You have finally decided that you are going to start your own saltwater aquarium. There are a lot of supplies that you will need in order to create an environment that will allow your saltwater fish friends to thrive. The most basic component of these supplies is your water and almost no one has clean saltwater in their backyards so how do we get some for our saltwater aquariums? You get some sea salt mix, freshwater, a trashcan and start mixing it together. Of course, there are a few things to consider before you dive in and start mixing salt and water for your fish so let’s discuss them.
You should always refer to the instructions on your specific salt mix to ensure that you are mixing that particular salt correctly as they can differ between manufacturers.
It depends on the type of reef tank ecosystem you are curating and the type of salt that you are mixing in so it is important to note the specific manufacturer instruction whenever you are using a new salt mix. However, as a general rule, you can use a half cup of salt mix per 1 gallon of clean water or 2 and a half cups of salt mix per 5 gallons in case you want a larger multiple.
In any event, it is always important to double-check your salinity levels with a refractometer to ensure that you are introducing water that is safe for your saltwater fish.
Instant Ocean is a common salt mix choice for a reef tank and is one of the most affordable sea salt mixes on the market right now.
You can also try other popular brands like Tropic Marin Pro which is found to be a fast mixing salt that does well when stored for long periods of time.
ESV Seawater System is also worth looking into. The mix works fast and helps fight against evaporation due to its sectioned-off components.
The following data was compiled by the guys at BulkReefSupply.com in a video discussing the best salt reef mix. These guys provide a lot of great info on reefing and I suggest following them for more info.
Links in the table below go to the Bulk Reef Supply website where you can buy any of these salts. I get no commision from these purchases but I feel it’s important for me to refer you to them due to the value they provided that I’m sharing with you.
If you are like me, you will want to make your saltwater in bulk to save yourself time in the long run. However, to do that you need to have the proper container to store your saltwater. You want to ensure that the container that you are mixing your saltwater in is safe for aquarium use and will not leach any chemicals into the water. You will want to have a container that can be installed with a lid too. You can go with a trash can if you are looking to make large quantities of saltwater or a smaller (aquarium safe plastic) storage bin with a lid.
Storage will depend largely on the climate in which your bin is stored but if the lid is secured in a dark cool place evaporation should be minimal. A lot of evaporation will mess with the overall salinity of your water and become potentially harmful to your fish if you aren’t careful. Always double-check your water before adding it to your saltwater reef tank to make sure that the water is safe for use.
As long as the salt is high quality and your stored your mixture properly, you should be able to store the water for the foreseeable future. Of course, you shouldn’t mass produce water with several tubs so you don’t have to make water ever again. That is just asking for something to go wrong during your future water changes.
It doesn’t matter if you use a hydrometer or refractometer in determining whether your saltwater is saltwater aquarium ready but you should note that the two instruments measure two different things.
A hydrometer will measure the specific gravity of water samples that you place in it. If you are paying attention that isn’t exactly salinity which is what we are supposed to be measuring. Salinity and specific gravity are related as the specific gravity is measuring the density of the water which increases as salinity increases.
A refractometer on the other hand directly measures salinity as we discuss in the section. It is important to note that you are looking for different measurements depending on the tool you are using.
Whether you choose the hydrometer or refractometer, just remember that you measuring different details that add up to the same result. A hydrometer is less expensive and also less accurate. Refractometers are preferred for their precision. The fish in your aquarium don’t care which tool you use to get the results you need for them.
The refractometer is an easy instrument to use to measure the salinity of your water. All you need to do is drop some drops of your saltwater onto the lens of the refractometer and wait a few minutes for the water to stabilize. After about a minute look through the lens to see where you are at and if you are higher or lower than 35 PPT, you need to add more water or add more salt respectively.
There are more expensive versions of this tool that will do most of the work for you and display the information on a digital screen. Options like the Milwaukee Digital Refractometer will help give you accurate readings in no time at all.
Of course, if you live near the ocean, your first thought might be to grab a few buckets, drive to the beach, and get your saltwater straight from the source. However, as much sense, as this plan makes on the surface, there are some issues with using untreated salt water from the ocean.
As easy and convenient it might seem at first to grab your water from the ocean, it can be a challenge based on how far you live from the beach. Also, the water is can be filled with all sorts of potential nasties that will hurt your fish more than help them.
Overall, seawater poses more hazards than it does any real convenience. It might be cool to say to your friends that your water comes straight from the sea but unless your fish all came from the same trip, it might be hard to justify using water that could be carrying some deadly hitchhikers. It honestly is easier to treat your own tap water and create your own saltwater with aquarium salt.
Whether you are starting with your first saltwater aquarium or you are thinking about making your water change routine a little more systematic, we hope that you were able to adopt some useful tips for your own aquarium setup. Remember to take care when deciding what aquarium salt you choosing as a cheaper version might not give you the results you are looking for and might prevent you from storing your water for extended periods of time. You want to be able to have that supply for when you need a quick water change!
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