How To Choose The Right Tank - 5 Minute Saltwater Aquarium Guide Ep #7

Episode #7 is our turning point in which we switch the focus to showing you guys how to get stuff done. The first few episodes focused on answering those questions every new hobbyist needs answers too, but now the real fun begins as we get our hands wet.

40 breeder and Red Sea E-170 aquarium


The plan is to set up two tanks simultaneously. A traditional black plastic framed 40-gallon breeder, which is probably the number one most successful new reef tank size. It’s inexpensive, big enough for juvenile versions of common utilitarian fish (Tangs), and easy to maintain using some simple hang on gear. Simple and affordable should be the priorities of any new reefer and a 40-gallon glass box is the perfect platform.

Red Sea E-170

The second tank is a Red Sea E-170 all-in-one which is going to achieve the exact same results but in a more polished form factor. These E-series tanks just look sharp, particularly because all of the gear is hidden in the back sump compartment.

Red Sea Aquariums

For those of you who really want to go bigger than these two tanks or feel confident enough to plumb a sump down below, the concepts we talk about will still apply. Just scale it up to meet your tank size. Our plan is to give you a bulletproof recipe and set of techniques that ensure success through your first 12 months and ideally years to come thereafter.

Large reef tank in dining room

Location, Location, Location

So where does the tank go? Reasonably sized tanks like these can go almost anywhere in most modern homes with a few important considerations.

  • No direct sunlight hitting the tank
  • Away from windows, doors or cabinets that might swing into it
  • Close to suitable power outlets that are not already overloaded
  • Most importantly, in a location in which the tank will be viewed daily

That last one is often overlooked but is absolutely critical to your long term success. Out of sight is out of mind and a neglected fish tank almost always means failure. Put the tank in your kitchen, living room, well-used office or recreation room, somewhere with daily traffic that you can proudly show off to family members and friends.

Painting an aquarium background black

Paint It Black

I see a red horse and I want it… Painting the back panel black gives a sense of depth and hides the gear. We have a quick video that shows you how to do it and it is really easy.

How to paint an aquarium background video

We use Rust-oleum Black Enamel paint and roll it on with a lint-free smooth surface roller. All of the Red Sea tanks come stock with a black back panel so you won’t need to paint it in this case.

How to use a shim under your aquarium stand

Stay Level Headed

Your fish tank is full of water, level it. Most tanks have a specific stand available and you want something with a cabinet down below to hide some of your gear. Saltwater weighs close to 8.6 lbs per gallon so it is also important that your stand is built strong enough to support an aquarium.

Put the tank on the stand, fill it with tap water temporarily and check the level. The added weight of the water will compact things and you want to be sure and get it right.

To level it, we recommend using premade shims from the hardware store. They are inexpensive and simply pound them under the stand and snap off the excess when you have it right. It is a good idea to fill in the gaps with additional shims so the weight is distributed evenly.

High quality surge protector power bar

Power Play

Electricity powers all of the equipment that keep your aquatic pets alive, it’s important. Use a decent power bar rated for the amount of power you need and plenty of outlets. Get two smaller ones if it makes more sense for your situation because outlet spacing is critical to ensure you can easily fit the wall worts and not cover other outlets.

Definitely stay away from the bargain bin or old surge protectors. Your investing a lot in this tank and want to do everything you can to protect it, keep your family safe and ensure your own success in the hobby.

Red Sea power center on E-170 tank

The E-170 comes with a built-in power center and individual on/off switches so this part you can sort of skip when going with a Red Sea E-Series tank. You may need additional outlets down the road but right out of the gate, everything you need will have a socket.

What’s Next

Your new tank is in its permanent location and you have power for the equipment. The next step is the rock and sand which just so happens to be the topic of Episode #8!

5 Minute Saltwater Aquarium Guide Episode #8

You can binge the entire 5 Minute Saltwater Aquarium Guide playlist right here on our website. We also invite you to join the #askBRStv Facebook Group which is a free resource for you to ask questions, get advice or simply get your daily reef aquarium fix.

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