A well maintained reef aquarium can be a truly stunning sight and a stunning saltwater aquarium with fish, corals and invertebrates is a dream for many aquarists. Keeping a marine reef aquarium does not have to be hard and here at reefaquarium.com, we provide you with the information you need to keep different types of marine critters happy and healthy.
- We feature beginners guides that will help you set up and maintain your first reef aquarium. More experienced reef keepers will find in-depth articles that help them take their aquariums to the next hobby.
- We feature species guides that help you choose the right marine species for your aquarium.
- You will also find a lot of DIY articles that will help you save money by building aquariums and equipment yourself.
The name of the website is Reefaquarium.com but we feature information on all types of saltwater aquariums. We want to provide the resources you need regardless of whether you want to set up a fish only aquarium, a fish with live rock aquarium (FOWLR), planted saltwater aquariums or a full-blown reef aquarium.
Fish only aquariums, fish with live rock aquariums (FOWLR), planted saltwater aquariums can be a great way to learn the skills needed to one day keep a reef aquarium but they can also be stunning, fascinating aquariums in their own right. That is one of the reasons why most, not to say all, dedicated reef aquarium keepers also keep FOWLR aquariums.
Saltwater aquarium fish
Fish are some of the easiest creatures that you can keep in a saltwater aquarium and most people start their saltwater journey with a fish-only saltwater aquarium. There are of course many reef fish species that require very advanced care to do well in an aquarium but there is also a lot of hardy species that are suitable for beginners. You should always choose easy to care for hardy species when you set up your first marine aquarium. Species that can survive even if you make a mistake of two. You should of course always strive to give your fish the best home possible but everyone does mistakes when first learning how to keep saltwater fish.
There are many easy to care for species that are suitable for your first aquarium. Among these, you will find many stunning Damsel species, common clownfish, powder blue tang (Dory) and many other species. Take a look at our beginners’ page to find examples of good species for beginners. All species that we recommend on that page is hardy, easy to find in the aquarium trade and is commercially bred in large quantities for the pet industry. It is always best to get captive-bred fish whenever possible. That way the wild populations will remain strong.
Make sure to read as much as possible before you set up your first marine aquarium. If you never kept an aquarium before it can be good to start with a freshwater aquarium before you graduate to marine aquariums and in time to a reef aquarium, Freshwater aquariums are easier to keep and are cheaper to set up.
Popular reef aquarium fish
Corals for reef aquariums
The use of soft and hard corals is what really sets a reef aquarium apart from other types of aquariums. A reef aquarium can use corals allows for every inch of the aquarium to be teaming with different types of life and colour. It is possible to achieve a similar result with plants in a freshwater aquarium but plants do not offer the variety in form and colour that corals offer. Expert reef keepers can even use macroalgae to introduce extra colour into their tanks.
There is a very large selection of corals available on the market today and many corals can be very expensive. It is not unusual to see small coral fragments of less than an inch sell for several hundred dollars. Setting up a reef aquarium with a lot of exclusive corals can therefore become very expensive. It can also be very profitable if you are able to get the corals to thrive and you chose to propagate them.
Many coral species can be very sensitive and they can be a challenge to keep. They need the right light conditions, the right water flow, the right water parameters and the right food to do well. You will also have to make sure that they do not end up fighting other corals. (Yes coral wage war and a slow-growing species can kill and grow over a slower growing species if you do not keep an eye on them.) We recommend that you start by getting cheaper more robust coral species for your first aquarium. You can gradually buy more expensive types as you become more skilled at keeping them,
Luckily there are a number of readily available easy to care for corals. A few examples of such corals include Leather corals, Duncan corals and frogspawn corals.
Read more about corals in our coral section.
Popular Corals for reef aquariums
Invertebrates for reef aquariums
Invertebrates fill an important function in all reef aquariums and we recommend that you keep invertebrates in all saltwater aquariums. The reason for this is that invertebrates can be a very good clean up crew (CUC) for your aquarium. Invertebrates such as snails, shrimp and crabs can get into the small crevices in your tank and clean up all food that ends up uneaten by the fish. It is always a good idea to have a cleanup crew consisting of invertebrates in all tanks. How large clean up grew you need depends on how large your aquarium is.
Invertebrates do not only serve an important function in your aquarium. They can also be very beautiful and interesting additions to your aquarium. There are countless beautiful invertebrates available in well stock saltwater aquarium stores. A few examples of popular and stunning marine invertebrate species include the peppermint shrimp, the blood-red fire shrimp, the sexy anemone shrimp and the harlequin shrimp.
Bubble Tip Anemone
Is a reef aquarium worth the effort
Setting up and keeping a reef aquarium can seem like an overwhelming task when you first start to read of all the equipment you need to buy and all the care that is required to keep a thriving reef. I can however promise you that it is worth all the effort it takes to set up your first saltwater aquarium. I recommend that you start by setting up a fish-only saltwater aquarium (with some invertebrates to help keep it clean. Once you feel that you have learned enough you can ad live rocks to the tank to turn it into a Fish-only with live rock aquarium. Once your FOWLR aquarium has established itself well you can start adding corals to it and slowly turn it into a reef aquarium at whatever page you and your wallet feel comfortable with. This way you can learn as you go along and I promise you that you will love every step of the journey. Make sure that you start with an aquarium that is large enough to be turned into a reef aquarium. If you start with an aquarium that is too small you might have to set up a new aquarium when you want to take the next step of your journey. Although this might not be a bad thing since most fish keepers end up keeping several aquariums before they know it.
Below you will find links to different resources that I think are worth highlighting. These websites can help you when you want to get an aquarium or afford an update to a bigger aquarium. This is only a small selection of the websites we recommend. You can find a larger selection of recommended resources on our Resource page:
Daytrading is a website about trading and investing. It is my go-to when I discover financial terms that I do not understand. Daytrading.com have helped me make more money from my investments. Money I have invested wisely in new fish and tanks.
Aquatic Community is our sister site. There you can find information about all types of tropical fish. The main focus is on freshwater fish but the website also features a large marine section. Please feel free to visit our forum.
Investing.co.uk is a UK based investment website that features information on most trading related topics. It is a good stop when I want to know more about local trading regulations surrounding financial instruments such as CFDs and CFD brokers.
Reef builders is )in my opinion) the best source of saltwater aquarium news. They feature daily articles about new equipment, new captive bred species and unique on of a kind fish.
Remember that reef tanks are very heavy and filled with water. It is important that you consider safety issues before you place and set up a marine tank. You will need to choose a place where the floor is strong enough to support the weight of the tank. A large tank can weigh several thousand pounds. The weight of the tank might cause damage to your floor if the floor is not strong enough to support the tank. In a worst-case scenario, the aquarium can fall through the floor. It is also important to remember that your reef tank will be filled with water and that water can cause water damage if the aquarium breaks. This is rare but can happen. Either due to the aquarium being old or due to it being accidentally hit by something. There is also a risk that the plumbing of the tank starts leaking. Make sure that you have home insurance that cover water damage if your aquarium ever starts leaking.
