While setting up a saltwater aquarium is largely similar to its freshwater counterpart, it does entail certain dissociations. Primarily, you need to consider the location of the tank, which is basically any room of your home, but not in the proximity of any windows or doors that permit direct sunlight to fall on the aquarium or that are drafty areas.
Ventilation is paramount for rooms with saltwater aquariums, but drafts can cause sudden changes in temperature which are contraindicated. At the same time, don’t forget that the tank’s lighting system needs to be connected to a power outlet, which means that you need to reserve space for the cables.
Buying the Saltwater Aquarium
Most beginners use a wrong approach to this, as they believe that a small model is enough to start with. Instead, aim for the largest tank permitted by your space and budget, because you will want to have room for error and sufficient space to extend your fish collection. Otherwise, you will just be forced to buy an additional one when the specimens grow or when you add other varieties.
In regards to the shape, it is advisable to stick with traditional ones because the intricate models make it very hard for the proverbially territorial saltwater varieties to designate their space, not to mention the fact that they distort the view. As far as the lighting system is concerned, keep in mind that saltwater fish prefer colder water, so you should purchase a fixture that does not substantially increase the temperature. On a side note, this is another reason to purchase a larger tank: a larger quantity of water will not heat up as easily.
Creating the Marine Aquarium’s Environment
Before doing anything else, cleaning the inside walls of the tank utilizing a soft cloth and making sure there’s absolutely no chemical compound is mandatory. Make sure that it has been rinsed thoroughly afterwards and pour in either gravel or sand, according to the type of fish (gravel is contraindicated for bottom-dwelling specimens). This will constitute the base of the flooring of the aquarium, so now it is time to pour in the saltwater.
You don’t have to go all the way to the ocean to get saltwater, but don’t make the mistake of thinking you can just mix tap water with salt. Your options comprise of either purchasing the ready-made saltwater from the fish store or the special powder that will be diluted in tap water. Nevertheless, it is mandatory to respect the manufacturer’s specifications concerning the mixing process, the concentration, and etc.
Decorating the Saltwater Fish Tank
In addition to its lovely aspect, the live rocks act as biological filters, helping the production of beneficial microorganisms that eliminate the harmful ammonia and speed up the cycling process.
Live rocks can be completely cured within a time frame varying between one and three weeks and you can perform the curing inside the aquarium prior to the introduction of the live fish.
Cycling the Salt Water Aquarium
You probably heard that in order to cycle the aquarium (determining if the water develops the bacteria responsible for the transformation of ammonia into nitrates), you should utilize hardy fish. Most fish retailers will still recommend this method of cycling because it is definitely the fastest and it allows them to complete more business transactions.
Hardy fish are specimens that are more resilient to unhealthy environments, such as Damselfish. However, the fish cycling is inhumane as some might argue because more often than not, the fish used in the process will die.
Far less cruel methods of cycling a saltwater aquarium involve using live rocks and plants in conjunction with a maturation fluid. Again, if you decide to add store bought maturation fluid, you should carefully examine the manufacturer’s recommendations.
You can expect to see a sudden rise in the levels of ammonia in the saltwater – an indicator that the process has started – followed by a constant decrease, the development of nitrites and respectively, nitrates.
The nitrates will most likely determine a significant outbreak of algae in your tank, but their reproduction can easily be kept in check by constantly changing the water. To find out whether the water composition is optimal for the fish, use specialized testing kits.
Last Minute Changes and Adding the Fish
Right after the water’s composition has been adjusted to optimal parameters and before you introduce the saltwater fish in the new environment, you have time to add/subtract any décor pieces from the tank.
However, if you are including invertebrates or coral reefs, make sure that you only place one or maximum two organisms at any given time. All living things will determine changes in the composition of the water and the more you have, the bigger and more sudden the variations. This is why it is important to let them sufficient time to adjust before introducing additional ones.
Popular Types of Saltwater Fish to Include
The general rule in buying different varieties of saltwater fish is that if one of them is not large enough to eat the rest, they will most likely get along just fine. Angelfish and Clownfish are definitely among the most commonly purchased specimens due to their specific features.
However, the Angelfish tends to be quite sensitive to the modifications in the temperature and composition water, which is why they are generally contraindicated for beginners. While the Angelfish is quite cordial with other species, surprisingly enough, it has very little tolerance to its own kind. When it is well cared for, the fish can live up to 20 years.
Clownfish and anemones have an almost symbiotic relationship, but it is important to remember that the presence of the anemones determines them to become territorial. Damselfish (the ones most commonly used in fish cycling) are lovely specimens and have the advantage of resilience, which makes them ideal for novice hobbyists.
If you plan to introduce anemones in the aquarium’s environment, then you should not purchase a Butterflyfish, because these creatures represent its primary source of food. Other popular saltwater fish you can try include: