the rock work until it reaches its final placement. By doing this you allow it to slowly acclimate to your lights and prevent it from bleaching.

If you are unsure of an exact lighting schedule to follow, have a look around the forums for others with the same light fixture and use their programs as a benchmark.

Further Reading

If you found this article helpful may I suggest a few more for you:

Damselfish: Are They Really That Aggressive?


Damselfish have gotten a bad reputaiton over the last few decades but like anything in life, paying careful attention to the right types of Damselfish and meeting their needs will ensure you do not add an aggressive Damselfish to your aquarium and instantly regret it!

The aggression shown by Damselfish is to protect their territory. If they are added to an aquarium first they will claim the whole tank as their territory and bully any other fish added after. By adding Damselfish last you can ensure they remain calmer and only have a small territory to protect.

Today we are looking into why damselfish are aggressive, which ones to avoid, which ones are tolerable, and how you can prevent them from getting aggressive.

Damselfish come from the family Pomacentridae and include over 300 species, with some able to live in brackish water conditions. They come in a variety of striking colours, sizes, temperaments and are extremely hardy making them great for the novice aquarium hobbyist. – So why do they get a bad name?

If you ask aquarium hobbyists about Damselfish, some may say they are super aggressive, will target their tank mates, batter them to death, and that they will even try to take a chunk out of your hand if they get the chance. However, if you introduce them correctly, select the right ones, and are wise when it comes to compatibility, these fish can make great additions to your aquarium.

Why Are Damselfish Aggressive?

By their nature, Damselfish are pretty territorial fish and are not shy about warding off any potential threats to that territory. They are very fast, maneuverable swimmers, their small size allows them to easily dart in and out of holes and cracks and they seem to have an endless amount of energy and determination when it comes to holding their ground.

The Notorious Yellowtail Damselfish – Source: Carl Malamud

The problem that many newcomers to the hobby seem to end up with is that they add the Damselfish to their aquarium first. They are beautifully colored, always swimming around, and cheap to buy. Because of this, they end up being the first fish purchase for many. This is where the problems begin.

When a Damselfish is the first fish introduced to an aquarium it will take that whole tank as its territory – and why not! It/they are the only fish in there. Once you begin to add any more fish they will be seen to be encroaching on the territory of the Damselfish and it/they will bully the new additions, usually to death.

This is heartbreaking for the new aquarium owner, so what do they do? They go and buy more fish and usually end up with the same outcome. Until that/those Damselfish are removed, most new additions will be bullied to death. This is not good, and this is why Damselfish get such a bad reputation.

Why Should Damselfish Not Be Used For Tank Cycling?

Because Damselfish are identified as hardy fish, people used these fish to cycle their tanks. The fish would eat and defecate creating an ammonia source for the nitrifying bacteria to consume and multiply on. Damselfish seem like a great choice for tank cycling as they are known to tolerate higher levels of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrates than regular saltwater fish, and even today many people still use them to cycle their tank.

But we are now living in 2021, and no one should be using Damselfish to cycle their tank or any other live fish for that matter! There are much better, faster, and easier ways to get your tank going.
See the ‘Further Reading’ section at the end of this article for more info.

Not only is it inhumane to use live fish to cycle your tank, as you do not know the potential harm the water conditions of a cycling tank can do, but Damselfish are one of the hardest fish to catch after the cycling process has finished, and believe me, if you have added a Damselfish to your tank before any other fish, you will be wanting to catch and remove them!

How Do You Safely Introduce Damselfish Into An Aquarium?

If you do opt for Damselfish, make sure you introduce them last as they will be the most aggressive out of the bunch. This will allow the other fish to have already claimed their territory – which prevents Damselfish from being the ‘Boss’ and ‘Alpha Fish’ in the aquarium.

If Damselfish are a ‘Must Have’ on your fish stocking list, then keep semi-aggressive fish that will not be bullied by Damsels. No one likes to be picked on, and at least if the other fish in your aquarium are semi-aggressive, they can stand up for themselves! – This will also reduce the chances of your fish being bullied or killed by the Damsels.

Here are some examples of Damsel-compatible tank mates, just be sure to add these fish first!

  • Dwarf Angelfish
  • Tangs
  • Dottybacks
  • Clownfish – these are actually related to Damselfish
  • Bottom Dwelling Gobies

What Habitat and Tank Requirements Do Damselfish Need?

Firstly, you want to make their transition into a new habitat as smoothly as possible. Have you ever moved to a new house, and remembered how stressful it was? Your fishy friends feel the same way! Any increased stress can lead to enhanced aggressive behavior – making them very unfriendly to their new neighbors.

If you have a fish-only aquarium, you will want to have lots of rock formations so that vulnerable fish can hide, this will also allow the Damsels to claim a small area of the tank without upsetting other residents.

  • If you are planning on keeping just one small Damsel, a 30-gallon tank would provide enough space for them to dart around
  • If you are going to buy a couple, you will need 50 gallons
  • For 4 or more, you will need a tank that holds at least 100 gallons

The recommendations above will allow plenty of space for all your fish otherwise Damselfish can turn aggressive and very territorial. In small tanks, one Damsel can claim the whole aquarium, this is why it is so important that they be the last addition to your tank!

Are There Any Damselfish to Avoid as a Beginner?

Blue or Neon Velvet Damselfish

Paraglyohidodon oxyodon

Source: Drow Male
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Aggressive
  • Max. Size: 6”
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Reef Compatible: Yes
  • Min. Tank Size: 30 Gallons

The Blue or Neon Velvet Damselfish can grow fairly big. Don’t be fooled by their beautiful neon blue stripes, when they reach adult age, they lose this magnificent coloration and turn completely black, and usually become quite the bully!
This is one fish you may regret adding!


Three Spot Domino Damselfish

Dascyllus trimaculatus

Source: Izuzuki
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Max. Size: 5 ½”
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Reef Compatible: Yes
  • Min. Tank Size: 30 Gallons

The Three Spot Domino Damsel is another fish that seem very tempting in the local fish store. These can also grow quite big and fit the typical ‘mean’ Damsel reputation.

If you have a carpet anemone it will claim this as its territory immediately.


