How to start a saltwater aquarium

saltwater aquarium setup for beginners

If you’re wondering How to start a saltwater aquarium, you’re in the right place. Starting a saltwater tank requires patience and time especially for beginners. The environment saltwater fish live in is more complex and fragile than that of freshwater fish. If you have been wondering if you should start a saltwater aquarium, this post is for you.

I always wanted to setup a saltwater aquarium but didn’t know the first thing about it. In high school I had a simple 5 gallon freshwater tank on my desk. It was kind of fun but became boring fast.

The saltwater aquarium hobby is very frustrating in the beginning and can be for awhile.Saltwater fish are more more colorful, lively and fun. Saltwater fish are much more intelligent than freshwater aquarium fish. The saltwater aquarium hobby is very frustrating in the beginning and can be for awhile.

Starting a saltwater tank takes a lot of patience and time. The environment saltwater fish live in is far more complex and fragile than that of freshwater fish.

When starting a saltwater tank you cannot just add saltwater, sand and rock and throw fish in the same day. If you do this, I 100% guarantee all your fish will be dead in less than a week.

Saltwater aquariums take time, especially in the beginning when setting one up. I know you want fish in your new saltwater tank the same day but this simply cannot happen. I have a video on my saltwater tank YouTube channel (Rotter Tube Reef) that you need to watch if you’re looking to start a saltwater aquarium.

Check out this video from my YouTube channel, Rotter Tube Reef, on starting a new saltwater aquarium.

How to setup a new saltwater tank for beginners

Starting a saltwater tank can be frustrating!

Although you are careful, there are many gotchas in this hobby that will more than likely kill your fish in the beginning. It is sad and very frustrating to lose a saltwater fish, or any pet, and I cannot stress that enough.

Once I felt I had a good handle on things, I started a You Tube channel called Rotter Tube Reef, to help saltwater aquarium keepers with the hobby. I never thought I would have the amount of cool YouTube followers that I have, and for that, I am grateful.

What started out as a simple video educating those on the ich parasite and marine velvet outbreaks that can wipe your fish out in a matter of days or hours, has turned into a helpful video channel.

I post a YouTube video most Saturdays on You Tube. Check it out and subscribe for more videos. Saltwater aquarium care and maintenance by Steve Rotter ROTTER TUBE REEF on YouTube.

Starting a saltwater tank requires patience and time. The environment saltwater fish live in is more complex and fragile than that of freshwater fish.
My Fowleri Tang – 13″ long

Saltwater aquarium knowledge that’s fun. I’m open and honest and tell it how it is. ROTTER TUBE REEF was started in 2015.  Saltwater fish really interested me but I had no idea on how or where to start. I knew nothing about the saltwater aquarium hobby and spent hours watching YouTube videos with conflicting information.

If you decide to start a saltwater tank, I highly suggest you stay far away from forums. There is one huge forum in particular that is garbage. It’s filled with people who have no idea what they’re talking about, and not to mention, very rude. Those of you in the hobby know what forum I’m talking about (Reef Central.)

Saltwater fish are much more intelligent than freshwater fish and actually recognize you and know when it’s feeding time. One visit to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago in the fall of 2013 and that was it. I was hooked. I saw the displays and the clown fish and had to have them.

My 125 Gallon saltwater aquarium

After about 6 months my 28 gallon JBJ nanocube was upgraded to a 75 gallon aquarium. I loved it but outgrew it within a year, purchasing my 125 gallon aquarium. The 125 gallon saltwater tank is perfect since it’s 6′ long. I’m not a fan of tall tanks since they are harder to clean and most fish don’t swim up and down, they swim left and right. It’s always better to have more swim room.

Check out this awesome all-in-one saltwater aquarium. It’s available in a few sizes and great for the beginner or advanced saltwater aquarium keeper. All you would need is the rock, sand, heater and 2nd small water pump for more water flow in the saltwater tank.

