Saltwater accessoriesThis guide is for the beginner saltwater aquarist on how to setup a marine aquarium. The main things to consider when switching from freshwater aquarium to a saltwater aquarium are these, 1)The ocean is consitant in its water quality as in PH, Salinity, Nitrates,Oxygen and mineral content. These things must be maintained in a marine Aquarium. You need a substrate in your aquarium that will release calcium carbonates to maintain a high ph as in the ocean. Crushed coral, oyster shell, and limestone substrates(gravel) are perfect for this. They slowly dissolve in the water to balance the PH and release chemicals that keep the water like the ocean. Next you need a good salt mix to make the freshwater you use similiar to the oceans water. Instant Ocean, Ocean pure, Red SEA, all make salt mixes to do this. The third thing you need is above average filtration and aireation in your saltwater aquarium . You want filters with high flow rates(min 4x the size of the tank) in order to purify the water and break down the ammonia and nitrates. Aireation is important to the aquarium as it oxygenates the water and helps break of gases that are bad for you marine environment. Saltwater filtration specials Use canister filters, wet dry units and protein skimmers(skimmers use fine bubbles to churn the water and breakoff proteins and gases into a collection cup), plus wave maker powerheads(marine fish live in coral reefs with lots of wave action, and these units rotate sprays of water across the surface of your aquarium to duplicate this) and internal filters to do this.Keep in mind most saltwater fish are caught in the wild and not raised in aquariums and they must have conditions similiar to the ocean. One of the last things to remember is that saltwater fish, corals etc must have lighting similiar to the sun in order to thrive. Buy a good power compact light that duplicates sunlight at a ratio of 3 to 5 watts per gallon, ie 20 gallon tank=60 watts light. Last of all do research on marine aquariums go on forums, find a knowledgeable store to help you and be careful to find out what fish do well , and can cohabitate.
After keeping in mind these facts find a suitable aquarium for your saltwater friends, put crushed coral gravel in (after rinsing or it will cloud), fill the tank 3/4 with water and use chloramine remover at the correct dose, add your marine salt mix at about 5 cups for ten gallons. Install and acivate your filtration so it is properly working. After about an hour check the salinity with your hydrometer(Picture below in live rock desc,it measures how dense the salt mix is), If below 1023 add salt, if over remove some of the water and add fresh unit it is correct. It will take a while to get the hang of adjusting it.Then install heater(set about 75d), lighting decorations etc and wait about 24 hours and then you can add live sand and or rock and a few small starter fish.Make sure all decorations are suitable for saltwater aquariums. Decorations not only beautify the aquarium but allow realistic type hiding places to make your fish more comfortable.
Then decide by getting info on forums etc wheter you want fish, a reef tank and a combination of both.Remember add only a few items at a time until the tanks is at least 2 weeks established.Damsels are readily available and make inexpensive starter fish.The purpose of waiting about two weeks is this;fish produce both liquid and solid waste which are toxic to the aquarium at certain levels(measured by ammonia, nitrates and nitrates)these wastes are broken down bioligically in a similiar fashion to a septic tank. Organisms in the form of oxygen breathing bacteria(nitrifiers) eat and break down the waste.The two week break in period allows these beneficial organisms to multiply and do their job.The next section tells how to use live sand and live rock to bring in this organism to speed up the process.
Update: In setting up your saltwater aquarium live rock is a plus. For reef aquariums you want to purchase at least a half a pound of it per gallon.ie 50 gallon tank=25lbs live rock. You can add a piece at a time to do this or all at once. Please remember that the function of live rock is to establish your saltwater aquarium with good micro organisms that will help keep the toxic waste buildup down in your aquarium Each piece of live rock acts as a mini filter bed for your aquarium. Wait at least 24 hours to make sure your aquarium is at the right salinity (1023 use a hydrometer to test it) and that all the filters are working right and the temperature is correct. Live rock can be bought as uncured or cured rock. If an established aquarium it is better to add cured live rock(It has been in a holding tank 1 to 2 weeks and the dead micro organisms and algae have come off of it) Live rock is collected and shipped dry and may take up to a couple of weeks to reach a store or holding facility so some of it dies off. If setting up a new tank you can use uncured rock, just add to the aquarium, but wait at least 10 days for adding any fish or inverts other than damsels.Your ammonia , and nitrates will goe up as it cures(dying organisms break down into this).The addition of a protein skimmer will speed this along. Skimmers churn the water by either air or injection in a round chamber and cause the dissoved proteins, waste and gases to break off in the collection cup.(A must for tanks with corals, anemones and inverts(reef tank)
Last on the updates for now is this, you can purchase live argonite sand(ocean sand) with the good organisms in it, and use it with your gravel bed and it will fully support aquatic life almost immediately, I set up all my tanks with at least 50%live sand and put fish in immediately. Also you can take live rock or sand out of an existing saltwater aquarium and start your tank right away.It is also beneficail to take a percentage of water(20%) from an existing aquarium and put it in your aquarium.
When adding new fish be sure to acclimate them, since most are not used to artificial seawater. Many pet stores use real sea water and it is a shock to just pour them into your aquarium.Use the water the fish comes in and slowly add water from your aquarium to the container or bag you have them in.After ten minutes you should have doubled the amount of water they came in. (make sure you dont deprive them of oxygen). Another method I use is pour the fish in about a 1/2 gallon tuperware with water from the store. Take about 4 feet of aquarium airline tubing with a control valve on the end and suction water from the aquarium into the tuperware at a slow speed using the air control valve.
The newest trend in saltwater aquariums is the nano aquariums.These are usually of ten gallons aquariums down to as small as 1/2 gallon aquariums. Most of the setup is the same but remember due to the smaller size of the aquariums do more often water changes about 20% per week. many types of nano aquariums are available, aquapods(top pic) nano cubes etc and a lot of them come complete with lighting, filters aquariums etc. We carry a nice line of these units and accessories for such.