Beginner's 12 Step Program

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12 Things to Consider Before You Buy Your Aquarium:
Aquariums are a wonderful hobby, providing hours of restful, beautiful entertainment. They can be a great way for children to learn about ecosystems, and they can help to relieve the stress of everyday life. They do require some work, thought, and planning, and this article will help you to get started.
Your first consideration should be whether you can give your fish the care, time, and patience that they will need from you. Fish can be a large time and financial commitment, because they need special attention and equipment. And, since different fish have different needs, a trip to the library, book store, or to the book section on a web site or mail order catalog makes a good starting point. For every kind of fish that you consider, you should address the following twelve areas of concern.
1. Start-up cost and fish type
Keeping aquarium fish typically has a fairly high start-up cost. This is mostly due to all the equipment needed to provide the fish with a proper environment. Purchasing a tank, filters, lights, and other essentials can add up quickly if you are not careful. Fish themselves, can range from inexpensive to very expensive for special or rare species. For a beginning freshwater fish enthusiast, a typical start-up cost can range from $200 and up, depending on the types of fish and equipment selected. Marine (saltwater) fish and marine tank setups will cost more than freshwater setups. In both cases, the larger the tank the higher the cost will be.
A typical tropical freshwater aquarium can safely support one inch of fish per gallon of water, although this will vary with the amount of water surface area (More surface area allows more oxygen, which supports more fish. Fish length is calculated at full-grown size, less the tail measurement.). Some fish are schooling fish, which by nature are more comfortable in bigger groups. Other fish may not like to be in an aquarium with any others of its own species. And, if they are territorial - as most marine fish and some freshwater fish can be - they will need more room in the aquarium than the average one-inch per gallon.
Both marine and freshwater setups have benefits and drawbacks. Marine fish are more colorful and beautiful, but require a higher level of care and expertise, so for a beginning fish enthusiast, a freshwater aquarium is recommended. Freshwater aquariums tend to be easier to maintain than marine aquariums because there are fewer chemical balances to worry about.
2. Aquarium size and placement
A good way to determine the size and type of aquarium you need to purchase is to get an idea of what kind of fish you find attractive. Your choice will be further restricted by where you can place the tank in your home, and by your budget. But as a general guideline, bigger is better. If you buy a larger aquarium than you think you need at first, it gives you room to add more fish later, if you choose to do so. The larger aquarium will also have more water, which can help thin out chemicals or other substances that may pollute the aquarium and cause illness in fish. No matter what size aquarium you choose, be sure that you can locate it somewhere with a level, sturdy, support surface, and where it is not in danger of being bumped into or knocked over. You should also keep your aquarium away from heater vents, windows, or doors, as these can produce harmful temperature fluctuations. Proximity to windows is also dangerous for aquariums, because it can allow too much light into the tank. Excess light leads to algae build-up, and you will quickly find yourself fighting a losing battle.
3. Patience and the nitrogen cycle
You may think that because your water starts out fine as you begin your setup, that it will remain that way. Not true. As you add fish to your aquarium, their waste produces harmful chemicals. Fortunately, nature provides a solution in the form of bacteria that break down these toxic chemicals into relatively harmless chemicals. The process nature uses to eliminate toxins from the tank is called the nitrogen cycle. Fish excrete toxic ammonia as part of respiration, and decaying fish waste and uneaten food produces additional ammonia. As the nitrogen cycle begins, the ammonia is converted by special kinds of bacteria into nitrites (which are also harmful), and these are then converted into nitrates. Excess nitrates can be controlled through partial water changes. The bacteria required for this process build slowly on the surface of your filters and gravel or substrate, and the process can take up to six weeks, starting from the day that you first add fish to your aquarium. (Estimate longer times if your tank setup requires a lower temperature.)
Developing enough bacteria to maintain the health of your aquarium requires both time and patience on the part of the beginning aquarium hobbyist. You will need time to "cycle" the tank. There are various recommendations on how to accomplish this. The number one rule is to go slowly. This means, at first, you may only add some plants. After about two weeks, add a few hardy fish which are tolerant of changing water conditions. You should start with fewer fish than your aquarium can hold, then add any additional fish over a period of weeks, allowing the ecosystem in the aquarium to readjust (recycle) in between. Each step needs to be gradual so the bacteria have enough time to multiply and break down the increasing amount of waste products.
