9 Best Saltwater Tank Maintenance Tips(For Awesome Results)

Maintaining a saltwater tank is not difficult providing you follow some guidelines and get into a routine that works for both you and your aquarium.

There are many different tasks and maintenance items that should be implemented to keep a successful saltwater tank.

But not all of these tasks need to be done all at the same time.

Having a schedule for specific maintenance items on certain days is a great idea and keeps things organized and effective. 

There are things that will need to be done on a daily, weekly, monthly basis to help keep your tank healthy and looking great.

Here are 9 of the best saltwater tank maintenance tips for you to add into your routine.  

#1. Use a checklist

Having a checklist for your maintenance items is a great idea. Checklists will prevent you from missing items or making a mistake. A checklist with daily, weekly, and monthly tasks is very effective and helpful.

You can easily research and make a list of items that your tank needs. Keep in mind that not all tasks will be the same for every tank. All tanks are different and will have specific needs at certain times. Read more on maintenance checklists here.


#2. Clean your equipment

Dirty equipment is not as effective as clean equipment is. If you want your aquarium gear to perform it’s best, it will need to be cleaned on a regular basis.

It’s common for most equipment to get covered in salt creep and algae over time which will build up and reduce its effectiveness.

A good example is return pumps, filters, and wavemakers. You should periodically take apart your equipment and clean all parts including impellers, intake tubes, and anything else that can get clogged.

For the most part, this task can be put on the monthly routine list. Keeping your equipment clean will keep everything running the way it should and last as long as possible. 



#3. Test water parameters


Maintaining a saltwater tank is only possible if your water parameters are both within limits and stable. Consistency is key with water levels and it’s important to prevent parameters from fluctuating.

Some of the main levels to test for include:

  • Nitrate
  • Phosphate
  • Ammonia
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Alkalinity
  • Temperature
  • Salinity
  • PH

Using a good quality test kit is important to provide accurate results. Some of the lower-priced kits are not reliable and are confusing to use.

I recommend using the Hanna testers or Red Sea test kits.

You can read more on saltwater test kits here. 


#4. Perform water changes

Water changes are a maintenance task that not everyone likes to do. It can be difficult to perform water changes on a regular basis but it’s important to do them. 

If you want to maintain the health of your fish and corals while keeping your tank clean, you must do water changes. It will help to keep your water looking crystal clear and in balance.

Water changes also reduce the amount of pollutants in the water. Ammonia, nitrates, phosphates are all removed by performing water changes.

I like to use a calendar and schedule my water changes throughout the month. 

water change schedule


#5. Replace filter media/socks

The use of filter media can be very effective in reducing pollutants and contaminants in the water. Depending on what you are using the media for that is.

Filter media can either be mechanical, chemical, and biological. Activated carbon is a commonly used media and is effective in keeping your water clear, removing odors, build-up of toxins, and more.

Carbon will need to be changed out regularly as it loses its effectiveness over time. Other filter media like GFO, and other phosphate removers will also need to be replaced. 

Filter foam, padding, and socks will also need to be cleaned or replaced quite often as they can get clogged easily. Filter socks should be cleaned every few days for the best results.

Here is a complete guide to cleaning filter socks. 



#6. Change bulbs in T5 lights

This is something that often gets overlooked. But if you are lighting your tank with a T5 lighting system, remember to change out your bulbs on a regular schedule.

There are a few variables that affect when the bulbs need to be changed, but on average they need to be replaced between 6 months to 1 year. The average being 9 months.

When changing the bulbs, it’s important to only change them out 1 or 2 at a time. If you have a 6 or 8 bulb lighting unit, this could take a few weeks to have all the bulbs replaced as new.

New bulbs will have double the PAR output as old bulbs, so to avoid shocking your corals, replace the bulbs over a period of time. 1 or 2 bulbs can be replaced each week. 


#7. Use an auto top off (ATO)

Water in your tank will naturally evaporate over time. If this water is not replaced with RODI water, the salinity levels will rise. Salt does not evaporate but water does. You might choose to manually replace this water each day or you can automate the process with an auto top-off system.

Using an ATO is not only convenient, but it allows for stable water parameters as they replace your tank with fresh water as it evaporates. Auto top-off systems are an important piece of equipment that you can easily add to any saltwater tank.

I recommend the Tunze Osmolator ATO as they are very reliable and affordable.

More on auto top off systems here. 



#8. Keep sump/refugium clean of debris and detritus

It can be frustrating at times to see your sump and refugium tank pile up with debris and look very dirty. As part of your maintenance routine, it’s a good idea to clean out all detritus and debris from your sump.

Not only will this keep it looking great but it will improve your water quality and keep your sump running as effectively as possible.

Debris build-up only has negative effects on your system and it should be removed when necessary. 


#9. Test equipment functionality

Over time it’s possible that equipment can malfunction and break down. Regardless if it’s a return pump, wavemaker, filter, heater, your equipment should be checked to ensure it’s operating properly. I always use a heater controller to prevent my heater from malfunctioning. This is very important.

I experienced a heater getting stuck in the on position when I did not have a heater controller at the time. My whole reef tank was destroyed and there was nothing left in the tank to salvage.

It was a very costly mistake and was sad to experience. A very affordable piece of equipment would have saved my tank. I use this heater controller. 

So always check your equipment periodically to make sure everything is running the way it should. A simple check can save you plenty of headaches. 



There are many maintenance tips that you can incorporate to ensure your tank is healthy. This list is not complete but hopefully, these 9 tips are helpful and you can use them to your advantage. One of the best things you can do for longevity in the saltwater hobby is to keep consistent with your maintenance routines. Your tank will be happy if you do.