Resource Center Menu

Selecting the Right Saltwater Aquarium Supplies

Many pet parents spend a considerable amount of time selecting the perfect fish to live in their saltwater aquarium, assuring that all of the aquatic life in the tank will be compatible. But it is also important to carefully research and select the right equipment for your saltwater tank to ensure the well-being of your new aquatic life.


You’ll need a heater to keep your tank at a consistent 72 to 82 degrees. Select a heater that is UL approved. Submersible heaters tend to be one of the best options; however they also make heaters that hang on the rim of the tank. Make sure the heater you choose has the correct capacity for your aquarium size: the general rule is 3-5 watts per gallon.


Filtration is the heart of your aquarium. It is comprised of three main functions: biological, mechanical, and chemical. These functions help provide a clean, oxygenated environment for your aquatic life. There are a variety of filtration systems suited to meet the various aquarium sizes and needs of the aquatic life. While some of these options may seem pricey, this is one of the most important investment decisions for your aquarium.


Proper lighting in your saltwater tank allows you to easily view your fish, as well as provide energy for live plants and corals. While incandescent lights used to be popular choice in lighting, most experts now recommend fluorescent, metal halide or LED lighting systems. One benefit of fluorescent lights is that you can select from an array of different spectrums or combine multiple spectrums in one fixture. Metal halide light systems, which produce intense light, are a good choice for tanks deeper than two feet. This type of lighting is also popular due to its ability to most closely replicate natural sunlight. LED lights also are popular because they are very energy efficient and tend to last a long time. You also can operate them from smart phones as well as create climatic and spectral features such as thunderstorms.

Aquarium Substrate

One of the ways to create a more natural looking environment is by adding a substrate. Popular choices include live sand and aragonite. A benefit of live sand is that it contains natural elements found on a reef, including nutrition sources and helpful bacteria.

Marine salt

You must use specially formulated salt for your tank. Do NOT use the salt found in your pantry! One option is commercial marine salt, which is a synthetic form of salt formulated in a laboratory. For reef tanks, you can use a product such as Reef Crystals, a synthetic salt containing higher levels of calcium and trace elements, which benefit coral reef marine life.

Another option is to use packaged ocean water. Packaged ocean water can be purchased in 10 gallon increments and eliminates the need to mix synthetic sea salt, saving time during the water changing process.


To measure the density or salinity of the water, you will need a tool such as a hydrometer. You can choose from either a floating hydrometer or a swing needle hydrometer. Floating hydrometers are calibrated at a temperature of 75ºF making it necessary to manually calculate the salinity based on temperature changes from 75ºF. Swing needle hydrometers, on the other hand, provide a specific gravity reading independent of the temperature of the water.