Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More
Build Your First Saltwater Fish Tank Today! (Updated 2018)

Build Your First Saltwater Fish Tank Today! (Updated 2018)

Welcome to “How to Build Your First Marine
Aquarium: Part One. My name is Matthew and I am an aquarium enthusiast. I built my first freshwater aquarium almost
20 years ago, but my dreams were a bit saltier. If you were at all like me, then you wanted
nothing more than a saltwater tank, but the prospect of where to begin seemed daunting
and maybe still seems daunting. Some cursory google searches bring up a dizzying
array of specialized equipment, unintelligible acronyms, and a seeming need for a post doc
degree in biochemistry. But I’m here to tell you that starting your
first marine aquarium is within reach. This will not happen overnight nor should
it. The last thing you want is to unknowingly
kill your livestock because you rushed to the end goal without learning the intermediary
steps first. Anything worth doing is worth doing well,
or that’s at least what I think. So, let’s get started. My hope for each of you is that by the end
of this how-to series you will feel confident enough to begin building your first marine
aquarium. I am not going to pretend to be an expert
because I’m not, but what I am is a teacher with enough experience to give any beginner
the foundation necessary for success. I have heard that it takes upwards of 10,000
hours to master any craft, and this hobby is no exception. So, let’s fast forward to the end goal. Take a moment to imagine your dream aquarium. Maybe it’s a 500-gallon behemoth with as
many species of exotic fish as possible. Maybe it’s a teeny tiny desktop nano-tank
with a single dart fish and several colorful corals. Maybe you have been fascinated by the symbiotic
relationship between clownfish and anemones. Every type of tank, every different livestock
option, is going to entail different equipment and different steps to get there. But if you have a clear goal you can focus
in your studies after learning the basics from these videos. I have broken all types of marine aquariums
into four categories based on level of difficulty. The first and potentially most simple type
is a fish only aquarium with fake decorations. This isn’t to say that there aren’t expert
only aquariums in this fish only category, but there are plenty of hearty, non-aggressive
saltwater fish to choose from that are perfect for a beginner. You may be wondering what makes some fish
so much more difficult to keep than others. There are so many factors but here are a few. Number one is temperament: does this species
play well with others? Number two is health: is this species prone
to illness? Number three size: how much space does this
species need? And number four, diet: will this species easily
accept pellet or flake foods or does it need to be target fed a special diet, or maybe
even have an active refugium that can pump out large quantities of copepods? Head over to to browse a large
selection of fish that are perfect for beginners. Category number two is only slightly more
difficult to build than a fish only tank. Category two is what we call in the hobby
a F.O.W.L.R. tank, which is an acronym for “fish only
with live rock.” The addition of live rock offers many positive
benefits to an aquarium, but also requires you to learn a lot more to make it successful. With the introduction of live rock, you will
need to learn more about the following. Number one: different types of rock. Number two: wet vs. dry live rock. Number three: nuisance algae. Number four: desirable, and undesirable hitchhikers. And number five: how to cure live rock. A FOWLR tank can offer enhanced biological
filtration, as well as a natural home for future corals, fish, and beneficial bacteria. Category number three is a significant step
up in terms of difficulty because we are now venturing into the world of corals. In addition to fish and live rock, we are
now adding easy to care for LPS corals. LPS stands for “large polyp stony” corals. These corals secrete a calcium carbonate shell
and typically have large, long, fleshy polyps. Corals are some of the most complex and beautiful
animals in the world, and they are the reason that many of us get into this hobby in the
first place. But corals, like anemones, are extremely complex
and have a wide range of needs. In order to introduce corals into your tank,
here are some topics we will need to learn more about. Number one: placement. Number two: lighting, including PAR, wavelengths,
and different types. Number three: feeding requirements. Number four: water flow and movement through
your tank. Number five: ideal water parameters for your
coral. And number six: how aggressive your coral
is. Although this can be daunting, don’t get
discouraged. Learning about corals is a life long process
and you can start with one easy to care for LPS coral and grow your knowledge from there. The fourth and last category is for experts
only. These are tanks that include many hard to
keep SPS, or “small polyp stony” corals, anemones, finicky species of fish and invertebrates,
and livestock that historically do not thrive in a marine aquarium setting. I truly believe that if a beginner starts
slowly he or she can easily set up a category three tank as their first tank. But so much in this hobby is learned through
trial and error, that I would encourage each of you to get your footing with categories
one through three first before venturing into this expert only level. Just as a side note, I do not even put myself
in this final category. I personally feel that I could start to venture
into the expert only arena, but the time and money necessary to be successful are more
than I’m willing to put forth. Now that we have briefly reviewed the four
categories of marine aquariums based on difficulty, lets now shift our focus to four key issues
to consider before starting your first build. Number one is budget. Unless you are independently wealthy and have
thousands upon thousands of dollars to throw around, you will need to think long and hard
about how much money you are willing to put into this hobby. There is a large initial outlay of cash necessary
and then ongoing maintenance costs and costs to buy fish, corals, and inverts. We will go into details and ways to save money
in a later video, but here are some basic numbers. If you want to build a 50-gallon tank, your
initial outlay of cash could be anywhere from $1500 on the cheaper end to more than $5000. Most of us start our first build one piece
of equipment at a time. My first tank sat in my living room empty
for six months while I slowly pieced it together. Key issue number two is location. Take a look around your home. What are the options for where to put you
tank? Keep in mind that your tank needs to be out
of any direct sunlight, and not near windows or drafty areas. Also, do you have a dedicated breaker in your
electrical panel just for the tank? If you live somewhere with frequent power
outages you will need an emergency backup plan as your tank inhabitants can suffocate
to death in as little as 12 hours without power. Key issue number three is size. How many gallons is your tank going to be? How much is your tank going to weigh? One gallon of water weights about 8.3 lbs,
so that means a 50-gallon tank will weigh more than 415 lbs with just the water alone. Can your floor support this weight, or do
you need to have a contractor come in take a peek, and possibly reinforce your floor? The larger the size of your tank, the easier
it is to maintain healthy and stable water parameters, but the more time and money it
is going to take as well. And the last thing to consider is your livestock. If your heart is set on a specific combination
of livestock, that will likely dictate the size and type of tank required. Over the next several videos, we are going
to dive deep into topics you may have never considered or heard of before. Think of this series as an introductory level
college course called “Marine Aquarium Husbandry 101.” My hope as your teacher is not to make you
an expert, but to lay a solid foundation and to expose you to the breadth of this hobby. It will be up to you to take what you’ve
learned and decide the next steps to build your first marine aquarium. If you like what you saw, and want to stay
updated with this series, please subscribe to my channel, MatthewsReef, below. Thanks for watching, and happy reefing!

