Saltwater aquariums are a fantastic way to add a bit of drama and luxury into any living space. These tanks come in a variety of sizes and they can be filled with exotic tropical fish that are every color under the sun.
You can relax in front of one of these tanks and let the stresses of the day melt away as you get lost while watching the fish. If you have one of these tanks in a communal area where you have gatherings, it will definitely become a conversation piece.
As wonderful as a saltwater aquarium can be, it isn’t for the faint of heart. In this guide, we are going to go into more detail about the subject, and by the time you’re done reading it, we hope you’ll have a better understanding of what to expect when owning saltwater aquariums.
If you’re going to have a saltwater aquarium, you will want to determine which of the three subcategories you’d like:
The fish-only aquarium is as its name indicates: an aquarium to house and display saltwater fish. Because the fish are going to be the star of the show, so to speak, the tanks feature minimal decoration. This is the most affordable of the three types of saltwater aquariums, but it isn’t going to be the easiest type for new hobbyists to get a handle on.
This type of tank is going to be a blend of a Fish-Only and a Reef Tank. If you can’t decide between the two, this is a great option. The main difference between the Fish-Only and a FOWLR is that you can use live rock as a way to decorate the tank, while it acts as a biologic filter.
A live rock is used in saltwater aquariums because it can create the best biological filtration. You may be wondering what, exactly a live rock is. It isn’t an actual living rock, its actually called a live rock because of the marine organisms and bacteria that live on the surface of that rock.
The downside to using a live rock in your aquarium is that it can increase the cost of setting up your aquarium. It is recommended that you have a 1 or 2 pound live rock for every gallon of water in your aquarium.
If you use high end live rocks (which cost about $8 per pound) and you have a 50 gallon tank, you’re looking to spend anywhere between $400 to $800 just on live rocks! Water parameters for a Fish-Only Tank:
A reef tank is going to be the most expensive and labor intensive type of saltwater aquarium. To have one of these tanks, you will need to have a good grasp of breeding, caring and cultivating the fish, coral, and invertebrates that live together in your tank.
Not only do you need excellent husbandry skills, but you need strong lighting for the aquarium, great filtration that utilizes all three types (biological, mechanical, and chemical), and have high quality water.
If you don’t think you can take on a large reef aquarium, but you are enchanted with the look of these, you can opt for a nano reef aquarium, which is just a scaled down version. Even still, these small versions will require quite a bit of maintenance to maintain water quality.
Trying to plan out your aquarium can be dizzying! There are so many different types of fish and plant life available, where do you start? There are three categories that are great for your first saltwater aquarium:
When we think of saltwater aquariums, we picture brightly colored, tropical fish that dart around at a dizzying pace. The most common fish include: Clownfish, Damsels, Butterflyfish, Groupers, Lionfish, Seahorses, and Tangs.
Cold water fish are fish that live in subtropical, temperate, or cold-water aquariums. Coming across these fish can be a little difficult and aren’t as easily accessible as tropical fish, but there are great options that include: Catalina Gobies, Zebra Catalina Gobies, and Garibaldi. You can also get mollusks, crustaceans, jellyfish, sea stars, and corals.
When you’re looking at live rock, you will be able to choose from a few different types: Fiji live rock, Tonga Branch live rock, Pukani live rock, Aquacultured live rock, and an artificial live rock.
Before you start shopping for fish, you’ll want to make sure you have everything you need to keep your aquarium running smoothly. Saltwater aquariums should include:
The tank you choose is going to depend on how much you’re willing to spend, how much work you can put into it, and the space you intend to put it in. You’ll also need to consider the material, do you want a glass tank or an acrylic one. You can also look at the particular style of the tank itself.
Lighting is going to be important with your aquarium and you’ll want to choose the set up that will be able to provide the intended fish and plant-life with the right lighting.
There are three types of filtration commonly used in saltwater aquariums: biologic, mechanical, and chemical.
Biologic filtration is used to reduce toxic waste and ammonia produced by the animals and plant-life. Examples of biologic filtration include trickle filters, under-gravel filters, and live rocks or live sand.
Mechanical filtration remove particles like debris, leftover food, and other particles from the water. Examples of mechanical filtration include power filters, canister filters, and under-gravel filters.
Chemical filtration removes things that have dissolved into the water and cannot be removed by the other types of filters. Examples of chemical filtration include activated carbon, Zeolites, Ammo-chips, Nitra-zorb, Phos-zorb.
A power head is going to circulate the water around the tank, and depending on the size of your aquarium, you may need more than just one powerhead.
Sea salt is going to be used to make fresh water into saltwater for a marine aquarium. The hydrometer is going to be used to test the water to ensure the water has specific gravity for the type of fish you want to put inside the tank.
The salinity of the water is going to depend on what kind of aquarium you are choosing – reef aquariums require slightly higher specific gravity. It is important to always make sure any new salt water you add is at the same specific gravity as what is already in your tank, otherwise the different salt levels could hurt or kill the creatures living in the tank.
If you’re going for a small aquarium, you can get away with just using one aquarium heater to keep the water at the right temperature range for the fish. If you have a larger tank, you may need to use a couple heaters. You will also want a backup thermometer at each end of the tank (if it is a large tank) to make sure the temperature is correct.
If you are choosing a reef tank or if you have live rocks, you will need to make sure the water has some calcium in it, and you can get supplements to add to the water if need be. The various tests can help you keep an eye on your aquarium’s inhabitants and make sure they are healthy.
