Eco-Friendly Upgrades and Money Saving Tips For Your Reef Tank
If the cost of running your reef aquarium is starting to add up, consider some of these eco-friendly tips to optimize the operating cost of your aquarium. Not only will you save a little money, but you will also reduce the overall impact of your aquarium on the environment.
1. Install a Water Saver Upgrade Kit
An RO/DI system can literally pay for itself inside of 12 months when you consider the money you will save by not having to constantly drive and buy water from a local fish store. Even if you factor in the cost of tap water and RO/DI system maintenance, owning your own RO/DI is most certainly the most economical solution for saltwater aquarium owners.
You can make this process of producing 0 TDS water even more efficient by installing a Water Saver Upgrade Kit on your RO/DI system. With optimal water pressure, a water saver kit will reduce the amount of wastewater your RO/DI system produces by up to 50% and double the rate of production. You won't have to wait as long to produce the water and you won't use as much tap water to produce the deionized water you need for your tank!
Keep in mind that water pressure is important when it comes to the efficiency of your RO/DI system and if you find that your water pressure is below 65 PSI, adding a Booster Pump Kit first is required for optimal performance using the water saver upgrade.
2. Recycle Your RO/DI System's Wastewater
An RO/DI system works by separating contaminants and concentrating those separated contaminants into "wastewater" that is not suitable for use in your aquarium because of the high concentration of dissolved solids. This wastewater is so often sent right down the drain but it can actually be recycled around the house. The best use for wastewater is watering your lawn or outside garden but it can also be used to wash your car or rinse the patio furniture. Just avoid recycling the wastewater in ways where it might be ingested or where the high mineral content could be problematic - bathing, drinking, washing pets, etc.
3. Mount Your LED Lights Correctly and Use a PAR Meter
It is no secret that aquarium LED lighting technology is far more efficient than the incandescent, fluorescent, and metal halide lighting options of days past. An LED is capable of producing the same amount of light using less electricity than alternative lighting solutions. LEDs also run cooler which means they are not wasting energy on producing heat and you probably won't have to use a chiller to get rid of that heat. Less energy consumption ultimately saves you money.
You also save money from the lack of bulb replacements since most LED diodes are capable of operating for up to 7 or more years under normal use over an aquarium. As an added bonus, LEDs are also very compact allowing for a smaller profile and easier integration overtop of an aquarium.
While most any modern LED light made for an aquarium will provide you with some level of energy savings, there are performance factors to consider when choosing, mounting, and dialing in your LEDs that can further improve their operational efficiency.
Coverage Matters: We touch on this quite a bit in our BRStv Investigates episodes where the team evaluates popular LED light fixtures to determine coverage capabilities and find the optimal mounting height and mounting configurations using a PAR meter. When choosing an LED light, it is important to consider the coverage capabilities and optimal mounting configuration so you are not purchasing too many lights and/or mounting your lights in such a way that results in excess light loss.
PAR Meters = Succes: Always use a PAR meter to verify you are achieving the coverage you need and are providing the right amount of light for your corals. There is no benefit to over-lighting your aquarium and this is easy to do with adjustable LEDs. There really is no way to determine you're lighting your aquarium effectively without measuring the PAR levels in YOUR particular tank.
Choosing the most efficient lighting solution and configuring it optimally over top of your aquarium ultimately means you do not waste money on excess lighting power.
4. DC Pumps > AC Pumps
In most aquarium applications, you can reduce the amount of power required to move water through your filtration and throughout the aquarium by choosing DC-powered water pumps over AC pumps. While the efficiency of a particular DC pump can vary depending on the exact pump and application, you can usually save some electricity compared to using AC pumps for the same purpose. DC pumps also run much cooler so you're not wasting energy on heat production and removal.
As a cherry on top, DC pumps are controllable so you can precisely dial in the flow to suit your needs and they will often run quieter than AC-powered pumps.
5. Use Random Flow Generators
Random Flow Generators and special nozzles called "educators" can help you to more efficiently recirculate the water inside your display without the use of motors or extra pumps. Using the water flow from your return, these specialized nozzles manipulate the spread of flow back into your aquarium and can help reduce your reliance on powerheads.
6. Simplify Your Plumbing & Slow the Flow
Rigid PVC and complicated plumbing add head pressure to your return pump which slows it down. Exchanging your rigid PVC for flexible tubing and/or removing elbows, tees, wyes, and long vertical rises in plumbing means you can use less electricity to achieve the water flow you require.
It should also be noted that you do not need to achieve any more than 3x total tank turnover per hour through your sump via the return pump. A slower flow through the sump actually increases dwell time allowing for ample filtration of the water. When choosing a return pump, be mindful of your tank's water volume and flow requirements.
Sometimes reducing that return flow will save some power without any negative effect on the aquarium and the tank will probably run quieter too.
7. Use Gravity Siphon
When performing a water change, avoid using a pump and use a gravity siphon to empty your aquarium instead. A gravity siphon does not require electricity and is super simple to use for this application. There are even clever PVC assemblies that can help you start a siphon without suction and remove the same exact amount of water each and every time; just do a quick search on YouTube or Google for "DIY Water Change Pipe". Remember, larger diameter tubing will allow for faster flowing siphons.
8. Smart Tank Placement
Heating and cooling our aquarium water to maintain stable temperatures is a major component of the ongoing electrical costs. In order to reduce those ongoing electrical costs, place your aquarium somewhere with stable air temperatures as is most often the case in a climate-controlled insulated home. If you can avoid it, don't place your aquarium in the garage, basement, or attic where extreme temperatures are to be expected. You can even manipulate the air temperature (opening or closing vents) in a particular room to accommodate the desired water temperature of your aquarium.
9. Centralize Temperature Control
In addition to the placement of your aquarium, you can ensure you're not wasting money on heating or cooling by centralizing your temperature control. This is especially true in aquariums that contain both a heater and chiller because they could technically compete with one another if they are being controlled using separate devices. While stability is critical, you want to ensure your heater is not being used at the same time as your chiller and vice versa.
10. Use Power Monitoring to Find out Where Your Can Save
Power monitoring is actively tracking the power consumption of each device used in your aquarium. A simple Kill-a-Watt Power Center makes this possible and for those of you using the Neptune System Apex, this capability is built right into the controller and is even more powerful with the data logging and control. You will also be able to estimate the cost of power and budget accordingly using your tank's historical power consumption.
By tracking the power consumption of each device, you can find out which devices are consuming the most power. You can then make educated decisions about where you might be able to cut back. This could be something like only running your UV Sterilizer or protein skimmer for 12 hours per day. You might even be able to remove a particular component of your filtration like a media reactor without any negative effects; GFO and Carbon are not something that needs to be used at all times rather use them as a tool only when needed.
Every Little Bit Counts
While some of these tips and upgrades will seem to make a minimal impact immediately, remember that every little bit helps. Even the smallest improvement to energy consumption today makes a big difference over time because our aquariums' life support systems run non-stop and energy savings of just a few dollars per month will add up over time.