Setting up a brand new all-in-one tank like the Biocube 32, by Coralife is a great way to get up and running fast–but just because it is called and all-in-one doesn’t mean you don’t have an opportunity to upgrade your tech even further.
Check out these 17 Best Biocube Upgrades to help you take your reef tank to the next level.
Necessary add ons and upgrades
The ‘All-in-one’ moniker that gets assigned to the Biocube 32 is a bit of a misnomer. Truly it is an ‘almost’ all-in-one unit. But fear not, add these upgrades to your shopping cart and you’ll be on your way with a complete system
The Biocube 32 upgrades and additions in this section are pretty much the standard gear you will need the whole time you run your reef tank.
Unless you are fortunate enough to live in a tropical location that is ~78 degrees Fahrenheit all year long, you’re going to want to invest in an Aquarium Heater Upgrade, because room temperature is generally too cold for the vast majority of reef tank fish, corals and other invertebrates.
An aquarium heater is standard equipment, but for some reason is not included with your Biocube 32, which is why it is our first and #1 recommended upgrade. The aquarium could be located in the main display area, but most would probably prefer an option that would fit in the rear compartment so that it is out-of-sight.
For this size tank, I recommend a 100-watt heater, like this compact one from Aqueon:
The price is also relatively affordable. Check out the pricing of this recommended heater here:
One of the rules of good reefkeeping is to never add anything into your tank that you don’t plan to measure. Since we already established that temperature is important and that you’re going to add a heater to your all-in-one Coralife Biocube 32 to keep the water temperature warm like a Tropical Ocean, you may have already jumped to the conclusion that you need a thermometer.
There are a lot of inexpensive thermometer options out there. I tend to overkill it, but I like to pair the old school adhesive strips with the new-school digital thermometers to be safe.
I tend to like the ‘always on’ and tell with a quick glance that the temperature is okay of the adhesive strips, but I tend to prefer the precision (or at lease perceived precision) of the digital thermometers.
You can’t really go wrong here. Some of the inexpensive models aren’t that precise, but the goal with temperature is maintaining a stable temp where your animals thrive. So if they’re thriving and it’s in the range you’re looking for and stays there, it doesn’t quite matter whether it’s 77.5 or 78.5 if your animals are happy and the temperature isn’t fluctuating.
3. Hydrometer or Refractometer
Another piece of equipment you’ll have to buy is an instrument that will help you measure the salinity of your saltwater. The two best options (you only need to pick one) are a hydrometer or a refractometer.
The choice between the two options is one of precision vs. convenience. Refractometers, when properly calibrated and maintained are more precise, whereas the swing-arm hydrometers are more prone to give you misleading readings, however the hydrometers are super-convenient and easier to use.
4. Test kits
Maintaining great water quality across the key water parameters is the key to reef aquarium success. The way you do that is by starting with high quality water, keeping your water and tank clean through maintenance and water changes, and testing the water routinely.
In order to test the water, you need to have Test Kits.
5. Salt mix
It wouldn’t be a saltwater tank without, you guessed it, salt water—and you make salt water from a reef quality salt mix. The brand I use and recommend for the majority of Biocube 32 owners is Reef Crystals brand by Instant Ocean.
You can see my review of Reef Crystals and other popular salt brands here.
Cool Biocube 32 upgrades
Alright, now that we got a few of the necessities out of the way, let’s dive into some Coralife Biocube 32 upgrades that will truly kick your all-in-one tank up a notch.
As I mentioned earlier, the #1 key to reef aquarium success is maintaining water quality, but a close second to that is maintaining the right water flow. The all-in-one Coralife Biocube 32 aquarium does come equipped with a standard return pump that will suck water in through the filtration elements and pump them back out the top, creating a life-sustaining circular water flow.
But even in a tank this size, working with the manufacturer-installed equipment, you can still end up with dead zones or areas of low water flow that will end up being the breeding ground of problem algae.
Some of the coral species you may wish to keep would also benefit from kicking the water flow up a notch.
You could do this by replacing the return pump, but my preference would be to add a small powerhead, which is a submersible water pump that is intended to be placed directly in the display area to liven up the water flow a bit.
