Welcome to Saltwater Aquarium Blog! Your online guide to building a better saltwater aquarium. Since 2009, I’ve connected with millions of readers worldwide, and I’m glad for the opportunity to connect with you!

The best way to connect with me and receive content as it appears? Join the thousands of others in the Saltwater Aquarium Blog Newsletter Community. When you join, I’ll send you a Free E-book and a weekly email newsletter to help you:

  • Enjoy your reef tank more than you already do
  • Fight common aquarium problems
  • Buy the right equipment and gear
  • Avoid common mistakes
  • Reduce the hassles of maintenance

You’ll also find helpful advice about building a better saltwater aquarium throughout the site. Let me share all of my knowledge with you and get you started on the path to a happy, gorgeous saltwater aquarium.

Why Keep a Saltwater Aquarium?

Setting up and maintaining a healthy saltwater aquarium can be a relaxing and rewarding hobby. Studies have shown that watching fish in an aquarium has a calming effect that lowers your pulse rate and blood pressure.

The saltwater aquarium hobby is part creative expression, part gardening (underwater gardening), and part pet ownership. You get to watch the animals grow and adapt to the environment you created and provided for them. It’s a pretty cool thing. Hopefully, the content here on Saltwater Aquarium Blog will help.

Find the Freshest Information at Saltwater Aquarium Blog

If you are looking for the freshest information from Saltwater Aquarium Blog, check out the “2017 Score #123 Taylor Gabriel NM-MT Falcons” tab at the top. The newest articles will automatically appear at the top. As you go deeper into the archives, you’ll time travel backward (and you won’t even need the Delorean). This is a fine way to explore and discover helpful tips, tricks, and advice. (Not to mention fall down a rabbit hole of saltwater aquarium delights!)

Search Saltwater Aquarium Blog for Specific Content

Looking for a specific topic related to ANYTHING in the saltwater aquarium realm? Consider using the search function to find specific Saltwater Aquarium Blog content. If you’re reading this on a desktop computer, the search function will appear at the top right part of the page in the margin. If you’re on a mobile device, the search bar slides down to the bottom. You can access it by clicking the magnifying glass at the top right of the page.

Explore Popular Categories

There have been A LOT of posts since 2009, with more content coming every month. And the information spans a range of topics within the saltwater aquarium hobby. The most popular articles all fall within a few specific categories. If you want to browse the categories to look for articles of interest, I have them listed here for easy reach:

  1. Saltwater Aquarium Fish
  2. Corals
  3. Aquarium Product Reviews

The Most Useful Pages on Saltwater Aquarium Blog

Another way to dive into the content is to check out the posts that rank up the most visits by other aquarium owners (or soon-to-be-owners) like you. These”most useful” pages include:

A few of the most popular pagers by category

There is a lot of information on this site about the care requirements for specific species of saltwater fish, corals, equipment & supplies, as well as other invertebrates and dealing with pests and disease. Some of the most popular species and topics are included below.

Saltwater fish

  1. Clownfish breeding & eggs
  2. Yellow tang
  3. Blue tang
  4. Ocellaris clownfish
  5. Yellow coris wrasse care

Corals

  1. Zoanthids
  2. Acans
  3. Hammer corals
  4. Zhenci Wooden Spoon, Soup Spoon Teaspoon Honey Spoon Mixing Spoo

Equipment & supplies

  1. Best reef salt mix
  2. Best protein skimmer
  3. Best aquarium chiller

Invertebrates

  1. Reef safe starfish
  2. Reef safe shrimp
  3. Feather duster worms
  4. Saltwater cleaner shrimp
  5. Sea hare

Dealing with pests and disease

  1. Bristle worms
  2. Hair algae
  3. Swim bladder disease
  4. Baby Blue Cardstock - 12 x 12 inch - 100Lb Cover - 25 Sheets - C
  5. Bryopsis algae
  6. Red slime cyanobacteria

What it Takes to be Successful in the Saltwater Aquarium Hobby

If you want to succeed in the saltwater aquarium hobby, you’ll need patience, planning, perseverance, and a desire to learn about and care for the world’s most beautiful and often fragile creatures.

When I set up my first tank, I thought I knew what I was doing because I’d cared for freshwater tanks. The reality is that some of the info about the reef hobby was confusing and often inaccurate. That’s one of the reasons I created the Saltwater Aquarium Blog – to help people avoid the pitfalls and mistakes I blundered into.

