Saltwater Aquarium – Essential Equipment

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 86,415
    Marine Biologist Jim Karanikas demonstrates how to set up a saltwater aquarium and talks about the essential equipment.

    Jim Karanikas: Hi! Jim Karanikas here from Tropical Fish World and we've been discussing how to set up and maintain a saltwater aquarium. So now I would like to go over some of the equipment that you are going to need to do this project.

    Of course first of all we are going to need the aquarium, and aquariums are available in glass or acrylic. They are also available in many different sizes, this is only 12 gallon aquarium which is very appropriate now for a saltwater aquarium, you can use it as a fish-only tank or better yet even as a little reef tank, because it is available with these higher powered power compact lights that can support live coral in your tank.

    Okay, let's talk a little bit about filtration in a saltwater aquarium. Probably the most important type of filtration in any aquarium is biological, and overtime we've developed different ways of housing good bacteria in your aquarium. These are called bio balls and they have been designed to maximize surface area in your filter, so that live bacteria can grow in here and breakdown the fish waste as it's being produced in the aquarium.

    Ammonia is one of the primary components of a fish waste that's broken down into nitrite, and then it's a nitrate. Bacteria that live on this structure eat the ammonia nitrate and break it down into products that are not harmful to the fish. The ammonia and the nitrite can be very toxic and poisonous to saltwater fish. So we definitely want to make sure that our filter is working properly.

    Now, in a fish-only aquarium, a biological filter is very important. This aquarium here has a wet dry filter that's built in the back, and what a wet dry filter is, it's a filter that skims water off of the surface of your aquarium and then it drips the water through your biological component. This tank has little ceramic beads that how's your good bacteria. This also has a very good surface area, and this is placed back in this chamber here. The water rains down through and that's the dry component of your filter, it's not really dry, it's sort of a unsubmerged part of your filter. So, your bacteria living in there in this unsubmerged environment have a lot of oxygen available to actually work very efficiently. Then your pump pumps the water back into the aquarium.

    Now, if you are doing a fish-only aquarium, biological filtration is probably all that you need to be concerned with. There are also canister filters that are available and hang on the back filters that are available. If you want to go old school, you can also do an undergravel filter, which is a plate that lays on the bottom of the tank and circulates all the water through the gravel and your gravel becomes your biological component of the filter similar to the bio balls. But obviously, gravel and rocks don't have this much of surface area as the bio balls would. So, wet dry filter is much more efficient.

    If you are being adventuresome and you want to do a reef aquarium, biological filtration is not the best type of filtration for your tank, because what biological filtration does is it takes the waste from the fish and breaks it down into nutrients that will grow algae. As we discussed earlier, you are going to need a lot of light on a reef tank and if you are putting a lot of light on a fish tank and then also providing a lot of nutrients, you are going to grow a lot of algae. If you like the way algae looks, that's fine, but most people don't like the way algae looks and it's going to detract from the growth of your live coral in your tank.

    So another type of filter that we can use on a fish tank, then I would recommend using on a reef tank is approaching skimmer or foam fractionator.

    This type of filter takes water out of your aquarium, puts it in a chamber where it's mixed with fine bubbles. These fine bubbles act almost like a magnet and attract the waste particles in the tank before bacteria gets a chance to break it down and produce nutrients that grow algae. As the bubbles formulate in here, they get thick with this protein and fat matter and waste products and it oozes up and out into this collection cup through the top and accumulates down in here.

    About once a week you want to check the cup to make sure that it's not overflowing and you want to take it to the sink and rinse it out and clean it.

    It gets pretty gummed up with stuff and when it's working properly, it smells pretty bad too. So you want to make sure that you keep that clean so it don't smell up in the room that the fish tank is in.

    This type of filtration is very useful in a reef tank and I recommend using this if you are going to have live corals in a reef tank. It also can be used to supplement biological filtration in a fish-only tank.

    Another useful piece of equipment in a marine aquarium is a UV Sterilizer, and essentially what it is, it's an ultraviolet light bulb that is put inside of a tube where you pass the water from the aquarium by the light. As the water goes around this ultraviolet light, it kills or dis-infects the water as it passes through. So some of the parasites that are free swimming in the tank are killed and eliminated from the aquarium. These are not 100%, but what they do is that they give the fish a fighting chance to build up an immunity to whatever it's ailing them.

    Most of the time when a fish gets sick in a marine aquarium, there are medicines that we can add to it that can cure whatever problem that might ailing the fish. For instance, copper sulphate or copper formalin is used to kill most of the active parasites that the fish can get. More often than not, you are going to have to deal with some type of parasite problem. So a sterilizer what it does is kind of prevents these problems of getting out of hand. If you have a reef tank where you cannot put copper or copper sulphate in, because it will damage the live coral, sterilizer is always the must because you don't have any other alternative to medicating the fish. Of course you are going to need a heater to maintain the temperature of your water and there is many of these products available. Most of what you can find at your local pet store or better yet go to a aquarium-only or fish-only aquarium store.

    We also have many test kits that are available. They are going to be a little different if you are going to be using one for a reef tank opposed to a fish-only tank. For a fish-only tank we want to test the PH, the carbon hardness level, of course the salinity with your hydrometer, ammonia and nitrite and nitrate.

    For a reef tank we want to test for those things and then we also want to add phosphate, calcium, magnesium. Now, these are just some of the basic components for a saltwater aquarium, of course, if you are going to, want to set one up, you want to go to a qualified store. Talk to the personnel out there and get their opinion on what types of products that you need to keep your fish happy.

    Next, we'd like to talk about feeding the fish in your saltwater aquarium.