How To Set Up a Low Maintenance Reef TANK- The Easy Way!

ocellaris clownfishes among coral reefs

How To Set Up a Low Maintenance Reef TANK- The Easy Way!

To a hobbyist, a reef tank is like their own small part of the ocean beautifully put in a glass box, not to mention the enticing beauty and aesthetics. While maintaining a reef tank seems pretty easy at first glance, the prospective maintenance headaches are obvious. Let me guess; you are new in the hobby and stressed about the tedious daily obligation or been in this hobby for years and are now planning to move to a low maintenance reef tank to give yourself a break. Either way, you are in luck because at the end of this 3 minutes article, you will be able to set up a low maintenance reef tank successfully. So, let’s dive in: 

8 Simple Steps to a Hassle-free Low Maintenance Reef Tank

So, what is a low maintenance reef tank, and what to expect while working with one? It’s basically an autonomous system that ensures stable water parameters and healthy life forms, all while requiring a few minutes of maintenance per week. Here are the 7 steps to a hassle-free low maintenance tank:

  1. First off, go with a tank that closely relates to the number and size of fish you intend to have in your aquarium.
  2. Secondly, investing in automatic water change systems is wise. It drastically lessens the maintenance work and increases the success rate.
  3.  Furthermore, choose fish that inhabit different tank areas and are highly compatible. A rule of thumb is to go with the fish species that offer practical purposes in the tank, i.e., Achille Tangs, Cherub AngelFish, etc.
  4. Avoid corals with hard Skeletons like LPS and SPS as they require higher maintenance. By far, soft corals and polyps are the easiest to work with and are more forgiving when it comes to stability, nutrient demand, and water chemistry.  
  5. Try to avoid complicated livestock.
  6. A pro tip is to go with photosynthetic corals for your reef tank, as they don’t need supplemental feeding to thrive.
  7. Add a proper lighting system to provide the spectrum and PAR required by the corals.  
  8. Finally, add powerheads to maintain the water flow around the tank equally and efficiently. 

Key Features of a Minimal Maintenance Reef Tank

Having said that following the above-told 8 steps, you can set up your own best minimal maintenance reef tank. Here are the most important points to keep in mind while considering a low maintenance option. These are:

Minimal Maintenance tank

Invest in a tank that best matches the size of the corals and fish you intend to keep. If the tank fits in the large nano-category tanks (20 Gallons+), consider pairing it with an aquarium sump. Furthermore, the sump could be external, i.e., separately fixed close to your reef tank or internal “all in one (AIO) .”The experienced reef addict that I am, I prefer all-in-on tanks for minimal maintenance, aesthetics, and many other reasons. 

Reef Safe, Tank Janitors

Reef tank janitors are a great help as they miraculously cut your maintenance duties down to near zero. These tank critters feed on uneaten food or detritus on the substrate, thus keeping your aquarium clean. Moreover, algae or pest eater fish are ideal choices as they efficiently perform the cleaning task. 


The photosynthetic corals in your tank require sufficient lighting to thrive. A general rule of thumb while lighting your soft-corals reef tanks should be 3.5 watts per gallon of water. Another tip for successful low maintenance is that your nano tank lighting should be more coral-focused than fish. 

Go the extra mile with Ultra-low maintenance Tanks.

Sometimes you can’t refrain yourself from complicating things, but that’s absolutely fine. Thanks to so many innovations, it has become 100 times easier to set up a low maintenance reef tank. You can add aquarium controllers, automated equipment like auto-feeders, automatic water change, water, top-offs, protein skimmers, and more. Though setting up the equipment requires time and effort, the functionality it adds is definitely worth it.  

Key Takeaway

So, there you go. Now you have a blueprint of setting up a low maintenance reef tank like an expert. The advances in technology empower you to control and manage your reef tank remotely, all while enjoying your vacations or doing anything you love.

As a reef enthusiast, I find great satisfaction in writing something special about the hobby that motivates my fellow hobbyists. I feed off of the satisfaction and success that I get in the form of your feedback. Don’t let your fears limit you from enjoying the hobby. In the end, instead of stressing over maintenance, enjoy your beautiful creation and let the world see it. Good Luck!

Related article: The Best Corals for Reef Tank Owners

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