How much should I budget to run my tank?
I have been thinking of getting back into the hobby after many years’ absence, but rather than freshwater, I’m considering a marine aquarium. I’ve been looking at the Red Sea Reefer 170 aquarium among others, plus equipment such as the sump, protein skimmer and LED lighting.
I’m trying to learn as much as I can to be hopefully well informed, but the one thing I can’t seem to find out about is how much it will cost to run the tank and equipment. It would be very useful to have some idea of running costs so that I can budget. Any help would be much appreciated. DAVID CUSS, EMAIL DAVE SAYS: Red Sea’s Reefer 170 is an excellent choice. It’s not a strictly ‘plug and play’ system, as you’ll need to add your own pump and some other key equipment, but the overall design is neat, allowing for considerable flexibility.
The amount of electricity a modern aquarium uses is actually pretty low thanks to developments in LED lighting and increased efficiency in pump design – especially with the growing use of low voltage and controllable DC pumps. The Reefer doesn’t include pumps or a skimmer, but if you go for a DC return pump of 2000 lph, a couple of sensibly sized DC circulation pumps and a decent aspirator skimmer with DC pump, you’re looking in the ball park of 20W, 10W and 15W respectively.
The Reefer 170 Deluxe comes with a 90W LED, so if you were to use this lighting on an eighthour photoperiod, you’re looking at a combined electricity cost of around £2 per week. This doesn’t include heating, but a 200W heater (which would be the recommended size for this tank) won’t be running all the time, so let’s call it a maximum of £5 a week for all electricity, including pumps, lighting and heating.
Water changes will be a regular ongoing cost, but this depends on the frequency and quantity of water changes you’ll be carrying out. Let’s say you’ll perform a typical 10% weekly water change on a Reefer 170 that has a total volume of 165 l/37 gal. Based on typical costs for water, you’re looking at 6p per litre to make your own RO water taking wastage into account (bear in mind this is only a rough guide based on average water rates and RO unit efficiency).
If you buy a 22kg tub of salt, which will give 660 l/147 gal mixed at £60 (pretty typical for a branded ‘reef-quality’ salt), this works out as roughly 10p per litre. So you can estimate 16p per litre for a salt mix (RO plus salt), or £2.64 for each 10% water change. If you’re going to be buying RO or a complete salt mix from your local aquatics shop, the costs are obviously going to be higher.
This doesn’t include feeding and additives (if you’re going to be using any), of course, and this very much depends on what fish and so on you’ll be keeping – but it’s still worth thinking about as an ongoing expense.
Considering running costs is important with highenergy tanks.