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List of the components of a marine tank and their function

By PerfectBlue

Here is a list I wrote for a few other forums which gives you some items you will need and a little information about each one.

Items That You Will Need For A Saltwater Tank

I hope this will help anyone that is interested in setting up saltwater tank but isn?t exactly sure what they need.


Book- One thing that is important to know about starting a saltwater tank is to do your research before purchasing any equipment. Reading a few good books before starting tank will make your journey easier, and less frustrating. A couple books come to mind such as The New Marine Aquarium by Michael S. Paletta and The Conscientious Marine Aquarist by Robert M. Fenner, although there are many other books out there.

Tank- Obviously you are going to need a tank of some sort, and the bigger the tank the better. The preferred sized tank to start with is a 30-gallon or larger aquarium. There are many different shaped aquariums out there including rectangle, bowfront, hexagon, cylinder, etc but choose the style that you like and that will work for the setup you are intending the tank for.

Stand- A good reliable stand is a very crucial item to have. You can either buy an already made stand or make on yourself, but make sure the stand you use can hold the weight and is constructed correctly. Making a stand yourself can save you a lot of money but if the stand is not structurally sound then it could lead to some major problems later on.

Lights- Lighting is meant for illuminating your aquarium and is essential to the health of your marine life. Deciding what lighting system to use on your aquarium depends on what you would like to keep. A simple FOWLR tank can get by on simple NO fluorescent lighting, but if you wish to keep corals you will want to invest in different lighting such as PowerCompact, HOT5, VHO, Metal Halide, etc. The height of your tank also plays an important factor as the higher the tank the more intense lighting is required for penetration.

Heater- keeping your aquarium at the correct temperature and stable is essential. There are Submersible and Hang On heaters, which you can use, and deciding what watt heater to use is simply 5watts per gallon of tank water.

Thermometer- There are many thermometers to choose from including Stick-on, Glass, and Digital.

Marine Salt- You are going to have to add marine salt to your tank, and there are many brands to choose from including Instant Ocean, Oceanic, Tropic Marin, just to name a few. Choose the brand that is most readily available to you, as mixing different salt bands can cause problems.

Hydrometer or Refractometer- These are used to measure the salinity of your water. Hydrometers are cheaper than refractometers but are also less accurate. Refractometers are more expensive but are much more accurate and are easier to use.

Test Kits- The basic test kits Ammonia, NitrIte, NitrAte, and pH are test kits that you will need. There are other test kits that you can purchase including Calcium, Alkalinity, Phosphate, Silicate, etc. Test kits are used to monitor the water parameters of the water to make sure that the levels are safe for your inhabitants.

Substrate- You can go with sand, crushed coral, or even a bare bottom tank meaning no substrate at all. Many people choose sand over other larger grained substrates. This is because detritus lays on the surface where detrivores can easily consume it, many species of fish as well as inverts prefer a sandbed not only to burrow but to find food, and finally sand looks more natural. Larger grained substrates can trap detritus which can only be removed by vacuuming which should be performed weekly. Larger grained substrates can also make it difficult for fish as well as inverts to burrow and search for food.

Live Rock- Live Rock is from the ocean and contains many forms of micro and macroscopic marine life living on and inside the rock. The rock itself is just calcium carbonate skeletons of dead corals or other calcareous organisms. Live rock is also provides great biological filtration along with providing structure for your fish and invertebrates to escape to if they feel threatened. There are different kinds, and locations to get your rock from. You can either purchase cured or uncured live rock although whenever live rock is exposed to air there will be some die-off, which requires you to cure the rock. Live rock can vary dramatically in price from one place to the next so it is always best to search around to find the best price.

PowerHead- Powerheads are submersible pumps used to create flow throughout your tank which is essential for a successful aquarium. Powerheads are also good at reducing Dead Spots which can be overrun by Cynobacteria. Deciding how much flow you need depends on what type of setup you want and what you would like to keep in your tank.

Protein Skimmer- Although protein skimmers are not a necessity for a saltwater tank they will benefit your tank greatly. Basically protein skimmers remove organic pollutants before they breakdown, which keeps your water quality higher. There are HOB or In-sump protein skimmers that you can buy but make sure you use a skimmer that is rated for your tank size although a more powerful skimmer is a plus.

Other Optional Items

Sump- A sump is a separate tank used to house a refugium area (see below), increase water volume, and hide equipment such as protein skimmers, heaters, and other miscellaneous equipment.

Refugium- A refugium or fuge for short is usually contained in a sump or can be set up on its own. There are many things that can be added to a refugium however it depends on what the individual aquarist wants the refugium to accomplish. Live rock is usually used which provides additional biological filtration. Something that is probably the most common item added to refugiums is macro algae such as Chaeto and Caulerpa which is great for nutrient absorption/export. It is also a place where live organisms(pods, algae, etc) can live and reproduce without the threat of predation.

Quarantine/Hospital Tank- Although it is optional it really is essential to your tank. A quarantine/hospital tank is used to quarantine new fish before adding them to your existing tank so your newly acquired fish doesn?t infect your existing livestock, or to treat injured and sick fish.

Calcium Reactor- A calcium reactor is used to maintain calcium and alkalinity in your reef tank. Calcium reactors provide a supply of calcium by using C02 to dissolve media in the reactor and releasing calcium into your water. A calcium reactor can also boost coralline algae growth.

ATO- ATO or Auto Top Off is an easy way to keep the water level in your tank constant as well as keep the salinity stable since water evaporates not the salt. You can setup a DIY ATO or purchase one online.

Chillers- Chillers are used to keep the temperature in marine or freshwater aquariums at a optimal range. Chillers come in two forms drop-in and in-line. Drop-in have cooling coils that you place in a sump, and in-line water is pumped into the chiller, cooled, and then returned back to the tank or sump.

Hope this helps you out some.


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