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How To Set Up a Saltwater Aquarium in 9 Easy Steps

Before you even begin thinking about setting up a saltwater aquarium, have you done the following:

Researched and learned all about keeping a saltwater aquarium first?

Planned your system?

Purchased the equipment and supplies needed to get started?

If you answered NO to any of these questions, we advise that you stop here and take the time to learn about any of these important topics that you may have missed, BEFORE you jump in! If you answered YES to all of them, just follow these 10 easy steps to set up your new aquarium and get it running.  

Set Up & Test The Equipment

Make Up The Saltwater

Start Up The System

Prepare The Live Rock

Aquascape The Tank

Let The Tank Cycle

Livestock Selection

Make Aquascaping Adjustments & Add The Substrate

Purchase & Add Livestock

Set Up A Maintenance & Care Routine

Begin With > Step 1


Step 1 - Set Up & Test The Equipment

Prepare the aquarium by cleaning the tank (only with freshwater and a soft cloth or sponge), applying a background (if desired), locating and leveling the stand (leaving clearance for electrical connections), setting the tank in place with an underpad for cushioning, leveling the tank, installing all the equipment (unplugged), and filling the tank and filtration equipment with fresh (tap) water.

Perform a wet test by starting all the equipment and allow the tank to run for 24-48 hours. During this time, check for leaks, temperature with and without lights on, adjust the heater(s), as well as make up the saltwater as instructed in Step 2. If using a protein skimmer, at this time no waste will be produced until salt and organic matter are added to the tank, but you can check for bubble production, and if using a counter current skimmer, test the air pump operation.  

When done with the wet test, before turning off all the equipment and emptying the tank, check the water level to see that it is where you want it to be with all the equipment running. If not, top it off to the desired level and create a fill-to line by using an indelible marker and marking an outside back corner tank panel. This will be your "fill line" for future reference.

Next > Step 2 - Make Up The Saltwater

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