Blue Devil Damselfish

Chrysiptera cyanea 

  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Aggressive
  • Max. Size: 3”
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Reef Compatible: Yes
  • Min. Tank Size: 30 Gallons

As the name suggests these really are the devil! The Blue Devil Damselfish are highly aggressive and are even known to bite your hand if you put it in the tank!

They are highly territorial and very fast fish making them very difficult to remove. If you add one of these to your tank you will pretty much have to empty your entire tank to catch it!


Four Stripe Damsel

Dascyllus melanurus

  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Aggressive
  • Max. Size: 3 ¼”
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Reef Compatible: Yes
  • Min. Tank Size: 30 Gallons

Also known as the Blacktail Dascyllus, Blacktail Damsel or the Blacktail Humbug Damselfish.

Even though these fish will stay relatively small their aggression does not match!, They can be aggressive towards other fish and even bigger fish than them.

They are best kept in a predator or aggressive fish aquarium.

Are There Any Damselfish To Recommend For a Beginner?

So, you are probably thinking why would I want Damselfish in my aquarium? – Well, they are not all bad, plus you will not find many other strikingly blue-colored saltwater fish out there that stay small! When you get the right ones and add them at the right time they can be model citizens! The two that I recommend below are the ONLY Damselfish that I own and advise others to get if they want success with keeping Damsels.

So, why Damsels?

  • They are super hardy fish
  • They are not fussy eaters
  • Their blue coloration is unique
  • They are small so do not require a huge aquarium
  • If you introduce them correctly, they can be reef safe!

Below are my favorite Chrysiperta Damselfish that are friendlier and worth checking out! – They have beautiful colorations like other Damselfish but will bring a lively nature to your aquarium whilst being more peaceful.

Azure Damselfish

Chrysiptera hemicyanea

Source: JSutton98
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Max. Size: 2 ¾”
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Reef Compatible: Yes
  • Min. Tank Size: 30 Gallons

If you are looking for a great, semi-docile Damselfish, then these are the best of the bunch! The Azure Damselfish has the striking blue we all crave from the Damsels, coupled with a bright yellow belly that really contrasts!

These are fairly well-mannered and are less likely to pick a fight than other fish. I love my pair of Azures!


Talbot’s Damselfish

Chrysiptera talboti

  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Max. Size: 2 ¼”
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Reef Compatible: Yes
  • Min. Tank Size: 30 Gallons

One of the most peaceful Damselfish you could get! My pair are model citizens and have never shown an ounce of aggression towards any other fish or invert!

These are not neon blue, but they make up for it with their striking yellow head and pelvic fin, and the black spot on their back.

To Finish

If you are wanting to add color to your aquarium then these two Damselfish could be the fish for you! Being hardy, beautiful, and the perfect size, they have become increasingly popular in the aquarium hobbyist world, but as always keep a close eye on the aquarium. If they start to become too aggressive towards other residents, you will need to consider removing them from the tank, so they do not fight to the death or make your other fish sick.

Damselfish are known for their beautiful coloration, aggressiveness, and territorial nature, but as long as you introduce them correctly into your aquarium and they have enough space you should be successful in keeping these striking fish. Damselfish are tough to catch so be sure to follow these guidelines in this article and you will not be tearing your hair out!

Further Reading

If you found this article helicopter I highly recommend the following:

Can Aquariums Be Safely Kept in a Bedroom?


I see the question of putting an aquarium in a bedroom so many times, with so many different points of view. I grew up with an aquarium in my bedroom for my entire teenage years so I have a few tips and tricks to pass on if this is something you wish to do.

Having an aquarium in a bedroom, especially a child’s bedroom can be a great start to teaching them many things. Responsibility, cleaning, researching, understanding, planning, financial budgeting, and most of all calming.

A friend of mine has a son with autism and the calming effect it had on him when he got his own aquarium for his birthday was incredible. There are so many benefits to having an aquarium in a bedroom, but there are many things that need to be taken into account before installation to ensure the aquarium is a success.

Here are 12 things to think about…

1. Size of the Room Vs Aquarium Size

Before you purchase an aquarium, you should take into account your room size so you can install an appropriately sized tank. A smaller fish tank is generally a better option as bedrooms tend to be smaller and have lots of furniture within them.

Bedroom Aquarium Location

However, a larger fish tank is great for bigger bedrooms as the amount of livestock you can have in it greatly improves, and the water stability will fluctuate far less with more water volume.

There are so many types of aquariums that are ready to go on the market today that finding one to suit your room’s decor is simple. Just be sure to leave enough room all around the tank to access it for maintenance. A tank that is a pain to work on will become neglected as time goes by – Trust me!

2. Accessing Water

One of the great things about a bedroom aquarium is that there is usually a bathroom very close by. This gives quick and easy access to water for water changes and a drain for water removal.

Care must be taken in this situation though, as a large volume of water spilled in the upper level of a home or apartment can soon create a huge mess of the ceiling below! Be also very mindful if you are planning to set up a saltwater aquarium as salt granules or saltwater spilled on the carpet is a nightmare to clean up – Another ‘Trust Me’ moment!

One of the best devices I highly recommend is a Python Substrate Vacuum. It allows you to easily remove water from the tank with no spillages.

It is also great for re-filling by attaching it to a pump in your new water container.

Just be sure to secure the end of the hose so it doesn’t drop out of the aquarium or bathtub when you are moving water! A hobbyist’s or carpenter’s clamp works well.

You can find the Python Vacuum Here at Amazon.com

3. Noise From the Aquarium

Bedrooms are presumed to be peaceful and quiet so you can rest after a tiring day no matter your age. Having an aquarium in your room should ensure this peace remains undisturbed, this is why a little planning is required.

Aquariums do create some noise and depending on the size of the aquarium, the noise generally gets louder the larger the aquarium becomes just because the water pumps become larger and/or multiple.

For me personally, I love the AIO (All-In-One) aquariums as they have all the filtration built into the back of the tank and with smaller pumps, they run almost silent!

By setting up the aquarium correctly many people actually enjoy the faint trickle of water that the filter’s return nozzle creates to help improve the tranquility of the bedroom.

4. Noise at the Aquarium

This is especially important when it comes to kids’ and teenagers’ bedrooms who wish to install an aquarium. Fish are easily stressed by loud bangs, knocks on the tank, and vibrations from loud music, especially music with deep bass.

