The lighting tubes need to be replaced periodically. The move towards natural methods such as live rock, DSBs, algae filtration etc has improved things immensely. So the maintenance free aquarium idea is intact at the moment. They also require a sufficient level of calcium, magnesium etc which has to be provided.

No, a marine aquarium system cannot be maintenance free. The lighting cycle is controlled by electric timers. Also, there are far fewer species of livestock on the captive reef.

Is it possible though? Is there a way that the aquarist can design a marine system where, once all is settled and mature, there is nothing else to do?

The first thing is to compare the aquarium to the wild reef. Led high bay
Seawater quality brings up another question, and this is aquarium water changes. Nature has everything under control. Thank goodness I say. The rock filtration is backed up by a DSB. The hard corals generally need considerable light, but that isnt a particular problem, with the availability of halide bulbs and the fast up and coming LEDs.

The Led street light marine system is set up with a live rock reef, the live rock being in sufficient quantity.A maintenance free aquarium - no work Led street light at all! Just view and enjoy the coral colours and the various reef fish. All aquarists change seawater though. There is a very efficient and properly set up protein skimmer in use.

The aquarist watches carefully until he/she sees what type of algae appears. So, theres the first point - the wild reef has far greater diversity of life. Film algae appears on the viewing glasses and the snails attack it but have no ability to keep it clean, efficient as they might be. So in comes the calcium reactor, which can supply calcium along with magnesium, and probably other minerals in traces, if the correct media is used. This is successful.

Also, in the extremely unlikely event that a hands-off system did materialize, what aquarist could keep their hands off?
. That solves that.

So what if fish are not kept, just a reef with corals. Seawater quality, so important, needs to be tested routinely. Many or perhaps all aquarists would tend to call that aquatic heaven - maybe. Wait a minute though, the calcium reactor needs servicing on occasion, and also the media needs renewal periodically. In addition, there isnt any need to feed the fish. It is argued, from anecdotal reports, that the addition of iodine is good for soft coral growth and health, but as this is not scientifically proven (as far as I know) it will be ignored. This immediately makes the question of water quality easier to deal with, as the wastes from the fish are gone. One of the joys of this hobby is the knowledge that actions are helping maintain such interesting life. Yes, there are the same kind of inhabitants in the aquarium as on the wild reef, just fewer of them. There isnt any absolute need to feed certain soft corals, they grow without it. They also need less calcium. The different species have their own niche on the wild reef, each having a food source.

A completely hands-off system will never materialise in my view. Captive reefs run much closer to how Nature intended nowadays. So, if the aquarium filtration is excellent, such as live rock and a deep sand bed, will that remove maintenance?

The corals need looking at now. Experimentation by advanced aquarists goes on and in the future other innovative methods of control and aquarium maintenance may come into use.

An automatic top-up system using reverse osmosis water is employed. Add to this the use of highly efficient protein skimmers, calcium reactors, electronically controlled seawater circulation, controlled temperature, accurate water level top-up systems, anti-nitrate reactors, anti- phosphate reactors, sophisticated lighting systems etc and the system is indeed looking after itself to a considerable extent. Snails are introduced to the aquarium to control this. There have been those who have experimented (or tried to save money) without, but problems of various sorts have arisen. There is always something there that needs doing, be it a water change, cleaning the glass free of algae, changing media etc.

So they need to be done. The system is stocked with hardy soft corals. There are some overlaps of course but generally it is all very well organised. The DSB needs feeding to maintain the population of minute life forms which keep it healthy. The seawater change amount varies system to system, aquarists knowing, after a period, what the system requires.

What about soft corals? These can exist with less light, fluorescent tubes often being employed. Hey, were maintenance free!

No were not. The first problem that the aquarist is Led street light likely to face is in making sure that all potential difficulties are dealt with, from dealing with different forms of nuisance algae to having enough food for fish if kept. The reef rocks need to be de-dusted occasionally. Correct livestock in the aquarium, not only corals but snails etc enhances self support.