Reef aquarium - How to keep, care for and setup a saltwater aquarium? ›
Saltwater aquariums sometimes come with a particular rumor of being difficult to maintain. The reality is, a basic saltwater aquarium is really no more difficult than a freshwater aquarium. The only difference is your adding some synthetic sea salt into the water to make it saltwater.How hard is it to set up and maintain a saltwater aquarium? ›
Saltwater aquariums sometimes come with a particular rumor of being difficult to maintain. The reality is, a basic saltwater aquarium is really no more difficult than a freshwater aquarium. The only difference is your adding some synthetic sea salt into the water to make it saltwater.What are the disadvantages of saltwater aquarium? ›
Saltwater aquarium in particular can be more expensive. And they are a bit more precarious to maintain than their freshwater counterparts. They generally require additional equipment, additional work during water changes and also require special lighting.How often should you do a water change in saltwater reef tank? ›
The most important part of saltwater fish tank maintenance is to keep water change as a regular routine. On average, changing the water of the aquarium should be every two weeks. It is recommended to use a siphon to vacuum the gravel and at the same time, be able to extract water.What is the easiest reef tank to maintain? ›
Soft Corals - The easiest by far is a soft coral and polyp tank. Some might call them “beginner” corals and generally have the common names of leathers, zoanthids, palys, mushrooms, and star polyps.How many hours should a reef tank be on? ›
Essentially, the ideal time to have your lights on full is between 9 and 12 hours. Providing ramp up and ramp down time if possible. This gives the coral enough time (roughly 9 hours) to grow and reward from the photosynthesis.How often does a saltwater tank need to be cleaned? ›
Another important saltwater aquarium maintenance task is to to clean your aquarium filtration and replace the filter media. Every week or two you should open the filter, replace the filter media, including carbon and GFO, and rinse the filter itself to remove any algae or other buildup in the filter.
The first thing you will add to your tank is a cleaning crew. Cleaning crews consist of various hermit crabs and snails that will help keep your tank clean. For reef tanks, Mexican Turbo snails and your average red legged hermit crabs are cheap and hardy, making them perfect for your first animals.How expensive is it to start a saltwater tank? ›
Most people will probably spend $500 to $1000 for a brand new saltwater tank and all of the necessary supplies within the first year. Over the next 12 months, you can double that start-up cost to budget for fish, corals and new equipment.What do I need to know before buying a saltwater tank? ›
Salt levels in a saltwater aquarium are just as important as pH levels in a freshwater tank. Just follow the instructions on the package of the saltwater blend and mix until completely dissolved. Always keep your salt levels between 1.020-1.023. The second thing you should know about saltwater aquariums is filtration.
How long do you have to wait to put fish in a saltwater tank? ›
A: Make sure all of the equipment has been running successfully for several days prior to adding any fish. Your temperature should not be fluctuating, and the salinity should be stable. We would recommend waiting a minimum of three days, but preferably seven days, to be sure all is stable and safe for the first fish.How long do you have to cycle a saltwater tank? ›
Keep in mind you'll want to allow for at least six weeks for your tank to cycle before purchasing all the fish you will want. You must add the fish only a few at a time into the aquarium during the cycling process to not overwhelm the growing nitrifying bacteria.Are saltwater tanks hard to set up? ›
Building a saltwater aquarium today is easier than it has ever been before. With the right equipment and easy access to good information, you can have your tank set up in a matter of hours. Keeping a couple of saltwater fish will be no more difficult than any freshwater tank or backyard pond.Do saltwater aquariums need sand or gravel? ›
What sand is good for saltwater aquariums? Aragonite sand, crushed corals and oolite are all safe options for saltwater aquarium sand. You can also choose other substrates, like clay or gravel. The sand you choose depends on the fish you plan to keep as well as any live plants you want to grow.Is it expensive to run a saltwater aquarium? ›
Saltwater Aquariums can cost anywhere from $15-$200 per month on average to run and maintain. The cost of electricity water, filter media, and salt can all be broken down into a rough monthly budget. Most items will last several months but if a little is put aside each month it helps.Do saltwater fish need to be fed every day? ›
It just depends on the particular species of fish. Some fish eat 1-2 weekly, while others need to eat constantly, 5 times per day or more.Are reef tanks hard to maintain? ›
The short answer is NO! In the past, saltwater aquariums were thought of as being mysterious and difficult to maintain. At the time that may have been true, but that's no longer the case today.What is the best temperature for a reef tank? ›
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration states that the optimal range for coral to thrive is between 73 and 84 degrees F. 1 So it is probably best to keep your aquarium well within this range to start.What is the best reef tank for beginner? ›
In general, a 40 gallon breeder or 60 gallon breeder tank (which replaced the 55 gallon tank) are recommended as the best tanks for beginners. Both of these tanks are standard in size, keeping equipment relatively inexpensive and easy to find.What do I need for a successful reef tank? ›
- Aquarium/Tank. ...