Picking the right in-tank pump or powerhead is the subject of a standalone article, but to save you some time and research, here is a good recommendation for a pump that will work well with your Coralife Biocube 32.
7. Skimmer Reef Master
A protein skimmer is one of the most useful equipment upgrades you can consider for your Coralife Biocube 32. Protein skimmers work by a process called foam fractionation. Don’t ask me who discovered this, but essentially, a lot of the muck, gunk and goop that would otherwise glob up your aquarium water can actually be trapped bubbles.
Protein skimmers are designed to run a constant supply of tiny bubbles (because smaller bubbles work better) through the water and essentially scrub the water clean from the inside out.
The extra help keeping your water clean is why this Protein Skimmer is my # 2 Upgrade for the Coralife Biocube 32 all in one aquarium.
You’ll be impressed how affordable this is. Check out prices here.
8. WiFi Inkbird
The #3 most important, recommended upgrade for you Coralife Biocube 32 is to plug your heater into an Inkbird.
What’s an Inkbird you ask? It is essentially a thermostat for your aquarium heater. I didn’t bring this up earlier, but heaters are notorious for their failures—and when your aquarium heater has a bad day, it can be devastating. As in, nuke your whole tank devastating.
One of the things that tends to happen is that heaters can get stuck in the on position and not shut off. A normal heater heats up to the desired temperature and then the thermostat confirms…temperature reached…and the heater shuts off (the same way as the heater does in your house).
But a malfunctioning heater doesn’t listen to the thermostat…because…well…it’s malfunctioning.
By adding an Inkbird aquarium heater thermostat and plugging your heater into THAT, you are essentially adding an extra safety feature. For one thing, you’re investing a decent amount of money into a specialty piece of equipment who’s entire job is to be a great thermostat. You then plug your heater into that and have an extra layer of protection.
There are three primary styles of Inkbird—there is a unit that you could plug a heater and chiller onto to adjust the temperature up and down. But I’m guessing you won’t be running a chiller on your Biocube.
The next two options are heater-only. One is plug-and-play. The other is Wifi enabled, so you can monitor on your phone or when you’re away, for peace of mind.
Adding the WiFi only adds $20 and you get to add the functionality of a very expensive aquarium controller. One of the best deals in the hobby, if you ask me.
I’m so excited about mine.
9. Media chamber with extra shelf
No offense to the Coralife team here, but the filtration gear then send you home with is adequate, but weak sauce compared to this cool upgrade you can get from Intank.
This upgrade replacement basket for the media chamber is an inexpensive but great way for you to upgrade your Biocube by improving your filtration, by improving the water flow through your filter media, which should improve your water quality and clarity.
10. Algae Scraper
No doubt that one of the features of your new Coralife Biocube 32 that caught your eye was the curved edge of the glass, right? No edges, right?
Depending on how new your tank is, you may not have noticed, it can be tricky to clean out the algae that grows in that seamless edge, which is why it can be helpful to upgrade your gear to include an algae scraper designed for the job.
While you’re shopping for algae scrapers, you may also want to check out the Mag Float or the Flipper. I personally have upgraded to the Flipper and strongly recommend it, although the Mag Float has been around longer and will get the job done.
Now on to some more cool stuff. Another one of the tricks that Pro reefers use to keep their tanks happy and healthy is that they harness the power of Mother Nature to help them build and maintain the perfect reef environment.
One of the tools of the trade is a refugium. A refugium is a dedicated part of the filter used to grow macroalgae and tiny invertebrates away from the hungry mouths of the main tank system. A refugium is most commonly kept in the sump area of a large reef system (in a chamber below the tank), but you don’t have to have one of the big tanks to have a refugium.
You can add a refugium to your Biocube 32 with this upgrade and start growing macroalgae and copepods to feed your tank. The refugium is designed to sit right next to the media chamber, so you don’t have to choose. What’s the media chamber? Glad you asked.
Space is limited, so you’re going to have to choose between upgrading with a skimmer or upgrading with a refugium, but the good news is that you have two great choices, both of which will improve your system.
12. Fish saver guard
For as long as I’ve been keeping fish—and that’s a very long time, especially when we go all the way back to my first freshwater tanks—I have had fish jump out of their tanks. Sometimes they land harmlessly back in the tank, other times they land in the filter/pump area, and unfortunately, sometimes they land on the floor. It’s a bummer.