Along my path, I’ve continued learning (through reading, talking with others in the hobby, or messing things up pretty badly myself). There are plenty of people out there who know a lot more about the saltwater aquarium hobby than I do. But I started writing Saltwater Aquarium Blog for those getting their feet wet (metaphorically speaking – you shouldn’t put your feet in your reef tank).

You want to learn, plan, and be successful. And you just need to be pointed in the right direction. Success in this hobby is all about creating a stable environment for the animals in your tank. To do that, you need knowledge of the basics, time, equipment, patience, and persistence. You have to understand the needs of the animals in your tank (sometimes called husbandry requirements), and you have to provide that for them – almost every hour of every day.

The way you do that is by maintaining near-perfect water conditions with the right equipment and maintenance. When you stray from ideal water conditions, your risk of problems goes up. Don’t let that scare you, though. There are many tools to help you in the various articles throughout the Saltwater Aquarium Blog.

Does a Saltwater Aquarium Need to be Big?

When the saltwater aquarium hobby first hit the scene, many people thought you needed a big tank to be successful. Over the last 20 years, the equipment used to keep saltwater aquariums has improved, making it possible to keep saltwater fish and corals thriving in almost any size tank.

In a survey of Saltwater Aquarium Blog readers. The data, from 123 respondents, in October 2021, show that there are lots of saltwater aquarium owners with tanks of all sizes–or just about.

The actual breakdown by aquarium size is as follow:

  • 3.3% have a tank between 5.1 to 20 gallons
  • 24.4% have a tank between 20.1 and 55 gallons
  • 30.9% have a tank between 55.1 and 90 gallons
  • 16.3% have a tank between 90.1 and 120 gallons
  • 25.2% have a tank larger than 120 gallons

If we combine a few of these statistics, you will see that the majority of saltwater aquarium owners (58.6%) run a tank that is 90 gallons or smaller, while the minority (41.5%) run a tank larger than 90 gallons.

Size is no longer a prerequisite to having a successful reef tank. Now, it is a matter of personal preference, and a trade-off decision, not a requirement. The type of saltwater fish and corals you can keep will also play a role in deciding what size tank to pick. Here are a few guides to help you pick the best saltwater fish based on the size of the tank:

Does a Saltwater Aquarium Need to be Expensive?

Owning a saltwater aquarium CAN be expensive. Many people choose to spend a lot of money on the equipment and livestock for their tanks. But a saltwater aquarium Mandala Crafts Anodized Aluminum Wire for Sculpting, Armature, J. I recommend starting small. You can try things out and see how much you enjoy the hobby before getting into the expansive side of things.

You’ll find PLENTY of ways to spend money on this hobby. But there are also articles on Saltwater Aquarium Blog that can save you time and money. (I’m a firm believer in saving pennies wherever you can)

Where Can You Buy a Saltwater Tank?

Used Equipment

Believe it or not, one of the best places to buy a saltwater aquarium is from another saltwater aquarium hobbyist. This is a hobby where the most enthusiastic people generally change, upgrade, or swap out parts of their tanks. So at any given time, there is usually a decent supply of gently used tanks and gear. And we’re a friendly group; you won’t have to break the bank when you look to a fellow hobbyist for a deal.

You can usually stretch your budget and get more for your money if you buy used. It’s also a good way to tap into the knowledge of others and get started on the right foot. Pick the brain of the hobbyist you’re buying from and ask your questions.

Craigslist and local saltwater aquarium hobby forums are the perfect places to start your hunt for used gear.

Stores

If you’re looking for a store with a physical location, your best bet is to check for a specialty (independently owned) shop. In the hobby, we like to call these local fish stores (LFS). I recommend these stores over the big box national retail chains because local fish stores are usually run by aquarium enthusiasts who have a passion for and knowledge about the hobby.

Aquarium equipment, fish, and corals are NOT commodity products. They require tender loving care and knowledge that – in my personal experience – is more commonly found in the local fish store than in the megastores.

It might cost you more to hit up a store, but getting the additional education and support your LFS can provide is worthwhile.

Online

If you already have a degree of comfort and understand what it takes to set up a saltwater aquarium successfully, online is another great place to buy a saltwater tank. The all-in-one aquarium systems are turnkey solutions that are easy to ship and set up out of the box.

If you’re looking to score a good deal, check out the options available at online retailers like Amazon. There you can often get some of the best prices on JBJ or Coralife brand cubes (Please note, those are affiliate links). They make great starter saltwater aquariums.

Additional Education in Addition to the Saltwater Aquarium Blog

Are you serious about increasing your learning? Do you want a more formal and organized way to engage in learning about building a better saltwater aquarium? Obviously, the best place to start is reading all the free information on Saltwater Aquarium Blog. But afterward, you can check out this Amazon #1 Bestselling book: The New Saltwater Aquarium Guide. (Written by yours truly, no less)

Buy now on Amazon

Thank You for Reading Saltwater Aquarium Blog!

