The Fish Guru

From Tank Size to Fish Selection: A Beginner’s Guide to Saltwater Aquariums

Saltwater For Beginners: Checklist for Setting Up a Saltwater Tank

If you’re considering setting up a saltwater aquarium, you’re in for a real treat. Saltwater tanks are beautiful, fascinating, and rewarding to maintain, but they do require some effort and planning.

This checklist will help you make sure you’ve considered all the key components of setting up your saltwater tank. 1.

Choose the Right Tank Size

The size of your tank is an important consideration for your budget, your available space, and your desired level of biodiversity. For beginners, a tank that’s between 20 and 40 gallons is a good place to start.

You’ll have plenty of room to accommodate a variety of fish and invertebrates, but it won’t be so large that it’s overwhelming to maintain. 2.

Get the Right Equipment

To properly maintain a saltwater aquarium, you’ll need to acquire the right equipment. Here are some items to consider:

– Aquarium: As mentioned, choose one that’s an appropriate size for your needs.

– Protein Skimmer: This device helps to remove organic waste in the water. – Filtration System: Mechanical, biological, and chemical filters can help keep your tank clean.

– Heater: Saltwater tanks need a consistent temperature of around 78F. – Lighting: Choose lighting that’s appropriate for the type of corals you plan to add.

– Test Kits: Test your water parameters regularly to ensure that they’re within the ideal range. 3.

Use the Right Substrate and Decorations

The substrate you choose can have a big impact on the health of your aquarium. Live sand, crushed coral, or aragonite are good options.

Adding rocks, caves, and other decorations can create a more natural-looking environment and give your fish places to hide. 4.

Choose the Right Water

Using tap water isn’t recommended for a saltwater aquarium because it contains chlorine and other harmful elements. Instead, you’ll need to use either a reverse osmosis (RO) system or purchase pre-made saltwater from a reputable source, like a pet store.

5. Cycle Your Tank

Before you add fish or other creatures to your tank, it’s important to cycle your tank.

Cycling involves introducing bacteria that will break down waste in the water. This process can take several weeks.

6. Add Live Rock

Live rock is a type of aquacultured rock that contains bacteria, invertebrates, and other organisms.

Adding live rock can help introduce the necessary bacteria to your aquarium. 7.

Add Your Fish and Invertebrates

After your tank has cycled, it’s time to add your fish and invertebrates. Start with just one or two fish and slowly add more over the coming weeks.

Be sure to research the compatibility of different species before adding them to your tank.

Difficulty Level of Maintaining a Saltwater Tank

Once your saltwater aquarium is up and running, you’ll need to devote some time and effort to properly maintain it. Here are some of the key areas you’ll need to focus on:


Water Parameters

In a saltwater tank, it’s critical to maintain the right water parameters. This includes having appropriate levels of pH, salinity, ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite.

You’ll need to test these parameters regularly and make adjustments as needed. 2.

Algae Growth

Algae growth is a common issue in saltwater aquariums. While some algae is natural, excessive growth can be harmful to your tank’s ecosystem.

To prevent algae growth, make sure your tank isn’t receiving too much light and that your filtration and skimming systems are working properly. 3.

Maintenance Tasks

In addition to keeping an eye on water parameters, you’ll need to perform regular maintenance tasks. This includes performing water changes, cleaning the tank and equipment, pruning live plants, and checking for any signs of disease or parasites.

Recommended Tank Sizes for Beginners

When it comes to choosing the right tank for your needs, there are several factors to consider. These include your budget, your available space, and the level of biodiversity you want to maintain.

For beginners, a tank between 20 and 40 gallons is a good choice. This size tank is easy to maintain and doesn’t require a large initial investment.

It also allows for a good amount of biodiversity, including a variety of fish, invertebrates, and live corals. If you have a larger budget and more space, you could consider a tank between 50 and 100 gallons.

This size tank can accommodate more fish and invertebrates and allows for more complex ecosystems. However, larger tanks do require more equipment and maintenance.


A saltwater aquarium can be a wonderful addition to your home or office, but it does require work to set up and maintain. By following this checklist and doing your research, you can create a thriving and beautiful saltwater tank that brings joy and fascination for years to come.

Fish to Avoid as a Beginner: Hippo Tang, Mandarin Goby, Triggerfish

When it comes to selecting fish for a saltwater aquarium, not all species are created equal. Some fish are better suited to beginners than others, while some should be avoided altogether.

Here are three fish to avoid as a beginner:

1. Hippo Tang (Blue Tang AKA Dory)

The Hippo Tang, also known as the Blue Tang or Dory fish, is a beautiful fish that’s beloved by many thanks to its appearance in “Finding Nemo.” However, this fish is not recommended for beginners due to its sensitivity and large size.

Hippo Tangs can grow up to 12 inches long, and they require a lot of space to swim. They’re also sensitive to sudden changes in water parameters.

Overall, Hippo Tangs are best left to more experienced aquarists. 2.

Mandarin Goby

The Mandarin Goby is a stunning fish with vibrant colors that make it a popular choice for saltwater aquariums. However, this fish is not recommended for beginners due to its unique dietary requirements.

Mandarin Gobies eat copepods, which are small crustaceans found in the marine environment. Copepods can be difficult and expensive to obtain, making this fish a challenging option for beginners.

3. Triggerfish

Triggerfish are carnivorous fish that belong to the Balistidae family.

While they are certainly stunning, their aggressive nature and special dietary requirements make them unsuitable for beginners. Triggerfish are notorious for being territorial and attacking other fish in the tank.

They also require a varied diet of both meat and plant-based foods, which can be challenging to provide for inexperienced aquarists.

Overall Suitability of Saltwater Fish for Beginners

While there are some fish that should be avoided by beginners, there are also many species that are well-suited to a beginner’s tank. Look for fish that are hardy and forgiving, meaning that they can tolerate minor fluctuations in water parameters and feeding schedules.

Additionally, choose fish that are adaptable to a captive environment. Some species have been bred in captivity for a long time and tend to thrive in an aquarium setting.

Importance of Research and Caution in Choosing Fish

It’s important to do your research and exercise caution when choosing fish for your saltwater aquarium. Before making any purchases, learn about the specific needs of the fish you’re interested in, including their dietary requirements, preferred water parameters, and tank size requirements.

You should also research the compatibility of different species to ensure that you’re not mixing fish that could become aggressive towards one another. Making mistakes is common in the early stages of saltwater aquarium ownership.

However, by doing your research and exercising caution, you can minimize the risk of making costly mistakes. Always keep in mind that choosing fish that are better adapted to a beginner’s setup will give you a better chance of long-term success.

In conclusion, while there are some beautiful fish that should be avoided by beginners, there are many other stunning species that can make a great addition to a beginner’s saltwater tank. By doing your research, exercising caution, and choosing fish that are known to be hardy and adaptable, you can create a stunning and successful saltwater aquarium that brings you joy for years to come.

This article provided tips and warnings to those who want to start a saltwater aquarium. A checklist was provided to set up the saltwater tank and the difficulty levels of maintaining one were discussed, as well as recommended tank sizes for beginners.

The article also informed readers of fish to avoid and the overall suitability of saltwater fish for beginners. The importance of research and caution when choosing fish was emphasized, and the need for hardy and adaptable fish was highlighted.

Remember to always research and exercise caution when setting up and maintaining a saltwater aquarium to minimize any costly mistakes.

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