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How to Get Crystal Clear Aquarium Water in Your Reef Tank

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Last updated on November 17th, 2023


How to Get Crystal Clear Aquarium Water in Your Reef Tank

Crystal Clear Water in your Saltwater Aquarium

We've all seen the photos of those PERFECTLY clear aquarium water. Then when we look at our own reef tanks, we see the particulates and wonder, is it even possible for an aquarium to have water that clear? In short, the answer is yes, your aquarium can have crystal clear water! The next question is what does it take to get aquarium water that clear?!

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Why do you want Crystal Clear Water in your Aquarium?

While it seems like an easy question, there may be more reasons for crystal clear aquarium water than you think!

Clear Water in Reef Tanks Looks GREAT!

The obvious answer, you're likely to want crystal clear water in your reef tank because it looks simply amazing! The appearance of fish just floating in the room. Coral swaying in the invisible water. It's nothing short of mesmerizing! This perfectly clear water will amaze you, your family, and everyone else that sees it!

More Light Penetration - Better PAR

When your aquarium water is crystal clear, there is nothing blocking the light from reaching your coral! While it's not major, it will help mildly improve your PAR levels, resulting in better coral growth.

Reduce That "Fishy" Smell

I'm sure we've all had that moment, especially during a water change, when something just smells fishy. Then you look at the yellow water in your bucket and know exactly what caused that smell! Having clean, clear aquarium water will help reduce that fishy smell.

How to Get Crystal Clear Water In Your Aquarium

Now that it's obvious that we all want that perfectly clear aquarium water, how do we actually achieve this? There are a couple of ways to get this clear water, some more expensive than others.

Particle Filtration for Clear Saltwater Aquarium Water

To kick things off, the first step in getting that crystal clear water in your reef tank is particle filtration. Filtering out small particles and waste with Filter Socks or an Automatic Filter Roller is one of the best first steps you can take. This will let you remove any larger particles from the aquarium water that are usually noticeable when you walk by the tank.

If you have an extra RO or carbon reactor laying around, you could even try using an RO Sediment Filter as an easy way to achieve sparkling water quickly!

Activated Carbon for Clear Reef Tank Water

The next, and arguably most important, step for crystal clear, and odor free saltwater aquarium water is Activated Carbon. There are two types of activated carbon depending on just how clear you want your water. The first step is the standard, larger particle Activated Carbon. This carbon will help remove water discoloration, odor, and small particles out of the water.

If you're looking to get rid of the REALLY small particles, and get the clearest water possible, you will also want to use ROX 0.8 Activated Carbon. This carbon is a harder type of activated carbon that traps even smaller particles. Making sure everything possible is filtered out of the water!

UV Filtration for Shimmering Aquarium Water

Next up in the list for ways to achieve crystal clear water in your aquarium, is to use a UV Filter to sterilize bacteria and algae in the water column. UV filtration stabilizes bacteria and algae that flows through the filter, damaging the cells. This prevents the cells from reproducing and in turn makes your tank look nearly spotless!

Another benefit of UV filtration is to help reduce parasites from reproducing as well. While it may not kill parasites such as ich, it does slow down the reproduction. Anything that flows through the UV filter will be sterilized and for small cells, it will prevent them from being able to reproduce. Slowing them down.

The best options are the inline UV Filters that ensure all water leaving or entering your aquarium is sterilized. That being said, there are a number of hang on back UV Filters that will also do the trick. They can be attached to dedicated pumps, or even the return line for your aquarium. Just make sure that either way you dial in the flow rate per the instructions.

Ozone for Clear Water in your Aquarium

Finally, if these don't do the trick, the last step in crystal clear, shimmering aquarium water is to invest in Ozone. Ozone can be pumped into the reef tank to oxidize contaminants, removing them from the water column and making your aquarium crystal clear. I won't get into a lot of detail about how that works (it's a bit deep) but if you're interested, here's a like to an article that explains Ozone in depth.

When considering ozone for reef tanks, you do need to keep in mind that ozone can be damaging to your lungs. Additionally, it needs a lot more equipment and monitoring. There are special considerations as well. For example, most ozone setups will add the ozone to your protein skimmer. If you're skimmer, or any hoses, are not rated for ozone, they will melt. You also need to run the water from the skimmer through carbon before letting it out of the skimmer. This is because the oxidizers can be dangerous as well.

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There are a number of ways to get that shimmering, sparkling, crystal clear aquarium water you're looking for, some more expensive than others. While there are some extreme methods, such as ozone, you will likely find that cheaper, and safer options such as UV and carbon will also give you this spotless reef tank water you're looking for. Hopefully you're able to try these out and if so, let me know what works for you!

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About the Author

Reef Stable Founder John Krenzer

John is a Software Engineer with a passion for saltwater aquariums, as well as the founder and president of Reef Stable. He started in the aquarium hobby as a child with a 20 gallon freshwater aquarium. His interest in aquarium life grew and in 2008, John set up his first saltwater aquarium.

Today, John maintains an over 300 gallon reef tank system, consisting of a 120g reef and a 210g reef. These large tanks are contained within the same system, sharing a sump as a means to reduce total maintenance and increase total water volume.

John writes articles for the blog as a means to learn about more reef aquarium topics. These articles act as a reference for the readers as well as himself. John updates these articles frequently to provide additional information or make corrections as new information becomes available.

If you would like to request an article, tank tour article, or to collaborate, let me know via the Contact Me Page!

About Reef Stable

Reef Stable was initially founded in 2019 as a reef tank parameter log to fill a need. Reef Stable quickly grew, becoming a location to solve all of your reef tank problems as well as a place to learn.

Reef Stable now provides a Reef Blog, Reef Aquarium Guides, Coral Care Guides, Identification and Solutions for Pests and Algae, and Reef Dosing Calculators, in addition to the original Reef Parameter Log.

Reef Stable continues to grow, striving to provide a single location for all your reef tank needs!

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