How to Maintain a Salt Water Tank for Home Purposes

Properly maintaining a salt water tank ensures that your fish will live in ideal conditions and your tank will keep a pristine appearance. Saltwater tanks require an appropriate salinity and appropriate levels of nitrate, nitrite and ammonia for fish to stay healthy. You must also ensure that your tank’s filter cartridge is clean and that the temperature does not change from one day to the next. To keep your salt water tank in top shape, you’ll need to perform daily and weekly maintenance.

Things You'll Need

  • Algae eaters
  • Refractometer
  • Thermometer
  • Siphon
  • Nitrate, nitrite and ammonia test kit


    • 1

      Place algae eaters into the tank. All tanks have algae, and it’s impossible -- and unhealthy -- to remove all algae, but you must prevent it from taking over your tank. Algae eaters keep the algae growth in check.

    • 2

      Test the salinity of your water each day with a refractometer. Ensure that the salinity remains consistent each day. If the salinity changes, add a salt solution to increase the salinity or remove water and add new dechlorinated water without mixing in the salt solution to reduce salinity.

    • 3

      Check the temperature each day to ensure the water is not too cold or too hot. This is especially important if you depend on a heater to keep your tank warm, because heaters will stop working after time. Use an actual thermometer to check the temperature. Avoid the adhesive temperature gauges, as they’re not accurate.

    • 4

      Inspect your filter once per week for cleaning. When cleaning the filter cartridge, dip the cartridge in water from your tank and place it back into the filter. Don’t dip it directly into your tank, but rather in a bucket with water from the tank. If the cartridge appears worn and looks to be falling apart, replace it with a new cartridge.

    • 5

      Test the nitrate, ammonia and nitrite levels each week. You may use either testing strips or a chemical solution. The solution is more accurate and more expensive.

    • 6

      Change 10 to 15 percent of the water biweekly. The smaller your tank, the more important changing the water becomes. To change the water, power off your filter and siphon out 10 to 15 percent of the water. After cleaning dried salt from the inside glass, replace the water by mixing in a salt solution specifically made for salt water aquariums with dechlorinated water. Use a refractometer to ensure that the salinity of the water is the same as your tank’s salinity.

    • 7

      Perform weekly to biweekly cleaning of the tank. Cleaning involves removing dirt and dried salt from the tank in addition to cleaning smears and streaks.

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