Category Archives: Salt Water Fish Aquarium

Fish Tank Beauty Outweighs the Aquarium Maintenance Work Needed.


Aquarium maintenance is a chore so why do it?  For me aquariums -saltwater or fresh water- are completely fascinating and amazingly beautiful.  I tend to prefer saltwater as they tend to be more colorful and seem to be able to contain all the colors of the rainbow and bring the ocean to you wherever you are.   They can contain thousands of creatures to marvel at. It’s like having a rainbow in your living room.

So why do fish tanks look so beautiful?

Well for one thing salt water fish can be very colorful and eye-catching—plus many have very interesting habits and personalities.  You can add a wide variety of marine life to your tank: snails, shrimp, crabs, live rocks and corals. Many of which require relatively little maintenance. And let’s face it corals are dazzlingly beautiful and add a lot of “wow factor” to your tank.  So how do you get started? Well there are several things to consider.


1) Fish only aquariums – Only fish with no other marine life. This makes them easier to take care of. Do you go tropical or cold water? You can’t mix them as they need different water temperatures. Broadly, because tropical fish are more colorful they are the most popular choice.

2) Invertebrate only aquariums – Only invertebrate creatures with no fish. Invertebrates include sponges, jellyfish, corals, hydroids, comb jellies, clams, snails, octopi, crabs, shrimp, sea stars and brittle stars.  It may sound boring but you can have a dazzling display if you do it properly.

3) Invertebrate and fish aquariums – A combo of the first two. Presents interesting challenges as some fish will feed on invertebrates & vice versa.  It can be very effective and beautiful once in place.

4) Coral reef aquarium – These types of aquariums are amazing to look at and a bit trickier to maintain. The reef itself is a living organism, so you have to know how to cater to the needs and requirements of this type of environment.  All in all this type will give you the biggest wow factor.

5) Specialty aquarium – Normally focuses on just one species. Damsels, sea horse or even octopi.  You can get quite a lot of variation in a species so it can present an array of colors…and less to have to know about 🙂

Where should I put my saltwater fish aquarium tank?
This has to be planned out. Do NOT plan on moving the tank after it is set up.  You’ll need a crane 🙂  So measure carefully and think about the space needed for cleaning/maintenance.  Aesthetically where will it look best in your room may not match the practical requirements. You need a strong and level floor with GFCI electrical outlets and no direct sunlight.  A 55 gallon tank weighs about 400lbs –most floors will take that load but the safest placement  is on an outer (load bearing) wall. You’ll find your placement plan will will often affect the size of tank.

What is the best size for my saltwater fish aquarium tank?

A basic 20-55 gallon tank can work well. Bear in mind however that smaller tanks below 55 gallons often need more maintenance and care. It sounds odd but in these smaller tanks water quality changes can occur more rapidly and they can get dirty faster = more cleaning and water changes. Get a larger tank if you have the space. It won’t cost that much more and will save you headaches in the long run.

What is the best material for my saltwater fish aquarium tank?
There is no “best” solution.  The majority of tanks are either glass or acrylic. Acrylic is stronger and lighter but can scratch more easily (young kids may be an issue) but even micro scratches build up over time as hands/clothing/cleaning rub against the surface. Glass is cheaper but it is more prone to breakage/cracking and heavier. My preference is acrylic.

What is the best shape for my saltwater fish aquarium tank?
The classic is the standard rectangular style.  There are other newer designs today, like a flat back Hexagon, Hexagon, Quarter Cylinder, Pentagon and corner units or all glass Bow Front, Corner and Hexagon designs.  If you can’t find the tank you want or that will fit, you can always get one custom designed.

What fish to start with in my saltwater fish aquarium?
The best fish to buy for novices are damsels (BUT note that damsels are also very territorial), saltwater-acclimated mollies, clownfish, blennies, tangs, and the lionfish.  Be careful not to mix aggressive and gentle fish.

-Aggressive fish : Angel fish are unique and striking. They dart all over the aquarium and help keep the tank clean by eating algae. Surgeon fish have sharp spines on both sides of the tail as a defense. They like to hide and prefer a large tank. Trigger fish are rectangular and come in several different colors. They got their name because their dorsal fin has a boney projection that helps keep them in position in rocks. Puffer fish look birdlike because they have a beak and strong jaws to eat crustaceans. They will eat out of your hands!

-Gentle fish: Dart fish are small, colorful, long and elegant. They are very active and can jump…so keep the lid on! Cardinal fish are very elegant with wonderful color patterns. They live in groups and will breed. Squirrelfish are very social and bring some vibrant red color to your tank.

What are the easiest invertebrates?
Shrimps, sea urchins and starfishes. Unless you are experienced, anemones should be avoided.  Some present challenges: sea squirts can release poisonous toxins, flame scallops and nudibranchs are very hard to feed, Tridacna clams and corals require strong lighting and octopi have a very short life span.  Read about reefs and invertebrates to make sure you get the balance right.

Should I use wild vs. raised fish for my saltwater fish aquarium?
Probably counter intuitive but wild caught fish are likely to be less healthy and less likely to survive in your tank. A multitude of issues cause this: intake of pollutants, bad handling or simple stress from travel from its exotic home.

What is live rock?
“Live” rock isn’t really alive … but it has many micro and macroscopic marine organisms that live on and inside it. The rock itself is normally calcium carbonate from the skeletons of long dead corals or other calcium based organisms.  It introduces algae, bacteria and small invertebrates which help the overall quality of the aquarium water.

What If I Don’t Want to Do the Aquarium Maintenance Myself?

That’s pretty common.  There are services available to do this.  It costs money of course but its worth it not to have to do all the work of cleaning and water changes.  After a while that gets very old. In my neck of the woods -just west of Boston MA the best aquarium maintenance and custom fish tank service provider is Fish Works.  They have been in business for over 25 years and have a fleet of vans for quick reliable service for both homes and businesses. reliable, and affordable.  They offer two services click what you want: Aquarium Maintenance or Custom Aquariums

How do I start a saltwater fish aquarium?

This is a huge topic that could go forever…but first things first…prior to buying equipment you need to decide some things. I think knowing the questions to ask can help guide you
1) Which type of salt water fish aquarium do you want?
-Fish only aquariums – Only fish with no other marine life.
-Invertebrate only aquariums – Only invertebrate creatures with no fish.
-Invertebrate and fish aquariums – A combo of the first two.
-Coral reef aquarium –amazing to look at if a bit trickier to maintain.
-Specialty aquarium – focuses on just one species.

2) Where should I put my saltwater fish aquarium tank? You have it set up but if you are changing over I am sure you get you should do this once otherwise have a crane handy. Think space, cleaning/maintenance,flooring, aesthetics, practicality.
3) Your 38gal will work well although tanks below 55 gallons need more maintenance and care
4) What fish to start with in my saltwater fish aquarium? Beware of mixing aggressive and gentle fish. You’ll find the gentle ones go belly up!
5) Consider using wild vs. raised fish for your aquarium.

I hope this helps but until the basics are decided its just not possible to give equipment ideas.

Will you help me pick a salt water fish aquarium setup for college?

Hmm going to college and worrying about your nano-reef.
I think you will find that you will have very little time to focus on a tank of any kind.
This will rapidly become a chore ..I speak from experience.
If you are set on having one in a dorm…go for one that requires the very least maintenance.
How about waiting a semester and seeing how things go?

Alternatively at the risk of sounding flip get a fish/frog poster 😉 or one of those white noise machines that mimics streams, wind, birds chirping and frogs croaking. I promise you 2 months in you’ll thank moi! College life is the best!

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