Reefer 350 Build Blog


Reefer 350
5 Apr 2021
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So here I plan to share with you my virgin journey into saltwater

I will try to log progress, mistakes, modifications, learnings and advice from a novice.

Please fell free to comment, criticize, give advice etc.

Who? Me, a 50+ male engineer and anorak
Why? As a young adult I had a few reasonably sized tropical tanks and enjoyed them much
Always wanted to have a marine tank but never had the time nor the means
Decided, if-not-now-then-never!!
When? January 2021, as a COVID-19 lockdown project
What? Mixed Reef
Brand? Red Sea Reefer 350 Deluxe with the V3 sump and sticking largely to Red Sea products
Approval? Yes, in fact, just before I hit the order button on the 270 liter, my dear wife shouted from the kitchen and asked whether I didn't want a bigger tank??

Much excitement as we received delivery of a package that required 4 adults to carry


Unpacking its belly


Marshalling the troops for the build
Having watched a few YouTube vids, I knew what to expect and it was quick and easy to assemble the stand


An finally the leak test
Happy to say that I had no leaks.
BUT the wooden floor does slope a bit, fortunately away from the wall so that spills drain out to the front (silver lining)

17 Aug 2016
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Wow great start! I am in the exact same boat as you, also started a few month ago with RS Reefer 350! Keep the post going and should you need any help or maybe if I need it rather you are more than welcome to contact me!


Reefer 350
5 Apr 2021
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Now for my advice for novices starting out a new reef aquarium - advice from a novice to novices if you want

I apologize for the long post - next one will be pictures I promise

Below I assume that you are starting your first reef tank from scratch and using dry rock and sand
Why dry rock, because it is cheaper and probably the way you will end up going as a first timer
If you can start with live rock, sand and substrate, you can safely half the time to cycle your tank or better

Lets get started

The day that you decide to go for it, you open you calendar and mark two dates on it, the first three months from the date of decision and the second another three months later.
I do realize that no-one will adhere to these dates as it is not in our nature to be patient no matter how 'good' we are. My hand is up as guilty too and hence my warning/advice.
However, if you do follow this program, I promise that it will save you money, time, frustration and disappointment not to mention loss of livestock.

The first date (3 month in) is when I recommend you buy, beg, borrow or steal your new tank, not before then. If you already have the tank, put it away - don't even open it, forget about it.

Here is how you spend the first three months.
  • Read, read, read whether books, Google, YouTube or any other reliable resources
    • One of the most valuable sites I have stumbled on is Despite being very old (2016?) it contains authoritive articles by Randy Holmes-Farley on many important topics
  • Join a forum and learn from others what it takes to setup and maintain an aquarium
    • This will tune your expectations regarding time and money to be more realistic - these tanks don't run by themselves they need TLC and often
    • You are already at MASA so why not join
  • Visit you LFS
    • Get to know the crew
    • See what they keep, how they keep their shop tanks and their stock - hopefully clean and pest free
    • Check out the prices - corals and reef fish are expensive
    • BUT resist the temptation to buy anything yet
  • If possible, meet-up with other hobbyists and visit them and their tanks
  • Decide on things like:
    • what kind of tank you want, whether fish only , mixed reef, specialist reef etc. - it can make a significant difference
    • The size of you tank and remember smaller is harder but bigger is more expensive - so find the perfect balance for your needs and budget
    • Consider new or second hand options
    • Consider branded off the shelf or DIY - both have benefits and disadvantages
    • Tank placement - this sounds deceptively simply but is a hard and important decision
      • Is it intended as a showpiece in your living space or a hidden experiment in your man/woman-cave
      • Access to your tank on all sides makes all the difference when you have to maintain and clean the beast - so not right up against the wall if possible
      • Can your floor handle the weight or does it need reinforcement - these things can weigh almost a ton
      • You are going to spill or leak water no matter what, so think carefully about placing the tank on carpets or similar flooring that does not go well with water or damp
      • The benefit of a separate 'sump room' in the garage or basement cannot be underestimated
      • Remember that once the tank is filled you cannot move it again unless you really know what you are doing
    • The equipment that you intend to furnish it with, e.g. lighting, skimmer, power heads, wave makers, refugium and so much more
    • When certain pieces of equipment is unnecessary, nice to have or a necessity - you don't have to buy all at once
  • Learn about the nitrogen cycle and the specific water requirements for your tank as well as the need for water changes and eventually dosing, additives, food etc.
  • Learn what cycling a tank is all about, what is it, different ways of doing it, how long does it realistically take, how to respond to things like the ugly phase and so on.
  • And finally your first buy - as soon as possible buy your dry rock, sand, media and some plastic buckets perhaps even some salt and a heater. This will allow you to start curing your rock way long before you fill your tank the first time. Read about it and do it, alternatively get a friend or your LFS to cure your rock during this period of learning.

