Top 3 Tips for Setting Up a Sustainable Reef Aquarium

If you want to be a responsible reef aquarium hobbyist and you really care about the environment, you’d want to set up a sustainable reef tank. As our understanding of aquaculture grows and with the latest advancements in the marine aquarium industry, this goal is completely within reach.

Don’t know where to start? In this article, we’ll share the top three tips for setting up a sustainable reef aquarium.

1. Use eco-friendly reef rock instead of live rocks straight from the ocean.

Although there have long been sustainable live rock options that aquarium hobbyists can use, there are now 100% eco-friendly reef rocks available as a truly sustainable alternative. 

There are marine-friendly reef rocks made with the same natural components of a coral reef available in the market today. They look very similar to the regular live rock that you’d get from the ocean, and they come in different shapes and sizes. 

When you visit a reef aquarium store, you should find these options including branching types that you can use to set up your themed aquarium and intricate aquascape. Also, aside from eco-friendly reef rocks, you might also want to consider using sustainable substrate for your tank.

2. Add a sustainable reef cleaner crew.

A sustainable reef cleaner crew typically consists of snails, shrimps, crabs, and other types of invertebrates that can work around the clock to keep your reef tank clean. What’s so great about them is that they eat uneaten food and clean up algae in your reef tank naturally.

If you want a sustainable cleaner crew for your aquarium, make sure that everything has been aquacultured. One of the best algae cleaners is the Trochus Snail, which has a strong appetite and will eat algae off the walls of your aquarium, rocks, and substrates. 

Although smaller, Cerith Snails also have huge appetites for algae, uneaten food, and detritus. Another reason you should add them to your reef cleaner crew is that they’re good at burrowing your sand bed even at night, which keeps it well oxygenated. 

Aside from snails, aquacultured Peppermint Shrimp and Variegated Sea Urchins are also great additions to your cleanup crew.

3. Start with hardy soft corals.

Maintaining a reef tank and keeping corals alive can be tricky for the inexperienced. So if you want to build a sustainable reef tank and you’re just starting out, choose corals that are beginner friendly and easier to keep.

Ask the experts from the reef tank supplies store for advice on the best hardy soft corals and large polyp stony (LPS) corals. Once you gain more experience, you can slowly transition to small polyp stony (SPS) corals. What’s great about soft corals and LPS corals is that they are captive raised and completely sustainable.

They are also awesome at adding an element of movement to your tank. Some of the hobbyists’ top picks include Zoanthid Polyps, Green Star Polyps, Xenia Polyps, and Euphyllia Corals.

Final Thoughts

In the past, improper practices led to damaged reefs, decreased populations, and high post-capture mortality. However, in recent years, progress in aquaculture and coral farming has allowed reef tank hobbyists to build sustainable reef tanks.

The tips we shared in this article are just some of the easiest ways to build a sustainable aquarium. You might also want to explore other methods such as choosing captive bred fish and aquacultured macroalgae for nutrient removal. The point is, with just a bit of research, you can pursue your hobby while keeping the environment protected.

If you’re looking for sustainable options check out Pieces of the Ocean, a reliable online shop for live corals.

Clay Miller
the authorClay Miller
I am the creator/writer of and I'm an advocate for oceans, beaches, state parks. I enjoy all things outdoors (e.g. running, golf, gardening, hiking, etc.) I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky (Go Wildcats!!). I'm also a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Kentucky.