5 Things I Learned as a College Reef-Keeper!

by George Mavrakis on December 18, 2021

Today I'm going to share with you five things that I learned in my first year of having a reef tank in college.


1. Don’t have a reef tank in college if you aren't passionate about it

When I was graduating high school, I got a flood of emails asking, “Hey George, are you going to keep making videos? Are you going to have a reef tank in college? What's going to happen to CoralFish12G?” Now I thought about going to college without a tank and focusing on school and basketball, but deep down, I always knew I was going to have a tank and make it all work. I'm just too passionate about this stuff to give it up. I'm proud to say that I balanced academics and college basketball while maintaining an awesome reef tank and producing CoralFish12G videos for you guys throughout college. It is challenging to balance it all, so make sure you're passionate before you jump into having a reef tank in college. I can't imagine my life without reef aquariums and anybody who knows me knows that!


2. Everyone in college is going to know you as the guy with coral

Now, my circumstance was a little different, because not only was I the guy with coral, but I was also the guy who makes videos about coral on YouTube. Now, if you go to a big university, everybody on your floor might know you as the guy with coral coming in and out of the bathroom with jugs of water and weird-looking pieces of equipment. But at the small liberal arts college I went to, everybody knew about Coralfish12G, and that's okay! People were always amazed by my tank, wanted to come check it out, and loved asking me questions. And honestly it just helped fuel my passion for reef aquariums. My fraternity was fascinated by it all and always tried to pitch in ideas and help me out too. They liked it so much that we got a jellyfish tank for the fraternity!


3. You need to seriously consider maintenance

A college dorm room is not the ideal place for a reef aquarium. Most colleges don't let you have more than a 10 gallon tank in your room. And the smaller the tank, the harder it is to keep! It doesn't take much for something to happen in the water and have everything die overnight, so if you can, try to have a 10 gallon sump somewhere underneath it. This will help make your tank as big as possible. It took a lot of work to constantly battle the delicacy my 10G tank. I did a water change every couple of weeks, but I was lucky because I had a local fish store right down the street that I could get my RODI water from. You really need to consider how you're going to manage all the maintenance and supply all the equipment!


4. Make sure you can afford a tank

Now I'm all about setting up a cheap reef tank, but I do not want to be the reason you're calling your mom for more laundry money when it's really being used for a new protein skimmer! I worked a lot over the summer to save up the money I knew I would need for my tank. A great way to make some money is to let your corals grow out over the year, frag them, and then sell them to help pay for some of the costs. Please, make sure you know how you're going to make your college reef tank work financially before committing to it!


5. Figure out transportation to school and over breaks

What to do with a reef tank over school breaks is the most common question I get from kids who are about to go to college or in college that are wondering whether it's going to be worth it or how they're going to manage it all. Now I consider myself lucky since I lived only three hours away from school. I drained the water into a bucket, put the corals in same the bucket, put the bucket and the tank in the back of the car, and drove it home. Then I refilled it all. But for those of you who need to take your tank home for winter break and summer break, don't be scared. It's really not that bad. Now, if you have to get on an airplane to go home for your breaks, I would highly suggest finding an international student to take care of the tank over break, since many international students stay on campus during breaks. They could come in and check on the tank or send you pictures.


So there it is: five things that you should know (that I learned) about having a reef tank in college.

If you really want one, it's not that hard. My mission with CoralFish12G is to inspire more young people to enter the hobby. If you really want it, you can do it! I went to a good university with strong academics, played college basketball, and still had a lot of fun. My reef aquarium didn't hold me back from anything in my first year. In fact, it enhanced my first year of college, since it allowed other people to really get to know who I am!


To learn more tips and tricks I learned while keeping reefs in college, check out this video!