According to Murphy’s law “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong”. Unfortunately, given the complexity of the hobby, there are a number of things that can go wrong while keeping a reef. Sometimes human error or lack of experience can lead to trouble and throw things out of whack or into disarray. I have certainly made my share of bone headed mistakes over the years, including the one when I fried most of my fish and corals with bulbs that did not have UV protection. I wanted to allow more light into the tank so at the time I thought it was ok to remove the UV protected lens from the light hood. My mistake was not knowing the glass on my double ended HQI bulbs lacked UV protection. It was a dumb move I made without doing enough homework and it cost me big time. Lesson learned.

 

Misfortune can also result due to equipment breakdowns or other unforeseen events such as power failures. Fortunately, there are a number of things reef keepers can do to minimize these types of events. One thing I like to do when possible is to use two return pumps in case one fails. Having a second pump as a potential backup can be a life saver if you travel a lot and are away from the tank for extended periods of time. So utilize redundancy when possible.

Options During Power Outages

As for power failures, it is always a good idea to think ahead and have a plan in place when the lights go out. I highly recommend doing this even if you live in an area where the power rarely goes out. It only takes one extended outage to wipe out a reef so play it safe and be prepared. A full house backup generator is the best solution since they turn on automatically right after the main power is cut. However, they are pricey and thus not a practical option for many.


The second best choice would be a portable generator. You do have to be home to start the generator but some cost as little as a few hundred dollars and are well worth the investment. One downside to gas powered generators is they have to be refilled during long outages so be prepared and have extra gas containers on hand. Another option to consider is using a propane powered portable generator. I have a Generac unit that is hooked into my 100 gallon propane tank, which has enough fuel to power my unit for days. Another plus is propane runs cleaner than gas and can be more readily available during a crisis (remember the gas shortage that resulted from Hurricane Sandy).

Other Considerations

If a generator is not an option, then I would recommend purchasing a battery back-up such as the one sold by Ecotech. At the very least these units, when connected to one of their pumps, will help circulate oxygen and increases gas exchange within the main display tank.

 

Controllers such as the ones sold by Neptune Systems are also an excellent way to monitor a tank and stay on top of problems before they mushroom into real trouble. These units allow you to track tank parameters and can warn you via email or a text message when something starts to stray into a “red zone”.

Neptune Systems Next Generation Apex Controller

The Benefit of Webcams

Webcams can be handy to use in conjunction with controllers when something does go awry. With my old tank I had webcams trained on both my display tank and equipment room and one time I used them to check on a power outage alert I received from my controller. At the time I did have a full house back-up generator but I noticed through the webcams that my return pumps were not running. I was able to resolve the problem by using the controller to reset the pumps by switching them off and then back on (it took the generator about 15 seconds to kick in so this brief delay created some back-suction, preventing the pumps from running). Today I have both a public webcam as well as a private one for my sump only I can only view.

 

Nest Cam

 

Final Thoughts

Another good way to avert any trouble is to keep up with preventive maintenance on equipment. Be diligent and make sure pumps and other items are cleaned on a regular basis so they don’t fail.

 

You can’t prevent all problems from occurring but you can nip certain things in the bud by being proactive and planning for some worst case scenarios. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

 

Shop ARID Reactors Now

 

 

If you are looking for additional insights and information, please explore my many other reef tank and SPS related articles as well as my book, A ReefBum’s Guide To Keeping an SPS Reef Tank: A Blueprint For Success. And you can see all of my reef tank videos online now as well as my Live HD Webcam.

 

Happy reef keeping!