Saltwater Aquarium Setup for Beginners (Saltwater Fish Tank Guide 2019)


Whenever any beginner thinks about developing a saltwater aquarium, there are some doubts that arise in their minds. A saltwater fish tank can be a reef tank or a fish only tank. Many people favor a fish only tank because the reef tank is apparently very difficult in maintaining.

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However, this article will help you decide the right one according to your needs. We recommend you to not be intimidated from the very first thing. The very first thing that should be kept in mind whether it is a fish only tank or a reef tank is the tank that is being set up. The setup of the saltwater aquarium tank is the same for either of the two cases.

Quick Read: Myths & Fact of Saltwater vs Freshwater Aquariums

The Right Saltwater Aquarium Tank Selection Along With the Best Stand and Canopy


The selection of the saltwater tank hugely depends on the filtration system that you plan to build. There are different kinds of fish tanks. They may be a normal fish tank, a tank with a back panel filtration system or a built-in overflow box. The tank with an overflow box that is built-in is hugely favored.

This built-in overflow tank is actually a very simple task. This type of tank has a corner box with holes found near the bottom side. These holes are provided to connect the main tank with the sump tank. The sump tank stays hidden normally inside the stand placed under the main displayed fish tank.

The very common question that  arises now is what actually a sump is. A sump is simply a container the sump actually holds water. This important feature, a sump is attached to the main display tank. The sump is kept for the main purpose of increasing the capacity of the entire system.

Capacity For Saltwater Tanks

The larger the capacity, the greater is the margin for stable health conditions inside the tank. It is an excellent place for every sort of equipment. Whether the equipment is for filtration or is for heating purposes, you can place them inside the sump.

Other such equipment like chillers, monitors and probes can also be kept here. They can perform all their respective functions from the sump and not even clutter the main display tank.

Also usually beginners are scared to install any device in their tanks which has the ability to take water outside of the tank. They fear that this would make the water leak and increase their problems with the maintenance of the saltwater fish tank. The best way to help their fear is to install a sump.

If you are concerned with what size of a tank should you buy for your aquarium then we have proper answers to that also in this article. You can simply go with the biggest tank that you can get with your allowances.

This helps in maintaining stable water conditions very easily. A stable water environment helps fishes are corals to grow healthily. It must be over a 20-gallon saltwater tank. A 50 to 55 gallon is a remarkable choice if you have started out with developing an aquarium.

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The shape is also another concern while you are buying a tank for your aquarium. A lower tank that provides a greater surface area is ideal for the purpose of a tank. It is a way better choice than a tall tank.

The tank should also be preferably colored black or blue from behind. The standard rectangular size is advised. The rectangular shape is advised because it sometimes becomes very difficult to get proper lighting for tanks with absurd shapes.

Where Should I Place The Saltwater Fish Tank?

A considerably large location is needed for the tank. The location should also be leveled and best supported for the aquarium and also the stand.

Proper care must be taken so that the saltwater tank is not kept very close to a heat source. It should also not be placed very close to a region which is too cold. Ideally, you must keep the tank at a constant temperature of 76 to 80 degrees.

What is most important is that the aquarium must not receive direct sunlight. Direct sunlight aids the growth of algae and heat problems. These are detrimental to the healthy environment of an aquarium.

Developing a Saltwater Filtration System for Aquarium


The overflow system in an aquarium pumps water from the sump to the main tank. The overflow water flows back to the sump tank from where it is taken to the main tank once again. This cycle continues for as long as the saltwater tank setup is maintained.

The sump is also an ideal location for the storage of several filtration equipment. This sump is attached to the main display tank. The sump is kept for the main purpose of increasing the capacity of the entire system.

The larger the capacity, the greater is the margin for stable health conditions inside the tank. It is an excellent place for every sort of equipment. Whether the equipment is for filtration or for heating purposes, you can place them inside the sump.

Other such equipment like chillers, monitors and probes can also be kept here. They can perform all their respective functions from the sump and not even clutter the main display tank.

Sump Systems For Saltwater Aquarium Setup

There is also a huge variety of sump system configurations. Different configurations have varying degrees of filtration powers in their built-in systems. If you are a professional in plumbing, then you can also consider having your very own customized saltwater filtration system for aquarium.

The components in this system should be noted with great care. The very important part of any system is its mechanical filtration device. It is normally kept under the water hose which connects the sump with the main tank. This mechanical filtration device can be a filter sock or even a box which has floss inside it. The main motive is to hold in all the solid particles inside it.

