Q: What temperature should I keep my tank at?

A: It depends.

    Are you keeping a very specific biotope? Like just deepwater corals? Are you keeping only tidal fish and invertebrates? Do you want to keep your options open for a wide variety of animals from around the world?
Your best bet is to do research on the animals you want to keep before you try to keep them.  Something as simple as finding out the scientific name of the fish you want to keep and Googling it will usually get you all the information you will need. 
We've found that a temperature range between 55F and 60F is a good middle ground for both deeper water animals as well as tidal animals.
Q: Do I need a chiller?
A: Yes. 
    If you want to keep temperate species long term a cooling device of some variety is a must have.  Either a TEC device such as an Ice-Probe or a conventional compressor based chiller will be needed to maintain a steady temperature. 

Q: Do I need to have thick acrylic for the tank?
A: Not always.
    Go with as thick of acrylic on the tank as you can afford, you wont regret it.  It will help to insulate your tank and prolong the life of your chiller as well as prevent condensation by creating a greater thermal variance between the outside of the tank and the inside of the tank.  But down to 1/2" or even 3/8" you can get away with in some cases.  Ideally 3/4" or 1" would be the most bullet proof (no pun intended) solution. 
Check out to figure out the temperature and humidity levels necessary in the air to make water condensate on your tank.

Q: Do I need "Live Rock" for my coldwater tank?
A: No.
    Live rock in coldwater tanks is not the same as its tropical counter parts.  The rock itself is dense granite for the most part unlike the porous coral based live rock from the tropics.  So bacteria do not really do anything in the rock per say.  However, the more surface area you can provide, the more bacteria you can get going.  So ceramic balls, or even submersed bio balls work well. On larger systems you can chunk up old tropical base rock and toss it in the sump to add porosity and additional calcium (coldwater tanks don't need hardly any calcium).  Focus on mechanical and chemical filtration to do the bulk of the work since bacterial processes take a bit longer in cooler temperatures.

Q: How much light do I need?
A: Depends on what you are keeping.
    Lighting depends on the animals you want to have.  An LED with medium output would be ideal if you plan on any tide pool photosynthetic anemones like the Green Surfs or Aggregating.  Basically the same amount of light you would put over a low lit reef tank, perhaps for soft corals or the like.  
LED or T5 lights tend to put out the least amount of heat with the most equivalent light for your dollar so they are ideal for use in a coldwater system where every degree of heat makes a difference.

Q: Are there any online forums dedicated to Temperate / Coldwater tanks?
A: There sure is :)
    Probably the best place for tank setups and knowledge can be found here: 


Finally, the following section will be an on going piece of Q&A that we answer by email.  We will be slowly adding customers questions and our provided answers here below.  So if it wasn't answered in the FAQ be sure to check below and see if there is an answer there.

Stu Wobbe
Coldwater Marine Aquatics
"Hey Stuart.... wife really wants to add some coldwater dendro, sun or balino corals.  I haven't seen those up for sale on your site, do you have access to any nps that would work at 58-60 degrees (where we plan on keeping them).  When do you next expect having hydrocorals?  I was looking at your starfish but it looks like they all either eat snails, other starfish or otherwise don't appear "coldwater reef"-safe.  Is there a "safe" one you would rec?  I'm also intrigued by your trained navanex, does it attack live snails in your tank or only those that were shucked. And finally, are there any "warmwater" corals you've know that would survive at 58-60?  I'm just looking for fillers so I don't have too much exposed rock."

We have had Orange Cup Coral ( Balanophyllia elegans) in the past, but just have not been able to find it again or get ahold of it through outside sources.  Keep checking though because sooner or later we will hit another sweet spot and stock up this time.  Also, there are a few European species of cup coral we can possibly get such as the Devonshire Cup Coral (Caryophyllia smithii).  

I'm not sure on the temperature ranges of the readily available dendro species, but a good place to ask and research is at . Its a website dedicated to just NPS corals and I spent quite a bit of time on that forum when starting out my coldwater tanks for myself since care of NPS and Coldwater are very similar. 

We can collect encrusting Hydrocoral here in Oregon, but the branching species is protected.  Encrusting we can get when ever you would like :)

Starfish I would recommend for something that would be docile towards most inverts would be things like Blood Stars, Vermilion Stars, and Bat stars.  The first two species will create a mucus layer under their arms and sweep bacteria and diatom algae into their mouths to feed since they likely wont have other food sources like sponges or bryzoans to feed on which is part of their diet in the wild.  Bat stars will only prey upon some of the weaker sessile  invertebrates like tunicates or sponges, and if fed meatier foods along with your fish they will leave the latter alone also. 

One thing it took me while to get used to with Coldwater tanks is that just about everything will try and eat something else given the chance.  Mostly its based on size, hunger, and opportunity.  Ochre stars will leave snails alone as long as they are on the smaller side so they are unable to catch and eat the snail, or if they have an easier food source for them to get like mussels or other bivalves.  Even most fish given the chance will prey upon each other if not well fed and there is a size differential.  They one nice thing is that you can get away feeding your tank about half as much as you would a reef tank since the metabolic process happens much slower the cooler the temperatures.

I've had 3 Navanax now (all of them eventually sold) and all would take shucked snails almost immediately.  The first one I was extremely surprised because I couldn't find any information about them eating anything other than live food.  By the time I had they 3rd one I had been crushing snails ahead of time and freezing them to feed at later dates, and as long as I put the food in front of him he would eat it every time :)  I never kept one long enough to see him get to a size that would threaten any of the snails I kept, but in the wild the largest shelled animal that they consume is the bubble snails which has just a very small shell.  So I would imagine that they have a hard time passing and digesting anything that has a complex spiral shell which is why I never saw mine go after any of them in my tanks.

Finally (sorry for the long winded answers,lol)  There are not a lot of warmwater animals that acclimate down very well.  If you are looking for animals to fill in your rock space quickly I would recommend the Aggregating Anemones, Metridium Senile, and Corynactis Californica.  All three species are colonial and reproduce through fission, so you get an exponential growth rate.  The Metridiums reproduce through pedal laceration so from one you can get 10 in a few days.  The best thing about them all is that the more you feed them, the more they grow :) 

Hope that helps answer some of the questions, and feel free to call or hit me up on chat anytime :)



Stu Wobbe

Coldwater Marine Aquatics