Saltwater Shopping List For Beginners

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You’ve been thinking of starting a saltwater tank, but you have no experience. The logical place to begin your adventure is accumulating supplies. Depending on your budget, this may need to be spread out over a length of time, or if you’ve been saving, you could purchase it all at once. In any case, saltwater requires more equipment than the average freshwater aquarium. This article can be used as a starting point to your journey. This is not an all-inclusive list, by any means, but it lists the essential items required.

  • First thing you need a tank. In the world of saltwater, larger tanks are actually easier to maintain than smaller “nano” tanks, due to regulating salinity and other levels of the tank. In a smaller aquarium, these levels are more likely to spiral out of control. For a beginner, a tank of 75 gallons or more would be recommended. While 55 gallon tanks could be used, a 75 gallon tank offers more depth – when you’re adding rocks and sand you’ll want the larger space to work in.
  • Next, you’ll need to decide what your plans are for stocking in the tank -will it be a reef or a fish only tank? This decision will directly impact the next steps, so do your research and make the best decision for you.

Related: Choosing Soft or Hard Coral

  • If you’re going with corals, you’ll need to choose a light that’s appropriate for them. Just like plants in freshwater, there are low light and high light corals. This is yet another variable in the mix that will affect your decision. There is a lot more to lighting than we can touch on in this article, but once you’ve decided which corals you’ll be keeping, you can then delve further into the topic to see how much and what kind of light best suits your situation.
  • Protein skimmers are another variable – they are designed to remove particles and waste from the water system, but saltwater keepers argue their necessity. It depends on your preferences, and whether or not you think that they are required for the system to be healthy and clean. Do your research and come to your own educated decision on this matter.

Related: Coral Reef-Safe Fish Species for Saltwater Tanks

  • The last item in our basic list of needs for a new saltwater aquarium is filtration. This is another area where there are a few options available, so additional research will be required. One of the options for filtration is a refugium, which essentially is an additional tank to the main tank that shares a water supply but contains other life that either would not survive in the main tank, or that the keeper wants to keep hidden. This can consist of nitrifying bacteria, other corals, fish, and inverts. It all depends on how simple or complicated the keeper wants to be with it. Another option is a sump, which is the same idea to a refugium, but contains no life. It is just an additional supply of water to be shared by the main tank. For example if you have a 75 gallon display tank, and a 55 gallon sump, you then have 130 gallons of water in your system. This just keeps the water cleaner by adding more capacity and uses less space.
  • Once all of these bigger items have been decided upon, there is a slew of smaller items that need to be purchased. A few include a hydrometer to measure the salinity of the water, nets, food, cleaning supplies, and the fish and corals to stock the aquarium. Even the experienced aquarist will forget some of these items when starting a new tank, and it seems there is always another item to be purchased.

As stated earlier, this is a basic list of items to gather when starting a saltwater aquarium. It is by no means a complete list, as there is so much to consider. Ample research and education should be done before beginning a tank so that you make the best decisions for your tank and your situation.

summerSummer Davis is the mom of three kids, four dogs, and several tanks of fish. She boasts a passion for all animals, whether they are in the water or on land. This fish aficionado has kept many different species in her time, but holds a special place in her heart for wild and domestic bettas. When she’s not talking about fish, Summer “spins” her extra time as the director of a baton twirling organization.