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Q&A with Keith, 4/27/09

  • Marine Depot
  • Apr 27, 2009


I bought the
130 Red Sea Max. It has live sand, rock and I am almost done cycling it. I want to stock a variety of corals, fish and tank cleaners. What should I add first? Is there a particular order I should follow?

There are differences of opinion in the reef aquarium hobby about the best way to begin stocking a tank. Some add fish and inverts (cleaners) first and corals later. Others prefer starting with inverts before adding corals and fish. And then are those who do not subscribe to either philosophy and will add whichever animals suit them.

Is one way better than another? This is a difficult question to answer directly since all can work.

The most important thing you need to do is just take things slow. It is all too common for novice aquarists (and even those who are more experienced) to become overzealous and add animals too quickly. In fact, certain species only thrive in mature aquarium systems, like anemones and SPS corals (Acropora, for example). Other more tolerant coral species like mushrooms and leathers can do fine in a less mature system. Please take a few minutes and check out The Building of a Reef (tank) thread by Eric Borneman in the MarineDepot.com forums. It digs deeper into questions about tank maturity and I believe you’ll find the information useful.

My personal preference is to allow a new aquarium to cycle with live rock and sand for two months. Once the parameters have stabilized and I have a little algae growth, I add a few inverts, like snails, and a couple of hardy fish. I do not use “starter” fish, like damsels. Instead, I choose a couple of the hardier fish from the stocking plan I created while the tank was cycling. I may or may not also include a hardy coral at this time.

Over the course of the next few months, I observe, test and add more animals from my stocking plan (corals, inverts and fish).

We’ve got a ton of articles on stocking a reef tank so we encourage you to peruse through them at your leisure. They should help you get where you want to go.

And, of course, if there is anything more we can help you with, please let us know!

If you would like to ask Keith a question, click here.

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