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I am very interested in switching my SW aquarium to a reef tank. I have not sand or crushed coral. I have rocks/pebbles all along the bottom of the tank. I also have three fish which I would like to keep. A clown, yellow tang, and damsel. I would like to make the change soon. What is my first step? do I need crushed coral? Is it best? My tank is kept at 80 deg, .022 sal, and is 46 gal. Any help would be appreciated
If your wanting to keep Corals (aka Reef tank) then you'll need to upgrade your lighting. 40 watts is only giving you less than 1 watt per gallon. Although there is no "rule of thumb" on lighting reef tanks, for an example you can take my tank, I have a little over 5 watts of light per gallon of water. At 18" deep if you want to keep clams or SPS corals you'll going to be the happiest with a Metal Hylide system.
Also you may want to replace the pebbles with Araginite "sand" or Crushed Coral as these help to buffer the water. Or you can setup your tank as a Bare Bottom setup.
Live Rock is the most important thing, I'm not sure if you have any or not yet, but you're going to need 1 to 1.5 pounds of Live Rock per gallon of water.
You'll want to do more reading, I recommend the following sites.