Saltwater Tank Setup

Saltwater Aquarium: Complete Set Up Guide

Taking on your first saltwater tank setup? It can be difficult to set up a new tank, but once you have your fish in it, it is worth the effort. New Empty Aquarium

The process of turning an aquarium idea into a reality involves many steps. It is the same process as for setting up a freshwater aquarium.

Saltwater aquariums are a bit more expensive but offer a large variety of colorful fish. Corals are attractive because of their unique appearance and behavior. They are not available in freshwater aquariums.

Mixing these creatures will create something beautiful. It will brighten any room that you place it in.

Many people think that saltwater aquariums can be difficult to setup. This is not the case. We will walk you through all you need to do to start a saltwater aquarium. A saltwater tank setup takes a lot of work, time and patience but it is so rewarding!

Saltwater Aquarium Basics

Freshwater or Saltwater is the first thing you should choose when setting up a new aquarium?

It can be hard to decide which setup is best for you.

A saltwater tank is a tank with marine animals or plants. You can create your own aquarium. There are many options.

The unique marine life that is found in saltwater aquariums attracts many people. You can choose from the brightest fish in the world and corals to make your own reef.

You will be amazed at how beautiful a natural coral reef is if you’ve ever seen one.

Saltwater aquariums are expensive and hard to maintain, so beginners tend to avoid them. Even though it’s hard to avoid the cost, beginners can still maintain a saltwater aquarium with a little effort and time.

You need to setup your aquarium before you can enjoy the fish. It is important to know how to properly set up an aquarium. This will help ensure everything runs smoothly.

Saltwater tanks come in many different types

You can do a lot with a saltwater aquarium. Here are some of the most popular types of marine aquariums to get you started.

Fish Only

The main reason people get an aquarium is to keep fish. Why bother with anything else if they’re all you want?

This is the simplest and most affordable type of aquarium. It is important to only consider the needs of your fish and not other animals such as corals.

You can select between a species or community aquarium.

The most basic fish-only aquariums aren’t always the easiest to install. Live rocks add more beneficial bacteria into the tank. Without them, the tank will take longer to cycle.

To maintain high water quality, you may need to clean your aquarium more frequently and perform more water changes.

Fish Only With Live Rock Saltwater Tank Setup New Saltwater Aquarium

The tanks are identical to fish-only aquariums, but with live rock.

Live rocks can be very useful when you are setting up your aquarium. They also help keep it clean and save time.

The bacteria in them can break down ammonia, nitrites and other toxic substances into nitrate.

The extra cost may deter some, but in comparison to the amount you’ve already spent on your aquarium it’s not that expensive. Live rock should cost around $5 per pound.

If you find photosynthetic organisms in the rock, it may be necessary to adjust the lighting.

Reef Tank

Coral reefs may be the most beautiful ecosystem on earth. You may want to recreate this beauty at home.

You are now keeping corals, and they have their own requirements. Corals can be kept alone or in combination with fish. It can be difficult for beginners to maintain this aquarium. Corals need good water quality and light. It’s difficult to monitor these parameters and maintain them.

Reef tanks can be expensive as well, because they require extra equipment. Corals can be costly.

Saltwater Aquarium Complete Guide

It is easy to set up a saltwater tank if you have some experience.

1. Plan Your Tank

Plan your setup carefully to ensure that everything goes smoothly. Before you do anything else, choose what kind of fish/corals to keep in your tank. This decision will affect the rest of the tank.

Your aquarium should be built around your animals. How big a tank do they require? What is their preferred water condition? Are they using any special equipment?

Your aquarium will begin to take shape as you consider all their needs.

2. Prepare the Tank

You can begin to prepare your tank once you have decided what you will need. Even if it is brand-new, your tank will still need to be cleaned.

You don’t want soaps or other household cleaners to get into your tank. Use a damp cloth to remove any dust or other particles. You can do the same for your other equipment.

It is harder to clean a used tank. Use vinegar to clean inside and out. You will need a special type of cloth to clean acrylic tanks.

