Saltwater Fish Tank Setup and Supplies

Setting up the Tank…..

When you decideAmazon to setup a marine aquarium the first thing to consider is what is it that you want. Do you want a fish tank, reef tank, or both. This will effect the type of setup you are going to build ad the maintenance involved in it. An all fish aquarium is the easiest to setup and maintain and the combo tank is the most difficult.

Saltwater Fish Tank

If only intend on keeping fish the setup and requirements aren’t as rigorous. Of course you can always get a kit from the Store. I have a few listed that you might find interesting or at least get a few ideas. The things you will need:

An Aquarium

Filtration (remember you need 3 types)

Canister or sump (mechanical)

Live Rock (around 1/2 lbs per gallon), under gravel filter (Biological)

Activated charcoal and some other type of media (zoolite) (Chemical)


For fish it doesn’t need to be anything fancy but you are going to want lighting that is closer to natural

Test Kits

specific Gravity meter

Ammonia, Nitrate, Nitrite, and PH

Substrate for the bottom

Crushed coral or sand. If you are going to use crushed coral I recommend an under gravel filter to support biological mass. This will consume some of the sludge that can build up otherwise. If you are using sand only use a small amount less than an inch deep. If you make your substrate to deep or do not add an under gravel filter your Nitrate 20160316_110105levels will go up in a year or two and you won’t be able to get it back down.

Saltwater Mix

I recommend Red Sea coral life. But Instant Ocean also makes a good product and it comes in both regular and their new reef addition.


This is totally up to you. Just make sure whatever you get it is saltwater safe. Not everything made for aquariums are safe for both fresh and saltwater.


You may want powerheads if you added an under gravel filter . If not you may want to look into something to cause a current like a wave maker. You may also look into a protein skimmer but isn’t really necessary, though it will keep
your water clearer.


After getting all your equipment in place it is time to mix the salt and water. This is crucial that you get salinity where you want it. I would advise around 1.023. This is around the middle and is good in case of fluctuation. Your salinity will go up and down with evaporation. Every couple of days you will want to top off your tank with fresh water  between water changes. Add the water to the aquarium and turn on the pumps.  You will want to add something to cycle(Nitrogen cycle) the tank.  Instant ocean make the one that I used Fluval also makes a good starter. Let your aquarium run overnight                                                                                                                                               .

Add Your Fish

The moment you have been waiting for. First do a quick test of all your levels(Salinity, ammonia, Nitrate, Nitrite, ect). Before you go to the store get an idea of the types of fish you want. Do you want a few(1 or 2) aggressive fish or a a community tank. Make sure you know what you are getting if it communal and how big it will get. You don’t want to purchase a $300 dollar Emperor Angel to have to get rid of it the following year because it outgrew your tank.

Reef/Reef and Fish Aquarium Setup

To save you all of the reading I am going to combine the reef and combo tank. The setup is basically the same. It is important that when you setup a combo tank you pay particular attention to the placement of the decor. You want to avoid if possible creating places where waste can collect and you can’t get it out.


I am a firm believer in go big or go home when it comes to filtration. A sump would probably be your best choice for this system. I also believe in going at least 30% bigger than the aquarium you are going to run. This of course is only my opinion. When you get into this hobby you will quickly discover that it can become very expensive. The last thing you want as a new hobbyist is to have literally 1000’s of dollars in corals and find out you added one to many fish.20160304_145017[1] Sometimes fish will grow a little bigger than anticipated and throw your system over the normal threshold. You should also consider around one lbs of live rock to every gallon of water. This will ensure that there is proper biological filtration. Live rock also will house copepods that will also contribute to your biological filtration.

Lighting for Inverts

Corals and invertebrates have specific lighting requirement. It is not like a fish tank, corals have zooxanthellae that convert sunlight into food in addition to eating various other food items. Zooxanthellae serve a similar purpose in corals as chlorophyll serves in plants. This is a symbiotic relationship serving both the coral and algae protist. These algal protozoa help the coral survive in nutrient poor waters of the tropics. Sorry, that is the nerd in me coming out, there are plenty of good lighting systems on the market today. Of course to learn more about lighting click HERE.

Good Luck



  • Rina says:

    I have always thought salt water fish tanks looked SO cool! I have a normal fish tank right now, but have been wanting a salt water for a year now. Your post is very informational. It makes me want to buy one right now. Do you have a specific place where you like to purchase your supplies? Thanks!

    • Adam says:

      For normal everyday supplies like liquid calcium and Iodide I usually buy online. For salt mixes I normally get it from my local specialty store, I like to us Seachum Laboratories Salinity. If you are like me, I rather buy the actual aquarium where I can put my hands on it and look at it. Thanks for stopping by and good luck with your fresh water aquarium and let me know if there is anything you need help with.

  • Simon Crowe in Asia says:

    Thank you this is really detailed and helpful. My sons really wants some clownflish (Nemo fish lol) for his birthday next month so we’re just looking at how much maintenance and upkeep is involved with keeping saltwater fish.

    It seems like there’s a lot you have to buy for a saltwater fish tank… how much would you say it all costs in total? Best place to buy?

    Appreciate the help! Thanks!

    • Adam says:

      How much depends on what you want. If you just want an aquarium to keep a clownfish I would say around $150 – $200. You can get great deals on Amazon. I have an estore on my webpage with the best deals I could find.

  • Michel says:

    I would love too have a feature aquarium in our living room and a salt one like you are talking about looks like the safer option.

    I had a fish tank when I was younger but it wasn’t a salt one and I didn’t have tjo much success with it. Maybe it is time to try again.

    • Adam says:

      I would recommend getting an all in one kit. There are many kinds out there that all you need to do is add saltwater and the animals you need.

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