Saltwater Aquarium

The saltwater aquarium is, so to speak, the “king” of aquaristics, and it amazes you every day. A wonderful hobby that is an eye-catcher in every room and also brings many challenges with it. In this article, I would like to give you an understanding of the first steps on the subject of “planning a saltwater aquarium”.

Plan the Saltwater Aquarium

Which corals and fish can I put in a saltwater aquarium?

Before you think about the aquarium, you have to know which animals, i.e. corals and fish, you want to keep in it. Everyone has a certain idea of ​​what their pool should look like. There are the following variants:

Pure fish aquarium

Since only fish live in it and corals are dispensed with, it is easier to care for and more forgiving of mistakes. There are fish that like to eat corals. A pure fish aquarium is perfect for them. Of course, a reef rock should not be missing.

Coral reef aquarium

Here, too, it must be decided whether it should be a soft coral or a hard coral aquarium. Soft corals need weaker light, are easier to care for, and therefore better for beginners. These do not have a solid skeleton and bring a lot of life into the pool through their movement. Hard corals have a firm skeleton, are rigid, and come in bright colors. However, they need more light and have higher demands on water quality.

Mixed reef

This means an aquarium with different types of corals and fish. Since all animals have different needs in this, it is very important to be well informed about which animals can be used, which get along well at the same time.

Size of the saltwater aquarium

Once you have decided on the tank of your choice, you should think about the exact population, because the size of your aquarium depends on it. Do you only want to keep small fish that swim less, or large fish that swim a lot and take up a lot of space? With corals you also have to choose which ones you want, do they need a lot of little light and current? Please inquire with experts what liters your desired trimming actually needs and whether these can be combined well in order to meet the requirements. Beginners are usually advised to use pools over 250 liters, as these are easier to maintain and are more forgiving of small mistakes.

Complete set or made to measure?

You now know which pool size it should be. Now comes the next decision, should it be a complete set or a custom-made product? Complete sets are usually cheaper. But if you want to integrate a special shape or the basin in the wall, you have to have it made.

Location of the saltwater aquarium

First of all, it must be clarified whether the soil can withstand the weight of the aquarium, especially if you want to get a large aquarium. The aquarium should be in a place that you can observe perfectly and that is easily accessible so that you can work in the aquarium from several sides. Please do not stand by the window and do not get any rays from the sun. Of course, it is also important that there are several sockets nearby. A quiet environment is ideal.

Accessories for a Saltwater Aquarium


  • Lighting plays an important role in saltwater aquariums. Not only does it make for a beautiful picture, but the light is also vital for your reef. Which color temperature and how many Kelvin you need depends on your trimmings.
  • The protein skimmer is responsible for cleaning the pool, it removes proteins and pollutants.
  • One or better several flow pumps are needed for the perfect flow for the animals.
  • For the temperature, you need a thermometer so that you can control it in order to adjust it, a heating rod, and a cooling. Most residents need 24-26 degrees Celsius.
  • An algae magnet is recommended for cleaning the panes. Be careful not to damage the panes.

Optional: UV or ozone system against parasites and for clear water as well as a dosing system to facilitate the additions.


You need saltwater for a saltwater aquarium. You can also buy ready-made saltwater from specialist retailers that you can fill in directly, or you can make your own saltwater more cheaply. To do it yourself, you need osmosis water, which is softened and filtered water. You can buy the osmosis water from specialist retailers or you can produce it yourself with a reverse osmosis system. You have to connect the osmosis system to the water pipe and collect the purified water in a clean container.

Then you need special salt. Get advice from specialist retailers as to which salt is suitable for your stock, because there are differences here too.

Now you can mix the saltwater according to the instructions and it is ready for use. It is important to measure the density with a density meter (refractometer). The salt content must be between 1.23 and 1.25.

The water level in the aquarium must always be the same, as a drop in the water level changes the salt density in the aquarium. If you don’t want to constantly top up the water by hand, an automatic refill system is recommended.

Sand and Rock

If you choose a pure coral pool, sand is not absolutely necessary. If you want to keep fish, it is a must, depending on the type of fish. But make sure that you don’t fill in too much sand as pollutants will collect in it. There are two types to choose from: live sand, which you can get wet, and which already contains bacteria or dry sea sand. There are also different grain sizes, from fine to coarse. Pay attention to what your future stocking needs.

There are different types of rock used to build the reef:

  • Live rock: perfect for biology, as even the smallest organisms live in it. But be careful not to introduce parasites.
  • Reef ceramics: a good alternative where you can live out your creativity, as you can even have them made and shaped according to your wishes.
  • Real Reef Rocks: is real rock that has been drained naturally over several hundred years, so it is an environmentally friendly variant, as it is not taken from the sea.
  • Life Rock: is a dead rock with a bacterial coating.

You can also mix the rock. When setting up, make sure that the rock has a good flow and that there are plenty of hiding spots for the animals.

Water Tests

In the first few months, in particular, you will have to test the water often, because your animals are only fine if the water values ​​are correct. You can also get water tests at home. These are very easy to do. What we test at home are carbonate hardness, calcium, magnesium, nitrite, nitrate, ammonium, and ammonia, silicate, PH, and phosphate.

You can also send in the ICP water test for analysis for detailed values ​​of the water. Even if you test at home, it makes sense to send in a test in between.


There are still quite a few accessories that you will need. That in turn depends on your stocking and the tank. To start with, you can add bacterial cultures that are important for the biology of the aquarium. Furthermore, trace elements, because you have to supply what your corals use up again. Hence the regular water tests. A carbonate hardener is also your constant companion.

There are many more additives. These always depend on your tank, the population, and the conditions.

Planning a Marine Aquarium: How Much Time Do I Need?

At first, a saltwater aquarium is very complex, as you first have to familiarize yourself with everything and develop a feeling for your aquarium. Once the run-in phase is over, the actual time required depends solely on your population and the size of your pool. A tank without corals is not as time-consuming as a coral tank. To give you an insight, here is a rough list:

Daily work

Feed the animals, clean the windows, check the skimmer and empty it if necessary, fill up with water, add additives such as trace elements.

Weekly to monthly work

Producing saltwater, changing water, measuring water values, basic cleaning, cleaning the technology, cutting corals.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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