Need help creating a parts list for the 40g saltwater I plan to set up

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Hey everyone, I'm planning on setting up a 40 gallon saltwater tank. I plan to have saltwater fish, crabs, perhaps a starfish, live rock, and live sand in it. I know how to take care of fish, but this is the first time I've ever done saltwater, and the first time I've actually picked out the parts for the tank.

Which leads to my problem...

I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing when I'm looking at parts. I know what parts I need, such as powerheads, a protein skimmer, and a heater, but I have no idea which models to get that'll work with each other.

So, I need your help. I need your help and I need you to tell me everything I need. I've never done saltwater before, only freshwater. I need a list of EVERYTHING I'll need, like, EVERYTHING. If they're online, please provide links too. I know I'm asking a lot and I know I sound extremely lazy, but I really don't have any room for error here. Please help me.

I do have one limitation, I don't think I'll be able to have a sump pump, but I read in another thread that I don't need one if I have a good protein skimmer. Is this true?

Thanks for reading. Please help me, I'd appreciate it so much!


Staff member
I don't remember the details of your plan so This is based on a 40 gallon fish only without a sump.
You will need a source of RODI water. I'd buy a system. Mine is a 5 stage from Bulk Feef Supply. I hear spectrapure sells refurbished units for around $100.
You will need a refractometer (not a hydrometer) and calibration fluid.
Salt mix, for fish only regular instant ocean works well. I order this from fosters and smith.
You will need test kits for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate to monitor the cycle. Later on you will want others like phosphate, calcium, magnesium, alkalinity, etc. I like Salifert test kits.
You will need a heater. I prefer two smaller heaters instead of one larger. I'm not picky about mine. I am using Cobalt aquatics easy therm. Not overly expensive and not glass. I have two 100W versions in my 120.
For filtration, your rock will provide most of the bio filtration. For a 40 gallon I'd just buy a hang on filter. Any will do. They do need regular cleaning but that's not a big deal with a hang on.
You can get a hang on protein skimmer but not necessary and can be added at any time in the future.
You will need power heads. When I had a 40 gallon I used 2 Sunsun 800 gph power heads (super cheap on Amazon) on opposite sides of the tank. I have had them for close to 3 years and they keep on going. Options are huge. You can get really cheap power heads or some really expensive ones. I like to have a couple extras on hand just in case. Currently I am using Sicce power heads plugged into a wave maker that basically turns them on and off. I would recomend looking for magnetic attachment rather than suction cups,
You'll need a couple 5 gallon buckets for mixing salt water and water changes.
You will need lights. For fish only they can be anything. Lights meant for salt water make the tank look better. I'd consider your future plan befor making your choice so you don't spend the money twice. Mars aqua can be bought on eBay. I have heard good things about them. You can spend a minimal amount up to a fortune on lighting, just depends on what you want from the system and how much you can spend. you don't need these immediately you can wait till you are ready to start adding fish.
I'd also invest in a quarantine system. This is just a small tank, small heater and a sponge filter some pvc fittings for the fish to hide in. This can prevent you from introducing a disease into your tank that can potentially whips out all your fish.
I buy most of my equiptment from Bulk reef supply and Amazon.

I'm sure there are things I missed.


Well-Known Member
Be sure to include marco algae or an algae turf scrubber. A refugium for the macros could be a simple partition.

Algae is the marine equivalent of FW plants in Fw tanks. It adds much the same benefits as well. Balances and stabilize the system by consuming ammonia.nitirites, phophates, co2 and returns oxygen and fish food.

my .02