Shallow Reef Tank: Pros And Cons, Coral And Fish Ideas, Accessories

Setting up a reef tank is exciting. It’s like bringing home part of the ocean.

Reef tanks are capable of maintaining hard or soft corals. They also make great homes for invertebrates and a wide selection of fish species.

These fish species are perfect for maintaining a thriving coral reef environment.

Today, we’re going to talk about shallow reef tanks: pros and cons.

Let’s dive in!

Shallow Reef Tanks: Pros And Cons At A Glance

shallow reef tanks

A reef tank, or aquarium, acts as a display unit for live corals.

Reef tanks can either be shallow or deep. Each has its advantages and drawbacks.

Picking one over the other depends on your personal preference.

Shallow reef tanks are between 7 to 20 inches deep. Tanks that have a depth of more than 20 inches are considered deep tanks.


  • Allow higher light intensities to reach the bottom of the tank
  • Easier to clean and maintain
  • Don’t require a long time to arrange and set up the corals and other elements
  • Offer simple, no-fuss aquascaping options
  • Less expensive
  • Easier to access
  • Finding compatible inhabitants to fill the tank is easy
  • Perfect for a look-down view of the tank.
  • Provide a lagoon-style display


  • Give the fish less usable space
  • Offer fewer decorating choices
  • Little issues can quickly escalate into major problems because of the small size
  • Can be difficult to maintain a constant balance of the water chemistry
  • Rock structure is restricted due to limited tank height

Reef Tank Requirements

Many factors go into setting up and maintaining a healthy and cohesive reef tank.

First off, you must choose species that can live peacefully around each other. Better yet, you can find species that work in symbiosis to offer what the others need to thrive.

Shallow Reef Tank Corals

Consider these sturdy types of corals. They’re perfect for your reef tank for many reasons.

For one, they provide a beautiful addition to your tank and require minimal maintenance.

Here are some options:

  • Bubble corals
  • Leather corals
  • Open brain corals
  • Trumpet corals
  • Star polyps

Best Types Of Fish For Shallow Reef Tank

shallow reef tank ideas

Here are a few examples of ‘reef-safe’ fish that are well-suited for coral tanks:

  • Invertebrates: snails, scallops, and starfish
  • Marine fish: angelfish, gobies, and Mandarinfish
  • Tank janitors: shrimp, urchins, and the Green Emerald crab

It’s better to find species that form symbiotic relationships — their coexistence will help them thrive while enhancing the overall quality of your tank.

Keep in mind, however, that you will need to adapt your specific tank accessories depending on the variety of fish you keep.

For example, if you have shrimp, make sure you have one of the best filters for a shrimp tank.

Cheap and ordinary filters are not always the best solution for a more specialized tank such as a shallow reef tank.

The best example that comes to mind is sea anemones and clownfish.

The anemone protects the clownfish. At the same time, clownfish keep the anemone’s tentacles clean by removing detritus.

Lighting System

Reef tanks need a more intense lighting system compared to other types of aquariums.

It’s critical for the health of the tank’s inhabitants.

Almost all marine-aquarium fish need bright lighting to thrive.

Reef fish are typically more active during the day when their habitat is brightly lit. For the corals, most can be found in shallow waters in the tropics.

These shallow waters allow a great deal of sunlight to filter in. So, the water is extremely bright and well-lit.

The Right Temperature

The most ideal temperature for a reef tank is between 75 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

A digital aquarium thermometer can make sure your tank is always in optimal condition.

If the surrounding environment is cold, you can always add a heater to your tank. Heaters are widely available and are quite affordable.

You can also add a chiller to your tank to keep things cool and fresh. Since chillers can be quite expensive, you can simply install a surface fan to your reef tank.

Water Features

Compared with fish-only tanks, reef aquariums require more stable water chemistry.

This provides a well-balanced environment for the corals and reefs.

As for the water flow, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Some corals need little water flow, such as mushroom corals.

Trumpet corals, on the other hand, require moderate water flow.

Then you have corals, like cauliflower coral, that depend on high, turbulent water conditions to thrive.

Filtration System

Reef tanks work better when they’re equipped with a water filtration system.

It removes toxins, phosphates, and nitrates, which can harm most types of corals.

Shallow reef tanks work well with a single canister filter.

It should provide the best quality of filtration for the tank water. Just make sure you keep it clean and well-maintained.

Best Shallow Reef Tank

Having a healthy, thriving reef tank is quickly becoming a popular hobby.

Of all the types, shallow reef tanks seem to get the most attention.

There are many advantages that make these types of tanks a beautiful addition to your home.

For one, their maintenance and upkeep are fairly simple. They can be combined with colored corals, reef-safe fish, and invertebrates.

Another advantage is that they allow more light to reach all areas of the tank, especially the bottom. This boosts the overall quality of the corals and fish while making the tank look aesthetically pleasing.

The BioCube Tank is a good starter reef tank for those who want a more standard aquarium.

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