How to Start a Saltwater Aquarium

Saltwater aquariums provide the opportunity to keep exotic, colorful and tropical fish in a home or business. Owners say they are soothing, entertaining and a good way to relieve stress. Maintaining a saltwater aquarium is a little more time intensive than keeping up a freshwater aquarium. Start a saltwater aquarium with realistic expectations for a cleaning and maintenance schedule.


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    Select a fish tank. Saltwater fish and plant life are accustomed to living in the vast space of the ocean. Therefore, a sizable tank is necessary to accommodate the type of fish that will live in a saltwater aquarium. Tanks can be found in pet stores and specific fish stores. Previously-owned saltwater aquariums are also available on the market for less than brand new tanks.
    • When choosing the size, consider where the tank will go, and how many fish are expected to live in it. Allow 10 gallons (37.9 L) of water per fish. For example, 10 fish can live in a 100 gallon (378.5 L) tank.
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    Purchase the tank accessories. In addition to the tank, the aquarium will require a lid, a stand, a filter, a heater, an interior light, a thermometer and gravel for the bottom of the tank. A hydrometer will also be necessary to measure the salt levels in the water.
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    Set up the tank and accessories before adding the water or the fish. The tank will need to be located near several electrical outlets. Set up the stand and make sure it is balanced and level before placing the tank on top of it.
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    Test the tank and equipment. Fill the tank with freshwater and make sure all of the equipment works. Leave the water for 2 days and pay attention to any malfunctioning equipment or possible leaks. The water temperature should be within 2 degrees of 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26.7 degrees Celsius). Empty the water out of the tank after 2 successful days.
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    Add water. Saltwater mix will need to be added to freshwater in a bucket and added to the tank. Follow the directions for quantity on the package of saltwater mix. Mix until it is completely dissolved. Continue adding buckets of water to the tank until it is filled.
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    Test the saltwater. Take a reading with the hydrometer. An ideal salt level will be from 1.020 to 1.023.
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    Add gravel and plants to the aquarium. The gravel will line the bottom of the tank and can be mixed with sand, peat or even shells. Push any plants or other decorative pieces into the gravel so they do not float to the top.
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    Run the aquarium for 2 or 3 days. Make sure the aquarium works properly, maintains a proper temperature and has a good salt level before adding fish. You also want to make sure it is properly cycled.
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    Add fish. Put fish into the aquarium slowly. Start with 2 or 3 fish and then add more fish gradually.


  • Popular types of fish and plants include clown fish, shrimp, anemones, yellow tangs, blue tangs, seahorses, crabs, and coral.
  • Clean the tank every week. Change the water in the tank every 3 months.

Things You'll Need

  • Fish tank
  • Fish tank lid
  • Fish tank stand
  • Filter
  • Heater
  • Light
  • Thermostat
  • Gravel
  • Hydrometer
  • Tap water
  • Saltwater mix
  • Bucket
  • Plants
  • Saltwater fish

Article Info

Categories: Aquariums