Paper or plastic? Half empty or half full? Fresh or salt water aquarium? That is one of the classic questions, a dilemma that has plagued mankind ever since a guy first put a fish into a big clear bowl. Not only is this the first question that a prospective aquarium owner will have to make, but it is also the most important. One thing that you’ll soon learn is that salt water tanks aren’t for everyone, and vice-versa.


Before we get too far into it, let me just start off by telling you that if you have never owned an aquarium before, you should probably start with fresh water. However, if you’re the type of person who really likes to commit to a hobby and spend a bunch of time and money on your passion, then salt water tanks might be right up your alley.


Just about 90% of the difference between salt and fresh water boils down to the cost. Salt water tanks will be dramatically more expensive to maintain than their fresh water counterparts. If you’re getting a salt water tank, you can expect more expensive gear, pricier fish, and a higher maintenance cost. If you just happen to be a millionaire, though, and you want to install an elegant and stylish grand aquarium into your mansion, then salt water is the way to go.

Salt Water Fish from Finding Nemo



Salt water tanks will require quite a bit more time and patience to regulate than fresh water tanks. Salt water tanks are affected very easily by pH imbalances, so it is crucial that you carefully monitor your salt water tank regularly. On top of that, the ecosystems of salt water tanks have a really tough time recovering from these imbalances. A fresh water tank can swing right back if you make a mistake, but a mistake on your salt water tank might have you hitting up the fish store to buy some replacements, so buyer beware.

Otocinclus Affinis Algae Eater



So, salt water tanks are super expensive. Why bother with them at all? One very simple reason: they look better. That’s all a matter of subjective taste, of course, but by and large most people prefer to look at salt water tanks rather than fresh water ones. The fish are brighter and more colorful, and there is a much wider variety of organisms. Coral, crabs, shrimp, snails, and frilly fish will add vibrant splashes of color to your tank. Don’t get me wrong — fresh water fish are still pretty, just not as pretty.

Blue and Orange Discus Fish



If you want to have a tank that just sits there and looks pretty, a bit like having a painting on your wall, then you should go with a fresh water aquarium. If you’re the type of person who would prefer to paint a picture from scratch, or work on a car engine, then salt water aquariums would probably be a good match. It’s like pretty much any hobby out there: the more money and time you spend on a craft, the better it will look in the end.

Origami Money Fish


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