Things to Have to Start a Saltwater Aquarium ~ Are you planning to build a home for fish but have no idea about the things to start a saltwater aquarium?

We send help! If you are a beginner, start with saltwater fish that are not aggressive and picky eaters. You might consider Clownfish, Cardinalfish, Firefish, and other small species.

Some fish are sensitive to environmental changes that turn to be territorial, which is dangerous to take care of. After deciding which sea creature is best to care for, you can proceed to the other factors to complete their home. Here are the things that must be present in starting a saltwater aquarium:

A Must-Read: Fish Tank Accessories

15 Things To Start A Saltwater Aquarium

You read it right! There are only 15 things you need to prepare to have your saltwater tank finally. Perhaps some of them are already available in your home; this lessens your expenses. Without further ado, let’s get it started!


Deciding where to put the aquarium is the first thing you need to do before buying one. The style of the tank you will choose, whether an acrylic or glass aquarium, depends on the space provided. There are various options for tank styles and sizes in the market that will fit your needs.

Keep an eye on what comes with the tank upon purchase to save your budget. Some offer an aquarium kit that includes all the equipment needed.

For example, the Marina LED Aquarium Kit is a 10-gallon tank, including almost everything your pet needs to survive. Energy-Efficient lighting is part of the set.

It provides a natural look inside the aquarium, and the clip-on filter helps for easy maintenance. Also, it is a perfect setup for first-time fish keepers with the contained clear instructions.

Another best option is Penn Plax Curved Corner Glass Aquarium Kit, which has a better look with its contemporary style. The tank includes a hinge-style plastic lid and mat to cover up the enclosure fully. An LED light and internal filter are also counted in the set.

You are allowed to build a DIY aquarium to save money. If so, look for a guideline on how to make one.

Aquarium Stand

After buying an aquarium or any enclosure, you need something to put it on. Some packages include an aquarium stand, but others may require a separate cost.

Thinking about the expenses, a DIY tank stand helps to save up money. You can visit Pinterest to look for various DIY stand projects.

If you do not have enough time to create one, Imagitarium offers Newport Wooden Tank Stand. It can take hold of a 20-gallon tank and is quick to assemble. Three layers are provided to store up many things.

Make sure of a durable aquarium stand for the safety of your pet. Check on the materials used, whether they could stand in any condition. Metal-made stands are more recommended than those made of wood, but paying extra is considered.


When you choose to buy not an aquarium kit, you should think twice about picking the right tank lighting. It will depend on the type of system you have set up and what kind of pet you will keep.

Less cost is needed for fish-only tank lighting than aquariums with reef and corals. Those added accessories require the use of light for living.

In buying lighting for tanks, you need to consider what the future holds. You might turn the fish-only tank into a reef tank, which requires higher lighting requirements.

Good lighting in saltwater aquariums is different from the other tanks. They require the least lighting. Most aquarium kits include lighting only for fish. An aquarium with growing corals needs the use of fluorescent light to be hung over the tank.

You can buy an LED lighting system like the Current USA Orbit Marine Aquarium LED light, full of spectacular colors. It provides a 24-hour light cycle that mimics daylight and nightlight.

A gradual sunrise effect is activated not to shock the fish from experiencing a light. It can go with smaller tanks with its wide-angle dispersion lenses to light up the entire tank.

Another is the MICMOL Smart LED Aquarium Light. It is best for saltwater, and it has a smart controller to select the ideal lighting for your pet, which could be an automatic cycle or manually programmed.

It supports coral growth, as said by most users, without sacrificing much power. Its design is open for customization, specifically on the assembly.

Filtration System

While some tanks have a built-in filtration system, not all fish keepers might be delighted with it. They might desire to modify or add on to the filter system. The filtration system keeps the water clean from time to time.

The truth is there are three basic filtration types for saltwater aquariums, including biological, mechanical, and chemical. Each functions differently for the good of the pets, which is discussed below:

  • Biological filters are responsible for aiding bacteria while converting ammonia into nitrate via various filter types.
  • Mechanical filters remove materials on the aquarium water column.
  • Chemical filters use a chemical reaction to remove toxins in the water.

Get MarineLand Penguin BIO-Wheel Power Filter System in cleaning the tank, conveniently. It delivers three-stage aquarium filtration, just like what is mentioned a while ago.

There will be no hassle in putting up the filter, which is perfect for beginners. Quiet operation is attained with the help of its two-piece vented cover. Replace the filter cartridge after a month for better performance.


Keeping a saltwater fish species requires a good quality of warm water to live fully. A single heater is enough for smaller aquariums, while larger tanks advise multiple heater units.

You can find many tank heaters for saltwater aquariums in the market these days. It is advisable to buy a submersible heater.

One of the most famous tank heaters online is the Eheim Jager Aquarium Thermostat Heater. They offer between 25-watts to 300-watts of heater power, so choose according to your needs.

