Whether you’re on the lookout for a freshwater or saltwater aquarium for your scaly underwater friends, you’ll need to know exactly how to properly uphold an atmosphere for fish if you want for them to live more than a few days. Saltwater maintenance is akin to freshwater maintenance, dotted with a few notable differences (such as the type of water). But this guide will give you a general idea of how to go about establishing and conserving a saltwater tank, from purchasing the receptacle itself to what kind of fish are safe to put in it.
Keeping an ideally clean tank for your fish obliges you to do little things every day, every other day, every week, every month, every few months, and twice a year. Sounds like a lot, but it not nearly as bad as you think…lots of things that are not hard to do, and it’s totally worth having a gorgeous collection of healthy little ocean creatures.
1. You can choose either a glass or acrylic tank – which one is best for you depends entirely on what you want and how much you’re willing to spend. You should also figure out how big of a tank you want – make sure whatever size you choose will fit in the place it’s intended to go, too. Try not to situate the tank where it will be under direct sunlight, as this can mess with the water’s temperature.
2. Like freshwater fish, saltwater fish will prosper in a larger tank. This is because there will be more oxygen in the water for each fish if there’s more water in their home to begin with.
3. You can’t maintain a saltwater aquarium without salts, right? That’s what separates a saltwater tank from a freshwater one. Along with sea salt mixes, you should obtain a hydrometer, which will test the salinity (or salt content) of the water. Remember, too much salt can be a big problem – the reason nothing lives in the Dead Sea is because it’s 35 percent salt. The kind of sea salt you choose is really up to your individual tastes – quality, brand names and affordability can all be deciding factors, but one brand is not generally better than another.
4. Protein skimmers sound like some kind of pasteurization mechanism, but it’s actually something you not only need for a saltwater tank, but something you’ll need to check about once a day. This little apparatus eliminates waste from the tank before the water goes through the biological filtration system. Be sure to clean out the protein skimmer container daily (or almost daily) so it continues working properly.
5. A biological filter is another noteworthy stipulation for any kind of fish tank. Remember, fish live in water that is constantly moving, whereas water in a container will not move at all. This encourages buildup of junk, waste, debris, and dead things…all of which can make your fish ill. So you’ll need to invest in a good-quality filter to keep the water clean and inhabitable. No matter what size tank you’ve got or what fish are living in it, you’ll need a biological filtration system to deal with things toxic to fish, such as ammonia, nitrate and nitrite; these things are not removed, but the filter will use bacteria found naturally in the ocean to sort of neutralize those toxins and make them harmless…kind of like how when you combine baking soda and vinegar, the base cancels out the acid and you are left with something neutral.
6. Scrape any algae growing on the inside of the tank off too. Try as it might, a filter will not be able to suck algae off the wall of an aquarium.
7. Other filters may need to be used in conjunction with the one mentioned above. Other types available for at-home aquarium maintenance are canister filters and wet/dry (or trickle) filters. Some canisters are convenient biological, chemical and mechanical filters wrapped into one nice little package, too. Trickle filters process water toxins with amplified oxygen content; these are not only easy to install, but are relatively easy to build too – good for the handy fish enthusiast who wants to save a little money.
8. Fish require their homes to remain at a certain temperature – like humans, if it’s too cold or too hot, they will probably end up dying or just really sick. When it comes to maintenance, be wary if you’ve got a glass tank; when you replace the water (this is covered in the next step), the coldness of the water may react extremely with the surfaced heater and cause a crack in the glass…like how your car’s windshield may fracture in the winter if you throw hot water on it to defrost it.
9. At least once a week, you should substitute a portion of the total water in your aquarium. The amount for this particular task varies between sources, but the general idea is at least 15 percent and no more than 25 percent of the tank’s water should be replaced. Remember, your tank is not as vast as the ocean, and it will require water replacement a few times a month to remove any impurities that could harm your fish. You may even need to change the water twice a week, depending on the fish you have (like messy eaters).
10. Everyone experiences a power outage at some point in their homes…sometimes it’s just a one-second flicker due to a windy day, and other times the power’s gone for hours or days because something caught fire or exploded. Unfortunately, your aquarium’s ecosystem will begin collapsing within those couple hours without water circulation, filtration, or oxygenation. It may be costly to establish an alternative power source, but it will be even more expensive to have to replace everything in your tank. Be sure to take this into consideration, especially if you live in an area prone to power outages.
And that’s it! That’s enough, probably…but it’s quite honestly not hard to do. As mentioned previously, it’s a lot of little things that require small amounts of effort, and the payoff more than makes up for the effort needed. Continue reading Maintaining the Saltwater Aquarium Part II which will discuss the inhabitants!