You are currently viewing Which is better Saltwater or Freshwater aquarium | Pros & Cons

Which is better Saltwater or Freshwater aquarium | Pros & Cons

Keeping a fish tank can be a fun and relaxing experience. It is an art of science recreating an aquatic ecosystem in your living room or office, where fish and plants cohabit in a way that is both practical and cosmetic.

Making a correct decision on the type of fish tank to get will depend greatly on your level of research on both tank types. Both freshwater and saltwater tanks require vastly different categories of fish species, tank equipment, and maintenance levels.

A potential tank keeper has to evaluate how much time he can afford to spare, and his level of experience in maintaining his tank choice, remember, we are talking about the care of live animals here.

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The potential aquarium keeper must have a good understanding of the water composition of both freshwater and saltwater tanks, this is necessary when determining which type of fish to select. Some species of fish are known to survive in both fresh and saltwater environments, but the majority of fish species are adapted to live only in a specific aquatic environment.

Whatever your preferences maybe, in the end, the two major factors in determining your tank choice will be cost and maintenance.

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A lot of assumptions are instantly made about saltwater tanks being too complex for a rookie to maintain successfully.

Indeed, there are lots of complex issues that plague both saltwater and freshwater fish tanks, and finding out which tank is suitable for your personal needs all boils down to your research or lack of it. In the end, the devil is in the details.

When making comparisons between natural freshwater habitats with the saltwater habitat, we must note that marine water conditions rarely change significantly. Ocean salinity, pH, and nitrate levels remain basically within the same parameters. These conditions must also be replicated in saltwater tanks to provide constant and reliable surroundings for saltwater fish, and other extra exotic marine creatures and organisms.

Freshwater habitats, on the other hand, do have seasonal shifts in water conditions due to floods or lack of rain. For these reasons, the chemical balance of the water and other elements of the freshwater habitat will differ from time to time and will not remain constant. These variations in their natural habitats will require freshwater fish species to evolve to enable them to adapt to changes in their environments.

This essentially means that a freshwater tank will be easier for a rookie to manage. Freshwater fish, for the most part, can take whatever is thrown at it. Unlike saltwater fish which can quickly succumb to minute changes in its tank water chemistry.

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Freshwater Tank

This is the natural start for the fish keeping rookie. A freshwater tank is an artificial habitat for keeping live tropical fish in conditions mimicking their natural environments. It is easily set up and requires minimal maintenance depending on the choice of fish selection.

However, getting your freshwater tank depends on obeying certain steps. Your tank size must be suitable for the fish species you are selecting, and it must be equipped with water heating, lighting, and filtration systems.

Freshwater aquarium keepers may be spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing the freshwater fish species for their tank. Freshwater fish, food, drugs, and all the essentials needed to keep healthy fish are available at the nearest pet store. With a freshwater tank, you can quickly recover from a mistake or a bad call.

Saltwater Tank

Keeping a saltwater tank is a different ball game. Everything from the tank size to tank kits, fish, and equipment, the overall costs, and maintenance is on a higher level and requires extra effort. Nevertheless, with proper research and upkeep, it can be done right.

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Saltwater fish can grow very large, hence the need to purchase large tanks, starting tanks of 200 gallons are not uncommon.

The crucial element in creating a successful saltwater tank is filtration. The 3 types of saltwater tank filtration methods are biological (Live Rock), mechanical, and chemical.

Saltwater tanks require extra care and may sometimes need skilled attention, especially when nasty levels of pollution are allowed to occur, or proteins in saltwater tanks without skimmers are allowed to degrade. Ammonium buildup in saltwater tanks can be fatal to fish, and saltwater tank keepers must always be on constant watch for changes in their tank water conditions.

Saltwater fish species are expensive and can be out of reach of rookie fish keepers. They are available in an impressive array of varieties and colors, the invertebrate options for your tank are almost limitless.

Saltwater fish are colorful with stunning patterns, beautiful saltwater fish like Clownfish, Dwarf Angelfish, Damselfish, and Copper Butterflyfish are popular choices for saltwater aquariums. It is also noteworthy to remember that saltwater fish needs precise water conditions to survive, and a bad call such as getting your salt mixture wrong can generally lead to fatal results

Saltwater tanks are natural and breathtaking additions to your home decor. Your guest’s reaction reactions to your saltwater tank can more than compensate for all the hard work and money spent bringing your lovely aquarium to life.

Types of Freshwater Tanks

Planted Freshwater Tanks

which is better saltwater or freshwater aquarium

Planted freshwater tanks were a novelty, but are now gaining acceptance by hobbyists always looking for new means to keep more fish together in a community tank.

Planted tanks are suitable for both peaceful and mildly aggressive freshwater fish species, as they provide private areas for fish and lots of hiding spaces.

Brackish Tanks

which is better saltwater or freshwater aquarium

This is a version of a freshwater tank that mimics water conditions in areas where water merges into the ocean. These areas are home to a large variety of aquatic life namely; Gobi fish, Mono Scats, and Columbian sharks are the perfect fish species for brackish tanks.

