Saltwater Aquariums – When Should You Not Set One Up?

I have a few acquaintances that have expressed interest in setting up saltwater aquariums, but to tell you the truth, I’m not sure that this hobby is for everybody. It takes a certain amount of dedication and consistency to keep an aquarium of the saltwater kind in top shape and looking its best.

What types of circumstances might indicate that setting up a saltwater aquarium isn’t the best idea for you?

The first factor that I would put out there would be the ability to consistently pay attention to the aquarium. This is huge. In fact, if you or somebody close to you such as family or friends won’t be available on a daily basis to monitor the aquarium and feed the fish, there is a lot of potential for disaster. Aquariums of any kind require a lot of upkeep and attention, especially saltwater.

Here is an example from my perspective. Every day, I come home and feed my fish, test water parameters and observe the aquarium for potential maintenance requirements. I can usually get by without maintaining various hardware for weeks at a time, but stuff like the protein skimmer collection cup need to be checked at least every few days at most. If I didn’t take the time to do these things, the fish would starve and water parameters could spiral out of control due to poorly maintained filtration and chemical media. What would happen if I didn’t do any of this stuff for a week? I’d rather not even think about it.

So, the first question you should ask yourself is “am I going to have the wherewithal to pay attention to my aquarium every day?”

If you can answer that with a resounding “yes!” then half the battle is complete.

Okay, so now that you have decided whether or not you have the perceived dedication required to keep a saltwater aquarium in top shape, let’s look at another issue.

Aquariums can suck money out of your wallet quite easily.

Do you have the cash to do the following?

  • To purchase the tank itself, along with a stand, lighting, heater & filtration hardware?
  • To purchase live rock and substrate? Live rock is more expensive than you might think
  • To purchase fish? Saltwater fish aren’t cheap, especially if you have a tough time keeping them alive
  • To purchase chemical media such as phosphate sponge, activated carbon & other stuff to keep water parameters in check?
  • To purchase fish food on a regular basis?
  • To buy new hardware in situations where old stuff breaks or wears out?
  • To purchase sea salt for new saltwater mix when doing water changes?
  • To purchase and use a water purification system to provide your tank with high quality water that won’t cause problems?
  • To purchase testing kits to be able to test your aquarium water and analyze for potential issues?

I have to admit, when I first set up my 75 gallon saltwater aquarium I didn’t know what I was getting into. Since that initial setup, I’ve dumped thousands of dollars into the aquarium to keep it in a satisfactory condition and to keep it healthy. All the stuff I listed above is stuff that I have put money into, and now that I look back at it, all of it was necessary to keep my aquarium at the healthy level that it is at today.

There are some other reasons that you might cause you to think twice about setting up a saltwater aquarium, but I really think these are probably the two major points that really need to have some major thought put into.

If you don’t like the sound of a hobby that will require consistent dedication and consistent cash flow, aquariums might not be the right option for you. Of course you could always set up a smaller reef tank, such as a 10 or 20 gallon setup, but that will still require the same amount of dedication, even though the price tag will be smaller.

About Luke

the owner and caretaker of a 75 gallon aquarium in his home studio. Good times.

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