Our Guide To Marine Aquariums

This is a beginner's guide to creating a saltwater marine aquarium and how to maintain the tank as a healthy environment for fish and live rock.

Our guide to keeping a successful and beautiful marine aquarium, including everything you need to know about setting up your aquarium, making your own saltwater, fishkeeping and live rock.

Setting Up Your Marine Aquarium

After setting up a new marine aquarium with live rock, substrate, saltwater, leave it with any equipment running for a minimum of 3-4 weeks before adding any live stock.

This gives the aquarium time to circulate and any die-back from the live rock can happen without causing water problems which have the potential to harm fish and corals.

Once you do begin to introduce fish and corals this should be done slowly over a period of time to prevent costly and sometimes devastating results.

Saltwater in Your Aquarium

Saltwater is vital for the survival marine fish, corals and invertebrates as it replicates their natural habitat. Over time your water will begin to evaporate and the salinity (salt levels) will rise, so you will need to top up the aquarium to keep the chosen salinity level steady.

There are different salinity levels depending on the type of tank you want to set up. If you have corals you are going to need a slightly higher salinity level than with a fish only environment.

Rather than purchasing saltwater, you can mix your own by following the instructions in our How To Make Saltwater blog. If you do want to buy, we currently offer three levels of salinity and these are 1.022, 1.24 and 1.026, for advice speak to our Aquatics Team on 0121 355 7701.

Marine Aquarium Water Changes

It's recommended that you perform a 10% water change every week or a 20% water change every two weeks, topping up with saltwater not purified 'RO water', so that the salinity remains constant.

We always advise that you invest in your own jerrycans, one for RO water and one for saltwater, and these should be labelled appropriately to avoid any cross contamination.

You'll also find that aquatic stores will stock RO water, saltwater and loan out jerrycans if you do not want to buy one or make up your own water. 

Adding Live Rock

Live rock is the foundation of most great marine aquariums. It is harvested from the ocean around the world from near reefs, where parts have become detached from the main body of corals due to storm damage. It is highly valued in the marine aquarium trade and this is due to the fact that it brings a huge diversity of life to a closed marine environment.

Live rock will function as a superior and main biological filter system in your saltwater aquarium, an alternative to using a fish tank filter as it naturally hosts nitrifying bacteria that process waste. Live rock also has a stabilizing effect on the water chemistry, keeping a constant pH level by releasing calcium carbonate into the water.

How Much Live Rock Should I Use?

As your main biological filter we normally advise one kilogram of live rock for every nine litres of water. You can add extra but you must make sure that there is a sufficient flow around the rock to prevent 'dead spots' which could cause a water quality problem.

When you add corals to your tank they will become attached to the live rock becoming their base, and coral is also frequently used as a shelter for marine inhabitants giving them a better quality of life.

With your live rock you can build caves, overhangs, arches and other areas which can give your aquarium an awesome effect, this practice is known as aquascaping.

Curing Your Live Rock

Live rock should always be cured before placing in the tank, this is because many of the organisms which enjoyed living on the rock in the ocean will have died off during the transportation process. This can lead to a spike in the ammonia levels if the rock isn't cured properly.  

You can cure your rock by leaving it in salted water isolated from the main tank for several weeks, however most aquatic stores will have already done this for you.

Buy Live Rock for Home Delivery

If you would like live rock for your marine aquarium then please view our Live Rock page.

Feeding Your Marine Fish

Frozen marine fish food is recommended such as TMC Gamma Frozen Food which has been gamma irradiated to remove any impurities that can increase phosphate and other levels.

Defrost the food in a small tub of RO water and then, once it has defrosted, fully net the food and let the excess waste water drain out, this means less uneaten nutrients disrupting the levels in your tank.

Adding New Livestock

New livestock will usually be sold in a polythene bag, this makes it easy to transport. New stock need to be acclimatized, this allows the water in the bag reaching the same temperature as the aquarium. The best way you can do this is by dropping aquarium water into the bag containing your new stock. Eventually the temperatures will be equal and this will prevent shock to the fish or corals which can be fatal.