Helping you keep your aquarium beautiful and healthy

Setting up a Saltwater Fish Tank

Saltwater fish tanks require a little bit more work and understanding than freshwater aquariums. Plan carefully before you begin so that you can set up a healthy home for your new fish.

The Right Tank

You will need a larger tank if you wish to keep saltwater fish. You will need at least 55 gallons to create a healthy environment. Remember, water stability is important for these fish, and a larger tank will be easier to keep stable.

The Right Equipment

Besides your tank and stand, you will need sand to fill the bottom of the tank to about three inches in depth. You will also need live rock, which will be the tank's biological filter. Purchase about a pound per gallon of water. Lighting, a heater, and a large filter are essential. To keep the tank clean, pick up a protein skimmer. A hydrometer or refractometer is a good tool to have as well. Finally, purchase a good water chemistry testing kit.

Setting up the Tank

With a new tank, mix the salt and water together in the tank. Measure the specific gravity with your hydrometer. It should be 1.025. Then, set the heater so that it keeps the water around 80 degrees. Let the filter run for 24 hours to stabilize the temperature and ensure the salt is completely mixed. Then, add your live rock.

You will need to let the tank cycle with live rock for several weeks before adding fish. This gives the good bacteria a chance to grow in the tank. These bacteria eat the ammonia your fish will excrete as waste. Once ammonia and nitrites test at zero with your water testing kit, the tank is cycled and you can add fish.

Each week, plan to change 10 to 20 percent of the aquarium's water, replacing it with clean saltwater solution. Also, as the water evaporates, your alkalinity increases, so you will need to add freshwater to the tank to compensate for evaporation on a regular basis. Always dechlorinate the water before adding it to the tank.