How To Set Up Saltwater Aquarium
Learning how to set up a saltwater aquarium is a great introduction into the relaxing world of fish keeping. Marine fish are exotic, colorful and fascinating to watch. It is important to note that this guide is merely a primer. You can read all your life or be a marine biologist and discover something new about saltwater aquariums everyday.
To set up a saltwater aquarium, you will need:
- Aquarium kit that includes: tank, filtration system, lights and heater
- Extra heater
- Dechlorinated water
- Aquarium salt for marine tanks
- Mixing buckets
- Substrate like sand or crushed coral
- Live rock
- Considerations. The materials referenced above will be used to set up a saltwater aquarium without any corals or anemones. If you want to set up a reef system, you will need specialized lighting and a protein skimmer. This setup we will be creating works best for fish and invertebrates. Tank size is up to you. Research what type of inhabitants you would like to keep to help determine size. Many marine fish for sale will quickly outgrow a ten gallon aquarium. Popular fish like triggers, puffer fish or groupers are predatory and best housed alone. Tangs and damsels are schooling fish and best housed together. Also make sure your inhabitants are compatible.
- Assembly. Before we buy live rock, invertebrates or fish, we must create a suitable environment. Fill your tank with dechlorinated water but leave a few inches so you can stick your arms in the aquarium without causing any overflow. Read the instructions and setup your heater, powerhead and filtration system. You want a strong current so you may have to use multiple powerheads depending upon how large the tank is. Allow the water temperature to reach around 77 degrees. Follow the instructions on your marine aquarium salt (never use table or freshwater aquarium salt) and add it to the tank. A hydrometer measures the specific gravity of salt water. Basically it tells you if your water is too salty or needs salt. Use your hydrometer to test your water. We want a reading between 1.021 and 1.024. Now leave it alone for a day and test it again.
- Live rock and substrate. Live rock is dead coral inhabited with numerous types of invertebrates, algae and bacteria. Live rock is not necessary unless you have a reef tank but many aquarists also use it for fish only marine tanks. Live rock makes a perfect habitat for marine animals and is also an excellent source of filtration. Curing live rock for your tank will take anywhere from a week to a month depending on how much you bought and what shape it is in. Place the live rock in the tank and aim the powerheads at it. Every few days, turn off the powerheads and rotate the rocks. Scrub off any obvious decaying goo and siphon away the debris. The water will smell awful. When the water smells like the ocean, you are done. Wash your substrate in a five gallon bucket to remove the dust and debris. Slowly add it to the tank. Allow the tank to settle. When the water is crystal clear, you are ready to add your fish. To be extra safe, bring a sample of water to your fish store and have them test it.
- When you add water to your tank after water changes or maintenance, you must add warm, pre-mixed salt water. Mix it the day before you need it in a five gallon bucket with a heater and powerhead.
- Eventually you will want to get a saltwater test kit to ensure all your water parameters are optimal.
- Be careful of some fish choices like puffers or eels. Some are poisonous and most can bite.