Comparing Freshwater and Saltwater Aquariums

Freshwater aquarium systems are extremely common and you may even own one yourself.

While both freshwater and saltwater aquarium systems are similar and use much of the same fish tank equipment, the most significant difference is the chemical composition of the water.

Saltwater aquariums are often referred to as marine aquariums, reef tanks or seawater aquariums.

The most basic differences between fresh water and salt water aquariums include:

• freshwater is found in most lakes and ponds
• freshwater contains low concentrations of salts and minerals
• humans need to drink freshwater to live
• most fish that live in freshwater can't tolerate salt water
• salt water is the ocean's water
• saltwater contains high concentrations of salts and minerals
• humans can't drink salt water
• most fish that live in saltwater can't survive in freshwater

Among the advantages of choosing freshwater fish is that the fish will adapt to nearly any type of Aquarium. In addition, freshwater fish are easier to care for than saltwater fish, making a freshwater fish tank ideal for beginners.

Regardless of the type of fish you decide to raise you want to consider tanks first. Saltwater fish tend to do best in reef or salt water fish tanks. These will normally include live rock and coral.

In the wild, fish and other aquatic life have adapted quite well to these two different kinds of water, and the problems they've encountered have little to do with the amount of salt in the water.

In the aquarium, the differences in water chemistry greatly affect your success in the following ways:

• Saltwater aquariums have less room for error when compared to freshwater setups. Marine fish and invertebrates are more sensitive to slight changes in water quality because they have adapted to the stable environment of the ocean
• saltwater fish are more difficult to find and tend to be more expensive than freshwater fish because almost all are caught in the wild
• saltwater fish don't breed in captivity as freshwater fish do, so you cannot produce your own fish
• marine aquariums are more expensive because they require more equipment to operate and maintain excellent water quality
• you can place more freshwater fish in an aquarium than saltwater fish
• freshwater fish survive quite well on flake food while saltwater fish need a mixture of food that includes not only flakes but also frozen and live foods

While freshwater aquarium fish don't offer the beauty and appeal of the fish and invertebrates available to saltwater aquarium hobbyists, most tropical fish experts recommend that beginners start with a freshwater aquarium.

This is sound advice. But that doesn't mean you have to take it. Sure, a marine aquarium setup is a bit more sensitive, but with the proper planning and a commitment to high water quality, you can be successful with your first saltwater aquarium.