If you are even considering a new tank, this episode has the potential to save you some serious time and maybe even a disastrous mistake.Whether putting together a simple quarantine tank or having the tank of your dreams built custom for your home, the aquarium manufacturer you choose is important for a number of reasons.


Unloading a large Reef Savvy aquarium from truck


In Episode 9, Ryan organized all of the different aquarium options into 5 distinct categories. You can take this knowledge he has gained from over 15 years of keeping reef tanks to easily identify which option is right for you. Ideally eliminating the frustrations, questions and indecisive behavior you might encounter during your own tank selection experience.


The real challenge when choosing a tank manufacturer is ensuring you are getting the best value for your hard earned dollars. There are a lot of great options out there and all of the glass boxes we discuss will hold water. It is everything else that really differentiates one tank manufacturer from another. The price, quality of materials, the look and details you desire, the experience and of course, the functionality to achieve everything you imagined for your tank build.


Ryan's office Reef Savvy tank


What is inside the tank is way more important than the tank itself.

Before we get into it, one thing to park in your consciousness is the fact that your tank is simply holding the prize possessions or living artwork you are really after here. Don’t agonize too much over the tank manufacturer because for the most part, your fish and coral do not care. It is all about what is important to you.


40 breeder standard black framed aquarium


Standard Retail Tanks

These are the classic black framed tanks you can find at pet stores all over the country. There are a slew of standard sizes; 20 long, the popular 40 breeder, 55 gallon and even the larger 120, 180 and 220 gallon rectangle tanks. Outside of that, you can also find some more unique shapes such as bow fronts, corner tanks, wave shaped tanks, as well as cylinders and cubes.


This is by far the most affordable option and will likely hold a very similar price across the board, no matter which brand you choose or where you buy it. So support your favorite local fish store because without those guys, our hobby would not exist! If they don’t have your tank choice in stock, they can likely acquire it within a short time but for the most part, the tanks will be in stock and ready to go home with you.


Aqueon and Marineland tanks side by side


The most popular brands are likely Marineland and Aqueon. The biggest difference between the two is the overflow placement in their Reef Ready style tanks. Aqueon overflows are located on the back wall for the most part while Marineland likes to place the overflow box in the corners. Choose whatever you like but functionality wise, the corner placement makes it easier to aquascape and dial in your flow without dead spots.


Red Sea Reefer Deluxe


Premium Retail Tanks

The easiest way to differentiate these tank choices is that they provide the average reefer with the ability to bring home some of the advantages you get with a custom tank, without the price tag. They are typically well designed, assembled in China in large batches then shipped by container to the US. Dollar for dollar, these tanks are going to offer you the best value in terms of the available features for the price.


Red Sea E170 BRS Lab Tanks


Red Sea Reefers have really established themselves in recent years as being one of the best premium off-the-shelf tanks you can buy. Almost every major city will have some location in which you can go see one of the tanks in person. We have well over a handful of these tanks here at the BRS headquarters including the E170 lab and ULM tanks, an XXL750 in the lobby that we worked on with World Wide Corals and the E260 that is a frequent back drop for our videos.


You can expect some finer details such as a rimless design, low-iron high clarity glass, clean silicone seams and black background. Red Sea Reefers specifically will come with a high-quality matching tank stand along with the necessary plumbing for attaching the included glass sump filtration.


Red Sea Rimless Reef Ready Aquariums


Once you consider the included sump, plumbing and aquarium stand, the Red Sea Reefers are in the neighborhood of twice the price of a standard black framed tank. The reason these tanks come at a much lower cost than a fully custom tank is simply the economics of building thousands of the exact same tank efficiently overseas using overseas materials.


Stores will have select models in stock but more often than not the tank will be shipped directly from the manufacturer to your doorstep for free or at-least included in the total price. From our experience, most owners are impressed with the quality and are happy with the results.


Glass Cages Reef Tank


Affordable Custom Tanks

The first type of custom tanks are manufactured at the same quality you get with the twir #1 standard retail tanks we discussed earlier except with a custom form factor. You request the size and shape and they glue it at the corners, attach a frame, drill your holes and overflow box and it is ready to go.


