The Fish Guru

All You Need to Know About Selecting and Designing Your Saltwater Fish Tank

Saltwater Fish Tank Selection: Everything You Need to Know

Saltwater fish tanks are popular among pet lovers who want to keep exotic marine species in their homes. However, setting up a saltwater fish tank is not an easy task.

It involves a significant upfront investment, attention to detail, and proper planning. In this article, we will cover all the essential aspects of saltwater fish tank selection, including budget, size, placement, shape, types, glass vs.

acrylic, drilling, and rimmed vs. rimless tanks.

Saltwater Aquarium Budget

Setting up a saltwater fish tank can be an expensive process. On average, a saltwater fish tank can cost you anywhere between $500 and $10,000, depending on the size and complexity of the system.

This amount includes the cost of the aquarium, equipment, substrate, and livestock. It’s crucial to determine your budget beforehand to ensure you get the best value for your money without compromising on quality.

Saltwater Tank Size

One of the most crucial factors to consider while selecting a saltwater fish tank is its size. The size of your aquarium plays a significant role in maintaining the stability of the aquarium’s environment.

It also provides ample space for the fish to swim around freely. Additionally, the size of the tank also determines how much live rock and other equipment you can add.

A rule of thumb in aquarium sizing is one inch of fish per gallon, but it’s recommended to plan for more space than this to avoid overstocking.

Tank Placement

The placement of your fish tank is crucial for providing a safe and stable environment for your marine life. Your fish tank should not be placed in direct sunlight, as this can lead to the growth of algae and cause temperature fluctuations in the water.

Additionally, the floor should be sturdy enough to bear the weight of your fish tank, which can be substantial. The placement should also be one with easy access to a nearby power outlet to plug in the necessary equipment, as well as away from any heating/AC vents that may affect the temperature of the fish tank.

Shape of Fish Tanks

Saltwater aquariums come in various shapes, including rectangle, corner, bowfront, and cube. Each shape has its pros and cons that you need to consider before making your selection.

Rectangular aquariums are the most common and provide ample swimming space for your fish. Corner tanks can save space and offer a unique angle for viewing your fish.

Bow-front tanks provide a better view of the fish and are suitable for creating perspective in your aquascaping. Cube tanks showcase a unique modern style but may limit the number of fish you can keep due to their smaller size.

Types of Tanks

There are four primary types of saltwater aquariums to choose from: standard, reef-ready, all-in-one, and custom-built. A standard aquarium is a basic tank without any drilling, sumps, or overflow boxes.

Reef-ready aquariums come with pre-drilled holes and overflow boxes, making it easier to set up sumps and other necessary equipment. All-in-one aquariums are self-contained systems that come with all necessary equipment and are suitable for beginners.

Finally, custom-built aquariums are uniquely designed and constructed to meet your specific needs. Glass vs.

Acrylic Tanks

Both glass and acrylic tanks have their advantages and disadvantages, making it essential to consider all the factors before you make your selection. Glass tanks are more affordable than their acrylic counterparts and are resistant to scratching.

They provide excellent clarity and do not discolor over time. On the other hand, they are heavy and need sturdy support.

Acrylic tanks come with a higher price tag but are lighter, making them easy to transport and set up. Additionally, they are known for their durability and are less likely to break or crack if dropped.

Drilling vs. Not Drilling a Tank

Drilling a tank provides more flexibility and helps to keep equipment hidden.

It also makes it easy to set up a sump system that can improve the water quality. However, drilling a tank is irreversible and may cause some transition challenges.

On the other hand, not drilling a tank is less invasive and requires no special skills. Hang-on overflows can be added to attach necessary equipment.

The downside to not drilling a tank is the limited equipment options, leading to cluttered aesthetics. Rimmed vs.

Rimless Fish Tanks

Rimmed and rimless tanks look different aesthetically, but each has its practical purposes as well. Rimmed tanks have a raised frame that provides extra stability and can support the weight of tank covers, lights, and other equipment.

They are also less prone to bowing over time, ensuring long-term aquarium stability. Rimless aquariums provide a sleek and modern design, allowing an unobstructed view of the aquarium.

They also do not trap dirt and debris, making them easier to maintain.

Final Thoughts

Setting up a saltwater fish tank is a significant investment, both financially and time-wise. Making informed decisions when selecting your aquarium size, placement, shape, type, glass vs.

acrylic, and drilling options can make the process more fruitful. Whether you choose a rimmed or rimless tank is largely dependent on personal preferences and what works best for your unique situation.

When it comes to the saltwater fish tanks, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, so it’s best to take your time, do your research, and make the best possible decisions for you, your aquatic pets, and your wallet. 3) Low-Iron vs.

