How difficult is it to care for a saltwater tank?

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BettaFishObsessed

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I looove everything marine and wanted to set up a saltwater tank at some point. I love the way they look. This definitely will not be anytime soon, but I have been thinking about future tanks I would want and was wondering how difficult they are to take care of, what kind of extra maintenance they need, and how much money they would cost. Also, what would be the best size to start with? This would be my first saltwater tank. Again, this will not be anytime within the next few years, I am just thinking about if I would ever want one.
 
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That’s quite a question and you’ll mostly get a different answer from different people as there are many different ways to setup and look after a saltwater tank. I’d suggest you start browsing some of the popular saltwater forums. I’m guessing I’m not allowed to recommend one as saltwater is also covered here.

My weekly maintenance consists of emptying the water out of my canister into a bucket, rinsing the single foam out in it and jiggling the bio media and then refilling the canister with new saltwater. Handily my canister volume is about 10% of my tank volume. Once a month I also replace the carbon in it.

3 times a day I feed the fish and the coral also end up eating some of that food. Twice a week I add dedicated coral food.

Money wise I’m probably a few thousand £ in equipment and maybe £400 ish in coral. However you don’t have to spend that much on equipment and if you’re lucky enough you might find some local groups for buying cheap coral / swapping coral etc.
 
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JJQuark said:
That’s quite a question and you’ll mostly get a different answer from different people as there are many different ways to setup and look after a saltwater tank. I’d suggest you start browsing some of the popular saltwater forums. I’m guessing I’m not allowed to recommend one as saltwater is also covered here.

My weekly maintenance consists of emptying the water out of my canister into a bucket, rinsing the single foam out in it and jiggling the bio media and then refilling the canister with new saltwater. Handily my canister volume is about 10% of my tank volume. Once a month I also replace the carbon in it.

3 times a day I feed the fish and the coral also end up eating some of that food. Twice a week I add dedicated coral food.

Money wise I’m probably a few thousand £ in equipment and maybe £400 ish in coral. However you don’t have to spend that much on equipment and if you’re lucky enough you might find some local groups for buying cheap coral / swapping coral etc.
Oh okay, thank you for the info! Wow, that’s a lot of money haha. But then again, i don't know what money will be like whenever i set one up! Thank you for sharing your maintenance routine, its nice to get a rough guideline about the effort and money a saltwater tank will require! Im not sure whether I will get one or not, I will have to check out some other saltwater aquarium forums.
 
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Mrfister1116

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How hard do You want to make it?
For captive bred fish only ... no different really than keeping a freshwater tank once you get over the mixing (I’d still suggest RO water too)

it’s once you start getting into anemones and corals and more exotic fish it can start to get challenging.
Mistakes are also much more costly, my cheapest sw fish is a $10 catfish but mostly $30+

equipment is also costly, especially as you decide what works for you skimmers, powerheads, andlights dear god lights. I have black box leds I paid $10 each for(crazy deal normally$70 ish) and you can get $900 lights that do ...basically the same thing (they do it better with more user control for sure)and even higher for lights ... and there’s metal halides, t5’s chillers ......

It can be allot but do your research and try and pick the type of tank you want first, Fowlr works for some people but that coral and anemones are going to tempt you, don’t make the mistake of having to buy products twice (suddenly needing a new bigger powerhead to support your coral or lights or or or)

They’re more Maintence to, my planted fw takes up very little of my time random vacuuming the substrate and some trimming every so often ... my saltwater I spend atleast 2-3 hours a week on Maintence and water changes ... it’s still not crazy hard just a commitment
 
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Mrfister1116 said:
How hard do You want to make it?
For captive bred fish only ... no different really than keeping a freshwater tank once you get over the mixing (I’d still suggest RO water too)

it’s once you start getting into anemones and corals and more exotic fish it can start to get challenging.
Mistakes are also much more costly, my cheapest sw fish is a $10 catfish but mostly $30+

equipment is also costly, especially as you decide what works for you skimmers, powerheads, andlights dear god lights. I have black box leds I paid $10 each for(crazy deal normally$70 ish) and you can get $900 lights that do ...basically the same thing (they do it better with more user control for sure)and even higher for lights ... and there’s metal halides, t5’s chillers ......