After 3 months you wont be an expert reefer by any margin but you will have a decent head start.

Now is the time to bring out the tank and cycle it.
  • If you followed my advice above this is going to be the fun part and includes activities such as
    • Aquascaping
    • Getting the tank salty
    • Setting up the sump
    • Housekeeping of your devices and cabling
  • By now you understand the cycle and know what to expect
  • The best advice I have is to buy simple test kits with high range capabilities.
    • My first test kits had limited ranges (1 ppm Nitrite and 50 ppm Nitrate)
    • This lead to much frustration during the cycle as I had no idea of where these parameters stood
    • Eventually I got the API kits (5 ppm Nitrite and 160 ppm Nitrate) and things started making sense
    • My experience with testing by my LFS's was mixed and in one case completely wrong
    • My partial colour blindness means that to this day I struggle reading the test results on colour charts
    • I prefer titration type tests, but be careful once the colour changes and you leave the cuvette for a bit it may revert back - be patient
    • You don't need Hanna's to start with, they will be mostly useless during the cycle
  • Get your tank levelled at full capacity, even if it means a few rounds of filling and emptying - this is the best time to do it
  • Get advice on what additives, if any, to start the cycle and when and how to do water changes
  • However, if you cured your rock beforehand you may find you need very little to cycle your tank
  • Get to know your tank during this period, test the water regularly and enjoy the cycle instead of fighting it
  • Get into the routine of RO top-up, water changes, cleaning and maintenance
  • Resist the temptation to stock anything until your tank is fully cycled
  • This way you can easily 'start over' or fix mistakes that are inevitably going to happen
There are many ways to skin a cat - way is tailored to give you the most enjoyable experience, i.e. to enjoy the ride instead of obsessing about the destination.


Reefer 350
5 Apr 2021
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  • Red Sea Reefer 350 Delux
  • 2x Red Sea ReefLed 90's
  • Red Sea ReefWave 25 & 45 wavemakers
  • Jebao DCP 3000 Return Pump running at 60% odd (17 W) cycling tank volume +/- 5x per hour
  • 2x 150 W Eheim Heaters + STC-1000 controller
  • Red Sea Skimmer 300
  • Zetlight E200S Refugium light

The cycle was started on 13 Feb 2021 with all dry ingredients:
  • Carib Sea South Seas Base Rock 18kg
  • Carib Sea South Seas Shelf Rock 18kg
  • Carib Sea Seafloor special grade reef sand 18.1kg (1-2mm)
  • Carib Sea Aragonite sugar 13.6kg (0.1 - 1.0mm)
  • Carib Sea ARM Reactor Media Xtra Coarse 3.8L
  • 2x Maxspect Bio Block

Aquas-cape Mock-up
03-Mocking-up AquaScape.JPG

Start of the Cycle

Still much to learn on tank photography
More on the cycle in the next post

The Sump and the wire mess in the Cabinet

The Controller Board Build
Found some inspiration online and decided to build a split cabinet to house the wiring, controllers, dosing consumables and test kits

Tidied-up Sump and Controller Cabinet


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2 Nov 2019
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Great looking tank so far, i know the tanks isn't up long but how do you like the ReefLed 90's? I'm considering getting 2 for my reefer350.


Reefer 350
5 Apr 2021
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Great looking tank so far, i know the tanks isn't up long but how do you like the ReefLed 90's? I'm considering getting 2 for my reefer350.

Being new to saltwater aquariums, I have no reference against which to benchmark the ReefLeds other than to confirm that I am very happy with them so far.

What sold these leds to me was BRS' review at:
They have lots of performance specs and technical details that are currently beyond my full appreciation

So far, I can relate the following experiences:-

  • Easy to install including the Reefbeat App setup
  • Good sturdy mounting brackets
  • More functionality than I can hope to fully use:
    • spectrum and brightness adjustments
    • moon cycle
    • cloud simulation
    • dawn/dusk staggered on/off
    • acclimation
    • manual mode
    • etc.
The App sometimes struggles to connect to my wifi despite having an extender in the same room with full signal
Its a temporary annoyance more than a problem
The ReefWave gyros have no difficulty connecting to the same App, so I assume the issue lies with the wifi transmitters/receivers in the ReefLeds ??

The only negative that I can think of is that the PSU's run quite hot. Not as hot as the early spec units that were defective (melted wires etc.) but hot enough that I am keeping them outside of the cabinet hanging free in the open and away from anything else.

The pic below shows the cradles I made for the PSUs that extend to outside the back of my main cabinet


Currently, I am running the program below which I think is somewhere between 15K and 20K. I am interested in what spectra others run their lights for a mixed reef?



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23 Feb 2010
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Cape Town
I see you listed carib sea arm extra course media.. Are you planning on running a calcium Reactor on the tank?


