There are three main types of saltwater aquarium set ups. When deciding on which one to choose, you should remember that each of them has its advantages and drawbacks. When starting your saltwater aquarium, it is essential that you decide on so many things such as how big you want your tank to be, type of fish to be cultivated and the equipment you will be using. Most importantly, you must know the type of tank that is the best choice for you. As far as setting up a saltwater aquarium is concerned, you are bound to be much more successful if you take some time to learn and understand the different options available at your disposal.
Distinguishing between types of saltwater aquarium
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that saltwater tanks are always the same. Your three options for saltwater aquariums to consider are:
- Fish only
- FOWLR- fish only with live rock
- Reef tanks
The specific kind of tank inhabitants is what really distinguishes these three different types of aquarium set ups and it is not just the fish. As far as stocking your salt water tank is concerned, you will need to remember that many responsibilities do exist beyond the fish you are rearing. Live rock is used for decorating the saltwater tanks and salt water invertebrates like live corals are used for decorating reef tanks. While these tanks have a similar basic set up, additional equipment is however required including protein skimmers, additional tank accessories and high powered lighting systems. Maintenance requirements also tend to vary slightly as well from one tank to another.
- Fish only tanks
This is actually the most basic and least expensive type of saltwater aquarium that you can set up. Fish only tanks don’t require the improved lighting required by other setups. The good thing about it is that the only thing that you will really need to be worried about is the fish. Installation of additional equipment for meeting the requirements of your corals is not required and you even shouldn’t be worried about having to cultivate live rock. Even though fish only tanks have simple set ups and don’t even require you to invest much, this doesn’t mean that it is the easiest way to cultivate the fish.
As you probably already know, it is very important that for a healthy aquarium to be maintained, the nitrogen cycle must be established and maintained. This is the process in which the beneficial bacteria in the tank usually break the toxins down such as ammonia into substances that are less harmful. Establishing the nitrogen cycle might take a little longer in the fish only tank and frequent maintenance of fish only tanks is important also. You have two options to consider with fish only tanks, i.e. semi- aggressive tanks and community tanks and it is essential that you do your homework very well on either of them to ascertain which one is a much better option for you.
- Fish Only with Live Rock
What differentiates this saltwater aquarium setup from the fish only tank is the inclusion of live rock in the set up. Live rock makes the tank look more natural and is what the fish are accustomed to. The term live rock is used by most hobbyists for describing rock formations that act as the habitat to many organisms and algae. Such organisms play a very crucial role in saltwater tanks as they serve as a natural way for biological filtration. However, the expensive nature of this tank has always been the main downside, but if you ever plan to have corals this is where to start. Using 1 to 2 lbs is highly recommended for the best results to be achieved per gallon. And considering the expensive nature of live rock, you should be able to know which the best choice is for you. You can save some coins by curing your own live rock, buying dry rock and seeding it with live rock or making your own live rock, but that will be an article by itself.
Something you should remember when cultivating FOWLR tank is the need to start off with your largest tank. This is because a larger tank is able to offer more water volume which increases the ability of your aquarium to recover well from mistakes made. This is because small tanks can suffer disastrous effect of chemical imbalances but they can however be diluted effectively in larger tanks to make them less harmful. Not to mention if you get “hooked” what you think now is a large tank will become small and you will want a bigger tank. As far as equipment is concerned, putting in place a filtration system of a high quality is recommended, together with the protein skimmer for assisting with nutrient control. Sump systems or wet/ dry filters are recommended for FOWLR tanks. Lighting is still not a big concern at this point as you still are not growing corals.
Cultivation of the reef tanks is deemed to be the most challenging compared to the other two types of saltwater aquariums. Generally speaking, reef tanks are only advisable for experienced tank aquarium hobbyists. Reef tanks have much more demanding requirements for improved lighting, filtration and excellent water quality not to forget that you will need to monitor the water parameters daily. Generally, the reef tank is geared towards saltwater invertebrates like anemones and corals. It is not unusual to find a reef tank that doesn’t have fishes in it. Reef hobbyists are generally focused more on cultivating their anemones and corals. This is a task that demands diligent attention and daily care.
Reef tanks are also associated with high start up costs because besides buying the large tank, one is also required to by high quality equipment and even a unit for reverse osmosis for treating water in the tank. As you can see, a significant investment is required to cultivate reef tanks and it is with no doubt a great challenge to embark on. As such, it is essential that you do your research very well since even simple mistakes can have devastating effects on the reef tank.