Setting Up a Marine Fish Tank – Step by Step Walkthrough


Are you ready to set up your marine fish tank? Read our complete step-by-step walkthrough guide to setting up a saltwater aquarium below.


When it comes to setting up your marine fish tank, this is the phase that is most crucial. Setting up a marine fish tank and keeping it maintained requires a significant investment of both time and money. It is possible to ruin your efforts and spend much more time and money than is necessary if you do not prepare effectively.

You are going to want to pick what kind of marine fish tank you want while you are in the planning stage. Will there just be fish available? Are there fish and living rocks? A reef aquarium stocked with a variety of fish and corals? Finding an answer to this question is going to pave the way for the remainder of the things you accomplish throughout the process of setting up. In addition to this, it will also determine the kind of filtration and lighting systems that you should have in your marine fish tank.

Determine the Capacity of the Tank and Its Location

When it comes to keeping fish in saltwater tanks, it is best to start with a larger aquarium, particularly if you are just getting started. I would suggest purchasing an aquarium of the largest size that you are able to afford. In addition to the amount of money you have available, the size of the tank will be determined in part by the kind of tank and the animals that you want to keep in it. If you only want some little damselfish or clownfish with live rock, you won’t need a very huge tank; but, if you want to obtain giant angelfish, triggerfish, or sharks, you will need a tank that is much larger.

Location is also another crucial factor to consider. To begin, a fish tank that is completely full with water may weigh several hundred pounds. It will not be simple to relocate after you have decided on a certain area. Therefore, you need to choose a location that can sustain the weight. Also take into consideration the ease with which you can access electrical outlets, the locations of heating and cooling vents that could affect the temperature of the tank, the windows that could cause the tank to get direct sunlight, which can cause algae blooms, and the proximity of water sources.

Purchase Equipment

You need a shopping list, don’t you? Check out our most recent article for a list of the 17 most important things that should be included in a marine fish tank.

Perform a Tank Inspection

The very last thing you want to do is fill your tank with salt water only to have it leak all over the floor due to a small crack (I once had this happen with a 55-gallon freshwater tank, and it was a mess with fresh water, so I can only imagine how much worse it would be with salt water!). The solution is to check your tank for any cracks before you fill it with salt water. Make sure that the water remains on the inside of the tank after you fill it up with clean water all the way to the top, then either leave it outdoors, in a bathtub, in the garage, or in the shower for a few days.

Set the Tank in Order

After ensuring that the tank is level, place it in the position where it will remain permanently. After that, install all of the necessary components, including the sump, heater, filter, and powerheads.

Fill ‘er Up – Part Way

When you are through testing the tank, you can fill it up by combining water that has been cleaned using reverse osmosis or RO/Deionization filter with a salt mixture that is designed particularly for fish tanks that include salt water. You have the option of either mixing this in buckets before adding it to the tank, or you may add the water to the tank first and then add the salt mix to the tank after the water has been added. Make sure you check the salinity using a hydrometer to ensure that it is at the appropriate level.

Add Your Sand/Live Rock/Aquascaping

When your aquarium has been filled between one-half and three-quarters of the way, it is time to add the substrate, which may either be broken coral or living sand. After it has been placed, you may next add live rock or any other aquascaping decorations you have available if you are not utilizing live rock.

Top ‘er Off

Complete the filling of the tank with the remaining liquid.

Turn Everything On

After the water has been added, you should switch on all of your equipment, including the filtration system, the heater, the powerheads, and anything else you have. Allow everything to operate normally for three full days before checking to see if there are any problems.

Let the Tank Cycle

It may take up to six weeks for a brand-new marine fish tank to complete the cycle process. There are a few different things you may do to speed up the process. To get some biological activity going on in the tank, one option is to introduce one hardy fish such as a damselfish to the environment. There is also the option of placing frozen fish food in the aquarium; however, if you already have live rock, this step is not necessary.

As the life cycle of your marine fish tank progresses, there are a few aspects that need your careful attention. First, keep a tight eye on the temperature as well as the salt levels. Check to see that they do not deviate from the allowed limits (a salinity of 1.023 to 1.026 and a temperature of around 75F to 80F) and that they continue to be stable. In addition, while you are cycling the system, you should examine the chemical makeup of the water every one to two days. When both the ammonia and nitrite levels in your tank reach zero, the cycling process in your tank is complete.

Add Your Salt Water Aquarium Fish/Corals

After your tank has been cycled, it will be ready for the addition of the animals. You could want to start by introducing some cleaner animals (snails, crabs, and so on), and then go on to the fish. Be careful not to throw in an excessive amount too fast. If you want your marine fish tank to be able to properly care for its new occupants, it is best to take things slowly and allow the filtration system to get up to speed first.

It is also recommended that you wait at least a few months and allow the tank to age a little before adding corals and anemones to the mix. This is because many people believe that it is best to let the tank mature before introducing new organisms to it.

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