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Old 05-06-2006, 09:44 AM   #1
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Saltwater vs. Freshwater Aquariums

I posted a newbie question in the Freshwater forum the otherday. I haver 7 year old twin boys that are interested in starting an aquarium. My first thought was to start a freshwater tank since they seem easier to maintain etc. However, I like saltwater tanks better. I'm looking at a 29 gallon tank and starting with 2 - 3 basic/hardy fish.

So my questions... are saltwater tanks that much more difficult to setup and maintain than freshwater tanks? Is there any special equipment needed for saltwater tanks? Should I start with a freshwater tank and then move to a saltwater tank after a few years of experience?

Thanks, Mike
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Old 05-06-2006, 11:48 AM   #2
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A 29gal is a pretty good starter size, three small fish would be just fine in there. You will be limited on the types of fish you will be able to keep, simply due to size.
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are saltwater tanks that much more difficult to setup and maintain than freshwater tanks?
A little bit. They do require a lot of research and a bit of learning. It is not as easy as pour water in a tank, add salt and your done. The set up process takes some time, but once the tank is cycled and stable and you have some experience under your belt they are pretty easy to maintain. Easy, but they do require regular attention to be successful.
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Is there any special equipment needed for saltwater tanks?
You can get by with just the basics to start...sand substrate, some live rock, an average skimmer, a HOB filter and a couple of powerheads. It does not need to break the bank, however, the start up cost can be surprising.
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Should I start with a freshwater tank and then move to a saltwater tank after a few years of experience?
I would not. If you are interested in SW and are willing to do the required research to help you get started and are committed to a regular maintenance schedule there is not reason to just jump right in.

Good luck!
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Old 05-06-2006, 12:35 PM   #3
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Lando - Thanks for the information. Roughly how much time is required for maintenance (hours per week)? Also is it about the same amount of setup time?

Thanks, Mike
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Old 05-06-2006, 02:55 PM   #4
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Roughly how much time is required for maintenance (hours per week)?
Top-offs and cleaning would add up to maybe an hour a week. I also spend a couple hours every 3-4 weeks doing routine water changes. The commitment is not huge, you just need to do it.
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Also is it about the same amount of setup time?
Both SW and FW tanks do need to cycle prior to adding any livestock. I would say that SW will take more time to get started.
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Old 05-06-2006, 10:00 PM   #5
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I have gone the route you discussed--I started FW and now have a 29 gal SW that has been running for about 6 months. I won't be saying much more than the fact that I agree with Lando, but I will make a couple of points. In terms of maintainence time, I would not say that my FW 29 is all that much different from my SW 29. The main differences are that you have to mix up the water before the water change, that you have to add water each day to make up for evaporation which will lead to a change in the salt concentration, and there is more algae growth to scrape off the glass. In my experience, all of these combined do not constitute a tremendous difference. I do however spend a lot more time staring at my SW tank watching all of the various critters going about their business.
Equipment-wise, the main difference is that the primary source of filtration would ideally be live rock and a couple of pumps in the tank to move the water about. This route is more expensive, but much more effective than going without. It also adds to the enjoyment value as you will find all manner of life forms coming off of the rock. Another side benefit of this is that the cycling time using live rock was much much shorter than the time it took to cycle my FW tank.
The two biggest drawbacks of starting with SW are 1) that there is simply more to be aware of and 2) that you're original setup and the mistakes that will invariably happen will be more expensive. For the record, I would estimate that I spent about $750 (rough guess) to setup my SW tank before adding fish.
Just to offer food for thought--one of the coolest things about FW though is that it is possible to breed many of the fish available. Good luck and keep posting questions!
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Old 05-07-2006, 09:15 AM   #6
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cplawrence -

I'm curious, $750 for the SW setup? That seems pretty high. Did you install pretty high end equipment? For a basic tank is that what I should expect to pay?

Thanks, Mike
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Old 05-07-2006, 09:55 AM   #7
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That sounds about right. Set-up is expensive but you can save a ton by ordering dry goods and livestock online rather then buying them at your LFS. There are lots of good online retailers.
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Old 05-07-2006, 02:34 PM   #8
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its the lr and the skimmer that are the most expensive things. ordering online is def cheaper as lando suggested. im on a budget (very firm budget) and i managed alright. the first thing is to reasearch what you would like in the tank, ie fish only (which fish?) or reef (which corals?), then research the setup of that particular tank, and dont forget you have 2 months while the tank is cycling to get some of the equipment. thats what i had to do. get the ls, lr, and the sw and let it cycle.... then in the 2 months you can get the skimmer and lighting if reef is what you are after.
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Old 05-07-2006, 06:34 PM   #9
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I was looking at Dr Fosters site and also a lfs. The lr at Dr Fosters runs about $100 but I think you have to go through a curing process. I'll check to see the cost at the lfs.

Since I'm working with 29g, I really don't want too much. Maybe a clown and anemonie and one or two other fish or a crab.

Mike
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Old 05-07-2006, 07:33 PM   #10
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I was looking at Dr Fosters site and also a lfs. The lr at Dr Fosters runs about $100 but I think you have to go through a curing process. I'll check to see the cost at the lfs.
I have used that site several times and have been happy. Even with shipping you are likely to save money ordering online. Just have the LR shipped over-night and use it to cycle your tank. The die-off on the rock will be benefical in your cycle.
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Since I'm working with 29g, I really don't want too much. Maybe a clown and anemonie and one or two other fish or a crab.
All in good time. Anemones are delicate creatures and require mature tanks with very stable conditions. They also have some very specific requirements in terms of lighting. They get most of their energy from light so a high output, high quality fixture will be needed...but that is a whole different thread.
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