It doesn’t matter if you are new to the saltwater aquarium hobby, or a seasoned hobbyist, we can all use some helpful tips and advice. In this article, I will share 13 of the best tips for maintaining a saltwater aquarium. It’s no secret that keeping a successful saltwater tank requires education and effort. One simple mistake can be costly and destroy a complete reef tank. You can read about my $40 mistake that ended up in disaster here.
Here are the 13 important tips:
1. Have patience – Don’t rush a new tank
This is something that we all struggle with when starting a new tank. Most people are excited to get a new tank setup and running but trust me patience is going to be key. A successful saltwater tank needs time to mature in order to be healthy. Adding livestock too early is never a smart decision. Give your new tank a chance to succeed by being patient and giving it time to mature.
2. Plan ahead
Do your research ahead of time and plan out the things you need. This will save you money and avoid stress. If you plan to have a certain fish like a Yellow Tang, then a small tank is not an option. The same goes for equipment, plan ahead to ensure you have the right gear from the beginning.
3. Choose the right tank size
I see this happen all the time and am guilty of it myself. Choosing a tank that is too small for the livestock you plan to have, will have consequences. Not only that, but most hobbyists at some point will want to upgrade their tank. Who doesn’t want a big tank right? Save yourself the money and effort by having the right size tank from the start.
4. Choose livestock wisely
Not all fish, invertebrates, and corals are compatible with each other. It’s important to make sure the livestock you mix together in the tank will get along. Fish can fight over territory causing death and illness. Corals are known to sting each other and some will need to be strategically placed in the tank to avoid this.
5. Use a quality heater
Heater failure can lead to disaster in a saltwater tank. A good quality heater is generally affordable and does a great job. You can add a temperature controller to avoid overheating issues. Don’t cheap out on a heater! I have great success with the Eheim heaters. They are solid, durable, and affordable.
6. Consistency is key
In the saltwater aquarium hobby, your success is directly related to consistency. I have often said that consistency is key, and it is the most important factor in maintaining a successful tank. Prevent your water levels and parameters from jumping around, and your tank will thrive.
7. Have proper flow
Depending on the livestock in your tank, water flow is crucial. The main source of filtration in most saltwater tanks is the live rock. This will require a good flow rate from your wavemakers to be effective. Also, some corals like SPS require medium to high flow, along with certain fish. Proper flow is important for many reasons, and you should ensure the flow rate is proper for your tank. A good number to aim for is 20-30x your tank’s size in gallons. If you have a 50-gallon aquarium, a good rule of thumb is to have a wavemaker that produces 1000-1500 GPH. Read the Best affordable wavemakers for saltwater tanks here.
8. Use a QT tank
Quarantine tanks are something that not all hobbyists use. They are not expensive to set up and don’t require any fancy equipment. A quarantine tank is great for new fish to ensure they don’t have any disease prior to going into your main display tank. also if you notice a sick fish in your display, it’s very convenient to have a spare tank ready to go as a hospital tank.
9. Use RODI water
I mentioned in the article Do you need to use RODI water in a saltwater tank, how important it is to use quality water in your tank. Many people will argue that tap water is fine to use. That is not my experience and using reverse osmosis water will much better for your tank health overall. Read about the importance of RODI water here.
10. Mix salt for the proper amount of time
Not all salts mix the same. Depending on the brand of salt you use, it’s important to mix it thoroughly for the right amount of time as directed by the manufacturer. Normally, you should mix the salt until the water is clear and has reached the proper PH. Some salts will mix faster than others. Some people will mix salts for 24 hours and others for 1 hour. It also depends on if you are mixing a small amount for a water change, or a large amount to use over time. If you are mixing water in a 5-gallon bucket, you should be able to use the water after an hour or 2. Even sooner for some brands.
11. Invest in a cleanup crew
Investing in a good clean up crew for your saltwater tank is a great idea. Inverts like snails, crabs, shrimp can provide a huge benefit in keeping your tank clean of algae and organic waste. They help to keep your tank healthy and clean. If you have a larger tank, a cleanup crew can get quite costly. Snails on average cost $5 each and cleaner shrimp will cost about $20-25. It doesn’t take long for the price to add up so plan ahead to invest in a cleanup crew.
12. Use a quality test kit
As mentioned above, maintaining consistent water parameters is the key to a successful saltwater tank. In order to test certain levels like Calcium, Magnesium, Alkalinity, Phospate, and others, you will need a good quality test kit. A cheap test kit can give you inaccurate readings and color charts that just are not accurate enough to maintain consistency. This can cause you to make changes to your tank that may not be required. This can cause more harm than good. There are many great test kits available to choose from. Avoid the cheapest ones, and avoid test kits that are expired or difficult to read. I recommend the Red Sea test kits and the Hanna testers.
13. Use the proper amount of live rock
Live rock is one of the most important things you can have in your tank. Live rock is beneficial in many ways. Not only does it look natural, but it is also essential for the health of your tank. It is a food source for fish, hosts much of your beneficial bacteria, and can be used as your main source of filtration. Some people have different opinions on how much live rock you need in your tank. A general rule of thumb is 1 lb or rock per gallon tank size. So a 100-gallon tank should have 100 lbs of rock. That is just a general rule, you can have more or less. Some people prefer to put live rock in the sump and less in the display tank. I prefer to have plenty of rock in my display, depending on the size of the tank. Whatever looks natural and provides the needs for your livestock is what you should use. As mentioned earlier, lots of water movement and live rock can help keep your tank healthy and be used as your main source of filtration. Quality live rock comes with a hefty price though. It is common to see prices up to $12-15/lb. So plan ahead for that additional expense when starting a new saltwater tank.
So there you have 13 tips to follow that will help you maintain a saltwater tank. There are so many other great tips and advice you can read online and from other hobbyists. The saltwater hobby is a constant learning experience and there is something new all the time. Not all tips will be relevant for your tank, but choose the ones that are and use them to keep your tank healthy and stable!
Thanks for reading!
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