• Don’t over feed your fish! One of the biggest problems that we see with new fish owners is a  tendency to overfeed their fish. This is especially hard on a brand new aquarium that has not had time to “cycle” or get established yet. Keep in mind that a new tank cannot handle the abuse of excess food in the  tank, and the results will generally kill the fish. Feed only once a  day, modestly, just a couple of small flakes per fish. The fish should be finished eating, and have all of the food consumed in just a minute or two. If you notice a significant rise in either ammonia or nitrite readings, you should start feeding once every other day (skip a day) to avoid problems. Once the tank is cycled, you can be a little more generous with your feedings, but we still recommend that you feed only once a day max.
  • Don’t use any chemicals or cleaning products on or near your aquarium! We have seen many fish accidentally killed because of cleaning products that eventually end up in your aquarium. A saltwater aquarium is like a big sponge, it will attract and absorb anything that is airborne in close proximity to your aquarium. Air sprays such as Lysol and Fabreeze are examples of products to avoid around your aquarium. Carpet cleaning powders such as Carpet Fresh are also dangerous. Flea and Tick powders and sprays can also end up in your aquarium water. Avoid using any kind of glass cleaners around your tank such as Windex. Aquarium safe cleaners are available, or just use water and a clean towel to wipe down the outside of your tank. Contaminants can also get into your water from your hands. Make sure your hands are clean and free from lotions etc. It is best to rinse your hands thoroughly before reaching into the aquarium. If you wash your hands with soap and water, make sure you get all of the residual soap off of your hands.
  • Don’t be surprised when your tank starts turning a rusty brown! One of the most frequently asked questions we get from new hobbyists concerns the brown diatom algae stage that EVERY new aquarium goes through. This usually occurs just about a week or two into a brand new set up. It seems to just happen overnight! Your sand and décor turns brown and rusty looking. This is nothing to be alarmed about, and it will usually go away about as fast as it appeared. This period can last several weeks, or longer. You cannot eliminate it, but you can reduce the amount of brown diatom algae in your aquarium by cutting back on how long you leave your light on. Normally you can leave the aquarium light on 8-10 hours per day, but during this brown algae stage, we recommend that you reduce this period to only 4-6 hours.
  • Don’t add any new fish during the cycle period! Start your tank with damsels (usually one for every ten gallons of tank water). It will take approximately 6-8 weeks to cycle your tank before you can safely add any more fish. You must resist the temptation to add more fish during this period (this includes crabs, snails etc.) as you will probably jeopardize the entire process. The only thing that you can safely add at this point is live rock. Be patient!
  • Do keep your aquarium full! Your aquarium will evaporate quite a bit of water each week. You need to get into the habit of filling the tank back up about once a week. If you allow it to evaporate beyond a week without adding more water, it will result in dramatic salinity changes. Keep in mind, that salt does not evaporate, so when your tank is low due to evaporation, your salinity has actually gone up. When topping off your tank, you need only freshwater to fill it back up, the salt is still in the tank! Always use either fresh purified (reverse osmosis) water, or dechlorinated tap water. By keeping the tank full, you will provide your fish with very stable salinity conditions.
  • Do test your water frequently! The first 6-8 weeks is the most critical time for your new aquarium. You should test ammonia, nitrate, salinity, ph and nitrate at least once a week. We recommend that you have your own test kits so that you can monitor these conditions. There is a lot of biology occurring while cycling a new tank, and it is important to keep tabs on your system during this crucial period. Once your tank is cycled and established, you will not need to test the water nearly as frequently.
  • Do expect some compatibility issues with your damsels! We suggest that you start your new saltwater tank with damsel fish. These are the cheapest and toughest fish that can be found in saltwater, thus they make great “starter fish”. However, they are also prone to fighting and picking on each other. This behavior cannot be altered. You will have to accept the fact that some of the damsels will bully some of the other damsels. You can avoid some of this behavior by providing hiding places and territories with décor and rocks.
  • Do expect to lose a few fish! Unfortunately, losing some of your fish occasionally is part of the hobby. Even the most experienced saltwater hobbyist will lose a fish at some point. During the cycle period of your new aquarium, this is especially true. Because the tank is very unstable during the first few months, it is very common to lose one or more of your starter fish. Sometimes the stronger more assertive fish will just “weed out” some of the weaker ones. As long as you have a few damsels in your tank, it is not necessary to replace any damsels that are lost during the cycle period. Generally, the remaining original damsels will not tolerate new damsels being introduced anyway.

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