As is true of any hobby, the longer you are involved, the more knowledge you are likely to gain. As you gain knowledge, you are also likely to gain a desire to challenge yourself—to take your hobby to the next level. I grew up taking piano lessons and I remember starting out learning the basics. First I had to learn how to read music, then I learned how the notes on the page corresponded to the keys on the piano. Over time, as I improved in my musical abilities, my piano teacher would encourage me to move on to more difficult pieces. I progressed from playing with one hand to playing with two hands and then from playing single notes to playing chords. You will find this type of progression in any hobby and the aquarium hobby is no exception.
If you have been involved in the aquarium hobby for any length of time, you can probably think back to your own progression. Perhaps you started with a fishbowl as a child and eventually moved up to a 10- or even a 20-gallon tank. As you learned more about the hobby, and as your enthusiasm for fishkeeping grew, so did your desire to challenge yourself. Perhaps you moved on to a larger tank or simply began keeping more difficult species of fish. But where do you go from here? Many freshwater aquarium hobbyists who are on the hunt for a new challenge decide to break into the saltwater aquarium hobby—the challenge of cultivating a saltwater tank is new and exciting, the perfect way to revamp your enthusiasm for fishkeeping.
Like I mentioned before, when you start a new hobby it makes sense to start off slow and to challenge yourself over time as you gain more knowledge and experience. This being the case, I do not recommend that you go out and buy a 120-gallon saltwater tank stocked to capacity with corals and delicate species of fish—at least not right off the bat. Before you set up your first saltwater tank you need to familiarize yourself with the basics because there are a variety of important differences between keeping a freshwater tank and keeping a saltwater tank. Though both tanks require the same basic equipment (heater, filter and lighting), saltwater tanks require additional equipment in order to thrive and they may also require a little more attention to detail.
The key to cultivating a healthy saltwater tank is to set it up properly the first time using a high-quality saltwater mix and to install the proper equipment. While, like freshwater fish, saltwater aquarium fish may be able to handle some fluctuation in water parameters it is incredibly important that you maintain a stable salinity in your tank. To do so you will need to invest in a quality salt mix and learn how to mix it properly—you will not be able to add salt directly to your tank during a water change. Moving up to a saltwater tank will require you to learn a new routine. You will need to have a constant supply of pre-mixed saltwater on hand or remember to prepare your saltwater 24 hours in advance of a water change.
In addition to choosing a quality salt mix you will also need to carefully evaluate and select the equipment for your saltwater tank. Whereas aquarium lighting is only really important in freshwater tanks that are heavily planted, choosing the right lighting is a necessity for the saltwater tank. Photosynthetic invertebrates like beneficial algae and corals will be unable to thrive without the proper lighting. You should also be aware that you may need to purchase equipment in addition to the standard heater, filter and lighting system. Most saltwater tanks require a protein skimmer to help remove protein waste from the water. You might also find it helpful to install a sump system under your tank to house all of your tank equipment.
Making the decision to cultivate a saltwater tank is not a choice you should take lightly. There is a great deal of responsibility involved in setting up and caring for a saltwater tank, not to mention the cost. Whereas you might be able to stop in at your local pet store and purchase a tropical freshwater fish for two to five dollars, saltwater aquarium fish can be much more expensive—a single fish could cost you $30 or more. Not only do you have to think about the cost of stocking your tank but you also have to realize that the costs of additional equipment, the power required to run that equipment and the necessity of a constant supply of salt mix can add up quickly. This is not to say that starting a saltwater tank is prohibitively expensive—it is just a good idea to prepare yourself with some basic knowledge about the related costs so you are not surprised. If you are serious about taking the next step in your journey as an aquarium hobbyist, think about starting a saltwater tank—it might be just the challenge you’ve been looking for.
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