Saltwater aquariums sometimes come with a particular rumor of being difficult to maintain. The reality is, a basic saltwater aquarium is really no more difficult than a freshwater aquarium. The only difference is your adding some synthetic sea salt into the water to make it saltwater. Even most of the equipment you are going to use is exactly the same as you would use on a freshwater tank! 

Use Sand & Rock

Saltwater tanks should contain both aragonite sand and live or dry rock marketed for saltwater aquariums because it provides an important foundation for the biological filter in the aquarium. You don't want to use gravel or other substrates intended for use in a freshwater aquarium.

How Much Work Is It Going To Be?

For a tank up to 40 gallons in size, you're looking at a maximum of about 30 minutes of maintenance every week. Here is what a typical maintenance routine might look like with only minor variations to the frequency of the tasks between different tanks. 

Daily Tasks

  • Feed the fish 1 to 2 times each day

Weekly Tasks

  • Clean the glass using a magnetic algae scraper
  • Top off the tank with fresh RO/DI water

Bi-Weekly Tasks

  • Test ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH
  • Water change - remove and replace roughly 10-20% of the aquarium water

Monthly Tasks

  • Clean the filter and replace filter media. 
  • Clean the heater and pumps
  • Vacuum and clean the sand bed when doing your water change.

What About Keeping Corals Or Larger Fish?

This is where it becomes more demanding and a bit more of a commitment. Corals, predatory fish, and other more sensitive animals are going to come with specific requirements that are just going to require more effort and experience. That being said, keeping just a few fish in a reasonably sized saltwater aquarium is probably much easier than you think! 

If you would like to learn more about keeping a reef aquarium with corals, check out the 5 Minute Saltwater Aquarium Guide that gives you a step-by-step video tutorial along with some detailed information about tank setup, livestock, and maintenance.