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Saltwater Tank Maintenance: How to Take Care of Your Aquarium

Saltwater Tank Maintenance: How to Take Care of Your Aquarium

Alex Dillard |

Saltwater Tank Maintenance: How to Take Care of Your Aquarium-Uncategorized

Properly caring for an aquarium takes a lot of work, but there are some steps that will make the process easier. Saltwater tanks require special tools and processes to ensure it's providing a healthy environment for your marine fish and corals. Use these helpful tips and tricks to get you started on the right foot with setting up and maintaining your saltwater aquarium.

General Tips

Before you get your tank, if you haven't done so yet, it's important to know a few of the basics. Taking care of a saltwater tank requires different maintenance than that of a freshwater tank. The three key areas to focus on maintaining are salinity, pH and temperature.

The temperature needs to be kept at 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Even a few degrees difference can be the deciding factor between livestock that thrives or dies, so it's important to keep an eye on this. The temperature can fluctuate more than you think, so it's best to assess it frequently and adjust as needed.

The salinity is essentially how much salt is in the water and is measured in parts per 1,000 units of water. You need this to be about 34 to 36 parts per 1,000 units of water. A refractometer or hydrometer can be used to measure it.

To help make things go smoothly, it's important to schedule all the tasks you'll need to do. We'll go into more details later, but this includes adding heated freshwater, checking the salinity, changing out the water, making sure your filter is not clogged up, making the saltwater, scrubbing the algae, and checking the water quality and temperature. This doesn't include the specific care your fish will require like quarantining and feeding.

How Much Does It Cost to Maintain a Saltwater Tank

This is one of the most important questions you'll need to know so you can properly budget your expenses and avoid any surprise costs. The initial cost can be anywhere from $1,000 – $2,000 for the tank, equipment and fish.

Smaller tanks might save you more initially, but it will cost you more in the long run both financially and in time spent maintaining your tank. While bigger may be a bigger investment initially, it may be the better option for long-term savings, as the water chemistry tends to change more gradually compared to smaller aquariums. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it easy to maintain a saltwater tank?

There are many steps to take to properly care for a saltwater tank and livestock, however, with a scheduled routine, it can become a relatively easy process. It's not ideal for someone who is frequently away from home or who simply doesn't have the time to care for it. 

What size tank should I get if I'm a beginner?

While there are many size tanks you can choose from, a 50- to 90-gallon tank is better for someone who has no experience caring for a salt water tank.

Is it better to get an acrylic or a glass tank?

This really comes down to your personal preference. Glass tanks are harder to scratch and easier to clean whereas acrylic tanks scratch much easier.

What types of parts do I need to get started?

This is a rather long list, but most of the parts will last for years, so once you buy them, you won't need to replace them again for a while.

  • Tank
  • Stand
  • Sump
  • Return pump
  • Protein skimmer
  • External filter
  • Circulation pump or powerhead
  • Heater and thermometer
  • RO system
  • Lighting
  • Substrate
  • Live or dry rock
  • Salt mix, additives and hydrometer

Step-By-Step Guide

As mentioned earlier, it's best to set up a schedule to ensure maintenance is performed at the proper times. Because there are tasks that need to be completed on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, here are some lists to help you get started.


  • Check the salinity to make sure the salt content is not too high. If it is, you can top it off with fresh water.
  • Check the water chemistry. As time goes by, you won't have to do this as much, but when you first set up your tank, it's a must.
  • Check the water temperature. 


  • Perform weekly water changes. 
  • Maintain your filtration system.
  • Scrub algae with a scrubber.

Tips to Help Things Go Smoothly

Once you get in the swing of things and your fish are thriving, you may be on the lookout for ways to make life easier. There are a few things you can do to save time that aren't exactly shortcuts but work effectively to make the task of caring for your saltwater tank simpler. 

The first is making sure you have an effective filtration system. This is important because it means you don't have to change out the water in your tank quite so often. 

A protein skimmer is also a handy tool to use. As the name implies, it removes the protein from the water and deposits it in a cup which you can dispose of later.

While there is no truly quick way to clean a tank, you can combine this task with changing out the water. This will help you do both at once, which will speed things along.

Let Top Shelf Aquatics Be Your Go-To Source for Saltwater Aquarium Equipment

Whether you're new to saltwater tanks or have been maintaining one for years, Top Shelf Aquatics can help you with everything from equipment to recommendations for stress-free maintenance. 

From livestock to water filtration systems and more, we ensure quality and the highest standards of excellence in every item that leaves our store. Join our VIP Club today for more information, and we'll text you with exclusive promotions, discounts and upcoming events.