Setting Up A New Saltwater Aquarium
If you've decided that you want to keep fish as pets in your home, then the first steps to getting ready is the purchase and setup of an aquarium to house them. Aquariums come in several varieties, here we'll be discussing the steps for preparing saltwater aquariums for their new inhabitants.
Saltwater aquariums differ from freshwater aquariums in that, obviously, the water used is saltwater which gives a home to a large variety of beautifully colored tropical fish, the same kind you would find natively living in the ocean. In order to make a happy, healthy home for these fish, there are some things you must know and have ready.
For starters, before you purchase your aquarium, you should know how many fish you are interested in purchasing, what sizes they will grow to be and whether or not they can live together. You don't want an overcrowded tank or one that is too small and you definitely don't want your fish fighting or even eating each other. Try to get a tank slightly larger than you need in order to accommodate any new fish you plan on adding to it. Then, if you decide to bring new fish into the aquarium, the room is already there and available without needing to upgrade in size. Once you have your aquarium tank, choose a place for it away from natural light sources (that will cause algae to grow in your tank). Also, make sure you have a sturdy stand capable of supporting not only the aquarium, but the water you'll be filling it with later as well.
Once set up, make sure to clean out your aquarium with a soft cloth or sponge to remove any potential residue left on the inside of the tank before you begin to fill the bottom with your sand, gravel or other substrate. Once the substrate is set, you can either add your pre-mixed saltwater to the aquarium, or add a tap water and sea salt mix (according to proper instructions). After you have your water, fill the tank to about one third full and check the gravity (amount of dissolved salts in the water) which should read about 1.025. Once it's filled, you can set up the rest of your aquarium accessories like the lighting, heaters, filters and pumps (depending on the size and placement of your aquarium) which you should let run for about a day while you measure water temperature, check the salinity balance and also check the tank for leaks.
Once you have the water and equipment of your tank prepared, you should be ready to introduce the underwater landscaping. The addition of live rock to an aquarium is incredibly important for many reasons. The first of which is to make the fish more comfortable, having live rock more closely simulates their natural home. One of the others is that live rock generates organisms such as bacteria that help your aquarium's inhabitants live long, happy lives. It can also be used as a hiding place for shy or easily scared fish as well as becoming an anchor for any corals you decide to introduce to the aquarium. Any live rock you purchase must be cured before adding it to your tank. If not, you risk polluting your tank with deadly ammonia which can, at best, make your fish very sick and at worst, kill them. It's simple to cure most live rock in around one to three weeks in any container large enough to house the rock. You can also cure your rock while setting up your tank before you introduce your fish to the environment.
When you have finished introducing rocks and other accessories to your tank, you can begin cycling by adding a source of ammonia to your tank. This can easily be done by adding manufacturer suggested fluids to your tank. When you do, bacteria that should be in your tank will begin to multiply and the ammonia levels will decrease, leaving behind nitrite. Eventually the rate at which the bacteria breaks down the nitrite will overtake the rate it is created and your tank's system will achieve a good balance of both nitrate and bacteria. This is the most time consuming step in the process and can take up to six weeks to complete. Note that while nitrite isn't toxic to your fish, it can have a negative impact on the tank as a whole and can be easily recognized by watching for an outbreak of algae. Be sure to test ammonia and nitrite levels regularly with testing kits.
Once cycling is complete, make any adjustments you may think necessary to your underwater landscape and you will finally be ready to introduce the fish to their new home! The safest way to add the fish is to place them only one or two at a time to the tank. This gives the tank's bacteria nitrogen cycle system time to adjust to the new ammonia production strain. Test your water until it has returned to normal and wait bout a week before adding more. There you have it, a fully functional and well balanced saltwater aquarium. While the process is time consuming, the end product of beautiful saltwater aquariums is well worth the wait. Just make sure to regularly clean, test and maintain your tank and equipment to ensure the safety and happiness of your new fish.
By Robert Lobitz
See also Saltwater, Marine Reef Aquarium Care, Basics
For proper maintenance of your saltwater aquarium UV Sterilizer, the UV Bulbs should be changed once every six months, for further information, please read this article:
UV Sterilization; Facts & Information