Until the nitrogen cycle is functioning normally, it can be a stressful time for new fish and for you. It is a good idea to have an ammonia test kit on hand to monitor the nitrogen cycle by testing the water regularly. Despite the temptation to make changes to your aquarium, it is important that you not intervene unless ammonia or nitrite levels become intolerably high for long periods of time (temporary highs in both ammonia and nitrite levels are a part of the process). You should also avoid adding too many fish while the nitrogen cycle is being established, because you will disrupt the bacterial growth. As the cycle naturally progresses, the fish already in the aquarium can gradually adjust to changing water conditions with slightly elevated ammonia or nitrites. New fish might find these levels deadly.
Once the nitrogen cycle is completed, your aquarium will be able to detoxify constant levels of ammonia and other chemicals as long as you maintain the bacteria colony. Keeping those colonies healthy, or optimizing the amount of bacteria in the aquarium can be a function of the type of filtration equipment that you choose to use.
4. Filtration equipment
Determining the right filtration equipment is one of the most confusing but important choices that you will need to make. Essentially, aquarium filters work in three different ways.
Biological filtration takes advantage of the natural bacterial process involved in the nitrogen cycle. Biological filters provide larger surfaces for beneficial bacteria to colonize, ensure that water passes through the colonies, and help to protect those bacteria from being disturbed.
Mechanical filtration removes unsightly particles from the aquarium. This may include fish excrement, sludge, uneaten food, or dust. Tank water is passed through a mechanical filter, and the particles are strained out. To prevent build-up, the filter media must be cleaned regularly.
Chemical filtration can remove some dissolved wastes from the water which a mechanical filter is unable to take care of. When water passes through a chemical filter, the filter media chemically bonds with the waste molecules and holds onto them, thereby removing them from the aquarium.
Various filters offer various combinations of the different filtration methods:
Canister filters incorporate various types of media under pressure to accomplish the three types of filtration. When under pressure, water is forced through media that it would not normally pass, thus providing us with great mechanical filtration. Biological filtration is accomplished with various types of media, such as Ceramic rings, and sponges. Chemical media can be any number of carbon or resins, or a combination thereof. Canisters are slightly more difficult to maintain, but allow the greatest flexibility with different types of media, and the best mechanical filtration.
Power filters provide the convenience of a filter that hangs off of the back of the tank, and media changes are generally simple and convenient. Most of these types of filters use a cartridge that contains the media used. Some will also use a permanent type of biological filtration such as a sponge or bio-wheel. They are good all-around filters and great for smaller aquariums (55 gallons or less). Larger aquariums may warrant more than one, or upgrade to a different type of filtration.
Wet/Dry filters use a biological media, such as Bio-balls, or Bio-Wheels, to provide a very efficient biological filter. The water is usually distributed through a drip plate or spray bar across the biological media. This allows for optimum biological efficiency, and gas exchange. A wet/dry filter will typically use a sponge or other type of media for mechanical filtration. Chemical filtration may be added by the user.
Fluidized filters are similar to wet/dry filters in that they are very efficient biological filters. They do, however, accomplish this in a very different way. Using sand or similar synthetic media, they provide a very large amount of surface area for the bacteria to live on. Sand filters do not provide any additional types of filtration. They are compact, and almost maintenance free. They are ideal supplemental filters for canisters, or heavily stocked aquariums.
5. Ultraviolet (UV) sterilizers
UV sterilizers can be used in the prevention of free-floating algae, bacteria, viruses, fungus, and even some parasites. UV sterilizers incorporate a germicidal or UV lamp in which the ultraviolet rays emitted will kill certain organisms based on the amount of ultraviolet rays they are exposed to. The effectiveness on what organisms are killed is based directly on the flow rate of the water through the sterilizer, the wattage and diameter of the sterilizer itself, and the size of the aquarium. UV sterilizers are particularly beneficial in reef aquariums and marine fish-only aquariums. While some freshwater aquariums will use a UV sterilizer they are not nearly as common and not considered essential equipment. If a larger UV sterilizer is used to control parasites as well as bacteria be aware that they can generate a lot of heat and may increase the need of a chiller in large reef aquariums.
6. Aquarium lighting
Proper lighting is essential for tanks containing live plants, or marine animals that are dependent on light for food. Good lighting will also make the aquarium and the animals within look more attractive. Since the animals are no longer exposed to natural sunlight, providing the proper spectrum and intensity is vital for their overall good health.