It can be allot but do your research and try and pick the type of tank you want first, Fowlr works for some people but that coral and anemones are going to tempt you, don’t make the mistake of having to buy products twice (suddenly needing a new bigger powerhead to support your coral or lights or or or)

They’re more Maintence to, my planted fw takes up very little of my time random vacuuming the substrate and some trimming every so often ... my saltwater I spend atleast 2-3 hours a week on Maintence and water changes ... it’s still not crazy hard just a commitment

Okay, thank you for all the details! I appreciated the information!
 
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kanzekatores

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I know saltwater is deemed as more difficult than freshwater, but for me it's been the opposite for some reason. Maybe it's because it's a big tank with few, hardy fish, and i mostly did freshwater with smaller tanks, but I've actually found it really easy and really rewarding.

It doesn't have to be expensive, either, it kind of just depends on what kind of setup you'll be looking at. I think it's something that people are really afraid of for no reason. I always suggest for hobbyists to try it out.
 
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I think it’s the learning curve more than anything that can seem daunting. There can be a lot to learn but some of it may not even apply to how you have or want to set up.

My maintenance is based on a tank of leathers, buttons, zoas and mushrooms which are all pretty easy to keep along with 2 clownfish so I barely need do anything. I maybe take 15 mins a week on maintenance.
 
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kanzekatores said:
I know saltwater is deemed as more difficult than freshwater, but for me it's been the opposite for some reason. Maybe it's because it's a big tank with few, hardy fish, and i mostly did freshwater with smaller tanks, but I've actually found it really easy and really rewarding.

It doesn't have to be expensive, either, it kind of just depends on what kind of setup you'll be looking at. I think it's something that people are really afraid of for no reason. I always suggest for hobbyists to try it out.
Oh really? Okay, that’s good! Maybe I will end up getting a saltwater tank someday. What size tank did you have?

JJQuark said:
I think it’s the learning curve more than anything that can seem daunting. There can be a lot to learn but some of it may not even apply to how you have or want to set up.

My maintenance is based on a tank of leathers, buttons, zoas and mushrooms which are all pretty easy to keep along with 2 clownfish so I barely need do anything. I maybe take 15 mins a week on maintenance.

Wow really? Awesome, Im probably going to get a saltwater tank some day!
 
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BettaFishObsessed said:
Oh really? Okay, that’s good! Maybe I will end up getting a saltwater tank someday. What size tank did you have?
I have a 40 breeder with two clownfish, a goby, peppermint shrimp, emerald crab, and snails. I'm taking it slow and it's going really well for me so far. I think people are more freaked out by it than they should be
 
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kanzekatores said:
I have a 40 breeder with two clownfish, a goby, peppermint shrimp, emerald crab, and snails. I'm taking it slow and it's going really well for me so far. I think people are more freaked out by it than they should be
Nice. I probably will get a saltwater tank someday
 
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I probably spent around 250 dollars on my tank. I started off with 10 gallon nano tank which was not recommended by lots of people. If you so go with a smaller tank you have to stay on top of the salinity and make sure it does not swing. A good hardy beginner fish would be a clown fish, they are also loaded with personality.
 
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fish 321 said:
I probably spent around 250 dollars on my tank. I started off with 10 gallon nano tank which was not recommended by lots of people. If you so go with a smaller tank you have to stay on top of the salinity and make sure it does not swing. A good hardy beginner fish would be a clown fish, they are also loaded with personality.
That‘s where an auto top up system is your friend!
 
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JJQuark said:
That‘s where an auto top up system is your friend!
Yeah but not your bank accounts friend.
 
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fish 321 said:
Yeah but not your bank accounts friend.
Depends, o got mine for $43 on amazon ... pump and sensor ... works pretty well but yeah it can add up quickly
 
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It can be as complicated as you want I to be! I’ve been reef keeping since 2002, have run systems all sorts of ways, and in recent years have tried to make my system as bulletproof as possible.