A constant barrage of noise in the bedroom with the tank can easily lead to fish illness and death, which, depending on the disease can spread like wildfire throughout the tank and decimate your livestock.

A little education with the child making them understand the needs of the fish they wish to have is all that is needed to ensure a healthy aquarium. Kids play and love loud music so there is no getting away from it, just being mindful of this can give them that added bit of extra responsibility which aquariums are great for.

5. Aquarium Lights

To increase the beauty of any aquarium its needs to be lit. If you are planning a saltwater aquarium with coral, then the correct light is essential for them to live.

Red Sea Max 250 Aquarium
Tanks With Canopies are Great For Bedrooms

Depending on the style of aquarium you wish to install the aquarium lights may be housed in a canopy on top of the tank or hung above it if it is a rimless style aquarium.

On reef tanks especially these lights are bright, I mean really bright, especially if you are sitting/lying lower than the light and in its field of spread.

Correct placement of your aquarium has to be made to ensure the light spread is not distracting for owners with a desk in their room, for example.

The second factor you need to consider is the light duration. For freshwater fish, the light can be on only in the evening when you are in the room for viewing pleasure.

For aquariums with corals, they will need light periods of up to 12 hours so timers must be used to ensure the aquarium lights turn off before your regular bedtime. A lighting period of 10am – 10pm works well for corals and you.

When I had my aquarium in my room as a teenager I used to love getting into bed and watching my fish for around 20 mins. My timer on the lights would shut off automatically after this time. As I got older I would adjust the timer to suit my bedtime my parents had set. It was great and very relaxing!

If you wish to set up a reef tank then this article will help you pick the right lights for the types of coral you wish to have:

Best Reef Tank LED’s – Your Guide For Softies, LPS & SPS

6. Tank Odor

When you wish to keep an aquarium in a bedroom you have to be extra diligent in its cleaning and maintenance. An ill-maintained tank can soon begin to produce a foul smell by releasing very small amounts of ammonia, nitrogen, and hydrogen sulfide which are smelly.

Teenage boy’s bedrooms can be stink pits at the best of times and adding another smell to the room just is not going to go down well with parents!

Even if the aquarium is in pristine condition, it will produce bio-waste in the form of dead organic matter, dead fish, or food leftovers which can produce a bad aroma if left unattended. Regular maintenance and water changes help to keep aquariums stink-free!

Another concern regarding odors is that most people apply deodorants, perfumes, and colognes in the bedroom and are worried about these smells polluting the water. Providing these are not being applied directly over the tank and are not in excessive quantities then the aquarium will be fine.

Running activated carbon in the filter media will help to pull any of these pollutants from the water if any does become absorbed.

This article can help give you a little more information on airborne pollutants:

Are Candles, Scented Oils & Air Fresheners Aquarium Safe?

7. Humidity & Temperature

Bedrooms are meant for sleeping and to do that they need to be dark, quiet, the correct temperature, and humidity to provide meaningful rest. We have already spoken about the noise and light side of a tank in a bedroom, now we need to address the last two.

Humidity levels in a bedroom should be kept between 30% – 60% with a temperature of around 66°F for optimal sleep. When a large aquarium is placed into a bedroom and its water temperature is around 80°F, you can bet the temperature and the humidity is going to rise.

Selecting an aquarium of appropriate size for the room and keeping the room well ventilated will help control the humidity and temperature of the room. Excess humidity without it being controlled can lead to mold which then becomes a health risk.

In all my years as a teenager, I never came across this problem but when I moved to where our winters drop to -40°F, humidity on the windows was noticeable, so depending on the climate where you live, it may be something to consider.

This article can help give you a little more information on Mold & Aquariums:

Can Aquariums Cause Mold? This Could Be Serious!

8. Direct Sunlight & Aquariums

Try not the put your aquarium in the path of direct sunlight because it can be harmful to your livestock. Sunlight works as a radiator on the aquarium and will gradually heat the water causing stress among the fish. This is especially so in small aquariums where temperature fluctuations happen faster.

Direct sunlight can cause you another problem; the increased growth of algae which can be quite unpleasant and bothersome. More work is required to control your nutrients to keep algae at bay, but adding sunlight to it can just make your battle that much harder!

9. Aquariums & HVAC

No matter where you live, there will be times of the year where either heating or A/C will be required to run 24/7 to keep your home livable. Fish need a stable, temperature-controlled environment in their aquarium and a HVAC system can play havoc with that stability.

One of the best precautions you can make is to ensure you do not place the aquarium near an HVAC outlet or inlet or by a radiator if your home is a hot water loop system. If you can keep your bedroom at a constant temperature year-round then that will really help maintain water stability. Having a room temperature fluctuating 5 degrees or more each day could cause you problems, especially with a reef tank.

10. Weight of Aquariums

Bedrooms are mostly on the second floor so you have to consider the weight of the aquarium. If you have an old house then anything heavy upstairs can be risky. The bigger a tank becomes, the heavier it gets!

Filled saltwater aquariums weigh 8.56 lb. / 3.88 kg per gallon and 2.26 lb. / 1.03 kg per liter.
Filled freshwater aquariums weigh 8.34 lb. / 3.78 kg per gallon and 2.20 lb. / 1.00 kg per liter.

For example, a 50 gallon aquarium will weigh around 425 lb. / 190 kg for the water alone, then add the tank itself, stand, and canopy. Now, if you wish to put a 200 gallon aquarium in your bedroom then the weight dramatically jumps to 1,700 lb. / 760 kg!

Not only is it smart to look into the structure of the floor, but also the stand itself. Most aquariums come with a purposely designed stand to help with this. Other tips include placing the aquarium near an outside wall where the floor joists join the wall. Placing the aquarium across multiple floor joists, or placing the aquarium over supporting walls on the floor below.

This article can help give you a little more information on the weight of Aquariums:

How Much Do Aquariums Weigh?

11. Kids & Aquariums

When you have kids, they likely create havoc in the house running and playing around, their bedroom is no different. I know my kids do!

Young kids should always be supervised around aquariums! An aquarium in a house with small children is one thing, placing it in their bedroom might be problematic. This is why smaller aquariums are always recommended for children’s bedrooms.