Check for leaks. After adding a few inches of water, wait an hour and look for any signs of water escaping. Aquarium sealant can be used to fix any leaks.

Positioning Colourful Saltwater Tank Setup

Position your tank before filling it. You need to be sure that you’re happy with the position you choose because will become heavier once you fill it.

It is important that the surface on which you set up the aquarium can support the weight. The tank should also be leveled (this can be verified with a spirit level).

You may be able to purchase a cabinet that is specifically designed for your tank. It is a simple, but expensive way to make sure you have the right surface.

3. Add the Substrate

It’s time to fill your tank. Start with the substrate. There are many different kinds – you might have chosen crushed corals or soft sands for your fish.

The average person aims for 1-2 inches at the bottom. You will obviously need more substrate if you have a larger tank. You will need between 50 and 100 lbs of substrate for a tank that is 50 gallons.

The dust particles on the substrate are brought from the store. You will need to rinse it before adding to your water to keep it clear.

Add a small amount to a bucket, and then run water through the bucket. Mix all ingredients with your hands until the water is clear.

Pour the remaining liquid into the tank after placing a thin layer on the bottom. You can arrange it however you want. Maybe you’d like it to be level, or maybe you prefer some raised areas.

4. Add the Water

Next, you will pour the water into the tank. But first it needs to be prepared.

You can either buy water that has already been by reverse osmosis or use treatments.

The aquarium salt mix should also be mixed with . You can find it in pet shops, and the package will tell you how much salt to use.

You can now add de-chlorinator to the water.

Pour the water into a dish and place it on top of the substrate. It will protect your substrate by preventing it from being disturbed.

5. Install Equipment

Most saltwater aquariums will require a filter and a heater. Others may have extra equipment like LED lights, UV sterilizers or air stones.

In this step, all of them are added to your tank. The majority of filters are easy to install, but they can be confusing at times. There are many different types of filters that can be installed in different ways, including sponge filters, canister filters and gravel filters.

Place your heater to one side and a thermometer at the other. This will show if you are getting the desired temperature throughout the tank.

6. Add Decor

You can be creative with plants and decorations. Here you can turn your imagination into reality.

Some people prefer a natural look, which is primarily made up of driftwood, corals, and rocks. Some people enjoy using a theme their aquarium, maybe around a shipwreck.

Remove any dust by rinsing all items before placing them on the substrate.

7. Cycle the Tank

The tank is now set up but not ready for fish – You must cycle the aquarium.

The goal is to create bacterial cultures that will act as biological filters. The cultures will each convert ammonia into nitrites and nitrates. Ammonia and Nitrite are toxic for fish. As Nitrates can be toxic in large quantities, you should perform partial water exchanges to reduce levels.

Live rock can be used to start the saltwater cycle. You can add these rocks to your tank to start the cycle.

Light rocks are best as they have many interior gaps that allow bacteria to grow.

Ammonia can be added to the mix if live rocks aren’t working.

Test the water regularly. Ammonia levels will spike followed by an increase in nitrites. The cycle is complete when these levels reach 0ppm. Reduce the build-up of nitrates by changing water 50%.

It should take between 6 and 8 weeks. You can try increasing the temperature or oxygen levels, or adding filter media to an existing tank.

8. Add Fish

Finally, you are ready to add fish. Do not add too many fish at once, or you risk restarting the nitrogen cycle. Add them slowly over several weeks or months.

Fish are sensitive to changes in water conditions, so once you have bought them you will need to gradually acclimatize them to the water in your tank.

Here are a few steps to acclimatize them:

  • Turn off the aquarium lights.
  • Float the bag on the water’s surface for 15 minutes to match the temperature of the tank to the temperature of the bag.
  • Cut open the bag and roll down the top, making sure that it still floats on the surface.
  • Add half a cup of aquarium water to the bag every 4-5 minutes until the bag is full.
  • Pour out half the water in the bag, but not into the aquarium.
  • Start adding half a cup of aquarium water every 4-5 minutes until the bag is full again.
  • Use a net to transfer the fish from the bag to the aquarium, then discard the bag and water.

