Starting A Marine or Coral Reef Aquarium

A marine aquarium is an aquarium that keeps marine plants and animals in a contained environment. Marine aquaria are further subdivided by hobbyists into fish only (FO), fish only with live rock (FOWLR), and reef aquaria.

Fish only tanks often showcase large or aggressive marine fish species and generally rely on mechanical and chemical filtration. FOWLR and reef tanks use live rock, a material composed of coral skeletons harboring beneficial nitrogen waste metabolizing bacteria, as a means of more natural biological filtration.

Marine fish keeping is different from its freshwater counterpart because of the fundamental differences in the constitution of saltwater and the resulting differences in the adaptation of its inhabitants. A stable marine aquarium requires more equipment than freshwater systems, and generally requires more stringent water quality monitoring.[1] The inhabitants of a marine aquarium are often difficult to acquire and are usually more expensive than freshwater aquarium inhabitants. However, the inhabitants of saltwater aquariums are usually much more spectacular than freshwater aquarium fish.

A reef aquarium or reef tank is an marine aquarium that prominently displays live corals and other marine invertebrates as well as fish that play a role in maintaining the coral reef environment. A reef aquarium requires appropriately intense lighting, turbulent water movement, and more stable water chemistry than fish-only marine aquaria, and careful consideration is given to which reef animals are appropriate and compatible with each other.

Its a lot of work and many [people use an aquarium maintenance service to handle it.

What equipment is needed? Most modern aquarium equipment is designed to be functional in either salt or fresh water, but it is important to select quality, reliable supplies. It hardly pays to save six dollars on a heater or ten dollars on a filter system and risk the loss of twenty or thirty dollar fish. Contrary to some opinions, under gravel filters are not essential in saltwater aquariums. Many of our customers have had success using the sort of equipment that we include in our “PRO” setups; deluxe heaters, outside power filters and air stones. The only necessary additions to a good freshwater setup are special gravel (crushed coral), sea salt mix, and a hydrometer.

Are saltwater fish hard to keep? Just as in freshwater, there are some species that are usually quite sturdy and some that challenge even the experts. The “Marine Care and Compatibility Table” portion of this guide is meant to help the hobbyist choose fish and invertebrates appropriate for his level of expertise. In addition, the individual specimen should be observed closely before purchase. Sometimes an individual or group of even the most hardy variety will have been subjected to just one too many changes, and will become weak or sickly or will refuse to eat. We will try to help in choosing healthy specimens as much as possible.

Checklist of Items Needed to Start an Maintain a Saltwater Aquarium

The items listed here are pieces of equipment and components that are fundamental for setting up and running a saltwater aquarium or reef tank system.

Aquarium/Tank

You need to decide where you want to put your aquarium, determine what size you want or may only have room for, whether you want an acrylic or glass tank, and choose a style that will best fit into the spot you have picked out to display it.

Lighting

The type of lighting you choose will be based on the type of system you have planned to set up, as well as what kind of livestock you will be keeping in it.

Skimmers, Filters & Filtration Equipment

Once again, what type of system you are going to set up will help you determine which kind of filters and filtration system to choose.

Powerhead

Depending on the size of your aquarium, the use one or several power heads is an excellent way to provide good water circulation throughout the system.

Live Rock & Substrate

Here you need to decide on what type of material you want on the bottom of the tank, as well as whether you want to start with a live or non-living medium. Live Rock plays an important role in a marine tank. Many marine animals, fish in particular, can be quite territorial. It is important to provide ample shelter or places where the animals can hide, sleep, and avoid potential problems with aggression from other tank mates in the confined space of an aquarium.

Sea Salt Mix/Saltwater & Hydrometer

Sea salts are what make an aquarium a saltwater or marine aquarium. Also referred to as a salinity tester, this item measures the specific gravity or salt content of the water.Heater &

Thermometer

For smaller aquariums one heater works well, but for larger systems the use of multiple units is advised. With stick-on, floating, multi-function remote digital sensor, and many other types of units to pick from, the material a thermometer is made of is an important factor when choosing one as well.

Air Pump & Air Stones

Only needed if you are going to run a piece of equipment that requires these items, such as a counter-current protein skimmer.

Test Kits,Additives & Supplements

For live rock and reef tank systems, calcium (a.k.a. limewater/kalkwasser) needs to be added. Other supplemental vitamins or additives that are beneficial to the health of certain marine inhabitants you may be keeping, such a iodine for crustaceans, are important as well.

Maintenance Tools & Supplies

This category includes having items on hand such as a various sized plastic buckets or containers, tank cleaning tools such as a siphon tube/hose, an algae scraper or magnet, as well as nets of different sizes, spare equipment replacements parts, and so on. A good way to keep track of what maintenance tasks you have preformed and when is to keep a log book or record of everything you do.