Saltwater fish are trickier pets than they seem because of the rigors of setting up and maintaining a saltwater aquarium. Saltwater tanks need regular care, and the habitats within require expert attention, including providing the right food and supplements. The water temperature must be carefully watched and kept between 75 and 81 degrees Fahrenheit, algae must be kept in check, and the water chemistry must be expertly balanced. The fish can be difficult to keep healthy, too; some are aggressive and fight, while others are susceptible to disease. Whether you want to purchase a smaller saltwater aquarium for your home or lease a large one for your office, an aquarium management service can help you choose the right tank and animals as well as maintain the health of the fish and corals. Here are the factors that affect the average cost of saltwater aquarium setup and maintenance.
Saltwater aquarium tank
Aquariums can be purchased new or used, or leased. For many people, leasing is the better option, especially for large, office-sized tanks, because it includes maintenance and animal care services. A typical 90-gallon tank (including the stand, glass top, etc.) costs from $100 for a used model to $1,200 for a new one. Expect additional equipment, like heaters and pumps, to increase the setup cost another $200 to $2,000. Leasing requires an installation fee, ranging from $200 to $600, plus a monthly fee of $150 to $300 on average, depending on the size of the tank.
Some professionals, such as Reef Playground in Los Angeles, suggest leasing tanks for larger installations as well as for people new to caring for saltwater fish. Reef Playground, which provides quotes on request, says an additional benefit of leasing is that it allows them to ensure ethically sourced fish and corals for each tank.
Creating a habitat
Professionals, such as John’s Corals and Aquariums in Hackensack, New Jersey, Champion Aquariums in Pompano Beach, Florida, and Aquatic Creations in North Brunswick, New Jersey, can also set up the habitat inside the tank. Not including materials, the setup fee costs about $300-$500. Common materials for a 90-gallon tank include 90 pounds of live rock, which costs from $200 used to $800 new; 80 pounds of live marine sand, ranging from $50 to $150; tools for mixing saltwater, ranging from $125 to $850; and aquarium lighting, ranging from $150 to $1,500.
Adding live corals is an optional expense; the most ecologically responsible options are grown in captivity and sold from a farm. Beginner corals cost $40, while packs for more expert tank owners cost $180. Exotic specimens can cost upward of $300.
The cost of the fish is the most variable, depending on how many fish a tank can support and how rare they are. As with corals, most professionals prefer to sell ethically farmed fish. Basic saltwater fish range from $6 for a few reef chromis to $15 for a pair of cardinalfish to $40 for a pair of clownfish. Exotic fish start at $100 each and can cost as much as $1,000 or more.
Most pros also recommend including a few cleanup animals, too, such as hermit crabs, which cost just a few dollars, or a starfish, which costs $50.