7. Heaters and thermometers
No matter what kind of fish you choose, they will have fairly specific temperature requirements. The water temperature in an aquarium must remain constant; if the temperature is allowed to fluctuate too much, your fish can become stressed, which can lead to illness. Most fish need a water temperature between 75 and 80ºF. If you have one species in your aquarium, you can set the temperature specifically to reflect their needs. If, however, you have multiple species, 76 or 77ºF is a safe temperature target. Marine aquariums may require more attention to keep a consistent temperature, as they tend to need more light, which can warm the water.
8. Test kits and the addition of miscellaneous chemicals
The welfare of your new aquarium is dependent on its water quality. You will find that you need to purchase various chemicals and additives to help it achieve and maintain the proper balance for good water quality. Depending on the fish that you choose, you may need special pH adjusters and buffers, or salt and trace element additives. Water conditioners are a must for removing chlorine and harmful chemicals from tap water, and test kits are necessary to ensure that your water quality begins and remains at viable levels.
9. Food and supplements
Diet is an important element to ensure healthy fish, and the ideal diet goes beyond the simple "flaked" foods available in most stores. Flaked foods are sufficient for your fish, but feeding your fish flakes every day can be comparable to you eating nothing but rice every day - it is enough to survive for a while, but it lacks some essential nutrients, and can eventually become quite boring.
There are different options when it comes to your fish's diet, but the key thing to remember is that a varied diet is best. Plan on rotating fish food periodically and on supplying supplements or vitamin boosters for added nutrition. This way the fish will be sure to receive all the nutrients they need and will remain active.
Some fish enthusiasts prefer live food. You may hear a good deal of debate about this topic as you progress in your hobby. Live food has its own set of risks and benefits and is a big enough issue that it should be left alone by beginners. Freeze-dried foods and pellets make good alternatives, as do items like zooplankton and krill, which can be purchased.
10. Health control
Illness - it happens to all living things. At one time or another, your fish may become sick. While at first you may feel helpless, do not worry; there are a number of ways you can treat your sick fish in your own home. While most of the treatments depend on the specific ailment, it is a good idea to plan ahead and get another tank set up to use as a "quarantine tank" (this is also useful when adding new fish to an existing aquarium). By separating the sick fish, you can speed up the healing process and at the same time, reduce the risk of spreading the illness to other fish. Fish ailments can be caused by a variety of sources. The most common causes of sickness are fungal, bacterial, or parasitic. You will need treatments for each of the main types, and it is best to keep these on hand before disaster strikes.
11. Buying healthy fish from the start
Before you go to buy your fish, you will need to set up your aquarium and have it running for at least 3-4 weeks beforehand to ensure that the nitrogen cycle is complete and all mechanical equipment is functioning properly. Once you are ready to buy, a reputable on line retailer or pet store is a good place for beginners to buy their fish. You should decide in advance what species of fish you want and how many you want, so you can avoid temptation or pressure from pet store clerks to purchase something inappropriate. Remember that initially only a few of the hardiest species should be purchased, then after several weeks of allowing your aquarium to mature, additional fish can be purchased. There are also some things to keep in mind when you are picking out your fish in the store. Specifically, the fish should:
Be alert.
Be active, but not hyperactive or skittish.
Have clear eyes.
Have full, but not bloated stomachs.
Have well-shaped fins that are in good condition.
Be breathing steadily, without laboring to breathe.
Appear clean and colorful, without unnatural spots or excess slime.
Be certain to get the fish home quickly, and ask the clerk to add extra water to the bag if you are going to drive more than fifteen minutes or so. Float the bag of fish in your aquarium to give it time to adjust to the water temperature. And, if you have made adjustments to pH or other chemical levels, gradually add water from your aquarium to the bag of fish over the next hour to give the fish time to acclimatize. During this process, be careful to never add water from the fish store to the water in your aquarium. Remember, as a general rule of thumb, a tropical freshwater aquarium can safely support one inch of fish per gallon of water, though this increases with larger aquariums. Use the following table as a guide.
Total Length of All Fish (inches)
Tank Volume Fresh Tropical Fresh Coldwater Marine Tropical
10 gallon (high) 10 5 Unsuitable
20 gallon (high) 20 10 Unsuitable
20 gallon (wide) 25 12 Unsuitable
27 gallon (wide) 36 15 9
35 gallon (wide) 48 20 12
55 gallon (wide) 72 30 18
12. Do not forget the live plants
While live plants may be intimidating to some new freshwater aquarists, they do not have to be. If you acquire some of the hardier species, they can thrive in most aquariums and are notably beneficial in controlling algae, improving water quality, reducing stress for the fish, and making your aquarium look more natural and beautiful. If you will have plants, provide at least 1.5 watts of lamp power for every gallon of water in the aquarium (2-3 watts is better). This will usually require that you get at least a double strip lamp or a compact fluorescent, which are not standard on many starter tanks, but are well worth the additional expense. Choose a medium to fine gravel substrate, and ideally, add a long term fertilizer.
