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Planning a new Marine Tank

Avoiding costly mistakes, lengthy delays and loss of livestock can be easy and streamlined if you put a little bit of thought into the set up process and set some goals of what you'd like to have set up.


Set yourself a realistic goal of what you want to have in an aquarium. You may find as you research what you want that the goal may need to be changed.

For example your choices in fish may not be compatible with each other, your fish selection may not work with corals later on or the cost of the equipment needed to keep the livestock may be overwhelming so you need to consider all this and ask lots of questions.


Choosing the right livestock is important because their lives depend on you! So make sure that you are capable of caring for that animal or coral and allow for any aquarium upgrades in the future as it grows.

There is no shame in admitting that you aren't ready to keep certain livestock, in fact it's an admirable quality to ask questions in this hobby. Don't let livestock suffer due to your choices.


Setting up a marine aquarium doesn't have to cost a fortune, it is definitely is more expensive than fresh water in most cases but making the right choices can make the hobby affordable.

Serious reef aquariums will cost you a considerable amount but to most people, the reward of seeing a healthy coral reef in your home is well worth your time.


Making sure you can spend enough time for maintenance on marine systems (especially coral systems) is important.

They require a fair bit more attention to water chemistry.

Maintaining a stable environment is key to success so make sure you can devote a bit of time each day to check things over. Once the system stabilises enough over the first 6 months you will often notice more time spent enjoying it.


Some options to consider when setting a goal for your marine aquarium are:

  • Basic set ups (clown fish)
  • FOWLR (fish only with live rock)
  • Full reef (corals, fish and invertebrates)
  • Specialty animals (sea horses ect) many of the specialty animals require lots of thought and attention so much more planning to ensure they are kept healthy.
  • Custom set ups. This includes getting a custom built tank and building it from the ground up. These types of system can take a while to research and set up but they will be exactly what you want as opposed to an off the shelf aquarium that may not meet all of your dreams.


    Visiting your LFS and looking at the fish and corals on offer is a good way to get inspired but ask plenty of questions and don't rush into buying anything.

    In most cases the fish or coral can be ordered again when you are ready to have it so there's no need to leave with it there and then if you are not ready.

    Take down the names of the species and research them at home if you were unable to get enough information at the shop.


    Regular maintenance comes with having a good grasp of basic water parameters like salinity and temperature.

    Work on stability and then delve deeper into the water chemistry by getting a set of quality test kits for other parameters essential to a healthy aquarium such as ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, calcium, magnesium and alkalinity.

    Salifert, Nyos, Aqua Forest and Red Sea are all good brands to use.

    Get the test kits that are applicable to your tank. For example, if you haven't got many or no corals at all then a strontium or potassium kit isn't entirely necessary at this stage.

    Make sure you can accurately test your water and know what the test results mean before you dive into purchasing livestock.

    If you are unsure just ask the questions to your LFS or on forums like MAFA because there is always someone to lend a hand in this great hobby!

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