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Setting up a Saltwater Aquarium - Tips

Updated on November 24, 2014

Tips for Setting up a Saltwater Aquarium

Most of the people, who love to keep a fish aquarium at their homes but have no experience in that, might think that setting a nice beautiful fish tank is the only thing they need to do. After all the same fish in the ocean can take well care of themselves, eat, breed and lead a nice comfortable life, then what could trouble them in the home aquarium.

Well, the problem is the fish out there in the ocean doesn’t have to bother too much about the water they are in, as the waste products and detritus get diluted by the huge amount of water there. However, the case is completely different in the stagnant saltwater of a home aquarium. Proper cleaning and maintenance is must to prevent any future health issues your fish might face, and also to stop your home from the stink of the stagnant saltwater! Below are some of the initial steps that you can keep in mind, when setting up a fish tank and ensuring its proper cleansed and maintained state over a period of time.

1) Setting up a saltwater aquarium:

If you have recently purchased a saltwater aquarium then ensure that you let it rest for at least 30 days before you start adding any decoration, stones, plants or fish in it. In this particular month’s duration, check the water’s suitability for the inmates to come, like doing test strips for checking the chlorine and pH levels in the water. It is really important to check the balance of your water in order to ensure your fish a healthy life staying in your home.

Once you are assured that your saltwater aquarium is good enough in its conditions to invite your little creatures, you can proceed. However, while adding decorations to your newly set saltwater aquarium ensure that you don’t remove the gravel much as that might impact the chemical balance of the aquarium water.

2) Cleaning Device:

While setting up your saltwater aquarium, try to buy a device that can keep the tank water clean. The tank water should only be filtered water, or you can also buy reverse osmosis kit, which can be availed from any pet store or online shops.

3) Positioning Filter:

Ensure that while aiming a filter; keep it downwards into the tank water to prevent any accumulation of salt on the aquarium’s hood.

4) Vacuuming:

One of the most important aspects of your saltwater aquarium maintenance is – Vacuuming. It is really important to prevent the accumulation of the detritus in the gravel so that the clogging doesn't affect the biological filters.

What is Detritus?

Detritus is the waste product that is formed of fish wastes and unconsumed food that sinks to the bottom of the tank and starts decaying. If you allow the detritus to stay there for too long, the organic waste in it would start releasing ammonia and deteriorate the nitrogen cycle of the water. This would in turn affect the chemical balance of water and cause harm to the fish and invertebrates. Detritus is also quite harmful for the undergravel filters as the excessive clogging might prevent the water flow through the gravel and make the filter ineffective in its task.

Vacuuming helps clearing off this detritus. You can get specialized aquarium vacuums (also known as substrate cleaners) at any aquarium shop. The most effective way to vacuum a saltwater aquarium is to do it every time you change the water. One thing to keep in mind while vacuuming the tank is to remove the gravel gently. Try not to disrupt the filter bed too much.

Having done above important steps, here I am enlisting some of the cleaning and maintaining check points that you can look at on daily, weekly, bi-weekly and monthly basis:


1) Turn the aquarium lights on and off at regular intervals. You can also use an automatic timer for this.

2) Feed the fish twice a day and ensure to remove the uneaten food regularly.

3) Invest in test strips to check the chemical balance of water. Conduct various tests to check the nitrogen cycle and pH as well. Record these test results daily.

4) Keep a regular check on your fish for the signs of illness or death. Always be prepared to take care of the fish that shows the signs of disease or stress.

5) Keep a regular check on water temperature and adjust the heater accordingly.


1) Keep the aquarium glass clean from both outside and inside, but ensure that you don’t use regular glass cleaner for that. Whatever you use, make sure that it doesn’t change the water’s chemical balance. Also remove the salt deposits from the corners and edges.

2) Keep a check on the algae and only remove the excess while maintaining the helpful algae to some level


1) Check your filters and clean them of any debris and clogging.

2) Change only 10% of the tank water and vacuum the gravel.


1) Check the water filters and replace the carbon if needed.

2) Check protein skimmer and clean it.

3) Clean any tank decorations that have too much accumulations or algae on them.

I hope the above tips help you in cleaning and maintaining your saltwater fish tank better. Please let me know if you have any additional points to what I’ve mentioned above, in your comments below.


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    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Wow, I'm not surprised at all by all the effort it takes to clean a saltwater aquarium, but it still does strike me as a lot of work. I guess I should think twice before buying some pet seahorses!

    • calicoaster profile image

      calicoaster 6 years ago

      Thank you so much K9keystrokes

      I hope my tips help people in learning the basics of maintaining a saltwater aquarium! :)

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 6 years ago from Northern, California

      Intelligent tips for cleaning salt water aquariums. I have been detoured from salt water tanks in the past due to the assumption that they are very difficult to understand and maintain in terms of pH and other healthy water variables. You really make it sound like something quite doable! This is one for bookmarking and constant use. Makes me want to ask for a salt water tank for the holidays! Thanks for such a great hub!