A saltwater aquarium is an aquarium wherein sea plants, invertebrates and animals are kept.
These aquaria are contained environments mimicking various undersea habitats seen in nature. Ornamental fish hobbyists have categorized saltwater aquariums into, fish only (FO), fish only with live rock (FOWLR), and reef aquarium. The saltwater tanks can also be categorized into tropical and temperate (cold water) environments.
Saltwater aquarium presents a fundamentally different environment. The pets having adapted to the constituent salts and salinity, have a slightly altered physiology than their freshwater counterparts.
They are highly vulnerable to changes in their environment. They require a tightly regulated optimum range of salinity, dissolved oxygen, alkalinity, temperature, lighting and pH for their healthy survival.
Fish-only (FO) saltwater aquarium
This saltwater environment is to showcase colorful, hardy sea animals such as shrimps, damselfish, yellow tangs and angelfish. FO set up is a right choice for a beginner. Only a few coral skeletons and replicas are used to add to aesthetic beauty. The tank must be well equipped to monitor various environmental parameters.
Fish-only-with-live-rock (FOWLR) aquariums
FOWLR tanks, apart from vertebrates also include coral rocks. Pieces of live rock are arranged to give natural hiding places for the vertebrates. Live rocks, naturally colonized by a variety of micro life, shelter invertebrates, sponges, and beneficial bacteria.
Though teeming with beneficial life, the live rock add new dimensions to environmental parameters such as adequate lighting, growth of desirable coralline algae and adequate calcium supply for avoiding their disintegration.
The live rocks must be properly acclimatized and “cured” before introducing vertebrates. Medications used for treating diseases can be devastating to the life in the live rock.
Reef tanks are specialized for displaying live corals and the associated invertebrate life. Different coral species have differing environmental requirements. Some species like Mushroom Coral require calm waters whereas Acropora and Montipora species require turbulent conditions and water flow.
Many coral species have symbiotic algae to provide them with food. Such corals require optimal lighting for food production and their survival. The live coral and the associated invertebrates and micro-life are very sensitive to environmental conditions. Close monitoring of the water parameters is necessary to maintain pristine conditions.
Tropical saltwater animals, require a different environmental parameters from those living in temperate regions. All the above FO, FOWLR and reef types can set up for a tropical environment. Usually the temperature is maintained between 24 to 28 °C (75 to 82 °F).
Temperate saltwater animals require temperatures ranging around 10 to 24 °C (50 to 75 °F). Ornate cowfish, blennies and sea anemones, crustaceans, echinoderms, molluscs and feather duster worms are some of the species suitable for such environment.
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Current topic: Saltwater fish aquarium.