I do a daily 4% (1 gallon) water change with Red Sea Pro Salt, which has elevated minerals. That is more than enough to keep ahead of calcium/alk/magnesium needs for my system, as well as nutrient export, when paired with my skimmer.

I have a filter sock that’s many times larger than it needs to be, so I only have to pull it out once a week to wash.

I use an auto tip-off system, which maintains the salinity throughout the week, so I don’t have to fuss with all of that.

Other than dosing my phyto, and rotifers everyday, and my mini water change, my tank runs on auto-pilot through the week!

I want to enjoy it, not fuss with testing a bunch of stuff, and dosing a bunch of minerals, and trace elements. With my water change schedule, I simply test once a month to verify that my current schedule is keeping ahead of element consumption.

I do the same with my seahorse tank, though I use the water from my reef tank to change out the seahorse tank, so each gallon of saltwater does double-duty before going down the drain.
 
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fish 321 said:
Yeah but not your bank accounts friend.
My auto top up was one of the cheapest bits of equipment on my tank and worth every penny.
 
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fish 321 said:
Yeah but not your bank accounts friend.
Make nice with your local SW LFS. They’ll know of people dumping equipment when they give up! I paid $50 for my tunze ATO.

FB marketplace is also your friend! Just research brands, and know what you’re looking at, or you’ll end up buying a few boogers.
 
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LadyS said:
It can be as complicated as you want I to be! I’ve been reef keeping since 2002, have run systems all sorts of ways, and in recent years have tried to make my system as bulletproof as possible.

I do a daily 4% (1 gallon) water change with Red Sea Pro Salt, which has elevated minerals. That is more than enough to keep ahead of calcium/alk/magnesium needs for my system, as well as nutrient export, when paired with my skimmer.

I have a filter sock that’s many times larger than it needs to be, so I only have to pull it out once a week to wash.

I use an auto tip-off system, which maintains the salinity throughout the week, so I don’t have to fuss with all of that.

Other than dosing my phyto, and rotifers everyday, and my mini water change, my tank runs on auto-pilot through the week!

I want to enjoy it, not fuss with testing a bunch of stuff, and dosing a bunch of minerals, and trace elements. With my water change schedule, I simply test once a month to verify that my current schedule is keeping ahead of element consumption.
Filter socks were such a game changer when I changed to them... I have puffers so change them every 3 days or so but I also run a comically oversized sock.
If you ever need more check these out we get them at work for the parts washer and I rack on mine for the tanks
 
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Mrfister1116 said:
Filter socks were such a game changer when I changed to them... I have puffers so change them every 3 days or so but I also run a comically oversized sock.
If you ever need more check these out we get them at work for the parts washer and I rack on mine for the tanks
They’re so great!

I use a 7” round, that’s about 18” deep, so my tank takes about 2.5 weeks to fill it to the point that the sock overflows. But since I already do other weekend maintenance stuff, I pull it off, and put it through the wash.

As soon as I see someone dumping a roller, I will be upgrading to a roller mat. Since I only run 150 gallons an hour through my sump, I think I should be able to run a roller mat without an additional pump.
 
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LadyS said:
They’re so great!

I use a 7” round, that’s about 18” deep, so my tank takes about 2.5 weeks to fill it to the point that the sock overflows. But since I already do other weekend maintenance stuff, I pull it off, and put it through the wash.
I use 8”x30” ones because that’s what work buys ... I’m running two tanks through one sump so it’s ... 1400gph give or take through them they fill up fast when I’m scraping algae ... but I have puffers so one tanks totally devoid of clean up crew ... maybe I need to try a 1% daily water change though
 
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fish 321

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Mrfister1116 said:
Depends, o got mine for $43 on amazon ... pump and sensor ... works pretty well but yeah it can add up quickly
What! What brand is it?

LadyS said:
Make nice with your local SW LFS. They’ll know of people dumping equipment when they give up! I paid $50 for my tunze ATO.

