How should I aquascape my reef tank?

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Aquascaping your reef tank? Jeremy Gay offers some advice.

The traditional marine tank aquascape uses lots of live rock, piled left to right, front to back, filling the tank. Corals are then spaced out along the pile, with light-requiring species at the top and low light species at the bottom.

This design is well proven but doesn’t really represent a natural reef, uses more live rock than you need and dead spots may occur at the back, behind the rock.

A modern aquascape should be much more open for better water circulation, assembled to make interesting shapes and overhangs and also built with coral growth in mind.

Pick rocks with some interesting shapes, and those that lend themselves to becoming natural caves, bridges and rocky overhangs.

Be more adventurous with your rock placement by drilling rocks then fastening them together with cable ties. Rock can be threaded onto plastic tubes or rocks to create pillars or bommies, onto which corals can be securely attached with putty. The result is an aquascape that is much more interesting while still having a large surface area for filtration and coral placement.

Move rocks from the glass sides and back and water can flow all the way around the live rock, making it much more efficient and preventing the build-up of sediment and detritus that could harbour nitrates.

With better water flow and more rock surface exposed, less rock can be used, cutting down on weight and the amount spent on this feature. You can even use modern replica rocks, which defy gravity and jut out from other rocks, creating space for corals on top and a shady overhang for shade-loving sun corals and fish underneath.

This item was first published in the October 2009 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. It may not be reproduced without written permission.