Saltwater (sea) aquarium I: THE CHOICE

The reason, which prompted me to try to systematize here, some of the mandatory rules in marine aquaristics is my more and more frequent encounter with people, became passionate about this hobby , but they also made my mistake some time ago,  yes “pushed” a lot of money in completely useless equipment. For an aquarium my size, this mistake cost me thousands of BGN, in practice, thrown in the trash can. Unfortunately, when I started in 2009, the people with some experience in this hobby in Bulgaria , were units, and they also learned the principle “sample – mistake”. My main information was foreign forums and mostly American ones. There was the problem,that many of the things, that I read about ,h e should be present in the aquarium or they were very difficult to find in Bulgaria or were not found at all, or, with a single import, they were terribly expensive. Compromise options had to be sought, to adjust things with improvised means and in the end it turned out, that the equipment thus adapted was the cause of my losing at first a great part of the corals which had been delivered with so much trouble, fish and and invertebrates.

The marine aquarium are not alone 4-5 tightly glued glasses, full of “salted” water, into which you will pour store-bought patterns, exotic fish, traveled thousands of kilometers, to reach us. It's a system, in which the residents feel good , to delight you for a long time with their vitality and continuous dynamism, it needs to be launched from the very beginning with every detail in mind. Every thing in the marine aquarium – be it”living” stones,  sand, equipment or lighting, there is a certain, vital role in this, to create a cozy and secure home for its inhabitants. And every mistake, admitted at the beginning, causing your fish to die one after the other, day after day, until it dissuades you from the undertaking, because you feel powerless to change events .

My friendly advice to any budding marine aquarist is , before you buy anything, which will subsequently turn out to be, that for one reason or another does not meet your needs and does not meet your vision for the marine aquarium, which you imagined is , first get a clear idea of ​​what kind of aquarium you want and what you would like it to look like. What fish swim in it, what invertebrates to coexist with and do you want to enjoy a real reef - with live colorful corals or will you emphasize caves, from which mythical sea predators lurk. This is the foundation , on which the successful maritime system is built.

You will find enough pictures on the internet, that will help you build your own vision, in the aquarist forums there is more and more information about this, which you settled on, but the most important thing remains, to talk to a person, which from personal experience, through his own similar aquarium he is familiar with the details and the steps, which you need to follow to enjoy a lively and colorful marine world. Convince yourself, that the specialist, that you will be going along with in this hobby has an actual working marine system and it looks like this, what you imagine yours to look like. And these people in Bulgaria are becoming more and more and they will not refuse you advice or comment.

Where to start….

The type of aquarium– i.e. what will be the main inhabitants of our aquarium.

The easiest, the cheapest in terms of equipment and technique and the most trouble-free for maintenance is the purely fish aquarium – stones, artificial corals and fish

The other option, also not so pretentious in terms of equipment requirements , is a reef aquarium with soft corals, fungi and polyps

And the most demanding, complex, requiring excellent technique, a lot of experience, attention , cares, serious monitoring of water indicators, supplements , but at the same time the most beautiful system, is the coral reef- a tangle of hard corals in pastel colors, between which exotic swimmers dart .

I,if the latter system is also suitable for the first two types, then the first two are inapplicable to the coral reef, without serial improvements and investment, especially in the lighting and filtration part.

The size…in marine aquaristics it really matters a lot. From this, how big aquarium you will choose, you define the vision of your new hobby with the very first step. Back to familiar practice, ” to try something small and,if it happens, we'll go bigger”,here things turn to 180 degrees. It is the small aquarium that can turn you down, before you've even started, Why he, along with the clean coral reef, are conducted “aerobatics” in marine aquaristics. A large system is stable, has the ability to support itself and take over “hits” – fed, accidental death of a resident, etc. , without serious consequences. While nano aquariums ( generally up to approx 200 l) require strict compliance with the rules, no compromises and no experiments, strict control over the number and type of residents, as well as the impossibility of growing most types of corals and anemones

It is a separate fact, that once you see the colorful exoticism in your home, inevitably you are overcome by the desire for something greater, in which to put this, and this ,and the other, which has not been possible until now and to make the picture even richer and more alive. And new costs inevitably follow, because the technique for the small aquarium is one, some things cannot be adapted and transferred into the larger system, and from there the costs for the new equipment also jump.


