A Checklist for Starting a Saltwater Aquarium at Home - The Spruce
So what would be the smallest aquarium a beginning saltwater hobbyist could start out with?
Test Kits & Precision Grade Hydrometer Water parameters tell you if you will have success in keeping a saltwater tank. Brands that I recommend are Seachem and Salifert. Those are the best you can buy. When you first start out, a 6 in 1 test kit is fine but you will eventually need to upgrade to a higher quality test kit that measures more precisely your levels. A hydrometer measures specific gravity of your aquarium. This is an absolute must have tool when keeping a successful salt water aquarium. One important thing to remember when purchasing a hydrometer is that precision grade hydrometers are much more accurate than refractometers. This can easily be seen in the prices alone. You can pick up a precision hydrometer for around $50 compared to a general hydrometer for around $9. This can make a very big difference in the success of your aquarium.
Okay, we have reached the part where you want to know which animals to place inside your saltwater aquarium. Do you want to keep corals or fish only? I suggest that you plan on keeping corals from the start. Eventually you will be learning more and more that will make keeping corals easy and something that is nice to add to your aquatic world. It is important to consider this when speaking of lights because different types of coral have different light requirements. Soft corals will do fine under fluorescent, power compact, and Very High Output (VHO) and LEDs. Hard corals need Metal Halides, T5, LEDs fixtures in order to survive. This is because a lot of hard corals can be compared to plants and thus they require TONS of light to survive. You might want to research LED lights as they might cost a lot more initially you will save a lot on electricity costs down the road.
How to Start a Saltwater Aquarium: 9 Steps (with Pictures)
How to Start a Saltwater Aquarium
Now that you have the aquarium, stand, lights, and filter, set everything up as directed. If you are using live sand you can add it directly to the tank right out of the bag. Otherwise, crushed coral and aragonite sand will have to be thoroughly cleaned before adding to the tank. Wash it in a bucket with clean water until the water runs clear. Mix your saltwater using a large bucket or clean plastic garbage can. Check the specific gravity using an appropriate hydrometer from you local pet or aquarium store. You will want it to read 1.026 with the water temperature around 78 degrees F (26 degrees C). Add the substrate to the tank and then slowly start to add your water. Stop occasionally to check for leaks. There is nothing worse than filling a 90 gallon aquarium full of RO/DI water and then finding a leak and having to drain it again. Only fill the tank about 3/4 of the way to allow room for your decorations. It seems like we have been getting a lot of new posts on the forum about basic saltwater aquarium setup information. I've written this saltwater aquarium tank guide to hopefully make it easier to understand the start up process for those just getting into marine tanks. I'll make it a step by step article so it is easier to follow. The picture above is my 120 gallon reef tank.If you are using live rock you can go ahead and add it now. Stack it and arrange it to suit your taste. Many hobbyists prefer to make tall formations in the middle of the tank rather than stacking it up against the back glass. This also helps to provide better water circulation and can prevent the buildup of detritus in what are known as "dead zones". If you are not using live rock, you can find a variety of decorating ideas at your local aquarium retailer or pet shop. Natural rock and dried coral can be used. Several companies also sell artificial coral, some of which looks nearly as good as the real thing. Just make sure anything you put in the aquarium is clean and is approved for use in a saltwater aquarium. Once you are finished decorating, top off the water and turn on the pump. Let the system run for a day or two to clear the water. If you are using live sand and/or live rock, you may be able to add fish after only a couple of days. Check with the store where you bought your live rock and make sure it has been properly cured. Test the water and make sure the levels of ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite are staying at zero. It is always best to add just one or two animals to start and monitor the water quality. Give the system time to adjust before adding more. Monitor you water quality closely to avoid any problems. Most aquarium retailers will offer to test your water for you.A saltwater aquarium can definitely be more expensive than a freshwater aquarium. If money is tight, don't set up a marine tank right now. If you start skipping needed equipment like protein skimmers or good quality live rock, you are just going to be cutting yourself short and making the hobby less enjoyable. Come back to it when the finances loosen up and set things up right.