For experienced fish keepers, a saltwater fish tank can be the next step up, allowing you to keep all of the exotic and colorful fish you see at pet stores. Maintaining a saltwater fish tank does require some additional effort above and beyond the maintenance requirements of the average freshwater tank, though, and if you've never kept fish before, it may be wise to start with a freshwater aquarium. Here's how to maintain a saltwater fish tank:
- Purchase the right aquarium. A saltwater fish tank is much easier to maintain if you start with the right tank, the right supplies, and the right fish. Small saltwater tanks can actually be difficult to care for because minuscule changes in chemical levels can cause drastic effects on your fish. In addition, you'll need a full setup of saltwater equipment. When choosing the first fish for your saltwater fish tank, consider selecting those that are relatively inexpensive and easy to care for.
- Watch your fish closely. After your aquarium has been set up for several weeks and you've added a few fish, spend time looking at them every day. By becoming familiar with each fish's behavior patterns and appearance, you are more likely to notice that one looks sickly.
- Feeding your saltwater fish. The appropriate diet for a saltwater fish can vary greatly; be sure you are feeding a varied diet that is appropriate for the type of fish you have. Feeding schedules vary on the size and variety of fish; most saltwater fish need to be fed about once every three days.
- Keep water levels correct. The water in your saltwater fish tank will naturally evaporate over time. As this happens, adjust the water level with dechlorinated water. Twice per week, add iodine and calcium depending on your water quality levels and the size of your saltwater fish tank.
- Clean the aquarium. Every week, scrape the algae off your tank's walls. Then use a siphon to vacuum up any debris that has settled in the substrate. Remove about ten percent of the water and replace it with dechlorinated water. Never change more than 25 percent of the water at once, because this can shock your fish. This process of routine water changes dilutes the unwanted chemicals that accumulate in aquariums, and also keeps a saltwater tank's chemistry in balance.
- Monitor water chemistry. A few days after you clean the aquarium, test the water levels using a water test kit available at any pet store. Watch the ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, alkalinity, and calcium levels. If you keep any invertebrates in your saltwater fish tank, you also need to maintain the copper levels. All of these readings must be within the acceptable ranges for saltwater aquariums; if not, you may need to change out more of the water or add chemicals to restore balance to the aquarium's chemistry.
When maintaining a saltwater fish tank, it's important to remember that if you let the tank go too long between water changes or checking chemical levels, your fish can suffer or even die. A maintenance calendar can help you remember to do routine maintenance.