A bump to an aquarium can cause it to topple over, a launched Hotwheels car into the glass can cause it to burst (When my son was 3 years old he did this toward my 75 gallon reef tank – Luckily it hit the stand but my heart sank when I saw his rendition of Smokey & The Bandit off the arm of the couch!)

If you have lively children, just be aware!

12. Aquarium & Therapy

Aquariums have a calming nature which is why many offices (which I consider is stressful environments) have them in their setting. In a bedroom, it can be a great idea to have because it will soothe the strain on your mind and body leaving you feeling relaxed.

The National Marine Aquarium conducted research and found that blood pressure and heart rates of people who watch aquariums get reduced. So, for senior citizens, it will be great to have one in their bedroom as it will be a constant source of peace for them. I used to maintain an aquarium in a retirement home and it was the highlight of their common area!

Another study was conducted at Purdue University stating that aquariums with colorful fish can pacify disruptive habits of Alzheimer’s patients along with improvements in their eating habits. It was also found in the same study that aquarium had an impact on their aggression levels making them more relaxed. So, having an aquarium in the bedroom of Alzheimer’s patients can have a life-changing impact on their health and habits.

Aquariums are Amazing! 

To Finish

Aquariums are a great addition to a bedroom, not only from a peaceful and relaxation point of view but also to help teach our children compassion, responsibility, and education.

Most homes require none or very minimal changes to safely add an aquarium, but some thought is required to ensure you get the best possible experience from your tank and it leads you to a life where fish stay with you for many, many years!

I know it did for me!

Further Reading

You may also find the following articles helpful:

Aquarium Filters Need To Run 24/7: This is why


Many newcomers to the aquarium hobby have the question of whether the aquarium filter needs to be on all the time and it is a very valid question, but with one simple answer, Yes. But, perhaps the filter is too noisy, or there is concern about the electricity consumption.

Aquarium filters need to be running all day, every day. They provide mechanical, chemical & biological filtration as well as oxygenation of the water. Turned off, decaying food & fish waste will build causing Ammonia, Nitrite & Nitrate levels to rise which are all toxic to aquatic livestock.

Providing the cleanest and healthiest environment for your new aquatic family members is paramount so let’s go and look at why aquarium filters need to run all the time.

Why Do Aquarium Filters Need to Be On All The Time?

Your fish, shrimp, crabs, plants, and coral living in the aquarium are living and because of that they are consuming food and excreting 24/7. The filter/s we install on our aquariums are there to remove and convert the waste they produce to prevent it from becoming toxic to the livestock.


Because the waste being produced is happening 24/7, the aquarium filter/s need to be working 24/7.


When the filter on an aquarium is not running, the toxicity levels in the water begin to rise. The longer the filter is turned off, the higher these levels will rise. Even a small rise of ammonia will instantly kill your livestock!

Fish Compatibility
Stunning Aquariums Have Great Filtration Running 24/7

Aquarium filters work in 3 main areas, with a 4th benefit:

  1. Mechanical Filtration
  2. Chemical Filtration
  3. Biological Filtration
  4. Aeration

The Aquarium Filters Role in Mechanical Filtration

Mechanical filtration refers to the physical removal of the debris & detritus in an aquarium. Debris & Detritus can be uneaten food, biological waste from the livestock, or decaying organic matter from dead animals, plants, coral, and any other organic sources.

For any stretch of time that the filter is off, debris starts accumulating in the tank. As this debris and detritus accumulate they begin to decay. As they decay they release ammonia into the water. Ammonia is highly toxic to your livestock and the only way to prevent this rising is to physically remove the waste material yourself, do a water change, or let the filter do it.

The most common ways that filters mechanically remove waste material is by using filter socks and sponges to physically trap suspended particles in the water. As the owner, it is your responsibility to remove and clean/replace the filter media, thus removing the trapped waste matter before it has chance to breakdown and releases ammonia.

This is why weekly filter cleaning is recommended!


Beginners Tip:

NEVER wash your filter media under a running tap. This will kill any beneficial nitrifying bacteria living within it. When doing a water change, fill a bucket with old tank water, then thoroughly rinse the filter media in that bucket, then dispose of that water. This will keep your bacteria alive!

This is especially important in small aquariums with small filters!


The Aquarium Filters Role in Chemical Filtration

If your filter has media in it like Activated Carbon, Purigen, Chemi-pure, Bio Pellets, Granular Ferric Oxide (GFO), or something similar then this is the chemical filtration part of keeping your aquarium water clean.

Chemical filtration helps to absorb pollutants from the water. Odors, heavy metals, nitrates, ammonia, and airborne pollutants entering the tank are all processed by these chemical filter materials.

Chemi-Pure Elite
Chemi-pure is a Great Chemical Filter Media – Amazon.com

When the filter system is turned off the filtering of these pollutants stops. Although the speed at which your aquarium water will foul is a lot slower than the mechanical filtration part, it will still begin to decrease in quality which will begin to affect your livestock over time.

Chemical filter media can be in the form of chemically impregnated sponges, granules in a mesh/cloth bag, or for large aquariums, dedicated media reactors that have tank water pumped through them.

The Aquarium Filters Role Biological Filtration

Biological filtration is the use of naturally occurring bacteria that consume and convert ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate in the aquarium water. When you hear ‘Nitrogen Cycle’ or ‘Aquarium Cycle’, this is the biological bacteria establishing and multiplying in your aquarium and filter.

Here’s a super-fast review of the nitrogen cycle: Dangerous ammonia is produced by decaying organic matter and fish waste in the aquarium. Beneficial nitrifying bacteria called Nitrosomonas Bacteria consume and convert this ammonia into less toxic nitrite.

Nitrite is then consumed and converted to nitrate by the second strain of nitrifying bacteria called Nitrobacter Bacteria. Nitrate is the least toxic pollutant in your aquarium water.

Nitrate is then controlled by regular water changes. Without the water changes, the nitrate will accumulate which will become toxic to your livestock if at high levels.

These beneficial bacteria, also known as nitrifying bacteria, don’t have to be added to your aquarium they will just naturally grow in it. Although most aquarists will jumpstart their nitrogen cycle by adding a starter culture when first setting up the aquarium.

