New To Reefing


Apr 22, 2016
Advice For New Setup
Hi everyone, my name is Rebecca and I am based in Sydney. I am excited to be making my first post on the Reefuge as I have read and learned so much on here and I hope one day I will be able to contribute! My partner Matt and I have recently caught the reefing bug and we are hoping to start a marine tank soon. We don’t have much experience in fish keeping, and we currently have a 40L freshwater tank.

However we have recently upsized and now have enough room for a large tank that we have always wanted. We want to eventually have a reef tank (with fish as well), but we are still in the research and planning phase, trying to read as much as we can about this on the internet/forums.

We have been looking at the Red Sea Max s-650 because of its design and simplicity where everything is set up and ready to go, we are ok with the price but do wonder if we can get more for our money going the custom route. We have also read/heard a lot about the stock equipment not being the best..

I would really appreciate any input on our equipment set up? We would like a 150cm+ length tank with sump, including all the equipment that can automate processes in maintaining and monitoring the tank because we work long hours so will not be able to monitor the tank for most of the day. Outside of working hours we are definitely committed to giving the necessary care for our tank!

Current equipment list that I think we will start with includes but is not limited to:

Tank and stand: Red Sea Reefer 525XL with built in ATO

Reef monitoring system: Neptune Apex system with temp, pH and salinity probes

Wavemaker/powerhead: Neptune Wav or Ecotech MP40 – appreciate any input in this? I read that the Neptune Wav can be noisy but I like the idea of an all in one controlled system as it can be connected to the Apex system.

Chiller/heater: Teco TK1000 Chiller heater

Lighting system: Aqua Illumination Hydra 52HD but open to suggestions, we prefer LEDs that we would not need to replace

Protein skimmer and return pump: Open to recommendations – probably something that is powerful enough for the size of the tank and/or is easy to clean

RODI system: open to recommendations

To give an idea of equipment suitability our stocking list so far includes –

Corals: probably staying away from SPS at the start, will be LPS and softy mix.

Fish: Clowns, blue tang, naso tang, diamond goby, blue chromis, six line wrasse (maybe, might be too nippy for the tangs), bannerfish (maybe), foxface, bicolor dottyback

Inverts: a hardy clean up crew, to be decided

Definitely open to any advice that you have, in regards to the equipment and also – would you go with the RSM S650 or the above setup that I have shortlisted? Is the custom setup going to be too much for a novice? The Reefer tanks are marketed towards “Advanced hobbyists”… We are also open to having the equipment installed by a professional if the plumbing/wiring does get too much.

In terms of budget, our biggest consideration is functionality and quality so we are happy to pay a bit more for equipment that we can trust for our tank.

I would really appreciate any comments/input that you have, and if you are reading this, it means you have got through the very long post and thank you very much for that!

Dean Lovett

Apr 11, 2015
Hey Rebecca.

Welcome to the Reefuge. As a nanoreefer myself there isn't much I can help you with except - certainly go down the 6 line wrasse path. They are adorable, wonderful personalities and so cute.

You'll learn so much from the wonderful reefers on here. You've certainly made the right choice of forum for your first reef set up!

Welcome to the family :)


Oct 27, 2015
South Gippsland
Hi Rebecca & Matt,
Guess what? You are already contributing with your post. :welcome

Best advice I can give is research, read, then research and read some more. You're already on the right track. Before getting your tank wet, make sure you understand the basic chemistry which is far more involved than in freshwater. Understand the 'cycling' process too. Here are some great articles & threads to read.

Also check out this 52 week youtube series on setting up a tank from scratch. It contains a wealth of info.
BRS 160 Tank Build

I have to say that the people who are most likely to respond to your posts on Reefuge all seem to have a good knowledge and experience in this hobby. This may ruffle a few feathers but I have to suggest staying away from seeking advice on the many reef related Facebook groups. My experience there is that at least half of those offering advice have no idea what they're talking about, I think they just parrot what they've heard. It's the opposite here, we still have healthy discussion but it's mostly based on experience.

Also I can say that the moderators here (I'm not one btw) have an extraordinary range of skills and knowledge.

If you go for a main tank of 550+ litres, it will greatly increase the range of fish you can keep. Many fish, such as tangs need a lot of swimming room. I have never had an all in one setup so I can't make any recommendations other than nobody ever seems quite satisfied with them and end up changing equipment out. Having said that I must admit I like the look of the cade tanks.

For your RO I can definitely say get an RO/DI unit rather than just RO and buy it from Pete at PSI Filters in Tassie. That's where most of us get them. He gives a discount to active members here, his service is great and he stocks all the parts and filters you might ever need. I bought this unit and it's great.

Welcome to the nuthouse. o_0
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Savage Henry

Feb 2, 2015
Hi Rebecca,

Good to see you putting in the ground work before you set sail.

My only advice in regards to the set up you are looking at is simply that such a set up is usually a dream for most of us starting out as you are. I would consider starting out with say a three or four footer and learning all the mistakes everyone does along the way and then eventually going bigger.

It is true, the bigger the tank, the greater margin for error etc as it is easier to maintain stable conditions in a larger tank, but when you are basically starting out as you are, I think you might pay to start at a more reasonable size.

Without wanting to disparage anyone for starting out with big money equipment, there's a lot to be learnt starting with the most basic equipment. Experience that will pay dividends in the long run when, if you stay in the hobby, you advance and upgrade.

At the end of the day, I'd rather not see you disappointed as I believe that every newcomer should be warned that this hobby can have its up and downs and sometimes this leads newcomers to abandon the hobby early.

Just my 2 cents worth.


Feb 25, 2013
Hi Rebecca & Matt,
Welcome to the Reefuge !

