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Converting From a Freshwater to a Saltwater Aquarium

Can The Same Equipment and Components be Used?


Do you have a freshwater (FW) aquarium that you would like to, or have thought about converting over to saltwater (SW)? There are undoubtedly many FW aquarists that have considered this, but are unsure as to how much of their FW components and equipment can used for a conversion. With a few exceptions, most of your FW components and equipment can be used for this purpose. That being said, let's get down to the individual components.

The Aquarium

    Aquariums are not specifically designed and built for use as either a FW or SW tank. The glass or acrylic material used is the same for both, as is the silicone adhesive used in construction, but each material does have its pros and cons. As far as tank size, SW tanks tend to be a bit larger, although the mini and micro reef tanks are becoming more popular all the time. A FW tank even as small as five gallons "can" be converted into a SW aquarium, but be advised that small tanks are rather touchy and unforgiving to work with, and a vast majority of experienced SW aquarists will tell you to start to with no less than a 55 gallon tank.
    -- More About Choosing a Tank Size, Type & Style

Filters and Filtration

    Filtration in a SW aquarium is a bit more involved than that in FW. Since biological filtration is the backbone of a SW system, filter selection is undoubtedly THE most important part of the SW set up process. In all likelihood the filter equipment you are presently using will need to be replaced. The small hang-on-tank biowheel and box, or in-tank corner type filters commonly used in FW tanks are usually inefficient in SW tanks. The traditional undergravel filter (UGF) set ups, although still used by many SW aquarists, contribute to unwanted nitrate problems as the tank matures, and they have lost their popularity as more advanced filtration systems like wet-dry trickle and canister type filters with bio-media chambers have been developed.

    As far as what type of filter and filtration method to use, there are no set rules. Every aquarist has an opinion as to which set up is best, but the easiest way to figure out what you may need for your SW tank change over is to decide on whether you want a fish-only or a reef tank system, research the various filtration methods and filter set ups one has to choose from, and then pick one based on what "you" want to try. However, something to consider here is that even if you are starting out with a fish-only tank, it doesn't hurt to begin with a filter set up that can be used for a reef tank. By doing so, in the future if you decide you want to progress into this type of system, you can save some money by not having to invest in a whole new set up.
    -- More About Choosing a Filtration System

Pumps and Powerheads

    Most all pumps and powerheads used in FW can be used in a SW set up with no problems, as long as they are rated as safe to use in SW. In general, SW tanks use more pumps and/or powerheads to attain greater water movement and circulation, and particularly with reef tanks they aid in the growth and health of corals.
    -- More About Using Powerheads


    The most common type of FW aquarium substrate used is that made of course, large sized gravel or rock material, and comes in a wide variety of colors. It is very decorative, and it does serve as the biological filter base just as the substrate does in a SW tank. However, this type of media is not appropriate for use in a SW tank.
    -- More About Choosing a Substrate

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