What Equipment Do You Need for a Marine Fish Tank? (17 Essentials)

So you’ve made the exciting decision to get into the hobby of keeping marine fish in an aquarium. Congratulations!

Now it’s time to begin putting together the components of the fish tank aquarium that you will want in order to have it suitable for fish to inhabit. Your aquarium or fish tank has to provide a wonderful home for your fish, and of course, it also needs to fulfill your wants and expectations.

I have compiled a list of the necessary items that you will need in order to have your fish tank installed and operational. There is always going to be some debate about what is necessary and what isn’t, but I believe that this is a very solid list of the things that are considered “must haves” when it comes to setting up saltwater fish tanks.

  1. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) – Electricity and water do not go well together. Always remember to put one of these in each wall outlet that will be used for your tank and ensure that it is properly installed. The fact that you may plug anything into any electrical outlet means that this is not technically necessary; yet, the danger involved is not worth it. A GFCI might potentially save a person’s life.
  2. A power strip with a surge protector — With heaters, lighting, skimmers, and other accessories for your tank, you’re going to need more than two outlets for its equipment. Make an investment in a high-quality power strip that not only allows you to plug in all of your equipment but also has surge protection to prevent your equipment from being damaged.
  3. Tank – Obviously! Your fish will call it their home, and it will probably be able to accommodate the rest of the equipment as well. When deciding what kinds of fish you want to maintain, you need to think about the many kinds of tanks available to you. You are going to be building up a tank for saltwater fish, thus it is important for you to be aware that saltwater fish in general need more water per individual fish and are also often bigger in size than fish that live in clean water. This will result in a larger tank. There are tanks available that need less maintenance, and you may choose one of these options dependent on the frequency with which you want to clean and care for your fish tank.
  4. Fish tank stand – Fish tanks may become quite heavy when you fill them up with water, therefore you need to make sure that your tank is placed on a stable foundation before you fill it up with water. In addition, saltwater fish tanks may leave a salt residue on the exterior of the tank, thus placing them on a piece of furniture or a counter may promote corrosion and create a messy situation.
  5. A Deionizer or a Reverse Osmosis Unit – Regular tap water just isn’t good enough. If you want to keep your marine fish tank and the fish in it healthy, you need to use water that has been treated with either a reverse osmosis (RO) unit or a deionizer.
  6. Salt mixture, supplements and additives — A saltwater fish tank is impossible to have without the addition of salt. There is a wide variety of salt mixtures on the market that may provide not only the salt but also the other components that the residents of your tank need. These are very important not only for the health of your fish but also for maintaining a stable atmosphere in the aquarium. The most important ones are calcium and iodine; when you go shopping for supplies for your saltwater fish, you need to make sure that you don’t forget to purchase them. They also assist the living rock in the aquarium to produce extra nutrients that are released into the tank. In order for you to do routine checks on the concentrations of these additives inside your tank, you will want a test kit (see item number 8 in this list).
  7. Hydrometer – This nifty little instrument will enable you to determine the specific gravity (the amount of salt within the water) of the salt water in order to ensure that it is at the appropriate level. Because the concentration of salt in the water will have a seriously detrimental effect on your fish if it is incorrect, you want to get it just perfect.
  8. Test kits – Fish kept in saltwater aquariums are quite sensitive to changes in water parameters; thus, it is essential to remain on top of things and check the water quality on a consistent basis. Regular testing for pH, ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites is the bare minimum needed for maintaining a healthy environment in your aquarium. You might bring water samples into your neighborhood aquarium store, and if the employees are helpful, they could test them for you for a price that is either very low or even completely free. However, when the tank is being cycled for the first time, you should be checking the water every day; however, it will be very difficult for you to bring water samples into the store on a regular basis at this time.
  9. Buckets, Towels, Rubber Gloves – Maintaining a marine fish tank can be a wet and filthy job, so it is essential to have buckets and towels on hand for tasks like as changing the water, cleaning, and adding new fish. Rubber gloves are also recommended. You and the other residents of your tank will be safeguarded by gloves.
  10. Substrate: Although this component is not strictly required, it is highly recommended that you fill the base of your aquarium with either crushed coral or living sand. When setting up a marine aquarium, there are many different kinds of substrate that may be used. The fact that sand is a natural substance and will make the occupants of your tank feel more at ease is the single most significant consideration when setting up a saltwater fish tank. Sand, on the other hand, has a more attractive appearance than gravel does.
  11. Live Rock, Ornamental Rocks or Coral: Your fish will need some rocks or other decorative materials in the tank so that they have a place to hide and feel comfortable. This may be done by adding either decorative rocks or live rock. The presence of live rock is advisable since it may both filter water and provide fish with food at the same time.
  12. Heater: Given that you will most likely be maintaining tropical kinds of fish, you will need a heater to ensure that the water is of an appropriate temperature for them. It is essential that your fish be kept in water that is maintained at the ideal temperature at all times; otherwise, they run the risk of perishing from either hypothermia (too cold) or hyperthermia (too hot). The size of the heater you will need to purchase is going to be determined by the size of the tank you already have.
  13. A thermometer: You will need to determine whether or not the heater is performing its function properly. The ideal thermometer is one that floats or that has a window that allows you to glance at it.
  14. Lighting – Your fish tank will need lighting in order to function properly. The type of saltwater fish tank that you have will determine the kind of lighting that you should choose for the tank. Indeed, there are several tanks that already have illumination installed. In order to choose the kind of lighting that will work best for your aquarium, what you want to put in the tank will determine which option is best for you to go with (i.e., a fish-only tank will not require the lighting intensity as a reef tank with live rock and coral).
  15. Powerhead: Salt water has to be moved around so that it does not collect in stagnant water. Movement not only guarantees that the whole system is filtered, but also that the food for the fish is moved about so that it can be found by the fish and consumed by them. If you want to keep the atmosphere of your saltwater aquarium as close to perfect as possible, it is strongly advised that you invest in a powerhead, despite the fact that they are often rather pricey and an additional expense for someone just starting out.
  16. Protein Skimmers: Skimmers remove organic waste from your aquarium before it can decompose and convert into nitrates, which are harmful to saltwater aquarium fish. Nitrates are produced when organic waste breaks down. Protein skimming – also known as foam fractionating – is a crucial component in maintaining the overall health and happiness of your marine aquarium. You will need to make an investment in a protein skimmer of sufficient grade if you wish to maintain a low level of dissolved organic compounds (DOCS). Skimmers remove undesired organic molecules from the water before they decompose and contribute to an increase in the levels of ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite. It literally removes the “gunk” out of your tank, and after a month of usage and seeing all of the material that accumulated it, you will soon realize how useful this piece of equipment is. A protein skimmer is one of the most crucial things you can acquire for your aquarium.
  17. Fish: A marine fish tank would be nothing without its inhabitants, and vice versa. Be sure to make an informed decision, not to overcrowd your tank, and avoid purchasing any species that won’t get along with the others.

Final Thoughts

Acquiring the items in the list above should mean you have all you need to give you the best possible start with your new hobby. As time passes, all of these components will need replacing at some point as they will wear out and stop working or, in the case of tank decorations, become visually unappealing.

While it will require a lot of money at the outset to buy all of the items on the list, be wary of buying cheap products to try and reduce the cost. Not only may these not work properly and cause harm to your fish, but even if they do work for a bit, they may break and need replacing more often than if you had just bought a quality item in the first place.

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