The 5 basic types of saltwater aquariums

Marine aquariums are fascinating and beautiful (remember your last visit to a public aquarium?), and not nearly as difficult to maintain as you might think. In recent years, these have been many product advances that make it a reality for the average hobbyist.

Before you get started

The key is to do your homework before getting started.
  • Talk to an expert
  • Find a trusted retailer
  • Establish a budget
  • Buy a credible book on the subject

The five types

Then, decide what type of marine setup interests you. There are five basic types:
  • Fish-Only Saltwater Aquarium: This environment features only a variety of saltwater fish species with base rock (not live rock), no corals.
  • FOWLR (Fish-Only-With-Live-Rock): This environment features only a variety of saltwater fish species with live rock. Live rock is fragmented pieces of coral reefs naturally colonized with marine life including invertebrates, sponges and millions of beneficial nitrifying bacteria that provide excellent supplemental filtration.
  • Coral Reef Aquarium: This setup replicates a beautiful ocean reef environment with hard corals, soft corals, invertebrates and varying fish species.
  • Nano Tank: Generally 30 gallons and under, as a reef environment it is the most difficult and suited for the more advanced aquarium owner. Small coral marine tanks need a high level of care to avoid stressing fish or corals. However, a fish-only, 10-20-gallon saltwater tank with two Clownfish can be relatively easy.
  • Specialty Species Tank: This saltwater environment focuses on a specific species, such as seahorses, sharks, rays, jellyfish, etc.
With a little knowledge about the fundamental differences in water quality, water circulation, and proper lighting upgrading to saltwater, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying a successful saltwater experience.

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