The Difference Between Freshwater And Saltwater Aquariums

The Difference Between Freshwater And Saltwater Aquariums

Should you buy a fresh or saltwater aquarium? Ask most aquarists, and you will hear a persuasive argument on their tanks’ merits and the other’s shortcomings. Yet, there are many enthusiasts who find both tanks to be praiseworthy. There is no litmus test for choosing between the two. Your preference for what goes into the aquarium and your budget is what will make the decision easier.

Aquarium Life
Fresh water fish originate from lakes, rivers and streams. Naturally occurring fluctuations in their environment make these creatures remarkably adaptable. As such, they are more likely to adjust to variances in the aquarium. Pet stores carry an abundance of plant life of the freshwater variety. The same cannot be said for invertebrates, which fare better in salt water.

Saltwater/Marine fish and invertebrates propose a challenge, as they are sensitive to environmental changes. The temperature, salinity, ammonia, nitrate, nitrate, and most importantly – the pH – must be kept at appropriate levels. Despite the care required, the vast array of colorful saltwater fish more than compensates for the extra effort required and their higher price tag. They can have a lot of company in the tank. Salt water offers a host of invertebrates such as eels, clams, crabs, corals, and starfish. Marine plants, conversely, are difficult to harvest and are also pricier than their freshwater equivalent.

The Necessities
The differences between freshwater and saltwater systems aren’t limited to tank’s inhabitants. The equipment needed for their survival varies as well. Marine aquariums are generally more expensive than freshwater tanks, but your costs drop slightly if you opt for a fish-only system.

Substrate lies on the bottom of the aquarium, and it must be near the top of your list of considerations. Gravel typically lines the bed of freshwater aquariums. It is inexpensive and comes in a variety of vibrant colors. Marine aquarists, on the other hand, swear by live rock. Most attest that saltwater fish and invertebrates thrive in a reef environment with live rock. It costs considerably more than gravel, but it lends to the aquarium’s natural beauty.

Lighting is a necessity to illuminate the beauty and preserve the health of aquatic life in fresh and saltwater aquariums. Lighting for marine tanks comes at a higher price. Fish-only tanks usually require a single full spectrum tube. If your heart is set on saltwater invertebrates, be mindful that they require very intense full spectrum lighting, augmented with actinic blue.

Keeping water at the appropriate temperature and having proper filtration is a must in all aquariums. Full reef systems require additional filtration through protein skimming. This process strips any organic particles that form in the water before they can be converted to nitrates. It is important to keep the water in either tank moving, especially saltwater aquariums.

You will also need a testing kit for your aquarium. There are more levels to monitor in a marine environment, but there is not a stark difference in price between the freshwater kits. Since salinity is a factor in saltwater tanks, an inexpensive hydrometer is necessary to ensure a proper balance.

Either system you choose will require an investment of your time. While the freshwater versus saltwater debate will undoubtedly persist, no one can dispute the joy of putting your patience and creativity into an aquarium.