If you do not feel like building one for your saltwater fish tank you can definitely add one to the overall setup. A large number of cheap hang on filters like the Aquaclear series are available in the market. While discussing mechanical filters it should also be noted that the canister filters which are filled with mechanical and chemical media also work very efficiently.

The middle part of the sump is an awesome place to keep live rocks, algae, and even saltwater plants. They help in the process of filtration. A proper LED light should definitely be kept to maintain these live rocks and algae properly.

Live rock is the best way to filter water biologically. It can also be displayed in the main tank. if they are installed in sufficient quantities then they can also reduce the ammonia and nitrite amounts in the tank. They perform better than most expensive filters.

The live rocks are a very efficient way to handle the filtration process yet, in a system that is quite heavily stocked, high levels of nitrates is found. They cannot be maintained with regular day to day water changes.

Use of Corals & Rocks During Saltwater Fish Tank Setup

If you do not wish your tank to be filled with algae and polluted corals then it is very important to find a way with which you can export all these nitrates. Macroalgae and other saltwater tank plants are a great way to reduce nitrates. Also, Check Out Aquarium Carpet Plants.

When you are buying equipment for your setup, the most important equipment that you will buy. This protein skimmer helps in mixing a column of aquarium water and air. This process helps in producing fine air bubbles.

The surface tension of these air bubbles draws in all the dissolved organic materials in the water and carries it to the surface of the column. It carries organic materials with the help of a layer of foam.

The more this foam builds up, it gives an extra push to the collection cup. In this way, all the organic impurities go into the collection cup which can be easily emptied.

The protein skimmer is the very first step of defense as it pulls the water from the organic matter. This organic matter would otherwise dissolve into ammonia and would end up polluting the water of the tank.

A good protein skimmer successfully produces a lot of foam and pulls a lot of skimmate from the water of the tank. This protein skimmate gets its power from an internal pump. This pump takes the water from the sump directly. Thus there is no problem with the supply of water to this pump.

The main part of a sump is its return pump. A sump is basically completely inactive without a good return pump. This pump helps in returning the water from the sump into the main display tank.

A 100-gallon saltwater tank needs a return pump which has a flow rate of 1000 to 2000 gallons per hour. Some corals need an even faster water flow rate. For that, you can install additional wavemakers. This will help you to create faster water flow for those special corals that you have kept in your tank.

Higher the rate of water flow, lower is the chances of the growth of algae. This overall helps in keeping the fishes healthy and thriving. All wild specimens are adjusted to water flows and heavy surges.

Add Some Substrate and Rock to The Main Display of Saltwater Tank


A substrate is a very basic substance that just goes directly to the bottom of the tank. Some of the good choices of a substrate are aragonite and oolite. Live sand or even dry sand can be considered as a substrate.

If you are keeping rocks, both live rock and fry rock can be considered. The fry rock gives a sea bed like appearance to the saltwater fish tank. The basic rule is to have 1.5 to 2 pounds of live rock in one-gallon tank capacity.

Mixing Saltwater and Consequent Filling of Saltwater Aquarium Tank and Attached Sump


A few buckets must be kept handy that has never been used for anything other than storing water. The best for aquarium saltwater tanks are the 5-gallon buckets. 30-gallon plastic garbage can also help for mixing of salt water which is new. The water source for the tank can be purified water coming from an R/O unit.

A salt mix is very important. The best type of salt mix is the Instant Ocean Sea Salt. This Instant Ocean Sea Salt includes Saltwater Aquarium all the major and minor trace elements which are essential for the development of a healthy environment inside the aquarium. Whenever you are using any salt mix, always follow the instruction manual that comes along with the salt mix.

Finalize the Saltwater Aquarium Heater and Lighting System


A good aquarium heater and a thermometer are the key aspects of any well-maintained aquarium. The heater should also be in a very effective water environment. There should not be any direct heating or sunlight.

The heater which should be installed should be of an approximate size of 4 to 5 watts per gallon. After this system is set up you just need to adjust the temperature of the heaters accordingly.

Cycle the Brand New Saltwater Fish Tank Setup Very Nicely

The primary purpose of this step is to gather all the nitrifying bacteria. These help to deal with all the detrimental ammonia and nitrites that will come from the fish waste.

Add the Livestock After Cycling Saltwater Tank

You shouldn’t buy a lot of saltwater fish for aquarium without studying in details about them. Take your time and decide on what breeds you would want to have in your aquarium. Good fish families help in keeping a tank healthy and supportive for all the other breeds.

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Also, if you have not studied about a particular breed; don’t buy that fish on impulse once you enter the store. Later add corals when the tank is stable and setup is complete. This will finally complete all your steps in the tank building process.



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