- Lighting. ...
- Skimmers, Filters & Filtration Equipment. ...
- Powerhead. ...
- Live Rock & Substrate. ...
- Sea Salt Mix/Saltwater & Hydrometer. ...
- Heater & Thermometer.
Should I turn my reef tank lights completely off? ›
To sum up, fish is not necessary to turn on the lights all day. Aquarium lights at night it is best to turn off, as for the specific time of the switch you can refer to the sunrise and sunset time.Should I run a UV sterilizer in reef tank 24 7? ›
An aquarium UV steriliser should be switched on and running for 24 hours per day, every day. Exceptions would be setting the tank up before there are any fish in it, adding beneficial bacteria to the water, as UV light kills bacteria, or if you are using a medication that stipulates that UVs should be turned off.How long should the lights be off in a reef tank? ›
Here are our recommendations for fish-only, freshwater planted-tanks and reef tanks. For lights that simply turn on and off, you should leave your lights on for 6-8 hours a day. Even though the sun is up far longer than this, the sun does not shine at full strength all day.Should I add aquarium salt every water change? ›
Note: aquarium salt does not evaporate or get filtered out.
As water evaporates, the salt is left behind. Therefore, only add salt (in the proportionate amount) when doing water changes.
Carbon will become exhausted, for the most part, within the first week of use inside a reef tank. For this reason, we suggest replacing carbon every 1-2 weeks alongside your regular scheduled maintenance (water changes).Should I add fish or coral first? ›
Adding corals first is fishless cycling with a difference. It's better for fish, better for corals and you'll experience less erratic water quality issues as a result.How much aquarium salt do you put in a 1 gallon tank? ›
Add 1 rounded tablespoon for every 5 gallons or 0.5 teaspoon for every gallon of aquarium water.How many snails should I have in my saltwater tank? ›
About one snail per five gallons of tank size is recommended. The aquarium system should be established for at least few months before introducing this voracious scavenger.Do you need coral in a saltwater tank? ›
Coral helps to create balance in a fish tank, so it's wise to buy saltwater coral if you have a plethora of fish, crabs, and other sea life. Certain species of crabs, shrimp, and even fish have symbiotic relationships with corals and can benefit greatly from having them in the aquarium.How many fish can I put in a 5 gallon saltwater tank? ›
The short "Rule of Thumb" answer generally accepted in the marine aquarium hobby is: "One inch of fish (measured from the nose to the base of the tail) per 5 gallons of system saltwater." The normal response to this answer is: "Is that all?
How deep should a saltwater tank be? ›
Robert Metelsky, the author of Simplified Reefkeeping, recommends a thickness of approximately 1-3/4 to 2 inches, which is about the average depth used in most saltwater aquariums. This substrate depth works well as a pad for live rock and corals as well as giving the tank a "natural" look.How many fish should be in a saltwater tank? ›
While many variables affect that answer, a general rule is to stock no more than ½ an inch of fully grown fish per gallon of water in your aquarium. For example, if you have a 30-gallon aquarium, ideally stock no more than 15 total inches of fully grown fish.Do saltwater tanks need a heater? ›
Saltwater Fish Tank Heater
A quality fish tank heater is vital to your saltwater tank. Marine life is frequently from warm water, meaning you will almost always need to heat your tank, unless you live somewhere warmer than the tank needs, in which case, you may need a chiller.