FB marketplace is also your friend! Just research brands, and know what you’re looking at, or you’ll end up buying a few boogers.
Well the closest saltwater store is over 200 miles away, and no one really keeps saltwater tanks in my town.
 
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fish 321 said:
Well the closest saltwater store is over 200 miles away, and no one really keeps saltwater tanks in my town.
Oh. That blows sea monkeys.

Mrfister1116 said:
I use 8”x30” ones because that’s what work buys ... I’m running two tanks through one sump so it’s ... 1400gph give or take through them they fill up fast when I’m scraping algae ... but I have puffers so one tanks totally devoid of clean up crew ... maybe I need to try a 1% daily water change though
I haven’t scraped my glass in months. I run a mag float over the 2 viewing panels every couple of days, and call it clean. But I don’t have anything to murder a cleanup crew.

I think everybody should be doing smaller, daily water changes, so I fully support you trying it out!
 
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Jesterrace

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BettaFishObsessed said:
I looove everything marine and wanted to set up a saltwater tank at some point. I love the way they look. This definitely will not be anytime soon, but I have been thinking about future tanks I would want and was wondering how difficult they are to take care of, what kind of extra maintenance they need, and how much money they would cost. Also, what would be the best size to start with? This would be my first saltwater tank. Again, this will not be anytime within the next few years, I am just thinking about if I would ever want one.
Saltwater Tanks much like Freshwater Tanks are only as difficult or expensive as you make them. Most would agree that there is a massive difference between a 5 gallon betta tank with nothing else in it and a massive CO2 infused planted setup loaded with Discus. The same is true of the difference between keeping a couple of clownfish in a 20 gallon fish only tank vs having a 6-8 foot long tank with the likes of a Moorish Idol, Princess Anthias, Regal Angel, Mandarinfish, etc and loading it up with SPS Corals (most demanding for water parameters and lighting). The cost varies widely. You can spend a few hundred on a smaller fish only setup or you can easily drop 5-10K on the more complex setup that I mentioned.

Fish Only really isn't much harder than a planted tank. Use an RO or RODI Water Source and keep your salinity levels balanced (add fresh unsalted RODI water in between water changes to keep the salinity levels balanced since water evaporates but salt doesn't). Add in a powerhead to keep your live rock healthy and doing it's biofilter job and that's pretty much it.
 
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Jesterrace said:
Saltwater Tanks much like Freshwater Tanks are only as difficult or expensive as you make them. Most would agree that there is a massive difference between a 5 gallon betta tank with nothing else in it and a massive CO2 infused planted setup loaded with Discus. The same is true of the difference between keeping a couple of clownfish in a 20 gallon fish only tank vs having a 6-8 foot long tank with the likes of a Moorish Idol, Princess Anthias, Regal Angel, Mandarinfish, etc and loading it up with SPS Corals (most demanding for water parameters and lighting). The cost varies widely. You can spend a few hundred on a smaller fish only setup or you can easily drop 5-10K on the more complex setup that I mentioned.

Fish Only really isn't much harder than a planted tank. Use an RO or RODI Water Source and keep your salinity levels balanced (add fresh unsalted RODI water in between water changes to keep the salinity levels balanced since water evaporates but salt doesn't). Add in a powerhead to keep your live rock healthy and doing it's biofilter job and that's pretty much it.
Thank you, this is a great answer with great advice! Im saving this so I remember to check back when I finally do get a saltwater tank!
 
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BettaFishObsessed said:
Thank you, this is a great answer with great advice! Im saving this so I remember to check back when I finally do get a saltwater tank!
In would also strongly suggest looking at this. There are a fair number of bad habits from the freshwater side of things before going salty. This vid addresses the most common mistakes folks make when converting over:

 
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Jesterrace said:
In would also strongly suggest looking at this. There are a fair number of bad habits from the freshwater side of things before going salty. This vid addresses the most common mistakes folks make when converting over:

Okay, thank you! I will be sure to watch that!
 
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