Saltwater Aquarium Setup for Beginners

Fish are popular pets in the US.

Indeed, a total of 13.1 million households around the country keep them.

It’s easy to understand why. Aquariums in the home become a beautiful centerpiece. The fish, and the tank they call home hold immense aesthetic appeal.

They’re lovely to look at and create a relaxing atmosphere too.

A saltwater aquarium setup, in particular, can make a great addition to the home. They open the door to wonderful, colorful and exotic fish that can only survive in saltwater.

However, there’s a fair amount to learn for newbies to saltwater aquariums.

The setup process is far from impossible, but it’s important to know what you’re doing. A bit of preparation in advance will help. Want to learn how to do it?

Read on to discover top tips for setting up your new saltwater aquarium.

saltwater aquarium

1. Speak to the Experts

Alas, there’s more to this process than pouring salt into your current aquarium!

In actual fact, there’s a fair amount of technical insight required. Everything from specific salinity of the water and measurement tools, to quarantining your fish to helping them avoid illness comes into play.

Totally new to aquariums, fish care, and saltwater setups?

Researching beyond this article may be required. We recommend speaking with a professional in advance. Various fishkeeping websites and resources are available to guide you.

With that recommendation out of the way, let’s move onto the practical advice!

2. Decide Where to Put It

First thing’s first: work out where you’re going to place the aquarium.

It’s worth putting serious thought into.

After all, it’s one thing to move an empty glass container. It’s another entirely to shift one full of water, fish, and equipment. These things get heavy.

Deciding in advance means you won’t have to worry about moving it around.

Look for somewhere with sufficient space and that’s out of direct sunlight. Algae likes the sun, and you won’t like the algae! Hence why it’s best to avoid the sun.

Prime saltwater aquarium real estate tends to be somewhere cool and well-ventilated. There should also be sufficient power outlets for the equipment you’ll need.

3. Find the Right Aquarium

Time to choose the tank itself.

This decision goes hand in hand with the location you’ve chosen for it. It’s no good buying an aquarium that’s too large for the space.

That said, if you’re determined to keep large fish at home, then you’ll certainly need a large tank.

At the end of the day, this decision is entirely personal. There’s no explicit right and wrong. Instead, figure out your specific needs and proceed accordingly.

Smaller spaces at home demand smaller tanks. In turn, smaller fish will be required to inhabit it.

It’s important to look to the future, though. See your saltwater aquarium as a long term investment. They take time to flourish.

There’s a reason parents buy their children oversized clothes for them to grow into! Take the same approach with your tank. Buying big is the best way forward. It prevents the arduous task of upsizing in the future.

Don’t forget the stand, either. Make sure it’s big and strong enough to support the tank.

4. Clean the Aquarium First

Adding your fish to a dirty tank isn’t a good start.

You can, in fact, do them a fatal disservice.

Create a healthy environment by cleaning the tank. This is the very first step when you’ve bought your aquarium. All you need is a clean rag and warm, freshwater. Don’t worry: as long as you aren’t fulling the tank up, the freshwater used for cleaning won’t do the fish any harm.

What will harm them is if you use chemical cleaners in the process. You don’t need them! Even worse, they can kill your fish.

A second key step to a clean tank pertains to the gravel dust or substrate you’ve chosen. This is what will line the bottom of the aquarium.

However, it’s usually covered in dust when fresh from the packet. You don’t want the dust! Pop the gravel/substrate in a sieve and rinse with water.

With that done, you can add it to the tank.

5. Fill the Tank

Finally, the fun stuff starts!

It’s time to fill your tank with saltwater and decorations.

Water first. There are different ways to do this. The easiest is to buy some premade saltwater solution. Want the cheaper approach? There’s far more to it, but you can do this yourself- just not with table salt!

You need specialized sea salt mix from the fish store. This will have instructions on the ratios (salt to water) you need.

Start by filling the tank one-third of the way. At this point, you ‘test the gravity’ for appropriate levels (again, an expert can help!). With gravity at the right level, you can fill up the tank.

At this point, you add the essential equipment. That includes the filter, heating system, and lighting.

Finally, it’s time to get decorating! Add anything you want, from coral (you can see here for one example) to vegetation and everything in between, to decorate your tank.

6. Cycle & Add Your Fish

Your aquarium’s looking awesome.

However, you can’t add your fish just yet!

It needs to go through what’s called a cycling process. Essentially, you need the biological filtration of the aquarium to get to a standard where fish will remain happy and healthy. This can take up to 6 weeks.

The process begins by adding a source of ammonia to the tank. There’s more to learn though. Be sure to research exactly how to do this before attempting it. Saltwater aquarium kits will facilitate this process.

With the tank cycled, it’s finally time to add your fish. Be sure to buy a healthy saltwater fish from a reputable dealer. After a period of acclimatization, you’ll be good to go!

Final Thoughts on Your Saltwater Aquarium Setup

There you have it: a selection of top tips for mastering the saltwater aquarium setup process.

Fishes and aquariums make great additions to any home. That’s why millions of households around the country decide to own them!

Saltwater tanks can be particularly special. Unable to survive in freshwater, suddenly, a wide range of new and exotic fish can be kept in the house.

However, it also makes for a more technical setup process. It’s important to install and prepare the aquarium properly.

Hopefully, the tips in this post will help you do exactly that.

Would you like more articles like this one? Search ‘fish’ on the blog now!


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