Joining the Saltwater
There are a few things to consider when setting up your new saltwater aquarium, whether it is a reef tank or Fish-Only:
Tank: You will need to choose a tank, and generally speaking the larger the better. A large body of water is inherently more stable and therefor forgiving of mistakes made by novice hobbyists, such as overfeeding. It is recommended that someone new to the hobby starts off with a tank that is 30 gallons or larger.
Filter: When choosing a filter for your tank, a good rule of thumb is to pick a filter meant to filter twice the amount of water, in gallons, that you have in your tank. This means that if you chose a 30 gallon aquarium, choose a filter manufactured for up to 60 gallons.
Miscellaneous: You will also need to choose items such as a heater, a hydrometer (to measure the salt level in the aquarium), saltwater substrate (different from regular aquarium gravel; helps to maintain a higher pH and buffering capacity in saltwater aquariums), salt (in powdered form to mix from 5-200 gallons of saltwater), and a saltwater testing kit.
These items are considered the bare essentials when starting a saltwater Fish-Only aquarium, and the use of a protein skimmer and live rock within the aquarium are also highly recommended. When starting a reef aquarium, the same things must be considered along with the setup of live rock in the aquarium as a stable base for the construction of your living reef.
Saltwater aquariums are very easy to maintain if you are able to keep yourself away from what we call "The Three O's": overstocking, overfeeding, and over-cleaning.
Overstocking refers to introducing more fish or organisms into the tank than the tank can sustain. A good rule of thumb is one inch of fish per five gallons of water.
Overfeeding refers to feeding too much, too often, or a combination of the two. If you find excess food on top of the water or at the bottom of the tank when your fish are done feeding, this is considered overfeeding and can lead to water quality issues. One or two feedings per day should be sufficient, and the fish will eat what they need to within 1-2 minutes.
Over-cleaning is one of the most common causes of aquarium issues, especially among new hobbyists. Many people make the mistake of changing the filter cartridge within the first few weeks of starting up their aquarium simply because it "looks dirty". This time frame is actually the most crucial growth stage of beneficial bacteria, which are essential to maintain a healthy tank. Proper maintenance of a saltwater aquarium consists of a once-a-month water change (about 25%) and a once-a-month changing of the filter cartridge (not to be done on the same week as the water change, to avoid disturbing the balance of the tank). It is also good practice to perform weekly water testing of the salinity, pH, and nitrates.
Stop by today and talk with Rich or Scott about what type of tank is right for you!