Dr. Tims One And Only Live Nitrifying Bacteria cultures are one of the most popular. They are available in both Freshwater & Saltwater versions:

For Freshwater
Here at Amazon.com
Dr Tims Bacteria
For Saltwater
Here at Amazon.com

These beneficial bacteria can be found all over your aquarium. In the substrate, the rocks, and in the filter media. The more surface area a filter media has, the more beneficial bacteria it can house.

As the aquarium water passes through the filter media, the beneficial bacteria do their important work of getting rid of ammonia and nitrites. Should you turn off your filter this process is halted. Biological filtration doesn’t come to a dead stop since the tank does have beneficial bacteria in the substrate and on the rocks, but the level of biological filtration will be diminished.

While biological filtration is reduced, the rate of ammonia and nitrite production continues as before. This imbalance will result in a more toxic environment in your tank as these toxins increase because water is no longer being passed through the filter and the bacteria housed within it.

The longer the filter remains off, the higher the levels of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate will become.

The Aquarium Filters Role in Aeration

As I mentioned earlier, the added benefit that most aquarium filters add is aeration. Aeration simply means injecting oxygen into a material. In the case of aquariums, this means oxygenating the water.

The filter oxygenates the water as it sucks or pumps it through the filter system. As filter/s remove water from the tank, push it through the filter media, and returns it back to the tank, the water naturally churns. This pulls oxygen into the water and releases gases like nitrogen and carbon dioxide.

As the water is returned back to the tank it causes surface agitation which further improves gas exchange of the entire tank volume. The returning water also creates a current in the tank to help bring up water from the lower levels and towards the surface. This improves gas exchange and keeps detritus suspended in the water for removal by the mechanical part of the filter.

Oxygenated water is vital to the livestock in your aquarium. Fish, invertebrates, plants, corals, and also beneficial bacteria require a constant supply of oxygen to survive. Even if you have separate aeration equipment, like an air bubbler on a freshwater aquarium, turning off the filter reduces the aeration levels of the tank.

Is Aquarium Filter Electricity Consumption a Concern?

If the reason you want to turn off your filter is because you want to save electricity, it is worthwhile to take a look at the electricity consumption for a typical aquarium setup.

A small aquarium of, say, 50 gallons, would consume 450 kWh of electricity a year. This is for the entire aquarium setup including the filter, the lights, and the heater. If you look at just the filter alone, this counts for only around 150kWh each year!


The Average Electricity Consumption of an American Household is 11,000 kWh Per Year. 

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration


This means that running a filter for the entire year comprises 1.4% of the total average electricity consumption of your home!

For Example:

To do the math yourself here are the equations:

Rate Examples:
California Electrical Rate Average 2019 = 19.90 ¢/kWh
Florida Electrical Rate Average 2019 = 11.37 ¢/kWh

Selected Filter: Fluval 307 Canister Filter (Amazon.com)

Pump Power = 16 Watts.
It runs 24 hours Per Day.
Example Electricity Rate = 13.45 ¢/kWh.

16 Watts/1000 = 0.016 kWh – KiloWatt Hours (How many 1000 watts per hour)

0.016kWh x 13.45¢= 0.22¢ to run each hour
0.22¢ x 24 hours= 5.28¢ to run each day
5.28¢ x 7 days= 36.96¢ to run each week
39.96¢ x 4 weeks= $1.48 to run each month
$1.48 x 12 months= $17.76 to run each year

Therefore, the electricity consumption of your filter is negligible and you should not worry about keeping your filter on all the time!

How To Make An Aquarium Filter Quiet?

Another reason that you might want to turn off your filter is that the sound of it can be disturbing, especially if your aquarium is located in a bedroom. Honestly, I had an aquarium in my bedroom for my entire teenage life, and although they can have a hum or noise to them it is something you will soon become accustomed to.

Bedroom Aquarium Location

In fact, whenever there was a power outage the stillness sounded and felt very strange! But, if the aquarium is bothering you here are a few things you can do to try and lower its audible footprint:

  • Ensure there is no debris stuck in the filter making it louder than it should be. Regular maintenance and cleaning will ensure all parts get cleaned and inspected for wear. A worn impeller shaft on a second-hand pump can soon vibrate very loudly.
  • Maybe the water return system of your filter is through a waterfall or an external hose splashing the water into the tank. In cases like this, submerging the return nozzle could help solve the issue. If you have an external filter that uses a waterfall to return the water then raising the water level in the aquarium so the fall is not as far will help reduce noise.
  • Another cause of filter noise is the water flow rate set to maximum. If your filter has a flow rate control mechanism or an adjustable pump speed, the solution could be as simple as selecting a lower flow rate setting.
  • When buying a new filter be sure to read the reviews regarding its noise level. Try it out in the store, if able, and compare it with other models. Ask the store owner for their advice on which filter to choose if its noise output is of concern.
  • Having filters in the base of the aquarium stand can cause the stand to act as an amplifier. Try moving the filter outside of the stand or placing the filter on a silicone mat or mouse mat. If the filter sits on the side of the aquarium and is vibrating, try placing some rubber feet or a piece of rubber between the filter and the tank.

What Kinds of Aquarium Filters Can You Use?

If you are unhappy with your current filter and are considering switching, let’s talk about the different kinds of aquarium filters available on the market.

Protein Skimmers

Protein Skimmers are used solely on saltwater aquariums. They are the backbone of mechanical aquarium filtration and in my opinion, no reef tank should be run without one.

Parts of a Protein Skimmer

Protein skimmers work by using bubbles to physically remove proteins from the water. If you’ve ever walked on the beach and noticed the foam gathering near the shore and how it contains some ocean gunk, protein skimmers work along the same lines. 

They mix water and microscopic air bubbles to create a massive surface area that proteins and other waste materials within the water to stick to. As each bubble rises it transports the waste to the neck of the protein skimmer and then the bubble bursts, releasing the waste that was stuck to it. This waste material is collected in a cup and disposed of by the owner.

For more detailed information on Protein Skimmers check out my article:

What Is A Protein Skimmer And Do I Need One?

HOB Filters

HOB means Hang-On-Back and this is exactly how these filters are located on an aquarium. Also known as Power filters, they just hang on the top rim of the tank and can be situated on any side which best suits you.

