No getting around it, a minireef aquarium requires more maintenance than a basic fish-only system. Nevertheless, many aquarists find the rewards worth the additional effort. Be realistic about your ability and willingness to perform critical maintenance functions.
Strange as it may sound, more captive saltwater creatures starve to death than die of disease. Many a failed system could have been saved with better attention to nutrition. Suspension feeding invertebrates, in particular, may fail to receive adequate nourishment and perish within a year. Avoid needless waste by planning ahead for a continuous food supply before you commit to a tank of such species, or even a single specimen. I have provided tips on food cultivation in chapter 2,"Bringing Out the Best in Saltwater Aquariums." Eric Borneman's Aquarium Corals and Ron Shimek's Marine Invertebrates provide detailed recipes for coral foods and information about feeding specifics in invertebrate groups, respectively.
Cultivating live foods for your aquarium can be as much fun as the aquarium itself, but to do it consistently you will need a permanent work space for the purpose.
Invertebrates, corals in particular, demand water chemistry approaching the norms of the sea. Regular partial water changes help to remove accumulating pollutants and restore valuable trace elements. Attention to this aspect of maintenance requires both time and a way to prepare seawater. Your plan should include both, if you hope to have a successful minireef.
A test and tweak routine ensures that the crucial factors of salinity, calcium concentration, alkalinity, and pH remain optimal at all times. If you are unprepared for weekly monitoring of these parameters, consider a more basic aquarium design.
The aquarium must have additions of distilled water to compensate for evaporation. Calcium will require replenishment if your corals are to grow new skeletal material. Buffer may be needed to maintain alkalinity. Consider automating these procedures to the extent possible, providing greater consistency of water chemistry over time.
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