If you are interested in starting a saltwater aquarium you have come to the right place. For starters, you don’t need any experience with keeping aquariums but a little understanding can be helpful. This article is an overview of things you will need to consider when starting a saltwater aquarium. Be sure to read up on topics and do plenty of research before setting up a saltwater aquarium because the cost of owning a saltwater aquarium can be considerably more in comparison to fresh water aquariums and it will leave you very discouraged. Below you will find a few saltwater aquarium tips for beginners that will help you get started.
Educating Yourself About Saltwater Aquariums
One of the most important things you can do as a new hobbyist is learn as much as you can about the hobby. Become a consumer of all the information you can find. You’re using a great saltwater aquarium resource right now, and I’m not just talking about my website 🙂 The internet, is full a great information on saltwater aquariums.
Saltwater Aquarium Size and Location
I always recommend for newer hobbyist to purchase the biggest aquarium they can afford and fit into your desired location. Not only do they maintain more stable water parameters but it will allow you to grow as time goes on. With larger aquariums, when something goes wrong in your tank it will happen a lot slower then in a smaller tank. I would suggest no smaller then 30 gallons for your first tank. Tanks smaller then 30 gallons will work but they should be kept by more experienced saltwater aquarium hobbyist.
Where you place your aquarium needs to have some thought behind it and can offer you the things you need to serve you and your aquarium, well. Below you will find some questions that you need to ask yourself to find the right spot for your saltwater aquarium setup
- Is this location structurally strong enough? A gallon of water weighs 8 lbs. So a 55 gallon aquarium filled with water weighs 440 lbs. and thats before any live rock or substrate. The location needs to be able to handle that amount of weight.
- Does the Sun shine directly on this location? Direct sunlight can cause significant algae blooms as well as large temperature fluctuations.
- Does this location have fluctuating temperatures? Locations next to heaters as well as air-conditioners are not ideal locations. Saltwater aquariums need to maintain constant temperatures of 78-80 degrees fahrenheit and locations of fluctuating temperatures can become problematic.
- Is there an electrical outlets nearby (preferably GFI outlet)? Saltwater aquariums require multiple electrical outlets for equipment such as lights, power-heads and return pumps. Unless you have an electrician in the family, it can add to the overall cost, to install outlets.
- Does this location have access to water? Take it for me, a location that is not easily accessible to water can and will, probably become one of the biggest headaches in your saltwater aquarium project. If it’s difficult to do a water change or top off water evaporation, your not going to do it. These things are very important to maintaining a successful saltwater aquarium and need to be completed regularly.
- What is the flooring made of? Can it get wet? I’m to keep this one short… Do you want your carpet smelling like dirty salty old fish water? Wood floors are ok but tile in best.
The bigger the aquarium the more important the location and it ability to serve you and your aquarium. If you have a location that does not serve you well, you will have difficulties maintaining your saltwater aquarium setup. So, put some thought into the location of your aquarium, you’ll be glade you did.
Planning your Saltwater Aquarium
Making a plan for your saltwater aquarium setup is the best place to start before you buy anything. Your saltwater aquarium setup should be based on what you want to keep for livestock (fish, Invertebrates and Coral). It’s important to choose your livestock first because their requirements will dictate the type of system and environment, you will need. This will also point you in the direction of what size aquarium you will need as well as equipment.
Sadly, I have seen on more than one occasion, where an individual walked into a fish store, pointed at the display aquarium and said “Thats what I want, …now!” Then they leave the shop with an aquarium under one arm and bag of fish in the other. Obviously, any real fish store (looking to stay in business for the long run) would advise against this sort of behavior, but that does’t stop it for happening.
Reckless behavior such as that, is not only irresponsible, but will most likely end in failure and disappointment. Adding to the long list of individuals who think keeping a saltwater aquarium is next to impossible. When it comes to saltwater aquariums, I can not stress enough that impulse shopping at any point, for any reason, will break your heart and your wallet. Make a plan and stick to it.
