View Full Version : Basic Marine Guide

11-25-2007, 09:52 PM
Lately I have seen a lot of beginners to marine aquariums starting to post in this forum. So, I have decided to create this thread to provide beginners (and the experienced) with some basic information about saltwater tanks.

First of all, we have the common saltwater lingo

FO - Fish Only

FOWLR - Fish only with Live Rock

LS - Live Sand

LR - Live Rock

BB - Bare Bottom

SSB - Shallow Sand Bed

DSB - Deep Sand Bed

ASW - Artificial Saltwater

NSW - Natural Saltwater

QT - Quarantine

MH - Metal Halide Light

HO - High Output Light

VHO - Very High Output Light

BTA - Bubble Tip Anemone

LPS - Large Polyped Stony Coral

SPS - Small Polyped Stony Coral

PBT - Powder Blue Tang

YT - Yellow Tank

CS - Cleaner Shrimp

CBS - Coral Banded Shrimp

The above are the most internationally recognised abbreviations for the marine hobby.

The Tank

When choosing a tank, you must pick the BIGGEST TANK YOU CAN AFFORD. The larger the tank, the larger the water volume. With a larger water volume, chemicals such as nitrates, nitrites and ammonia do not build up as fast as they would in a smaller tanks. This means that you would be able to detect these chemicals sooner and have a heap of time to fix them.

Also, marine fish are not like your freshwater fish. Marine fish are highly territorial and some need VERY large tanks. For example, many tangs/surgeonfish (Naso sp, Acanthurus sp, Ctenochaetus sp and Zebrasoma sp) need very large tanks. However, those of the genus Ctenochaetus and Zebrasoma can be kept in tanks of around 50g to 75g.

The tanks also needs to have adequate surface agitation which promotes gas exchange. This could be provided by a powerhead and surface skimming. Most aquariums are made from glass or acryllic.

The Equipment

Below is a list of equipment which is needed for marine aquariums:

Synthetic salt

Hydrometer - to measure specific gravity/salt level(for more accuracy, use a refractometer)

Live Rock - for biological filtration (avoid bioballs)

Heater - to heat the water

Powerhead - marine species like lots of current. Also provides surface agitation

Protein skimmer - Removes nutrients from the aquarium which promotes nusiance algae. Not needed on tanks less tanks less than 30g

T8 Light 50/50 actinic and white - For Fish Only aquariums. Not enought light intensity for corals.

T5HO Marine Lighting - Can support all kings of invertebrate life

Metal Halide Lighting - Can support all kings of invertebrate life

Mechanical filtration is not needed in marine aquariums.

The Fish

As stated above, marine fish have much greater needs than their freshwater counterparts. SEE HERE (http://www.reefersworld.org/forum/viewforum.php?f=34) for a small marine fish directory.

Some species to steer clear of:

Copperband butterfly (Chelmon rostratus)
Mandarin Fish (Synchiropus splendidus)
Target Mandarin (Synchiropus picturatus)
Scooter Blenny (Synchiropus ocellatus)
Red Scooter Blenny (Synchiropus stellatus)
All Naso sp and Acanthurus sp tangs
Moorish Idols (Zanclus canescens and Zanclus cornutus)
All triggerfish

Good beginners fish:

All clowns
Damsels (can/will get aggressive with age)
Basslets (Gramma sp and Serranus sp
Dartfish (Nemateleotris sp and Ptereleotris sp
Cardinal fish (Apogon sp, Pterapogon kauderni and Sphaeramia nematoptera)
Wrasses (Paracheilinus sp, Cirrhilabrus sp, Pseudocheilinus sp and Wetmorella sp)

Whenver you plan to buy a fish, do a lot of research first to ensure you can provide its needs.

The Corals

Corals can be divided into several groups, each having different requirements. These groups are; polyps, soft, LPS and SPS.


Polyps are colonial corals, and most of them are extremely hardy, making them ideal candidates for the beginner reef aquarist. All Polyps contain symbiotic algae and require moderate to strong lighting. Some Polyps, such as button polyps, will also benefit from meaty food such as brine shrimp or plankton. Polyps include; Protopalythoa sp (HIGHLY TOXIC TO HUMANS), Zoanthus sp, Clavularia sp, Anthelia sp, Acrozoanthus sp and Tubipora sp.

Soft Corals

In reef aquariums, it is important to leave adequate space between different species of hard and soft corals to avoid problems with growth or aggression. Most soft corals grow rapidly in reef aquariums, and are relatively hardy corals for the inexperienced reef aquarist. These corals will thive in low to moderate light with low to moderate flow. Soft corals include; Sarcophyton sp, Cladiella sp, Alcyonium sp, Lobophytum sp, Sinularia sp, Dendronephthya sp, Paralemnalia sp, Lemnalia sp, Neospongodes sp, Studeriotes sp, Rhodactis sp, Actinodiscus sp, Actinodiscus sp and Ricordea sp.

Large Polyped Stony (LPS) Corals

Large Polyp Stony Corals are generally larger calcareous corals with large fleshy polyps. The degree of extension of the tentacles depends upon the amount of light, current, and whether the coral is feeding or not. Most of the LPS hard corals produce long sweeper tentacles which they use to keep any other organisms a safe distance away. LPS corals include; Caulastrea sp, Catalaphyllia sp, Trachyphyllia sp, Tubastraea sp, Fungia sp, Plerogyra sp, Plerogyra sp, Euphyllia sp, Heliofungia sp, Cynarina sp, Physogyra sp, Platygyra sp, Turbinaria sp, Nemanzophyllia sp, Favites sp, Goniopora sp, Galaxea sp, Polyphyllia sp and Scolymia sp.

Small Polyped Stony (SPS) Corals

In general, the Small Polyped Stony corals have small polyps on a calcareouss skeleton. In many instances they are either branching or plated. SPS hard corals are generally considered more difficult to keep than the LPS or soft corals and are not recommended for beginners. SPS corals require very high levels of light (which only Metal Halides or T5HO can provide), very high levels of flow, very high calcium levels, no nutrients in the water, high levels of magnesium and perfect water quality. SPS corals include; Acropora sp, Montipora sp, Turbinaria sp, Seriatopora sp, Stylophora sp, Porites sp, Hydnophora sp, Pocillopora sp, Pavona sp, Pectinia sp and Merulina sp

The Inverts

All invertebrates are interesting creatures. However, they require perfect water quality with adequate levels of calcium, strontium and iodine. They are very sensitive to changes in water quality and should be acclimated over several hours. Invertebrates will not tolerate any trace of ammonia or nitrite and nitrate levels over 5ppm. A specific gravity of 1.024 to 1.026 and a pH of 7.8 to 8.6 are needed for healthy invertebrates.

The Water Quality

pH - 7.8 to 8.6
Ammonia - 0ppm
Nitrite - 0ppm
Nitrate - less than 5ppm
Calcium- 400ppm to 450ppm
Temperature - 24C to 28C

The End

I have written this article with my own knowlege and from other sources. It has be written as a general beginners guide to keeping and maintaining a marine aquarium. Please note, I DO NOT take any responsibility if any of the information in this article leads to the death of your specimens. The fish guide above is a general guide only and individuals specimens may differ.

11-25-2007, 10:03 PM
Very good!!! And nicely concise...that's what you need when you're starting out...otherwise it's info. overload...

11-25-2007, 10:17 PM
Good guide!

11-25-2007, 10:37 PM
WOW...very good guide....thanks for that :thumb:

Lady Hobbs
11-26-2007, 01:04 AM
Good post. I will stickie and close per request.