Your Ideal Saltwater Aquarium

Black-back 160 gallon acrylic saltwater aquarium

By Tom Lang

Too many people call or email us when it’s too late – after they have already purchased an aquarium. Then we have to gently break the news that while they may have gotten a really good deal on a tank, stand, light and filter combination, off-the-shelf products are usually simply not ideal for a successful saltwater aquarium experience.

Of course, it’s possible to keep saltwater fish for a short time with less than optimal equipment, but the picture most people have in their minds of their ultimate aquarium – numerous colorful, healthy fish, colorful corals, easy maintenance – cannot be achieved with the equipment they now have sitting in their family room or office.

Understanding the spatial needs fish have in order to live long lives in your care should be the first and foremost consideration when selecting the size and the shape of your aquarium. This is purposeful aquarium shopping. A pair of common clownfish, three green chromises and a shrimp can be very happy in an aquarium in the 20 – 30 gallon range, but fish that grow much larger such as angelfish, tangs, triggers, lionfish, eels, and puffers, will not live for long in such a small space.

Pet stores routinely stock babies of the most popular and colorful saltwater fish, but it’s up to you, the savvy fish shopper, to know the ultimate requirements of each fish as it grows before you buy it. If you want to keep a fish that is genetically programmed to grow to a large size for more than a few weeks or months, you will need an aquarium sized to that fish. The old axiom “fish will only grow to the size of their aquarium” is true only because most larger fish will die before they reach even a fraction of their potential size in an aquarium that is too small.

So, how large of an aquarium should you buy? The short answer is to size the aquarium based on the types of fish you wish to keep. In our experience, the ideal minimum size for a nice group of colorful reef fish is a 160 gallon aquarium measuring 7 foot long, 18 inches deep by 24 inches tall like the one pictured at the top of this article. Taller tanks holding more gallons with the same or smaller footprints usually do not allow more fish to be kept successfully since reef fish are generally more concerned with finding their own place within the reef structure, not up in the water column.

Your ideal saltwater aquarium should have a built-in overflow box to draw water from the surface. Aftermarket overflows that require siphon tubes can be added to existing tanks, however there is a real risk of failure and a soaking wet floor if they do.

The heart of every aquarium is the filter. However, canister or hang-on-the-back filters that are fine for freshwater aquariums come up short for saltwater because of the tendency of enclosed canisters to deplete oxygen in the water and the limited capacities of the hang-on-the-back models.

Your ideal saltwater aquarium utilizes high quality, fully-cured live rock as both its primary biological filtration and as the base for either living or non-living decorative corals. Even if you don’t want the maintenance commitment and expense of a full-blown reef aquarium, our experience time and time again tells us that an adequate amount of live rock is still essential for success in fish-only systems. Add a couple of internal propeller pumps at each end of the tank to keep the rock as free of detritus build-up as possible.

Acrylic sump w/protein skimmer & 7″ filter sock

Your ideal saltwater aquarium has a custom acrylic sump tank under the main tank with a built-in filter sock holder and plenty of capacity to hold a quality return pump, heater or heaters, a large in-sump protein skimmer and various other water treatment, automation and monitoring options. We recommend a 7-inch diameter filter sock for the 160 gallon aquarium since this size has a capacity to efficiently filter thousands of gallons of saltwater even in a heavily-fed aquarium before requiring cleaning.

With the under-tank sump in mind, the aquarium cabinet takes on even more importance. Rather than being merely a stand for the tank, the cabinet needs to have doors that open as wide as possible or a door on one side without restrictions in order to get the sump in and out and also contain all the associated equipment. The cabinet should also be fully open in the back against the wall or outfitted with ventilation fans to minimize moisture build-up. A nice touch is a waterproof pan to contain minor spills and splashes that inevitably will occur.

Your ideal saltwater aquarium has sleek, bright LED lighting. Be sure to select LED lighting that is optimized for saltwater aquariums. Many LED lights offered for sale have mostly white LEDs that make the water appear yellow and wash out the colors of the fish. Choose an LED fixture that has about 50/50 blue and white LEDs, is programmable for on and off times and intensity and has gradual light ramp up and ramp down periods that don’t startle your fish. If you want to grow living corals, you will want to be sure to choose high intensity LED lights that are specially designed for the unique needs of the types of corals you are considering.

Finally, your ideal saltwater aquarium is optimized for the future. As technology advances, the system we have described here allows you to add the latest equipment such as controllers, reactors, dosers and lighting as they become available. There will always be improvements coming down the pike, but if you start out with quality components, you will have many years of enjoyment before you’ll need an upgrade. You’ll have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that caring for your beautiful fish and corals is so much easier since you planned ahead.

Please contact us today and we’ll help you put it all together!

Valley Children’s Hospital

This beautiful 240 gallon cylindrical aquarium Aquarius Aquarium, Inc. helped design and install in the Childlife playroom at Valley Children’s Hospital back in 1998 still brings joy to many young patients and their families today.

It is our hope that the aquarium, waterplay streambed (with dinosaurs!) and terrarium we maintain at the hospital relieve some of the stress children endure on their road to recovery and support the wonderful healing work of the people that are the heart of this important Valley organization.