Reefer 350
5 Apr 2021
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Herewith my experiences with the cycle.

The Basics:
  • Started 13/02/2021
  • All dry ingredients: dry rock and substrate (1" to 2" mixed coarse and fine sand bed) - pretty much sterile
  • Lights on from day one
  • Skimmer on from day one but only foaming towards the end of the cycle, as expected
  • I elected to use Red Sea's Reef Mature Starter Kit:
    • So I didn't go with the shrimp or sacrificial fish options but took the chemical route
    • The Red Sea kit worked very well and i have no complaints
    • Note that Red Sea's schedule assumes that you are using live rock, so the CUC in 11 days and fish in 21 days did not apply at all
    • I didn't experience any ugly phase as such - just a bit of diatoms controlled by the lighting schedule and Red Sea's NO3PO4X (magic stuff - probably just vodka and vinigar :005:)
    • I wont be surprised if ugly will still knock at the door in the near future
  • Mistakes:
    • Not buying test kits with a high enough range - I probably missed 70% of the actual NO2 and NO3 readings = frustrating
    • Adding CUC too soon as a result of trusting the LFS's test results. To be fair, I should have done more to double check the results and lost 2 snails and a hermit due to high nitrites
  • Good moves:
    • Adding a few bits and pieces of live rock from the LFS
    • Using AquaVitro Seed in the end to drop down the nitrites and nitrates
  • Tank was cycled on 05/04/2021 after 51 days - no complaints
Here is the nitrogen cycle:


The flat tops are the limit values of my test kits. In reality this is probably what happened


This is about as ugly as it got up to now - some diatom blooms


Since then, the NO3PO4X and CUC have been keeping things nice and clean


Next post - modifications so far...


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Reefer 350
5 Apr 2021
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The following modifications were implemented within the first two months of setting up the tank.

Lighting for the Sump and Cabinet
Installed two Rechargeable Motion Sensor LED Lights
They trigger on motion when I open the doors and give adequate light for my needs
They have magnetic mounts onto double sided tape so its easy to remove for whatever reason - simple but useful
All wiring is kept tidy with stick-on cable clips - again very simple but effective

LED Lights

Cable clips

Quick Release Connectors
My ZLight refugium light has a factory fitted quick release connector that allows quick and easy removal of the unit without having to access the PSU or plugs etc.
I decided to fit similar couplings to my Skimmer, Heaters and Return Pump
Now I can easily remove any and all of the units in the sump for cleaning or servicing, or to remove the entire sump for cleaning

I got these from Communica and they come in 2-Pole and 3-Pole versions
18-Quick Release Connector.jpg

19-Quick Release Connector.jpg

Removed the standard ATU Reservoir
The V3 sump of the Reefer 350 comes with a 18 liter reservoir that sits and slides on top of the main sump feed and return area
I tossed it because (i) it is really in the way and covers up areas that I want to inspect and clean and (ii) I still had to refill the reservoir twice weekly
Replaced with an external 210 liter Drum that feeds the tank through-the-wall by way of the standard ball valve in the return area
Drum gets filled via standard RO unit which I intent to upgrade to RODI in future
Now I have 2 odd months of top up supply and enough to do water changes if-and-when I want to

RO Unit
12-RO Unit.JPG

11-RO Resrvoir.JPG

Jebao 3.4 WiFi Doser
To keep kH, Ca and Mg at reasonable levels, I have installed the doser unit in the sump with the supplies in my custom cabinet
Currently dosing Red Sea Foundation elements as well as NO3PO4X to control nitrate and algae (diatoms) during cycle
Thank you @brentch for the advice of terminating the doser lines with pipette tips - makes a hell of difference
To simplify cleaning of any precipitate, I have placed a false floor (glass plate) in the return area and another glass plate against the wall below the discharge point
These can be easily removed to clean any precipitate with vinegar

Doser Unit
Note the use of the cable clips to tidy things up a bit
You can also see one of the quick release connectors for removing the return pump
The glass plates are not even noticeable unless you look very closely

Doser tips
14-Doser Nozzles.JPG

Filter Socks and Cups
I currently have Brown and Red Gracilaria and Halimeda growing in my refugium and plan to add Chaeto when I can get my hands on some (LFS short on chaeto)
The V3 sump of the reefer has two filter sock holders in a slide mounting
Unfortunately the slide pulls out right into the refugium which I don't like as it disturbs the plants in there
So I have clipped off square two opposing edges on all my media holders and sock so that I can pull these out vertically from the sump
If needed, a small rotation will lock the lips into the slides but I find it is not necessary

Clipped Sock
15-Filter Cups.jpg

Planned future upgrade includes hard plumbing the return line in the sump to include tap off valves for reactor units and a UV possibly
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