Setting Up Your Marine Tank
Setting up a marine fish tank will take a little time and patience. It can be really tempting to buy your tank and rush home and add fish straight away, but this will only lead to stressed, sick fish that are likely to die. Your new fish need a particular environment in which to thrive, so setting up your fish tank correctly is essential to ensure their long term health and wellbeing.
Saltwater tanks do need a little more time than freshwater tanks as the salt adds a layer of complexity to their maintainence, but following these simple steps will help you on your way to building a healthy marine tank.
Because of its extra complexity, it is recommended that you have some experience keeping tropical fish before you begin keeping marines.
Set Up The Tank
- Position your new tank and stand in its permanent location
- Wash out the tank with water only - do not use detergents or bleach
- Install your heater, filter, protein skimmer and any other equipment following the on pack directions. Do not switch on the power at this stage.
- Add your pre-mixed saltwater to the tank. Saltwater is available from Petmania stores that stock marine fish so your in-store fish expert can help you with this.
- Turn on the tank and allow the water to circulate for 1-2 days
Cure Your Live Rock and Cycling Your Tank
- After 1-2 days, remove some of the water from your tank and add your live rock. Place it in the centre of the tank and direct the powerheads in your tank towards it. This will remove debris from the rock
- After 2-3 days, wearing a pair of rubber gloves to protect your hands, clean the rock in the water using an old toothbrush to remove any dead or dying organisms
- Siphon the debris from your tank and replace with fresh, clean salt water
- Repeat this process until your water tests indicate that your tank has cycled with 0 ppm ammonia, 0 ppm nitrites and a nitrates reading of 20 ppm or below.
When your tank has cycled, it is time to add the sand.
- Turn off the power in your tank
- Drain some of the saltwater from your tank to allow for the sand you are about to add
- Mix your sand with clean saltwater in a bucket to wash it. Allowing it to settle, remove any debris that rises to the top of the bucket
- Drain some of the saltwater from the bucket and using a ladle or similar, transfer the sand from the bucket into your tank
- Turn the tank back on, directing one of the powerheads towards your liverock to remove any sand that may fall onto it as you add it to the tank
- Allow your tank to settle for a few days before carrying out a full set of water tests. Ideally your water should read as:
- Temperature 24C - 27C
- Specific Gravity 1.020 - 1.024
- pH 8.0 - 8.4
- Ammonia 0
- Nitrite 0
- Nitrate 20ppm or less (especially for invertebrates)
- Carbonate Hardness 7-10dKH
Once your tank has cycled fully and all substrates have been added, you can begin to add fish 1 or 2 at a time. See our section on Adding Fish to Your Marine Tank for more information.