Maintaining a Saltwater Aquarium

Given the natural beauty of the colorful fish found in oceans and seas, it is no surprise that many hobbyists enjoy having a saltwater aquarium in their own homes. In fact, as of 2008, an estimated 800,000 U.S. households include a saltwater aquarium, which is also known as a marine aquarium.

Choosing Accessories for a Saltwater Aquarium

The first decision you must make is between the three basic types of saltwater aquariums: fish only (FO), fish only with live rock (FOWLR), or reef saltwater aquariums. If you are just starting out, the simplest FO aquarium might be best, as you can always upgrade to the more complex versions over time. A reef tank usually includes fish, corals and invertebrates.

The basic components of a saltwater aquarium include:

  • A tank, usually made of glass or acrylic
  • A water filtering and circulation system, including the proper equipment for mechanical, biological and chemical filtration
  • An alternative power source in case of a power outage
  • A substrate material, such as sand or aragonite
  • Sea salts to maintain the salinity of the water
  • An aquarium heater
  • Aquarium lighting
  • An aquarium test kit to monitor the pH, salinity and other conditions of the water
  • An aquarium vacuum and glass scrubber

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To determine the proper size for your new saltwater aquarium, consider the number and type of fish you intend to keep. Most home saltwater aquariums are between 40 and 100 U.S. gallons in capacity, and marine fish need about five gallons of water for every one inch of fish size. For example, if you have five fish that will each be three inches long when fully grown, your tank capacity would have to be a minimum of 75 gallons.

Pet stores, fish stores and online retailers offer saltwater aquariums for sale, as well as all of the necessary accessories; in addition, custom saltwater aquariums are available if ready-made models do not meet your requirements.

Choosing the Right Fish for a Saltwater Aquarium

Fish compatibility is a critical consideration when choosing the fish for your new tank. Talk to fish experts or conduct your own research to determine compatibility with other fish, as well as with corals and invertebrates, if you have a reef tank. Also, investigate the difficulty of maintaining each type of fish; beginners may want to stick with the hardier varieties.

Maintaining a Saltwater Aquarium

Regular maintenance to your saltwater aquarium is critical. Without the proper temperature, salinity and pH balance in saltwater aquariums, the fish and other inhabitants will quickly perish.