Green Reefing – Earth Day Thoughts

As Earth Day rolls around, I wonder, is there such a thing as “green” reefing? I imagine reef keeping may be the epitome of the opposite of “green”… There are, however, a few steps I have been, slowly but surely, taking over the past few years to reduce the energy my aquarium requires. They may not necessarily be saving me that much money (up-front cost may well exceed savings!) but were I really concerned with the cost of a reef aquarium, I would have left the hobby ages ago!
Mind the temperature
Heating & cooling elements are energy hogs, kicking on and off all day. I realize it is not feasible for all aquarium keepers to buy a full on aquarium controller, but I use one. I think any reef keeper in it for the long run would find it a boon, and if it is in the budget – pull the trigger. Too hot? Fans kick on. Keeps getting hotter? Fans stay on, lights go off. Most of the time, a few watts of fans & problem solved without a 1/4hp chiller kicking in.
Adjust for ambient temperatures
Coral, in my experience, are very resilient animals and can adjust very well to the environment, if done slowly. I find that keeping my water temperature around 75*F at it’s lowest in January, and ramping up slowly to 81 – 82 for the hot ass Chicago summers, the heaters have to work much less, saving those watts for another day. My AC3 has a seasonal temperature feature I’ve set so that it does this automatically. There is no real need to exactly replicate high temps of Fiji or Oman reefs. Coral should do just fine with small incremental changes that are reasonably in line with our ambient temperatures, be it So Cal, Chi-town, or over the Northern border.
Low wattage pumps
For flow, the choices of low wattage powerheads on the market keep getting better. From Tunze nanostreams to the Ecotech Vortech, we can create great amount of flow using much less energy than even a few years ago. The Vortech pumps, with heat source on the outside of the tank, are an excellent option for those with overheating problems, with the added benefit of more flow per watt than your maxi jets (example Vortech MP40w = 28 watts to produce 3000 gph with no heat source in tank v. MJ1220 20 watts for 295 GPH, unmodded. Or the MP10 for smaller tanks, just 18w to push 1,575 GPH)…
Reduce photoperiod
I don’t want to mention lighting (LED or T5 v MH), as good lighting is a very important part of a reef tank. If there’s an area to not worry about skimping on, lighting might be it. You may find it possible to reduce your photoperiod without sacrificing coral color or health – I certainly have. Many reefkeepers have been reporting success with reducing the number of hours their lighting systems are on. In this case, success seems to be defined as coral maintaining colors & health with reduced number of hours. Though some note no change, or even ill effect (color loss), I’ve personally been able to reduce the hours my halide by 2.5 hours with no perceivable color loss or negative changes in the tank. I did this over the course of 3 months, and haven’t looked back.
3 days of ‘lights out’ every month
It gets stormy and cloudy over reefs too. Turning lights out for a few days not only saves on energy, but I find it also helps with diatoms and gives the tank a ‘refreshed’ look when turned back on. I randomly decide when to do it, I’ll just flip the light switches to ‘OFF’ and set a reminder of when to turn them back on.
Buy tank raised livestock & encourage aquaculture
If not well aware that many of Earth’s creatures (including us) are subject to extinction, well, um, yeah.
That’s all for now. Please consider your impact on this world & be a good citizen of the earth. I’m not recommending that anyone completely change their little bit of living room reef habits completely, but do try and be aware of your impact here – reef tanks and otherwise.