Are you thinking of keeping saltwater fish, and you are nervous about the challenges you might face in maintaining the saltwater fish?

Do people tell you that keeping saltwater aquariums is much more complex than freshwater aquariums?

Due to technological advancements keeping saltwater fish and maintaining a saltwater aquarium is much easier than it used to be a decade ago. But as a beginner, you may face hard times as saltwater fish aquariums are challenging to care for compared to freshwater fish. Key differentiating factors between keeping marine fish and tropical fish are time, commitment, and extra funding. Time and responsibility because this hobby needs a little more care. Additional funding because the equipment used for saltwater aquariums needs to be chemically stable, dependable, and efficient to work in a saltwater environment. Moreover, livestock for a saltwater aquarium is expensive.

Important Factors of saltwater fish :

Saltwater Fish aquarium budget: 

Budget is a crucial factor when considering saltwater fish aquariums. Depending on the setup you are looking for, the bigger you go, the bigger the budget you will need to keep and maintain the saltwater fish. But this doesn't mean that you cannot adopt this hobby if you are short of budget, you may start a saltwater aquarium with a smaller tank with a few pairs of fish, soft corals, moderate filters, and lights. This kind of setup would cost you less than one thousand dollars. But if you are considering a more extensive aquarium setup with a giant fish tank, SPS corals, and the latest equipment, it would cost you thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars. You would wonder why there is so much price difference between saltwater aquariums and freshwater aquarium setup costs. Although marine livestock like fish and corals are also expensive compared to tropical fish, the equipment is the critical factor for the added cost. The equipment used in saltwater aquariums needs to be durable and trustworthy that can work nicely in salty water conditions. 

Running Cost of saltwater fish aquarium

As mentioned above, setting up a big fish aquarium with marine fish is comparatively more expensive than smaller aquariums. This is also true for running costs for maintaining saltwater aquariums, as you would have to refill fish food, salt, and water more often than in small aquariums. Moreover, you would need more electricity to run a bigger aquarium, so giant aquariums will significantly impact your monthly budget. Whereas if you are maintaining a small tank, you need less equipment and fewer food refills, salt, and water refills, so it would not impact your monthly budget. 

You would be thinking that I am a big advocate of small aquariums. Well, that's not the case because although small aquariums are easy to set up and less costly, they are not more forgiving than bigger aquariums. In small aquariums, even a slight mistake or negligence will quickly affect your livestock's health, and this is because smaller tanks contain less amount of water, where a slight change in water parameters can quickly affect water conditions. So, in smaller aquariums, you have very little time to react in an emergency.

Time and commitment:

Although maintaining saltwater aquariums is not that hard these days, it is still quite challenging compared to freshwater aquariums. Care and dedication are the key traits of any hobbyist, so whether you are a fish keeper, a cat person, or a dog person, you have to reserve some time to take care of your pets' otherwise, chances are they will feel lonely and get sick. But some hobbies demand a little more time than the usual avocation and saltwater fishkeeping is one of those. So before diving deeper and purchasing equipment and marine livestock, please spare some time and do some research to determine whether this hobby is for you or not.

Let's look at how much time and effort you would need to maintain marine livestock and equipment adequate.

Daily Tasks of Saltwater fish maintaining aquarium

At most, 15 to 20 minutes daily are required to perform maintenance tasks. Where you need to

  • Examine equipment like the heating system, filters, lights, and protein skimmers are working correctly.
  • Refill tank water that was vaporized due to humidity and other factors.
  • Check livestock and examine whether your fish and corals are healthy and disease free.
  • Check water temperature and other parameters to see if they work as expected. 

Although this daily task looks daunting and time-consuming, I am sure it won't take more than 15 minutes.  

Weekly/Monthly Tasks of maintaining an aquarium

Other than daily tasks, You also need spare time to maintain your tank on weekly and monthly bases. On average I spend 2 to 3 hours per week where I perform activities like

  • Partial water changes (weekly or once in two weeks)
  • Cleaning of aquarium glass and acrylic shield of lighting fixture, ho (once a week or monthly)
  • Cleaning of intake hose and valves of equipment. (Once a month or once in two months)
  • · Cleaning of protein skimmers, return pumps, and biofilters (Once a month or once in two months)

Please note that your schedule may differ based on your aquarium setup, livestock, and equipment type (automated or manual). Overall, you don't need several hours a day in aquarium maintenance to relish this refreshing hobby. Every avocation needs time, passion, and dedication, so you need to be a patient fishkeeper. Now, let me answer some of the queries related to the saltwater and freshwater environment.

Saltwater Vs. Freshwater Environment


Q: It is a general thought that freshwater aquariums are easy to maintain, and it is easy to care for freshwater fish ?

 Ans: Yes, it is correct, as freshwater fish can adjust to any water conditions, whereas saltwater fish can only survive in specific water conditions.

Q:  It is a perception that saltwater aquariums are more expensive than freshwater aquariums?

Yes, it is true as more equipment like powerheads, protein skimmers, and live rock are essential for keeping saltwater fish, or it would be hard for them to survive.

Q: It is suggested that beginners should start with freshwater fish as fish keepers?

 Ans: Yes, as keeping saltwater fish can be expensive, complicated, and time-consuming. Saltwater fish are also costly compared to freshwater fish, so as a beginner in fish keeping, you should buy freshwater fish so that you have room for making mistakes. Go for saltwater fish once you are an expert.

Q: It is thought that saltwater aquariums have more chances of growing algae?

Ans: It is true; as saltwater aquariums have fewer plants, the nutrients in the water aren't consumed. So, saltwater aquariums are more likely to grow algae. It is fine if you are an expert and maintain your aquarium well. But for beginners, it will be a disaster.

Q: Are bettas saltwater fish?

Ans: No, Bettas are not saltwater fish. Although bettas can survive in salt water, they are not that much comfortable in saltwater Bettas are labyrinth fish they like soft water with a hardness of less than 25. 

Q: Who is the easiest fist to take care of in saltwater aquariums?

Ans: Keeping saltwater aquarium fish is challenging. It needs a suitable environment, time, dedication, and care to keep saltwater fish. However, some marine fish are known for their hardness and disease resistance. Marine betta, also known as Comet, is easy to keep in saltwater aquariums as Comet is known for its hardness and disease resistance. Marine betta or Comet is not suitable to keep with small fish as Comets are predators and they eat small fish; however, it lives peacefully in pairs with corals and other big fish.

It's evident that as a beginner, keeping saltwater fish can be a little tricky as it needs quite a bit of research and patience. Also, the risk factor makes it more enjoyable as a little negligence could create an emergency and chaos in your fish tank, so you must allocate time and dedication to maintain your saltwater fish tank successfully. And believe me, it's worth adopting as you will be more knowledgeable and feel the calm and happiness you haven't felt before

Editor's Note: This post was originally published on Feb 22, 2021, and has been completely revamped and updated on 18 October 2022, for accuracy and comprehensiveness.