Saltwater or Freshwater Aquarium – Which is Right for You?

You’ve decided you want an aquarium in your home or office.  The next step is to figure out whether you want a saltwater or freshwater aquarium.  Both systems can be beautiful and both have their pros and cons.  Let’s take a closer look to help you understand the differences.


If you are looking for a lot of variety and color its hard to beat a saltwater tank. There is simply a wider array of vibrant colorful fish and corals available to inhabit a saltwater reef tank.

While there are a lot of different species of fish available for a freshwater tank, they won’t match the level of vibrancy as those mentioned above. Though not quite as colorful as a reef tank, a well-maintained planted aquarium can be quite beautiful in it’s own right.

Planted tropical freshwater aquarium
Planted tropical freshwater aquarium

Ease of Maintenance

Freshwater and Saltwater aquariums both need to be serviced regularly.  A percentage of water needs to be changed and the filters need to be cleaned for both types of tanks.  The main difference is that saltwater systems are less forgiving. So if service is not regularly performed, your saltwater aquarium will suffer sooner.

Conditions in the ocean are generally stable, so marine life has a lower tolerance for fluctuations. Therefore small changes in your saltwater tanks pH or salinity can have dramatic effects on your tank. In addition, each coral species in a reef tank may require different levels of light and diet.

Freshwater fish are accustomed to environments that have bigger fluctuations so they are hardier and can survive in less than ideal conditions.  Freshwater systems will not look their best without regularly maintenance, but deterioration will be slower and less dramatic.


Based on what you know now, can you guess which type of tank is more expensive? If you guessed saltwater than you are right. The fish, coral and plants for saltwater tanks are generally more expensive and the amount of equipment and maintenance schedule required for saltwater aquariums are more costly as well.

Saltwater reef tank
Saltwater reef tank


So in the end it really depends on what is important to you. If cost and a rigorous maintenance schedule is a concern, a freshwater system may be the answer for you. If you want the color and variety of species and do not mind the additional cost and maintenance requirements than a saltwater reef tank may be the way to go.

Consider contacting a professional, like Halcyon.  Not only will we help you decide if a saltwater or freshwater aquarium is right for you, but we will also help you design a system that seamlessly blends with your architecture and design aesthetic. And depending on how involved you want to get in the ongoing care of your tank, Halcyon offers maintenance programs that will keep either your saltwater or freshwater aquarium looking great for years to come.

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