Freshwater and Saltwater Aquariums: The Differences

There’s a lot to love about aquariums. Whether freshwater or saltwater, they can be beautiful additions to just about any room. The differences between freshwater and saltwater aquariums may not be immediately obvious to a novice aquarist, but with a bit of information, anyone can learn to spot the difference.

Freshwater and Saltwater Aquariums: The Differences


Both freshwater and saltwater aquariums require significant research before you start them up. However, between the two, freshwater aquariums are much better suited to true aquarium novices. Though several species of freshwater fish require near-perfect water parameters, there are also some, such as bettas, that are much easier for newbies to care for.

Saltwater aquariums tend to be much more finicky and have several do’s and don’ts to keep in mind during their construction. Saltwater fish can be easily killed by fluctuations in temperatures and parameters. Because aquariums require you to recreate the conditions of whatever environment your chosen fish species come from in the wild, having the experience to create slight changes to water is necessary. Freshwater tanks require you to balance temperature and pH. Saltwater tanks require a balance of temperature, pH, and gravity.

Equipment Used

Both freshwater and saltwater aquariums require tanks (ideally with hoods), substrate, a filter, and a heater. From there, there may be minor differences. Freshwater tanks often do best with an air pump.

Saltwater tanks often need a protein skimmer, which can help keep the water cleaner, and will need specific lighting for coral. You will also need to have testing kits specific to saltwater, as well as salt for mixing your own saltwater.

Fish Available

The most prevalent difference between freshwater and saltwater aquariums that most people notice is the species available. Fish that live in freshwater environments require freshwater aquariums, while oceanic species require saltwater. This is where preference plays a major role. If you want a coral reef setup, you’ll need a saltwater tank. However, you can still have a beautiful setup with brightly colored fish in a freshwater tank.


Between the two types of aquariums, freshwater fish and supplies tend to be less expensive. This is a major reason why many recommend freshwater fish for novice aquarists. When you kill fish—and it will happen—due to mistakes or causes outside of your control, the cost will be much less. Mistakes that happen while learning in a saltwater aquarium are typically significantly more expensive than in a freshwater tank.

Freshwater or Saltwater?

When choosing between freshwater and saltwater aquariums, it is a matter of preference. However, starting a saltwater aquarium will take more effort than a freshwater tank. Most beginners would be best served with learning in a freshwater tank first and moving to saltwater once they know how to keep their freshwater tank healthy.

0 Comment

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.