By following these few simple rules, you should have your aquarium up and running smoothly in 6-8 weeks. Remember that a larger tank is easier to regulate and allows a greater variety of species. While a 10-gallon tank may initially appear a little cheaper, a 29-gallon tank is a better starter tank and is going to provide a better environment for your fish, and a more diverse population of fish.
Acclimating Corals Into Your Reef Aquarium
While it has become easier than ever to find aquacultured and exotic corals from online retailers, the biggest challenge reefers still encounter is in handling and acclimating these delicate creatures after arrival. But with a careful touch and the right approach, experienced hobbyists can enjoy a beautiful living reef in their own homes.
Handling techniques for different corals
Different corals require different handling techniques. For instance, soft corals, polyps, and mushroom corals will normally arrive attached to a small rock. Only handle these corals by the rock, this way you can avoid touching the polyps. Hard corals with large fleshy polyps can be handled by their base, which is the hard exoskeleton. Other hard corals, including small polyp stony (SPS) corals, should be handled only by the base where it was fragmented, or by the plug or rock it is attached to. A pair of Aqua Gloves or a disposable gripper sleeve is highly recommended in handling all corals, and will reduce the possibility of irritating the coral when handling it. Furthermore, always handle all corals with a gentle touch in order to minimize the chances of damaging the specimen.
Acclimating new corals to your lighting system
Among the many species of corals available to the hobbyist, there are many differences in where they grow in nature and the corresponding lighting conditions they need in order to survive. Corals are highly adaptive to different lighting conditions, but some are more sensitive to change than others. It takes time for a coral to acclimate to its new environment, and care must be taken to help the organism adjust. This is especially important with some of the very intense lighting systems, like metal halides and T-5 fluorescents. Some corals, when not acclimated properly, can actually be "sunburned" by the artificial lighting, which opens the door to infection and possible demise. Place your new coral on the bottom of the aquarium in the substrate until the coral adjusts to the new lighting. A good sign that the coral has adjusted to the new system is when it appears fully expanded and displays full coloration. At that time, the coral can be moved to the desired location. Continue to monitor the coral's response to its new location, and if its coloration and expansion appear to decrease, relocate the coral to a lower position.
Proper placement of corals
When determining the final placement for your new coral, research its lighting and water flow requirements, and especially the coral's aggression toward other inhabitants within the aquarium. With all of this in mind, and an open space within the rockwork that affords room for future growth, gently move the coral to its new position. Since the coral may get knocked over by snails, sea urchins, or large hermit crabs, we recommend that you use a reef-safe underwater epoxy such as Mr. Sticky's Underwater Glue or AquaStik Epoxy Putty.
Acclimation Procedure for Saltwater Species
You have invested valuable time and money researching the habitat requirements of the fish and corals you wish to house. Naturally, you want to protect this investment by executing a proper acclimation process once the specimens arrive at your door. The purpose of acclimation is simple: the water that the fish or corals are packaged in has different temperature, pH, and salinity parameters than your aquarium. Fish, and especially invertebrates (including corals), are very sensitive to even minor changes in these parameters, so proper acclimation is the key to ensuring their successful relocation.
I recommend either of the two acclimation methods explained below, and wish to remind you the acclimation process should NEVER be rushed. Also, remember to keep your aquarium lights OFF for at least four hours after the specimens are introduced into the aquarium to help them further adjust.
Though not a requirement of our acclimation procedures, we highly recommend that all aquatic life be quarantined in a separate aquarium for a period of two weeks to reduce the possibility of introducing diseases and parasites into your aquarium and to ensure they are accepting food, eating properly, and are in optimum health before their final transition to your main display.
Floating Method
Turn off the aquarium lights.
Dim the lights in the room where the shipping box will be opened. Never open the box in bright light – severe stress or trauma may result from sudden exposure to bright light.
Float the sealed bag in the aquarium for 15 minutes (Fig. A). Never open the shipping bag at this time. This step allows the water in the shipping bag to adjust slowly to the temperature in the aquarium, while maintaining a high level of dissolved oxygen.
