SETTING UP AND MAINTAINING A SALTWATER AQUARIUM IN THE HOME
By Sarah M. Burgett
When one makes the choice to install a saltwater aquarium in their home, all the prospects can be overwhelming. Much thought must go into the setup and upkeep of an aquarium in one’s home. It is important to make wise choices in regards to the tank itself, as well as all the other components that will become a part of the marine environment. By making wise decisions, the aquarium owner can take steps to ensure not only the health of the fish, but his own personal enjoyment. Perhaps the first choice one encounters is that of the tank itself. An appropriate tank is the largest one that can be accommodated in one’s home, preferably 25 gallons or more. Larger tanks are easier to maintain than smaller ones. Since a larger tank can hold a larger volume of water, the conditions of the water remain more stable, and are less apt to be affected by unavoidable mechanical failures, as well as waste products of the fish (Thraves 12). If a heater were to fail, the larger volume of water would cool more slowly than would a smaller volume, thus maintaining the conditions of the tank for a much longer period. In addition, a larger aquarium is always more humane for a fish than a smaller one (Kolle 75). Tank capacity is not the only concern when it comes to choosing a tank. There are many shapes of tanks available on the market, but the best choices are those that have the largest surface areas of water. A larger surface area will allow more oxygen to enter the water from the air, thus creating a healthier marine environment (Gutjahr 7). For this reason, tall, narrow tanks are poor choices. Landscape-oriented tanks are better. One should choose a sturdy glass tank, rather than a plastic one. Plastic tanks are not able to withstand water pressure as well as glass. Plastic is also easily scratched, which can affect an observer’s view of the fish inside (Kolle 73). While considering tanks, one should also consider the location of their new aquarium. Aquariums can be exceedingly heavy, so they must be placed on a very sturdy stand, which is located near electrical outlets, but away from sources of disturbance. Some sources of disturbance might include radiators, which can affect water temperature, televisions or speakers, which can produce sound vibrations that are irritating to fish, and windows, as direct sunlight promotes the growth of algae in an aquarium (Thraves 10). After choosing a tank, one needs to select from several items that will go into the tank. There are various types of substrate, décor, and plants from which to select. The substrate is the gravel or other medium that is used as a bed in the bottom of the tank, in order to anchor plants and provide a surface on which to arrange décor (Thraves18). Quartz gravel or pea gravel are the best choices for a beginner. Pea gravel tends to look more natural, while quartz gravel is available in a variety of colors and can be selected for a brighter or more modern look. Though soil or sand can also be used as substrates, these require much maintenance and expertise in order to prevent algal growth or stagnant water (Thraves 19-20). If one selects a gravel substrate, it is important to wash it several times before placing it into the bed of the tank so as not to cloud the water (Thraves 18). After adding substrate, one may choose to add a variety of decorative items to their aquarium. One can choose to purchase synthetic rocks and wood from any aquarium store. It is also possible to add natural wood to a tank, but in order to do this, the wood must be prepared over several days by anchoring it down and soaking it in tap water, changing the water every few days until the water remains clear for several days. This removes tannins from the wood so that it does not change the quality of the water in the aquarium. Sometimes, the wood must be anchored down to prevent it from...