Need Help Choosing a Freshwater or Saltwater Aquarium?

Freshwater Aquarium

When you start learning about aquariums and want to set one up for yourself, you have plenty of decisions to make. However, one of the first choices you will have to make is whether to choose a freshwater or saltwater aquarium. A common misconception is that freshwater aquariums are easier for beginners and as such, beginners should not choose a saltwater tank. While it may be that some freshwater tanks are easier, this is not true across the board. If you are just starting out, you can begin with either type—as long as you are willing to do the research and work required to set it up and keep it running.


As a general rule, saltwater aquariums do cost more to set up than freshwater tanks. This is because saltwater fish tend to be more expensive, the tanks require additional equipment and if you want to add coral to the tank the cost can be even higher. However, a heavily planted freshwater tank or a cichlid tank with extensive rock additions can cost considerably more than a basic saltwater tank, so it is important to consider all aspects of the tank you have planned before declaring one type more expensive than the other.


10g Fish Aquarium

In the past, the common rule of thumb was that if you wanted a tank under 50 gallons, you had to choose a freshwater tank. There have been recent innovations that have changed this, meaning that even if you have limited space you can choose a saltwater tank. The reverse is true as well, a freshwater tank can be as large as you are prepared to purchase and maintain.

Ease of Keeping

A freshwater tank is generally easier to keep up with than a saltwater tank. Much of this is due to the water change process and the need to keep the water at a certain salinity. During the water change process a saltwater tank does require a bit of extra work. This is because you have to mix your salt water and use a hydrometer to check the level of the salt and make certain it is at an appropriate level for your fish. However, if time is a major issue, some pet or fish stores do sell premixed water—though that will add to your cost.


There is a wide variety of lighting options for both types of tanks. The biggest concern with lighting is if you choose a saltwater tank with coral, you may need to purchase metal halide lighting—which can be a big expense. However, a fish-only saltwater tank and a freshwater tank both only require lighting that makes the tank look good and suits the fish.

Color and Variety


If you want a tank that is bright and bold, a saltwater tank is the obvious choice. There is a huge array of brightly colored fish and coral that are simply not matched by anything in a freshwater tank. However, a good alternative for those who want a freshwater tank, but love color is an African Cichlid tank. As for variety, this is simply a personal preference. There are enough freshwater fish that most fish owners would never get bored, but there is a much larger variety of saltwater fish out there. So, if you want something truly exotic, saltwater may be the correct choice.


While both types of aquariums have the same basic requirements of tank, filter, fish, heater (possibly) and other items, there are further requirements for most saltwater tanks. Some additional items you may need to consider for a saltwater tank include:

  • Hydrometer
  • Testing Kits
  • Salt Mix
  • Live Rock
  • Protein Skimmer
  • Power Heads
  • Sump

As you can see, there are many things to consider before you choose what type of aquarium you purchase. Remember, that your fish tank is a reflection of your personality and preferences. Even if a saltwater tank is a bit more cost if it is something you truly desire it may be well worth it. No matter which you choose, it will require time and effort—but, the tank can bring joy to your family and visitors to your home for years to come.