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Saltwater vs. Freshwater Aquariums

The Magic That Makes Saltwater Tanks Superior

A saltwater aquarium is more expensive to own and more challenging to maintain than a freshwater fish tank. And yet, so many hobbyists still choose to have a saltwater aquarium over freshwater. Why? For some, it’s the challenge involved—they take pride in the effort they put in to maintain their aquarium. For others, it’s because they wish to keep coral reefs, which is only possible with saltwater.

There is something about sustaining an entire ecosystem in a home environment. It’s not just about keeping fish and plants, but corals and all sorts of fascinating creatures like squids, snails, crabs, shrimp, and urchins, just to name a few!

Saltwater Aquarium

Is Having a Saltwater Tank Worth the Effort?

The main differences between saltwater and freshwater aquariums are:

  1. Saltwater tanks need specialized salt and reverse osmosis water, while freshwater tanks only need tap water.

  2. Saltwater aquariums have to be maintained every one to two weeks as opposed to freshwater tanks, which only need to be maintained every two to four weeks.

  3. Freshwater aquariums have a natural appeal, but coral reefs have a “wow” factor that freshwater aquariums have a hard time achieving.

  4. Both types of aquariums can house colorful fish. Some types of freshwater fish are more durable.

  5. Freshwater aquariums give you a cost-effective visual impact, but there are a wider variety of saltwater aquarium options.

Myths and Facts About Saltwater Aquariums

You may have heard a few myths surrounding saltwater aquariums, some that put them in a negative light. Let’s explore whether these myths are true or false, and how you can overcome the challenges they pose.

Myth 1: Freshwater tanks are easier to keep – TRUE

There is some truth to this. If you consider the natural environment in which saltwater and freshwater fish find themselves, it will make more sense. In the ocean, water conditions like pH, chloride, and salinity remain relatively stable. On the other hand, freshwater habitats experience cyclical changes that impact water conditions. This means that freshwater fish are better able to survive in varying water conditions, making it easier to maintain optimal conditions.

Saltwater Aquarium

Myth 2: It’s More Expensive to Keep Saltwater Aquariums – TRUE

The initial set up of a saltwater aquarium is roughly double the cost of a freshwater tank. This is because you have to get equipment like skimmers and power heads as well as live rock. The cost of fish also plays a role as saltwater fish are generally more expensive.

When it comes to running costs, once everything is set up, the difference is minimal. The slightly higher costs are incurred from testing kits and salt. However, as the old saying goes, “you get what you pay for.” Freshwater tanks can be beautiful, but saltwater tanks can be truly spectacular.

Myth 3: Beginners Shouldn’t Start with Saltwater Tanks – FALSE

Although saltwater tanks are generally more challenging to keep, it’s possible to start by keeping it simple. Of course, keeping a reef tank with complex corals could be too much for a beginner to take on, but a simple fish aquarium with hardy fish would be fine. In terms of complexity, a saltwater tank for novices is not much more complicated than a freshwater tank. It just has to be cleaned and maintained more often.

Whether it proves to be too challenging really depends on you, your budget, how much time you have to spend on maintaining the aquarium, and your commitment level. Some people are more than happy to tackle challenges and find the complexity of maintaining a saltwater tank fascinating.

Myth 4: You Can’t Convert One Type of Aquarium to Another – FALSE

All you need to do is make a few adjustments. Converting a freshwater tank to saltwater is easier. All you need to do is drain it, rinse it out with chlorine-free water, wipe it down, and replace filters and substrate. Converting to freshwater is trickier but still doable. You have to ensure that all the salt is 100% removed before cycling with freshwater.


Myth 5: It’s Easy to Breed Both Types of Fish in Captivity – FALSE

Beginners should not attempt to breed fish, especially not saltwater fish. They have strict requirements for breeding, like seasonal changes, that are nearly impossible to create in a home aquarium environment. This is why saltwater fish can be so expensive. It’s a lot simpler to breed freshwater fish in captivity.

Myth 6: Saltwater Aquariums Grow More Algae – TRUE

Freshwater tanks with plants tend to have less algae growth because plants consume the same nutrients as algae, so the algae starves. Luckily, it’s not rocket science to stay on top of keeping algae at bay in saltwater tanks. Simply stay on top of your maintenance like by changing the water regularly and cleaning the tank.

Myth 7: Saltwater Aquariums Need To Be Bigger – PARTIALLY TRUE

Because of oxygen requirements, saltwater fish tend to need more space than freshwater fish. Saltwater only contains around 80% of the oxygen that freshwater does. This means that you need to keep fewer fish in the tank or get a larger tank.

The Verdict

As with everything else, it’s entirely up to personal choice, but there are so many more options with saltwater aquariums. Unless your goal is to breed fish, saltwater fish are infinitely more satisfying.

Cost and effort have to be considered, but once the saltwater tank is set up, they become less demanding, and the ongoing costs are not considerably more than freshwater tanks. The initial outlay is well worth the resulting aquatic world of intrigue and mystery!

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