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Setting Up a Saltwater Aquarium

By Edited May 3, 2015 1 0

A saltwater aquarium is a lot more work than starting up a freshwater aquarium but it can be a lot more rewarding. The reward only comes if it is set up well so that it can provide a good ecosystem for the saltwater fish to live in. There are a few decisions to make when it comes to setting up a saltwater aquarium.


You will need to decide on what size tank to purchase. A large aquarium is best for beginners because they are a lot more chemically stable than smaller aquariums. Experts suggest that beginners should choose a tank that is around fifty five gallons or two hundred liters or bigger.

The second decision you will have to make when setting up a saltwater aquarium is what type of tank you want to purchase. There are two main types of tanks to choose from - glass and acrylic. Although glass tanks stay cleaner and will generally stay clear, they will not provide enough insulation and they are more likely to break. Acrylic is much better at insulating the aquarium, it is stronger but it may scratch. Glass tanks are generally an inexpensive choice but you should think about the investment, not about the money.

Next, you want to choose the perfect spot in your home for setting up your saltwater aquarium. This is one of the most important decisions you will make as the location can effect the entire ecosystem. You should never put an aquarium in the sunlight. The sunlight will heat up the tank and will cause all types of problems including green water - a phenomenon associated with algae growth. The temperature inside the tank will fluctuate during the day which is unhealthy for the fish and the fish may die. The tank should be placed in an area where it will not get knocked over or bumped when people pass by each day. Once the saltwater aquarium is fully set up, it will be very heavy and you will not be able to move it to where you want it. Saltwater weighs more than freshwater. Make sure that the tank is set on a sturdy piece of furniture that can support the weight for long periods of time. It is a good idea to purchase an aquarium stand. After you have found the perfect location for your new aquarium, it is for set up.

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Setting Up the Saltwater Aquarium

Before you begin, make sure that the location you have chosen can fit all the equipment such as the tank, the stand, the heater and so forth. Do not place the aquarium directly behind the wall as you will need room to clean the aquarium and you will need room for the equipment. After you have set up the aquarium, you will need lots of space to maintain the tank and the equipment. Setting the tank up is only the first step in this process.

You will need to clean the tank well before setting it up. When cleaning the tank, do not use any cleaning solutions that can leave residue on the tank. They can harm the fish. Chlorine bleach can be used to clean the tank but only use a little bit in a couple gallons of water. Rinse the tank repeatedly afterwords to make sure the bleach is gone.

When setting up the tank, you will want to set it up depending on the type of fish that will live there. You can have a tank that is only fish. A tank with a few fish and some live rock or you may choose to have an entire reef system (these can be fun but hard to maintain). Beginners might want to start with fish only as they are the easiest to maintain in a saltwater aquarium. After you have maintained a fish only tank for a couple months and found that it isn't too much trouble, you can easily upgrade to live rocks or a full reef system. There are many different ways to set up a saltwater aquarium.

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Buying an Aquarium Filter

There are many different types of filters to choose from when buying an aquarium filter for a saltwater aquarium. The three main types of filters are mechanical, biological and chemical.

The biological filters are made to remove nitrite, ammonia, nitrates and ammonium that is created by the fish and the other sea creatures living in the saltwater aquarium. The filter process is very complex but includes converting ammonia to harmful nitrate to harmless nitrate. The best biological filtration systems include live rock and protein skimmers.

The second type of filter is the chemical filter. This type of filter is essential when setting up a saltwater aquarium. Chemical filters eliminate the chemicals that are found in the water. You can see the chemical filter work by looking at the color of the water. Chemical filters will make the water clear.

The third type of filter available is the mechanical filter. The mechanical filter removes debris from the tank such as fish food, waste and dust that gets into the tank.

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Mixing the Saltwater

The salt mix will usually have instructions to help you mix it with the water. Once you have made the saltwater, never add more salt. Only add water to the mixture. This is because the salt will never leave the tank. The water will evaporate but the salt cannot. Adding more salt will make the water too salty. There may be times when you will need to add salt to the water. Use a hydrometer to measure the salt in the water. If it gets too low, you may add some salt. Only add salt if the salinity of the water is too low and only add water if the water level is too low.

Cycling the Water & Introducing Fish

After you have set up your saltwater aquarium and it is filled with saltwater, you will need to cycle the water. Cycling the water involves letting the filtration system run for a week or two before introducing a few fish to the tank.

The best type of fish for beginners are Damsels. Add one type of fish to the aquarium at a time and only two of the same species at a time. The rule of thumb is to add one fish for every ten gallons of water. Remember that even though you may have a twenty gallon tank, there are other things in the tank so it will not be filled with twenty gallons of water. Remember to slowly put fish in the tank. Do not put all the fish in the tank at one time or you may add stress to the fish. How would you like to live with ten strangers in a new house and none of you have met? It would not be very fun. Do not do that to your fish.

Once the fish are happily swimming in their new home, you can relax and enjoy your new saltwater aquarium.

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