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How to set up a saltwater aquarium? | Aquaforest

18 01, 2024

How to set up a saltwater aquarium? - Tips for beginners | Aquaforest

Setting up a new saltwater aquarium can be a rewarding and fascinating endeavor. It is also slightly different from a freshwater aquarium. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced aquarium enthusiast, creating a marine ecosystem means you can enjoy the beauty and diversity of marine life without having to travel to distant coral reefs. In addition, it opens the way to new friendships. There are forums, groups where you can meet people from all over the world who are also fascinated by aquariums! Welcome to our Aquaforest Group, where you can exchange experiences related to marine aquaristics.
From selecting the right tank and equipment to properly cycling the tank. There are several steps to ensure a successful saltwater aquarium setup.

With proper research, patience, and attention to detail, you can create a thriving saltwater tank that will provide hours of beauty and enjoyment. Whether you are interested in a fish-only tank or want to venture into the world of corals and invertebrates, setting up a saltwater aquarium can be a fulfilling hobby for any marine enthusiast.

Decide which animals you want to keep in the saltwater aquarium

First of all, you need to sit down and think about what exactly you want to keep in the tank. There are many species of fish, corals, invertebrates with different requirements.  Choosing your fish before setting up your tank is essential to ensure that you purchase the appropriate tank size and accessories. It also allows you to determine the number of fish you want, and what specific parameters you'll need to establish before purchasing your fish. 

If this is your first aquarium, we recommend starting with hardy fish. This way, you will have a greater margin for error. You won't hurt your fish, plus you'll learn how to take care of the aquarium. There are examples of hardy saltwater fish species: Clownfish, Firefish, Swissguard Basslets. You can buy them at your local fish store.

At this stage, you should find out what aquarium equipment you will need. What type of lighting you require and what wattage. What pumps will be best for your aquarium. An aquarium heater will also be required. The temperature in a marine aquarium should be 22℃-28℃ - depends on the fish and corals.

Setting up your saltwater tank in safe place

The key is to find a place where you can place the tank. A saltwater aquarium tank can be very heavy. You need to be sure the floor will be stable and sturdy enough to keep you and your family safe.

In addition, you will need a cabinet that is durability enough to withstand the weight of the aquarium. Ensure that it does not absorb moisture.. The ideal choice is one of our AF OceanGuard, which is available in 5 different sizes. The AF OceanGuard includes a cabinet, which is ultra-durability, and it doesn't absorb moisture, thanks to using marine yacht technology. If you want to change the color of the cabinet, you can also change the panels - available in 6 different colors!

Here are additional issues to look out for:

  • Close access to an outlet with electricity is also significant. It allows you to power the lighting, filtration system and sump.
  • A reef aquarium should not stand close to a window or heat sources. This can lead to temperature changes in the aquarium, as well as the growth of algae in the tank.

How to prepare the sump?

  • First install the materials in the filter, and then connect the overflow hose from the saltwater aquarium to the sump.
  • The next step is to install a return pump.
  • Install protein skimmer.
  • If everything is ready, you can install the aquarium heater.

We also fine-tuned the sump in our AF OceanGuard set. The addition of a sturdy PVC sump mounted on foam to reduce vibrations is the final touch. Our goal was to offer the highest level of durability and waterproofing, and we achieved it. The contemporary design also features water level indicators to make equipment adjustments easier. We have installed filtration socks in the cascading chambers. It can be swapped out at any time for AF Media Reactors. It is worth noting that AF OceanGuard is already assembled, so no need to waste time on it.

Lack of sump

If your setup lacks a sump, you can proceed with the installation of all tank-related equipment. At this stage, it's best to hold off on setting up the aquarium lighting system, as it will get in the way when adding sea salts, and substrate to saltwater aquarium.

Prepare the filter by taking out the filter pads, rinsing them in fresh water. Then put them back in the filter before mounting it on the back wall of the aquarium. This is a good opportunity to check the space between the back of the tank and the wall. Since you will need to remove the entire filter for cleaning in the future, make sure there is an extra inch or two of clearance.