Your tank should survive for 2-3 days without the filtration, heater, or lighting so long as you have a powerhead moving the water. Temperature, water quality, and lighting really only become a threat during prolonged outages.Do you need live rock in saltwater tank? ›
Live rock is an essential part of any saltwater or reef tank but you do not necessarily have to spend a small fortune to buy it. By making your own live rock you can save money and you can completely customize it to suit the needs of your fish and your particular tank.What is the fastest way to cycle a saltwater tank? ›
Bottled nitrifying bacteria cycle is the fastest way to cycle an aquarium. Some of the most popular products include Fritz Turbostart, Dr. Tim's One and Only, or Microbater Start. These products work quickly and can have your tank ready in little time.What size saltwater tank should a beginner get? ›
The ideal size saltwater tank for a beginner is 20-30 gallons (76-114 liters). Saltwater tanks in this size range are commonly available, inexpensive, and require less maintenance than larger-size tanks. You can always upgrade to a larger tank, once you get the hang of it.How do you cycle a saltwater tank for beginners? ›
During the cycling process, you need to go through all three steps, ammonia spike, nitrite spike, and nitrate accumulation. If for some reason you decide to clean your tank or do a water change after seeing a spike in ammonia, you're going straight back to square one and will have to start the process all other again.How do I know my saltwater tank is ready for fish? ›
Once you have a zero ammonia reading for 2-3 consecutive weeks, the tank is cycled and ready for more fish and other animals. To watch the process even closer, you can also monitor nitrite and nitrate levels as well as the ammonia.Should I use carbon when cycling a saltwater tank? ›
When it comes to biological filtration the biggest key is to not add anything that you may remove, since it may be removing the beneficial bacteria colony along with it. Carbon is highly debated but if you cured your rock properly and used it during the curing process, its use should not be needed during the cycle.
What are the cons of a saltwater tank? ›
Saltwater aquarium in particular can be more expensive. And they are a bit more precarious to maintain than their freshwater counterparts. They generally require additional equipment, additional work during water changes and also require special lighting.What is the easiest saltwater tank to take care of? ›
Soft Corals - The easiest by far is a soft coral and polyp tank. Some might call them “beginner” corals and generally have the common names of leathers, zoanthids, palys, mushrooms, and star polyps.Is it expensive to start a saltwater aquarium? ›
To buy and equip a saltwater aquarium can be as low as $500, with most averaging around $2000-$3000. A rough monthly budget to run a saltwater aquarium is around $25 – $100 per month based on tank size.How much time does it take to maintain a saltwater aquarium? ›
Plan on a six week cycle. Rushing this natural process will only lead to frustration and ultimate failure. Commitment. If you are going to service your own saltwater aquarium, you need to commit yourself to performing the required maintenance chores on a regular and consistent basis.What is a good size saltwater tank for a beginner? ›
In general, a 40 gallon breeder or 60 gallon breeder tank (which replaced the 55 gallon tank) are recommended as the best tanks for beginners. Both of these tanks are standard in size, keeping equipment relatively inexpensive and easy to find.How long does it take to cycle a new saltwater tank? ›
It may take a saltwater tank longer to cycle compared to a freshwater tank. Keep in mind you'll want to allow for at least six weeks for your tank to cycle before purchasing all the fish you will want.How much does a 30 gallon saltwater tank cost? ›
Remember that a typical 30-gallon tank is $200, while a smaller 15-gallon tank costs $100. A reef aquarium is a type of marine aquarium that includes live corals and other invertebrates in addition to fish.How much electricity does a saltwater fish tank use? ›
A medium tank (30 Gallons) will run between 150 – 200 kWh per year, while a large aquarium (55 Gallons) needs 200 – 400 kWh per year. These values are calculated while considering the basic equipment required and serve as an average only.
This way, you can prevent small ammonia spikes to kill off life in your reef tank. Using an aquarium sand siphon, slowly clean the sand in small sections. Pick a side of the tank and clean 25% of the sand each week during your weekly water change. If the sand is really bad, maybe do a bit less.Can you put fish in saltwater tank right away? ›
Wait a few weeks with a cleanup crew before adding a fish and make sure you have stable water parameters, most importantly salinity and temperature.