The tank is the next purchase and quite obviously the most important. When shopping for a tank, look for smooth seal lines (no bubbles) that keep a consistent thickness and taper off finely on the edges of the seal. Most marine aquariums use a substrate of fine sand and rock. Usually, depending on your filtration choices, 2-3 inches is plenty. Rock is expensive but required for a successful reef aquarium. It is best to buy very little of this in the beginning to allow your water to complete its breaking in cycle.

Salt additives will be needed to add to your local water. Be sure to purchase a specific gravity meter to determine the salinity of the water as you mix it and to monitor it once the tank is setup. You will also need a thermometer to control temperature. Try to buy a mercury tube you can stick to the side of the aquarium with suction cups. These usually have the ideal temperature marked on them and are very easy to read.

A heater will most likely be needed to keep the temperature constant when the temperature falls down. In addition, after the first few days you will need to test the water to determine when it is safe for other inhabitants and to maintain the quality. Test kits for nitrate, nitrite and pH balance are a must.

Lights come in two basic types for aquariums, fluorescent and metal-halide. Fluorescents are less expensive and usually adequate for smaller tanks. Metal halides cost more but last much longer and have much stronger output for deeper tanks.

Filters make up a whole industry and make it very difficult to recommend the right one for you. Traditionally, under-gravel filters are the answer for tanks under 30 gallons. They are inexpensive, easy to operate and generally do an acceptable job. For larger tanks, more advanced filters are required.

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