After a bit of asking around, the one company that kept popping up in conversation was glasscages.com. Although straightforward, this company has hundreds of different tank sizes and shapes that can be configured to your liking , all with clear and affordable pricing. This is a solid option for a custom size, shape or configuration at a very reasonable price


Aquarium manufacturer warehouse full of glass


Premium Custom Tanks

These are your higher quality custom tanks and here in the US alone there are dozens of different manufacturers. Miracles Aquariums and Planet Aquariums are two that rise to the top of everyone’s list.


Planet Aquariums


If you are in the market for a beautiful tank in a custom size or shape where form matches function and you want it to match your home decor, this is it. Miracles Aquariums will work with you directly and Planet Aquariums has a nationwide dealer network they will share with you and hook you up with a reputable person locally to discuss your tank.


Miracles Aquariums


You really get some nice benefits in this bracket including the tanks are made in America in both cases; Planet in the USA and Miracles in Canada. The value of that can be hard to define but it’s just a different standard of care. The polish and attention to detail is taken a step further, the teams are experienced and mistakes rarely occur.


So while this is not the tier where most reefers start, companies like Miracles and Planet aquariums are a pretty common tier for that group of reefers who have been doing this for a while and looking to set up a dream style tank. In fact, Ryan was about to pull the trigger with Planet Aquariums for the BRS360. This is pretty darn close to the end game of as nice as it gets.


Reef Savvy Tank at BRS


Exceptional Tanks

Ryan makes it clear that he is a Reef Savvy fanboy so his opinion is a bit biased. That said, Reef Savvy tanks are not cheap by any stretch of the imagination and there is a significant wait, so what would justify that? What makes it worth the cost, the wait and lifts these custom aquariums to another level altogether?


The materials and manufacturing are the easiest characteristics to clearly define. They are made in America using the best American and European components. There is the generic term “low-iron” used to describe a variety of different ultra clear glass brands, then there is 3-4” Belgian made Diamant Glass which is what Reef Savvy uses.


Low iron vs standard glass color


Diamant glass is museum quality, highly transparent, extra clear glass with little residual color that is unnoticeable to most human eyes. The green tinge of normal glass is eliminated giving you a higher quality viewing experience in which the colors are true and bright, appearing almost enhanced when compared to a standard aquarium.


Felix of Reef Savvy working inside an aquarium


So high quality materials certainly come at a higher cost, but there is something else that separates Reef Savvy from the pack. You are dealing directly with the owner at the top of the chain. There is not a single tank built by Reef Savvy that Felix, the owner and artisan, has not touched. It is hard to put your finger on but fanatical business founders like Felix have standards way beyond any normal expectations and are nearly impossible to reproduce.


Felix of Reef Savvy personal signature on new aquarium


Felix has told Ryan NO, multiple times through this experience. The thing about high standards is that they are only valuable if you uphold them, especially when it is hardest to do so like in the case of selling a multi-thousand dollar aquarium. In case where others would bend the standards to simply make a sale, Felix sticks to the standards because he knows what good looks like and how to achieve it. It is the experience, the careful attention to details and the overall pride in his craftsmanship you are paying for.


Reef Savvy Logo on new tank


In fact, Reef Savvy has contributed innovations to the industry that are so revered that others attempted to copy his work. They are the creators of the low-profile Ghost Overflows, Armored Seams, and Phantom Bottom designs. When you design a tank with Felix and his team, this evolutionary style of thinking is applied in every aspect and decision so you, the client, are 100% happy with the result.


Reef Savvy Portfolio snapshot


We wouldn’t take the time to say these things if we didn’t stand behind Reef Savvy and his exceptional craftsmanship. We also want all of you to know that something like this does exist and why you should never settle when achieving your dreams. See for yourself by checking out his portfolio or Facebook page for some solid examples of his work that really depict the dream and speak for themselves.


Stick around for the BRS360 LIVE Episode 9.1 in which you get to see the man behind the curtain, Felix Bordon, the founder of Reef Savvy. Ryan, Randy and Felix discuss what makes an exceptional custom aquarium and share some valuable insight you can use when it comes time to build your very own custom reef tank.