You may find that your reef tank is just like every other reef tank. There is nothing that makes it special. Sure, it has bright corals, healthy fish, and overall looks great, but it is still just another reef tank. There is nothing wrong with that, although you may want to step it up a bit with a future tank or your current one. It is possible for you to morph your tank into a unique saltwater aquarium. Do this by stepping away from the water parameters for a little and focus on the creative side.
Making sure your tank parameters are stable and the inhabitants are healthy is undeniably the most important aspect of reef keeping, but it does not hurt to consider some of the art aspects of your aquarium. Sometimes we forget that there is more to reefing than getting stable parameters. You may have some beautiful corals, but maybe there is another coral that will look better in that spot. Maybe your tank looks bland because you have the same fish as the next tank. Maybe you just threw the rocks in there without much attention to how they looked. It is very important that you enjoy your aquarium for a long time. Having a more captivating reef tank will add joy to your reef experience. There are many ways you can create a unique saltwater aquarium. Just don’t be afraid to be a little creative.
The base of your reef aquarium is the aquascape. Your rocks are where you will place corals and where fish will swim around and hide. For this reason, it is important to have a good aquascape. When aquascaping, try to create unusual structures. Have some pieces of rock stick out and have some create caves. It is best to place the rock in unequal ways that make it look random and natural. You can even have “islands” or separate structures. Maybe a larger one that takes up half of the tank and a much smaller structure that takes only a small portion. You could also have partially connected rocks that create arch-like structures.
This will definitely take some experimenting. You can get inspiration from looking at other hobbyists’ aquariums online or in person. Just keep in mind that it is almost impossible to recreate any aquascape.
Caves, extending platforms, and unequal structures are great targets when aquascaping, but there are also things you want to avoid doing. Of course, you can do whatever you want with your aquascape, but I have a few recommendations that will lead you in the right direction. First, avoid pyramid looking shapes. Having lots of rock at the bottom and piling them up to a peak does not look great at all. It looks sloppy and bland. Also, stay away from rock walls. Do not build a straight line of rock in your aquarium. This looks unnatural. Instead, have some rock closer to the front than others and some much further back. This will create depth and will actually make the aquarium look bigger.
When aquascaping also consider things such as water flow and coral placement. Try to make an aquascape that allows water to easily flow around it. Also, if you are planning on having lots of low light corals, keep the rocks lower, and vice versa if you are trying to keep high light corals.
Technically, sand is not part of the aquascape but it can dramatically determine the look of your aquarium. First, you must also consider how it will fit with your tank. Some tanks need sand for beneficial bacteria, while others can’t have sand because of high water flow. After you have researched what kind of tank bottoms will work, it is up to you to choose. It is very popular to get light-colored sand or crushed corals, but also consider getting black sand. It will allow your corals on the sandbed to appear brighter than ever.
Everyone has to have a classic “Nemo” or Ocellaris Clownfish in their tank, right? No, that is not true. In fact, it is more unique to get another kind of clownfish. How about an Orange Skunk Clownfish or a Lightning Maroon? Both are beautiful clownfish that are less common. A captive-bred Blue Stripe Anemonefish is another great option. If you absolutely need that classic Ocellaris, go for it. You could also get a different variant of Ocellaris, such as a Black and White Ocellaris or Snowflake. Not getting a clownfish at all is another possibility. You could use that livestock space for another fish. This is true for any fish. You don’t have to get what everyone else is, only what you want to get.
Having a diverse stock list is another way to create a unique looking aquarium. Have some smaller sized fish and some larger sized fish. Don’t just get a bunch of small fish or a few large fish. Have different shaped fish too.
Color is one of the most important things. It is fairly easy to have different colored fish. An orange Clownfish and a Yellow Tang are different colors, but it is much more interesting to have contrasting colors. Get a Purple fish such as the Black Cap Basslet or a blue fish such as a Blue Tang. There are some fish that have more than three colors such as the Green Mandarin Dragonet. These kinds of fish will make any aquarium more interesting.
They are the gold of reef aquariums. They are so many different species and so many variants within those species. Corals are what make a reef aquarium different from a plain saltwater aquarium. It would seem best to have as many different corals in your reef aquarium as possible, but sometimes it isn’t. Some of the most intriguing aquariums are the ones with fewer types of corals, but much larger ones. This takes time, but it will result in a very uncommon looking aquarium.
A simple but pricey way is to just have more rare corals. That’s all there is to it. Even having one or two very rare corals will make your tank much more special. It is not cheap though. There have been Bounce Mushrooms that have sold for $6,000! That is an extreme price, but rare corals, such as a Rainbow Pectinia are pricey. There are some, though, that are just uncommon. These corals are cheap and easy, but many hobbyists simply underrate their beauty. Blastomussa, for example, are not found in every reef tank like zoanthids are, yet they are one of the most beautiful corals. They are both cheap and easy to care for. There quite a few corals like this, so don’t panic if spending $200 on a one-inch coral seems crazy to you.
Aside from corals and fish there are many other organisms you can add to create a more unique saltwater aquarium. Anemones, for example, are particularly interesting. They are not a type coral, but they resemble very closely to one. Bubble Tip Anemones are fairly popular, but not so much the Mini Maxi Carpet Anemone. These anemones are not as bright as Bubble Tips, but they have a very interesting appearance.
Another interesting creature is the Sea Urchin. It is a spiky ball with a mouth under it that goes around your aquarium and eats algae. Nassarius Snails are very odd too. They have a long trunk-like snout. These are not the only fascinating creatures that are available to you though. There are many creatures that are often looked past. Simply adding these organisms to your aquarium will make it much more unique.
From aquascaping to your fish stock list to the odd inverts you use for cleaning up, there are many ways to create a more captivating aquarium. Don’t forget, the health of the reef tank comes first, but after that, you can use your creativity to build a very unique saltwater aquarium.