setup your salt water aquarium in 7 steps?

Setup Your Saltwater Aquarium in 7 Steps

By reefspecialty, March 16, 2015

setup your salt water aquarium in 7 steps?Salt water (marine) aquariums are known for its aesthetic looks and it brings a glimpse of underwater sea world into your home or office! Definitely many fish petting lovers wish to have such an aquarium of their own. But, they are taken back by some intimidating factors like, it being very scientific or it requires more financial resources. These factors can be overcome by making a little extra effort to learn as much as you can before setting up the salt water aquarium. All you need are interest, time and patience. Yes, these are most important keys to set up the aquarium. This article will guide you through the seven stages involved in setting up and stocking the salt water aquarium successfully.

Stage 1: Small research and planning

Before hopping into your favorite hobby, you really have to ask yourself, what exactly your plan is and whether you will haveenough time and resources to build up your own salt water aquarium. Do a little research on the prerequisites of your desired invertebrates and fishes. Prepare a check list for the equipment you will need to set up the salt water aquarium. Along with that, budget planning is also required. This will help you to decide, what you can and cannot afford. Investing money alone will not make your dream come true. Invest enough time to bring your dream come true.

Stage 2: Prepare equipment

Tank: The tank is the most important equipment you will buy. Firstly, choose the type of tank you like. There are two kinds of tanks, glass and acrylic. Glass tanks are very heavy and possibly shatter or spring a leak. But they are scratch resistant. On the other hand, Acrylic tanks are light and shatter resistant. But they are easily scratched. Secondly, choose the size of tank you need. A good-sized tank is essential as the salt water fishes or plants are habituated to live in the vast ocean. While finalizing the size of the tank, consider the place where it will go. Also, consider the numberof fishes expected to live in it and their size. Ideally you should think through the maximum size of the fish once it is fully grown.

Saltwater and Freshwater Aquarium Supplies

Tank stand and other accessories: Next choose the stand. Stand made of wood or acrylic best suits the salt water aquarium as they will not rust when they come in contact with salt water. Also, it should fit the aquarium properly as stability depends on this.Then, choose a lid to cover the tank, lightings like fluorescent fixtures or metal halide to illuminate the tank, power filter, thermometer, mini pumps. Buy a water heater or chiller based on the climatic conditions of the place you live. Do buy a Hydrometer, which helps to measure salinity (salt level) of aquarium water.

Substrate: Then you have to select a substrate for your tank. You can either choose crushed coral or live sand. Crushed coral is commonly used and it is less expensive.Whereas live sand is a best substrate asit seeds the sand bed with beneficial bacteria and micro-organisms. But it is expensive because, it has been directly taken from ocean bed and more effective. Your sand bed should be approximately 2 to 3 inches deep.

Live Rocks: Finally, select live rocks for the aquarium. This is what gives the look and feel we expectSaltwater Aquarium Live-Rocks for a marine aquarium. Apart from that, it helps to maintain healthy water parameters. Approximately, 1 pound of live rock per gallon of water should be added. However, the amount may vary based on the type of rock you are using. So, follow the instructions supplemented with the live rock.

Stage 3: Setting up aquarium water

Once you are ready with the basic aquarium equipment, you can go ahead and start setting up your dream salt water aquarium. As the name suggests, the first step is adding salt mix in water. Fill in the tank with reverse osmosis or de-ionized water and add salt mix as per the instructions in the pack. Now, use the hydrometer and measure the salinity level of the water.  It should be between 1.022 and 1.025. You can leave the aquarium for couple of days to make sure there are no leaks.

As a precaution, you can add tap water in the tank for the first time and leave for couple of days to check for leaks before adding the salt mix water. This will help to save unwanted wastage and overhead.

Stage 4: Installing equipment

Setup Your Salt Water Aquarium with Metal-Halide-Light

Once you are sure that there are no leaks, happily start setting up your aquarium. First, illuminate your tank.  The lighting does not depend on the size of the tank but the type of inhabitants of the tank. So, you should first decide what type of fishes and invertebrates you wish to add and then buy lighting according to that. For example, hard corals need metal halides whereas fluorescent lights are sufficient for soft corals. Also, you can fix an auto timer set to illuminate the tank only for 12 hours per day, because the aquarium does not require to be illuminated throughout the day.


Install the heater or chiller based on the weather conditions of your country. This helps to maintain the water temperature, because the salt water aquarium needs a stable temperature. It should be maintained between 79 F and 84 F. Too much of heat might endanger the life of the creatures in the aquarium. If you have opted for a metal halide light then, this will increase the temperature of the tank. So, it is advisable to use chillers or fans to cool it down. Also, it is important to check the temperature using a thermometer periodically.

Also, install power heads like mini pumps to deliver a good water flow in the aquarium.

After installation of equipment, let them run and monitor it for at least a week. This will help to identify if there is any malfunction in them. Also, make sure it suffices the requirement.

