How Hard Is it To Maintain A Saltwater Fish Tank?

When you gaze at a thriving saltwater fish tank ecosystem, do you consider how hard it would be to have your own? Other people’s remarks may deter you from making the move because they claim it’s too difficult to maintain a saltwater ecosystem. Well, exactly how hard is it to maintain a saltwater fish tank?

Maintaining a saltwater fish tank can be easy when you choose fish and coral with high survivability. Plus, automatic equipment like protein skimmers, auto-feeders, and dosing pumps, make saltwater tanks easier to maintain. Nevertheless, you do need commitment and the willingness to do research. 

What you don’t do when it comes to maintaining saltwater fish tanks is often more critical. So let’s delve into the facts, responsibilities, and what you can expect regarding the maintenance of a saltwater fish tank. 

So How Hard Is it To Maintain A Saltwater Fish Tank? Can You Manage It?

The truth is keeping a saltwater fish tank is only as hard as you decide it should be. This hobby was hard in its infancy because enthusiasts often had to learn why their coral turned brown and why their butterflyfish were picky eaters on their own.

The volume of failures exceeded the successes, and as a result, the hobby gained a poor reputation. Thankfully enthusiasts didn’t give up and made significant strides in research that solved most of the issues plaguing earlier hobbyists.

The difficulty of keeping a saltwater fish tank relies on research, Marine life, Equipment, and Commitment

When you balance these essential factors, you and your family will adore having your own beautiful saltwater fish tank!

How Hard Is it To Maintain A Saltwater Fish Tank

A Beautiful Saltwater Fish Tank Relies On Research

Previously, saltwater fish tank keepers accrued much of their knowledge through their failures, and not using that research now would be a shame! Everything we know today is based on it, and if you want to own a successful saltwater fish tank, you have to do your research too. 

If you notice your coral, or fish, are dying, you should take the initiative and find the cause. Brushing it off as delicate coral or a fish that lived all its days is treading on dangerous waters!

Dying coral may indicate something is off with your water or there’s something harmful within its surrounding environment. When you research and find the solution, you benefit by being able to prevent the problem in the future while your saltwater fish tank stays healthy and beautiful.  

Consider The Living Organisms In Your Saltwater Fish Tank

Now that we understand the importance of research, it’s time to put it into action! Do some research about the fish and coral you want in your saltwater fish tank. It’s wise to get reputable fish and coral for easy care and maintenance. 


Choosing fish that practically care for themselves at the start will make your life much easier. Consider fish that most people find easy to keep alive and which will fit comfortably as an adult size in your saltwater tank. 

For instance, if you want an exotic fish like Anthias for your Nano tank, you should know that caring for them in a tank that is too small will set you up for an uphill battle. You’ll also need to put in the research to know Anthias feed three times a day. 

It requires a larger commitment from you to feed your fish three times a day, plus you’ll need to clean your saltwater tank more frequently because it will produce water more quickly. 

You’ll have the most success with fish that don’t have an aggressive nature, aren’t picky eaters, and aren’t susceptible to diseases. Clownfish are an example that ticks all the above boxes. 

While most enthusiasts consider clownfish aggressive, the truth is they aren’t so much aggressive as they are territorial. When you put a clownfish in a saltwater fish tank that is too small, there’s a higher chance it will act on its territorial tendencies. It’s especially true when you introduce larger fish.  

It’s also true that some species lean more towards aggression, like the clown triggerfish. Opt for a regular clownfish if you want to have an easier time keeping a saltwater fish tank. Can you see now why it’s essential to do your research?

The truth is, all fish have the capacity for violent behavior, so you should pick fish compatible with each other. 

You may also find an aquarium stock calculator, like AqAdvisor, helpful. You can read our guide here.


Similar to how you select fish, some corals practically take care of themselves. In contrast, others require special attention because they’re not meant for captivity. 

When you opt for corals with a history of success in saltwater fish tanks, you’ll make your time caring for them much more enjoyable! SPS corals (Small Polyp Stony) branch out and create swirls that imitate the aesthetic of a natural coral reef. 

