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Mark Martin on the Big Three
Salinity, pH and Temperature in the Reef Aqaurium

In a reef tank, the big three—salinity, temperature and pH—are far more important than in a fish-only system, but every aquarist should shoot for stability in these three parameters. Every single tank crash in the history of aquaria has been a direct or indirect result of a lack of stability in one or all of the big three. It is funny when you think about—there are just three parameters you really need to watch, and yet so many people simply don’t. I mean, sure, it is important to look at nitrates and calcium in a reef tank, but if you ignore the big three long enough, it does not matter if you have 500ppm calcium or 0ppm nitrates. The tank will eventually crash. So what can you do today to get the big three taken care of? Read on.

Use a Chiller, Heater and Controller to Maintain Temperature Stability in a Reef Tank

Temperature stability is essential to a reef tank. Fluctuations in temperature of only a few degrees every 24 hours creates environmental stress for your animals. The stress, while perhaps not deadly in and of itself, will, over time, make your animals more susceptible to disease and infestation. Instead of dumping money into expensive nitrate reactors or calcium reactors, most beginning reef aquarists would derive far more benefit by buying a chiller. Using a quality chiller in conjunction with a heater and a reliable controller will insure minimal temperature fluctuation in your aquarium.

Keeping Salinity Stable in a Tropical Marine Aquarium

In a reef or invertebrate tank, many of the animals are particularly sensitive to changes in salinity. Falling behind on topping-off your aquarium with freshwater can cause the salinity to increase gradually. While this usually does not present a huge problem, when you suddenly “catch-up” with tank maintenance, and replace five, ten or more gallons of freshwater all at once, the salinity drops back down to normal levels but much too quickly for many inverts. Investing in an automatic top-off system can make all the difference in terms of keeping your tank’s salinity stable.

Dealing with pH Fluctuations

A normal daily cycle of pH fluctuation occurs in most aquaria secondary to the lighting schedule. While this is not a disaster, in most cases, the savvy aquarist can easily stabilize this parameter by simply installing a refugium that runs on an alternate light cycle. Keeping the refugium lights on when the display tank’s lights are off will insure a more stable pH over an entire 24-hour period.

Install a Chiller, Automatic Top-Off and a Refugium Today!

New reef aquarists, like all aquarists, should focus first and foremost on the big three: temperature, salinity and pH. Investing in a chiller, an automatic top-off system and a refugium can go a long way to creating a stable reef environment that will quickly mature into a full-blown reef aquarium.

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