2019 Guide for Shopping for a Reef Aquarium Geek

Shopping for someone whether it be a friend or a loved one that has a reef aquarium can be difficult. Most people in the aquarium hobby are very passionate about the hobby and their tanks, so choosing the right gift to get them can sometimes be difficult. 

 

We are going to try to guide you through the process and into getting the right gift for them. Each category of products is broken out in a budget range and we try to identify the best option for each one. Hopefully, this will give you some ideas and will make the process of getting them a gift that they will love easier.

 

 

Education

Education is a huge part of the aquarium industry a small change can make a huge impact on an aquarium and even total disaster. While Tank Facts is designed to help people try to avoid some of these pitfalls there are a ton of books out there that can help educate and every hobbyist should own.

 

Fish

 

Algae

 

Corals

Marine Fish Guide

 

Algae: Problem Solver

 

Corals: Complete Manual

 
 

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A great book to own and get a quick overview of different fish species. After you are done flipping through it and making a list of the top species you want to own I suggest leaving this one in your car so that if you are inclined to buy something you do not know much about you can quickly grab it and get an overview of the species. The book cost about $30 but an awesome book to own, every hobbyist should own this guide.

 

Every hobbyist’s biggest pain or horror normally revolves around an algae outbreak. The book was written by Julian Sprung who is well known in the industry and having a guide to refer to or even if you do not have an algae problem a great read so that you are ready if there is a problem. For about $20 this is a no brainer to own.

 

Having trouble with corals? No worries, check out this complete guide to corals that will go over the different types of species and their needs. Priced at only about $10 a great book to own even if you feel like you or they are a coral Guru.

 

 

Automating Water Changes

Ok, so we are going to start with one of the largest tasks when owning an aquarium and that is water changes. If you hear them complain about having to do water changes, there are ways to automate the process. Unfortunately, most of the most reliable solutions may require deeper pockets. Don’t worry though we have many other gift ideas.

 

Affordable Choice

 

Good Choice

 

Best Choice

Jebao Dosing Pump

 

Smart AWC

 

Neptune Dose

 
 

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They normally cost about $65 but the price can vary. With the dosing pump, they can use two pumps to remove a small amount of water and then two pumps to add water. The pumps will allow you to do multiple little water changes each day. They are not designed for water changes but it can get the job done.

 

It will normally cost you about $200 but the price can vary. The Smart AWC was designed to do water changes. Setting it up will be easier than the Jebao dosing pump. It also includes everything you need from hoses to DC pumps to get the job done. It requires water sources to be nearby.

 

The Neptune Dose is only appropriate if they already have a Neptune Apex controller. The Dose will cost you about $300 and if you have to buy a controller it will cost another $800. The reason this is the best solution is that they can be set up to work just like the Smart AWC but you can also add lots of redundancies and fail-safes as add ons. This one has the ability to pull and push water over 100 feet away.

 

 

Auto Top Off (ATO) System

If they are constantly having to add water to their tank or if their tank tends to bubble often due to the tank having low water levels chances are they need an auto top off system to help maintain their water levels. If they do not already have they will love you for getting one for them. They simply have a container of water near the tank and the system will automatically add water when needed. The reason this is needed is that water evaporates, the larger the tank the more evaporation that it will have. You add fresh water because the salt does not evaporate so as more water evaporates the water in the tank becomes saltier.

 

Affordable Choice

 

Good Choice

 

Best Choice

JBJ ATO Controller

 

Auto Aqua Smart ATO

 

Tunze Osmolator ATO

 
 

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Normally runs about $80, it is fairly simple to set up too. This model does not come with the pump, it has a sensor that when it goes off the outlet turns on. So you have to plug a pump into this outlet. It lets you use any pump that you want so you can adjust the pump depending on your tank size needs which is nice. On the other hand, it does not have any fail-safety just an on and off triggered by float sensors.

 

This is an all-inclusive system that includes a pump as well. Very simple to set up and runs around $140, the ATO does have one fail-safety and it calculates the average run time and if it's exceeded will automatically shut off.