While more appealing, you must watch them more carefully because they grow more quickly. They’re not necessarily a bad pick for beginners but prepare yourself for more work.  

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There’s no one-setup-fits-all when it comes to saltwater fish tank equipment. Enthusiasts have different levels of success by using other methods. However, some equipment is necessary to establish order, namely your fish tank. 

Getting the largest saltwater fish tank available is almost always the best option. It offers the other components – not to mention your fish – more stability. 

A lot of equipment can automate the care process for your saltwater fish tank and make it much easier to maintain. For instance:

  • Protein skimmers remove food and waste from water
  • Auto top-ups help with water evaporation.
  • Dosing pumps stabilize the water. Here’s a buyer’s guide if you want to know more
  • Reef monitors can warn you when equipment fails
  • Auto-feeders work well if you travel a lot


It’s common for our saltwater fish tanks to suffer because we lack enthusiasm after a long day. If you want a stunning saltwater ecosystem that you can show off to your guests, having a stable routine and regular checkups is good practice. 

Being committed to your saltwater fish tank requires that you: 

  • Do research when you don’t understand something
  • Clean your glass when it’s dirty 
  • Test and change the water in your fish tank weekly
  • Take the initiative to find solutions to tiny problems so they don’t become tomorrow’s irreparable problems
  • Have test kits for your saltwater fish tank, or you won’t know the condition of your water

The above points are reasons why two people may start this hobby at the same time, but have vastly different experiences. 

The following types of maintenance will require your commitment for your saltwater tank to thrive.

What Daily Maintenance Does Your Saltwater Fish Tank Need?

You can expect to do a few daily checks to ensure your saltwater ecosystem remains healthy!

  • Feeding – Ensure you know how often to feed your fish, and remember to do it! Prepare them in small containers if you want to make the process easier. 
  • Visual inspection – Inspect the inside of your saltwater fish tank for signs of problems so you can catch them early. It may involve abnormal fish behavior or dying coral.  
  • Equipment checks – Ensure your equipment is working correctly. The last thing you want is the heater switch getting stuck and boiling your fish and coral. 

What Weekly Maintenance Does Your Saltwater Fish Tank Need?

Here are a few chores you’ll need to do weekly to maintain your saltwater fish tank. The weekly list is the longest and will take up roughly 90 minutes of your time. 

  • Food Preparation – If your fish require special foods, you’ll need to prepare them on the weekend for the week ahead. 
  • Check alkalinity – If your alkaline levels are incorrect, your fish and coral will suffer. You can opt for an automatic monitor and check it on an app or do a manual test which takes about a minute.  
  • Clean your fish tank glass – Fish love to splash, so you’ll need to take a minute and wipe down the side of your saltwater fish tank once a week. An algae magnet cleaner is another great option for cleaning the inside of your tank. 
  • Replace evaporated water – You’ll need to replace the evaporated water in your saltwater fish tank to stabilize everything inside. 
  • Test phosphate and nitrate levels – When your phosphate levels are correct, your corals will thrive. 

What Monthly Maintenance Will Your Saltwater Fish Tank Need?

Your monthly tasks for maintaining your saltwater fish tank are few, requiring only one or two things.

  • Empty your protein skimmer – Your skimmer removes food waste from the water. You should empty it at least once a month. 
  • Change your filter roller – A filter roller is a mechanical filter that removes unwanted particles and debris from your saltwater fish tank. You change it once every six weeks.
  • Closer to the 3-month mark, you’ll calibrate your dosing pumps and alkalinity monitor

Closing Thoughts

Maintaining a saltwater fish tank can be a bit challenging, but there are many resources available to help you manage your fish, coral, and tank effectively. By selecting low-maintenance fish, setting up your aquarium with the appropriate equipment, and sticking to a regular maintenance schedule, you can keep a saltwater fish tank without feeling overwhelmed.

New to fish keeping? Read our Beginner’s Guide To Starting A Family Fish Tank.

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