23 comments on “Build Your First Saltwater Fish Tank Today! (Updated 2018)

  1. Excellent video for someone who is just starting. I learned a lot from your videos when I decided to go saltwater exactly one year ago. Thanks for the videos.

  2. I am confused. You ditched the Red Sea Reefer 170 due to algae problems/constant maintenance …but got an even smaller system? If you can't succeed with the 170, what makes you think you will with an even smaller marine system? (Algae is already showing up in your new system)..   Algae is just a natural part of the hobby. It's a pain in the ass, but working through the challenges of maintaining a reef system is what the hobby is all about.

    I am not trying to be rude, just genuinely curious. I hope that you find better success with this system….      just an fyi, Gonioporas are not beginner corals.

  3. Great intro video! I found it very informative! As I begin to delve into the saltwater keeping part of the hobby. I have roughly been keeping freshwater tanks for roughly 10+ years.

  4. Excellent video although I do disagree with you about small tanks being more difficult.
    In fact, I think a 5.5 gallon standard black frame tank makes for a good beginner tank and can be set
    up for only a couple of hundred dollars. A small HOB filter, powerhead, heater and a decent LED light will be the only hardware required. Acclimate the tank exactly as you would with a much larger tank and this setup should easily support 3 or 4 small gobies and eventually some soft corals. A one gallon water change every couple of weeks will be the main maintenance required.

  5. Finally !!! I'm new to this all and have been looking for this type to show the basics and a starting point !! Thanks hope to learn from your videos

  6. Wet dry filter, protein skimmer and heater. Fish only 2 years + inverts 3 years = Reef in 5 … price ? Tank size matters here Ie. 50 gal = $200 / homemade under $100. Not including Tank and Stand… Reef system add lights and Live Rock then corals = infinity.
    Reefs are boring after a few years! Sure they look good and are fun to create but then it’s boring! Unless you mate creatures to create lil creatures there’s nothing happening. I’ve had much more reward from fish and invert tank. 75 gallon or more in size is a must, SW isn’t like fresh where you can pack them in.
    I was very successful 25 years ago before all the expensive tech. was developed. You don’t need it, patience is all that’s required. Enjoy!

  7. Is it easy to build and to maintain a coral reef in a 20 gallon fish tank with only two clown fish?

    How much would it cost to build one and how much would it cost for monthly maintenance?

    Thanks in advance.

  8. I bought a cheap 60L freshwater tank, ripped the hood off and placed a 100$ LED light on the now rimless tank. Placed 10kg of live rock and 10kg of live sand in it, a powerhead doing around 1200L/h flow and placed a little heater in it. All in all, this whole nano reef setup so far cost me ~400$, but it's pretty much instantly cycled and the eventual stock will be light. A clown or some damsels, a goby and a couple shrimp / snails. Along with some easy beginner corals. It's a really interesting part of the aquarium keeping hobby, the whole messing with salt water is super interesting.

    And although my 450L discus tank is my main center piece in my house, this little reef tank sure as hell already gets just as much attention by guests even just empty with rock. Its just so mesmerizing to stare at the awesome colouration of the rock / sand and light together. Can't wait till I go to a special store where they have hundreds of fish and corals to admire.

  9. My first aquarium has been running for 3 months, it’s a 20g, it’s stocked with a clown goby, banggai cardinal, and a occellaris clown. I also have 5 or 6 soft corals and they have been thriving. I highly recommend that everyone should try a reef aquarium. I’m only 15 and I have 4 freshwater planted tanks, and I’m so happy I took the jump to saltwater

  10. I have been a fan of yours for a long while, I don't know how I didn't see this video before, any way I have had aquariums since I am 8 years old, I have done so many mistakes, I wish this video was out there long time ago, any way I have been looking for a good video for a friend that is starting, and now I realize there are lots of things I should consider next time I build another one. ANyhow I am saving this video for future reference. Thanks have a good day

  11. As a true beginner, let's say neophyte since I am still researching and have not bought a tank yet, I appreciate this video and look forward to the series. Good job and thank you for the information.

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