Reefer's Safety Inspection check list


As requested, here is an abridged version of all the suggestions put forth by club members to help make you and yours safer. If you have other suggestions, please feel free to post it, and I will augment the list. Happy reading, and be safe! :)

This was originally from this safety checklist thread.

Reefer's Safety Inspection Checklist PDF version

Reefer's Safety Inspection Checklist
  • Drip loops on your electrical cords are your friends.
  • Extension cords and daisy chains are not your friends. That would be plugging several outlet strips or extension cords together.
  • Extension cords are meant for temporary use only.
  • If you do use an extension cord for your tank make sure it's rated well beyond the capacity.
  • Check that electrical cords, plugs, and sockets are in good condition.
  • Route power cords so that they are protected from pinching, chafing, and/or strain.
  • Provide clear access to electrical breaker panels.
  • Shut off power at a breaker or switch instead of pulling on a power cord in case of electrical problem or fire.
  • Check that electrical connections fit securely and are free of corrosion.
  • Locate electrical equipment so that it is protected from splashing, dripping, and flooding.
  • Use child protection for open electrical outlets.
  • Move all wiring and electrical sockets above the tank.
  • Add more DJ panels if necessary.
  • Have some sort of non-electricity using backup pump or have a battery backup or generator available.
  • Have extra fresh water and pre mixed salt water in case of emergencies.
  • Use siphon breaks where flooding may be an issue.
  • Consider using an alarm for detecting water leaks.
  • Check hoses and other plumbing for slow leaks.
  • Make sure that tubing, hoses, and piping are secured from accidental dislodging.
  • Have back up pumps.
  • Invest in a Wet/Dry Vac or lots or towels.
  • Cut all plumbing to size and install clamps and hose clamps where needed.
  • Store your reef chemicals where kids and pets can't get into them.
  • Use eye protection and gloves as appropriate.
  • Make sure containers of reef chemicals are labeled properly.
  • Always have lots of carbon available.
  • Keep poly pads handy.
  • Have backup equipment on hand if possible.
  • Test backup systems (battery power/ UPS, and battery operated air pumps) quarterly to ensure changes have not compromised them.
  • Avoid buying crappy gear no matter how insignificant it may seem.
  • On occasion, and usually before vacation, turn off the electrical circuits to the tank, check that the sump doesn't overflow and that no backflow occurs where you don't want it.
  • Check to see that battery backups work. After the battery runs for a couple of hours, turn the electricity back on to make sure things are running again.
  • Have super easy instructions for the caretaker.
  • Have premeasured 2part or dosing or food.
  • Leave nothing to be estimated, leave explicit instructions as to pour rate etc.
  • Show the tank sitter some basics. Tell them to call if something is wrong before fixing anything.
  • Remind them to wash their hands before feeding fish. Tell them not to clean the tank.
  • Have fresh and salt water ready incase of emergency.
  • Have a fellow reefer’s phone # readily accessible for your tank sitter.
  • Do a "test-run." Leave the system for several days and see how the automated equipment is running - feeder feeding enough?
  • Make sure that heaters do not accidently become exposed to air.
  • Clean up any salt creep and salt spray.
  • Try to foresee where any salt creep/spray will be! Where water from a skimmer bubbles back into the sump, or your tank return bubbles into your sump. You can get salt/water moving quite far without realizing it.
  • Use fans to vent your stand and canopy.
  • Change your bulbs regularly.
  • Tell small children and your drunk friends that the tank can KILL YOU!!!
  • Insure regular cleaning of pumps (vinegar bath).
  • Keep a list of emergency contact by your tank in case you are not immediately reachable.
  • Be careful of items that could fall or get knocked into your tank.
  • Make sure UV shields are in place and/or intact. Glass panel for DE, and outer glass bulb for SE.
  • Know your smells! Know what an electrical burning smell is. Know what a moldy/humid smell is.
  • Protect your equipment from other household pets.
Just a few things you may want to add:

Vacation/Make sure your ATO has a capacity large enough for the length of your vacation

Other/label your electrical cords or sockets for emergency shut down purposes or feeding

Electrical/ add up your total wattage and amperage and check to make sure you are not overloading any circuits

Plumbing/add a quick disconnect to PVC plumbing off of return pump for ease of servicing and replacement

Chemicals/store your chems in a cool dark place for longer shelf life


Past President
What a great thread! Here are some of my ideas about getting ready for vacation:


There's been a recent thread on SFBAAPS about vacation woes. Guy went on vacation, tank sitter hit the power strip switch while reaching for food and un-powered the tank for more than a week. Everything dead!

+1 on Rich's article. Making it as foolproof as possible for the tank sitter - especially if they are not fish people - is very important.


Staff member
Electrical outlets should include a GFCI.
Preferably with multiple independent GFCI outlets, in case one trips.


Past President
There are two schools of thought on GFCI - you need them to save your life and they trip a lot so don't use them. I don't use them on critical equipment like return pumps, bu do use them on lights.


Staff member
Thales said:
There are two schools of thought on GFCI - you need them to save your life and they trip a lot so don't use them. I don't use them on critical equipment like return pumps, bu do use them on lights.
Yes, I have seen the two schools of thought.
My opinion is that the issues that make aquarium systems prone to tripping are actually quite solvable,
and in some cases, really should be solved anyway. So no need to compromise.

As far as I can tell, the common culprits are one of three things:

1) Salt creep and moisture on connectors.
This really should be fixed anyway.
A GFCI tripping is thus a nice early warning to this sort of issue.

2) Cheap surge protector power strips.
Particularly those with little LED indicators. They use a bit of current to ground.
Ditch the junky ones, or put them on the up-stream side of GFCI.

3) Slight leakage in multiple small pumps that adds up.
Possibly inductive leakage, but not really sure.
Easily fixed with an extra independent GFCI outlet or two.

For large motors, such as say Steinhart Aquarium might use, yea, a standard
consumer GFCI would likely just trip immediately from the surge and be unusable.


I dropped my GFI because MH constantly tripped them. Now that I have full LED, I think I'll go back to them :-D I have an MP10 that I use for subtle tank flow changes, and with it's battery backup, the tank be safe should something trip while I'm at work. In vacation mode, I'd probably bypass the GFI.


For a nice discussion of electricity for the reef, uses and mis-uses of GFCI, etc. check out: