bigdaddy asked in PetsFish · 1 decade ago

What are th differences in maintaing a salt water tank compared to a fresh water tank?

We used to have a 100 gallon fresh water tank before we moved. I left the tank and fish with the new owners. Now we want a new tank and like the vibrant colors of the salt water fish. I was wondering what the differences in cost and maintainence is between the two?? I know the fish are considerably more expensive.

Thanks in advance


Wow what a great bunch of answers looks like I have my research cut out for me. Wondering if I should start smaller like a 55 gallon tank and work my way up as I become comfortable with the processes.

8 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    There is a big difference between saltwater and freshwater in the cost of maintainence. A saltwater aquarium in the begining can hurt your pocket book alot more then freshwater. Even mothly maintainence can be a little more costly. By no means am I trying to persuade you against this, just making sure you understand the difference. Also it depends on the size of the tank as well. Obviously if your planning on something the size you had before (100 gallons) then the equipment used to set it up properly can be costly.

    Also there are three basic types of saltwater set-ups. I will list in order of least expensive to kost expensive.

    1. FO----basically this is a fish only set-up that doesnt require as much. You can use decorations safe for saltwater, and you won't require extreme lighting. Normal lighting will be fine.

    2. Fish with live rock combo-----is more pricey then the above. On average, you will need 1 pound of rock for every gallon of water. Live rock can be expesive depending on where you live. Requires more lighting

    3. Reef Tank-----This is where you find all the fancy corals, live rock and so on. Most cases require extreme lighting, such as metal halide type fixtures. The water perimeters must be perfect, so alot of maintainence is required.

    There are many websites you can look up for more information.

    If you need any help let me know.

    Good luck

  • 1 decade ago

    This will depend on you and your resources. What size tank are you looking to get? Do you plan on walking into a pet store and just getting what they tell you off the shelf? You will pay thru the rear.

    Searching the web and clearance isles at your local pet stores as well as news paper adds will help.

    The tank price is going to be the same for salt and fresh water.

    Filters depending on where you get them and if you are planning on having a large enough tank to run a skimmer. You can find Protein skimmer + filter any where from $35 and up. Depends on what you are planning on doing.

    If you can save money on the tank by buying used, this give s you more money for a better filter or better salts.

    You will need to get a hydrometer...just a couple bucks and usually when you buy the 40 pound Instant ocean some bags come with them. This you can upgrade later.

    A test kit. While a regular salt water test kit is fine for starters, you will want to upgrade to a Master test kit later.

    The Salt, which is not used in fresh in bulk it is $1.00 per pound however that too depends on where you live. Sand is sand is sand. $2.50 at home depot, just wash it. You do not need to use live sand. And you don't need live rock. There was no such thing when I started my first salt tank and it has been running since.

    Salt water water changes are not going to be as frequent as your fresh water changes. The larger the salt tank, the more time you can go, and still have a very healthy tank, without a water change.

    The largest expense will be the fish. Damsels (Your first fish) can range from $1.99 each and up. These to can be found on the net and at local pet stores. Don't be afraid to find a good shop and stick with them. Smaller local shops are happy to have your business and are willing to make deals on special fish. Especially if you can wait until they can get a "bulk" deal. The fish depend entirelly on you. Shop around ask questions. Know where you can find your best price and pit stores against each other for your business.

    RIght now it is a buyers market with the gas and utility bill increases.

    Honestly, it isn't all that much more expensive and a lot less work.

    Have a plan on what you think you might want to have in the tank. Research the fish/inverts etc. Make a plan don't be impatient. This is the key to a good salt tank.

    Do it right in the begining and you won't have problems later

    EDIT Do not believe for one moment salt fish are less hearty than fresh. They are very durable and survivable, from extream temperature fluxes to fresh water fluxes. They are designed this way since the ocean currents will move cold water into warmer water in a matter of seconds. The salinity falls and rises as well. They have adaped to these quick changes.

  • 4 years ago

    I have had large fish tanks with different types of fish so here is what I had. I had fresh water fish. The reason is that the fish are a bit cheaper, there is a wide variety that you can have in the tank, you can mix and match. Also it is must easier to clean and take care of than salt water tanks. In a fresh water tank You can add plants, rocks, and all types of decorations. In the salt water there are plants but they care a bit more expensive than fresh water. It is the price, the variety and the easy care that makes fresh water tanks betters. In my case, I had in a27 gallong tank fresh water, Angels, Neons, various tropicals, gold fish, and others. This makes the tank more interesting. The salt water tank can be interesting but again the price is an issue. Also cleaning is much easier because you do not have that heavy salt residue on the edges that gets caked and hard to clean off. For the fresh water tank, I empty it totaly. In a large 5 gallon clean pail I put fresh water, then on the edge of the pail I put the clean filters then add the fish. While the fish are in the clean pail of water with the filters, I wash the tank, plants and decorations. The tank is easy, I rinse it then add salt, yes salt because it is a natural cleaning agent and you do not have to scrub. Then I rinse the tank good. Place it back pour in the water from the pail add the fish and the filters then add what water is needed and then the decorations and done. I had fish that lasted me 8 years. An Angel fish that I got as a baby I had for 10 years. He was black and silver and very large. On person offered me $300 for him, but I said no because I grew him up from a tiny fish to an adult. He was beautiful. Large fins and a graceful body as he swam. But I suggest that you check with your favorite pet shop first. Also watch the pet shop. Some stores bring in the fish and leave them in the containers that they come in a long while before placing in the tanks and when you buy the fish they die soon due to not being attended early enough. I have mentioned this to the pet shop that I used to go to and they did not care. Many of the fish died. So I went to another shop where they take care of the fish and that is where I got my Angel fish that I had for all that time.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    It depends on how crafty you are. If you end up putting 3000 dollars in your tank then the saying is true, threes a sucker born every minute. I built my own sump for 10 bucks. Own protein skimmer ten bucks, I have used a pond pump that I paid 100 dollars for 5 years ago and it has enough gpH to power everything along with pvc power heads. I top off with rainwater and make my own solution using the same. I change my water(about 30%) every two weeks. For the most part I only clean my sump about 1 time every two months.

    Research, you will find that all of the overmarketed items I have mentioned are rediculously overpriced and can easily be built if you have basic apptitude for engineering. All said and done I paid more for my lights than anything else. My bulbs cost 70 bucks a piece, I built the ballas for deul 1500 w mh lighting and cultivated my own live rock in a baby pool.


    I agree it is much more complex, but I would consider how much of a difference it makes in saltwater owners lives also.

    I don't think the pride I have felt for my marine tanks could ever compare to the feelings of whatever with my freshwater tanks from my youth. I think it's just as easy to maintain(thats if you run a freshwater system properly) but definatly more exspensive, but isn't a corvette harder to care for than say a gremlin, and a hell of a lot more fun to drive.

  • How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer.
  • 1 decade ago

    The differences in freshwater and saltwater tanks is dramatically very different. Freshwater is different because Freshwater fishes are more hardy than saltwater fishes, whereas Saltwater fish is very fragile and they are more expensive depending on your location.

    Saltwater tanks are very interesting and enjoying, but there's a lot of hard work, a lot of time and a lot of money to invest in maintaining a saltwater fish tank. Basically, you have to maintain it on a daily basis.

    You are going to have to buy more equipment than freshwater tanks. There are necessites to have in order to maintain Saltwater tanks. It is very important to check salinity levels on a daily basis because to high of a salinity can shock and kill fish. whereas hyposalinity will reduce the stress on the fish, but having it at hyposalinity for long period of time can ruin the fishes kidneys and eventually will kill the fish.

    The cost of maintaining an Saltwater aquarium depends on the size of the tank. The bigger the tank, the more expensive. Another thing too, it is very important to make your tank look as close to a natural environment as you can. Live rocks will go for 4 to 5 bucks a pound, at some places even more, the shipping cost will be high.

    But really it is really nice to have and very relaxing when you are at home watching the fishes move about. They are a challenge to keep and I am loving it.

    There's ways to set ups, but research is the most important thing. Everybody has their own likes and dislikes about what types of equipment to have, so you should do research on equipment as well.

    Another way to learn information is by going to your local pet shops especially the ones that sell marine fishes and get information on what to buy and how to set it up to maintain a saltwater aquarium. They should provide you with specific answers but not all the time it's totally correct. You must look up on wikipedia about marine aquariums and they should provide you with accurate answers.

    Thanks for asking

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Everything about marine tanks is much more expensive. Although there are different levels of complexity with the marine setups, even the basic ones need more equipment and maintenance. A full coral reef tank needs more plumbing and gadgets than a NASA toilet, and probably costs about the same.

    Not to say it cant be done, but it's relatively expensive and time consuming, compared to a freshwater tank anyway.

    Have you considered an African Cichlid tank? Not quite as colourfull as the marine species, but much easier to maintain.


  • Freshwater fish are way less expensive to maintain when I got my 55 gallon salt water I had to put well over 3 grand into it

  • 1 decade ago

    take a look at they have some articals about setting up both salt and fresh tanks they should give you some good ideas of the differences

Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.