5 Saltwater Fears you Should NOT Worry About

If you are thinking about starting your very first reef aquarium, several things can seem quite daunting adn put you off. But, with many of those things, the reality is very different from theory.

So, here are five common saltwater fears that you shouldn't worry about:


How does it work? How do you control the water level? Will it flood your house? Well, the reality is, they are really simple. Ultimately, a sump is just a glass box to keep your filtration equipment running.

You use a water pumps knowns as a return pump to send water from the sump up a pipe and to the display tank. Then there is a second pipe in the display tank which sends water to run down back to the sump and usually and third emergency downpipe in case the main drain gets clogged.

If you turn the return off, the water level in the display tank drops to the top of your downpipe or, if you have one, to the box's story that hides the pipes, which are called a wire box.

The water from your tank drops in the tank, and consequently, the water level in your sump rises slightly, but there is never too much water in your tank or sump to spill out onto your carpet, so you don't have to worry about floods.

Most sumps have different sections separated by glass panels or baffles that help separate your filtration equipment. The final area in any sump is where your return pump goes.

This is the section that controls the water level. A water level sensor sits in with a return pump, and as water evaporates in the tank, the water level in the return pump section drops.

When it does so, your water level sensor will add water from a separator freshwater reservoir back into your sump to bring the level back to where it should be. All you have to do for this is fill your freshwater pool once a week. If you are wondering, you replace evaporated water with fresh water, not Saltwater, because the salt stays behind when evaporation occurs.

Scientific Complexity

If you watch videos on keeping a reef tank, you will be forgiven for thinking that you need a degree in marine biology even to get started. However, the saltwater folk loves nothing more than telling you how clever you are for having mastered such a creative hobby.

You will hear about testing and maintaining major elements, minor elements, trace elements, nitrate, phosphate, ionic balance amino acid, pH, the list goes on.

But, 95% of running a successful reef tank is just about getting the basics right. You only need to concern yourself with the final five percent when you have the tank packed full of the most difficult to keep corals and want to extract every last drop of additional growth or color from your tank.

To start keeping beginner-friendly soft corals, once you have added rocks, salt water, and a heater to your tank, all you need is a filter. Usually, a protein skimmer to remove pollutants from your tank, lighting to allow your corals to photosynthesize, and powerheads to create flow and corals' happiness.

Those are the only areas you need to worry about when starting. In terms of testing, you only need to test nitrate and phosphate regularly, which are the main parameters you need to keep in check to keep the soft corals happy and to keep algae at bay.

It is worth checking your salinity levels from time to time, but that tends to stay steady by itself, and testing is just a matter of dipping a salinity pen in your tank and getting a digital reader. 

The hobby only has to be as good as complicated as you want it to be. So, if you want a simple life, there are dozens of low-maintenance, soft corals to choose from, and even if you want to progress onto intermediate corals like LPS, a regular water change schedule should be enough to keep your tank looking healthy at least in a short to medium term.


It is really easy to think that you need to spend a year or more researching the hobby and getting your head around everything before you buy your first marine tank, or even that you need to master running a freshwater tank before coming over to the salty side. While we always encourage you to read up to know what you are getting yourself into, the best way to learn anything new is to get your hands dirty.

Think of it as when you started driving. Ultimately, if you are the kind of person who is ready to spend time reading on the minutiae of the hobby, you are likely to have the making of a conscientious marine aquarist. That combined with patience is far more valuable than spending months or even years with your hidden books before you get started.

Obsessing about starting a new hobby is part of the fun, but wait till you get stuck in. 

Mixing your own Saltwater

Given everything else you need to think of when you are starting out, it is so easy to ask your local fish shop to supply already mixed Saltwater, but there are benefits of making Saltwater yourself.

You should think of the hobby as keeping water, not keeping fish and coral. The water you use to start your tank is the foundation on which your reef is built.

Getting shop-bought Saltwater is quite expensive and can cause algae problems. All you need to mix your own Saltwater is a good quality filter known as an RO-DI filter and a bucket of salt mix.

RO-DI filters can seem daunting, but they are just a series of containers with different filter media in them that strip out all of the impurities in your tap water. Just get yourself a dedicated saltwater RO-DI filter. Anything with at least four stages would be fine, and the more, the better.

Also, mixes come with instructions on how to prepare them, but quite simply, all you need is a buck and a water pump to do the stirring for you. Measure out the water you need, then add the correct amount of salt.

You need to check the salinity level to ensure it is right, but digital salinity meters make it an absolute cinch. If the salinity is high, add RO-DI water and if it is too low, add more salt power. 

Once you have done this couple of times, you will get to know the exact amount of salt you need to add to your standard water mix-up to make the right salinity level. 

Dealing with Algae

The thought of spending hundreds of dollars on your dream tank only to end up with more vegetation than a rainforest is depressing. But algae is inevitable in a reef tank. It is, of course, present in the wild, and conditions that suit growing corals also tend to suit growing algae.

But, there is tons of information out there about how to get the right algae that do not have to be a problem. 

The main thing algae need to grow is light and nutrients, and it is common for new hobbyists to set their lights too bright too soon and to overfeed fish resulting in excess nutrients. 

So, if you start slow adn get that balance right, you are less likely to have problems. But, even if you don't get that balance right, there are numerous easy ways to reduce nutrients, usually by simply increasing your filtration capacity or reducing the amount you feed your fish.

Even if you can't fix that, a good crew of algae eaters can easily keep on top of it for you. In particular, urchins and fish like Tangs and Rabbitfish will make light work of any algae that pops up.


This article is aimed at you, if you are starting in the hobby and it can become as complicated as you like. But that is when it gets really interesting adn what hooks you.

There will always be something new to discover, the hobby will always keep you interested, and it will always keep you challenged. 

Happy Reefing!










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