Saltwater Aquarium Setup - picture of a saltwater aquarium

Saltwater Aquarium Setup: Doing It Properly

If you're ready to embark on a journey with a saltwater aquarium, then its super important you consider your setup. 

In this post we'll show you how to choose a tank for your lifestyle, how to set it up and more. 

Let's dive in...

Saltwater Aquarium Setup

People are always asking me “How To” questions about saltwater aquarium setup and the best type of equipment to go with. The first thing to do is find a tank that matches your lifestyle. 

If you live in a small place you probably do not want to go above a 55 gallon aquarium. If your house is built on pier and beam I would not go larger than a 75 gallon unless you go under your house and install some extra support under where the aquarium will be. 

If your a DIY person this will be easy but it can get a little dirty. If your house in on a concrete slab you can get as big of a aquarium as you can afford. Your welcome to post any questions at the bottom of the page if you want more advice on supporting your tank, finding the right tank, or if you need advice on installing a large setup.

What Tank Is Best For Me?

Now that you have found the perfect spot for your aquarium you can measure how long your tank can be. There is nothing worse than assuming you know and buying a saltwater aquarium setup that will not fit!! Here are some questions to ask yourself.

  1. Do you want to go with a Reef Ready aquarium or use HOB filters (Hang on Back)?
  2. Do you want to grow coral?
  3. How much time do you have to spend on the aquarium?

Sump or HOB Filter

I would suggest a HOB or Hang On Back filter if your a beginner. You do not have to buy a reef ready aquarium which will save you some cash. They are easy to use, very compact, time and energy savers. They rang from smaller than your hand that move 10 GPH (gallon per hour) to just over 12″ long that moves up to 400 GPH. You buy pre packaged filters of all kinds. You just slip the old one out and put the new one in and your done! It is always a good ideal to pre wash the new filters with warm water. You might be wondering “How do I get the right size filter for my aquarium?”

In a saltwater aquarium you want to cycle the water through the filters 7 to 10 times Per Hour. It is easier that it sounds to find the right size . I have broken it down into a simple formula…

Your aquarium size × 10 = the amount of water that needs to pass through the filter per hour

So a 50 gallon aquarium needs a 500 gallons per hour pump. The pump is built into the HOB and the pump for the sump is sold separate. If you have a 50 gallon aquarium you will need 2 smaller HOB filters. In this case, I would buy 2 of the 400 GPH because it will be an extra $50 well spent. It will set you up to have a more stable setup and healthy tank mates.

I bet you wondering what a sump is right? It is a special designed saltwater aquarium setup that normally goes under the main display. It does the same job as the HOB filters but you have A LOT more options with a sump. Anything under an 80 gallon tank you do not need a sump unless your going to have a lot of equipment or your going to have a lot of fish in your display. 

A sump is for more advanced hobbyist and are a natural fit with a Reef Ready tank. More about reef ready tanks later. If you are a DIY kind of person like me you will LOVE the sump because it opens the doors for almost limitless possibility in your saltwater aquarium setup. 

In most cases the sump is installed under the main display. If your like me you are always thinking outside the box. 

You can plump the display to another room or even to the basement!! This will allow for more room to do water changes, general cleaning, or add more equipment. Cleaning the sump can get a bit messy so if you are able to move it to a room that does not have carpet or your less worried if you spill stuff, it really makes this hobby a lot more enjoyable.

Reef Ready Tanks

If you look at the diagram above the tank is labeled “Display”. They are normal aquariums that have overflows installed or attached the aquarium. 

The way the system works is water is pumped from the sump to the main display. As the display tank fills it will flow over the divider and down to the bulkhead. The water goes through the pipe and down to the sump which has layers of filters. 

On the other side of the sump is a pump that pumps the water back up to the aquarium. This creates a cycle that allows you to filter the water and opens a lot of options.

Scroll to Top