It keeps your saltwater aquarium warm and comfortable to store. Most keepers love the way it looks with its slim design. It consistently produces 27-degrees Celsius that is suitable for keeping your fish healthy.

Here are the other features of Eheim Jager:

  1. The Thermo safety control keeps the water volume from running dry while keeping it warm.
  2. TruTemp Dial recalibrates the temperature level into the right regulation.
  3. An indicator lamp feature shows whether the heater is working or not in a glance.
  4. Eheim Jager is fully submersible into the water, unlike the other tank heaters.


  • Provides constant temperature
  • Has a compact design
  • Reasonably priced
  • High-quality tank heater


  • No guards available to protect the glass heater


The thermometer is responsible for checking whether the tank heater is operating at its best. Temperature changes may harm both fish and plants if not appropriately monitored.

This equipment comes in many forms, such as stick-on, floating, and digital sensors. All of them work with convenience in mind.

There are a lot of aquarium thermometers you could buy online in each category, which includes the following:

SUKRAGRAHA Stick-on Thermometer is a 10-piece set. It shows a different color at a different temperature level for easy reading. The temp measurement ranges from 64 to 93-degrees Fahrenheit, an optimal temp level for fish.

It also presents Celsius measurement. They stick firmly on the surface of the aquarium through its adhesive feature.

Marina Floating Thermometer is another option that floats in the water without harming your pets. It is designed in a vertical position to consume little space inside the aquarium.

The thermometer comes with a suction cup for optional installment on glass aquariums. It is suitable for either fresh or saltwater aquariums. There is a safety zone indicator for the betterment of your pets.

The most advanced tank thermometers of all time are the ones with digital sensors. I recommend Zacro LCD Digital Aquarium Thermometer that comes in two packs.

It is equipped with an LR44 battery and works by submerging the probe in the water while the display unit stays outside the tank. The LED display is easy to read, showing a temperature range from -50-degrees to +70-degrees Celsius.

Whichever aquarium thermometer you choose, your pet will be better off. Do not forget to check the material used in the making of the thermometer.


Sometimes fishes long for surface waves as their normal habitat provides, and powerheads duplicate that water movement. They provide good water circulation in the aquarium. It operates by submerging it into the water. Powerheads maintain a healthy environment for the pets by eliminating stagnant areas.

Hydor Koralia Evolution Aquarium Circulation Pump can provide a 360-degree range of pumping positions. It could reach hard-to-access spots in your aquarium.

The pump is fully submersible to water with a patented propeller design. It imitates the natural water motion in the ocean. The controller sets an interval of water movement in seconds, minutes, and hours. Positioning the equipment is made more accessible by the magnet-suction cup, suitable for glass aquariums.

Another quality powerhead in the market is the MarineLand Maxi-Jet 3-in-1 Pro Pump, which can withstand a constant on/off operation with other devices.

Maxi-Jet includes three pumps in one at a reasonable price. It consumes the least amount of energy while turning into a prop-style circulation pump. The material is fully adaptable to any wavemaker device.

In choosing the right powerhead, compare their cost, features, GPH rates, and even the maintenance requirements. Being sure of those things makes a purchase worthwhile.

Protein Skimmer

Nitrates are harmful to saltwater aquarium fish. That is why you need a skimmer. It removes organic waste before turning it into nitrates. Invest in a high-quality protein skimmer to keep your tank hygienic.

Getting a protein skimmer requires a proper place in your system, so check where it will be placed. You will see results after a month of use.

This tackle is slightly expensive as compared to the other things needed to start a saltwater aquarium. With that, it is worth buying to maintain the tank clean and healthy.

The best protein skimmer today is the SCA-302, an in-sump protein skimmer. It has a seamless assembly with standardizing silencer and a collection cup.

The skimmer is useful in cleaning the 180-gallon saltwater aquarium with its Atman 2000 pump with needle impeller. It has a compact size that fits most sumps. SCA-302 can be bought within your budget for long time use.

Another type of skimmer is hung in/on protein skimmers, on which SeaClone Skimmer has to offer. Its vortex chamber collects dissolved waste for easier cleaning afterward, and it creates a tornado-like motion of combined water and air along the process.

It makes skimming more efficient for pets. Choose between two sizes according to your tank system.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI)

Contact between water and electricity brings in danger for both parties. Having a GFCI can be a lifesaver. Perhaps some will defend themselves having a wall outlet already, but that is not enough. Installing even a single GFCI in any wall outlet is a wise move.

OAONAN GFCI might be the one you are looking for. It has safety leak-proof to protect you from electric shock. The construction is durable with its rugged design that can go with heavy use.

It comes with surge protection for easy installation. Other electrical appliances can benefit from this device that is ETL listed. There is an instruction manual for easy setup.

GFCI’s main purpose is to put away danger but is sometimes neglected by most tank keepers. Then again, a wall outlet may sound good, but with GFCI, it could be better.

Power Strip

Many electrical outlets are needed to have a saltwater aquarium. There must be an outlet for the heater, skimmer, and lightings, so more than two outlets are required. A power strip could provide more than you need to plug all the equipment safely and properly.

An additional feature of a power strip must-have is a surge protector, usually included in the package. It protects the supplies from getting fried due to overheating.

Try out the AmazonBasics 6-outlet surge protector power strip that comes in two packs. It has a built-in power switch for a convenient startup with its multiple outlets.

There is an indicator light for a surge protector to show when it is turned on. It is easy to plug in the main outlet with its 2-foot power cord that minimizes clutter.

Test Kits

Testing the water daily is essential for the sake of saltwater fish. They are sensitive to water parameters; that is why test kits play a big role. Factors that need to be tested are the pH level, ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites.

One thing you can do is to bring a water sample to a nearby local aquarium shop, but that is a bit inconvenient. Doing so regularly may cause more expenses on your side.

Some aquarists can immediately tell when something goes wrong with their tank by simply sniffing on the water. As a beginner, water test kits might help to give you quicker and more accurate results in testing the water.

API Master Test Kits has to offer everything you need in this process. It demands a lower cost per test compared to individual test kits. All devices have the same expiration dates as well.

It will give you results at once by simply dipping it into the water. You can do the testing of waters weekly or at intervals.  API provides selections of test kits according to what you need. Customized tests are not allowed as the manufacturer fixes the packages.


Adding a substrate at the bottom of your tank is optional, but it adds beauty to the tank. There are various types of substrates in the market, including live rock and live sand. The latter is more natural and pleasing than corals.

The right substrate also helps in maintaining the natural appearance of the aquarium towards saltwater fish. A heavier substrate is suitable for a tank with lots of water current to keep it in balance. The substrate also helps in the filtration process.

Bio-Activ Natural White Live Sand by Pure Water Pebbles boosts biological filtration that quickly removes nitrogenous waste. It is popular with many aquarists because of its minimal clouding. It could be the whitest live sand in the market that optimizes water’s pH level.

If you prefer using live rocks as substrate, Nature’s Ocean offers one pack of 12-inch coral base rock. They are growing corals perfect for aquascaping. The corals work as biological filters naturally. It does not affect the cycling of your tank and easily adapts to a live environment.

Salt Mix

A saltwater aquarium will never be completed without a salt mix. It contains elements that are beneficial to other stuff in the tank, like coral growth.

Instant Ocean offers sea salt mixes well for large-scale aquariums. It recreates an ocean habitat for your pet. The mixtures dissolve quickly. It contains all the necessary elements to bring up a healthy aquarium. The formula is free of nitrate and phosphate and is ideal for marine aquariums.

Other high-quality salt mixtures are offered in the market. Choose what suits your pet’s needs.


After putting up the salt mix, your next job is to make sure the saltwater is at its proper level. A hydrometer is a salinity tester that measures the salt content of the water. They are a handy device and widely available in the market.

Instant Ocean develops a water test hydrometer with easy-to-read markings to pair up with the mentioned sea salt mix. Its accuracy level is high on the level of gravity and salt testing. A safe zone is indicated on the device. The hydrometer is no-wet-hands designed.

Other aquarists use refractometers as an added device in testing the saltwater. Using both of them may give better results.

Maintenance Tools

Tank up-keeping is a lot easier with the right maintenance tools and supplies. Get a logbook to keep on track of the maintenance tasks you have done. It avoids getting things done over and over again, and this lessens the time of cleaning.

Items on hand must include the following:

  • Buckets such as Rubbermaid Roughneck Utility Bucket 
  • Towels
  • Rubber Gloves from AmazonBasics
  • Siphon tube such as Python Pro Clean-Mini Tube
  • Algae scraper such as SunGrow Aquarium Glass Cleaner
  • Different sizes of nets
  • Replacement parts

Complete those tools to achieve better maintenance of your tank, and it benefits not just the tank keeper but more of the pets.

Average Cost Of Saltwater Aquarium

If you are ready to start a saltwater aquarium, you must consider the cost of installing one. Setting up an abode for your fish pets is different depending on the aquarium size you want. Aside from that, the fish type you are opting for can also change the cost of setting up a saltwater aquarium.

You must also consider the overall look of your saltwater aquarium when computing the cost. Expect to spend between $300 and $500 as an average setup cost, excluding the materials to be used. For this reason, make sure to consider your budget thoroughly when setting up a saltwater aquarium.

Compared to freshwater aquariums, saltwater is more expensive. Pet fish like tetras fish, Betta fish, and cichlids fish are ideal to stay in freshwater aquariums.

Final Words

All things are set! It is time to start a new habit of keeping a saltwater fish. Read over the checklist until you get what is necessary to start a saltwater aquarium. Prepare a budget to complete the process. Ask the experts for a clearer vision of what is still vague within the article.

Products online are mentioned as well to serve as references to your future purchasing decision. You can look for devices other than what is stated. Do not miss even one thing above in making a home for your pet.

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