Saltwater vs. Freshwater aquariums- what do you think?

A bunch of my friends have switched over to saltwater tanks in the past year. And everyone of them has said that they wished that they had done it sooner. After the initial 3 month set-up time, they say that they are just as easy to care for as freshwater tanks- and they have less problems with sickness and algae.

What are your experiences?

I’m thinking about buying a ‘desktop’ saltwater tank- 10 gallons or so, self-contained with the skimmer and filters, media, etc. You can see one here.

I want a chunk of live rock, one anemone and 2 clown fish, plus maybe a cleaner shrimp. A simple system that won’t need too much fiddling with, hopefully. I live in Prague, CZ and there are only 2 stores that do saltwater. I’m worried because I don’t have a car, the stores are across town, etc. I’ll probably be getting my water in 1 liter bottles from the paint store on the corner that sells distilled water for irons. No 5 gallon jugs of RO here, boy…

I currently have a 30-gallon freshwater with a mated pair of Angels and a few other fish that I’m thinking of giving away so I can raise baby angels.


Up until this thread, I thought there was nothing I didn’t have an opinion on.

Thanks for setting me straight, Tomcat. And I do apologise for not adding anything of value, but it WAS kind of enlightning to just sit here and go, “Whoa! Fish tanks? I don’t know, man!”. :smiley:

What? You have no opinions on aquariums when all it takes is one little dutch boy taking his finger out of a dyke and you essentially become one? :stuck_out_tongue:


They involve fish captured from the wild - with most of them dying on the way to your tank.
Fredhwater fish are mostly bred in captivity.

There are plenty of ways to avoid this. Especially with the clowns that I want.

Here is some info on them.

Yes, it is a problem, but there are people out there, like myself, who are willing to pay more for ethically bred fish and corals.


Yep, reef fish are mostly wild caught, but clowns breed in captivity, and captive propagation of live coral is easy to do on a hobbiest level. It seems to me that except for the cleaner shrimp everything in this proposed system is captive-bred.

The one complaint I have heard about mini-reef setups (as opposed to a fish-only tank) is that they can get unstable quickly. I’ve never kept one myself, but have been strongly considering it if I ever get rid of my current freshwater setup.

Here’s a few good sources for captive-bred invertibrates for your mini-reef tank:

I have two negatives for adding an anemone. The first one, is that they are very dirty, and would add quite a biological load to that size of an aquarium. The second is that you want to add live rock. Anemones move around (not constantly), and if they decide to perch on your live rock, whatever was alive on it, won’t be for long.

I’ve had 10 gallon mini-reefs set up before with great results. I usually wouldn’t recommend one for a beginner, as there is less room for error. Since you’ve kept freshwater, you’ll probably do fine. I was glad to see that you had noted the increased amount of time it takes for a marine tank to cycle.

If you are going with live rock, you may want to consider adding damsels, gobies, or some smaller wrasses. They do a great job helping to remove detritus from the live rock, and are less likely to overload the tank.

If you are concerned about cyanide poisoned fish, the viability of fish etc., most petstores are willing to work with you. Ask if you can watch the fish eat, ask if you can put a hold on a fish you are interested in. A lot of stores will do this, though some require a deposit (refundable). The store I managed for years actually held the fish and would not sell them for at least the first week anyhow. I’d also ask the store to test their aquarium water for you, if you still have concerns.

My last piece of advice is… read, read, read. :slight_smile: Don’t take someone else’s word for it, the more you know the better your chances of success. Good luck!

Cool. Thanks. The anemone was just a random thought anyway.

I basically want a clown tank. I need to get a home for the clowns (do all soft corrals work for this?) to swim and hide in. I need to get a simple system set up so that I don’t need to go to the store every week.

I just ordered a book from Amazon that was top rated by all reveiwers, so that should help me out a bunch.

Funny, I thought there would be more fish people here…

There are more fish people here. I just have no experience with saltwater tanks and am listening as intently as you are. :slight_smile:

I kept freshwatere fish when I was a kid and it’s something I hadn’t thought about in years. Now you’ve got my curiosity going and I’m thinking about maybe trying a small saltwater tank so I hope that you’ll keep us informed about your progress. I like the setup being marketed by Philippe Cousteau. I may call them to see if they can refer me to a local retailer.

Yes, I agree about staying away from anemones. Contrary to popular belief, captive clownfish don’t need them (and most species of clownfish have very specific preferences in what kind of anemone they will accept, anyway, so even if you give them one they may not want to use it). Anemones are considered tricky to keep alive, even for experienced aquarists. If you still want to try it, then
the Bubble Tip Anemone is widely considered the easiest (but “easy” is relative). In light of their low survival rate, I think it is particularly important to get a captive-propagated anemone. I’m very glad that you are ethical enough to want to get captive-bred fish. :slight_smile: I’d suggest checking out the forum at for some more advice on things like anemones.

Cool! More info!

Waiting patiently for my reef book to arrive…


It’s been years since I had my tanks, but I would love to set them up again. I would choose Salt over Fresh any day. Salt seemed so much easier to me.

I would not suggest an anemone. As cichlidiot stated, they are dirty little creatures. Instead, look into tubeworms, also known as “featherdusters”, nudibranches, decorator or porcelain crabs etc…

As I said, it has been ages, but the rule of thumb when I had my aquariums was “nothing smaller that 29 gallon”. With the advent of technology, this may of changed, but there are just so many neat things that you will want after you get the tank up and running, you will will be out of space in no time.

And, yes, observe your purchase closely before you take it home. Make sure it is eating, look for spots of disease or injury etc. If copper is still used for the treatment of fish illness, this is fatal to invertabrates, so you may want to insure that the tank your clowns come from has not been treated recently.

Let us know!

Like Ruffian, I’m a fish person too, but also without saltwater experience. I’ve had a freshwater tank for almost 20 years now, and being a scuba diver I’ve always yearned to start a saltwater tank.

My favorite local fish store has a ton of information on their web site for both fresh and saltwater tanks.

In general, I’ve been frightened off by statments by their staff that I need to be prepared to “waste” hundreds of dollars with my first attempt because the odds of success are low.

I’ll be very interested in your experiences. Good luck!

Well, I’m with spathiphyllum on this one. My experience is that cb clowns will not usually use an anemone. If you provide other decorations in the tank, I’m sure they’ll do fine. As far as soft corals, the tank size you’ve selected is not really equipped to provide the correct type of lighting for most corals. You could get something simple like mushrooms, caluerpa, and certain types of sponges to grow. Probably some coralline would grow as well. I don’t think you need more than that to have a really beautiful tank though.

Taking a closer look at the site you linked to, I see the tanks listed as 7.5 gal. Once you add sand/aragonite and decorations, I would guess at the most, you’d be left with a net of 5 gallons. You might want to reconsider and go up in size, even for a clownfish only tank. I would think even two Perculas would feel a bit overcrowded.

Glad to hear you’ve ordered a book. I’ll add a link to one of my favorite places for marine reef information. It mainly covers reef systems, but it’s still worth a look. :slight_smile: