Saltwater Parameters that are essential for successful aquariums

Most people might think that having a saltwater aquarium is easy, but let me tell you, there are so many things that you have to maintain in order for your aquarium to be successful.

TDS MeterA TDS meter might just be one of the things that comes in handy when you have a saltwater aquarium. We use TDS meters to measure the total dissolved solids in the water. It is important that you always use a clean collection vessel that is well rinsed before collecting water for testing, so that you achieve the best result.

Let’s have a look at the diverse parameters that are essential to the success of your aquarium:


Alkalinity or as some might call it, a way to estimate the amount of bicarbonate in your tank water. Bicarbonate is essential for coral health and for the functionality of growing coral skeletons. The ideal alkalinity for a saltwater aquarium is between 8 and 12 dkh. Consistency of alkalinity should be maintained at all times. When alkalinity is low, you should systematically get it up, in order to avoid shocking your fish.

Ammonia is known as the waste in your tank that might sometimes become extremely toxic. Ammonia is formed when the fish urinate in the water or when things in the tank, like uneaten food, become rotten. Ammonia levels should be kept as low as possible in order to avoid it becoming toxic and leading to the death of your fish. The ideal ammonia level for your tank is ~0ppm.

Calcium is another parameter that is essential for coral health. Most neutral coral reefs are known to have a calcium level of between 380 and 420ppm.  It is ideal to keep calcium levels at this rate so that your corals stay healthy.

You can tell that your biological filter works perfectly when you have Nitrate in your tank. Nitrate levels should be as close to zero as possible, but you might get away with slightly higher levels, because most fish can tolerate higher levels of Nitrate.

When you cycle your tank, your bacterial filter produces Nitrite. This is because the filter converts toxic ammonia to less toxic nitrite and finally nitrate. These levels should also be kept as low as possible.

Dramatic changes in PH-levels of your tank can harm your fish. Make sure that you maintain levels of PH between 8.1 and 8.4.

The ideal level of phosphate in your tank is <0.2ppm (parts per million). Phosphate only becomes visible around 0.13ppm and its function is to act as a fertiliser for algae.

Salinity is a true measurement of the concentration of salt in the ocean and is calculated as the total weight of dry’ salt dissolved in a total of 1000 units of water. This weight cannot be influenced by temperature. The general salinity for salt in water is 35ppt. The ocean maintains a general salinity of 35g/L, but it is important to keep your water’s salinity at a specific gravity of 1.025.

It is possible to exaggerate the changes in your water. Recurrent water changes won’t be an issue if you are always careful to match the water parameters. You cannot just discard salt into water and expect to be a successful marine aquarist. You have to be patient, because these things take time. It takes a while for robust water circulation to completely dissolve the salt. You have to purify your source of water first by using RO/DI before using it to mix saltwater.

When water evaporates from a saltwater system, all the dissolved solids get left behind. The more the water evaporates, the more concentrated the water gets, therefore, the salinity increases. Freshwater top- offs are essential for the health of your aquarium and must be done on a regular basis. If you are someone who regularly travels, you might consider investing into an Automatic top off System.