If you are purchasing your first aquarium, you may want to consider a freshwater tank. There are several reasons you should maintain a freshwater tank before moving on to a saltwater tank. Although a saltwater tank will provide you with the opportunity to have a variety of interesting fish, it will not be as easy to maintain as a freshwater tank. It may take many months for you to become experienced with maintaining a saltwater tank. Of course, if you're prepared for a steep learning curve, you may prefer to start with a saltwater tank.
A freshwater tank is easier to setup than a saltwater tank and much less demanding to maintain. It is also less expensive as far as equipment and fish go. For a saltwater tank, you'd have to buy marine fish, which are more expensive than freshwater fish. You will probably use live rock, which is also fairly costly, as a biological filter in the tank, as this makes setting up a saltwater tank easier.
Live rock is directly taken from a coral reef with organisms still on or inside the rock. These organisms, such as algae, sponges, worms and urchins are an important part of the nitrogen cycle that allows for waste to be processed into a less toxic form. In a sense, you have to recreate the sea's environment in which the cleaning, the production of oxygen and the production of food is naturally taken care of. If you do use live rock as a filtration system, you will also need to buy a protein skimmer. A protein skimmer is used to remove organic waste from a saltwater tank before it breaks down in the water.
Setting up a lighting system for a saltwater tank is also more expensive than setting up one for a freshwater tank. Correct lighting is extremely important because it will affect the growth and behavior of the fish and other organisms within the tank. The lighting system will help with photosynthesis, which is nature's way of keeping the tank properly oxygenated.
Maintaining a saltwater tank is a bit more difficult than maintaining a freshwater tank because you actually have to create a complete and functional ecosystem within the saltwater tank to ensure the survival of your fish. In an ecosystem, the plants, animals and other living things depend on one another for survival and each one plays a role in the functionality of the environment. You will have to make sure you have the right plants, animals and living things to create the stable environment your fish need. Otherwise they won't survive for very long.
So, if you are a beginning fish owner, you really may want to think twice about starting out with a saltwater tank. There are a lot of expenses and maintenance problems for saltwater tank owners that freshwater tank owners don't need to worry about. As you care for your freshwater tank, you'll become experienced enough with basic fish and tank maintenance to feel confident about beginning your saltwater tank adventures.