Why A Salt Water Fish Aquarium?


Saltwater fish aquariums are completely fascinating and amazingly beautiful.  They can contain all the colors of the rainbow and bring the ocean to you wherever you are.   They can contain thousands of creatures to watch and marvel at. It’s like having a rainbow biosphere in your living room.

So why do saltwater fish aquariums look so beautiful?

Well for one thing salt water fish can be very colorful and eye-catching—and  as a bonus a lot of them have very interesting habits and personalities.  Plus you can add a wide variety of marine life to your tank: snails, shrimp, crabs, live rocks and corals. Many of which require 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 will work well. Bear in mind however that tanks below 55 gallons 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 58 tank or a 75 gallon 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.

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.

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