After floating the sealed shipping bag for 15 minutes, cut open the bag just under the metal clip (Fig. B) and roll the top edge of the bag down one inch to create an air pocket within the lip of the bag. This will enable the bag to float on the surface of the water (Fig. C). For heavy pieces of live coral that will submerge the shipping bag, place the bag containing the coral in a plastic bowl or specimen container.
Add 1/2 cup of aquarium water to the shipping bag (Fig. D).
Repeat step 5 every four minutes until the shipping bag is full.
Lift the shipping bag from the aquarium and discard half the water from the bag (Fig. E).
Float the shipping bag in the aquarium again and proceed to add 1/2 cup of aquarium water to the shipping bag every four minutes until the bag is full.
Net the aquatic life from the shipping bag and release them into the aquarium (Fig. F).
Remove the filled shipping bag from the aquarium and discard the water. NEVER release shipping water directly into the aquarium.
Drip Method
This method is considered more advanced. It is geared toward sensitive inhabitants such as corals, shrimp, sea stars, and wrasses. You will need airline tubing and must be willing to monitor the entire process. Gather a clean, 3 or 5-gallon bucket designated for aquarium use only. If acclimating both fish and invertebrates, use a separate bucket for each.
Start with Steps 1-3 of the Floating Method to acclimate the water temperature.
Carefully empty the contents of the bags (including the water) into the buckets (Fig. G), making sure not to expose sensitive invertebrates to the air. Depending on the amount of water in each bag, this may require tilting the bucket at a 45 degree angle to make sure the animals are fully submerged (Fig. H). You may need a prop or wedge to help hold the bucket in this position until there is enough liquid in the bucket to put it back to a level position.
Using airline tubing, set up and run a siphon drip line from the main aquarium to each bucket. You will need separate airline tubing for each bucket used. Tie several loose knots in the airline tubing, or use a plastic or other non-metal airline control valve, (Fig. I), to regulate flow from the aquarium. It is also a good idea to secure the airline tubing in place with an airline holder.
Begin a siphon by sucking on the end of the airline tubing you will be placing into each of the buckets. When water begins flowing through the tubing, adjust the drip (by tightening one of the knots or adjusting the control valve) to a rate of about 2-4 drips per second (Fig. J).
When the water volume in the bucket doubles, discard half and begin the drip again until the volume doubles once more – about one hour.
At this point, the specimens can be transferred to the aquarium. Sponges, clams, and gorgonias should never be directly exposed to air. Gently scoop them out of the drip bucket with the specimen bag, making sure they are fully covered in water. Submerge the bag underwater in the aquarium and gently remove the specimen from the bag. Next, seal off the bag underwater by twisting the opening, and remove it from the aquarium. Discard both the bag and the enclosed water. A tiny amount of the diluted water will escape into the aquarium; this is okay Also, to avoid damage, please remember never to touch the "fleshy" part of live coral when handling.
NOTE: Most invertebrates and marine plants are more sensitive than fish to changes in specific gravity. It is imperative to acclimate invertebrates to a specific gravity of 1.023-1.025 or severe stress or trauma may result. Test specific gravity with a hydrometer or refractometer.
Important facts
Be patient – never rush the acclimation procedure. The total acclimation time for your new arrival should take no longer than one hour.
Always follow the acclimation procedure even if your new arrival appears to be dead. Some fish and invertebrates can appear as though they are dead when they arrive and will usually revive when the above procedure is followed correctly.
Never place an airstone into the shipping bag when acclimating your new arrival. This will increase the pH of the shipping water too quickly and expose your new arrival to lethal ammonia.
Keep aquarium lights off for at least four hours after the new arrival is introduced into the aquarium.
Most invertebrates and marine plants are more sensitive than fish to salinity changes. It is imperative to acclimate invertebrates to a specific gravity of 1.023-1.025 or severe stress or trauma may result.
Sponges, clams, scallops, and gorgonias should never be directly exposed to air. Follow the acclimation procedure, but instead of netting the specimen out of the shipping bag, submerge the bag underwater in the aquarium and remove the marine life from the bag. Seal off the shipping bag underwater by twisting the opening, and remove it from the aquarium. Discard both the shipping bag and the enclosed water. A tiny amount of the diluted shipping water will escape into the aquarium. Do not be alarmed; this will have no adverse effect on the tank inhabitants.
In some instances, your new tank mate will be chased and harassed by one or all of your existing tank mates.
