Why should you own a tank?


71% of the earths surface is covered in ocean water.

99% of the planet's living space is in the ocean.

University studies have confirmed that by looking at fish swim you can improve blood pressure and your hearth rate.

A comparison between the stress levels of a person that owns a tank and a person that doesn't:

70% Increase in stress levels for those who don't own a tank.

11% Decrease for those who own a tank.

Watching fish is thought to stimulate serotonin neurotransmitters in the brain leading to increasing production of endorphins.

Have you heard of dolphins helping children with emotional disorders? Studies have shown that watching fish in an aquarium calmed children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD.

What goes on in a healthy tank?


Healthy reef aquariums usually have these few things in common:

- Water without ammonia, phosphates and nitrate.

- No direct sun light exposure.

- Sand and rocks so fish feel in your tank like at their real home - The Ocean.

- Cleaning crew: crabs, snails and other bottom feeders

All that makes a difference between just owning a tank and having a lively, healthy and beautiful aquarium.

Water parameters



Ideal range: 72-78F freshwater, 76-82F saltwater, actual number is unimportant as long as number is kept constant.

Maintaining a constant temperature is important as organisms will go through less stress if they do not have to keep acclimating to a changing external environment. Some organisms are more resilient than others to temperature changes, but regardless, a stable temperature is best. If temperature exceeds recommended range, fish begin to respire quicker and increase their metabolism. Oxygen also becomes less soluble at higher temperatures. If temperature is too low, metabolic rate decreases and organisms become lethargic. A properly sized heater should be adequate for maintaining constant temperature in most aquariums.



Ideal range: 72-78F freshwater, 76-82F saltwater, actual number is unimportant as long as number is kept constant.

The pH of water is 7, and is a measure of the acidity or basicity of the aquarium’s water. Like temperature, keeping the pH of the water stable is important to avoid stressing your fish and other organisms. As the pH scale is logarithmic, a one pH drop from 7 to 6 is actually a ten-fold effect on your water’s acidity, so any changes to pH must be done slowly. Aside from being an important parameter to keep stable, pH also dictates which form of ammonia is present in the water, explained further below.


Ammonia / Ammonium

Ideal range: 0 ppm

After the initial cycle, ammonia should be undetectable as the established bacteria is consuming any ammonia produced by waste or uneaten food. Other sources of ammonia include newly added live rock, live plants, or a decomposing organism. As ammonia levels in the water column rise, fish experience reduced disease resistance and increased stress. In tanks with low pH, most ammonia in the water is in its less harmful ammonium form, and is why some tanks have high ammonia readings from test kits, but fish appear healthy. In tanks with high pH like reef tanks, ammonia sources are found in the harmful ammonia gas form, which is what is lethal to fish and other inhabitants. Reducing ammonia involves regular water changes and establishment of a proper biological filter.



Ideal range: 0 ppm

The middle step between ammonia and nitrate in the nitrogen cycle, nitrite should be kept at undetectable levels, similar to ammonia. Elevated levels of nitrite can cause brown blood disease in fish and prevents them from circulating oxygen. Fish suffering from nitrite poisoning are lethargic and display brown rather than red gills. Overstocking a tank quickly or overfeeding can cause a sudden spike in ammonia followed by nitrite reduction, which will produce these lethal effects. A large water change as well as using chlorine salts can help reduce nitrites.


Ideal range: 0-20 ppm

Once nitrite is reduced, it forms nitrates. At this point, the cycle is complete, and the organic compounds won’t break down any further. Therefore, a buildup of nitrates is commonly detected in many aquariums. While non-toxic at detectable levels, elevated levels of nitrate can still cause stress to fish while more sensitive organisms such as certain coral species are intolerable of high nitrate concentrations. Nitrates also feed unsightly algae that grows on glass and decor. Keeping nitrates at an acceptable level involves a balance between input (food, waste) and output (filtration, water changes). Live plants and macroalgae also consume nitrates and can be used as a way to export excess nitrates. In reef tanks, certain coral species are better suited than others to a high nitrate environment, but it is best to keep nitrates between 2 and 10 ppm.



Ideal range: 0-0.1 ppm

Similar to nitrate, phosphates are introduced via food waste or decaying matter and fuel algae growth. Reducing phosphates through water changes and filter maintenance is key to keeping this parameter in check.



Ideal range: 1.000 sg freshwater, 1.023-1.028 sg saltwater

Specific gravity is a measure of how dense the water is and with saltwater having a high amount of dissolved solids relative to freshwater, saltwater has a higher specific gravity. In freshwater systems, as long as the water being used is pure fresh water, salinity should not be a parameter to worry about. In saltwater tanks, maintaining a constant SG within the acceptable range, which is that of natural sea water, is key for organism health similar to pH and temperature. Many marine organisms like shrimp and snails regulate the water within their bodies with the water surrounding them, so large changes to salinity can cause osmotic shock. Salinity is best checked with a refractometer. Ensuring that the replacement saltwater used during a water change matches the tank’s current level will keep salinity constant as well as topping off any evaporated water wish fresh water.



Ideal range: 7-11 dKh, saltwater tanks only

Measurement of the water’s buffering capacity. Stony coral use up alkalinity to build their skeletons, so alkalinity must be replaced as it is used up. Keeping alkalinity levels constant is important for maintaining reef health as many corals are intolerable of large swings in alkalinity. Where your alkalinity is at does not matter nearly as much as keeping it stable.



Ideal range: 380-460 ppm, saltwater tanks only

Calcium is one of the materials used by stony corals to build their skeletons, the other being carbonate, which alkalinity is a measure of. It is also used by snails and other organisms including coralline algae, and must be replenished as it is used up. This applies to alkalinity as well. Water changes, reactors, and two-part dosing are all ways of keeping calcium and alkalinity levels constant and within a stable range. However, straying outside of these ranges is okay as long as it is maintained at those levels.



Ideal range: 1200-1400 ppm, saltwater tanks only

One of the most abundant ions found in seawater, magnesium plays an important role in maintaining proper calcium and alkalinity levels. Left alone, calcium and carbonate ions will naturally form calcium carbonate deposits, which precipitates out of the water, making those ions unobtainable by organisms that need it to build their shells or skeletons. Magnesium, if present in proper concentrations, will bind to calcium and carbonate ions, preventing them from binding to each other, allowing said ions to be taken up by organisms. Therefore, keeping alkalinity and calcium levels constant and stable also requires keeping magnesium constant and stable.