If having a marine aquarium is a dream of yours, then plan for it, do a lot of research and start your saltwater tank. There are a few key steps you need to take before making the final leap. Avoid one of the novice hobbyist’s biggest mistakes: setting your saltwater aqurium up in the wrong spot.

Picking the right location and a few other things—like getting the right tank for you and making sure you are able to have a tank in your home—are really your first hurdles.

yellow and blue saltwarerfish. Starting a saltwater tank requires patience and time. The environment saltwater fish live in is more complex and fragile than that of freshwater fish.
Kole tang and Yellow tang fish

A lot of saltwater aquarium keepers make the mistake of changing their mind on the aquarium’s location after they have setup their saltwater tank.

Although it is not impossible, it is a giant pain to move a saltwater aquarium holding several hundred pounds of water, coral and fish, even a few inches.

Make sure direct sunlight will not shine on your saltwater tank, especially in hot summer months. Sunlight not only causes the aquarium water temp to rise, but also promotes the growth of algae in the saltwater tank, which you don’t want.

Think about putting your new saltwater aquarium in a place where the tank can be easily seen and enjoyed from sitting areas in the room. A number of people make their aquarium the primary focal point of the living room and the television secondary.

Think about the effect the weight of a tank and its water and rock will have on the floor structure in that part of the room.
A larger tank (55 gallons) weighs about the same as two to three large adult men—roughly 625 pounds.
The most common size for saltwater aquariums is a 55-gallon tank.
It’s best to place the tank against a load-bearing wall (usually an outer wall). That is the strongest part of the floor.

The Right Saltwater Tank for You

You will want to shop around for a saltwater tank, lighting, and the type of stand you will use to display your aquarium. Take your measurement notes with you and look for a saltwater aquarium that will fit what you have space for.

Check out these very cool and affordable all-in-one saltwater aquariums

Check several saltwater aquarium stores, known as reef stores, to see what they have to offer, both tank and price-wise, before making a final decision. Generally speaking, saltwater fish do much better in larger tanks, at least 55 gallons. The normal measurements for a 55-gallon tank are about 4-feet wide by 16-inches deep.

If you prefer to shop online, you will find resources with information on the top 1 gallon to 50 gallon aquariums and top mini/nano saltwater aquarium kits as a good place to start. There are a number of new and innovative aquarium designs on the market.

There are corner saltwater tanks, coffee table saltwater tanks, and hexagon saltwater tanks. There are even a series of saltwater tanks that are connected by acrylic tubes that allow the fish to swim from one tank to another.

Some saltwater quarium hobbyists install their saltwater aquarium inside the wall. These in-wall saltwater tanks are impressive, but make sure that you really want to make the long-term commitment before you start making structural changes to your home.

Aquariums today are constructed with one of two basic materials: Glass or acrylic. Acrylic is stronger, but the surface has a tendency to scratch if you are not careful. Glass aquariums are less expensive, but more prone to breaking, cracking and are much heavier!


For more information, please check out my saltwater aquarium channel, Rotter Tube Reef, on YouTube. We have a great FaceBook community as well. There is just too much to type about the saltwater aquarium hobby.


I have a lot of tips on my Rotter Tube Reef saltwater aquarium channel. Check it out and subscribe if you haven’t already. New video every weekend.

picasso clownfish. Starting a saltwater tank requires patience and time. The environment saltwater fish live in is more complex and fragile than that of freshwater fish.
My picasso clown fish

My Current saltwater tank specs:

125 gallon saltwater display tank

1 vortech mp40 power head

1 Hydor power head

20 gallon eshopps sump

2 Rio + return pumps – 2500+

Finnex LED lighting

Eshopps 200 protein skimmer

I hope this post on starting a saltwater aquarium has helped you. If you have any questions, let me know. Don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel, Rotter Tube Reef for more info!

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I’m a video editor of 25 years, audio engineer 20 years, photographer 25 years and guitarist 20 years. Visit my YouTube channel, Rotter, for videos on photography, camera gear, creativity in video editing, movie reviews and the gear I use in my studio.

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