HOB filters are a great choice if you want simple, inexpensive, and easy-to-maintain filters. Maintenance is pretty much a matter of taking out the filter media from the easy-to-access compartment and cleaning or putting in a new one.

HOB filters are compact, with the pump and filter media in one unit which sits outside of the aquarium, and a submerged tube or hose that extracts water from the tank. The water passes up through the filter media, and goes back to the tank through a chute. The chute produces a laminar waterfall effect that helps aerate the water and reduce noise.

HOB filters are recommended for smaller tanks and may be used to work in tandem with another HOB filter in bigger tanks.

For more detailed information on HOB/Power Filters check out my article:

Can You Use A HOB Filter For A Saltwater Tank?

Canister Filters

Canister filters are an ideal filter for those who want silent filters since they are renowned for being super quiet. They are also a great choice if you want a hidden filter since canister filters can be stored out of sight – typically below the tank in the stand.

Aquarium Canister Filter

Canister filters siphon water from the tank via a hose and pass it through several stages of filter media before returning it to the tank via a return nozzle or spraybar. Canister filters are great for freshwater aquariums and have been used on smaller saltwater aquariums, but you must make sure you clean them regularly to prevent the buildup of debris and detritus in the base of the canister.

The multiple media chambers allow you to select various types of filter media to achieve the filtration you require. Be sure to get a self-priming filter to ensure it starts and regains suction after a power outage.

For more detailed information on Canister Filters check out my article:

Can You Use A Canister Filter For A Reef Aquarium?

To Finish

Aquarium filters should be operating all the time since they contribute four key things to an aquarium: Mechanical Filtration, Chemical Filtration Biological filtration, and Aeration. These four things must be present in an aquarium 24/7 to combat the constant production of waste material by your livestock.

There are many great filters out there in every configuration you could need for an aquarium, so finding one is a simple task. By reading the manufacturer’s descriptions, asking other aquarium owners for recommendations, and reading product reviews you will have no trouble selecting the perfect filter for your setup and allow it to run 24/7.

Further Reading

To further help you in your aquarium research, I highly recommend these other articles:

Best Saltwater Urchins for Beginners – Top Picks!


Are you looking for something a bit different to add to your aquarium? Have a problem with algae, and are wanting an algae grazer? Then look no further as you have stumbled across the perfect article for you!

Sea urchins are invertebrates, with a soft body and a hard exoskeleton usually covered in spines. Even though these crawling critters can sense light and dark, they will mainly use their sense of smell to navigate around your aquarium, and even though they appear to be slow, they soon get around!

The Best Urchins For a Beginner Saltwater Aquarium Are:

  • Pincushion Urchin
  • Long-Spined Urchin
  • Short-Spine Urchin
  • Blue Tuxedo Urchin

Sea urchins will scavenge the aquarium for unwanted algae and detritus that builds up in your tank, often carrying things and burying themselves in the substrate. This means they like to overturn rocks, which can damage other aquarium residents (especially corals), the tank, or even themselves, therefore extra care is needed when keeping urchins.

Always be careful when handling them as they can puncture the skin – their spines can break into tiny pieces once inside your skin, making them difficult to remove and painful! Trust Me! The Long-Spined Urchin is the usual culprit!

Urchins are sensitive to water changes and cannot tolerate copper-based medication, so making sure their water parameters are within range is really important!


For success with Urchins, your first priority is to keep your water parameters in the following ranges:

  • Temperature: 22.2 – 25.5°C or 72 – 78°F
  • Salinity: 30.5 – 33.2 ppt or 1.023 – 1.025sg
  • pH: 8.1 – 8.4
  • Alkalinity: 8 – 12 dKH

Beginner Tip: Signs of Poor Water Quality is Spine Loss


My Top Beginner Sea Urchins:

As a beginner, it can be overwhelming what urchin(s) to start with. You will want ones that are peaceful, hardy, and easy to care for to ensure you have the greatest success in keeping them. If you have a big enough tank (over 100 gal), you can have more than one – they are solitary animals but do not seem to be aggressive towards each other.

They are scavengers so I would ensure your aquarium has lots of algae for them to feed on. I would recommend you wait at least 6 months after your aquarium cycle has finished before adding your first urchin.

Below is my Top Urchins you can start with that are great for beginners!

Pincushion Urchin

(Lytechinus variegatus)

  • Max. Size: 8”
  • Diet: Herbivore & Omnivore
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Min. Tank Size: 20 Gallons
  • Priced from: $10.00

These nocturnal urchins, which range in colors from red, white, and blue, are easy to care for, peaceful, and super affordable – which is why they are my favorite for beginners!

Stay away from the Purple Pincushion Urchin as these are not beginner-friendly!

They love hiding, so you will want plenty of hiding spots for them during the day. When they come out at night, they can be seen moving around searching for algae to graze on – particularly live rock. If you do decide to buy a pincushion urchin, make sure that any rock formations are stable, so your urchin does not get stuck between them. 

As you can see in the photo, they love to pick up shells, rock rubble, and bits of coral on their spines that they use for camouflage. It can be quite amusing to see how they decorate themselves!

Long-Spined Urchin

(Diadema setosum)

Source: Matt Kieffer
  • Max. Size: 10”
  • Diet: Herbivore
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Min. Tank Size: 25 Gallons
  • Priced from: $30.00

Also known as the Black Long-Spined Sea Urchin, this one gets its name from the long black spines that are mildly venomous covering its body – no need to worry, they do not threaten us humans, they just sting a little!

They are easily identified by their bright orange anus in the center of its mass of spines. – Officially known as the Periproctal Cone for any science nerds out there like myself!

These guys grow a lot larger than other sea urchins, so ensure you have enough space for them to move around. These guys will take up a lot of room in a nano aquarium so those size tanks are best avoided.

One great thing about these urchins is that they have a symbiotic relationship with Bangai Cardinalfish (Pterapogon kauderni) who will ‘Hang Out’ in the urchins’ spines for protection.

Short-Spined Urchin

(Echinometra sp.)

  • Max. Size: 3”
  • Diet: Herbivore
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Min. Tank Size: 20 Gallons
  • Priced from: $12.00

Also called the Rock Burrowing Urchin, these round-bodied urchins have hundreds of white/red/orange spines with long tube feet to move around your aquarium.

