How Much Does a Saltwater Aquarium Cost?

Since vibrant and colorful marine fish are often more eye-catching than their freshwater cousins, most aquarists dream about owning saltwater aquariums.

However, maintaining a saltwater aquarium is certainly more work than taking care of a freshwater aquarium.

Marine fish require more attention and care than your regular goldfish.

You will also have to invest a significant amount of time and effort in your saltwater aquarium.

When you make up your mind about getting a saltwater aquarium, the first question that comes to mind is how much is it going to cost?

Well, it is certainly going to be costlier than maintaining a freshwater aquarium.

However, a saltwater aquarium is worth it!

Below is an estimation of the average cost of a saltwater aquarium:

  • The setup cost for a 60-80 L reef tank ranges from $700 – $800 while yearly maintenance will cost around $500 – $600.
  • For a medium-sized reef tank (100 – 300L), setup cost ranges between $1700 – $2000 and yearly maintenance cost will account for around $700 – $800.
  • Finally, the expected setup cost for a large reef tank (500 – 1000L) averages around $3000 – $10000 while the yearly maintenance cost can reach up to $1500 – $1800.

Keep in mind that the cost and expenses for a specialist tank will be higher than those for reef tanks.

There are two types of costs when it comes to aquariums – setup costs and maintenance costs.

If you are ready to invest in a stunning saltwater aquarium, here are some factors that you may want to consider as they can affect the overall cost of setting and maintaining a saltwater aquarium.

Setup Cost Of a Salt Water Aquarium

Setup costs include all the expenses you make while setting up your saltwater aquarium.

These are one-time expenses that you need to make once at the beginning of your saltwater aquarium venture.

Think of these as long-term investments.

Let’s take a look at some of the most prominent setup costs that you will encounter.

Saltwater Aquarium Tank

To set up the aquarium of your dreams, the first thing you will need is a saltwater aquarium tank.

This is going to be your first big investment. You can purchase a brand new or opt for a used tank if you are looking for a less expensive option.

An important thing to keep in mind while picking a tank for your saltwater aquarium is that medium-sized aquariums are more forgiving.

Even a slight miscalculation in a small saltwater aquarium can lead to dire consequences.

On the other hand, medium or large-sized tanks are easier to maintain as they allow room for small mistakes every now and then.

This means that it is better to invest in a medium or large-sized tank, especially if you are not well familiar with saltwater tanks.

The best option is to go for a 90-gallon tank.

It measures around 48 x18 x 24 inches. Depending on whether you go for a new or used tank, a 90-gallon can cost anywhere from $100 to $1200.

Another factor that will affect the overall cost of purchasing the tank is the type of tank.

For instance, acrylic tanks and glass tanks have their own pros and cons. However, acrylic tanks are generally more expensive than their glass counterparts.

The tank you choose should also depend on the factors like where you’ll place it, what fish will you keep in it, etc.

Also, don’t forget to factor in the cost of tank equipment like filters, heaters, water pumps, protein skimmers, etc.

Purchasing a medium-sized aquarium tank along with all these equipment can roughly cost anywhere from $500 to $2000.

Marine Fish Cost

This is perhaps the most exciting part of setting up a saltwater aquarium. There are just so many options to choose from.

From the stunning damselfish and the beautiful butterfly to the flame angelfish, you can choose any species to grace your aquarium!

However, the cost of each fish may play an important part here. We already know that not all fish costs the same.

Apart from that, how many fish you want to introduce in your tank will also determine the total expense.

The good news is that u can get basic saltwater fish for your aquarium for as low as $6. A pair of cardinalfish should not cost more than $15 – $20.

Clownfish are also available at a relatively cheap price at $40 – $45 per pair.

Keep in mind that while basic freshwater fish are relatively inexpensive, exotic fish is another story.

Exotic saltwater fish are extremely beautiful and gorgeous. However, they are on the more expensive side.

One pair of exotic fish can cost anywhere from $100 to $1000 or more based on the species you choose.

Irrespective of the type of fish you choose, it is important to make sure that your saltwater aquarium is ready before you introduce the fish in it.

