Week 8. Saltwater Aquarium Build Guides, With Money Saving Tips!

Updated 2024

Two Months into Your Saltwater Aquarium Adventure!

By now, the excitement must be building up, and you might be eager to dive into the world of gear acquisition. To cater to your needs, we’re thrilled to present you with two comprehensive build guides. Whether you’re eyeing a 20-gallon setup or a 45-gallon one, we’ve got you covered. Our aim is to keep things concise and easily digestible, offering direct links to every product mentioned in each section. It’s worth noting that these guides lean toward the mid-range in terms of quality, striking a balance between top-notch gear and unnecessary extravagance.

Now, we understand that some of you are keen on finding ways to be budget-conscious. If that sounds like you, make sure to catch this week’s video until the very end! We’ve got some valuable insights to help you save some cash without compromising on the quality of your setup.

This Week's Video:

Build One: 15 Gallon HelloReef

Alright, let’s talk about the HelloReef AIO kit.  It’s really the first of its kind.  True, there are others out there who have attempted at all in one kits with step by step videos, but I think this is the first one that actually makes it happen.

You will be surprised with just how much gear this kit comes with, including:

  • 15-Gallon Glass Aquarium
  • 12” Programmable LED Light
  • Nano Circulation Pump
  • 153 GPH Return Pump
  • 50W Heater
  • Stick-on Thermometer
  • Dry Live Rock & Sand
  • Underwater Epoxy Putty
  • Seawater Refractometer
  • Live Nitrifying Bacteria
  • Clownfish Food
  • Two Months of Salt
  • Gloves & Glass Scraper
  • Coupon for your first marine animal(s)

But more importantly, I was a part of this team and created 50, yes, 50 educational step-by-step videos that walk you through every step of the process.  

So yes, I do work for HelloReef, but I think it’s the best beginner kit out there.  Here’s a marketing video I made for the channel.

The great thing about this kit is the only thing you really need to buy to get started is water. Click the link below if you want to check this kit out.

The HelloReef saltwater aquarium kit box, slightly at an angle showing primarily the front of the box and part of the side. on the front of the box is a large image of an orange clownfish in an anemone, which takes up 3/4 of the panel covering the upper left portion.

Light and Light Mount

This kit comes with a 12″ AI Blade Grow light that is perfect for anemones.  It is programmable with the mobius app, and there is a specific HelloReef schedule which was predesigned to the the perfect spectrum and output for anemones.  It’s a high quality light that just happens to be the perfect size.  
 
 

Testing the Waters

The HelloReef Kit doesn’t come with a test kit, and while it’s not absolutely essential, you will want a few eventually.  To test for when the nitrogen cycle is done and it’s safe to add fish, I’d use this Saltwater Master test kit below.

But you’re also going to want to test for nitrates and phosphates, and while they are expensive, I’d highly recommend these two:

front view of api saltwater test kit in original packaging. it's a semi-clear plastic box with a blue plastic lid. A label sticker covers the front, it's blue and yellow, and says API Saltwater Master Test Kit on it

Essential Maintenance Tools

Now, let’s delve into the realm of essential maintenance gear – not the flashiest, but unquestionably vital. These tools become your dependable companions for weekly upkeep. Algae buildup on the glass is part of the routine, and a magnetic scraper brings ease to the task, while its handheld counterpart conquers more stubborn spots. Though not obligatory, the magnetic scraper’s budget-friendly cost delivers convenience that grows on you over time. When it comes to water changes and algae cleanup, a siphon and trusty buckets become your go-to arsenal. And don’t underestimate the fish net’s versatility – it’s your solution for tasks ranging from capturing fish to tidying up remnants of meals.

And before wrapping up, keep in mind that a smart surge protector is a smart investment. It ensures the safeguarding of your equipment whenever you plug it in.

Have more queries? Tune into the video above and explore earlier blog posts for insights!

While you don’t absolutely need an algae scraper since the HelloReef kit comes with a handheld version, when you are ready to upgrade, pick up the Flipper Nano below.  It’s the best!

Build Two: 40 Gallon Setup

This larger build will mirror the smaller build, with most of the gear just being upscaled versions of the same thing. If you already read the section above for the 20 gallon build, but wanted something bigger, you can just go ahead and use the links in this build! The same money saving tips apply to this build, just upscaled as well.

Revamped Aquarium and Sturdy Stand

The spotlight here is on the aquarium, marking the primary significant change from the previous build! In this iteration, we’re opting for the Innovative Marine Nuvo Fusion Pro 40 Gallon All-in-One aquarium.

With a 40-gallon capacity, this aquarium doesn’t quite classify as “big” in the eyes of seasoned hobbyists. Yet, compared to the previous build, it’s more than twice the size. This expansion unlocks a plethora of possibilities, whether you’re considering corals, fish, creative aquascaping, or other ventures. However, it’s worth noting that its size warrants a dedicated aquarium stand to provide adequate support for the weight. The good news is that this aquarium comes with a specially designed stand for this purpose.