Solution 1: A plastic spaghetti strainer (found at your local discount store) can be used to contain a tank bully within the aquarium for several hours until the new arrival adjusts to its surroundings. Just float the perforated plastic basket in the aquarium. Move the tank bully into the floating basket and let him remain there for approximately four hours while the new arrival adjusts to your aquarium. Never place the new arrival in this basket; the new specimen must get familiar with your aquarium. By placing the tank bully in a perforated basket, you will reduce the stress on your newest tank mate.
Solution 2: A perforated plastic lighting grid can be purchased at your local hardware store to cut down the width of your aquarium. This grid may be used to section off a small portion of the aquarium to separate territorial or aggressive fish from the newest tank mate. After the new addition adjusts to the unfamiliar environment, the divider can be removed.
Some live corals produce excess slime when shipped. After the acclimation procedure is followed, hold the coral by the rock or skeletal base and shake the coral in the shipping bag before placing it into the aquarium. To avoid damage, please remember never to touch the 'fleshy' part of a live coral. Many species of coral will not open for several days after introduction into their new home. Please allow several days for the coral to adapt to the new conditions in the aquarium.
Ammonia Levels: Minimize Changes When Adding Stock
Q. The water parameters were within normal range when I added some new fish to my saltwater aquarium, but after a few days the ammonia rose to .4ppm and the pH dropped to 7.9. I understand that the biological filtration needs to catch up to the new loading, but what do I do in the meantime to protect the fish?
A. This is a normal response of the biological filtration when adding new livestock. The amount of ammonia being produced by the new inhabitants is greater than what the biological filtration can handle. The reason for the drop in pH is due to the acidic nature of the ammonia. You are right that the bacteria in the biological filtration need time to multiply in sufficient numbers to handle the new load. It is important that you take some measures in order to keep the level of ammonia and nitrites down so they don't place too much stress on the fish.
Ideally, during a cycle such as this, you want to keep the ammonia level down as far as possible. Perform water changes when the ammonia rises above .2ppm. In this situation, you can change as much as 30% of the aquarium's water without placing too much stress on the inhabitants. These water changes should be performed daily in order to keep the toxin levels within reasonable amounts. Aerate the water you are adding and bring it up to the same temperature as the aquarium to reduce any stress that would be caused from a rapid change in water temperature.
Another method for controlling the ammonia in this situation involves using one of the available chemical ammonia removers. Be sure to choose the correct product, because some of these removers are specifically designed for freshwater and saltwater use. Because the bacteria in the biological filtration need to grow in numbers, you do not want to over use these ammonia removers. Use just enough of this chemical media to keep the ammonia at .2ppm. This will reduce the stress on the fish as well as allow the bacteria the needed nutrition to grow in numbers to meet the new loading.
It is important during this time to test the water daily using a quality test kit. Even if you decide to use one of the chemical medias, if the ammonia level increases above .2ppm, perform a water change as directed above.
Aquarium Kits: An Ideal Solution for a First Saltwater Aquarium
Fun, fascinating saltwater aquariums make a great hobby for the whole family. Thanks to recent innovation and increased knowledge about the care of captive marine fish and invertebrates, keeping a saltwater aquarium is easier than ever. If you are looking to set up a saltwater aquarium, consider an all-inclusive aquarium package that contains the equipment you need for a successful start.
First, choose the size of aquarium you wish to install. When selecting aquarium size, consider the following: the needs of the species of fish and invertebrates you wish to raise, the space and weight of the aquarium, and the associated financial responsibility. Clownfish, for example, require a minimum of a 30-gallon aquarium, which must be placed on a stable, strong surface and requires a considerable investment to maintain.
Aquarium kits suitable for setting up a saltwater aquarium include the following:
Eclipse systems
Eclipse aquarium systems feature an aquarium hood that contains a filter and lights; this takes the guesswork out of the vital step of selecting proper filtration and lighting. These relatively inexpensive systems are easy to install and maintain. The 29-Gallon Saltwater Aquarium Kit, for example, includes everything you need to get started - aquarium, hood, heater, thermometer, synthetic aquarium salt, hydrometer, test kit, water conditioner, and instruction booklet.
If you prefer more of a do-it-yourself approach to setting up a relatively small saltwater aquarium, consider SeaClear Eclipse Compatible Aquariums. Once you have chosen an appropriately sized SeaClear aquarium, add either an Eclipse 2 or 3 hood (depending on the aquarium model you choose). If you select a SeaClear aquarium, you will also need a heater, salt mix, water dechlorinator, and test kits.
