1. Home
Send to a Friend via Email

11 Most Common Mistakes Made by Saltwater Aquarium Keepers

By

No matter what kind of aquarium keeper you are, here is a list of the most common mistakes you may be making. These problems can be avoided if you're aware of them before you start an aquarium.

1. Overfeeding Fish and Invertebrtes

Fishes in Fish Tank
Gregor Schuster/The Image Bank/Getty Images
Uneaten food just lays on the bottom of the tank, creating nitrates and overloading the biological filter.


Not fully understanding the nutritional requirements of their fish, the tendency of many people is to "throw food" at fish in order to fulfill their requirements. If the fish are not accepting the food offered, many aquarists will "throw even more" at the fish, thinking that the fish just isn't seeing the food. Feed once, twice per day, or once every 2 or 3 days? How Often Should I Feed My Fish? helps you understand a fish's requirements.

Know what is in the food you are feeding by comparing the nutrients in commercial foods, purchase only high quality foods and feed only what your fish will consume in 2-3 minutes per feeding.

2. Moving Too Fast

"Patience" is a requirement with just about anything that you do with a saltwater aquarium. Far too many people report problems after they have put a tank together, because they are just moving too fast! Far too often we have read aquarists comments like, "I need test kits? What for, and what kind?" Of course this is after they have had a tank for some time. A high percentage of people do not take the time to read and study up on the hobby before getting started.

3. Overloading the System

A problem that goes hand-in-hand with moving too fast is craming too much livestock and/or live rock into the aquarium all at once, especially in a tank that is not fully cycled, or has just completed the cycling process. Even in a well established system, placing too many new additions into the tank to quickly can cause new tank syndrome. Slow down! Saltwater aquarium keeping is not a timed event, so take it easy, and work on your patience skills.

4. Inadequate Filtration and Water Circulation

Having sufficient biological filtration is a primary key to success in keeping a saltwater aquarium. There are a number of filtration methods to choose from, but not making the right filter selection for the bio-load planned for your tank can lead to a wide variety of problems. Whether it be biological, mechanical, or chemical, it's better to have more, rather than too little filtration.

This same concept applies to circulation of the water in the aquarium as well. The lack of good water flow throughout the system can lead to problems with low DO (dissolved oxygen), the build up of slime or other types of nuisance algae, prevention of stationary animals receiving food, and more. The solution here? Add a powerhead or two, or a surge device.

5. Misdiagnosing Diseases

When it comes to diagnosing diseases, saltwater ich is the biggest problem. It is easy to confuse Oodinium (Amyloodinium ocellatum - a.k.a. Marine Velvet or Coral Fish Disease) with White Spot Disease (Cryptocaryon irritans). They are similar but two quite different types of saltwater ich, and each responds to different types of treatment. It is important to properly diagnose and treat these parasites, as well as other diseases.

6. Overmedicating

Way too often one or more remedies are just thrown at a sick or ailing fish without knowing what the problem is. Medications should only be used when necessary, and whenever possible in a quarantine tank. The most important factor with medications is to use one that is formulated to "target" the specific disease or diseases you are dealing with.

7. Purchasing Animals Without Knowing Anything About Them

It never ceases to amaze us how often people select new additions for their aquarium without knowing what the animals are, how to care for and feed them. Before purchasing anything, take the time to obtain information about it first. You shouldn't buy on impulse because you like the pretty colors a fish has, how cute or stunning it looks, or for any other "touchy-feely" reason, or if a sales person can't provide you with critical information you need to know about a particular animal.

8. Livestock Incompatibility

Statements like my wrasse ate my hermit crab, my tangs just won't get along, and similar ones are all too frequently heard. Purchasing livestock without knowing whether or not they will peacefully reside with other tankmates can lead to dead or injured animals, as well as stress related diseases. Use common sense and learn about the compatibility of animals you are considering for your aquarium, before putting them together!

9. Purchasing Animals in Poor Health

One of the easiest things to do when selecting a critter is to determine whether or not it is healthy. In a simple phrase, most sick fish don't eat. Before purchasing a fish or other animal, it is best to have a sale's person in a store show you that it is in fact eating. On your part, learn how to recognize the symptoms or outward signs of common illnesses so you know what to look for when inspecting livestock to buy.

10. Using a Poor Quality Fresh Water Source

Although many aquarists do so, choosing to use water straight from the tap or unpurified water of another source to make up saltwater solutions and to top off a tank can lead to many water quality issues in aquariums. Using a water purification filter, buying clean natural sea water, or prefiltered RO/DI water from a reliable supplier is an investment that will pay for itself in the long run.

11. Lack of Proper Tank Maintenance

Well-maintained saltwater systems seldom experience high nitrate, bacterial outbreaks, or other water quality issues. To avoid the usual pitfalls with problems in this area of aquaria keeping, set up and follow a regular maintenance routine.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.