WHAT NOT TO DO WITH A SALTWATER TANK
This is probably the number one problem saltwater hobbyists are guilty of. People tend to watch their tanks habitually and the fish always seem so hungry, don't they? Fish in the wild are used to slowly eating throughout the day and you should try to mimic this as best you can. 2-3 small feedings a day is optimum and remember that their stomachs are approximately the size of their eyes (for most fish species typically kept in aquariums). They may act like they are starving, but they are not unless you have gone a long time without feeding. Many hobbyists also only feed several times per week and may take a week or so off to let their digestive systems "clean out". Feeding too much leads to numerous problems including detrimental health and poor water quality.
I know, I know ... getting new fish is a ton of fun and one of the reasons you got into this hobby in the first place. However, another reason you should be in this hobby is to give your fish a good environment. Shoving too many fish into too small of a tank will make them miserable, overload your tank, reduce the quality of your water, and lead to a poor overall aquarium. Research how big your fish will be as adults. Too many people pick fish when they are young and plan their stocking based upon that size, but they will often grow significantly bigger. You need to plan for the future. Also remember that corals impact the bio-load placed on your tank. If you want to purchase more fish or corals, buy a bigger tank or set up another one.
I cannot count the number of times I have been walking around a fish store and some fish or coral really caught my eye. It took a great deal of self-restraint to not purchase the specimen right then and there, but I also cannot count the number of times I went home, did my research, and found out that the specimen would not have worked in my tank. Either it was an aggressive coral that would have destroyed others in my tank, it was a fish that would get too large, or it was an invertabrae that was not reef-safe. Research, research, research, and when in doubt ... research some more. Do not ever put anything in your tank without being able to tell someone else everything about it - what it eats, how big it will get, what it gets along with or does not get along with, common problems associated with keeping it, its native habitat, and so on. You get the idea.
Starting a new saltwater tank requires a ton of patience. It can be extremely hard to wait on purchasing that fish you've been eyeing or that really neat coral, but it is essential that you do. You have to let the nitrogen cycle run its course and let your tank mature before you start placing more advanced fish or invertebrates into your tank. It can be hard to look at a tank of live rock for weeks and then wait even longer while you stare at a tank full of live rock and a cleanup crew, but you must do it to be successful. Do not ever get into the hobby if you can't be patient or control your desire to introduce inhabitants into your tank on a whim. Patience is key, especially when first establishing an aquarium.
It is important that you accurately measure the specific gravity of your aquarium's water and the water you put in the tank during water changes. There are many cheap hydrometers available on the market, but these are typically very inaccurate. With such an important water parameter, you want to ensure you are accurately measuring it. Spend the extra money to invest in a quality hydrometer such as a refractometer.
Sure you can save some money by buying one large heater for your tank, but if that thing ever fails, your entire tank is going to be destroyed in the blink of an eye. It is a much better idea to purchase two smaller heaters and use both of them in your aquarium. Then if one ever fails, the other one will hold until you are able to spot the problem and replace the faulty one. I've seen too many thousands of dollars wasted by people using a single heater ... which brings me to my next point.
Just remember, if this piece of equipment fails, every dime you have spent on your tank goes up in smoke. Spend $20-$30 more and get a quality heater that is reliable. It is amazing to me that people will drop hundreds of dollars into their tank and then settle for a $15 heater.
Do not ever set off bug bombs, spray disinfectants, etc. around your tank unless you take precautions to ensure the chemicals do not reach the water. Always remember that the chemicals we use on a daily basis are extremely dangerous to your saltwater aquarium and be very careful whenever you use them.
This goes back to the need to research and you certainly should know more about each coral you buy, but it is imperative to know these two things. Many people purchase corals without even knowing what they eat. These corals slowly starve in aquariums and the owner is left confused. Also, a coral that would look fantastic under a rock ledge on the substrate (shaded) may quickly burn if placed directly beneath a metal halide at the top of your live rock wall. Corals have specific feeding and lighting needs so please ensure these are met.
Many people try so hard to reach specific values for their water parameters. While it is important to have your parameters in a specific range, it is more important that the values remain somewhat constant rather than what specific value they are. For example, your inhabitants may do fine as long as the temperature is somewhere between 75 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit, but you would not want to have 10 degree temperature swings on a daily basis. This will simply stress your fish and corals too much. The same holds true for pH and other parameters. Don't adjust anything in one huge swoop and more often than not, leave stuff alone instead of trying to adjust everything.
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