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The Coral Guys Reef Aquarium Environment

Some of my brood stock corals
A nice picture of some of the brood stock that I use to propagate my reef inhabitants with

The Coral Guy's Reef Environment

Building the right reef environment is essential to the long-term success of your reef aquarium. One of the more important aspects of building the right reef environment is aquascaping. A properly aquascaped reef provides the entire aquarium with adequate water circulation and helps to prevent detitrus buildup. All of the rocks that make up my reef aquraiums were made by me. I call them Aragorock tm. I design my rock so that my reef has an extremely small footprint and that water can flow freely throughout the entire aquarium. If you would like to learn how to build your own Aragorock tm or purchase Aragorock, tm, please visit my webpage entitled Aragorock

Building a Plenum

For those of you who don't already know, a plenum is a live sand bed that acts as a natural nitrate reducer. It also provides a very large surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow. I have found that over time, a plenum setup with aragonite gravel also provides sufficient calcuim to the aquarium. As a result, I have NOT had to add calcium to my aquarium ever which in turn saves me money on the calcium additives that I have would have had to purchase. My calcium levels, since building the plenum have stayed constant around 500 ppm. Using a plenum is a debatable subject amoungst hobbyists. For me, using a plenum has produced better results than if I didn't use one.

Here is a picture of the plenum that I made within my 37 gallon acrylic show tank. Notice the black screen between the aragonite live sand beds. As you can see, my plenum is about 4 inches tall. It does'nt need to be this tall however, I knew that I was going to be using less than 1 pound of Aragorock tm rock per gallon of water so I added more aragonite live sand to allow for a larger surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow. The live aragonite sand also does a great job in reflecting light off of the bottom of the aquarium.

Picture of the plenum in my 37 gallon show aquarium.

In order to effectively build a plenum, you will need to purchase the following materials:

  • A legnth of 3/4 inch OD PVC pipe
  • A sheet of egg crate used for drop ceiling lighting (Home Depot)
  • A roll of nylon screening
  • A tube of super glue
  • Enough live sand to cover the entire footprint of your aquarium at least one inch deep.
  • Enough aragonite sand to cover the entire footprint of your aquarium one inch deep.

In addition, you will need a pair of scizzors and a means by which to cut the pvc pipe. I normally use either a pipe cutter or hack saw.

Before I start explaining to you how to build your own plenum, I wan't to make sure that the aquarium that you are using for this plenum does not yet have water in it. If it does, you will have to completely drain your aquarium. I've seen other hobbyists explain how to build a plenum but fail to mention that the aquarium must be water and rock free.

Start off by cuting the inch OD PVC pipe into several 1 inch pieces. The 3/4 in OD PVC pipe pieces will be used to suspend the aragonite and live sand above the bottom of the aquarium. This creates a means by which the water can flow under the live sand bed and create an natural means of reducing or eliminating nitrates.

Next, cut the egg crate in order for the cut piece to cover the bottom of your aquarium less one inch on each side. Once this has been done, glue enough of the 3/4 PVC pipe pieces to the bottom of the egg-create to support the weight of your live rock. What I have done is to stagger the 3/4 inch pieces so to use as few pieces as possible while allowing for maximum support.

See picture.

Once you've created the framework for your plenum, place the egg create in your aquariums center and allow for one inch of spacing on each side.

Next,cut a sufficient piece of nylon screening in order to cover the entire piece of egg create and also to cover the one inch space on each side. The objective here is to not allow ANY aragonite sand to fall into the open area under the egg crate.

Once you've cut the nylon screening, place it within the aquarium and cover the entire nylon screening with aragonite sand until you have at least one inch tall of aragonite sand covering the nylon screening.

Next, cut a sufficient piece of nylon screening in order to completely cover the aragonite sand. Place the nylon screening over top of the aragonite sand.

Once you've placed the nylon screening on top of the aragonite sand, cover the nylon screening completely with live sand so again to have at least one tall of live sand covering the nylon screening.

That's all to creating your own plenum.

Live Rock

If you are already do not know what live rock is, I will explain it too you. Live rock taken from the ocean is pieces of coral reef that have broken off and have settled to the bottom of the ocean. Over time, this rock is inhabited with many different types that organizams that not only will benefit your aquarium, they look nice too. The Aragorock tm that I use in all my aquariums is also considered live rock however, I had to add the living organisms and reef inhabitants instead of nature doing it naturally. My Aragorock tm this is very porous (filled with holes) and provides alot of surface area in which to harbor beneficial bacteria.

Within all of my aquariums, I am using approximately of a pound of my live Aragorock tm rock per gallon of water. This ratio has worked very well for me. I have, in the past, used more than one pound per gallon but have seen no benefit in doing so since I am using a plenum.

If you do not choose to use a plenum and are not coving the bottom of your aquarium with substrate, you will need to use at least 2 pounds of live rock per gallon of water in order to provide for enough surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow.

This is all that I feel is necessary in order to create for a proper reef environment for your inhabitants to live in.

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