Traditional Glass Tanks

When selecting a glass tank, you will come across two types: low-iron and traditional glass tanks. Low-iron glass tanks have become more popular in recent years due to their high-clarity and lack of a green tint, making them an attractive option for reef tank enthusiasts who want to showcase their aquatic pets.

However, there are pros and cons to each type that you should consider before making your selection.

Low-Iron Glass Tanks

Low-iron glass tanks are made with glass that is specially formulated to have a minimal green tint, providing high-clarity. This clear glass allows for a better viewing experience and helps to showcase the colors of the aquatic life and the aquascaping.

Some other advantages of low-iron glass tanks include:

1. Scratch Resistance: Low-iron glass tanks have a higher scratch resistance than traditional glass tanks.

2. Better Color Rendering: The high-clarity glass allows for a more accurate color rendering of the livestock and plants.

3. Attractive Look: The lack of green tint in the glass gives the tank a more sophisticated appearance, making it an excellent choice for modern homes and businesses.

4. Excellent for Larger Tanks: Low-iron glass tanks are especially beneficial for larger tanks, where the green tint of traditional glass may become more prominent.

Despite the advantages, low-iron glass tanks also have some downsides to consider. One of the most prominent drawbacks is their cost.

Low-iron glass tanks are more expensive than traditional glass tanks due to their special formulation. Additionally, low-iron glass tanks are prone to a slight blue tint, which can affect the aquarium’s aesthetics if not offset correctly.

Traditional Glass Tanks

Traditional glass tanks, on the other hand, are made with regular glass that has a green tint. While this can be noticeable, it may not be as detrimental to the overall aesthetics of the aquarium, depending on the overall design choices.

Here are some of the advantages of traditional glass tanks:

1. Cost-Effective: Traditional glass tanks are more budget-friendly as they are less expensive to manufacture than low-iron glass tanks


Widely Available: Traditional glass tanks are readily available, making them an excellent choice for those who don’t want to wait long for their aquarium to arrive. 3.

More Durable: Traditional glass tanks are considered more durable and can better withstand harsher environments, such as a house with children or pets. However, traditional glass tanks also have some downsides.

These include:

1. Green Tint: The green tint can affect the color rendering of your livestock, making them appear duller than they are with low-iron glass.

2. Limited Aesthetics: The green tint can limit your design choices and may not provide a sleek and modern look.

3. Scratches More Easily: Traditional glass tanks are more prone to scratching and may need more maintenance than low-iron glass tanks.

When choosing between low-iron and traditional glass tanks, it’s crucial to consider your budget, the size of your aquarium, your design aesthetic, and your overall goals. While low-iron glass tanks may have advantages as they offer better clarity, traditional glass tanks can still be a good choice.

The green-tint can be camouflaged or worked into unique designs and can work well in balance. Ultimately, the decision is highly dependent on personal preferences and needs.

4) Closing Remarks

It’s essential to be a well-informed hobbyist to ensure that your aquarium is successful for years to come. Understanding the different aspects of saltwater fish tank selection, including budget, size, placement, shape, type, glass vs.

acrylic, and drilling options, can make the process even more fulfilling. Knowing the types of glass used in aquariums and the differences between low-iron and traditional glass tanks can also help you make informed choices about your aquarium’s physical structure and design.

Lastly, for the budding aquarium enthusiasts, we have put together a list of the top 10 best saltwater fish for any reef tank. The reef tank is the most popular type of saltwater aquarium and home to exotic marine species that thrive in a coral reef environment.

These species are chosen for their compatibility with reef invertebrates, their coloring, and their overall ecological balance. The ten fish that made our list include:


Ocellaris Clownfish

2. Mandarin Dragonet


Royal Gramma

4. Firefish


Sixline Wrasse

6. Yellow Tang


Blue Chromis

8. Banggai Cardinalfish


Coral Beauty Angelfish

10. Flame Hawkfish

The beautiful and unique fish on this list can help you turn your reef tank into a captivating visual display and provide a healthy and diverse ecosystem.

In conclusion, selecting a saltwater fish tank can be a complex process, but an informed hobbyist can make the process easier and more satisfying. The article covered various factors to consider when selecting a saltwater fish tank, including budget, size, placement, shape, type, glass vs.

acrylic, drilling options, and low-iron vs. traditional glass tanks.

Understanding these factors can help you make informed choices when setting up your tank to ensure your aquatic pets live healthily and happily while providing you with an enjoyable and visually appealing hobby. Additionally, we provided a top 10 list of the best saltwater fish for any reef tank to give you some options when it comes to aquarium livestock.

Remember, every aspect of a saltwater aquarium is interconnected and requires careful consideration. Being prepared and well-informed is critical to creating a thriving, stunningly beautiful reef tank that will delight you for years to come.

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