They get the name ‘Collector Urchin’ as they like to camouflage themselves by covering their body with seaweed and small rocks therefore you will want plenty of live rock for them to graze on and stable rock formations for hiding.

Their diet should also include dried seaweed/nori, especially if your aquarium is still unmatured and relatively algae-free.

Blue Tuxedo Urchin

(Mespilia globulus)

  • Max. Size: 3”
  • Diet: Herbivore
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Min. Tank Size: 20 Gallons
  • Priced from: $33.00

Also known as the globe urchin – these are very peaceful, easy to care for, and do not grow super big making them suitable for most aquariums. Tuxedo urchins are reef safe and hardy, making them easy to care for, and perfect for beginners.

Tuxedo urchins are covered in hundreds of sort uniform spines that are sharp and can puncture human skin, so handle these guys with care!

As they do not grow too big, they are one of the less ‘clumsy’ ones so will not be knocking over everything in your aquarium – but they are keen scavengers, so will still move small objects around as they search for food.

Tuxedo urchins do not tolerate fluctuations and high levels of nitrate, so it is recommended you supplement your tank and take extra care when acclimatizing them into their new environment.

They are also very sensitive when transporting, so drive carefully with these urchins on board!

How Do You Care For Sea Urchins?

Firstly, you need to consider space for them as they like to slowly move around and also contribute to the bio-load in your saltwater tank. They generally like the same temperature and salinity levels at their tank mates, but you should always research the specific needs of the species you wish to keep.

Sea urchins love to move around and can be super clumsy! They will knock over things in their way. Make sure you have a very sturdy set up to avoid fish getting injured and trapped underneath the urchins.

Who Can Sea Urchins Share A Tank With?

When selecting the right urchin for your aquarium, you must consider compatibility. They should not be sharing a tank with aggressive predators such as puffers, triggerfish, and octopus. These feisty guys will tear off their spines and break their shells so they can eat them.

You should also avoid small predatory fish that will swim between the urchin’s spines injuring themselves. As long as you have enough space and food for them, you can have more than one sea urchin as they are generally very peaceful creatures.

What Do You Feed Sea Urchins?

Most of these spiny critters enjoy munching on algae, but some prefer something a bit ‘meaty’ from time to time. If you are specifically looking for an algae cleaner, then the Tuxedo Urchins are a great choice!

Make sure you do not overfeed your urchins as a build-up of uneaten foods leads to harmful toxins in the water like ammonia – this will not only affect your urchins but their tank buddies too!

Urchins To Avoid & Why!

Some urchins are not compatible with reef fish or corals so, which urchins should you avoid?

Below is a quick summary of 3 urchins you want to avoid and why!

Slate Pencil Urchin

(Heterocentrotus mamillatus)

  • Not easy to care for
  • Not reef compatible for corals

Purple Short Spine Pincushion Urchin

(Pseudoboletia sp.)

  • Semi-aggressive
  • Must be added with caution with other reef fish

Long Spine Banded Urchin

(Echinothrix calamaris)

  • Not easy to care for
  • Venomous

To Finish

By now you should have a basic understanding of what sea urchins are, what ones are beginner-friendly, ones you should avoid, and how to care for them in your saltwater aquarium.

Remember:

  • Perform regular water changes.
  • Try not to disturb them & damage their spines when cleaning around them.
  • Some species are not compatible with all reef fish – do your research before buying!
  • They should be kept where there are lots of algae to graze on, otherwise, they will starve – but do not overfeed them.

Further Reading

If you found this article helpful, I highly recommend you check out these ones too:

What is a Closed-Loop Aqaurium?


I remember having this same question many, many years ago about what was closed-loop reef tank? And if you are here, you probably have a bunch of questions like what they are too? What is their purpose? Are they worth it? And are you missing out on something by not using a closed-loop system?

A closed-loop reef tank is a saltwater aquarium that has been fitted with a piped-in water circulation system. Closed-loops create high-flow water movement necessary for fish & coral health while keeping the aquarium free of obtrusive pumps & equipment. They are best suited to large aquariums.

If you want to learn more about closed-loop systems, continue reading below, where I go into more detail about everything you need to know.

What Is Considered a Closed Loop Reef Tank?

Closed-loop systems are piped circuits in which the aquarium water is circulated throughout the system without it being exposed to the outside environment. With closed-loop reef tanks, all inlets and outlets are constantly submerged and comprise one continuous loop.

Rossco’s Closed-Loop System on Reef2Reef.com Aquarium Forums

The aquarium water is pulled through one or several intakes by an externally mounted water circulation pump and then is pumped back into the tank through one or several nozzles.

Usually, a significantly greater water flow can be generated with a closed-loop system compared to using individual powerheads and wavemakers, especially on long or large aquariums.

In comparison, the most common reef aquarium setup using a sump is considered an open-loop system, because the water that is pumped through the system is exposed to the outside atmosphere when it reaches the sump.

Aquarium Sump Operation
An Typical Open-Loop Tank & Sump Setup

That being said, closed-loop systems and open-loop systems shouldn’t be viewed as systems that cannot coexist. In fact, many aquarists use them together—the closed-loop system provides water flow, and the open-loop system the filtration.

An Open & Closed-Loop Reef Tank Setup

Why Are Closed Loop Reef Tanks Used?

Closed loop systems are used mainly for creating water flow within the main display aquarium.

To a certain degree, closed-loop systems can be considered the old-school way of providing water flow in larger tanks because back then, we didn’t have the powerful wavemaker pumps we have today.

Closed-loop systems are mainly used on large and usually custom-built reef tanks because the holes have to be pre-drilled before the glass gets tempered. Because of this most closed-loop systems will be found on the larger 100 to +800 gallon reef tanks.

Closed-loop systems are usually either located underneath or behind the tank. Placing the closed-loop pipework and circulation pump under the tank is preferred because it is more aesthetically pleasing, allows the tank to hug the rear wall a little more tightly, and generates good water flow that will not allow the detritus to settle down.

