Setting Up a Saltwater Aquarium Setting Up a Saltwater Aquarium

Many fish lovers entertain thoughts of bringing miniature versions of tropical ocean environments into their homes. Caring for the varieties of fish that live only in salt water carries its own unique challenges and rewards. Most marine species live in constant environments in the sea; therefore, they’re not as adaptable to changes as their freshwater cousins are. For this reason, greater care is needed when we keep them in captivity.

In the ocean, fish can move to other areas when natural catastrophes affect their habitats. In a tank they have no such recourse, so it is our responsibility to provide them with a nurturing environment. Our main considerations, when planning saltwater aquariums, is the water quality and temperature, feeding schedules, aeration, lighting, and hosting the proper density of fish in proportion to the size of tank.

Begin with the largest tank you can afford and house. Increased gallonage means more space for fish to move and more oxygen. The basic rule of thumb is 1 inch of fish per 4 gallons of water. Glass tanks work best. Avoid metal frames, upon which salt water is very corrosive. If in doubt about the sturdiness of the area upon which you want to set your tank, consider purchasing a commercially built aquarium stand.

A tank hood is essential, as it accomplishes several things:

  • preventing debris from falling into the tank
  • keeping fish from jumping out
  • helping the aquarium retain heat
  • and reducing water spillage and evaporation.

Some aquarium hoods come equipped with lights in their canopies. Otherwise, a separate light should be purchased – both to provide illumination and promote the growth of algae. Though algae is the bane of freshwater tanks, marine life benefit from the oxidation it provides.

A filter is needed to accomplish the cleaning that happens naturally in ocean habitats. Most aquarium filters utilize one of three methods:

  • mechanical filtering (whereby water is passed through a fine filter)
  • chemical treatment
  • biological filtration (where certain bacteria are utilized to convert waste)

These multiple filter systems are recommended for beginners. Filters also provide aeration and water circulation, but for saltwater fish it’s a good idea to also use an external air pump. Because of the way in which they breathe and also expel waste, saltwater fish work harder than freshwater varieties. Thus, they require more oxygen and food.

Aquarium heaters are essential to keep the water at a fixed level. Check with the dealer whom you buy your fish from about their temperature requirements, and never mix fish with different preferences in the same tank.

Tanks should sit somewhere out of direct sunlight, as this affects water temperature and algae growth. Also, if the fish live in a room with a lot of traffic then this will help them acclimate to people and not act skittish. Their water should be made from tap water mixed with synthetic salt mixes from a pet store. Ocean water has differently adapted organisms in it depending on where it comes from, and it may also contain pollution.

Once the tank is set in place with hood, filter, light, heater, gravel, treated water and whatever aquarium ornaments are desired, it’s ready to house and support the kinds of fish that one would normally need to take a trip to the tropics to see.

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