Owning a saltwater fish tank doesn’t have to remain only a dream to a novice like you. Yes, saltwater fish tank does create a bit of a challenge. But if you’ve mastered freshwater fish tank before, then there’s no reason you can’t start your first saltwater fish tank now. What you need to know are the basics about saltwater aquarium: knowing which items to get, the right stock for novices, and saltwater fish tank maintenance.
Saltwater Fish Tank Types
Saltwater fish aquariums could look alike after seeing a few, but know that there are three types of saltwater aquariums today:
Fish-only (FO) - This is the simplest type of saltwater fish tank setup today. As the name suggests, the tank contains only saltwater fish and few fake corals as décor. It could or could not contain substrate also. However, no matter how simple it may look, you still need an efficient saltwater tank filtration system to keep the tank running.
Fish-only-with-live-rock (FOWLR) – This saltwater fish tank setup is a step-up from FO that contains saltwater fish stock and some live rock. It’s called live rock because the coral pieces are teaming with beneficial life forms that helps maintain the tank water pristine.
Reef marine aquarium - This type is the most challenging to setup and maintain of all saltwater fish tank types. But, it’s also the most breathtaking! This type’s main attraction is no longer the saltwater fishes, but the live, colorful corals teaming with see invertebrates that highlight the whole tank.
From FO to reef marine aquarium setup, you can have anywhere from 30 to 300 gallons and up acrylic or glass saltwater fish tank. The more complex a saltwater aquarium is, the more holding capacity is needed – not just for the tank, but for the filtration system also.
Saltwater Fish Tank Filtration System
Often, the filtration system comes bundled with the tank upon purchase. But most likely, these bundled filtration systems could use some upgrade. The best filter is one that incorporates mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration systems in one. For a 20 to 100 gallons starter saltwater fish aquarium, Skilter Filters that use all filtration systems plus protein skimmer is a good investment. But if you can afford it, the Fluval Filters is the best investment for your saltwater aquarium. It’s fully digital with LCD monitor and alarm system that alerts you if certain water parameters deviate from normal: you can’t go wrong with your water with one of Fluval Filters system installed.
Maintaining Tank Salinity
What prevents most people from starting a saltwater fish tank is the thought of balancing salt and freshwater to get the right salinity. But, it’s actually simpler than most of you thought. You need
1. Saltwater aquarium salt
3. Distilled/purified water*
The hydrometer will tell you the water density, which should be 1.020 to 1.024 for FO tanks and 1.023 to 1.026 for FOWLR and reef marine aquarium tanks.
Saltwater Fish Tank Live Rock and Substrate
Getting live rock and substrate is not an issue. You can buy them from saltwater aquarium supplies dealer near you or you can shop for them online. As a general rule, you can add about 1.5 pounds of live rock for every gallon of tank water. You can also purchase live substrate for your FOWLR and reef marine aquarium. The breathtaking view of a saltwater fish tank depends on your creativity about the live rock and live substrate – the fishes are icing on the cake. However, do remember to cure the live rock and substrate before adding your fishes in.
Stocking Saltwater Fish Tank
If you’re a novice saltwater fish aquarium owner, you want to start out with a pretty hardy saltwater fish to stock. These fishes include damsel fish and clown fish (yes, Nemo). These two saltwater fish species adopt well to changes in your tank’s water parameters as you try to master them along the way: i.e. salinity, nitrite, oxygen, pH, temperature, etc. Stock one 4 inches that can grow to a small to medium adult fish or 2 inches fast growing fish per 10 gallon of water.
And don’t go for the color of the fish when stocking; be sure to mix only friendly fish that doesn’t ensue fight. You can have an aggressive fish species later if you’ve mastered your basic saltwater fish tank.
Maintenance Tools for Saltwater Fish Tank
Now that you have your saltwater fish tank going, you need to keep some maintenance tools for it too:
1. Tank cleaner (e.g. sponge brush)
5. pH meter
7. Power head
*You can’t have a saltwater aquarium without your own distiller. But, some filter systems can double as distiller; it’s best to get these filter systems.