Owning a Saltwater Aquarium Part 2

Purchasing the Proper Equipment and Setting it Up
(Part 2 in Life Aquatic’s Series of Owning a Saltwater Aquarium)

If You’re Reading This. You’ve Probably Already Purchased the Proper Tank, Equipment & Supplies, Now Let’s Begin Setting Up Your New Aquarium!

Locate a place for your tank to go. Make sure the tank is not located in the direct flow of a heat or a/c vent, or in a window receiving intense direct sunlight. Also try not to place the tank in an area where the fish will be startled such as near a self-closing screen door that may slam or next to a drum set. Make sure the tank is on a level surface (use a level) and shim the stand (not the tank), if required.

Set up the tank and its equipment as per the instructions that came with your tank. If you have any questions or are not sure of something, please call us. Do not plug in anything yet. If your tank has multiple plugs, you will need a power strip and, if you want the lights to operate automatically and your tank did not come with a built in timer, you will also need one or more lamp type timers. Life Aquatic carries power strips with integrated timers especially made for such set-ups, if you don’t have your own. Preset your heater to 78 degrees and place it in one of the empty rear compartments, preferably in the compartment where the return pump goes. When the tank is filled with water the heater should be almost entirely submerged.

Once the tank is set up where you want it it is time to put in your substrate (sand) and rock. Just slit open the bag of sand in the tank and empty out the entire contents. You can smooth it out with your hand. Then position your rock, putting any “dead” rock on the bottom and “live” on the top. All the rock will become “live” eventually. Make sure you provide little nooks, overhangs and caves for you animals to hide in and feel safe. Providing such places will actually cause your fish to be more visible and come out more often as they will be more confident knowing that they have a place to retreat, if threatened.

Now you need to mix your salt water. Select a clean mixing vessel and use it only for mixing your water. A five gallon pail is sufficient or, better yet, a small, dedicated trash can such as a Rubbermaid “Brute”. Never use a bucket or pail that ever held soap, detergent or bleach, as residual could remain which could be toxic. Fill up the mixing vessel with the appropriate amount of water. Keep in mind, that the sand and rock has displaced some of the tanks volume, so a 14 gallon tank, for example, may only need 10 gallons of saltwater. (If you have saltwater left over just place a lid on the container and store until your next water change.) Ideally your water should be pure and the same temperature as your tank water (78 degrees). If you have municipal water you must add a dechlorinator. If you have well water you should have it tested for metals, etc. If you have a water purification system that is preferable. In our systems we start with RO/DI (reverse-osmosis/de-ionized) water which is 99.99% pure, The type of animals you plan on keeping determines the degree of water purity necessary, with many corals being the most demanding. If your water is not up to snuff, we offer, by the gallon, both RO/DI water which you can use to replace evaporated water in your tank and to act as a starting point for mixing your own saltwater or RO/DI Saltwater which is pre-mixed and ready to put right in your tank. We also sell complete RO/DI purification systems for those of you who would like to make your own RO/DI water. Once your water is in the mixing vessel add the appropriate amount of salt mix as per the instructions on the package. At first add a little less salt, then add more, as required. NEVER add salt mix directly into your tank. Once the salt mix is added to your mixing vessel it needs to be mixed thoroughly, either by hand or with a small pump or powerhead that will circulate the water until all the salt mix is dissolved. Using your hydrometer, measure the salinity of the saltwater. A reading in the red range (28-34PPT or 1.018-1.026SG) is acceptable. Tanks with fish only can be at the lower end of the scale. Reef tanks with coral and invertebrates should be in the upper range (1.024+/-). Keep in mind that temperature affects the water’s salinity which is why it’s important to mix the salt in water that is roughly tank temperature.

Once the water is mixed, let it sit for 30 minutes or so and then give it another quick mix. (It is actually better to mix your water well in advance (hours or even days) and let it “age”, though this is not absolutely necessary.) Now you can add the water to the tank. If you have a friend nearby have them hold their hand, palm up in the tank and pour the water over their hand or hold a dining plate above the rockwork and pour the water over that. This keeps the water from disturbing your sand and rockwork. Fill the tank until water starts to enter the filtration area. Once about 6” of water is in the filtration area you can turn plug in your circulation pump. Add more water as necessary to the level indicated by your particular tank’s instructions.

Congratulations! You have successfully set up your Saltwater Aquarium!