The Complete Beginner's Guide to Reefs Jars.

by Paul Roncal October 20, 2017 3 min read 4 Comments

The Complete Beginner's Guide to Reefs Jars.

There has been an explosion in popularity of reef jars. There are several reasons for this explosion in smaller saltwater aquariums:
  • Low-Cost Entry
  • Uniqueness
  • Advancement in Technology
  • Smaller Household Sizes

Cost of a Reef Jar and Reef Vase

The entry cost for a medium to large size reef aquarium (90-180) gallons can total up to the thousands of dollars.

The Cost of A Large Reef Aquarium

The size and high-end gadgets dictate the final cost of a reef aquarium. By using a jar or vase for a reef aquarium, limits the expensive equipment a hobbyist is willing to buy.

The only equipment necessary for a successful aquarium is
  • Good source of Saltwater
  • Lighting
  • Water flow
  • Temperature

Fancy gadgets aim to control these four parameters. The main goal is to maintain stability.

Understanding ocean chemistry has come a long way since a decade ago. The intricate balance between calcium, alkalinity, magnesium and trace elements is well understood. With this knowledge, companies now create a well balanced synthetic saltwater mix. When mixed with high-quality RO/DI filtered water, it creates the perfect environment.

So why all the fancy saltwater aquarium supplements?

The fancy supplements help hobbyist maintained stability in larger aquariums. Changing a large volume of water in a larger aquarium would be cost prohibitive. It is easier to supplement only the missing key elements. This requires careful measurement and daily dosing. Some hobbyist dose by hand while others dose through the use of precise gadgets.

Reef jars and vases have an advantage because of their small sizes. Doing a complete water change in a vase is easier than doing a 180 gallon water change in a 180 gallon system. Some might argue this is drastic. As long as the water that is new matches the parameters of the old saltwater, no harm comes about. Instead, the new saltwater replaces any used elements. If a hobbyist achieves an equilibrium/balance that allows for a thriving reef.
Weekly water changed is key to the success of a reef jar or vase.

Lighting a Reef Jar

Light does not travel well in water. High power LEDs are necessary to penetrate large water columns. A taller aquarium requires higher wattage lights.

Light Intensity in a Reef Jar

Reef jars are small. One can exceed the proper level of lighting with the use of lower power LED lighting. LED lights made it possible for miniature reefs go mainstream.

LED fixtures are slim and sleek. Over a small container, an LED fixture looks modern and adds to any decor. LED fixtures offer an endless possibility of shapes, colors, and sizes.

Water Flow for A Reef Jar

Technology has no caught up with water flow in micro-ecosystem yet. At PJ reefs we have been adapting micropumps and applying them to reef vases and jars.

Micropump for Reef Jars

Currently, the easiest method to accommodate some form of water flow is through the use of an air pump. The flow should be random. With careful placement in a reef jar, air bubbles can create different types of flow patterns. Livestock will dictate the type of flow necessary. Low maintenance corals need minimal water flow. High-end corals like SPS (yes SPS can grow in jars) need higher water flow.

Unfortunately, the look of water pumps makes them unattractive besides a reef jar or vase. Few alternatives exist for vases smaller than 3 gallons. At PJ reefs, we have been experimenting with centrifugal water pumps. These pumps are sleek and a great alternative to air pumps.


Micro pumps will become more popular.

How to Control Temperature in a Reef Jar

Temperature control households maintain a steady temperature between 72 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. This happens to be a desirable range for reefs. Households that have no temperature control can still maintain a reef.

Very few reliable mini heater exist for consumers. To make a heater reliable one must use a controller. The controller turns the heater on/off as the temperature varies.

Peltiers and reptile heat tapes are some alternative eating methods. Hobbyist use Peltiers to cool down water. A Proper understanding of how to use Peltiers can be an efficient way of cooling a reef jar. A hobbyist can also use reptile thermal heat tapes as a source of heat for the reef jar. Placing the heat tape underneath the jar hides unnecessary equipment.

Reptile Heat Tape for Reef Jars


Any Household Size Allows for a Mini Reef Jar

Space and household size have become smaller. Also, college-bound students live at dorms and want to continue the hobby in miniature. Reef jars and vases allow the perfect alternative to continuing the hobby. It allows for the maintenance and observation of unique livestock.

As we see smaller and smaller living places, also aquariums will have to adjust to the size factor.

Reef jars and vases are unique, from the shape to the size and livestock. On our next article, we will discuss the unique livestock and shapes available. So sign up to receive our next blog post.
Paul Roncal
Paul Roncal

4 Responses


June 05, 2019

Do you sell the pumps?

Marcos Corpes
Marcos Corpes

February 08, 2018

interesting .

Thomas Krafft
Thomas Krafft

November 01, 2017

It is reassuring to know people are continuing to bring this hobby to more people by researching ways that make systems affordable and sustainable. I got out of the saltwater hobby because of the endless work, but your systems seem to solve many of those problems. Good luck!


October 26, 2017

how it this guide “complete”? it’s missing a ton of information…

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