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Lighting - Full Spectrum
Lighting - Actinic
Powerhead - Constant
Powerhead - Intermittent
Have you ever wondered how much it costs to run your reef aquarium? Maybe you don’t want to think about it!
The truth is, a reef tank uses a lot of technology that runs on electric power. There’s no debating that recreating a slice of reef in your home is going to take “life-support” hardware to make it happen. Think about it. Water must remain circulating and moving in a wave-like fashion. Tropical reefs are constantly exposed to water movement. The flow patterns range from mild tidal flows to crashing wave action. Waves and tides flush the reef, washing away waste products and bring in essential nutrients and plankton. It’s the same in a home reef aquarium.
SPS and LPS corals must have water movement to do more than survive in captivity. Water flow is critical for gas transfer, nutrient adsorption, filter feeding and waste processing. Your aquarium will have at least one water pump to run the filter system. It may be a submersible pump in an all in one aquarium, a canister filter or an in-line pump connected to a filter sump. These pumps continuously use energy while keeping the water circulating throughout the reef. You’ll probably have at least one flow pump aimed at the corals, maybe several if you’ve got a large tank. But there’s more. Smart pumps require energy for wireless communication and operation of the control center. Maybe your aquarium is automated, with a communications hub or smart device to control it. Don’t forget the protein skimmer pump. That pump uses electricity too. It’s the same with a calcium reactor or denitrifying system. They need a water pump to make it work. That’s a lot of devices to power. But we’re not done yet!
Keeping corals, coralline algae and other photosynthetic reef organisms alive requires lighting. We don’t need to remind you that reef lighting is about much more than just making the corals glow. Proper spectrum and intensity must be provided to drive photosynthesis, which is especially important for corals. LED lighting is one of the greatest improvements to the reef hobby. They run cooler, provide great PAR, last for years and use less energy than traditional metal halides and fluorescent bulbs. But LEDs do use energy, especially when you’ve got high intensity LEDS running for hours on end. LED fixtures often have a cooling fan, sipping energy while keeping the circuitry within the fixture cool. But there’s more to consider.
The aquarium’s water must be temperature-controlled to keep it stable and within the proper range. You’re tank probably has a heater. It may also require a chiller to keep the water cool. Why a chiller? All those water pumps and lights add heat to the aquarium water. In some home environments the heat input is more than the tank can handle. A water chiller is required to extract heat from the tank and blow it into the room, where it dissipates. Chillers require a compressor and fan just like a refrigerator, and a water pump to circulate water through the unit.
So how do you figure out the energy demand of all these components? It’s easy with the Marine Depot Aquarium Electricity Costs Calculator.
Have your most recent electric bill handy and a list of all the electrical components needed to run your tank. You will have to look up the wattage each device uses and estimate how many hours a day it runs. Just type in the numbers and the calculator will do the rest. You’ll instantly receive an aquarium energy audit that shows which equipment uses the most energy. You can even use the calculator to compare a single category of device. For example, you can compare different brands of LED light fixtures or water pumps based on their wattage. It’s fun and provides you with the data you’ll need to wisely manage your energy use.