Unlike our typical display reef aquariums, the living reefs are made up of specific zones and have many creatures indigenous to them & sometimes spend their lives there
The concept of zonation is fairly well accepted within the research community. Most corals (but not all) are more abundant and more successful inspecific areas of the reef, and these zones are pretty consistent throughout most of the world.
The most in-depth description I had come across at the time, split the reef into 11 distinct zones. The lower slope, upper slope, reef front, inner flat, outer reef flat, outer slope, back reef margins, back reef slope, intertidal mudflat, outer intertidal mudflat, and the lagoon. I’m sure the distinction between these zones, and their definitions are somewhat debatable, however there certainly are some unique areas within the reef.
I chose 5 zones to emulate in my reef aquarium eco-system: the reef front (crest), upper and lower slopes, a back reef margin and the lagoon. My selection was based on getting the most biodiversity for the buck into my reef aquarium.
Some of these zones would not be very hospitable for many creatures, but I would have a nice representation for my reef aquarium system. The outer reef flat for example is usually hammered by waves and not many creatures call it home, especially in comparison to other sections.
My reef aquarium set up would only be capable of emulating smaller scale mechanics of the waves produced here and would certainly not be as active as an actual back reef. In terms of the reef aquarium they appear close to scale. Once all the preparation was complete I was very excited about beginning this new marine project.