Setting up and looking after a Marine aquarium (Saltwater Aquarium) can be an enriching, stress relieving and educational experience. Lets not forget, it can also be a stressful experience as well if you don’t maintain and setup your aquarium properly. Many people find it a soothing experience and can spend many hours watching and looking after their aquariums and get great pleasure from doing so. There can be nothing more rewarding than watching your fish glide around an underwater world you have created, and have your own piece of the coral reef in your home or office. Many marine fish and corals, have fantastic bright and vibrant colours, the entire aquatic world is fascinating and there is so much you can learn. Like anything though, before you start out research is the key, and a saltwater aquarium can be a lot of responsibility.

There are lots of aspects to consider when setting up your aquarium. Many beginners are prone to making mistakes after insufficient research or poor advice from pet & fish shops. These later prove to be detrimental to the health of their tanks and their inhabitants. You should aim to research and understand as much about the hobby before you take the plunge and setup your first saltwater tank. Below we have listed some typical points that you should research prior to setting up your tank:-

• Sourcing your tank inhabitants & sustainability. I.e. Hobbyist bred fish, traded coral frags.
• Deciding on the fish you would like to keep – this will then dictate what size tank you will need.
• Decide the aquarium size you would like, also it location and ensure that you are able to provide sufficient light and temperatures and these will not fluctuate too much in it’s chosen location.
• Decide on the type of saltwater aquarium you would like to setup. I.e. Fish only, Fish only with liverock or a Full reef tank.
• Follow good advice on the setup of your marine aquarium.
• Above all patience and time is required to help you get the best from your marine aquarium

There are three main types of marine aquariums and you should really know the difference between them so you can make an informed decision on what type you would like to keep. They will also greatly influence many other factors such as:-

• Cost of setup and maintenance
• Water change frequency
• Water parameters
• Additional equipment
• Additional supplements

The least expensive type of marine aquarium to setup and maintain is a fish only aquarium. This is commonly abbreviated as FOWOLR (Fish Only Without Liverock). This type of aquarium contains mostly fish, however many people also have a few snails or hermit crabs, which can help to maintain your aquarium in the sense of eating algae and excess food not consumed by your fish. However a fish only aquarium usually requires more water changes and monitoring of water parameters to maintain a stable environment.

The next type is Fish Only with Liverock this is also commonly abbreviated to FOWLR. Liverock is a porous rock that had micro flora on its surface and often contains other inhabitants such as feather worms. Liverock is often taken from the sea in places such as Fiji however man made liverock such as aragocrete or concrete is also available to buy or make to your self. But again the last two options definitely require a lot of research and time to cure etc. Liverock is a natural and biological filtration tool for the aquarium. The micro flora on the live rock helps to greatly reduce the nitrogen cycling in your aquarium.

And last but not least, Reef Tanks they are also called Coral Reef Aquariums. This type of saltwater aquarium mainly focuses on corals and anemones and other sorts of invertebrates. Fish are sometimes included in this sort of aquarium, and are usually an addition to the wonderful displays of corals. They can also help with keeping your reef tank clean by consuming uneaten food.

The most important thing to know about setting up a marine aquarium is that it takes time. It can take 8 weeks or more to ensure that the tank is fully cycled and ready to accept new inhabitants. Adding new tank members should be done at a slow and steady pace. More research should also be conducted into their suitability, their dietary needs and whether or not they will live happily with other fish etc.

You need to make sure that you follow the cycling process correctly and that you don’t rush this process. Factors such as water temperature, water ph, nitrogen, ammonia, phosphate and hardness amongst other factors are vital. They need to be maintained within a set tolerance range to allow your marine tank to thrive. This involves constant monitoring for a start and water changes to keep the tank chemistry at its optimum. It also involves being able to deal with fluctuations and knowing what do when these happen. You also need to be able to take care of these fluctuations very quickly as they can be detrimental to the health of your aquarium.

One last piece of advice is that you should talk to as many people as possible and ask questions on anything you are unsure of. Ask them about local fish shops in the area and see what they recommend as a good aquarist is key to maintaining a healthy tank. You should also read as much material as you can, and help others when you can. A good place to start is our forums . You can also trade and swap your coral frags and get some great beginner pieces for great prices.