Watch your fish over the next 24 hours to check that they are healthy. Look to see if they are eating at feeding times. Some people like to quarantine new fish for a while before adding them to the main tank. This can help to prevent the introduction of disease.

Best Saltwater Aquarium Fish For Beginners

Typically, saltwater fish are usually a little weaker than their freshwater counterparts. However, you should not be discouraged, as there are still some hardy saltwater fish for beginners.

Beginners should look for small, hardy fish that aren’t aggressive. If fish meet these criteria, they should be easier to care for.

Probably the most popular marine fish available are Ocellaris Clownfish, made popular by the film Finding Nemo. Luckily, this is a hardy species that are great for beginners. An option for the lower levels of your tank is the Lawnmower Blenny. This herbivore hides in caves, only coming out to eat. They should be kept singly as they might nip other similarly sized fish.

The list goes on, including Chalk Bass, Coral Beauty Angelfish, Firefish, Klein’s Butterflyfish, Pajama Cardinalfish, Royal Gramma, and Six Line Wrasse.

There are lots of great fish, but there are also many that beginners should avoid. This is usually because they are sensitive to changes in water quality, or they are particularly aggressive.

For example, most Damselfish are very aggressive. They will claim an anemone as their territory, and defend it from other males that come near.

Finding the right species is all about research, you should choose your fish before you design the rest of your tank. This lets you design the tank around them, giving the fish everything they need.

Myths and Common Mistakes about Saltwater Aquariums

When researching saltwater aquariums you will find lots of people saying lots of different things. It can be difficult to determine what is true and what is just a myth.

  1. It is often said that beginners should not start with a saltwater aquarium. Marine fish are more sensitive to the quality of the water, so there is lower room for error, but this should not deter beginners. It’s all about designing the right saltwater tank. Starting a fish-only-with-live-rock (FOWLR) aquarium is the easiest option (we will discuss why later).
  2. Some people say that you can’t convert a saltwater aquarium into a freshwater aquarium. You actually can, if you make some adjustments. You need to drain the aquarium and wipe everything clean with chlorine-free water. All the salt needs to be removed before cycling the tank with freshwater.
  3. It’s commonly said that breeding saltwater fish is as easy as breeding freshwater fish. This is not true; it’s much harder to breed saltwater fish. Most saltwater species rely on seasonal cues to trigger spawning, and these are very difficult to recreate at home.
  4. The last myth we will mention here is that saltwater aquariums need to be bigger than freshwater ones. This is partially true. Dissolved oxygen in saltwater is just 80% that of freshwater, so it cannot support the same amount of biomass. This means that you can have a small saltwater aquarium, but it won’t be able to hold as many fish as a similarly sized freshwater one.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Lower Nitrates In A Saltwater Aquarium?

The simplest way to lower nitrates is through 20% water changes. Water with high nitrates is replaced with water containing low nitrates. Performing a series of water changes will gradually lower nitrates.

To avoid this problem in the first place, perform regular water changes every 1-2 weeks as general maintenance.

How Do You Raise Ph In A Saltwater Aquarium?

The most likely reason for low pH is excess carbon dioxide.

Perform a water change and add one teaspoon of baking soda for every gallon of replacement water.

Add the water gradually over an hour. You may have to repeat the process the next day if pH does not rise enough originally.


A lot of thought goes into starting a new tank, especially saltwater aquariums. The most important part is planning. If you plan poorly, you are bound to run into problems down the road.

Think about which animals you want to keep, and then you can consider things like the aquarium size, equipment, and decorations. Once everything is planned, setting the tank up is relatively simple.

Cycling can take a while, but once you can start adding your fish, you will realize the wait was well worth it. The hardest part is maintaining the tank – you learn this through a mixture of research and practice. Beginners should pick hardy fish when they start out.

The marine environment holds some of the most attractive creatures on our planet. Bringing them into your home creates a true spectacle.

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