5 Benefits of Saltwater Aquariums

Why do so many experienced fish owners opt for saltwater aquariums? Check out some key reasons why these tanks can make up for their cost!

Apr 26, 2024By Dallin Darger
benefits of saltwater aquariums

It’s never been a secret among fish owners that saltwater aquariums tend to be more costly and time-consuming than their freshwater counterparts. But if that’s true, then why do so many owners still swear by these tanks?

While there are undoubtedly higher maintenance costs and requirements for a saltwater tank, there are also compelling reasons to overlook those hurdles. From aesthetics and beauty to proven health benefits, let’s break down 5 reasons you might decide to opt for a salty aquarium!

5. Saltwater Tanks Add Color and Beauty

clownfish in aquarium
Photo by Andreas L on Pexels

The plain hard truth of saltwater tanks is that they, nine times out of ten, just look prettier than freshwater alternatives. Now, that’s not to say freshwater aquariums don’t have their own stylish advantages! It’s just that there are a few aspects of saltwater setups that give them a definite edge.

A saltwater aquarium, for example, provides access to an extraordinary range of fish species (I’ll expand on this part later!) to choose from. When you combine these various, often exotic types of fish in the same tank, you’re left with some spectacular results. Each colorful pet fish species will bring its own vivid and eye-catching hues and patterns to the mix, whether it’s the sunny yellow tang or the psychedelic queen angelfish.

Comparatively, freshwater species are a tad underwhelming. Freshwater dwellers have their own beauty, of course, but there are fewer choices. Plus, most of us are so used to seeing common goldfish or guppies that they don’t have the same visual “wow” factor.

Another aesthetic perk of saltwater tanks comes from their environmental potential. Owners have the option of introducing macroalgae, coral reefs, and certain plants. All of these marine life choices add extra layers of color and beauty to the mix!

4. Hosting Coral Reefs

colorful coral reefs
Photo by QUI NGUYEN on Unsplash

One huge selling point for saltwater aquariums is their ability to house live coral. Since coral reefs require high-salinity water conditions, the only way to try to replicate their look in a freshwater tank is by using synthetic alternatives. This isn’t a problem for saltwater tanks! In fact, many hobbyists see coral reefs as the most exciting part of maintaining an aquarium.

But what’s the draw of maintaining reef aquariums? For starters, live coral has a unique beauty that simply can’t be replaced. The distinct, branching shapes of different coral species help provide a characteristic, rugged look to your aquarium environment.

Additionally, coral can be vastly beneficial for saltwater fish species. Coral reefs feed off algae that, in turn, feed off ammonia. This effectively prevents toxicity from waste products. Likewise, reefs provide protection and hiding spots for many fish species and some species even develop symbiotic relationships with live coral.

3. Relaxation and Comfort

child viewing aquarium
Image by Kim Heimbuch from Pixabay

Beyond the aesthetics and health benefits for aquarium species, saltwater tanks also offer scientifically-backed psychological perks. After compiling studies on the mental effects of saltwater aquariums, researchers reported several impressive findings.

Psychological, emotional, and health benefits of fish in saltwater aquariums on human observers include:

  • Improvement in mood
  • Stress reduction
  • Feelings of relaxation
  • Reduced pain levels
  • Increased mental stimulation

So, how exactly do simple saltwater tanks have such a strong mental effect on observers? It actually boils down to a few different reasons. One key factor is visual stimulation. Due to the increased range of colors and exotic patterns found in saltwater species, there’s more “eye candy” to observe. These visual cues provide a side benefit of increasing mood and mental stimulation!

Similarly, the steady, tranquil movement and sound of aquariums generally have a calming effect on people’s moods. For saltwater tanks, this effect is amplified on account of the higher species variety and more frequent interactions with the environment (e.g., coral reefs, algae, plants, etc.)

2. Exotic Marine Life Options

butterflyfish in aquarium
Photo by zoosnow on Pexels

An immediate and compelling selling point of saltwater aquariums lies in the extraordinary diversity of available species. There are simply fewer freshwater fish species out there, and of those that exist, there’s an even smaller number of ideal aquarium contenders. Unfortunately, this means freshwater tank owners, more often than not, end up choosing from the usual suspects.

Most aquariums maintained with freshwater fish species in mind are going to contain some combination of angelfish, tetras, corydoras, adult guppies, goldfish, etc. There’s certainly nothing wrong with any of these fish; in fact, I think they are all excellent choices, especially for beginners. But, the routine of caring for the same (relatively small) selection of species for years and years can get monotonous.

Marine fish, on the other hand, are far more numerous and versatile. You can, of course, still opt for the more popular choices, like clownfish, chromis, or cardinalfish. However, if you want to go in a more daring or less-traveled direction, there’s a lot on the table!

Every species, from flashlight fish (named for their bioluminescent faces) to dottybacks (famous mainly for their bright neon coloring), can thrive in an aquarium. They simply require the right tank – and the right owner.

1. Providing Aquatic Education

fish swimming near reef
Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash

There’s an aspect of overlooking saltwater aquariums that is overlooked, yet essential: The learning experience. Despite the high-maintenance nature of tanks used for housing marine fish, plants, and coral, this maintenance process offers an irreplaceable educational opportunity.

With these aquariums, you learn useful information regarding marine environments, the interdynamics between saltwater species, and the balancing of a delicate ecosystem. You might, for example, add a variety of marine fish to your tank to learn how they mutually exist and even benefit each other. Alternatively, you might fill your tank with algae and coral to see what environmental enrichment ideas help foster growth and health for these species.

This learning curve has two crucial benefits. First, it helps you develop your skills as an owner so you can reliably protect the health and comfort of your pets. At the same time, the education that comes with running a saltwater aquarium helps one better understand the functioning of the marine world. Ultimately, this allows us to cultivate a greater appreciation for the natural beauty of the ocean life around us!

Dallin Darger
By Dallin Darger

Dallin is a passionate, seasoned pet owner and enthusiast. He has, over the course of 27 years, owned and loved a litany of breeds, from Labrador retrievers and calico cats to angelfish and neon tetras. Much of his free time is spent researching and learning everything he can about unfamiliar and exciting types of wildlife.