Most often, an aquarium is chosen according to the remaining free space, after the furniture - to hide a niche,to bind a certain detail. And this is normal for Bulgaria. I am not referring to other countries,in which the hobby is developed to such an extent , that according to the premeditated place for this one “thing”-general view, access, placing the reef inside and observing the inhabitants, sun reflections in the water, etc., the rest of the furniture is arranged.

There are minimum requirements for the width of a system,which are tailored both to the comfort of the fish, which you will settle inside, so with your personal. More than once I have received inquiries about 20-30 see aquariums for fish and corals,because the place,which is left free, is of similar width. I ,at the risk of losing the client in question, I have refused to make such a torture vessel, as for its inhabitants, as well as for their owner.

Many of the masters, who glue glasses, of course they say “no problem, we do everything, what you want”. However, the question is to what extent this desire is adequate and truly thought out.

90% from sea creatures,that are sold in the shops are wild-caught in the window. Only a few species of fish, a few shrimps and crayfish can be artificially bred. Their most common habitats are the waters of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Red Sea. As much as “territorial” to lead some of them, they still need space, in which to swim. At a similar width, after placing the required stones, this space becomes even more limited.

The other problem, which also occurs in most cases, is ignored, because it is purely aesthetic, but at some point it becomes quite irritating, is the cleaning of the windows. However rarely it is done- more often with a magnetic wiper and once a 7-10 days with a special knife, at a similar width , after settling the aquarium, when the corals start to grow too, this activity becomes almost “Mission Impossible”. In times wider aquariums, after a month or so from launch, when the development starts,  quite often some places remain unavailable, where algae and coralline / a type of red coral accumulate,which covers the stones and glasses,when the latter are not scraped/. Unfortunately, when we detect this problem, it's too late for changes.

And so, the minimum width for a decent looking system / in this case,I am not referring to the nano-aquariums/ is within the 50 cm.

The height is also limited according to the type and power of the light fixture, due to the fact, that most corals need a sufficient amount of light to photosynthesize and its penetrating ability in salt water is reduced. Most often the height varies between 40-45 and 60-70 cm, while the length is entirely according to your desire and the prepared place.

For the right combination of these three components, especially with large systems, the professionalism of the person is very important, who will build it /if you have not chosen a ready-made set/, the quality of the materials,with which to work, mainly on silicone, connecting the individual panes, whose durability you will count on for years to come, so that you don't have to make unexpected repairs. And last but not least, good knowledge of physical laws by man, took up this work , above all on this, what pressure does the water exert on the walls of the vessel, so as to offer you the right glass thickness and workmanship, enough to hold hundreds, thousands, and for some aquariums and tens of thousands of liters of water.

Display and sump

Every marine system consists of two components – visible part (“the face” of the system) – display and “the treatment plant”-sump, in which a large part of the necessary equipment is positioned. The sump has the option to be built into the back of the display (in most nanosystems), sideways, and most often and most conveniently, in terms of follow-up and follow-up, especially on large systems, is a second aquarium, with slightly smaller dimensions, below the first, located in a cabinet (in this case we will not consider the option, when the entire filtration system is housed in a separate wet room, specially built and designed for this purpose, very common in the west of our state)

If you are ordering a system, is very important, these two components to be done correctly and with thought. Quite often, a misplaced overflow in the display leads to this,that this part of the aquarium starts to collect dirt and bubbles,which cannot be cleared, loss of fish there, which due to the narrow space cannot be taken out and die after a while.

For the efficient functioning of the equipment in the sump, it is necessary to observe some basic rules when building the individual compartments / at least 3-4 a number of/, and their size must also be consistent with the size of the equipment suitable for this capacity.

The volume and type of sump must ensure, that in the event of unforeseen breakdowns in the power supply or in the circulation pump, (while you are not at home)  you won't be wading into your salt water right at the entrance.

Frame and cabinet

When building a marine system with a capacity of over 200 liters, metal or other, a strong enough frame is a must “scaffolding”, on which the display is placed, to ensure stability and security. The closet, which dresses this frame can be made of different materials, but it is good that they should be adapted to the presence of water and moisture (from the inside).