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$2,000 Build List

The Waterbox Marine 60.2+ comes with a rear filtration chamber, pre-fabricated plumbing, sump, auto top off reservoir, LED lights, filter sock, and cabinet.  The introduction of a sump makes this build a little more confusing for a beginner to setup, but it’s manageable!  

A sump is not only a great place to hide all of your equipment (heater, skimmer, ato), but it allows you the option of adding additional gear such as a reactor or refugium.

This build comes with a steeper price-tag, but also top-of-the-line items.  

For an additional $300, you can upgrade to the Marine 70.3+.

Key Stats:

Size: 61.8 Gallons (234 Liters)

Approx. Price: $2,000

Dimensions: 24″L x 24″W x 18″H (61 x 61 x 46 centimeters)

Style: Cube w/ Rear Filtration Chamber & Sump.

Stand Included? Yes

Sump? Yes

Low Iron Glass? Yes, Starphire


The Waterbox Marine 60.2+ is the largest in the Marine lineup from Waterbox.  

Coming equipped with programmable AI Prime 16 HD lights, the Waterbox Marine 60.2+  is our first foray into the world of reef tanks.  The pre-fabricated plumbing and sump allow you to add a high-powered protein skimmer to really polish your water clean, allowing you to keep even the toughest of SPS corals.

This is an expensive system, but you get what you pay for and the sky is the limit for what you can do with this build.

If you want something just a bit bigger, why not consider upgrading to the Marine 70.3+?

Don’t buy this light!  What I mean is, don’t buy this light because the Waterbox Marine 60.2+ already has it included!  So you don’t need two, right?

The only thing I don’t like about this light (as of the writing of this article), is it doesn’t come with any presets!  So for a beginner, they might be quite confused!  How many hours a day?  What does acclimation mode mean? What intensity should I set each light at?

Not to worry.  Check out the Blueprints section on the Waterbox website.  Choose if you have a Fish Only, LPS, or SPS system, and you can download the proper settings!

Equipped with cool white, royal blue, blue, deep red, green, and uv led’s, you can program both for coral growth and color enhancement.  Plus, you just have to download the smartphone app and you can easily change settings from the couch!

But if for some reason you decide to buy this light separate from the tank, just remember that you also have to purchase the AI Mounting Kit to be able to mount it!

Here’s the thing about heaters: they all fail eventually, so keep that in mind.  There are several different types of heaters, primarily glass, ceramic, and titanium.  I’ve always used glass as they are inexpensive and heat the water quickly, but they are also easy to break (I’ve shattered at least two, maybe three!) 

These Eheim Jager heaters have been my go-to since the beginning.  I’ve never had one fail on me in over five years (with proper maintenance of course).  This heater does need to be calibrated, so be sure to pair it with a digital thermometer to narrow in on the temperature.

By the way, this 60-gallon tank requires the 150 Watt Jager!


CaribSea’s Life Rock comes in unique shapes, are sustainably made (not pulled from real reefs), and have a coralline algae colored surface which gives them that living reef look on day one.

Live Rock is important for a few reasons:  it provides a place for beneficial bacteria to colonize; it provides hiding places for your livestock; it gives you places to mount coral; and it is better than looking at an empty tank!

With  the size of this build I would buy 20 lbs of the Life Rock Shapes (left), and 20 lbs of the Life Rock (right).  

I own a couple different types of scrapers, but this Pro-Scraper II is my go to hand-held algae scraper (did I just use the word “scraper” four times in that sentence?).  You may have peeked to the next item and asked yourself, “why is My First Fish Tank recommending two algae scrapers?”  A valid question, and the answer is “convenience.”

If you just want one scraper, purchase this one, but rest assured that at some point in the near future you will long for the ease and simplicity of a magnetic scraper!

For this build, 16″-24″ would work well, but you could get the 24″-36″ too.

I’ve owned this Flipper for several years, and the fact that you can switch between the stainless steel blade and the soft felt side without getting your hands wet is just too convenient to pass up! 

Just make sure to get the regular Flipper.  The nano is too small and the max is too big!

For this build, I would probably go with the 9″ medium or the 10″ large size.  If you get the mini it will suck up sand way to easily, but the large may drain the water a bit faster than you want.

A gravel vacuum is a must in this hobby for water changes.  It is the easiest way to start a siphon and drain your water, while at the same time vacuuming your sand bed free of detritus.

I probably have owned about 10 of these in the past several years, and they work well for how inexpensive they are.  I’ve tested three of these at a time in the same tank, and they were off by no more than 1.5 degrees F.  Not too bad considering!

A basic test kit is a must.  It is most important when you are starting your tank so you can test for when the nitrogen cycle is completed.  While not always the easiest to read, this test kit is affordable and will give a ballpark which will be good enough.  

Return Pump

I’m going to give you two options for this build: An AC pump and a DC pump.

They are both great quality so don’t stress too much.

AC pumps are set flow, so you turn it on and forget it.  They are also a tiny bit louder and consume a bit more energy.  I’ve used the Sicce Syncra Silent 3.0 (left) for years.  An Italian made brand, with proper maintenance this pump is not only the perfect size for this build, but will last for many years.

DC pumps are adjustable and a bit more expensive, but you adjust the flow to suit your needs. The Vectra S2 by Ecotech (right) has a maximum flow rate of over 1,400 GPH, so you could even use this to venture into the realm of manifolds!  A topic for another day!

