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The Basics to Starting and Keeping a Saltwater System


From choosing the equipment, to setting up, cycling, and then maintaining a saltwater aquarium, this is the place to learn all the basics about starting and keeping everything from a simple fish-only to an advanced reef tank system.
  1. Aquarium Equipment Buyers Guide
  2. Aquarium Products Buyers Guide
  3. Where to Start
  4. Setting Up the Aquarium
  5. Do-It-Yourself Projects
  6. Choose Equipment & Other Components
  7. Filters & Filtration Systems
  1. Lights & Lighting Systems
  2. Live Rock & Live Sand
  3. Biological Filtration & Cycling the Tank
  4. Algae Control & Propagation
  5. Maintain Your Aquarium
  6. Water Quality
  7. Emergency Help!

Aquarium Equipment Buyers Guide

Red Sea Berlin Classic Skimmer

From aquariums to air pumps to wavemakers, here are all types of saltwater aquariums and reef tank equipment your Guides have reviewed, rated, and consider to be some of the best choices available on the market. Links are included to compare prices on all of the most popular aquarium equipment.

Aquarium Products Buyers Guide

From antibiotics to substrates, here are all types of saltwater aquarium and reef tank supplies, as well as other products your Guides have reviewed, rated, and consider to be some of the best choices available on the market. Links are included to allow you to compare prices on aquarium products from a number of online merchants.

Where to Start

Photo by Anthony Miralles

Whether you want to start a basic saltwater aquarium or an advanced reef tank system, it is best to first plan ahead.

Setting Up the Aquarium

Once you've finalized your saltwater system design and purchased the equipment, it's time to set it all up.

Do-It-Yourself Projects

DIY Oak Aquarium Cabinet

If you like to build aquariums for enjoyment or want to save money, these projects are for you! Learn how to make everything from a simple glass aquarium to a chiller for a fraction of what it costs to buy them.

Choose Equipment & Other Components

MegaFlow Sump Filter

Saltwater aquariums require a number of different pieces of equipment in order to function properly. From the aquarium itself to filters to pumps, learn how to select the equipment you need for your saltwater system.

Filters & Filtration Systems

Rapids Pro Wet/Dry

From canister to wet/dry trickle filters, to natural nitrate reduction by means of live rock, live sand, and mangrove plant filtration, here is everything you'll need to know about choosing and setting up various types of biological, mechanical, chemical filters, and filtration system setups for saltwater and reef aquariums.

Lights & Lighting Systems

Current Orbit PC Fixture w/Lunar Lights

While there are basic guidelines to follow when deciding on which and how much lighting to use, each aquarist has to evaluate what is in their tank, and then research the lighting options available to choose one that is best for their particular saltwater system.

Live Rock & Live Sand

Live Rock

Serving many purposes, live rock is probably the most popular material used for natural biological filtration in saltwater aquariums, particularly with a Berlin style NNR setup. Whether deciding to run a fish-only or a reef tank system with this medium, learn all the ins and outs of buying and curing, aquascaping, cycling a tank, and more about working with live rock.

Biological Filtration & Cycling the Tank

The biological filter is the heart of every aquarium. In order for the biological filter to function properly, it must be "cycled." Here is the information you will need to help you set up your biological filter and initiate the cycling process.

Algae Control & Propagation

Brown Diatom Algae

There are many varieties of brown, green, and red algae an aquarist will deal with during the lifetime of their saltwater aquarium. Whether you want to propagate good kinds or get rid of problem ones, browse Bubble, Caulerpa, Coralline, Diatom, Slime, Hair, Halimeda, and other algae categories to learn to identify, cultivate and control both good and bad types of marine algae or seaweeds.

Maintain Your Aquarium

Once your aquarium is cycled, the next step is to take care of it. Whether it's a water change, tidying up of the substrate, cleaning filtering materials or other simple maintenance tasks, doing them "regularly" is primary to the success of a healthy saltwater system.

Water Quality

Do you know what is happening in your aquarium, what it needs, and what it doesn't? You should, and testing your aquarium water tells you what is going on. It allows you to make any necessary corrections to fix a problem, such as with pH, unwanted nitrate and phosphate, and when to add beneficial calcium and other trace elements that are essential to reef systems.

Emergency Help!

First Aid Kit

Here are fast answers to emergency help problems, including how to set up a QT quickly, how to keep your aquarium running when the power goes out, and how to fix tank leaks.

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