Set up the tank-mounted filtration system, the tank-mounted protein skimmer, and the powerhead. Position your powerhead approximately where you want them to be once the assembly is complete. These positions are likely to change once you add a rock to the tank, we recommend using our AF Rock. Install the aquarium heater. 

Adding saltwater and substrate to the reef tank

Before introducing anything into your tank, ensure its cleanliness by wiping it with a cloth and clean water. Immerse a clean cloth into heated fresh water and scrub the interior of the tank to clear any dust or dirt build-up. It's crucial not to use chemical detergents inside your aquarium because they could leak into the water and pose a threat to the health of your fishes.

Before installing the aquarium, you need to select a suitable substrate. It will be difficult to change it once the tank is operational. It is also advisable to do extensive research beforehand to choose the best sea salt. The salt must be compatible with the aquarium.
Once you've checked the system for leaks, it's recommended that you turn off the system, and extract a few gallons of water from the tank and sump. Straight after, add the sea salts. If you are using a sump, put the sea salts in the sump and activate its return pump to speed up dissolution. If you don't have a sump, power on any powerhead in the tank, as well as the filter.

It's time to fill the tank. Start adding sea salts as they dissolve. Remember about regularly testing the water saltiness, test kits will be very useful at this moment.

Remember that, don't use tap water to mix with salt. This water can dramatically change the water parameters in a saltwater aquarium, so we recommend using RO water.

Salt choice

In our assortment, you will find salts that are suitable for any aquarium. For example:

Sea Salt - a salt designed for aquariums with fish stocking, as well as for aquariums with less demanding corals and invertebrates.

Reef Salt - Fully synthetic marine salt created for aquacultured corals. This formula is designed to create the best conditions for marine animals.

Reef Salt + - With elevated levels of ionically balanced key macronutrients such as alkalinity, calcium, and magnesium. It was designed to keep up with even the most nutrient demanding and rapidly growing coral colonies.

Hybrid Pro Salt -  Our latest and most sophisticated reef salt is now available. Following years of witnessing the prosperity of reef tanks primarily using natural seawater (NSW) or scientifically created lab salt, we aimed to develop a Hybrid Pro Salt mixture. This blend is intended to combine the advantages of both types of salt. Primarily for our sensitive reef organisms and contemporary aquarium enthusiasts who favor more organic, probiotic-rich reefing techniques.

In case you possess live sand, incorporate it into the tank. The water might get cloudy, but it will clear up once the filtration system is switched on. The water flow will clear it.  If you possess inactive sand, cleanse it using clean water to eliminate tiny fragments, then place it into the aquarium. 

Aquarium arrangement

Now it's time to prepare the arrangement - you can learn more about aquascaping here. In this article, you will find many tips as well as inspiration to help you create a beautiful aquarium look! 

It is worth knowing that the rock in the aquarium is additionally a biological filter. It helps to keep the water quality at a high level. 

Install Aquarium Lighting System

While your tank water is clearing, it's a great opportunity to set up your saltwater aquarium lighting system.
For a fish-only tank, the lighting needs are quite flexible. You can adjust the day and night cycles to fit your schedule, but be sure to give the tank critters at least eight hours of darkness for sleeping. Investing in light timers is a good idea because they will automatically turn the lights on and off at a set time every day.
If you intend to add corals to your tank in the future, you'll likely want to get reef tank lighting when initially setting up your tank.

Reef tank lighting requirements are much higher than for fish-only tanks, as corals require a specific light period and spectrum.
Mount your lighting fixture on top of the tank or inside the hood, and connect it to the light timer. Set the electronic or mechanical trippers in the timer for the appropriate times. Turn on the lights and admire your tank just before adding your fish.

What's next? 

In the next steps, you will need to make your aquarium close the nitrogen cycle. This allows for the safe introduction of organisms into it. Of course, we will not leave you without this knowledge. You can learn all about it here, and how to introduce new animals safely into an aquarium and quarantine tank.