How To Set Up A Red Sea Reefer Aquarium System - BRStv Product Spotlight

The Red Sea Reefer 250 is a 54 gallon reef aquarium kit that will act as our blank canvas as we go through a complete A-Z tank build including assembly, setup, maintenance and additional equipment. You will learn what it takes to build and maintain a tank like a pro, see some of our favorite reefing gear and all of the turn key features Red Sea has integrated into what has become their flagship aquarium kits.

Red Sea Reefer 250 Features


The Red Sea Reefer line of aquariums takes a bit of a different approach to the ALL-IN-ONE commodity tank kits we have seen in the past. The integration of high-end features such a robust rimless display tank with ultra clear beveled edge glass, a heavy duty sump with reef-ready type overflow system and very contemporary aesthetics with your choice of black or white stand finish really sets this tank apart.

With the Red Sea Reefer, Reefer XL, Reefer XXL and the latest additions, the Reefer Peninsula and Reefer Deluxe series, hobbyists can choose from a wide variety of tank sizes starting at 34 gallons all the way up to a 6ft long, 200 gallon show tank.

Red Sea Reefer 250 sump with skimmer

The use of a sump filtration system gives you the perfect platform to choose the filtration equipment and accessories of your preference and tuck them neatly away inside the tank stand.

Pre-assembled plumbing makes for easy installation at home and includes some impressive features such as a fine adjustment gate valve, silencer for the main drain and a soft hose return line to reduce vibration and ultimately the quietest operation possible.

On top of choosing all of your favorite reefing gear, you don’t have to wait 12 months for a custom tank manufacturer to build and deliver the system, rather you can order at BRS and have this entire tank delivered to your doorstep.

Related Reef Gear


The beauty of the Red Sea Reefer is you get to pick and choose your favorite equipment, here is what we chose for this build based on experience, product reviews, performance and value.

Red Sea Reefer stand assembly

Tank Assembly

Assembling the stand is very straight forward, typical assembly style to flat panel type furniture and should take no more than one hour. 30 minutes for those of you good with a screwdriver.

Red Sea added their touch with cam screws that thread tightly and securely into plastic retainers to keep them from stripping and for better weight support along with rubber covers rather than stickers to cover and protect the metal hardware and avoid rusting.

Red Sea Reefer stand details

The vented back panel is designed to reduce humidity in the cabinet as well as welled out sections in the top and the back to more easily access the plumbing and placement closer to the wall.

The tank and sump go together quite quickly, you will need some help lifting the tank on top of the stand and sliding the sump under the tank because of the weight. The sump can be a bit cumbersome when sliding into place, however, Red Sea thoughtfully lined the sump area with soft foam padding to protect the glass during installation and maintenance.

Red Sea Reefer 250 plumbing details

Next, assemble the plumbing which fits together with threaded connections through the tank for a leak free seal. The instructions are clear for the plumbing so just be sure to review them before making everything tight.

Red Sea Reefer ATO Reservoir

Be careful when placing the ATO reservoir on top of the drain chamber so as not to bump into the glass and then attach the tubing to the ATO float valve.

Drop in your filter socks, return pump, skimmer and heater and your all set for water!

Kill a watt power center banner

Tank placement

This is a crucial aspect to think about before adding water because once it is full, the tank cannot be moved without draining it. Building the tank in its final location is the best idea.

Availability to power is important, one or two dedicated plugs along with protected power strips is the best route. The Kill-A-Watt PS10 is our favorite with it’s power monitoring and built-in protections against surges.

Weight should also be considered, water weighs roughly 8.3 pounds per US gallon plus the weight of your rock, sand and the entire tank assembly so be sure your floor can support it.

BRS360 Video Series

Choose a location on the ground level or near a retaining or perimeter wall. If you have more specific requirements for the tank location, just be absolutely certain the floor is strong enough. The surface should also be as level as possible and using shims under the stand is a suitable remedy when needed.

Lastly, direct sunlight spilling into the tank could lead to areas where nuisance algae can grow so avoiding windows and doors is ideal.

Red Sea Reefer 250 aquascape


Once you have the tank in place, it’s time to add the rock, sand and water. Your best approach for a reef tank is plan the rock structure or “aquascape” ahead of time and think about coral placement. Building the structure outside of the tank using aquascaping adhesive or epoxy works well.

