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Deciding Between a Saltwater or Freshwater Aquarium

The first decision people need to make when setting up a home aquarium is whether they want a saltwater or freshwater one. There are several factors to consider. Costs, maintenance requirements, and appearance are the biggest factors to research before even leaving the house to check out products.


Traditionally, saltwater aquariums are more expensive to purchase, fill, and operate than freshwater ones. This is due to the extra elements needed to keep the saltwater tanks at the right temperature, flow, saline and pH levels, and to provide the proper type of gravel and sand for the bottom. Owners will spend more money to buy live coral, fish, and chemicals than owners of freshwater tanks.

Those who have decided on saltwater tanks indicate the money is well-spent because the colors and variety of fish and coral are immense. There are some fish and coral that are inexpensive. Owners can buy mushroom coral, for example, and not spend a small fortune. A freshwater tank costs less money but also limits choices.


This factor is even for both choices. A freshwater aquarium does not require many chemicals but gets dirty quickly, which means more maintenance. Saltwater tanks need to be tested and adjusted in terms of conditions but do not need to be cleaned often due to the eco-system.


While freshwater aquariums can be made colorful and interesting with decorations and some types of fish, they cannot compete with the natural beauty and vibrant colors presented by a saltwater aquarium. There are simply more species of fish, coral, reptiles, and amphibians available for saltwater conditions. It comes down to preference, budgets, and the effort owners are willing to expend to care for the tank.


Once an aquarium is established, it is possible for owners to change their minds and convert the tank. Saltwater tanks can be converted to freshwater and visa-verse. The switch may require new equipment or accessories, as well as the change in fish and surroundings. Be careful and research the processes involved before attempting to convert the aquarium. If undecided, it may be worth the investment to set up one aquarium for saltwater and one for freshwater use.