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Opinion: Saltwater Aquariums Are Easier Than People Think

Joseph Neuenschwander
Clownfish swims around the coral in a saltwater tank.

Many people claim that saltwater fish tanks are expensive, hard to own, expensive and require a massive tank. However, there is a difference between what people say and the truth that saltwater fish tanks are easy, cheap and compatible for small spaces. 

By my junior year of high school, I had become very experienced with the freshwater world of fish keeping. Besides owning a massive tank with massive fish I knew what I was doing. I had my own multiple kinds of puffer fish and my cichlid phase was almost over. I wasn’t bored with the tanks that I had but they had also blossomed to their full potential. I had always wanted a saltwater fish tank but I had heard things like “The plumbing will be impossible to move,” and “It’s just too expensive” which discouraged me from buying one. 

One night I couldn’t sleep, so I watched a Youtube video about building an African river fish tank. I was then thinking about how I had seen enough of those videos, so I researched snakes. It didn’t help me sleep.  Then I remembered my brother had researched saltwater aquariums, and one of the Youtubers he was watching had said that clownfish could be kept in a 10 gallon tank. So I went to that Youtube channel and began researching how to own one. The next day I told my mother I was getting a 10 gallon tank with clownfish in it. I then researched more for months, along with doing whatever I could to make money. I found the tank I needed for my future clownfish. The tank is called the Fluval Evo. It still costs over $300 but I managed to get it on sale at Tiny Aquatics. 

This tank was 13.5 gallons. Its filter is built into the back which is probably the reason why it is cheaper than a Water Box or Red Sea tanks. While there are other third party sellers which will sell kits for saltwater aquariums they are often more expensive and of the same quality as the Fluval Evo. The Fluval Evo is easy to set up and doesn’t take the hours out of people’s day. Bigger tanks are especially bad about this because sump filters go under the tank in the stand. This requires looking at instructions and then finding a pipe that goes with another pipe. This is all to say that this is the best option for a nano reef, which is why I chose to buy that tank. 

The way I found my Fluval Evo was by waiting on a sale on it at my favorite fish shop Tiny Aquatics. Being impatient and owning a fish tank are two things that do not go together.  Although Tiny Aquatics sells only freshwater fish, they do sell Fluval products which includes the Fluval Evo. When the sale arrived I jumped on the opportunity and bought the tank. It is normally sold for around $300, but the sale took the price down and saved me money. 

When it was time to put fish into the tank I was excited. I have always seen that clownfish and other saltwater fish are easily excitable and are usually more colorful. Freshwater fish are dull and kind of bland with the exception of neon tetra, betta fish and maybe goldfish. This does not mean that freshwater fish are bad by any means but they are a little more dull than some of their salt water counterparts. The only way you can get a nice and colorful freshwater fish is by buying GloFish. Which is the equivalent of buying a mutant fish. These fish often carry disease because they are often sold in big brand pet stores like PetSmart and Petco which are known to not treat their fish well. 

Green star polyps flow in the current. (Joseph Neuenschwander)

Live corals complement the fish well. The coral’s colors are bright with mostly greens, oranges and purples, whereas fish have more purples yellows, blues, blacks, whites, oranges and reds. There are a lot of great soft corals that are colorful. Things like Zoanthids and Green Star Polyps are easy to take care of and need a lot less work than people think. When I got my Green Star Polyp I was surprised how fast it grew and I was surprised by how the coral swayed in the current of the tank. It made the tank one of the best things in my house. The coral is starting to pay for itself due to how fast it grows. It is also very satisfying because watching something grow is amazing and is my favorite part of keeping fish. 

When I bought this fish tank, I thought it would be hard and expensive. It was expensive, but it did not eat my whole wallet. I didn’t realize just how deep the world of saltwater aquariums went. Even with a more affordable 10 gallon tank, a person can do a lot. I have multiple corals and different kinds of fish. 

My favorite part of owning the tank is when someone asks “what kind of fish is that?” because it is a fish that is just as pretty as a betta but not all of my friends have seen it before. Everyone should know that there is a different option than the boring betta that is dying at Petsmart. Most bettas sold are really unhealthy unless they are sold at a really reputable source. Most beginner saltwater fish at local stores are healthy and won’t have to be revived from the brink of death. Clownfish can live up to 20 years in a well maintained tank. 

I see the state of aquariums from reposted TikTok, Instagram and Youtube videos and I think that the way fish are kept in non-natural environments does not work. People flush living animals down the toilet, they put gold fish, which require 50 gallons, into small fish bowls and they don’t do water changes properly simply because they haven’t done the research. Saltwater aquariums are more natural because people see those natural corals and would like to mimic nature. Saltwater aquariums require more research to maintain, and therefore will be more successful for the fish and people involved.  The amount of research people put into their saltwater aquariums could lead to people doing the same for their freshwater aquariums. 

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