Advice Aquariums Reefkeeping beginner

A Beginner Reef Keeper's Shopping List: Everything You Need to Get Started

A Beginner Reef Keeper's Shopping List: Everything You Need to Get Started

Starting a reef aquarium can seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and supplies, it’s a fun and rewarding hobby. Whether you're a complete newbie or transitioning from freshwater to saltwater, this guide will help you get all the essentials. So, sit back, relax, and let's dive into the ultimate shopping list for beginner reef keepers. We'll reference some top-notch products from Charterhouse Aquatics to help you build your perfect reef tank.

Why Start a Reef Aquarium?

Reef aquariums are not only beautiful to look at, but they also create a miniature ecosystem that can be both relaxing and educational. Watching corals grow and marine fish thrive can bring a lot of joy and a sense of accomplishment.

The Essential Shopping List

1. Aquarium Tank

Choosing the right tank is the first step. For beginners, a 20-30 gallon tank is ideal because it's large enough to maintain stable water conditions but small enough to manage easily.

Recommended Product: Fluval Sea Evo 52L Aquarium Kit

2. Protein Skimmer

A protein skimmer is crucial for maintaining water quality by removing organic waste before it breaks down into harmful substances.

Recommended ProductFluval Sea PS2 Mini Protein Skimmer

3. Lighting

Proper lighting is essential for coral growth. LED lights are energy-efficient and provide the necessary spectrum for photosynthesis.

Recommended Product: AI Prime HD LED

4. Live Rock and Substrate

Live rock is not only decorative but also provides a surface for beneficial bacteria to colonize. Aragonite sand is a great substrate option that helps maintain proper pH levels.

Recommended Products:

5. Powerheads

Powerheads are essential for creating water movement, which is vital for coral health and gas exchange.

Recommended Product: EcoTech Marine VorTech MP10

6. Heater

Maintaining a stable temperature is crucial for a reef tank. A reliable heater will ensure your marine creatures stay comfortable.

Recommended ProductEheim Thermo Electronic Heater

7. Test Kits

Regularly testing your water is key to a healthy reef. A comprehensive test kit will help you monitor essential parameters like pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels.

Recommended Product: API Reef Master Test Kit

8. Salt Mix

Marine salt mix is necessary to create the perfect saltwater environment for your reef tank. Look for a high-quality mix that includes all the essential minerals and trace elements.

Recommended ProductRed Sea Coral Pro

9. Refractometer

A refractometer is a precise tool for measuring the salinity of your aquarium water, ensuring it remains at the optimal level for your marine inhabitants.

Recommended Product: D-D H2Ocean Refractometer

10. Supplements

Corals and other invertebrates require additional supplements to thrive. Calcium, magnesium, and alkalinity buffers are essential for maintaining healthy growth.

Recommended Product: Red Sea Reef Foundation ABC+

Setting Up Your Reef Aquarium

Step 1: Assemble Your Equipment

Start by setting up your tank, stand, and any equipment that needs to be attached or installed. This includes your filter, protein skimmer, heater, and powerheads.

Step 2: Add Substrate and Live Rock

Rinse your substrate before adding it to the tank. Then, place your live rock in an appealing and stable arrangement. The live rock will act as the foundation for your reef.

Step 3: Mix Your Saltwater

Use your marine salt mix to prepare the saltwater. Follow the instructions on the salt mix packaging to achieve the correct salinity. Use your refractometer to ensure accuracy.

Step 4: Fill the Tank

Slowly fill your tank with the prepared saltwater, taking care not to disturb the substrate and live rock.

Step 5: Start the Filtration and Heating

Turn on your filter, protein skimmer, powerheads, and heater. Set the heater to maintain a temperature of around 25°C (77°F).

Step 6: Cycle Your Tank

Let your tank cycle for at least 4-6 weeks. This process allows beneficial bacteria to establish and helps stabilize water parameters.

Step 7: Test Your Water

Regularly test your water during the cycling process. Once ammonia and nitrite levels are zero and nitrates are low, your tank is ready for inhabitants.

Adding Livestock

Start with hardy fish and invertebrates. Introduce them slowly to avoid overwhelming your biological filter. Some beginner-friendly choices include:

  • Clownfish
  • Damselfish
  • Hermit Crabs
  • Snails

Maintenance Tips

  • Regular Water Changes: Perform a 10-20% water change weekly to maintain water quality.
  • Monitor Parameters: Keep a close eye on your water parameters and adjust as needed.
  • Feed Sparingly: Overfeeding can lead to poor water quality. Feed your fish small amounts once or twice a day.


Starting a reef aquarium doesn't have to be intimidating. With the right equipment and a bit of patience, you'll create a thriving underwater ecosystem that brings endless joy and fascination. For all your reef-keeping needs, visit Charterhouse Aquatics and explore their extensive range of products.

Happy reef keeping! Dive in and enjoy the beauty and wonder of your new aquatic world. If you have any questions or need more tips, don’t hesitate to explore more on Charterhouse Aquatics or reach out to the fishkeeping community online.

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