You want to mix up about 60 gallons of saltwater, we chose the Red Sea Blue Bucket salt mix. Some reefers opt for filtered water from your local grocery store but filtered RO/DI water is best. RO/DI water can be purchased from your local fish store or consider purchasing an RO/DI filter for use at home which is one of the best investments you can make for your aquarium. Check salinity using a handheld refractometer to ensure your on target with 35 PPT or 1.026 SG.

RO/DI Systems at Bulk Reef Supply

Turn on your pumps and plug in the heater, keep the lights OFF through the cycle process to reduce nuisance algae.

The VorTech MP40 pumps will need to be tuned to meet the needs of your coral once you start to stock the tank down the road. During the cycle you can choose to keep them off or just run them at constant speed at a fairly low setting to save energy. This is a good time to also familiarize yourself with the pump’s control settings.

Dr. Tim's One and Only

Add in the appropriate amount of Dr. Tims One and Only to help jump start the bacteria in the tank and let it cycle for 4-6 weeks before adding any fish.

During the cycle you can add a small pinch of flake fish food to sustain the growing bacteria, also be sure your ATO reservoir remains full of freshwater to replenish what is lost to evaporation.

After the 30 days, add in another bottle of Dr. Tim’s and start to stock the aquarium, be sure to go slowly and not add too many fish at one time and research the species prior to ensure they will live long happy lives inside you tank. Compatibility is also important when choosing fish to avoid territorial aggression and the predator/prey scenario.

Randy installing the Aqua Illumination Hydra 26

Before adding corals, program and set your LED lights using the myAI app. For a lower light demanding reef tank with LPS, polyps and soft corals you will not need the 100% full intensity of the two Hydra TwentySix fixtures. We came up with the following settings for the color sliders.

• UV - 60%

• Violet - 59%

• Royal Blue - 39%

• Blue - 40%

• Green - 2%

• Red - 2%

• Cool White - 9%

For SPS corals that require higher levels of light, simply use the same settings but increase the output by 40% - 50% across the board to reach the ideal PAR range of 250-350 throughout the tank.

Red Sea Reefer 250 with mature corals


As your reef begins to grow, there are a few quick maintenance steps to take that will keep your tank on track and thriving.

Water changes are necessary every 2 weeks to help remove built up nutrients and various other contaminants. 20% of the total water volume is the typical amount of saltwater to exchange. This process can vary widely among different reefers but we have an excellent video series that really dives into detail about making water changes easy.

Tunze Algae Magnet

Cleaning the glass with an algae magnet or scraper should be done regularly, the Tunze and Flipper brand cleaners work great. Emptying and rinsing the protein skimmer collection cup and refilling the ATO reservoir with fresh reverse osmosis water will need to be done at least weekly.

The last part of regular maintenance would be keeping the fish fed. Do your best to avoid overfeeding although it might seem like your fish are always begging for food, 1-2 times per day is all that is necessary.

Turning off the pumps and powerheads during feeding will keep the food out of your filtration; the VorTech pumps have a handy feed hold option that shuts down the pumps for a set period of time and will then return back to normal operation automatically. Keeping the food amount to a minimum and out of your filtration will ensure nutrient levels do not spike and cause pesky algae outbreaks.

Kessil H380 Halo LED


To make your life easier, there are a couple of really valuable accessories that you may want to acquire along your reefkeeping journey.

RO/DI System - Produce pure filtered water at home for top off and mixing saltwater. Eliminate the frequent trips to and from your local fish store and lugging around heavy jugs of water.

Water Change Siphon and BRUTE trash cans - Makes your life much easier when adding and removing saltwater to and from the aquarium.

Instead of using a protein skimmer and filter sock for filtration, some reefers choose to utilize the large skimmer chamber of the sump as a refugium to grow macroalgae which will absorb nutrients as it grows.

In this case, you will need a light to support the macroalgae growth. The Kessil H380 Horticulture LED light is optimized for plant growth and we have had amazing results testing this light over our refugiums here at BRS.

There you have it, A-Z tank Red Sea Reefer tank set-up. If you have more questions our experienced team customer service team is happy to help you out! Red Sea also released their first LED light ever, the ReefLED, and we could not be more impressed. Randy released a full video review in true BRS fashion so be sure to check it out.

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