How to Buy a Saltwater Aquarium

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How to Buy a Saltwater Aquarium

Learn From Your Mistakes

For the vast majority of people, their first experience of owning and caring for a pet was a goldfish in a simple, small glass bowl. Unfortunately, due to a lack of knowledge and experience of looking after fish, many of those goldfish didn’t survive.

Most people think that you buy a fish tank, fill it with water, place the fish inside, and then feed it. They soon give the hobby up after buying numerous replacement fish, which succumb to the same fate.

This eBay guide has been produced to give you a greater insight into caring for fish, and how to buy a saltwater aquarium.

What is a Saltwater Aquarium?

Saltwater aquariums, or aquaria if you prefer, are a type of aquarium where marine animals and plants are kept in a contained environment.

Saltwater aquariums are divided into three subdivisions by hobbyists:

  1. Fish-Only (FO)
  2. Fish-Only-With-Live-Rock (FOWLR)
  3. Full Reef Tank

FO aquariums often keep large or aggressive species of fish. They generally run on mechanical and chemical filtration.

Both FOWLR and full reef tanks keep live rock, which is composed of coral skeletons that harbour nitrogen waste-metabolising bacteria, resulting in more natural biological filtration for the aquarium.

Unlike a freshwater aquarium, a saltwater aquarium requires more equipment, and stringent water quality monitoring.

Where to Locate Your Saltwater Aquarium

It is vital that you plan where to locate your saltwater aquarium, as when it is set in place, it can be difficult to move, even just a few inches.

Once you have purchased a saltwater aquarium, you need to take measurements of its dimensions. You must bear in mind that:

  • you will need sufficient space for the cleaning and maintenance of the tank
  • you need to take into consideration where electrical outputs are located

It is important to know that saltwater tanks should not be located in direct sunlight, especially in the summer months.

For many people, saltwater tanks become the focal point of their sitting room or living room, so you may wish to consider locating your tank somewhere where it can be easily viewed, and appreciated by guests to your home.

Setting Up a Saltwater Aquarium

Setting up a saltwater aquarium isn’t difficult; however, it is recommended that you cover these steps:

  • Choose your lighting
  • Fill the tank with tap water to test for leaks
  • Prepare enough artificial seawater for the volume needed
  • Set up filtration
  • Adjust the flow
  • Turn on all pumps, and let the water ‘rest’ for one day
  • Add ‘live rock’ to the tank
  • Let the tank ‘cycle’
  • Finally, add reef fish

Which Saltwater Aquarium Size Do I Choose?

Unlike the small fish tank your parents bought for your Goldfish when you were a child, smaller is not better when it comes to saltwater tanks. If something was to go wrong, such as an ammonia spike, it can turn critical in a short space of time.

The ideal size tank for a beginner would be 20 gallons or more. This size of saltwater aquarium allows for a good number of fish and invertebrates. Nano aquarium kits are available to purchase on eBay, ranging in size between 20 and 30 gallons, and include everything a beginner needs to get up and running in very little time.

Selecting Fish and Invertebrates for Your Saltwater Aquarium

Before rushing out to buy livestock for your new saltwater aquarium, it is important that you educate yourself as to which fishes and invertebrates are the best choice for beginners, and which are best suited to advanced aquarists. Also, you need to make sure that they are compatible with one another so that they can live together happily.

You should never buy on impulse, or at first sight. It is recommended that when you’re looking to purchase new inhabitants for your saltwater aquarium, you go back several times over a few days or a week to check out fish on more than one occasion. If possible, you should visit various fish shops in your local area to see what they have to offer.

Here is what you should look for when purchasing fish for your saltwater aquarium:

  • Eyes – The eyes of a fish should be bright and clear. A gray cloudy film, or light misty appearance in the eyes is a sign of an internal, bacterial infection. Sunken eyes or eyes that seem too small for their sockets are also not a good sign, especially if the fish is displaying little activity, and or shallow breathing. This may be a result of exposure to a poison such as cyanide.
  • Fins – They should appear crisp and clean, with no rough edges. If a fish has fins with frayed edges, it is usually a sign of ammonia burn which can be a result of poor quality water, or even fighting with other fishes.
  • Mouth – A fish can lose interest in eating if its mouth becomes injured. The tissues of a fish’s mouth should be firm and without injury. If the mouth becomes injured, the area can be prone to fungus or bacterial infection.
  • Skin and Scales – The scales of a fish should appear smooth, and well coloured. If they are raised, uplifted, missing, indistinct, or have discoloured blotches on the upper sides, this is a bad sign, and usually a sign of an internal disease.
  • Stomach – The stomach of a healthy fish is well rounded. A fish that has lost body mass will have a straight abdominal profile. The condition of the abdomen can offer clues as to the fish’s recent history, and how easy it is to get it to eat. You should beware of fish with sunken stomachs. If a fish is eating well, there is a very good chance that it is in good condition, and is strong enough to fight off minor ailments, and the stress caused by moving the saltwater aquarium. 

Feeding and Saltwater Aquarium Maintenance

It goes without saying that tank maintenance is, quite literally, vitally important. It all begins with feeding your fish.

  • Everyone has a tendency to overfeed fish.
  • The food that is wasted falls to the bottom of the tank where it rots, which creates nitrates.
  • The food that is eaten by the fish turns into detritus (fish faeces), which ends up at the bottom of the tank, or in the tank’s filter where it also creates nitrates.

It is important that you keep the nitrates at a manageable level to keep your tank and fish in healthy condition.

Why Choose eBay for Saltwater Aquariums?

eBay is a popular place for users to purchase saltwater aquariums, mainly due to the different types available, and low prices not found elsewhere.

How to Search for Saltwater Aquariums on eBay
Now that you’ve found out about caring for fish, you can now begin your search for a saltwater aquarium on eBay. To start your search, go to the All Categories link on the homepage of eBay. Click Pet Supplies, and then select Fish which appears on the left-hand side of the page.

Keyword search

Search eBay listing titles for specific words. For example, if you want to find Nano aquarium kits, type the keywords "Nano aquarium kits" (without quotation marks) into the Search box. Click, "Search title and description" to expand your results. Visit eBay's Search Tips page for more tips on searching with keywords.

If you can't find exactly what you want, try browsing eBay Stores or tell the eBay Community what you’re looking for by creating a post on Want It Now, or save a search on My eBay and eBay will email you when a matching item becomes available.

Buy Saltwater Aquariums on eBay with Confidence

Make sure that you know exactly what you’re buying and understand how eBay and PayPal protect you.

Know Your Item
Read the details in the item listing carefully.

Remember to add delivery costs to your final price. If you’re buying a high value item, check that the seller will insure it until it is delivered to you.

If you want more information, click the “Ask seller a question” button on the seller’s profile or the “Ask a question” link at the bottom of the item listing page.

Always complete your transaction on eBay (with a bid, Buy it Now or Best Offer) otherwise you will not be covered by eBay Buyer Protection.

Never pay for your eBay item using an instant cash wire transfer service like Western Union or MoneyGram. These are not safe ways of paying someone you do not know.

Know Your Seller

Research your seller so that you feel safe and positive about every transaction.

  • What is the seller’s Feedback rating? 
  • How many transactions have they completed?
  • How many positive responses do they have?
  • What do buyers say in their Feedback? 
  • Are they positive about the seller?

Most top eBay sellers operate like retail shops and have a returns policy.

  • Do they offer a money-back guarantee? 
  • What are their terms and conditions?

Buyer Protection

In the very unlikely event that you do not receive your item or it is not as described, eBay Buyer Protection covers your purchase price plus original delivery cost.

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