Whether you are an expert in marine life or a mere fish aquarium hobbyist, learning how to setup a saltwater aquarium is a satisfying and worthwhile project. Choosing fish as your pet involves high commitment since it fully relies on you to make sure that its living habitat is clean and maintained, unlike the fish that lives in the river or ocean where water is constantly and naturally filtered. Keeping a tankful of fish could be a daunting task. It takes time, care and money, but it can be done.
So how to setup a saltwater aquarium? To pull off a successful setup, it involves careful planning and some research. To begin with, it would help to ask yourself a few things like “how big or small do I want to set up?” or “where do I want to put the aquarium tank?”. Choosing the best location where it can stand on a steady flat surface is a smart way to start. You should also consider placing it close to an electrical outlet and never in direct or partial sunlight to avoid excessive growth of algae.
Once you pick the perfect spot for your aquarium, it is crucial to know the types of a saltwater aquarium, so you can be prepared on how you can take care of it.
Fish Only (FO) – The basic type, but not necessarily the easiest to set up. It contains only fish. It needs sufficient filtration, good water circulation and lighting.
Fish Only with Live Rock (FOWLR) – Same with FO but with live rock. This is more advantageous to set up than FO aquarium, since live rocks also add a natural filtration system, therefore easier to keep and less expensive to maintain.
Coral Reef – Is the most expensive type of saltwater aquarium because corals and other invertebrates are more demanding to keep. Corals for example are expensive and require the highest quality of water and lighting. For a beginner, this can be quite challenging.
Now that you know the types of a saltwater aquarium, you can proceed with how to setup a saltwater aquarium process by setting up your tank.
Here are the Steps on How to Setup a Saltwater Aquarium:
Step 1. Prepare the aquarium tank.
Make sure the tank is clean and free from leaks. You may use vinegar to clean the internal and external surface of the tank. If you are using an acrylic tank, use a cotton type of cloth to avoid scratching.
Step 2. Set up the Heater or Chiller and Filtration Equipment.
To keep a healthy aquarium, it is important to install a proper filtration system to your aquarium and remove any contaminant and fish waste from the water. It helps to constantly purify the water in your aquarium. You also need a heater for cold places and heater for cold places. The heater or chiller is considered the lifelines of saltwater aquarium. Instability in water temperature may cause stress to the inhabitants that can lead to slow development, sickness, or even death. The ideal water temperature is between 75 to 82 ◦F (23 to 28◦C).
Step 3. Add Substrate and begin aquascaping.
Choosing your substrate should be based on what type of fish you want to pet. It should be considered during your planning stage. Some fish that likes to dwell in the bottom of the tank prefers sand substrate. The substrate can serve many purposes in your aquarium. More than just the aesthetic appeal it provides to your aquarium, it forms a more natural habitat to your fish, hence making it feel safer. The blotched or marbled substrate can serve as a camouflage to your fish eggs that scatter on the bed of your aquarium. It makes the egg invisible from adult fish to be consumed. Generally, the depth of the substrate can be filled up to 2 inches, but you can add more if there are live plants to allow roots to grow.
Sometimes large rocks are also added with gravel beneath it to create a natural setting for fish. The spaces between the gravel can protect the eggs from being eaten by the adult fish.
Step 4. Add the Water
This is a critical process in setting up your saltwater aquarium. You must ensure that the water went through reverse osmosis (purification technique). You can either buy it or apply treatments by adding a dechlorinator to remove any chlorine content in the water. Then you need to add a salt mix based on the kind of marine aquarium you choose to set up. It is important to follow the instruction to attain the recommended level of salinity of the water.
Step 5. Cycle the Water
You may encounter another term for it like nitrogen cycle, nitrification, startup cycle, break-in cycle etc., but do not get confused. The main purpose of this process is to build beneficial bacterial composition to act as biological filtration. Understanding this process would mean a high chance of success in your salt aquarium.
The process takes about 6 – 8 weeks. The cycle is not complete and not safe for fish until the ammonia level reaches 0ppm. Regular testing of water is important. You can change 50% of the water to reduce the buildup of nitrates.
Live rocks are commonly used to speed up the cycle. You can add ammonia as required.
Step 6. Add the fish
Finally, you can add your fish into the aquarium by gradually allowing the bag of fish to float on the surface of the aquarium for about 15 minutes. This will allow the fish to adapt to the temperature of the aquarium.
Choosing your fish should also be considered during the planning stage. Make sure that you will not overcrowd your aquarium. And do not combine aggressive species with community fish to maintain the harmonious state of your aquarium.
Keeping a healthy aquarium is not only good for the fish. It is also good for us. To be able to create a whole new world that can be a form of beauty and relaxation is a true wonder and a unique opportunity. Even studies proved that it can bring a multitude of benefits to humans. It reduces stress, improves blood pressure, decreases anxiety, and good therapy for hyperactive kids and people with Alzheimer’s. If this is the case, all households in the entire world should know how to setup a saltwater aquarium. But if this is too much, then a regular fish aquarium will do. Know more about aquarium setup.