Saltwater fishkeeping isnt as hard as many say. But like everything there is a correct way of doing it. I certainly would suggest that advanced Freshwater keepers only should try saltwater. Aquarist must really know the basics of freshwater before attempting Saltwater where you have to learn new concepts that build on to your freshwater skills.
Like all fishkeeping, saltwater fishkeeping is what you make it. Beginner tanks would be Fish only to Fish only with Live rock(FO and FOWLR). Advanced and expert saltwater fishkeepers work on Reef tanks. Theres are fine line of knowing your own skill level as well as budget level.
Saltwater tanks will get expensive. So make sure you are willing to spend funds before attempting a Saltwater Aquarium. The following are my experiences as a beginner Saltwater Aquarist.
You will first need to do alot of planning. Figuring out what type of Saltwater tank you want to create is first. The level of difficulty is: Fish only, Fish only with live rock, and reef. Just like in Freshwater fishkeeping you will need the basic equpiment such as heaters, filters, aquariums etc…
As a general rule in fishkeeping, the larger the tank you start out with, the better. Larger tanks allow for more room for mistakes. Where as small nano tanks are less forgiving and can be changed to the worest just like that. So you might want to consider larger tanks to start out with. 29 – 55 gallons are good beginner tank sizes. Your going to want to get a glass lid with the tank.
Mixing saltwater is very easy. Most saltwater fishes live in water whose specfic gravity is between 1.020-1.024. This can be checked via hydrometer. A hydrometer is a must in saltwater fishkeeping. You need this to check the salinities daily. Since salt doesnt evaporate, water will leave the tank causing the tank to get naturally saltier everyday. So you will need to keep an eye on the specific gravity. Remember when saltwater is too salty, add freshwater. When the specific gravity is too low, then add some salt.
When you are setting up your saltwater tank, you want to rinse the tank with freshwater to make sure it is clean and make sure
Here is an article i wrote for EA
Welcome to the world of saltwater.
Saltwater and Freshwater have both similar but yet very different characteristics. Usually it would be a good idea to master the basic’s of freshwater before you move onto saltwater.
Freshwater and Saltwater tanks are the same. As in general fishkeeping it is always easier to go with a larger aquarium rather than a smaller one. Why? this is because with more volume of water, the more room for mistakes and generally more room for fishes. You will like always want a longer tank rather than a higher tank for surface area.
Marine tanks can work with either sand or gravel, traditionally it is best to go with marine sand as it is something that most fishes will see in the wild. Some fishes like some wrasses, gobies, blennies, will like to bury themselves in the sand and gravel can cause problems on the fishes skin.
Saltwater itself isnt that hard to make, simply start with any salt mix and mix it with freshwater and mix it. The ammount of salt used depends on the container that you make it in, and at which level you want the specific gravity to be. You will use a hydrometer which measures the salinty and/or the specific gravity of the saltwater you just made. Fish only aquariums can be in the lower range (1.018-1.024) but fish only with live rock, reefs, or tanks with inverts should be in the upper range (1.022-1.024). Saltwater can get complicated with measuring the calcium, iodine, strodium, alkalinity, carbonate, and other elements. Generally when you first start with a saltwater aquarium, you dont jump right into reef so at first you will really only need to make the saltwater and add essental elements about once aweek.
Freshwater and Saltwater filters are the same. your going to need mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration. Live rock will act as a biological filter as well. Traditionally in saltwater aquariums, adding nano rubble which is basically live rock that is broken up into smaller pieces is added into the biological filteration area in the filter. For larger tanks, sump filters are recommended. Refugiums can also be added to larger tanks where mircoalgae or cheto can be grown to help reduce ammonia levels.
Live rock is really a good thing to have in a saltwater aquarium. It not only adds structure but it is used for its beauty and biological filteration ablities. Live rock is collected from various regions and some pieces look different than others. Fiji, tonga, soloman island, caribbean, etc… these are all names for LR from their respective areas. Live rock is one of the most expensive aspects of saltwater keeping. Live rock can range from 5-13 dollars per pound on average. Live rock will need to go under a curing process. basically allowing it to sit in a container under nice lighting, protien skimmer and time will cure rocks and turn them nice colors and remove any odor they may have. curing usually takes around 2-3 weeks. LR is recommend at 1 to 1.5 pounds per gallon.
In saltwater keeping, lighting plays more of a role than it does in freshwater. The standard for saltwater is a 10000K white light and a 430mm blue actinic bulb. The wattage can vary, generally for a reef tank you want 4-5 watts per gallon. The standard lighting is great for fish only, FOWLR, and basic corals. For SPS(small polyp stony) and some LPS(large polyp stony) you will want to invest in MH or metal halide lighting. This is really the best form of lighting as of now but it will be expensive. Remember with MH you will increase your water temperature so you might need to buy a chiller for the aquarium.
Generally you will mix the saltwater and allow the tank and filter to run for about 2-3 days. At this point it is a good idea to get some live rock. you wont need to get all of it at once, but overall your going to want at least one pound per gallon. it is recommend that if your buying live sand that you add it after your tank is set up for a few days. about 3 days after the rock is in i would add the sand. Your tank will get cloudy and form will build at the top, generally skim the surface with a net. if you have a protein skimmer it will help but the surface foam is best removed by hand. once the tank clears which is about 1 day, you can sttart your cycling process. Damsels have been the traditional method but they are rahter hard to remove from the aquarium. you can go with hermit crabs and a shrimp to start the cycle. Once you begin your cycle you can leave the aquarium for about 2-4 weeks but you can contiune to add rocks.
Types of saltwater
Fish only is basically what this guide is for. Very easy and the basic saltwater tank, you should really start with this so you can learn the basics of saltwater keeping. Way to many people come into saltwater keeping and start with a reef tank and wonder why the corals die and the tank implodes. The next step is FOWLR or fish only with live rock. Live rock is very hard to mess up. Reef tanks are the hardest due to the amount of corals out there and they all have special conditions and needs. this is when you need to know the basics well and know the more advanced skills of water chemistry and knowing facts about corals, fish and how a reef aquarium fully works. The most important thing to stress is that not all corals are the same, families, aggression levels, lighting, placement, water flow, feedings, etc.. are all factors that you will need to know.