Below are few things every beginner should know before setting up a saltwater fish tanks. This guide is simple but thorough, but in any situation, there are so many mistakes a beginner is ought to make, and we can’t be able to cover all of them in this article. However, what’s in this guide increases the chances of getting a perfect home for your fish.
As with freshwater tanks, the bigger the tank, the better. 30 gallons for your first tank is highly recommended. A larger tank has large water volumes, which means more water parameters, but there is the advantage side of that ; if something goes wrong on the tank, it will happen a lot slower than in a small tank.
Type of a tank
There are basically three types of saltwater tanks; the Fish only, the Fish Only with Rock and reef tank. I would consider two of these types to be viable for beginners, but the Fish Only setup is quite difficult in terms of biological control. It’s also difficult to keep saltwater fish without live rocks.
Fish only with Live Rock (FOWLR) are the ideal tanks for beginners. They are typically less expensive, easier to keep, and no too demanding like the other two types. The live rock in them is a basically a fragmented piece of coral reef and other marine life including invertebrates, sponge, and beneficial nitrifying bacteria. This rock provides excellent supplemental filtration and helps maintain stable water parameters.
Reef tanks are much the same as the FOWLR but with added corals and anemones. The inhabitants on such tanks require special attention, so please do some research on lighting, water, and supplementation requirements before setting one.
Never use tap water for saltwater fish tanks. Although the tap water goes through the local water supply purification processes, there are impurities and chemicals that are still present in it. These impurities are not good for fish. You should always use reverse osmosis water or deionized water. Water flow is also important since fish prefers swimming through water flow, but more importantly, help in filtration. Pass water over your live rock, and if possible, position a powerhead towards the water surface to agitate the water. This way, a greater surface area will be created for air and water to mix and will help in oxygenating the tank. To maintain healthy levels of minerals in saltwater tanks, you will need to test the water, so buy a test kit.
Fish only or FOWLR tanks will work fine with standard fluorescent lighting, 1-2 watts of light per gallon, but a reef tank will require a little bit stronger lighting. This is because corals in the tank rely on photosynthesis which requires a substantial amount of light.
Having a salt water tank means maintaining a strict maintenance schedule to keep your fish and other inhabitants healthy. There are tasks that you must do every day without failing, some weekly, other bi-weekly or monthly. Therefore, make sure you understand what is required of you before setting up a saltwater fish tank. Always make sure the tank works properly, maintain proper temperatures and above all, make sure it has good salt levels before adding fish.