Light and Light Mount

There are so many light options here, but to keep the price low and get the most bang for your buck, I would go with the 30″ Aqua Illumination Blade Grow Light. It comes with mounts to put the light right on the tank edges, and can be controlled with the Mobius app, which makes setting things like sunrise and sunset a breeze.
closeup product shot of a 12" strip style led light with several blue diodes

Rock and Sand

You probably already know that reef rock and sand is more than just for looks, it actually holds a majority of the bacteria that filters your water! there are of course several good options, but we do like the CaribSea Life Rock, as it comes in a nice natural looking purple color and some cool shapes.

As for sand, our favorite is CaribSea.  Either Fiji Pink, or Special Grade.  We linked Fiji pink below, but a quick search for Special Grade will be easy enough.  A 20 lb bag will be sufficient for a 1/2″ to 1″ sandbed, and if you want something deeper, then just buy two 20 pound bags.  Be sure to get either the Ocean Direct or Arag-Alive line, as they come packaged wet and with good bacteria, which will help with the tank cycle.

clear bag of aquarium sand with CaribSea label and close up of grain size.

Cracking the Mystery of the RO/DI Filter

The RO/DI Filter might appear a tad daunting, especially for those new to the saltwater aquarium hobby. Trust me, I’ve been there – I spent a good few months contemplating whether diving into setting one up was worth it. But here’s the scoop: it’s an essential tool for producing saltwater, and once you have it up and running, the intimidation factor significantly diminishes. Plus, the long-term financial benefits are substantial. It’s an investment that pays off!

Crafting Your Salt Mix

The salt mix isn’t just about the salt itself – it’s a concoction that contains all the vital major and minor elements essential for the well-being of your fish and corals! Amidst the array of available brands, our choice aims to provide a balance that supports coral growth without necessitating additional dosing.

If budget-consciousness is on your mind, you might consider a more economical salt or even purchasing saltwater from your local fish store. But keep in mind, the long-term cost-effectiveness may not be as favorable. And please, make sure not to overlook acquiring a Refractometer! They’re pretty standard, so grab one alongside your salt purchase – it’s an absolute must!

Coral Pro Saltwater Aquarium Salt

Testing the Waters

In this journey, testing your saltwater is your compass for gauging the well-being of your aquarium. While a plethora of test kits are available, we recommend starting with a foundational kit that monitors your pH and nitrates, ensuring they remain within safe limits.

front view of api saltwater test kit in original packaging. it's a semi-clear plastic box with a blue plastic lid. A label sticker covers the front, it's blue and yellow, and says API Saltwater Master Test Kit on it

Essential Maintenance Tools

Now, let’s delve into the realm of essential maintenance gear – not the flashiest, but unquestionably vital. These tools become your dependable companions for weekly upkeep. Algae buildup on the glass is part of the routine, and a magnetic scraper brings ease to the task, while its handheld counterpart conquers more stubborn spots. Though not obligatory, the magnetic scraper’s budget-friendly cost delivers convenience that grows on you over time. When it comes to water changes and algae cleanup, a siphon and trusty buckets become your go-to arsenal. And don’t underestimate the fish net’s versatility – it’s your solution for tasks ranging from capturing fish to tidying up remnants of meals.

And before wrapping up, keep in mind that a smart surge protector is a smart investment. It ensures the safeguarding of your equipment whenever you plug it in.

Have more queries? Tune into the video above and explore earlier blog posts for insights!

Recent Beginner Blogs

a youtube like thumb ail with several brightly colored mandarin fish in a bowl in the background, the number 23 and word fish with several yellow arrows pointing at it in the foreground. And a middle aged white male wearing a grey shirt in the foreground as well

How Many Fish Can You Put In A Saltwater Aquarium?

Wondering how many fish you can put in a saltwater aquarium? Our comprehensive guide breaks down the key factors to consider—fish characteristics, tank habitat, and filtration efficiency. Discover expert recommendations for five different tank sizes, from a 15-gallon setup to a 150-gallon behemoth.

black background with a rainbox chalk burst. A 20 gallon saltwater aquarium in the foreground filled with colorful fish and corals with 4 rainbow arrows pointed at it and the words "not this one" over top of it.

Are Saltwater Aquariums Good For Beginners?

Are saltwater aquariums good for beginners? Absolutely! Start with a manageable 40-gallon tank to learn the basics and enjoy educational benefits and soothing water sounds. Avoid common beginner mistakes, and you’ll find this hobby rewarding and enjoyable.

saltwater aquarium tank on cabinet with clownfish and anemones

Ultimate 4-Month Saltwater Aquarium Guide: Stunning Results

Setting up your first saltwater aquarium can be an exciting yet daunting task. In this beginner’s guide, we explore a detailed tour of my 15-gallon Hello Reef tank, covering essential tips, equipment recommendations, and maintenance strategies to ensure your saltwater aquarium thrives.

Read This Next