But that’s why I love this Fish saver guard upgrade for the Biocube. Keeping the lid closed will prevent the most deadly jumps, but the fish can still get into the overflow/filtration area.
That’s where the Fish saver guard comes in. It looks like a relatively simple piece of plastic…well…because it is. However, once you install it, you close up a 1/2 inch gap at the back of your Biocube.
It might not look like much, but back home, I used to bullseye Wamp rats about that size. Which is plenty large enough for your fish to slide through.
Not any more.
I have certainly had my share of aquariums (freshwater and saltwater) just placed on a sturdy table or rack, but your Biocube 32 is not just any old tank. It’s a piece of art. An upgrade to the aesthetics of your room.
The best way to complete and improve those aesthetics is to place your work of art on the gorgeous stand designed to highlight its beauty.
14. Upgrade your reef structure
You want the reef tank of your dreams to look like the reef tank of your dreams. The best way to do that is to add Real Reef Live Rock or Caribsea Life Rock to your tank. That will give you the raw materials and structure to build a fantastic looking reef in your Biocube.
While we’re on the topic of upgrading your reef, another important item for you to pick up is some two-part epoxy to bond the rocks together and prevent those top pieces from tumbling down. This stuff won’t hold up under the strongest pressures, but it will help.
Check out this Live Rock Guide for more information.
15. Upgrade your frag management
Let me know if your journey into reef keeping is anything like mine. Step 1: set up tank, prove you could do it. Step 2: add some corals. Step 3: start fragging and trading corals locally.
Frags are a great way to fill in your tank, share your success with others, and benefit from their successes by getting pieces of coral that are thriving already in a home aquarium. The challenge with Frags is that they tend to pile up or be unsightly. That’s why you should upgrade your tank with a nice Frag Rack or these Frag Rocks. Great for transitioning your frags in or making new ones.
Upgrades to speed up your success
If you just set up your Biocube 32 or are still planning out your tank build, here are three products you can buy that will give you a boost of speed through the early stages of building a tank.
In the first few weeks, one of the most important things that happens in your tank is that it becomes colonized with a naturally-occurring group of bacteria that take the waste created by the fish and corals in your tank (as well as by leftover food) that would otherwise be toxic and convert it into a relatively harmless chemical called nitrate.
Typically, this process takes a couple of weeks. But you can jump start the process by adding Live sand and Bacteria boosters to your tank, like the products below.
Another thing that new aquarium owners experience is problem algae. These are the ugly brown, green, slimy and hairy algae species that also colonize our tanks and cause (you guessed it) problems…that is…until our tanks reach a tipping point and when the good algae ,macroalgae in your refugium or coralline algae, become the dominant algae in the ecosystem.
One great way to get a jump start there is by adding a Coralline algae culture.
16. Upgrade your food situation
My absolute favorite upgrade that I have made recently is to add a new Brine Shrimp Hatchery to my repetoire. I recommend the Hobby brand. You can read more about it, here.
Brine shrimp are an amazing and inexpensive food for your saltwater fish and corals—and it drives them nuts (it a good way). Add a scoop of of these tiny, twitching morsels and your fish will immediately stop what they’re doing and start gulping in water trying to catch them.
Since i started, I noticed a boost in the vigor of my fish and some of started to spawn. That’s not entirely a result of the brine shrimp, but having a healthy supply of ‘zooplankton’ in the tank is a great treat and sign of abundance to the animals in your tank. You can DIY your own hatchery, but this Hobby brand hatchery makes it so easy.
17. Upgrade to an even cleaner look
One of the best features of the all-in-one tanks like the Biocube 32 is the super-clean look, but there’s one achilles heel to the look. If you have a Biocube, you know what I mean, it’s at the very back of the tank where all the equipment and wires are.
You can solve that problem and complete the sleek look with this filtration cover upgrade.
I hope this article was able to inspire you with at least one more way to upgrade your already amazing Biocube 32 reef tank. Did you upgrade your tank in a way that isn’t covered here? If so, please leave a comment below and let us know what you did and how you did it. Thanks!