This includes buckets or containers to put the fish in when you need to clean the tank, hoses and tubes to remove the water, various nets, spare parts for the equipment, gravel cleaners and algae scrapers. You may want to keep a notepad near the tank so you can keep track of what you do and how often you do it.
You may have gotten the hint that saltwater aquariums are pretty involved and there are a lot of things to look after. Let’s break down the important things for maintaining the health of your aquarium.
Part of aquarium maintenance is changing the water. Every two weeks to four weeks, you want to replace between 10 to 25 gallons of the water. A good way to do this is to replace any water that has been removed while you were vacuuming the gravel to get rid of any residue and uneaten food that settled on the gravel or substrates.
It’s important that whenever you are replacing the water, you check the water parameters on the water in the tank, as well as the water you are testing. If you’re using tap water, you will want to remove the chlorine (or chloramine). You can do this by using water conditioners.
We recommend contacting your municipality to learn about what kind of elements are in your water so you can best plan the right course of action to get your water ready for the aquarium.
It is important that you check the water in the tank on a regular basis, especially when changing the water. There are testing kits that will give you the readings for the vital parameters: temperature, salinity, pH, alkalinity, nitrate, phosphate, iodine, and calcium. At all times, nitrites and ammonia should not be detected because it can harm the living organisms in your tank.
How To Remove Ammonia In Your Tank
If your aquarium has ammonia in it, you will want to follow these steps:
The filtration system is very important, so you will want to make sure your filtration system is working properly. Any filter inserts should be changed at least once a month (if you have a lot of fish, you may want to do it twice a month).
Throughout the life of your tank, you are going to need to perform a nitrogen cycle. This is a process where all ammonia products are converted by bacteria into nitrite and then into nitrate. There are several methods you can do to do the cycle:
Most aquarium owners will opt for the fishless cycle because it is faster and more humane.
To help you have an idea of what chores will need to be done at what frequency, here is a mock schedule of when certain aquarium tasks should be completed.
Check all equipment to ensure it is running properly. Look at your fish to make sure they are eating, they look healthy, and are active. If you have corals, check to see if they are open and look healthy.
Count the number of fish you have. If you have a death in the fish family, you will want to scoop them out asap because as the fish decomposes (smaller species decompose really quickly), it will cause the ammonia and nitrite levels to spike, which could be harmful to the rest of the fish.
Test the water parameters and record it. Depending on the size of your tank, change between 10 to 25 percent of the water. Vacuum gravel to remove debris and uneaten food. Use an algae pad (working from the bottom to top) to clean the glass on the inside of the tank. Rinse any and all filters with the water you removed from the tank.
Replace filter inserts, floss, carbon, or cartridges. Clean top of aquarium to make sure the lighting is working properly. Check the expiration date on food, supplements, tests and so forth. Do not use expired tests because they will not give accurate results. Inspect all tubing, connections, airstones, skimmers, and other parts to make sure everything works properly.
One of the first questions people have when they go to a pet store is what is the difference between a saltwater aquarium and a freshwater aquarium. The three main things that differentiates the two aquariums is fish types, cost and maintenance.
The type of fish you want to have living in your aquarium is going to be the biggest thing to consider when choosing between the two. Some fish need to live in environments with specific lighting, temperature, and water conditions. Also, it’s important to note that the type of fish you want to have will also play a role in the overall cost of your aquarium.
Of the two options, a freshwater is going to be the cheapest option. To set up your freshwater tank, you’ll spend less than $300 on the aquarium and necessary accessories that go along with it. The fish and plants you put into your tank are going to be very affordable, ranging from $2 to $5 for the fish and anywhere from $2 to $25 for the plants.
With saltwater aquariums, you are going to have to pay more money – especially if you choose a reef tank. The average cost of a saltwater aquarium will be somewhere around $635, and a reef aquarium would be double that price!
People assume that a freshwater tank is the best option for new aquarium owners. It is true that a saltwater aquarium is going to require a lot of maintenance, there are some freshwater aquariums that require just as much work. Fortunately, the equipment for the aquariums have seen some big improvements and maintenance isn’t as difficult as it once was.
A saltwater aquarium is a fantastic option for people who want to add a little (or a lot, depending on the size) of color and visual interest to a living space. Deciding to create a saltwater aquarium isn’t something you should take lightly. While your fish may not need as much one on one attention as a dog or cat, they still need to be taken care of!
One of the first things you will want to think about when making a saltwater aquarium, you will want think about what kind of fish you want, but also if you want coral, plant-life, or other sea creatures in your tank.
Once you decide that, then you can go about planning the size of the aquarium, where you want it, and purchasing everything you’ll need to make it a happy environment for your fish. If you aren’t going with cold-water fish, make sure you pick up an aquarium heater to make sure the water stays at a good temperature. We have created an aquarium heater buying guide to help you choose which heaters really work.
The idea of creating a large aquarium can be incredibly intimidating, especially for someone who has never had an aquarium before. You can still get those brightly colored fish without committing to a hulking tank.
How? By picking up a nano aquarium kit. With a nano aquarium, you’re only dealing with a tank that is less than 30 gallons of water, but you can find tanks that are under 10 gallons. We have created a nano aquarium buying guide with some of our favorite options. Leave us a comment below and tell us what size aquarium you’re interested in!