Thanks for checking out Saltwater Aquarium Blog – your online guide to building a better saltwater aquarium! I know you have limited time to surf the web and consume content, and I’m truly grateful that you spend some of that time here with me.

Albert B. Ulrich III author of Saltwater Aquarium Blog

I hope you enjoy the time you spend here and learn something along the way. That’s what Saltwater Aquarium Blog is all about!

Comments

  1. Hi Al,

    I’ve truly enjoyed your articles and emails on saltwater aquariums. Within the last two years I moved into a retirement home in Rockford, IL., and I noticed that there are very few (like 2?) saltwater fish stores in this town of 150k+ people. With that said, I am seriously considering setting up a saltwater aquarium for my apartment. Unfortunately, there is a 10 gal limitation on aquariums though I think I can get away with a 20 gal.

    I have had several fresh water tanks before, most notably a 50 & 75 gal variety. Since I can’t have anything that big anymore, I would like your opinion or advice on what fishes I can get, even online, that would be good for a community reef aquarium of only 20 gallons in size.

    Thanks again,

    George Generke

    1. Author

      Hi George,

      Thanks for your note, nod of support and the question. Sure thing. Here are a few suggestions. Check out these articles:
      25 Best Saltwater Fish for Beginners
      The 20 Most Common Saltwater Fish

      That should give you two good places to start. Here are a few other thoughts in summary:
      Pick a smaller clownfish species (Common, Percula, Skunk) – get 2
      Pick 1 small basslet or dottyback (Royal gramma or Orchid Dottyback, for example)
      Pretty much any small goby you want
      Pick 1 PJ Cardinal or Banggai Cardinal

      For starters, that’s a decent selection

  2. Hi Al!
    I’m not sure how I found your blog, but I’m glad I did! I’ve browsed through your pages and have really enjoyed what I’ve read – looking forward to reading more in-depth. I have a 54-gallon corner seahorse tank with a 26-gallon sump and a 57-gallon Cade with a 13-gallon sump that I am just setting up, so your articles will be very helpful. We started in the hobby with our first freshwater tank in 1990 then moved to marine in around 1992 or 1993. We’ve been in love with the hobby ever since. Thanks for the great blog! We love meeting all the cool people in the hobby.

  3. I do have a quick question for you, Al. I want to place my 20 gal aquarium on some sort of padding under the glass bottom to support it, potentially reducing the tank from cracking and protecting the finish of my stand. Any suggestions?

    1. Author

      Hi George, I totally understand your point here–you want to protect the furniture. The tricky part here is that aquariums are very delicate things and engineering marvels. They are designed such that the forces from the weight of the water are evenly distributed on all sides. So you want to be sure your tank is level and flat and whatever you put between the tank and the stand does not bunch up. You want it to be even on all sizes and completely supporting the ledge or you could potentially create a stress/leak point.

      With that said, I have used a plastic desk cover before. I would caution against anything too thick. And be careful, as I said, with respect to the physics here and ensuring even distribution of weight and no ‘bunching up’

  4. Thank you, Al.

    I realize that I shouldn’t have any bunching up of whatever I put underneath the aquarium, and also nothing too thick. I was hoping to get a tip on where to buy such an item. I’ll look around and online for some high density foam that I can trim to an exact fit.

    1. Author

      Sounds good George. I Personally recommend just placing it directly on the stand, so I don’t have a tried and true recommendation for you here, unfortunately. If anyone has a recommendation and wants to reply here, I’ll post it.
      Regards,
      Al

  5. First, I want to say that I have learned so much from this site. There is a dizzying amount of information out on the web and I feel that you seem to have the best information that I feel I can rely on.

    I have had a large 100 gallon fresh water tank for many years but I am just itching to go to a saltwater reef tank of at least that size.

    I do see having a saltwater tank as a commitment to doing all I can for those creatures in my care, so to that end. Here is my question. I do travel about a month to 6 weeks out of the year, although not all at one time. Saltwater tanks need more looking after and if I am gone for 2 weeks how will I do that? I have used pet sitters in the past for pets but this is a little more complicated if they are going to take care of the reef in the manner that they need for optimal health.

    Thank you.

    1. Author

      Hi Lynn, thanks for the great question. If you are planning to leave your tank for longer than a week, you would want to hire a sitter. To your point, the best person to do this isn’t a teenager in the neighborhood without any experience. You would want to pick someone very responsible, reliable and give very explicit instructions. The best bet is to find someone who has been endorsed locally by other reefers in your area.