Extremely inexpensive, every aquarium hobbyist needs a net!  Not only is it good for catching and transferring fish, you can also use it when thawing frozen food to help get rid of any fillers or phosphates!

It does need to be calibrated, but rather than buy an entire bottle of calibration fluid, just go to your LFS (Local Fish Store) and ask to use a few drops of theirs!

I’ve also heard that you can use RO/DI water to calibrate to zero, but I’m not sure if that is as effective as using a 35ppm saline solution!

Buying an auto top off unit is not an absolute must for this build, but if you don’t, you will likely need to add 1/2 to 1 gallon of RO/DI water everyday by hand.  That gets to be a pain in the butt real quick, trust me on this!

This ATO unit from Reef Breeders comes with everything you need including the pump and silicone tubing. Just attach it to the last compartment of your sump, and put the pump in the ato reservoir, and it’s ready! You can forget about evaporation for at least a few days!

I own two of these, and they work great for the price.

Protein skimmers are the heart of any reef tank’s filtration.  They take some patience to set up and break in, but you can easily find some YouTube videos on how to do it.

This Skimmer by Bubble Magus is rated for a much larger tank, which means it will be hyper-powered for this build!

FYI, don’t make the mistake I did with this skimmer!  There is a little red plastic piece that looks like trash… it is not!  It covers up one of the holes on the bottom to help prevent micro-bubbles from escaping!

Again not a necessity, but for around $35 you can control your tanks temperature to within 0.1° F.  I live in the desert, so in the summer I run a fan to keep my aquarium cool.  I plug my fan into the “cooling” outlet and my heater into the, you guessed it, “heating” outlet, and my tank stays a constant 78° F all year round.  Plus, this controller has a built in alarm which alerts me if my heater or fan ever fail.  Not bad for under $35!

Sand is not essential by any means, and there is a trend in the hobby toward a bare bottom tank.  That being said, sand does lend not only a nice aesthetic, but it aids in biological filtration, and provides a refuge and food source for certain creatures.

There are many types to choose from, but you would likely want a 20 lb bag for this build, certainly no more than 40 lbs.  My favorites are the Arag-Alive Special Grade, Arag-Alive Fiji Pink, and the Arag-Alive Hawaiian Black.

I currently own four or five of these!  They are my inexpensive answer to an expensive controller.  I mount these either under my stand, or somewhere out of the way and then label each cord.  That way, whenever I need to do maintenance, I can just flip the individual switch to turn off the appropriate piece of gear.  I love these things and will keep recommending them well into the future!

While this is technically optional, if you plan on having fish (which I’m assuming you are), then this is a virtual necessity.

Fish jump!  Maybe they are spooked, maybe they are just playing around but regardless we don’t want them to jump out of their tank!

Little known fact about fish…they need water to breath!  Okay, you get the point.  

This kit comes with everything you need, including a clear mesh screen which is great because it let’s way more light though then your typical window screen.

Optional Items

There are so many different types of salt mix on the market, and I’ve tried a ton of them!  They all work fine, but they vary depending on your livestock plan.  

Most of us start out by buying saltwater at our LFS (local fish store), because purchasing distilled water from the grocery store is expensive, or buying the necessary RO/DI filter costs even more.

But you can save a bit of money and hassle in the long run by mixing your saltwater at home.

For this large build I recommend this salt, as it is good for FOWLR (Fish Only With Live Rock) systems, or tanks with a light stocking of corals.

If you are only planning on keeping fish in your saltwater aquarium, then you don’t need to worry about calcium and alkalinity.  But SPS (small polyp stony) and LPS (large polyp stony) corals, as well as invertebrates such as snails and crabs, need calcium and alkalinity to build their skeletons. 

Of course you don’t need to make your own RO/DI water.  You can either use distilled water (expensive), buy pre-made saltwater from your LFS (local fish store), or buy RO/DI water from your lfs.  But for under $200, you could skip all that and make your own water at home.  

An RO/DI filter was one of my first purchases because I refused to lug 5-gallon jugs back and forth from my LFS, and I didn’t want to buy gallon after gallon of distilled water.

I’ve owned my RO/DI filter for well over five years, and it is one of the best investments I’ve ever made.

A super quick note… don’t drink RO/DI water.  RO water is safe to drink, but RO/DI water is so pure that it may actually dehydrate you and suck nutrients from your body!  Just an FYI!

This may seem like a silly thing to add to a build list, but I have found that these two brushes do the brunt work of my cleaning.  They have a stiff bristle and have held up for me for many years now. They work much, much, much better than a toothbrush!

If you bought the RO/DI filter that I recommended in this build, you don’t need a TDS meter.  That’s because the RO/DI filter comes with an inline TDS meter already!

You could still get one because it’s kind of fun to test the TDS of different things!

Your goal when making saltwater is to have 0 TDS in the RO/DI water before adding salt. 

Just for reference, when I lived in Seattle the tap water had around 40 ppm TDS. I now live in Southern California and my TDS is 140 ppm.

My favorite utility pump is the Cobalt MJ1200, but for some reason (at the time of writing this), they are out of stock everywhere!  I’m thinking they had a production issue and are trying to catch back up with demand?

I’ve never actually owned this utility pump, but it’s made by the Italian company Sicce and I love their pumps!

I use my utility pumps to mix saltwater, pump RO/DI water into the reservoir, provide flow in my quarantine tank, and to clean my sump.  They are just so handy to have around that I own several and use them weekly.