The 2 biggest complaints that many people lay against Reef tanks is that they are very expensive and not environmentally friendly at all. While this is true of many reef tanks out there, this does not have to be the case. The purpose of this article is to show you how you can save your pocket book, and the environment and still have a beautiful reef tank.


The equipment is one of those areas where most people get stopped on a marine tank. Much of the needed or recommended equipment is very expensive. If you are one of those people that insists on having all new equipment then skip this paragraph, the economical part is not for you. The most expensive piece of equipment you will buy (besides the tank) is the lighting. Unfortunately there are not many ways to cut your costs on lighting. Bulbs have to be purchased new but the fixture can be a used one. Keep your eyes on the classifieds and online for great deals, you never know what you will find. Really, this is a method that applies to all you equipment, tank included. Another thing to do is to go digging around and see if there is anything that you just don't use anymore and offer trades. Trading equipment with other hobbyists can be a great way to build up your tank.


The largest purchase the aspiring reefer will make is that of the live rock. Unfortunately this purchase can also be detrimental to the environment as well. There are a couple of options that will help protect our reefs and at the same time provide for the need of the hobbyist. The first option is that of aquacultured live rock. This option is not the most economical option but it is an environmental option. The rock is not taken from reefs but is rather cured in an artificial environment. The other advantage to this is that the likelihood of getting unwanted hitchhikers such as Mantis Shrimp, Aptasia, and fireworms. The second option is to purchase dry rock. Dry rock is both an economical and an environmentally sound choice. Dry rock is simply rock is sometimes taken from quarries, along the shoreline or from dead parts of the reef. The biggest advantage to buying dry rock is the cost. On average dry rock sells for $1-$1.50 per pound and unlike live rock, you don't pay for any water weight. Dry rock, when submersed and cured to be live, will be increase in weight by 25-30%. The important thing to remember is that when you purchase dry rock you must also have a small amount of live rock in the tank to help seed the rock. The final option for live rock is to make your own using concrete purchased at your local building supply store along with an aragonite based sand and water softening salts. This option is not the most economical as dry rock can be purchased for less. The other downside to this option is the time it takes to make it. Making your own live rock is a long process.


The sand bed is the next area where money can be saved as well as the environment. Many reefers are now opting to omit a sand bed altogether and simply maintain a bare bottom reef. If this is an option that you do not find palatable, then playsand may be a better option. Natural playsand can be used in a reef tank and it is a very cheap way to build your sand bed. The one contention that many people often make about playsand is the presence of silica, however, since silica has been classified as a carcinogen, the amount of silica in playsand is extremely limited and is not in significant enough amounts to cause a problem.


Finally livestock must be considered. The purchase of fish and corals is where many environmentalist groups have their largest complaint against the hobby. However the number of fish that are being bred in captivity is increasing all the time and the availability of aquacultured corals is also increasing. Many hobbyists are concerned that the fish they may want are not available in captive bred specimens. This may be true, however it is possible to completely stock a reef aquarium with captive bred specimens and still have a diverse group of fish and motile invertebrates. The only downside to purchasing captive bred specimens is that they are more expensive, however the increased cost is definitely worth the benefits to our natural reefs. Corals are probably the easiest thing to obtain in an environmental and economical manner. Many areas have local aquarium clubs that allow hobbyists to get together. A common practice of these clubs is the frag swap. Frag swapping is a great way to obtain corals with no financial cost, and it also prevents corals from being taken from the wild. However, if the hobbyist is not really into fragging their corals due to decreasing the aesthetics of the tank, then aquacultured corals may also be purchased. Again, these are going to be slightly more expensive then corals that are harvested from the wild.


Fortunately for our hobby, the suppliers are becoming more environmentally aware and they are providing options to the hobbyist that are environmentally sound. So enjoy your reef, and protect our natural reefs, they are a vital resource that once lost, can never be replaced.