SeaClear System II Aquarium Combos
SeaClear System II Aquarium Combo Systems come in a variety of sizes and styles ranging from 30 to 50 gallons and include the necessary filtration and lighting. The filtration is incorporated into the back of the aquarium, so external plumbing is not required. These versatile aquariums are easily maintained and may be upgraded to include a protein skimmer and/or more intense lighting for corals and invertebrates.
55-Gallon Saltwater Aquarium Kit
If a larger saltwater aquarium with sizable fish and invertebrates is your goal, consider the 55-Gallon Saltwater Aquarium Kit, which includes everything you need in a convenient package. Because the filtration for this system hangs on the back of the aquarium, you will need to allocate ample room for the filtration when selecting an aquarium location. This system will accept most upgrades including: more intense lighting, a protein skimmer, and a water chiller if necessary.
Super System Aquarium Kits
Larger saltwater aquariums let you best maintain larger species of fish, or simply a greater number of your favorite smaller species. Super System Aquarium Kits, available in 75-gallon and 90-gallon sizes, are ideal if you wish to set up a large saltwater fish-only or reef aquarium. Their below-the-tank sump with BIO-wheel easily accommodates upgrades such as a protein skimmer, UV sterilizer, ozone reactor, or calcium reactor. Plus, the aquarium top easily accommodates lighting upgrades. To ensure safe, proper setup and installation of your Super System aquarium, Bekins Home Direct USA will deliver your aquarium to your home, then set up the stand, aquarium, and filter.
Selecting the right saltwater aquarium makes all the difference
Whether you are looking to set up a 30-gallon aquarium for a Clownfish and symbiotic anemone or a 90-gallon reef aquarium, you can boost your chances for success from the start by selecting the right aquarium kit. Always research the needs of your desired aquaria before selecting an aquarium, then make sure you have the space and resources necessary to maintain the appropriately sized aquarium and keep your aquaria healthy and happy.
All-inclusive saltwater aquarium systems are great for beginners, as they take the guesswork out of purchasing the aquarium (and often the essential related equipment). Drs. Foster & Smith Aquatic Specialists have personally tested all of the above systems using stringent requirements to ensure ease of use and successful performance with saltwater species. If you encounter difficulties setting up your saltwater aquarium system, please feel free to contact us for assistance.
Aquariums and Stands: Selection Guide
With a little research and planning, the aquarium hobby can be an exciting and rewarding experience. There are endless possibilities and many different biotopes that can be created and enjoyed by the whole family in the comfort of your home. The first step to getting into the hobby is to develop a budget, and work within that budget to decide where the aquarium is to be installed; the size and style of aquarium, stand, and canopy; and where you are going to purchase the set-up.
When planning a budget for the aquarium, the considerations that need to be made include the cost of the initial set-up, maintenance items, and energy consumption. The initial set-up cost is going to be determined by the type and size of fish and plants that you are planning on keeping as well as the cost to decorate the aquarium. There are many costs involved other than the initial set-up. It is important to include maintenance items such as food, light bulbs, filter media, and medication. Also, the monthly costs, which are reflected in your electricity bill may be minor in a small system, but need to be considered when dealing with the more powerful pumps and lighting associated with a large aquarium. For more information on this subject see the article titled, The Cost of Owning an Aquarium.
The aquarium should be situated in a place where it is out of the main traffic flow, but still in a place where it can be seen and enjoyed. Direct sunlight should be avoided because of the possibility of unwanted algae growth and the heat that would be added to the aquarium. Windows, doors, and heating/cooling vents are other variables that need to be avoided due to the possibility of temperature fluctuations within the aquarium.
The weight of the aquarium has to be taken into consideration when choosing a location. A good rule of thumb is to estimate the total weight of the aquarium as 10 pounds per gallon. So, a 75-gallon aquarium will weigh approximately 750 pounds. To avoid sagging your floor system, it is ideal to place the aquarium against a weight-bearing wall. If you are unsure about loading your floor system and the correct placement, it is wise to consult a contractor in your area.
The last consideration to make concerning the location of the aquarium is its proximity to a water source and drain. Water changes are the most important aspect of maintenance, so the aquarium should be in a place where it is convenient to fill and drain. A second story location with no water supply would be a poor choice because of the labor involved in carrying buckets up and down the stairs. Typically, the more hassle involved in the maintenance of the system, the less often it will be performed. The frequency of water changes is a large factor in the success of the system, so it is wise to limit the time needed by installing the aquarium in the proper location.