A brackish tank, as you might have guessed is slightly saltwater and requires a 1/4 cup of salt per gallon to maintain an average gravity salinity level of 1.010.

Passive Tanks

which is better saltwater or freshwater aquarium

This is a freshwater community tank made up of peaceful non-territorial fish. The freshwater community tank is a favorite of fish keepers because it encompasses a wide range of freshwater fish species like; Tetra fish, Discus, and Cory catfish which are known for their exotic colors, and beautiful patterns. If big enough, a typical passive freshwater community tank can comfortably host numerous bottom-dwelling, mid and upper-level fish species in harmony.

Vivarium Tanks

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This freshwater tank is a combination of two distinct ecosystems, water, and land. Vivarium freshwater tanks tend not to be popular, but it is one of the most interesting freshwater tanks if done properly. Vivarium freshwater tanks can consist of fish, amphibians, plants, and vegetation in a semi land and semi water setup.

Types of Saltwater Tanks

Fish only Saltwater Tanks

which is better saltwater or freshwater aquarium

Among the saltwater tank types, this is the least expensive and the easiest to set up. The fish only tank is a basic saltwater tank, only fish is required, no need for Live rock or corals and other accessories associated with other types of saltwater tanks.

It does require more maintenance though, the lack of biological filters such as Live rock means that water changes have to be done more often to achieve consistent high water quality. Also, fish only saltwater tanks must be equipped with a tank test kit to properly control water quality and acidity levels.

Fish only saltwater tanks can be configured in community saltwater tanks, and semi-aggressive tanks.

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Fish only with Live Rock (FOWLR)

which is better saltwater or freshwater aquarium

FOWLR is a combination of a fish only tank and Live rock. Live rock are coral reef chunks commonly inhabited by aquatic life such as invertebratesand millions of useful bacteria and biological organisms that serve as a filtration means, keeping your saltwater tank clean. Live rock is expensive, and adding one to your saltwater tank can have a considerable impact on your budget.

FOWLR tanks require powerful lighting systems to aid the growth of the light-sensitive bacteria and other organisms inhabiting the live rock. Introducing saltwater fish into your FOWLR tank should be done slowly preferably, during several months, giving your FOWLR tank the time to adapt to the heightened biological load.

Coral Reef Tanks

which is better saltwater or freshwater aquarium

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This tank type attempts to duplicate a lovely coral reef habitat. It can include invertebrates, hard corals, and soft corals. Coral reefs are expensive to set up due to the high costs of its components such as corals and anemones, and equipment e.g. reverse osmosis unit.

Coral tanks are such an expensive undertaking that potential coral reef tank keepers are advised to possess the necessary skills and knowledge as a mistake can quickly lead to a wipeout, costing a lot of money.

Nano Tanks

which is better saltwater or freshwater aquarium

Only recommended for the highly skilled aquarium owner, the nano tank is small but mighty. It requires minimal setup, 2 clownfish, and a 30-gallon capacity tank.

A nano tank can be a replica reef habitat but maintaining correct water parameters is important due to the restricted tank water volume.

Pros and Cons of a Freshwater Tank


  • Depending on your choice of fish species, freshwater tanks are easier to set up than saltwater tanks.
  • Freshwater tanks require less maintenance than saltwater tanks, and they can be well looked after with minimal time and effort.
  • In terms of the overall equipment and fish costs, freshwater tanks are less expensive than saltwater tanks to set up.
  • Freshwater tank fish are farm-raised, and they are hardier than saltwater tank fish.
  • Perfect for rookie tank owners, great to learn and improve on fish keeping skills.


  • A limited number of freshwater invertebrates.

Pros and Cons of a Saltwater Tank


  • Sаltwаtеr fіѕh аrе mоrе соlоrful, and are abundant in a wide variety of species.
  • Aquarium owners can choose between saltwater fish, invertebrate, or a coral reef setup.
  • Unlike freshwater tanks where a water filtering system must be present, saltwater tanks have the option of a biological filtration system.
  • The growth of marine fishes and invertebrates can be astounding. Long term saltwater tanks are amazing in biological diversity.
  • Invertebrates are available in an unlimited array of varieties


  • Expensive to set up than a freshwater tank in terms of the overall equipment and fish costs.
  • Requires more specialized equipment than freshwater tanks. e.g protein skimmers, a quarantine tank, and reverse osmosis unit will add extra to your tank cost.
  • Requires more maintenance, saltwater tanks generally need lots of attention and care.
  • Saltwater fish are largely wild-caught and will have to be quarantined before being introduced into the tank. This is to prevent parasites and harmful bacteria from infecting the saltwater tank.
  • Not rookie friendly, managing exact water parameters can be challenging to rookie tank owners, and mistakes can be expensive.
  • Leaking saltwater tanks can damage and corrode home furnishings and decor.


In the end, the sensible advice for any rookie is to start with a freshwater tank. However, a fish only saltwater tank is achievable for that rookie who has paid the price in research, and extensive investigation.