 

Tunze invented the ATO’s and they have been at the top of the game since providing one of the best ATO’s available that is simple to set up and comes with fail-safes to try to prevent issues like calculating the average time that it's normally on will auto shut off if its exceeded as well as a float switch to prevent overfilling.

 

 

Salt

Salt is something that everyone needs and while it may not sound like an exciting gift it will be well appreciated by someone with a saltwater aquarium. Your best choice here is to take a peek and see if you can see what type of salt they use. Salt is normally stored in a large box or a bucket. Some of the more popular and common salt brands are Fritz Pro, Instant Ocean, Red Sea, and Tropic Marin. People who have been in the hobby for a while may try to stock up on salt during the holidays to try to take advantage of good deals. Regardless salt does not go to waste.

 

If you can’t figure out what type of salt that they use here are some options.

 

Affordable Choice

 

Good Choice

 

Best Choice

Instant Ocean

 

Red Sea

 

Tropic Marin

 
 

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Normally runs about $65 but Instant Ocean Reef Crystals are well known in the industry and many people swear by it. 

 

The Red Sea Fish Pharm Salt is known for carrying elevated parameters to promote faster coral growth and is perfect for maintaining parameters via water changes.

 

The Tropic Marin has been claimed to be one of the best salts, for sure it is able to produce the cheapest cost per mixed gallon of water even though it has one of the highest costs running around $100.

 

 

Water Chemistry

Saltwater hobbyist may sometimes look like a mad scientist, testing their water is important. If some of the water parameters drop too much can cause serious issues with an aquarium. A small percent of the hobbyists test too much while most of the hobbyist test too little. Regardless, one of the most important parameters in a reef tank is Alkalinity. The other most important parameters are Calcium and Magnesium. 

 

Affordable Choice

 

Good Choice

 

Best Choice

API KH Test Kit

 

Hanna Checker

 

Triton ICP Test

 
 

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A super simple test kit that is extremely affordable under $7, could be a good stocking stuffer is you need ideas. This test is not the most accurate test kit but it gives you an idea as to where your parameters are at and you can easily tell if you are ok or not. It does require you to see a change in the color of the test which could be an issue for someone color blind who has a hard time seeing the color blue.

 

If you are looking for accuracy then you want to go digital and that is what Hanna provides. They run about $50 but they provide accuracy and digital reading. Perfect for anyone who is color blind or that needs a precise reading.

 

The Triton ICP Test is a lab grade test where you mail off a sample of the water and they send you the results. They are extremely accurate and provide the parameters of all of the major elements found in an aquarium. Each test costs $50 and ideally, you would want to get them four so that they can do one every three months but two would be nice as well. No one will complain about getting an ICP test.

 

 

Food

Everything in the tank eats, whether it’s fish with a specific diet or corals or even filter feeders so food doesn't go to waste and it’s one of those gifts that everyone needs.While the affordable option may be something that most hobbyists have bought in the past to the Good and Best option which may be foods that a smaller percentage of hobbyists have used but that is great and will be appreciated.

 

Affordable Choice

 

Good Choice

 

Best Choice

Ocean Nutrition Flakes

 

Reef-Roids

 

Rod’s Food

 
 

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If there are fish in the aquarium then chances are they will need some fish food. Ocean Nutrition makes a good flake food that is widely used in the hobby that is fairly affordable at about $5

 

Most corals have to eat too or can grow quicker if feed. Reef Roids make an excellent product while there are a few this one is popular. The small container will cost you about $15 and its small enough to make a good stocking stuffer choice as well.

 

This one could be tricky food to gift how it’s frozen food so you may have to get creative and keep this gift wrapped in the freezer. Rod’s food is a popular food that has a large mix of feed and can feed just about anything in an aquarium and its very popular in the hobby. The smallest pack will cost about $20

 

 

Return Pump

This is the lifeline of an aquarium and chances are that they already have one unless they are just getting into the hobby. With that said most people do not have a backup pump on hand and when their pump dies they have to run to a local fish store and buy whatever they have on hand whether they wanted it or not. I like having two different return pumps dialed down in my setup to provide redundancy. If a pump dies chances are that the other pump is still running, also I can clean one and take my time while the other pump keeps running.

