Connor’s DIY Saltwater Reef Setup Guide

DIY Guide last updated on October 22, 2019


A fish making a plan
Got a better plan than this?? Let minnow!

If you’re like me, you want to be sure something is done right, and typically go to the Internet for some help. If you are wondering how to get started building your own reef tank, then you came to the right place. My DIY Saltwater Reef Setup Guide should help get you on your path to create your own beautiful tank, with different options depending on your budget.

After that last post, I was tired from all the running around on impulse and my excitement finally calmed down so my logic could take over. Actually, my desire to not waste money is what actually took over, as I had no intention to invest in one path just to switch to another and have to start over.

As I mentioned in my last blog, I found some good YouTube channels to guide me down a more structured path toward my goal of starting my first mid-size saltwater tank. By the way, you can find Brian’s and my learning recommendations on our Resources page.

The Draft

Back to it…I created a draft set of steps, texted a picture of it to Brian, then called him up to seek his wise sage-like counsel on which parts I needed to modify. My current plan is as follows…

You can see the learning process by looking at a scratch plan like this…I must have changed my assertions about what to do, and direction a few times before settling on moving forward.

Connor’s DIY Saltwater Reef Tank Setup Guide

Clear as mud right? While it makes sense to me, I thought about this might help others if I only cleaned it up a bit, and added other helpful thoughts in my head to learning resources, budget options, and specific product link recommendations, so that’s what I did. Below is a guide that I believe can help anyone who is getting started, or even trying to learn more about how to enhance their existing reef.

Download: Google Sheet -or- PDF Doc

Connor's DIY Saltwater Setup Guide
This Saltwater Reef Setup Guide is meant to help you avoid common pitfalls and demystify the process of starting your own reef! Any product suggestions are unsponsored.

Now, this guide is written with the novice in mind, so you won’t find more advanced ideas. Tricks like starting up a Refugium or how to add an Auto Top-Off function to your reef won’t be found here. This guide was built specifically to help people get up and going with what I consider the ‘healthy bare minimum’ setup. You can always grow it from there!

So for now, I am clear on my next steps; how about you? Notice, Step 1 is LEARN. As a career software tester, I understand that one of the best ways to learn is to experiment, but I knew I needed to get a little bit better at ‘reading the manual’. This hobby can be complex, so all the more necessary. I was getting excited about the next step, painting the back of my tank; however, I needed to drain all that tap water first…Good times!


On to Step 2…Painting!

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