Making a wish List for your Saltwater Aquarium
Most people looking to get a new puppy spend hours researching breeds to find the perfect match for them. Qualities such as the size of the breed, activity level, temperament and overall care needs are all considered before “adoption”. After the potential dog owner creates their list of potential candidates, they make their decision based on the breed best fit for them.
This is not the case when it comes to the aquarium industry and selecting fish for your saltwater aquarium. Often, saltwater fish are bought on a whim without any consideration, leading to disappointment results.
If you’re thinking about starting a new saltwater aquarium the first step I would recommend is making a wish list of fish you would be interested in keeping. Ideally, this would be done before you purchased the aquarium because the needs of the fish, will dictate the size of the aquarium, equipment need and habitat requirements.
Here is a free download so you can put together your own Fish wish list (PDF download).
Types of Saltwater Aquariums
This is a general introduction into the three types saltwater aquarium. There are three defined types of saltwater aquariums, that you my choose from. Each of them have their benefits and drawbacks, that should be considered before you decided which one is suitable for you. If you are looking to get into the saltwater aquarium hobby, take a monument to learn the basics about these saltwater aquarium setups you will be glade you did.
The three types of saltwater aquarium setups:
- Fish Only: This is a great setup for the saltwater aquarium fish lovers out there. As the name implies, this saltwater fish only tank setup is really for keeping fish only. You may be able to keep a few snails or hermit crabs to help control any algae problems. Considered to be the less expensive setup out of the three types, but it’s not the easiest saltwater aquarium to start out with as a new hobbyist.
- Fish Only with Live Rock (FOWLR): A FOWLR setup bridges the gap between Fish Only and Coral Reef type aquariums. If you are undecided as to which type of saltwater aquarium you want, this is the smart choice for you. The major difference between Fish Only and FOWLR is the use of live rock as a form of aquascape and also creates a biological filter for the aquarium.
- Coral Reef Tanks: Coral reef aquarium systems are an enclosed ecosystem, in your home. Much of the livestock can sever a purpose and be mutually beneficial to the other inhabitants in the aquarium. Fish, invertebrates and corals living together can be a breath taking. Reef aquariums requires excellent husbandry, high water quality, strong lighting and excellent filtration (biological, mechanical, and chemical). These fish, invertebrates and corals can be very expensive and it can be hard to maintain all their individual requirements in one aquarium.
Saltwater Aquarium Maintenance
When it comes to aquarium maintenance its hard to generalize information so that is useful for everyone because no two aquariums are the same. If you were to set up two aquariums with the same materials at the same time and both of them could have completely different results as well as maintenance needs. The Information you will find here is a generalization of maintenance for the common saltwater aquarium.
Free Download Aquarium Maintenance Checklist (PDF file)
A big part of keeping a successful saltwater aquarium is doing regular water changes. A very important piece of equipment for water changes is a RODI filter. R.O.D.I. stands for reverse osmosis deionized filtered water. Tap water contains chemicals to help keep the water safe for us. These items can harm or even kill your fish, corals and invertebrates. An RODI unit for saltwater aquariums pretty much removes everything from the water and leaves you with almost pure water. It is a must have for saltwater aquarium hobbyist.
You need to keep that water level in your tank consistent too. That’s because as your water evaporates, the salt remains in the tank. If you have experience with a FW tank and nitrates then it’s the same principle where only the water evaporates and everything else gets left behind in the tank. The salt level in the tank will rise as the water evaporates so you need to keep the water level in check.
Saltwater Aquarium Tips for Beginners
The subject of Saltwater Aquarium Tips for Beginners is a large one. I encourage you to do your research before you get started so you have an idea of what you want to you can get the best results. Once you have a basic idea of what type of saltwater aquarium and livestock you want, that will give you an idea to what equipment you need. Making a Plan for your saltwater aquarium setup shouldn’t become a chore but help you make a better informed decision for your situation. This will help you be vary successful with starting and maintaining a saltwater aquarium.
For more information on saltwater aquarium tips for beginners visit my Start Here page.
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