  6. Wow, amazing! This Blog was what I was looking for, as I want to learn enough before I buy my first saltwater aquarium.
    Thank you so much and keep up the good work!

    Stephanie

      1. It’s going to be an Red Sea Reefer XL 425 Deluxe System with Deltec Skimmer, Jecod Wavemaker and Jecod DCP-6000

        It’s going to be a mixed tank, so not fish only, cause I absolutely love corals!

        We are going on vacation the end of July and when we get back we are going to start it up, can’t wait!

        1. Author
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          Hi Stephanie,

          Thanks for the comment! Looking forward to hearing more about the tank. Sounds like a perfect idea to wait until you are back!

          Regards,
          Al

  7. Brilliant help in setting up and managing a reef aquarium
    It would be great to see maybe a chart showing the key parameters that we need to maintain alongside the options on what is available in terms of supplements or equipment to counteract any changes to the parameters. Seems to me at least to be a minefield of what to add so it would be great to have a “ready reckoner” of what to do if your parameters are not right. Thank you . Great articles though

  8. Hello Albert,

    Thanks for putting together this resource. It is a great place to do a little research.

    I ran a marine aquarium about 20 years ago. Gave up when something went sideways with my set up and dumped about 30 gallons of saltwater on the floor. Of course it happened when we were away for the weekend so I lost everything when the water level dropped below the overflow and filtration stopped.

    I am thinking about starting a new version now that finances are in better shape than with two small female types demanding food and such.

    I have read the article on setting up and I missed something I expected to see.
    When I was in the hobby, the most important component of any set up was the bio-filter. Mine was perched above the sump and received the bulk of the overflow. The media were cut up hair curlers and it was where the bacteria converted ammonia to nitrites and nitrites to nitrates. It work well as long, kept ammonia and nitrites undetectable and required no maintenance. If fact, the predominant thinking was you could only hurt your bio-filter by trying to clean it.

    There was plenty of literature on cubic volume and water flow based on the bio-load and excess capacity was considered better for when one of your tenants expired. If you saw any ammonia or nitrite, you knew something was off.

    Is this piece of filtration now a thing of the past? I am assuming research has shown enough live/dead rock in the viewing tank will do the trick. Plus I never heard of a refugium until I read your articles so that might be part of it. Or did I miss it somehow?

    I’m pretty handy and will be building the entire set-up so I am in the planning stage and trying to figure out what is going where. I’m sure I’ll have other questions about the refugium. I like the idea of moderating the pH levels with counter-timed lighting.

    Any response is appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Ed

    1. Author

      Hi Edward, thanks for the comment/question. Welcome back! The hobby and your fishy friends missed you, although who could argue with taking a pause after the unfortunate mess you had…and all those hungry mouths you were feeding.

      With respect to the bio-filter, the principle of maintaining a colony of living bacteria to help keep your water pristine is still very much an everyday part of success. Your point about cleaning it is the way to ruin it is also still as true today as it was ever, but what has potentially evolved is the notion of where those bacteria live. They aren’t limited to the biowheel or the sponge in your filter. Sure, those are great places…like a highrise apartment building for your bacteria, but they aren’t necessarily necessary, because those bacteria will live on or in almost any non-living surface in your tank system that will allow and many of us get sufficient biological filtration simply by maintaining water flow throughout the aquarium (which also helps our corals thrive and keeps down problem algae). We tend to view the live rock we keep in our tanks, or the sand (if you have a sand bed) as the primary ‘homes’ for those bacteria and if you have a sufficient amount of this porous rock as the base structure of your reef and if you have sufficient flow, you’re probably alright. With that said, you could certainly add an external filter if you wanted to!

      To one of your other questions, the refugium does help–it creates a natural environment where you harness the natural proclivity of algae to pull nutrients from the water column–but that is likely just a water polishing step, not replacing the biological filter (bacteria), per se.

      Hope that helps and looking forward to hearing more about your tank and progress.

      Regards,
      Al

  9. Hi Al,
    Thank you for sharing all of your experience and resources. It is so helpful to have access to so much information in one place. I took a break from salt water for the last three years, and have been considering entering the salt water world again. Your blog makes it seem so much less intimidating. Just wanted to drop a note of thanks.

    1. Author

      Hi Stephanie,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to drop your note of thanks!! It means the world to me. I appreciate you and hope you get back into saltwater again soon (if you want to)!

      Let me know how I can help.

      Regards,
      Al

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