When you first begin considering setting up an aquarium, the first question that may come to mind is whether you should set up a saltwater tank or a freshwater tank. Both options provide advantages and disadvantages, so it is important to give the matter some careful thought and consideration.
A saltwater aquarium will certainly allow you to have an interesting variety of colorful fish; however, if you are a novice to keeping an aquarium you may find a saltwater aquarium a bit daunting. The major advantage of a freshwater aquarium is that it allows you as a beginner to gain experience before taking on the responsibilities of a saltwater tank; which can be time consuming and expensive.
Freshwater aquariums tend to be easier to set up than saltwater aquariums and on average require less time and effort in terms of maintenance. When it comes to expense, freshwater aquariums are also less costly for both equipment as well as fish. Marine fish are required for saltwater aquariums and while they are more colorful than freshwater fish, they are also typically more expensive.
Additions for saltwater aquariums can also be expensive, such as live rock. Live rock provides a great biological filter for your saltwater tank and makes set up and maintenance of the saltwater tank easier, but it is expensive as it is taken from coral reefs.
Lighting is also an important issue. If you have live corals and rock in your saltwater tank, lighting will become even more important. Poor lighting can cause these live organisms in your saltwater tank to die. Of course, lighting is also important to a freshwater tank; however, maintaining the balance is not as delicate.
With a saltwater tank there is also the added responsibility of monitoring the salt levels; a task which is not necessary with a freshwater tank. This is a delicate process. If your salt levels are not properly monitored and maintained your fish, rocks and plants will not survive in a saltwater environment. The water quality must also be monitored carefully; but when compared this task is really not much different than monitoring and maintaining the water quality in a freshwater tank.
Ultimately, the final decision of whether a saltwater or a freshwater tank is best; will depend on how much time and money you want to invest in your aquarium. A freshwater tank can be quite fun, allowing you to keep a number of beautiful freshwater tropical fish while getting your feet wet in the process of maintaining an aquarium. You can avoid the disappointment that goes along with losing an expensive fish while you learn the basics of maintaining a tank when you choose a freshwater tank.
If; however, you feel you are up to the challenge and are not concerned with the expense, a saltwater aquarium can open up a new world through the introduction of vibrant, beautiful fish swimming along live corals and rocks.
In the event you do choose to start out with a freshwater tank in the beginning, keep in mind this does not preclude you from changing to a saltwater tank later on. In many cases, people begin in the hobby of keeping fish by setting up a freshwater aquarium due to the fact that it is easier. Once they have gained experience and confidence, they make the change to a saltwater tank. Many of the items that are used for a freshwater tank can also be incorporated into use in a saltwater aquarium. Along with a few additions, it can be simpler than you might think to complete the conversion from a freshwater to a saltwater tank.
For example, you may be able to use the tank itself; provided it is large enough. Most saltwater fish will require more space than freshwater fish; but even so your old freshwater tank may still work, with simply fewer saltwater fish. A 10 gallon freshwater tank, which can typically hold about 12 average sized fish, will do fine for up to about 3 average sized saltwater fish.
Whether you can use the filter from your freshwater tank may depend on the type of filter that was used. Under gravel filters and hang on the back filters are not typically recommended for saltwater tanks. A canister filter works better.
In most cases you should be able to use the same heater and thermometer, provided your thermometer is not stainless steel; which could rust in the saltwater. You will need a water pump to create movement in the tank if you do not already have one.