In the last 20 years of fish keeping, nothing has rivaled the explosive growth and popularity of the "reef"; nor has anything stirred up so much discussion. While many people attempted various modes of reef keeping, it was the introduction of the Dutch reefs with wet/dry filters, which triggered the hobby's growth in the U.S. With the new biological wet/dry filters, it became possible to have stable, large, bio-load systems which could support more delicate life, such as corals and anemones. Once the filter platform was available, other shortcomings in chemical filtration and led aquarium lighting became evident, spurring the evolution of new products and controversy.

Please remember that led aquarium lighting guide is still relatively new, and many successful systems are available. If you have talked to other enthusiasts, you are aware that there are several ways to set up your reef. Keep in mind that what works for someone else may not work for you; you may need to set up a traditional wet/dry system or jump into the latest "Berlin" skimmer system. Plan your approach to avoid frustration.

Proper aquarium size

The first step to a successful reef is to obtain the proper size of aquarium. Ideally, you want a fairly large tank; a minimum would be 18" wide x 48" long x 18" deep. Large, wide tanks are advantageous because they include more area for aquascaping and for the lighting system.
led aquarium lights


Among the most important aspects of reef keeping is the lighting system. With lighting, we want to provide the proper photoperiod, intensity, and spectrum for good coral and anemone growth. Most applications use a 12-hour photoperiod. With multi-light systems, you can use timers to vary the intensity by varying the number of lights on at any one time. Usually, one bulb comes on for an hour, then all bulbs for 10 hours, then one light is left on for an additional hour while the others are turned off. This is one method to duplicate the sun passing over the reef. On really elaborate systems, some hobbyists have even designed cloud cover patterns.

To provide proper light intensity, use 3-5 watts per gallon and use multiple fluorescent lights if the tank is 30" deep or less. Deeper tanks require more elaborate systems, usually involving hanging metal halide pendant lighting. Most books suggest one 175-watt metal halide per 4 square feet of surface area, hanging about 1 foot above the tank.

The development of electronic ballasts for Very High Output (VHO) fluorescent lighting, has allowed enthusiasts to design high wattage systems in small spaces. A 48" VHO bulb outputs 110W, versus 40W for a standard bulb. VHO systems require special end caps to withstand the higher heat emitted. Most of these tubes are available with internal reflectors to maximize intensity. Use bulbs with a CRI of 90-99 (CRI 100=sunlight), or color temperature of 5500-10,000K.