Taking the Plunge into the Marine Hobby


So have you been thinking about entering the marine hobby and setting up your very own reef tank….or wait, you want a predator tank? Still confused about what you want, may be a fish only system is best for you, or a nano if your are limited to size and space…

Mind boggled?




I went through the same stage as you have. Its great that you want to enter into the marine aquarium hobby but before you go out and buy a tank, make sure you know what type of tank you are wanting. For example; if you go out and by a nano tank (as that’s all you have space for) you cant then have your dream lion fish, as the tanks to small. See my point?


well if you said no. I made the same mistake, I got a nano tank and decided I wanted a tiny reef tank with a good number of fish. So out I went and got a load of fish and placed them into my tank. And it worked, for a short, very short period. Then things went literally to S**T. everything started to die. AND IT WAS ALL MY FAULT.


long story short, I ended up getting a bigger tank with fewer fish and up to now…no issues.



So…What Type of Tank Do You Want?


There are several different types of saltwater tanks so think wisely before you make your final decision. I will suggest a few different styles of tanks to see if any of these take your liking.



#Fish Only Tanks


It is what it sounds. A system with decorative ornaments, plastic plants or a ship wreck ornament if that’s what you have in mind and, of course, your fish. A fish only system is one of the easiest systems to have and often good for beginners. You don’t need as much equipment, It is probably the cheaper type of tank and is probably the easier one to keep.



Things to consider;


  • Setting up your system and getting your tank cycled may take more time with this type of tank than a Fish only tank with live rock. The use of colony or other beneficial bacteria options on the market can speed up this process.
  • Maintenance may be required more often with this type of tank as you have no ‘live rock’ with bacteria and critters on to break down your tanks waste.
  • There are two different types of fish only tanks, community and semi aggressive tanks.
  • Community – a selection of peaceful fish that will happily live together without becoming aggressive.
  • Semi Aggressive – more aggressive fish, fewer fish together. Most commonly called a predator tank that houses lion fish, sharks, eels, puffers and triggers.



#Fish Only With Live Rock (FOWLR)


This tank is the same as a fish only tank with one key difference, the use of live rock. Live rock is simply rock that is full of bacteria, algae and other organisms. Some of these organisms and bacteria help with the tanks nitrogen cycle and waste breakdown. Since you are adding live rock with more critters and organisms into your tank your bio load will increase. This in turn means you need better filtration and getting a skimmer is going to be a great option to remove all those excess organics.



Things to consider;


  • A FOWLR tank will cycle faster than a fish only system as you have an already existing colony of beneficial bacteria living on and within the rock.
  • Some critter you get on live rock can be bad or can quickly over populate your tank if they are not kept under control.
  • The use of live rock and a skimmer will help you keep your tanks nutrients and waste under control but getting a marine aquarium test kit will help you keep track of these levels.
  • Lighting can have a bigger impact on your FOWLR tank than your fish only system. This is down to the fact you now have algae and other organisms that depend on lighting. To much light could result with alae blooms or kill off many beneficial organisms.



#Reef Tank


The one most people seek or want to have. Its also the one type of tank that is the hardest for beginners as there is so much knowledge and equipment that is needed. However, it is the most rewarding type of saltwater aquarium and looks amazing. The combination of corals, fish and inverts is what makes a reef tank an ideal ecosystem that looks beautiful.



Things to consider;


  • More equipment is needed to sustain a selection or corals and inverts.
  • There are three different types of coral – soft, lps and sps. (I wont go into detail about corals within this post but I will later on) some fish species aren’t reef safe and will eat certain corals. So take time in choosing your type of fish to ensure they are reef safe.
  • You will need to monitor a range of parameters within your tank that takes up time and money. A reef tank is one of the more expensive types of marine tank but in my opinion it is the most rewarding.



The Biggest Mistake Beginners Make when it comes to Choosing A Tank


So if you want a fish only system, a FOWLR or a reef tank, the size of your tank will have a huge impact on what you can have in your system. Smaller tanks mean less fish and smaller fish.


Bigger is always better. Trust me. I started off with a nano and it was difficult. A smaller water volume makes it harder to control your water parameters. So I recommend going for the biggest size tank your space and budget allows you to get. You will only upgrade anyway, like I did. and many others have.

That been said, many reefers keep a nano aquarium and still keep their parameters under control, it just takes a little more maintenance. After my first tank, I set up another nano and it went very smoothly and worked well. Mainly because I learned from my mistakes and didn’t over populate the tank.


So good luck, don’t make the mistakes I did and do your research.  I hope you pick the type of tank that you have always wanted. Oh and welcome to the wonderful world of the saltwater aquarium.

If you need anything…Just Ask!


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