Another good idea is to add a few cleanup animals in the tank.

For instance, you can go for a start fish or hermit crabs. These cleaner inhabitants of your aquarium will cost you, more or less, $50.

Cost of Creating the Right Habitat

Half the fun of maintaining a saltwater tank lies in creating the right habitat for your marine fish.

A saltwater aquarium is generally loaded with bold and vibrant colors.

However, creating an aquarium habitat goes beyond aesthetics.

You have to choose the type of coral reef you want, plant species that will do well in your aquarium, the ideal life rock for your tank, etc.

All these things affect the overall expense of creating a healthy saltwater habitat for your marine fish.

The cost also depends on the size of your tank. On average, this cost ranges between $300 and $600.

Let’s take a look at the cost breakup for a 90-gallon tank.

You will need around 90 pounds of live rock, which will cost around $200 to $800, depending on whether you opt for a new or used live rock.

Another prominent expense is live marine sand. You can get around 80 pounds of the sand of your choice for $50 -$150.

The lighting system and aquarium tools are also an important part of creating an appropriate environment in a saltwater aquarium.

While tools for mixing saltwater can cost around $125 – $150 on average, prices for lighting systems generally vary between $150 and $1500.

If you decide to add a live coral reef, consider its cost as well. You can get a beginner coral reef for $40 or less.

Exotic specimens, on the other hand, can cost you up to $300 or more.

Maintenance Cost

Maintenance costs include all the recurring expenses that come with maintaining a saltwater aquarium.

These costs usually account for things like salt for changing the water, fish food, water test kits, fish medication, electricity, and RO-DI water devices.

Maintenance cost depends on a number of factors including the size of your tank, type, the number of fish, the kind of foods you opt for, the type of lighting you use, etc.

How to Cut Down the Cost of Saltwater Aquariums

Fortunately, there are multiple ways to cut down the overall cost of setting up a saltwater aquarium and maintaining it.

Let’s take a look at some of the tried and tested methods that can help you save a few bucks while allowing you to have a stunning saltwater aquarium!

Opt for Used Items

It is important to understand that there is nothing wrong with using used items. However, doing so can make a huge difference in the overall costs.

For instance, purchasing a used tank and a second-hand lighting system can lower the overall cost by up to 50%.

Lease an Aquarium

If you are testing the waters and are unsure about whether you want to make a switch to saltwater aquariums, one way of lowering the cost is to lease an aquarium.

The trend of easing aquariums is slowly making its way into the world of fishkeeping.

It is an extremely viable option for people who are looking for large aquariums. Professionals will take care of everything for you!

This will not only save our time and effort but it is also a more cost-effective strategy when it comes to getting a beautiful and well-established saltwater aquarium without much hassle.

Leasing will significantly cut down on your expenses. You will have to pay the installation fee, which generally ranges from $200 to $600.

Also, take into account the monthly fee that ranges between $150 -$300.

Choose the Right Fish

Saltwater fish are generally more expensive as compared to freshwater fish.

This makes it even more important to choose the right fish for your aquarium.

Making hasty decisions when it comes to picking fish for your tank can lead to major problems.

Surely, you don’t want your precious fish to be eaten or killed by other fish in the tank or die due to unfavorable conditions.

The only way to keep this from happening is to take the time to do your research. Make sure you have a complete plan before heading out to get your saltwater aquarium!


Starting a saltwater aquarium is a pricey venture but it is worth every penny.

On average, the setup cost for a 60-80 L reef tank ranges from $700 – $800 while yearly maintenance will cost around $500 – $600.

For a medium-sized reef tank (100 – 300L), setup cost ranges between $1700 – $2000 and yearly maintenance cost will account for around $700 – $800.

Finally, the expected setup cost for a large reef tank (500 – 1000L) averages around $3000 – $10000 while the yearly maintenance cost can reach up to $1500 – $1800.

Keeping these average costs in mind, you can now make the right decision regarding money matters and plan the aquarium of your dreams for just the right price!

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