Things You Should Consider When Starting a Saltwater Aquarium

Fish are cool pets and they’re relatively easy to take care of, even saltwater fish. For many hobbyists, owning a saltwater aquarium is a dream come true and allows you to have many beautiful, exotic fish right in your home. No more trips to the local aquarium to admire the seahorses or watch the puffer fish. Now you can admire them from your room.


When it comes to starting a saltwater aquarium, there are certain things you should consider and keep in mind. Just like every other type of pet, there are challenges you’ll need to overcome and research to be done before you can bring your first fish home.


Before you rush off to the pet store and purchase a saltwater fish, here are some things to consider and know when starting a saltwater aquarium.

#1. Type of Ecosystem

Did you know that there are multiple types of saltwater aquarium ecosystems? There are aquarium ecosystems that are fish only or fish only with live rock, seahorse tanks, coldwater tanks, and full on reef tanks.


The reason so many types of aquarium ecosystems exist is because there are so many types of ecosystems in the ocean. Your favorite saltwater fish might not all live in the same region of the world and because of this, they won’t all be able to live in the same type of tank.


When you start a saltwater aquarium, you must first decide what type of ecosystem you want to have. Your choice will affect the species of fish your purchase and how you maintain your tank. 

#2. Tank Size

Saltwater aquariums need to be bigger than a little goldfish bowl on your desk, but there is more than just one tank size available. Most saltwater fish require a minimum tank size of at least 30 gallons, though getting a tank that holds 50 to 75 gallons is the best for beginners. With a tank of this size, you can have a few species of fish and a good sized aquarium.


Setting up your tank will be more or less expensive depending on the size. Larger tanks will obviously require a bit more equipment and be more expensive, but they’re also much more forgiving. If you aren’t able to change the water as often as necessary, the side effects will be slower to appear in a large tank compared to a small one.


If you are still unsure about the size of your tank, think of it this way: one inch of fish per gallon, as explained by the Spruce Pets. This means that if a fish will be two inches once it’s fully grown, you need to account for two gallons of space, even when the fish is a baby.

#3. Fish Compatibility


Unfortunately, it isn’t always possible to mix all your favorite species of fish. Some species are fairly flexible and can be compatible with most other species but others are much less sociable.


Knowing a species’ compatibility is important for making sure your fish are safe in their tank. Before you go out to buy all your favorite species, check their compatibility on this saltwater fish compatibility chart. It’s quick and easy to use so if you already have an idea of one or two species that you know you want in your tank, you can test their compatibility.


If you know you want one specific species of fish but aren’t sure what other species to add to your tank, the compatibility chart can give you a good idea of species to look into. Scroll through the list of compatible species and then make your decision around that.

#4. Filtration System

Your aquarium needs adequate and reliable filtration in order to prevent toxic materials from building up and hurting your fish. Having a good filtration system in place is key and with a little planning and research, this step should be fairly easy.


It’s recommended that you purchase two smaller filtration systems instead of one large one. This way, if something goes wrong and one of the filters stops working, the other one will continue to function. You won’t be able to rely solely on the one small filter, but it can keep your tank safe until you’re able to replace the broken filter.


Here are a few filter suggestions to get you started.

#5. Lighting


Lighting plays a key role in your saltwater aquarium, believe it or not. It isn’t just there to make your fish and corals glow, but to help the ecosystem within your aquarium thrive and keep it healthy. Because of this, choosing the lighting for your aquarium isn’t something to do flippantly.


While there is no “perfect lighting” for every aquarium, there are helpful guides on how to choose aquarium lighting. This will depend on the species you plan on having. Luckily, with a little research on each species, you should be able to determine what type of lighting is best for your tank and if you get it wrong at first, it won’t be the end of the world.


Though lighting is important to the health of your aquarium, it is one of those things that can be adjusted over time with minimal damage to your fish. If you have two types of lighting and aren’t sure which will be better, you can give both a try and watch how each affects your fish before deciding on a definite solution. 

Don’t Be Intimidated! Enjoy Your Aquarium!

Setting up your aquarium may seem daunting, but don’t let it keep you from beginning your journey of owning saltwater fish! Once you’ve set up your aquarium and brought home your fish, the reward is worth it.


Even once you’ve bought your last fish and are happy with your lighting, filtration, and everything else, you’ll still need to keep up maintenance on the tank and watch your fish for any signs of distress or complications. Saltwater fish are fun, but if you don’t keep an eye on them and their environment, things can go downhill fast.


With the right preparation and research, you can have a successful saltwater aquarium no matter your budget or tank size!


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