Closed-loop reef tanks are not as common as they used to be used because they require a lot more work and cost to install but, in return, allow for clutter-free and smoother running display tanks. It all comes down to the personal preference and budget of the aquarium owner at the time they install the tank and filtration.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Closed Reef Tanks Systems

Clutter-Free Display Tanks

Most people don’t really enjoy the sight of powerheads, especially me!. Even though some powerheads can be hidden within artificial rocks, or behind the aquascape, they are still not very pretty to look at. If you can hide the pump, you usually then have the cables to look at!


To me, a reef aquarium should display the beauty of the living world within it with as few mechanical devices on show as possible!


Since you do not need to use powerheads and wavemakers with a closed-loop system, this allows you to keep the clutter in your display tank to an absolute minimum.

Maintenance and Care

The routine maintenance and care on closed-loop systems, if properly set up, is very easy to do. Ball valves must be placed before and after the circulation pump(s), allowing for easier mounting, dismounting, and servicing.

Ball valves should also be turned weekly to prevent seizure over time! One owner I knew did not do this, then when his closed-loop pump died he had a heck of a time unseizing that valve!

Leaks

Leaks are possible with any type of aquarium, but as long as the bulkheads and the piping are installed correctly, there shouldn’t be any leaks, this is the same no matter the type of system installed.

If you turn the power off on a closed-loop reef tank, the water level will not change—only the water flow will stop.

In comparison, in an open-loop reef tank, not only will the water flow stop, but the water level will also drop until it goes below the overflow. This means that a sump flood can happen if setup improperly because it is an open-loop system.

Water Flow

Depending on what corals and type of fish you have in your tank, you will need different amounts of water flow—which can easily be achieved with a closed-loop system. By using nozzles and valves you can direct and control the flow in many parts of the tank.

This means that you do need powerheads. If the closed-loop system is set up properly, you can generate more than enough water flow to keep an SPS and LPS reef vibrant and healthy, even in the largest aquariums!

However, alternating the flow can pose some difficulties compared to using powerheads, which you can place and direct in any direction you see fit. This is why owners often install flow diverters on closed-loop systems, like the ones from Oceans Motions and SCWD, to keep the water flow more natural and randomized.

How An Oceans Motion Works:

What The Water Flow Does:

Noise Levels

Although most powerheads are fairly quiet, it is not uncommon for them to make strange noises, especially when they are ramping up and down in flow. Keeping that in mind, a closed-loop system should normally be quieter, with just a constant hum from the circulating pump.

If your aquarium is going in a noise sensitive area then you are best advised to join your local reefing club and visit tanks that run both closed loop systems and ones that just run powerheads to see for yourself.

There is no getting away from noise sometimes. Although the new wavemakers are incredibly quite, so to are the new circulation pumps.

Drilling

The number of holes drilled can vary between two to ten or more in some instances, with the most common being between four to six holes—two drains and two to four returns. The drains are typically 1.5 inches in diameter, and the returns 1 inch. Drilling holes with a larger diameter is often avoided for safety reasons.

Drilling the tank is one of the things that should be considered carefully. Once you drill the tank, you cannot go back; it’s not reversible, and mistakes can be costly.

Drilling a tank is easy, but drilling should be done only on untempered glass because drilling tempered glass will shatter it, with explosive power! This is why most closed-loop systems are designed before the tank is manufactured as almost all bottom panes in an aquarium are tempered for strength.

It is possible to make a closed-loop without drilling but that usually takes away all the aesthetical advantages and appeal closed-loops can offer. Usually, the pipework is going to be a little more complicated to set up, and it will have to go up and over the top of the tank, so it is not a pretty sight to look at, but it does work. With careful cabinet construction, you can hide a good portion of the pipework within the canopy, only seeing the nozzles under the waterline.

There are many great DIY examples out there, but there are also some horrible one too!

A Single Point of Failure

The quality and type of pump you will be using is extremely important! This is not the place to cheap out on!

You want to use a high-quality pump that can run 24/7 for years without failing because if it fails, it will prevent the whole system from working. Losing your only source of flow can be fatal for your coral.

Because of this, many closed-loop owners will have a spare identical pump all plumbed and ready to be swapped out at a moment’s notice.

Costs

It is arguable whether or not a closed-loop will be more cost-effective in terms of providing water flow compared to using powerheads.

A less powerful powerhead is still viable on smaller aquariums, but on larger tanks where many powerheads may be necessary, installing a closed-loop can potentially be cheaper. It’s a matter of calculating the wattage used.

The more powerheads you run, the more watts are consumed. Compare that to the single wattage of the closed-loop’s circulating pump and you could be saving quite a lot of money running just the one pump.

The other cost to consider is the initial setup. Having the tank drilled, pipework installed, a circulating pump, spare pump, and maybe a flow diverter could run you around $1000-1500, however, just a single powerhead/wavemaker can run you $300-700 and depending on how many you will require may make a closed-loop cheaper.

Is a Closed Loop Reef Tank Worth It?

In my opinion, closed-loops still have their place. They are neither obsolete nor a relic of the past and they are arguably one of the best ways to keep a clutter-free tank while providing optimal levels of water flow, especially if the aquarium is long or large. If properly set up and designed, you will not see any pipes or power cables!

But powerheads have improved in quality and performance over the years to the point where they—although not visually appealing—can be considered a good alternative since they are super easy to install and can provide tremendous amount of flow, especially the Gyres!


For More Information & a Great Selection Gyres, See them Here at Amazon.com


The reality is not many owners will be comfortable with or willing to drill multiple holes in the rear panels (bottom panels are tempered remember) of their tanks to set up a closed-loop system. As a result, closed-loop systems have come a little out of favor and are not so commonly used today. This makes closed-loop systems more of a hassle to initially set up, but they are still worth considering, nonetheless, especially if you love to DIY!

To Finish

Closed-Loop Systems are a great way to provide tremendous and sometimes alternating flow to a reef aquarium. By using a pump, a few drilled holes, and some plumbing you can really create a stunning aquarium with zero equipment in sight.

Primarily used on larger aquariums where the installation of multiple powerheads would be required, a closed-loop system can make aesthetic and financial sense. But the cost and design of a custom aquarium can then make a very unattractive option to most reef tank owners.

For small aquariums, powerheads and wavemakers are the best route. For long and large aquariums, the Closed-Loop is a great alternative.

Further Reading

If you found this article helpful, please take a read of some of my others: