Reefing On a Budget: Part One
Reefing On a Budget: Part One

Those who choose to become a part of the reef keeping community join a diverse club of individuals with a passion for the ocean and the species that reside within it. As technology within the hobby has continued to evolve, the cost of keeping a reef system has risen substantially. That being said, there are still affordable ways to enter and sustain yourself in the hobby and that is what we will be discussing today. Within this article, we will mention some of the best methods and techniques to save money as you begin or advance in the reef keeping hobby. While we are going to discuss some of our favorite ways to save money in reefing, there are plenty of other methods hobbyists use to stick to a budget. If you have any questions about this article or the aquarium hobby in general, our customer care team is always there to provide free and helpful advice.

Finding the balance between spending money on aquarium equipment and the livestock within it is one of the most crucial ways to ensure that your system is both visually appealing and built for sustained success. In our deep dive into the best ways to save money in the reefing hobby, we will first discuss the importance of making reefer friends and getting to know your local fish store. Then, we will touch on maximizing the efficiency of your systems along with the types of equipment that can be bought second hand. We will round out the article by mentioning some final techniques to keep your reef keeping habits on a budget.


Find a reefing friend group

Get to know your local fish store

Save on your electric bill

New vs. Used

Some final tips

Find a reefing friend group:

Marine Depot Reef Tanks Graphic
Marine Depot Reef Tanks Graphic

We can all think back to the moment where we first wanted to jump into the reef-keeping hobby. There are hundreds of other people into aquarium keeping who likely have a similar story to yours. Whether it's through networking in a local Facebook group or by chatting someone up in your local fish store, finding someone in the hobby you can depend on is a great way to save money and further enjoy your aquarium experience. Having a friend in the hobby can also help each of you beef up your coral collection by fragging and exchanging different varieties between yourselves. Reefing friends can also provide advice they have gathered through their own experiences that can save you money. Some communities have clubs that you can join that provide a variety of perks that make being a reefer more enjoyable and budget friendly. Another excellent benefit of having friends in reefing is that they will be there for you when you are in need. Whether you need to go out of town unexpectedly or, you had an emergency leak or crash and you are trying to salvage livestock, having friends in reefing can pay dividends.

Get to know your local fish store: 

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Stocking the Tank: 3 Glass Walls with Reefbum Part 18

Having a good relationship with your local fish store is a great way to both save money and grow your knowledge of the reefing hobby. Most shop employees have years and years of experience and they will be able to help you make decisions while sharing their expertise. They may be able to make recommendations on which equipment is worth splurging on and what to hold off on. Store employees can also give you an idea of what livestock may be a good choice within your reef. Oftentimes, you can see reefing equipment perform first hand at a shop which can give you an idea of the type of lighting or protein skimmer you may prefer. Local fish stores also often run promotions where you may be able to get a good deal on livestock if you have an idea of what you are looking for. Ultimately, having a strong relationship with your local fish store will not just help you save money, they can be a great resource to help you learn, grow, and further enjoy keeping a reef.

Save on your electric bill:

AI Hydra 32 HD LED Fixture
AI Hydra 32 HD LED Fixture

One of the best ways to keep the total price of having a reef aquarium down is to select energy efficient equipment. Selecting the proper lighting is one of the best ways to save on your energy bill every month. If your intentions are to keep your electricity bill down, then we recommend going with an LED lighting option. Not only do LEDs offer the greatest controllability and power but, they are also much more affordable on your energy bill. While the initial investment for an LED system can be relatively expensive, they are both much more efficient and tend to have a longer lifespan than T5 and Metal Halide. Once you address your lighting situation the next moves in becoming more energy efficient would be to look at some of your other equipment including protein skimmers, heaters, and return pumps. In general the higher end equipment in these categories also tend to be DC controllable and require less energy to operate. Investing into the efficiency of your aquarium will allow you to save money over time.

New vs. Used:

When selecting the proper equipment to buy for your reef system, it is important to decide whether it is best to buy it brand new or, if it may be ok to buy it second hand. Within this paragraph, we are going to discuss reefing equipment that is best to purchase new along with some items that are ok to purchase used to keep to a budget. Some of the items that we recommend purchasing brand new are light fixtures, heaters, and aquariums. Most of these products include warranties directly out of the box and are generally more reliable when purchased new. Additionally, you can have full confidence in their performance rather than guessing based upon a previous owner's experience. When it comes to reefing items that are ok to purchase used, protein skimmers, live/dry rock, livestock, filters, and occasionally test kits are some of the items that we feel less strong about needing to buy new. If you are purchasing livestock or live rock, be sure to either quarantine or inspect it for any sort of parasite, or disease. Make certain there are no pests on the live rock and dip all corals before adding them into your own system. Sometimes it can be a great decision to buy used products but, at the same time, it is important to know and to minimize the risks of buying any preowned reef related items. 

Some final tips:

Fragging tools
Dissekt-Rite Ultimate Coral Fragging Kit

We feel that this guide has presented a plethora of helpful information on how to keep a reef aquarium on a budget. In this final paragraph, we will touch on some of our last money saving tips to further your enjoyment within the reef keeping hobby. The first of these tips is to try to purchase larger quantities in products such as filter media and fish food while keeping an eye out for money saving bundles. While the initial cost may be more expensive, you will be saving money in the long run by not having to constantly purchase smaller packages. Another good way to save money is by fragging your own coral and trading it to other reefers or your local fish store for other livestock, food, or store credit. By doing this, you can create a self sustaining reef tank that can pay for itself and then some. Our final tip for saving money within reef keeping is to be consistent in your maintenance. Doing frequent water changes while siphoning the sand bed and cleaning the glass will promote a healthy system that shouldn’t need constant additives/ medications. Deploying each of these tips will allow you to further enjoy the hobby you love while staying on a budget.

Final thoughts: 

We hope this article has shed some light on some of the best ways to enter and sustain yourself in the reef keeping hobby at an affordable price point. While keeping a reef aquarium will be a significant expense regardless of the steps taken, the relaxation and soothing presence they can provide oftentimes make it a worthy investment. If keeping a reef tank is just too big of an investment at this point but, you still want to enjoy the relaxing nature of an aquarium, then, you may want to look into either a freshwater or a pure saltwater system minus the expensive reef lighting. If you are needing any assistance or advice on how best to build a budget friendly aquarium of any variety, our customer care team is always here to assist you.