Frequently Asked Questions the Beginner May Ask


So I'm guessing seen as you are here you have a question on your mind.

Well that's great as I always recommend asking questions if you are unsure as it avoids unnecessary mistakes and losses.


But before you ask, here are some of the most commonly asked questions I receive with a detailed answer for each one.

If you don't find the answer below then please feel free to contact me with your question.

or join our community on facebook and feel supported by our reefing community where you can share stories, photos and experiences of your reefing journey.

# Can I use my Freshwater tank and turn it into a marine aquarium?


In short yes. but there is more to it than that. You will need to give your tank a really good clean and any equipment you plan on using such as heaters and pumps need a deep clean too. An internal or external filter can still be used if you buy all new filter media for your equipment.

However I do not recommend this as saltwater fish and corals are more sensitive to water quality than freshwater fish and therefore need more advanced equipment to maintain good, stable water parameters. You can still keep your current tank but as you will need extra filtration you may need to modify your tank, which takes time and money.

If all you are wanting to keep is a fish or two in a large tank then you can probably maintain a healthy system using your current filtration, providing you carry out regular water changes and maintain your equipment. But if you are serious about getting into the marine hobby and wish to keep a reef tank or several fish you will need to upgrade your filtration dramatically.

I fully recommend getting a tank that has been designed to be a saltwater aquarium but it can be done using any tank.


# What is a Sump?


A sump is a tank linked to your display tank where you can keep all of your equipment or refugium. For more information on a sump tank visit this post. Click here.


# What temperature should I keep my saltwater aquarium at?


Reef tanks are usually kept at a temperature between 25 and 28 °C (75-82 °F). I personally try to keep my at around 25-26.


# Is keep a marine aquarium as expensive and as difficult as people say?


Expensive - The initial cost of the marine aquarium can be expensive as you need to buy the tank, equipment and everything that goes into your tank. You will need test kits and other accessories to help you with your maintenance.  Personally I have found that once all of my equipment and accessories have been bought the only real cost is replacement parts and of course any fish or coral I buy. Which are generally more expensive than freshwater fish. But if I can afford one working in retail on a low wage, you can too.

Difficult - The only difficult thing about keeping a marine aquarium is knowing what you are doing. In this hobby knowledge is power. If you know what you are doing and what you need to do to maintain a reef environment, that's half the battle.


# what is a skimmer? is it essential?


A protein skimmer, also sometimes referred to as a foam fractionator, is a piece of aquarium equipment that is primarily used in saltwater aquariums in order to remove dissolved organic compounds (DOC) and other harmful substances. If these substances are not removed they can breakdown in the aquarium or filter adding to the biological load on an aquarium.

There are several aquariums out there that do not have a skimmer and do very well. These tanks are often nano tanks (where water changes are used often) or tanks with a very small biological load.

Whatever tank you have, using a skimmer is going to help remove organics and help you maintain a stable environment. Below are some good quality skimmers;

Bubble Magus Skimmer - One of the best skimmers on the market, rated by many.

Tunze Skimmer 9001 - Ideal for the nano aquarium and the one I personally use.


# Why can you keep more freshwater fish in the same size tank as you can marine fish?


Freshwater fish live in rivers, lakes and ponds where the environment is constantly changing due to floods and droughts. This causes the water quality and environment the fish live in  to constantly change. As a result of this the fish have adapted and evolved to cope with these changes.

Saltwater fish live in the ocean which is such a huge body of connecting water that the quality of the water hardly changes. Resulting in fish that are adapted to live in a stable environment.

Within a closed system aquarium that deals with a small water volume your water quality and parameters can rapidly change. You could experience temperature changes on a hot or cold day or experience poor water quality if a fish dies and it goes unnoticed. Sudden changes in water quality is what freshwater fish have had to adapt to as a result of living in ponds, lakes and other small water volume environments. Saltwater fish have never had to deal with sudden changes in their environment or water parameters and struggle to adapt to theses rapid changes.

Having more fish in an aquarium means more waste which makes it difficult to keep stable water parameters. Freshwater fish are better at coping with change and generally do better within an aquarium.

Saltwater fish are use to living in a stable environment and therefore struggle to adapt to change.

Keeping less fish in an aquarium makes it easier to keep the water parameters stable. This is generally why you keep less fish in a marine aquarium than you do in a freshwater aquarium. Not to mention that a lot of saltwater fish in the hobby tend to be bigger than many freshwater fish and as a result you cant keep as many.


# I'm new to keeping fish, do I need to start with freshwater before going to marine?


Simple answer is no, you can learn along the way as keeping fresh water and saltwater aquariums are totally different.


# Can I keep Nemo and Dory?


So you have seen the film finding nemo and finding dory and you, or someone in your family, wants a fish tank with them in it. Well if you only want them because you have seen the films and they look so pretty then getting marine fish is not for you. To keep these fish alive and happy takes time, knowledge and the up keep of essential equipment.


That been said, if you are keen to enter the saltwater aquarium hobby and willing to put in some time and effort, then yes you can keep a clown fish (Nemo) and a regal tang (Dory).

Before you buy any fish make sure you do your research on each fish for care, diet, temperament and fully grown size. Research is crucial as a regal tang grows a lot bigger than a clown fish and therefore needs a bigger tank.