Aquarium size
Tank Capacity (Gallons) Tank Size
(Inches; LxWxH)
10 20x10x12
15 24x12x12
15 High 24x10x18
20 High 24x12x16
20 Long 30x12x12
29 30x12x18
30 36x12x16
55 48x13x20
75 48x18x20
90 48x18x24
125 72x18x22
150 72x18x28
180 72x24x24
The size of the aquarium is going to be determined by the budget that has been allotted for the system and the location where the aquarium is going to be placed. Now that you have determined both your budget and location for the aquarium, you can decide the size of aquarium that you will install. It is true with aquariums that bigger is better. A large aquarium will give you a much broader range of species of fish and invertebrates that you can successfully keep. Not only will your options of livestock be greater, but the system will also be healthier for the inhabitants with a larger water volume. With more water volume, the system is less likely to go through sudden changes. These changes in water chemistry can occur due to overfeeding, unnoticed death, and temperature fluctuations in the room where the aquarium is placed.
It is a common mistake when entering the hobby to be drawn in by a certain species of fish, and not make the decisions concerning the setup based on your budget and location requirements. The result with this common mistake is either buying an aquarium that is within your budget and is too small for the species, or using the species to make your buying decisions and not being able to afford either the maintenance items or quality equipment in the beginning. In either case, the end result will be an unsuitable environment for the fish and will greatly reduce your chances for success. In other words, if you are planning to get into the fish keeping hobby, use your budget and location requirements to choose the right aquarium, not what species you have an interest in.
Glass or acrylic?
There are basically two types of aquariums on the market today, glass and acrylic. Each type has advantages and disadvantages. Glass aquariums are less expensive in the small to medium sizes and are more readily available. Also, glass tends to be more resistant to heat, and does not scratch as easily as acrylic. The downside to glass aquariums is that they are considerably heavier, and have silicone seals in the corners that need replacement with time.
There is a broader range of design possibilities with acrylic. Acrylic can be bent and molded into just about any shape imaginable, and is considerably cheaper in the large size aquarium. Besides the design possibilities, acrylic is clearer than glass, and it can be repaired easier if it does get scratched.
In both types of aquariums, there are specialty systems available. Some of these systems include the complete filtration either in the hood or the back of the aquarium. Other systems, like the "reef ready" aquariums have the overflows for the filtration built into the back corners of the aquarium. When comparing different aquariums, it is important not only to compare prices of the different units, but also the quality of craftsmanship and especially the warranty periods that are included with the system.
Choosing the right stand
The stand is an integral part of the aquarium system, and there are a few considerations to make when choosing this component. The stand serves the basic function of holding the aquarium in place, as well as concealing equipment and supplies below. There are two types of stands commonly available on the market, iron and wood. The iron stands are going to be the least expensive, and do not offer any cabinetry for concealing equipment. Besides the lack of storage, these stands are typically not very sturdy, and they tend to rust easily when exposed to saltwater.
Wood stands are available in a variety of styles and finishes, which makes it easy to find one that will match the furniture in your home or office. When comparing different models, take some time to look at the craftsmanship, and place the stand on a level surface and test for stability. A stable aquarium is very important, especially if there are children and pets in the house. Aquariums are very top heavy and pose a definite risk of injury to anyone around if they are knocked over. Try to avoid stands made primarily out of particle board. Particle board does not hold up well in high moisture conditions, and if allowed to get wet repeatedly, will end up falling apart.
You can also design and make your own stand, or have the aquarium built into the wall. There are many different materials from which a stand can be built, concrete blocks being the most common. I have seen some spectacular stands built out of decorative concrete blocks. There are many different colors and textures of concrete blocks available on the market, which can be incorporated into any interior design. The advantage to blocks is the strength and durability. For stability, it is best if the blocks are stacked on bond; this means the joints between the blocks are staggered every row. Remember, though, blocks will add considerable weight to the system and this needs to be taken into account when determining the location of the aquarium.
An aquarium built into a wall can be a spectacular display without the added furniture or obstacles in the home or office. Typically, a wall with a closet behind it is needed in order to do this. Unless you have the carpentry experience, it is wise to consult a contractor in designing this type of display. As in choosing an aquarium, it is important no matter what type of stand that you choose that it be structurally sound, be of good craftsmanship, and have a reasonable warranty accompanying it.