 

The biggest thing to keep in mind is the dimensions of the return pump someone with a smaller aquarium may not have the room to place a larger return pump in their return pump chamber.

 

Affordable Choice

 

Good Choice

 

Best Choice

Jebao DCP Return Pump

 

Reef Octopus VarioS-4

 

EcoTech Vectra M2

 
 

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Jebao has a hit or miss reputation in the aquarium industry. There are two things that are for sure, one they are less expensive than anything in the market and two they are a clear rip off of major brands available. The DCP return pumps are very powerful and controllable allowing you to dial them down for smaller tanks or even providing a variable speed throughout the day.

 

Reef Octopus provides great products and the VarioS-4 is no difference it also comes in the VarioS-2, VarioS-6, and VarioS-8. You can think of them as the Small, Medium, Large and Extra Large versions. The VarioS-4 (medium) is more than capable of the return pump needs for most aquariums. It comes with a controller to control the speed of the pump and allows you to put it into feeding mode. The VarioS-4 will run you about $285 while the VarioS-2 is about $215, VarioS-6 is about $325 and the VarioS-8 is about $415.

 

The EcoTech Vectra M2 is their medium-sized return pump they also come as S2 and L2 for small and large. Not only does that refer to the size of the pump but also the amount of water they can move. While the M2 will run you about $380 the S2 is $300 and the L2 is $475. Honestly, the M2 is ideal for most people in the hobby of how you can control the flow you can dial it down for the smaller tank and up for the larger tanks. The controller allows you to choose between the preprogrammed settings and the flow level. Using system controllers like the ReefLink or even the Apex will give you more control options and can sync with other EcoTech products to provide a system solution.

 

 

Wave Makers

The ability to provide variable water movement within your tank is ideal and most people would like a little more flow in their tank. The wave-like movement provides many benefits from feeding your corals by circulating water around them to even keeping you tank cleaner by picking up loose debris and helping it go into the filtration system. There are tons of wavemakers on the market so the option for Good Choice was very difficult to choose but we felt was the best option for a mid-cost solution.

 

Affordable Choice

 

Good Choice

 

Best Choice

Jebao SLW 10/20

 

Hydro Koralia Smartwave Kit

 

Maxspect XF350 Gyre

 
 

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Jebao has a hit or miss reputation in the aquarium industry. There are two things that are for sure, one they are less expensive than anything in the market and two they are a clear rip off of major brands available. The SLW is no different and can be confused with the Nero pumps. The difference between the two versions 10 and 20 is the amount of power the pump has. I prefer the larger one how it can be dialed down and only cost about $75

 

It comes with two pumps and the controller, just set them on opposite sides fiddle with the controller a little while. This is one of the cheaper two pump solutions out there. The kit cost around $165 but comes with two pumps and is a known reliable brand.

 

The Maxspec XF350 Gyre Pump with the COntroller is a desirable pump that packs lots of power with a design that is able to create gyre in an aquarium. They are a little pricey costing around $350 you can also get them without the controller for about $180

 

 

Lights

Lights can be a bit pricey and each hobbyist has their own opinion as to what light is the best in the hobby. For the most part, everyone is onboard that the future of the aquarium industry lighting needs is LED’s. With that said there are many LED choices, the light suggested below are focused on LED’s that can grow corals. If you have a fish only with live rock (FOWLR) aquarium so no corals then they can use just about any LED light.

 

Affordable Choice

 

Good Choice

 

Best Choice

Black Box LED’s

 

Red Sea ReefLED 90

 

EcoTech Marine Radion XR30w G4 Pro

 
 

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So these LED’s are built overseas, typically in China, they are provided by dozens of companies. The Hobby knows all of them as Black Box LED’s and they will run you from $65 - $140. Most of them lack some of the controllability features and they may not look as nice as some of the big brands in the Aquarium LED space but they work. You can grow corals with them. The one I linked to also has WiFi capabilities which are nice how most of them just have manual buttons and noobs that you have to push on the unit itself and it also has good reviews. 