Check out this post wrote in response to this question!

If you have not seen these films your missing out. They show you just how beautiful the oceans can be. Check out these links to get yourself the films!

Finding Nemo               Finding Dory


# I'm worried about salt and how that works in a marine tank? how do you add it? how much?


DON’T. This was one of my biggest worries when I was getting into this hobby. I worried about keeping the salt levels right, how you did that, what you did during water changes etc. Well don’t worry about this. Keeping your salt levels in your tank and adding salt to your tank is very simple.

Simply read the instructions on the salt you have and it will inform you how much salt you mix with how much water to get a salinity of 0.026-25 (this is the salt level you want to aim for).

When first setting up your tank you can mix the salt and water in your aquarium as you have not livestock. When you are doing water changes you will need a bucket (or anything similar to hold water) to mix your salt and water. Once this water is mixed and at the correct salinity and temperature then you can add the water to your tank.

Keeping your salinity level stable and accurate within your aquarium can be simply done by the use of an auto top up unit. This unit adds fresh RO/DI water into your tank at the same rate of your tanks evaporation keeping your salinity stable. You can do this without the auto top off by just adding the water yourself on a regular basis however this is more hassle than its worth as you need to do this often of your salinity will rise and effect your livestock.

There are many different types of salt to use within your aquarium and many are good quality. I recommend doing your own research and deciding on which salt best suits your tank and budget.

Here are some options I have used in the past;

Aquaforest Reef Salt            Instant Ocean Salt            Fluval Sea Marine Salt            Seachem Salinity Salt

Many reefers use Kent Marine Salt and speak very highly of it but I personally have never used it, but I will put the option up anyway if its what you decide to use.


# What is this on my rock/ in my tank?


If you have found something on your live rock then check out the live rock hitchhikers post with a list of the common critters you may find on your live rock. Click Here.


# What is this brown stuff all over my tank?


Just cycled your tank to find you have a lot of brown stuff grown all over your rocks and sand making your tank look messy, well the most likely option is diatoms. Diatoms are a simply form of algae that uses light as a food source and quickly spread throughout your tank.

Don’t worry. Many reefers, including myself, get diatoms in their tank during the setting up stage. It is simply a part of the cycle and in many cases the diatoms will clear up and burn out on their own in a short period of time.

If you do not see the diatoms clear up over time then you can simply siphon off the algae when doing your regular water changes. If this does not work and you find your tank is over run with diatoms you can cover up your tank (ensuring no light gets in) for a few days to starve the algae and hopefully kill it all off.


# When can I add fish/coral/anemone?


When adding fish into your aquarium you must first ensure that your tank is fully cycled and that are your water parameters are safe for fish. It is often recommended that you start off with a cheaper hardier fish as your first one to test the waters so to speak. Realistically if your water parameters are all stable and have been for a while adding any fish to your aquarium (with reason) should be ok.

The same goes for adding coral to your aquarium but coral are more sensitive to change and water chemistry than many fish so show care and do not rush adding a mass of coral to early on.

When adding an anemone or other more sensitive inverts/fish/coral ideally you need to wait 6-12 month for your tank to mature enough to support these amazing critters. This is basically due to the sensitively of the critters and often do badly in a new setup. Keeping a stable environment is essential for the wellbeing of many of these animals.

When adding anything into your tank you must first acclimatize them to your tank. This can be done in many ways such as floating a bag in your tank or placing the bag (with the fish and the water from the bag) into a bucket and slowly adding some of your tank water to the bucket to slowly acclimatize the fish to your tanks parameters.


# What is RO/DI and why do I need it?


RO/DI water is reverse osmosis/ di ionized water. In basic terms it is the basic and pure form of water (H2O) with no other elements. This is the basic building blocks of many reefs as once you add your salt to the RO/DI water you get the closest thing to natural sea water as you can without going to the beach and collecting your own (Not an option for many).

The reason we use RO/DI water is so we don’t add other chemicals or elements in our tanks that we do not want. Tap water contains many things such as metals and chlorine that can harm fish and corals over a period of time.

Tap water differs all over the world. My tap waters parameters are relatively good and when I started off I didn't use RO/DI water and had no problems but I do not recommend this. Over a longer period of time I started to experience problems and it was down to using tap water.

There are generally two ways to get RO/DI water. You can go to your local Fish Store and they normally sell RO/DI water at a reasonable price (Ideal for nano tanks) or you can by a revers osmosis unit and produce your own (more suited to those with bigger tanks). This unit simply filters your tap water to an extensive level to produce RO/DI water.

Getting a reverse osmosis unit is often the easier option long term.


# Is maintenance of a marine aquarium difficult?


Truthfully it depends on what you have in your aquarium. If you have a fish only system with few fish in a large tank then most likely your maintenance isn't going to be to difficult. If you have a full reef set up with SPS (Small Polyp Stoney) coral and a range of critters and fish then most likely your maintenance is going to be a little bit harder.

But its not difficult as such. Regular water tests, weekly cleaning, regular water changes, maintenance on equipment and daily observation of fish/invert and coral health is what it takes to keep an saltwater garden.

Yes, it will take some time on a regular basis to keep this little environment in working order.

Yes, its often repetitive maintenance that must be done daily, weekly or monthly.

Yes, its totally worth every second!!!