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Is It Possible for a Beginner to Have a Saltwater Aquarium?

Beginners & Saltwater Aquariums San Diego, CA

According to estimates made by the Journal of Conservation Letters, more than 2 million aquarists around the world care for saltwater and reef tanks. The global marine aquarium trade accounts for 50 million transactions of live species each year. We’re talking about fish, plants, invertebrates such as shrimp, and live rock. Most saltwater aquarium enthusiasts are based in the United States, Japan, and Europe, although the hobby has been on the rise in countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines. A survey conducted in 2019 by graduate students at the University of Rhode Island estimated that approximately 25 percent of aquarium tanks in the U.S. are dedicated to saltwater species. If you’re a beginner and you’re wondering whether you can keep a saltwater aquarium, here’s what you need to know.

Going from Freshwater to Saltwater Tanks

Something the statistics above don’t reflect is that many fish keepers start out with freshwater tanks before venturing into the fascinating world of saltwater and reef aquariums. This doesn’t apply to all beginners. Even though the care and maintenance of marine tanks and species tends to be more involved compared to freshwater ecosystems, and though there are several important saltwater aquarium supplies you’ll need to purchase, there’s nothing that would preclude a new fish keeper from getting started with a saltwater aquarium.

Types of Saltwater Aquariums

In the freshwater aquarium world, you can have planted aquascapes, predator tanks, nano tanks, breeder tanks, and a couple of other types. In the marine world, you can get started with what’s known as a fish-only tank, which usually involves keeping a few resilient species such as damsels, yellow tangs, and clowns. These fish can adapt to habitats with decorations instead of coral, and some aquarium shops sell them as part of starter kits. Reef tanks are higher in the saltwater hierarchy of aesthetics, complexity, and hands-on maintenance, but they’re not off limits to beginners thanks to the advantage of live rock.

Minimum Tank Size for Saltwater Beginners

Whereas freshwater starter kits are often sold with 20-gallon tanks that can support a small school of neon tetras, you’ll need to start out bigger with saltwater tanks. The saltwater testing and changing schedule for a 30-gallon tank, which is the minimum for a fish-only habitat, will keep you busy caring for the aquatic environment. Anything smaller than 30 gallons is considered to be a saltwater nano tank, and those can be quite challenging to care for.

Going from Live Rock to Reef Tank

Saltwater beginners who hope to recreate a coastal reef ecosystem don’t necessarily have to start with a full reef tank. A fish-only marine tank with live rock is a great foundation for a future reef tank as long as you keep a small fish load and keep the nitrates and phosphate at very low levels. It’s ideal for fish keepers who wish to learn about marine biology through the practical lessons of curing the live rock, cultivating beneficial algae, introducing invertebrates, inviting sponges to develop, introducing plants, and watching the ecosystem become more like a reef with each passing day, because in reality it’s a reef tank. Don’t expect to stock a live rock tank in just one week. The right way to establish the habitat could take a couple of months, but the results are very rewarding.

Whether you decide you want to start a saltwater aquarium or you end up going with a freshwater tank, Aquatic Warehouse has everything you need to properly maintain your aquarium. If you need an aquarium dosing pump, beneficial bacteria, filtration, testing kits, or any other essential supply, stop by our store in Kearny Mesa or order what you need from our website and have it shipped to you. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call 858-467-9297. One of our friendly and knowledgeable representatives would be happy to assist you.

Contact Information

  • Address: 5466 Complex Street Suite 204
    San Diego, CA 92123
  • Phone: (858) 467-9297
  • Email: sales@aquaticwarehouse.com
  • Working Days/Hours: Mon - Fri / 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
    Saturday / 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
    Sunday / 11:00 AM - 6:00 PM


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