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What's up reef keepers? Today I'm going to be giving you the hard but honest truth as to why your reef tank looks horrible. Your corals are dying, everything's covered in algae, and no matter how hard you try, you just can't get your reef tanks to click. Guys, we've all been there. Every single reef keeper, including me, has gone through this stage. It truly is a breaking point for hobbyists when your dream of having a beautiful reef tank starts to feel impossible and you either quit or you keep going. And I know how hard it is, especially if you're starting your first saltwater tank, but I don't want you to give up yet. If you can address the three things I'm about to tell you, you may be able to turn that subpar tank into the reef tank of your dreams. You can do it!
All too often, beginners jump into the hobby with really high expectations for their tanks when they only have a minimal amount of experience. Your tank may not look as good as you want it to, but you have to realize that most saltwater tanks don’t look like the unbelievable reef tanks that you see on Google images. Those are almost always kept by hobbyists who have a lot of experience. So how do you gain that experience? Many hobbyists like me gained experience the hard way by spending years making mistakes and then correcting them. But there is a shortcut to this, which is why you'll sometimes see beginner hobbyists have extremely successful reef tanks within a year: research. This is where you have to be honest with yourself. You can't expect your reef tank to look amazing if you're not putting in the time to research anything! However, you can pick up a ton of experience by learning from other hobbyists’ successes and failures, which are all over the internet. Now, unfortunately, what most of you do is you experience a problem with your tank and then frantically search for the solution to it. You need to spend hours reading books, online forums, and getting advice from other hobbyists before you make an impulse livestock purchase, buy an unnecessary piece of equipment, or make a big mistake that causes your tank to crash. These are the kinds of mistakes that will eat up your budget! Many hobbyists simply move too fast. If you slow down, do your research, get advice from hobbyists who have really good-looking tanks, and plan things out, you're going to save a lot of money and gain experience.
There can be a ton of little reasons why your reef tank doesn't look as good as you want it to, but it usually boils down to poor water quality and unstable parameters. Now I understand that aquarium water chemistry can be extremely complicated and very intimidating, but you're going to at least have to test your water regularly if you want to be able to keep healthy and growing corals. I know that 99% of you guys out there who are struggling with your reef tanks are not testing your water, but aquarium test kits have come a long way, so use them!
Many of you guys are adding some kind of a liquid chemical to try to remove your nitrates or squirting random amounts of liquid supplements into your tank because the back of a bottle tells you to. You should never be dumping anything into your tank that you don't test. Let me tell you a little secret that some of these aquarium companies don't want you to know. If you're regularly doing water changes with a high-quality salt brand, then you don't need any of these extra products. I'll say it again. If your reef tank doesn't look the way you want it to, then you're not doing enough water changes. Over time, your reef tank’s water parameters become unbalanced, and a water change resets everything back to normal. You can't change all your water at once, so if your reef tank doesn’t look like you want it to, you need to be doing water changes every couple of days until it shows improvement. Go get yourself an RODI machine. Go get yourself a new bucket of salt. The people who are having success in this hobby don't have some secret formula. They're just religiously doing water changes! Whether it's weekly or biweekly, you can never do too many water changes. And even when you think the problem may have to do with lighting, waterflow or excess feeding, a water change will solve the majority of your tanks issues when you don't really know what the problem is. There are so many different reasons why your reef tank may not be looking as good as you want it to, but I guarantee if you're consistent with doing your research, testing your water, and keeping up with your water changes, you're building the foundation to be successful in this hobby.