The Optimal Reef Tank Parameters

Updated on November 20, 2020 by

A few words to begin with

We can all agree that marine tanks can sometimes cause a lot more headaches compared to their freshwater counterparts.

It is by default more difficult to set up a saltwater tank, and keeping it within its optimal parameters can be even harder. Keeping an eye on the key parameters at all times and maintaining them within the optimal ranges is crucial for the well being of your fish, corals, and invertebrate.

Among key parameters, to name a few we can refer to pH, temperature, salinity, ammonia, or nitrate. Variations in these parameters can cause fish diseases or even death, booms in algae growth, etc.

It, therefore, becomes a must to periodically have these parameters checked. A great idea is to also keep a record of every measure you take, to always maintain the key parameters stable and within acceptable levels.

To efficiently measure salinity levels, you might be interested to check out our article on the best salinity refractometers.

Below, there are a couple of tables illustrating the most important parameters one should keep an eye on. The recommended values are listed, along with the typical values recorded from the oceans.

The key reef tank parameters and their ideal values

ParameterIdeal Reef Tank ParametersTypical Ocean Surface Parameters
Parameter
Calcium (CA)
Ideal Reef Tank Parameters
380 – 450 ppm
Typical Ocean Surface Parameters
420 ppm
Parameter
Alkalinity
Ideal Reef Tank Parameters
2.86 – 4.29 meq/L (8 – 12 dKH)
Typical Ocean Surface Parameters
2.5 meq/L (7 dKH)
Parameter
Salinity
Ideal Reef Tank Parameters
32 – 35 ppt (sg = 1.023 – 1.026)
Typical Ocean Surface Parameters
34 – 36 ppt (sg = 1.025 – 1.027)
Parameter
Temperature
Ideal Reef Tank Parameters
78-80° F
Typical Ocean Surface Parameters
Varies
Parameter
pH
Ideal Reef Tank Parameters
8.1 – 8.3 (7.8 – 8.5 also OK)
Typical Ocean Surface Parameters
8.1 – 8.3
Parameter
Magnesium (Mg)
Ideal Reef Tank Parameters
1200 – 1400 ppm
Typical Ocean Surface Parameters
1280 ppm
Parameter
Phosphate (PO4)
Ideal Reef Tank Parameters
< 0.03 ppm
Typical Ocean Surface Parameters
0.005 ppm
Parameter
Ammonia (NH3)
Ideal Reef Tank Parameters
0 ppm
Typical Ocean Surface Parameters
Varies (normally < 0.1 ppm)

Additional reef tank parameters

ParameterIdeal Reef Tank ParametersTypical Ocean Surface Parameters
Parameter
Silica (Si)
Ideal Reef Tank Parameters
< 1 ppm
Typical Ocean Surface Parameters
< 0.06 – 2.7 ppm
Parameter
Iodine (I)
Ideal Reef Tank Parameters
0.06 ppm
Typical Ocean Surface Parameters
0.06 ppm
Parameter
Nitrate (NO3)
Ideal Reef Tank Parameters
0 – 10 ppm
Typical Ocean Surface Parameters
Varies (normally < 0.1 ppm)
Parameter
Nitrite (NO2)
Ideal Reef Tank Parameters
0.0 ppm
Typical Ocean Surface Parameters
Varies (normally < 0.0001 ppm)
Parameter
Strontium (Sr)
Ideal Reef Tank Parameters
7 – 9 ppm
Typical Ocean Surface Parameters
8 ppm
Parameter
ORP (ORP)
Ideal Reef Tank Parameters
250 – 400 mV
Typical Ocean Surface Parameters
Varies
Parameter
Boron (B)
Ideal Reef Tank Parameters
< 10 ppm
Typical Ocean Surface Parameters
4.4 ppm
Parameter
Iron (Fe)
Ideal Reef Tank Parameters
0 ppm
Typical Ocean Surface Parameters
0.000006 ppm

Happy fishkeeping everybody!