7 Reef Tank MYTHS That You Still Believe!

by George Mavrakis on December 18, 2021

 Today I'm going to be myth-busting seven of the most commonly believed myths in the reef aquarium hobby. There's so much information out there that sometimes you just don't know what to believe. Here are seven myths, misconceptions, or commonly confused ideas that are often thrown around the hobby.


 1. Zero nitrates and zero phosphates are good for your tank

Although it is ideal to shoot for zero nitrates and phosphates in your tank, oftentimes aquarists will see negative results when achieving these parameters. Corals actually need some phosphates and nitrates to feed on. If you go with a completely sterile system, you're slowly going to kill your corals. I try to keep my phosphates barely above zero at a reading of 0.03, and the same with my nitrates at a reading of 2-4 PPM instead of zero, which will produce good coloration and growth.


 2. Bristle worms are bad

Most people have been taught to completely freak out when they see bristle worms and try to kill or remove every single last one of them. It turns out that they're actually great scavengers, and as long as they remain small and there's not an unsettling amount of them, they can be one of the best cleanup crews possible. The myths stands true when they get to be too big. You've all seen those really scary photos of them. When they get that big, you definitely want to remove them, or they can take out your fish, your shrimp, and your other tank mates.


 3. You need to have X amount of anything per gallon

The first one associated with this is the 1 pound of rock per gallon myth. Now some people think that a certain amount of rock per gallon is required for successful denitrification. However, the pounds per gallon saying can actually be misleading because it's more about the type of rock you get. The metric should actually be based off of the volume, the weight, and the size of the rock. For example, five pounds of brick is going to have a very different effect on your tank than five pounds of a more porous rock like Fiji rock. The other one associated with this is the myth that X watts per gallon is required to keep certain corals. Stronger lighting can produce faster coral growth and coloration in some corals. However, this is not the only contributing factor. For example, a very low watt led light can produce more par than a high watt metal halide light. Now you are going to need a certain amount of light to get a good start on keeping your corals healthy, but coral placement, flow, and lots of other factors do matter besides the Watts per gallon rule.


 4. Smaller reef tanks are harder to care for than bigger reef tanks

I actually preach this a lot to beginners to avoid smaller nano tanks when first starting out, which there is some merit to. It's really hard to keep a small tank because the water parameters can fluctuate so easily. For example, one drop of poison would affect a five gallon tank much more than it would affect a 500 gallon tank. The myth comes into play when people say that smaller tanks are harder to care for than larger tanks, which is technically not true, especially considering the fact that a larger tank requires larger equipment, which is going to be more expensive. You also have to do larger water changes and have more rock, glass, and sand to clean with a larger tank, so it's definitely a bigger time commitment. However, larger tanks definitely come with some awesome advantages (such as being way more forgiving), but you're going to need a way this against the commitment that they come with.


 5. The reef aquarium hobby is expensive

I'm just kidding guys. It is a pretty expensive hobby! The real way to phrase this one is that buying the most expensive equipment will give you the best results. That’s a myth. The prices that our equipment run for these days is getting absolutely crazy. And a lot of you guys out there believe that the most expensive equipment will definitely give you the best results. The truth is that I know plenty of people with the coolest tanks, many of which I've featured on this channel, that use the simplest and cheapest equipment. Many successful reef tanks run lighting and skimmers with low initial costs and then upgrade later on.


 6. Garlic cures Ich

Garlic has never been conclusively proven to cure marine ich. Many people will report that they've used it and their fish have gotten better, but these are not controlled studies. Just as many people have used it and had their fish end up dying. The reason many people think it works is because it has been proven to entice a fish’s appetite, so when you take a sick fish who hasn't been eating well or regularly, and you supplement its food with garlic, it's definitely more likely to go for the food, eat more of the food, and oftentimes then get better.


 7. Fish will grow to the size of their tank

Tank size is not the limiting factor when it comes to fish growth. It is a limiting factor, but it isn't the limiting factor. One way to describe this is that in a larger tank water parameters are more likely to be stable, so the fish will likely be healthier and grow to be larger. However, tank size is definitely not the only factor. If you want your fish to outgrow your tank, the best way is just to understand its specific requirements.


I hope I helped put all of those reef aquarium myths to rest!


To learn more about common reef tank myths, check out this video!