 

While Red Sea is known for its nice all in one aquarium in the hobby. For the last several years they have been building their own products. Their latest product is ReefLED lights. They come in two models the 50 and 90. The difference between the two is that the 90 provides a more blue color that will make corals pop or look fluorescent which most people want. They will cost you about $350 for the 90 more blue version. If you are happy with the more white light the 50 will help you save a few dollars running you about $220. One of the things I love about these lights is how the LED is pushed into the unit it causes less light bleed into the room.

 

My first LED’s I purchased was a set of Radions, this was a game-changer for me and possibly one of the best investments I made in the hobby. With that said they are downright expensive with the XR30w costing between $700 - $850. There is a Pro version (which I linked to) and the non-Pro version. The difference is that the Pro version has more LED’s in the clusters and provides two more colors (Violet and Warm White). The Radion LED’s offer the most customization options for lighting an aquarium and can even emulate cloud coverage and even lighting in a storm. If you are looking for someone to totally geek out when they unwrap their gift this is almost a guaranty. They are the Lamborghini of aquarium LED’s.

 

 

Controller

If they are unplugging plugs to get maintenance done that is sooo old school, while controllers at their simplest form can control if a device is on or off they are also cable of doing so much more from monitoring parameters, automating tasks, providing redundancies and safety features. This is a bit techier gift some like smart power strips that are easy to set up and the full-on controllers if they are not used to them will take more time to set up but once they are will be very beneficial, the controllers are also a bit more of a pricey gift running around $800.

 

Affordable Choice

 

Good Choice

 

Best Choice

Smart Power Strip

 

GHL ProfiLux 4

 

Neptune System Apex

 
 

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If you are looking to control simple one and off the Smart Power Strip is the way to go at only $25 you can hook it up to your smart assistant at home and tell it to turn off specific plugs.

 

Give them the ability to not only control devices but also monitor parameters and automate tasks. The GHL ProfiLux 4 will cost you about $800

 

You have the ability to control devices, monitor parameters, including the core parameters using the Trident and automate tasks. The reason it gets the Best spot is it has been around much longer, has several add on devices including the very desirable Trident. They also have a wizard to set up many tasks and many users with advanced programs that can be easily modified to meet your needs. The full Neptune Controller with Trident will also run you about $1,100

 

 

Live Stock

You may be tempted to get them something like a fish or a coral, don’t. Each fish and coral has specific requirements and may require new equipment, require more maintenance or may not be compatible with something in their tank already. Before adding a new species requires a bit of research. With that said there are some live options, they may not be as exciting but a much better option.

 

Affordable Choice

 

Good Choice

 

Best Choice

Copepods

 

Local Fish Store

 

World Wide Coral

 

 

 

 

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Find Local Fish Store

 

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At a cost of about $45, you can get a mix of Copepods which are live foods for an aquarium. This may not be exactly what you were thinking about but will be appreciated. 

 

For this one, you will have to swing by the local fish store that they go to and see if they offer a gift card. When you give it to them tell them its for a fish or a coral and later on follow up with them and see what they got. How large of a gift card should you get? If you want to buy some crabs or invertebrates for their tank a $25 gift card is good, if you would like to buy them a coral about $50 and if you want to buy them a fish about $75. Keep in mind that prices will vary for each of these and it may not cover the entire cost but each of those suggestions will help them get something nice in each category.

 

World Wide Corals is a design coral vendor with very desirable corals which most of us would like to have more of. Getting them a gift card to World Wide Corals would be a great gift. If you really wanted you could get them enough money to get a Monthly Coral Package. They are not cheap costing as low as $100 a month to $1,075 a month for the High Roller Package, but do not worry that includes free shipping :)



Hopefully, you are able to find some good gift ideas for your fellow reefer. Are we missing anything? Do you suggest something different? Comment below...

About author

I got into the aquarium hobby in 2004 after I went diving for the first time I knew I wanted a small piece of the ocean nearby to admire at home. I have a tech background, so I enjoy gadgets and automation. I plan to do a planted freshwater tank and play

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