SIMPLE TIPS FOR BUILDING A SALTWATER TANK WITHOUT BREAKING THE BANK

Written by Katherine Barrington Updated April 12, 2017
There is nothing more beautiful than a thriving saltwater tank, but these tanks can be expensive to set up and maintain. Keep reading to learn how to save money on a saltwater aquarium setup.
Saltwater aquariums are beautiful, there is no denying it. There is just something magical about an aquatic environment where fish, invertebrates, and corals live in harmony. But cultivating and maintaining a thriving saltwater tank can quickly get expensive if you don’t do some careful planning beforehand. Here are some simple tips for building a saltwater tank without breaking the bank.
 
What Factors Influence Price?
 
Before you can learn the basics about saving money on a saltwater tank, you need to understand what factors influence price. Here are the top factors that can determine how much it costs to set up and to maintain your saltwater tank:

-  Size of the tank
-  Fish and invertebrates
-  Coral and live rock
-  Equipment

As you can probably imagine, the larger your tank, the more expensive it is going to be. Not only does this apply to the tank itself, but also to the equipment you need to run it and the livestock and decorations you use to fill it. The type of fish and invertebrates you choose will also influence the price – the rarer the livestock, the more expensive they will be. And it will significantly impact your cost if you choose to decorate your tank with live rock versus live coral. Not only is live coral more expensive to purchase, but it is also costlier to maintain because you’ll need a special lighting system and you’ll have to feed the coral to keep it alive.
 
 
You can’t have a thriving saltwater tank without certain equipment. You should also know that saltwater tanks may require more or more advanced equipment than freshwater tanks. In addition to a lighting system and a tank heater, you’ll also need a filtration system – you might also consider some supplementary equipment such as a protein skimmer or a UV sterilizer, depending exactly what type of tank you plan to create. Keep in mind that while you may be able to save money by choosing low-quality equipment, it’s not going to last very long and may cost you more in the long run to keep replacing it.
 
Choosing the Right Size Tank
 
Now that you have a better understanding of which factors will influence the cost of your saltwater aquarium, you can learn the details about how to make your tank more affordable. One thing you need to remember in regard to tank size is that larger tanks may be more expensive, but they are also easier to maintain than smaller tanks. This may seem counterintuitive but you have to keep in mind that a larger tank has a larger water volume to dilute toxins – in a small tank, even a small amount of a toxic substance can lead to a high concentration and could kill your fish. If you have more water in your tank, the toxins won’t become so concentrated and you’ll have a little more room for error.
 
Even though larger tanks are technically easier to maintain, they are not the right choice for everyone – especially if price is a significant issue. For the most part, 20- and 30-gallon glass or acrylic tanks are fairly affordable. Once you hit 50 gallons or more, however, the price tends to creep higher and higher. If you want to have a very large saltwater tank, you might want to think about purchasing an all-in-one tank kit that comes with the equipment you’ll need. It won’t be cheap, but it might be less expensive than purchasing everything separately. Whichever way you choose to go, shop around for different prices (both in-store and online) before you make a purchase.
 
How Should You Stock Your Saltwater Tank?
 
Once you have chosen the size for your saltwater tank you can start thinking about the fish and invertebrates you want to stock it with as well as decorations like live rock and corals. To some degree, the size of your tank will influence your choice in tank inhabitants, but there are also pricing factors you can consider. Your cheapest (and safest) option is to go with fish and invertebrates that have been bred commercially – never purchase anything that has been taken from the wild. Some of the most affordable saltwater fish that are commercially bred include clownfish, dottybacks, and gobies. Again, you should always shop around to compare prices before you buy. And don’t forget that you can purchase aquarium fish online, often for a lower price than your local fish store can offer.


In addition to selecting the fish and invertebrates for your tank, you also have to think about whether you want to decorate it with live rock only or if you want to add some corals. The most affordable type of saltwater tank is a fish-only tank – one decorated with fake corals and rock. Live rock is a little bit more expensive, but it is still more affordable than outfitting your tank with a variety of corals. Corals are beautiful, of course, but they can be tricky to maintain since they require high-intensity lighting and the may have specific demands for water chemistry. If you have your heart set on a reef tank, you can always start with live rock and one or two corals and gradually expand over time. Some types of corals also tend to spread, so you may not even need to buy any more yourself.
 
How to Save on Aquarium Fish and Corals
 
Having done some more thinking about what you want your saltwater tank to look like, you might be wondering where to go to find the most affordable fish, invertebrates, and coral. It might be easy to simply stop in to your local fish store, but that’s probably not where you are going to find the best prices. Purchasing aquarium fish and supplies online has become increasingly popular in recent years and it is also one of the most affordable ways to stock a tank. Online retailers are able to reduce their prices by cutting out the middle-man. Instead of shipping their stock to a pet store and having the customer then transport the fish home, they ship them directly to the customer. In addition to being more cost-effective, this option is also less stressful on your fish.
 
Even though it is generally cheaper to buy aquarium fish online, you still need to shop around for a good price and to make sure you’re purchasing from a reputable dealer. When you buy fish online you can’t always be sure exactly what you’re going to get – it’s not the same as seeing a fish in a pet store tank and then purchasing it. Most retailers don’t post pictures of specific fish but rather the types of fish they have to offer – the actual fish you receive may not be the one in the picture. This being the case, you need to evaluate the quality and reputability of the retailer as a whole to determine whether it’s a good idea to buy from him or not. Don’t just consider the price, either – you also need to think about the shipping method to ensure that your fish arrive alive.
 
Having a thriving saltwater tank is definitely something to be proud of, especially if you put a lot of time and effort into it. But a beautiful saltwater tank doesn’t have to break your budget – with some thought and careful planning you can cut your costs significantly, making your saltwater tank quite affordable. 

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