Stage 5: Setting up the base


After confirming all your equipment is in good condition, you can start setting up the base for your aquarium. Add substrateof your choice for about 2 to 3 inches and place the live rocks in the tank. Live rocks are the safe hide outs for the aquarium inhabitants. So, place the live rocks in such a way that the fishes can swim easily in and out of it.You can make cave-like structures in the live rocks, which will give a beautiful look for your aquarium, as well as enough spacing for fishes to swim freely. Your base setup is almost done now. But, here comes the crucial part. Before you add fishes or any invertebrates, the live rocks must be cured. The curing process will start the nitrogen cycle. This will take between 3 and 5 weeks.  During the curing process, you should keep monitoring the ammonia and nitrate levels regularly. The ammonia and nitrate should reach and sustain at 0 ppm.It will reach 0 ppm soon, but again it might move stealthily up. So, you should wait patiently and make sure the levels are in 0 ppm constantly for few days. At this point, avoid illuminating the tank as it might lead to algae occurrence. Keep the tank in dark as much as possible and use lighting only during periodic checks.

Stage 6: Ready to add invertebrates and fishes

Yes, it is time to enjoy the benefits of your waiting and patience. Once your live rocks are fully cured, your aquarium is ready to add invertebrates and fishes. But to be on safer side, check for temperature, ammonia and nitrate levels, before you go to buy invertebrates or fish.


Also, check for any algae occurrences at this stage. If you see any algae tinges, then use good reef cleaner pack.  Or adding invertebrates like crabs and snails will also help to get rid of algae.


To start with, add invertebrates in your aquarium. If these accustoms well for one or two weeks, then you can add your lovely fishes. Even while adding fishes, first check for the compatibility between the fishes and invertebrates you wish to add. Also do not add more active or aggressive fishes in the beginning. Instead, add submissive fishes first. Each set of fishes needs few weeks to acclimate. So, you need to give enough time in between adding new set of fishes. Do not forget to check the nitrate and ammonia levels before adding the new set of inhabitants into your aquarium.

Stage 7: Maintenance

Salt water aquarium is a long term hobby. So, a continuous commitment is required from your side and also aproper schedule needsto be maintained to keep the creatures healthy. You have to consistently look after many parameters like chemical level balance, right food and right amount of food based on the changing population, etc.,. There are sets of tasks, which needs to be done daily, weekly, bi-weekly and once in a month.

Follow the below schedule regularly for maintaining better aquarium environment.

Daily, check the temperature of the aquarium water and adjust if necessary. Until the water is matured, check nitrate level, ammonia, salinity and record the results. Turn on and off the aquarium lighting in a consistent timing, if you are not using an auto timer. Feed the creatures twice a day and check for any abnormal signs in any of the invertebrates or fishes. If you see any creature is not well, remove and treat that immediately. Remove any uneaten food from the tank. Check whether all equipment like lightings, heater or chiller, pumps, etc., are operating properly. Also, check for any leaks in the tank.

Once in a week, clean the glass of tank. Scrap off excess algae from the aquarium pane. When the water is matured, do water tests weekly instead of daily. Add trace elements and buffers based on the test results if required.

Once in two weeks, perform a 10 to 20 percent of water change. During water change, vacuum the substrate. See for any dirt in the filtration media and clean or rinse the filters. Else it might restrict the flow.

Once in a month, remove any calcium or salt deposits outside the aquarium. Rinse the decorations if you have placed any in the tank. Conduct thorough checks on all equipment and clean those if needed.

Precautionary tips:

  • For the goodness of the life of your aquatic creatures, you need to take some precautionary steps. If you wish to place any artificial decorations, like mini umbrella, treasure chest or mini aquatic dolls, make sure they are of good quality and does not have sharp edges which might cause damage to the creatures. Instead of pre-printed design for background, if you are going to paint the tank, then remember to paint on the outside and give ample time for the paint to dry.
  • Quality of the aquarium equipment you choose also plays a vital role in maintaining the stable condition of the aquarium. If you opt for low quality systems because it is cheap, then you might end up in changing the equipment very often and instability of the aquarium.
  • While doing installations, do not leave the wires as such in the tank. Use drip loop on all wires, which will avoid shock and electrical fire.
  • Do not add tap water for your aquarium. If you are left with no other choice other than using tap water, then de-chlorinate it before adding salt mix.  Avoid stocking the aquarium before it is completely cured. This might lead to death of your aquatic creatures. Hold your enticement and avoid stocking fishes too rapidly, as this might lead to ammonia or nitrate imbalance, which in turn might cause death of the creatures.
  • Though you are performing a partial water change, disconnect the tank’s power connections to elude any electrical shocks.
  • Most important of all, follow proper routine of maintenance checks to achieve a long term salt water aquarium.


Following the above steered stages should help in setting up and stocking the salt water aquarium successfully.  With proper planning and execution, you can accomplish your favorite salt water aquarium as per your wish. By taking the precautionary steps, you can avoid unexpected mishaps and disappointments.Maintain stable water factors, follow the instructions carefully and enjoy the view of mini oceanic beauty at your home!

How to set up your Freshwater Aquarium

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