Saltwater Aquarium Setup

What is saltwater?

Saltwater is any water that contains at least some dissolved salts. Salt does not refer only to table salt (sodium chloride). Many different types of salts are dissolved in seawater including sodium, magnesium, calcium, and potassium. Seawater also dissolves many other chemicals from the air or from the rocks on which it has been evaporated.

What is a saltwater aquarium?

A saltwater or marine aquarium is any freshwater that contains salt water and fish that can only survive in this environment. The fish are called saltwater fish or simply marine fish. In fact, many species of fish live naturally in both fresh and salt water. They are called euryhaline species and are often referred to as brackish fish.

How to start a saltwater aquarium?

There are many different ways to set up your aquarium depending on your specific goals and budget. Here is an outline of the basic process:

  • Aquarium/Tank.
  • Lighting.
  • Heaters/Heating Equipment.
  • Live rock (for biological filtration).
  • Powerhead.
  • Aquarium Thermometer.
  • Air Pump
  • Fish Net
  • Fish Food.
  • Aquarium/Tank

There are various types of aquariums, but the most common type of saltwater aquarium is a glass cube or rectangular box.

Lighting for saltwater aquarium

For a saltwater aquarium, three types of lighting are generally used-the main lights and two auxiliary lights. The main light comes from a metal halide or fluorescent light. It produces a bright white-light spectrum. This is helpful in creating colors in the coral and other invertebrates that help them reproduce. It also helps bring out natural tones in fish like orange and green.

Heating Equipment for saltwater aquarium

Heating the saltwater aquarium is just as vital to keeping your fish alive as feeding them or cleaning the tank. The heater should produce around 15 watts per gallon. This will help maintain a temperature of about 78-79 degrees Fahrenheit for the Bio-Cube and 75-77 degrees Fahrenheit for the rectangular-shaped aquarium.

Fish require a temperature range from 65°F to 78°F (18°-25°C).

Live rock for saltwater aquarium

Live rock is an integral part of a saltwater aquarium, but it can also be the most confusing element to try and understand. Live rock is a foundational tool for the biological filtration required in marine environments that help maintain stable, healthy salt water parameters for fish and invertebrates.

The live rock provides surfaces where bacteria can grow to break down organic wastes from uneaten food or fish feces. These bacteria produce nitrates which are beneficial to the growth of healthy algae slime coat, food for small organisms living in your tank such as polychaeta worms and tube worms. Live rock also aids in maintaining a stable pH level by producing alkalinity.

Powerhead for saltwater aquarium

Powerheads are designed to enhance water circulation and make your life easier. The best way to install one is to place it below the tank where all the fish are so that it can circulate their water.

Aquarium Thermometer for saltwater aquarium

An aquarium thermometer is needed to measure the temperature of the tank.

Air Pump for saltwater aquarium

The air pump helps aerate the water and creates a more complex water movement than just using a powerhead.

Fish Net for saltwater aquarium

A fishnet is mainly used to catch and isolate certain fish in the tank so that they can be observed, examined, or cared for separately from other fish in the tank.

Fish Food for saltwater aquarium

The best fish food for saltwater aquariums is live or frozen. Live foods are both a tasty treat and a great way to keep your tank’s bio-filtration system running smoothly, but there is also a risk that it will make your water cloudy. Frozen fish food flakes are a convenient substitute because they do not have this side effect.

Using these basic items, you can easily build a saltwater fish tank

How much does it cost to start a saltwater fish tank?

The cost of a saltwater tank differs greatly depending on what you want out of your tank and how much work you are willing to do.

The cost of a saltwater aquarium can vary greatly, depending on the size and complexity. A basic starter tank costs about $100, while an elaborate one with wavemakers and other features might cost up to $5,000.

Can I use tap water to start my saltwater tank?

Tap water is a less expensive starting alternative to buying bottled water and has been used for years by many saltwater aquarium owners. However, it can contain chlorine, chloramines or other chemicals that aren’t ideal for your fish.

If you choose to use tap water it is necessary to dechlorinate the water before adding it to your tank. This can be done by simply adding a dechlorinator or conditioner such as Stress Coat, Prime, Amquel Plus, and similar aquarium products that come in pill form or liquid.

Do saltwater tanks smell?

Yes, saltwater tanks do have an odor although it is not necessarily always present. Saltwater tanks will often emit a particular smell when the water changes.

Saltwater can also capture smells from other things around the home, like cooking. Some fish species, such as clownfish, are known for a pleasant and somewhat sweet aroma that is noticed more so in the evening hours.

What type of fish does a saltwater tank support?

Saltwater aquariums are very diverse in their inhabitants with some people preferring to collect different specimens each time they add new fish while others prefer to only keep one type of fish. Saltwater tanks can support any type of live marine animal except crabs or land mammals. A saltwater aquarium can hold any type of fish, coral, invertebrate or marine animal except for terrestrial mammals.


To summarize, a saltwater tank can be a great way to get involved in fish keeping and make your own decisions about what type of setup you want. If you’re looking for a low-maintenance tank, you might prefer to go with an all-in-one system. This is not as customizable as some other tanks, but it is often more affordable and it eliminates the need to do additional filtering on your end.

Thank you for reading and I hope it helped you to know how to start a saltwater fish tank. Good luck!