I am in the process of designing a similar size tank (5X2.5x2) for an upgrade.
However mine will not happen till the end of the year,

I am currently looking at (in order of preference)
1 Bubble king double cone 250 (if funding permits)
2 Deltec SC2060
3 Nyos 220

I believe that a good skimmer (and lights) are the key to maintain a reef tank long term.
Not forgetting a good maintenance scheduled.

Now what also comes into play is what type of corals you want to keep ,
you stated that you would be starting out with softies and LPSs but reading between the lines you will venture into the SPS world.
IMO LED's are only ok for LPS and softies.

I believe that the RSM650 comes with T5 lighting ? you wont get much better that that lighting for corals .
I personally believe LEDs are not there yet and for every one successful LED tank there are 20 successful T5 or MH reef tanks.
I going to get stick about that

P.S have you thought of designing your own tank & sump?

Sam Parker

May 6, 2013
Welcome! :welcome

Not sure I can add too much from what has been said above, but I'll try based on my learnings from a similar background of no-fish keeping.

1. Take your time and look at as many tanks as you can (ideally in person). You will really get a sense for what you like and don't like fairly quickly. It will also give you someone to follow and copy their set-up to a degree.

2. Make a connection with a good local fish store. As much as I love this forum and other hobbyists, nothing beats a trusted local fish store for solid and timely advice. I honestly think I would have crashed and burned in this hobby if it wasn't for my amazing LFS.

3. Most will disagree with me on this point, but I completely understand and like the idea of a ready made tank complete with equipment for your first tank. The learning curve is high enough in this hobby that removing as many variables as you can to begin with is a good move. I learnt my craft on a red sea max 130 and it was fantastic being able to look on-line at how others from all around the world had handled any similar issues or upgrades. The path was well paved and made the learning experience a lot easier. It is true that a custom tank with individually selected equipment will often be "better" for your money, but only if you know what gear you want and are able to use it to it's potential. The ready selected and setup nature of a red sea max is a sensational option for newbies.

4. Don't get caught up on equipment before knowing if you actually need it. For instance, the chiller. Unless your house gets really hot and you don't have air con, I wouldn't worry about a chiller for now. You can easily add it down the track if required. Second bit of gear I would skip for now is the apex. That is another very steep learning curve that is really not needed at the early stages. This will open up a HEAP of your budget which is handy, because things like live rock cost a heck of a lot more than people usually prepare for.

With that in mind, I think a red sea max 650 would be ideal. Don't worry about changing T5 tubes, its not hard and only has to be done every 6-9 months. With all equipment included, multiple instances of the same set-up running all around the world it gives you a blueprint to work with. Yes, some of the equipment is not the "best in the business" but realistically it's more than adequate. Only thing you'd look at upgrading or adding in the short/medium time frame is a change of skimmer and an upgrade of in-tank flow ( mp40 for instance).


Savage Henry

Feb 2, 2015
Starting with a good quality all in one like a Red Sea Max would be a good way to go because the included gear is matched together nicely.

For me though, it wouldn't have been a good idea because I made all those little mistakes. For instance, when I first started arranging liverock and banged a piece into the glass - instance scratch! Also, cleaning the glass with a magnetic cleaner and catching sand in between the glass - instant scratches! Four years later and setting up a CADE I am so so careful.


Apr 22, 2016
Thank you so much everyone, for sharing your wealth of knowledge! It was great to read your thoughts and advice. We will take it all under consideration and keep updating on our progress!

After reading your input we are probably leaning more towards an all in one system now - it will definitely be easier to be able to compare with other people using the same set of equipment - but we also like the sound of the Apex system to monitor our parameters as we worry we are not around enough..
Also thinking that we may need a chiller as our current tank gets up to 29 degrees in the house!

Savage Henry

Feb 2, 2015
29 is OK for short periods of time, but not much higher.

My tank was on 28 for most of the summer and got up to 30 at times. Some authors actually advocate for a higher average temperature of say 27.

Your lights and other equipment will likely increase the temperature of your tank compared to your freshwater tank though.

Also, I think that Red Sea Max has a cover? This would probably keep the heat in too.

Just another few of the thousand of little things to think about.

Sam Parker

May 6, 2013
In response to your latest reply, here are a few things to consider:

Apex isn't quite at the plug and play stage just yet, requires pretty decent computing knowledge and still only tracks basic parameters (Ph, ORP, salinity and temp). The buzz and marketing around them suggests they can do everything, when in reality they still have a fair way to go (apex owners will flame me now...) If your really keen on some sort of monitor, a simpler and cheaper alternative is the seneye reef.

OK, chiller. Do you have air con in the room where the tank will go? It makes sense to run that on hot days instead of running a chiller. Either way, the good news is you have a fair while until summer when you can add a chiller if you still really need it. Whilst the extra equipment and lights on a reef tank will add to the heat, it is also going to be a significantly larger body of water that will take a lot longer to change temperature. Again, a cheaper alternative is a fan across the surface of the water.

Enjoy :)


Aug 17, 2014
Hi Rebecca,

I have a S500 aquarium. It has been running for two years. Faultlessly and it is doing well.

In terms of quality. It's excellent. The skimmer is a good skimmer and if it is set up right. Works well. I've not replaced anything on the aquarium in two years. Besides T5 tubes.
I also have one Vortech MP 40 with battery backup as a reliable power down circulation alternative.

You will not regret the S650.

You will need a chiller, perhaps not in winter. But you will need one. If you get the TECO with a heater built in. I would recommend getting it with the setup. That's what I did.

Feel free to pm me, if you want photos of my setup. As I am not big on posting photos on here.

But if you go the Red Sea S650, I'm happy to give first hand advice. If you want.

They are, in my opinion a fantastic setup. And a very attractive setup.

Don't bother with an apex for now.