Freshwater Asian Planted Tank

The beauty of a freshwater aquarium with living aquatic plants can be stunning. This 54 gallon glass bowfront tank is stocked with many different varieties of plants primarily native to Asia such as Cryptocorne and Rotala species. The special flourite substrate is rich in iron, thus eliminating the need for laterite supplementation.

The fish population was carefully chosen to protect the plants from being eaten and features a large school of 36 harlequin rasboras and 12 dwarf gouramis. There are also 12 Otocinclus affinis (small suckermouthed catfish from South America) and 12 Caridina multidentata shrimp for algae control and 3 clown loaches for snail control.

Of course, such an aquarium cannot be maintained without the proper equipment. This one includes a 150 watt metal halide pendant light, an automatic CO2 dosing system, a U.V. sterilizer and a canister filter which are maintained by Aquarius Aquarium, Inc. staff on a every-other-week basis.

If you are interested in having a planted aquarium like this in your home or office, Aquarius Aquarium, Inc. can either put it all together for you or give you all the specific information and equipment recommendations to do-it-yourself. Contact us today for all the details!

Fast Food Cylindrical Aquariums

Often, our clients ask us to create aquatic environments that are out-of-the-ordinary. Of course, we install and maintain aquariums of all shapes and sizes, but sometimes people just want tanks that really make a statement.

We designed these twin freshwater seamless cylindrical tanks so they could be viewed from all sides without any visible equipment such as heaters, plumbing or life-support systems. All of those components are neatly hidden in the cabinets under the tanks, which give the appearance of a slice of nature in the middle of this busy food court.

When such extra thought is put into an aquarium installation, we think the results are so much more attractive for the viewer. We are always very pleased when a client agrees!

Terry’s House

We were so pleased that Terry’s House accepted our donation of an acrylic freshwater hexagon aquarium to bring a little slice of nature into their family reading room (see before and after photos above). The tank is stocked with peaceful community fish, which is appropriate since Terry’s House is part of Community Hospital in downtown Fresno.

Terry’s House is a home-away-from-home for families of critically ill patients. Built in 2011 and funded solely on donations, Terry’s House is a place where families can eat, sleep and recharge while waiting to bring their loved one home.

Please join us in supporting Terry’s House today!

Large Beautiful Aquarium

Aquarius Aquarium, Inc. created this 300 gallon saltwater aquarium for our client, Jim, who had a very specific request: “Help me impress my friends with a large tank that also looks like it belongs in my new living room.”

The black lacquer cabinetry was the perfect complement to his many high-tech home decor elements and we knew he would be pleased with the minimal (once-monthly) maintenance required by our utilization of premium Fiji live rock topped with colorful artificial coral replicas requiring much lower lighting levels than living coral. Jim’s aquarium reminds him of his many trips to the Hawaiian Islands and he really enjoys the freedom that our vacation feeding service provides when he is actually vacationing in our 50th state!

Aquarium in Brick

Here is one of our Fresno custom residential installations where we were called upon to built a 100 gallon saltwater aquarium into an unused indoor barbecue!

This job posed some challenges as we were restricted by the small space under the tank, but we were able to design a custom filtration system that squeezed perfectly into the space available. The resulting life support system is more than adequate to handle the bio-load of about a dozen spectacularly-colored coral reef fishes who now call the former barbecue home!

Existing uneven brick construction and ventilation issues were all managed to a beautiful end in a coordinated effort with the client’s contractor and custom cabinetmaker.

We had a lot of fun with this one and enjoy caring for it every month! Contact us today with your aquarium challenge.

Ray Appleton’s Aquarium Feeding Video


KMJ radio talk show host, Ray Appleton, had Aquarius Aquarium, Inc. install a beautiful 100 gallon saltwater aquarium in his Shaver Lake mountain home. We moved two tomato clownfish from a former smaller aquarium we had been maintaining for him in Fresno and added a baby blue spot tang and a pufferfish.

Here is a video of Ray’s new fish eating ravenously just after we acclimated them to aquarium life over the course of three weeks in our Fresno quarantine system. This service is available to clients located in our service area. Contact us today for more information!

Elegant Built-in Aquarium

This breathtaking 300 gallon saltwater aquarium was built into an existing wall in this beautiful Fresno residence. Aquarius Aquarium, Inc. worked with the homeowner’s remodeling contractor and interior design team throughout the project – even making sure the aquarium lights didn’t distract from the nearby plasma television at night. When the room lights are dimmed for movie viewing, the aquarium lights automatically dim as well! All filtration and other equipment are completely hidden from view in a dedicated filter room directly behind the aquarium and accessible through a door from the outside of the house.

Freshwater Rental Aquarium

Aquarium Rental

By Aletha Lang

Linda wanted a tank for her office. Well, Linda NEEDED a relaxing aquarium across from her desk in her busy attorney office. She was remodeling her office and was on a budget and gave me a call at Aquarius Aquarium. How could she incorporate an aquarium in her office in an affordable way?

With our Aquarium Rental Program, we installed a 55 gallon freshwater aquarium with colorful african cichlids. Linda pays for the equipment and maintenance on one easy monthly invoice for a worry-free aquarium set-up.

Advantages of an aquarium rental:

  • Minimal upfront cost.
  • Any necessary equipment replacements or upgrades are provided – FREE
  • Need to remove the aquarium? Just arrange with Aquarius Aquarium to pick it up.
  • Simple!