Salt Water vs Fresh Water Aquarium: What’s the Difference?

Many people have considered having an aquarium in their homes. There are so many options. However, it’d be hard to choose one that suits you and your family.

Are you looking to get an aquarium, but you’re still unsure of what type is right for your needs?

We can help inform and guide you in making your decision. Follow along below to learn the key differences between salt water vs fresh water aquariums.

Maintenance and Cleaning

Saltwater tanks require significantly more maintenance due to the need to monitor water chemistry, temperature, and specific gravity. Cleaning is also a frequent requirement, as saltwater systems should be completely changed out every few months, and partial water changes should be done regularly.

Freshwater tanks require less frequent water changes, but the water should still be checked and cleaned regularly. Other maintenance requirements are similar between the two systems, such as filter cleaning and replacing light bulbs.

Generally speaking, saltwater tanks require more work, but with diligent upkeep, both salt and fresh water tanks can be beautiful and thriving ecosystems.

Fish Choices

When it comes to fish, saltwater aquariums offer a much wider variety of fish compared to freshwater tanks. Popular fish choices include

  • Butterflyfish
  • Tangs
  • Angelfish
  • Pufferfish
  • Clownfish

Freshwater aquariums, on the other hand, offer a variety of species, such as:

  • Barbs
  • Serpae Tetras
  • Bettas
  • Gouramis
  • Cichlids
  • Dwarf Caiman
  • Ghost Knife Fish

Regardless of whether one chooses a saltwater or freshwater tank, careful planning, and research are crucial to ensure a sustainable aquarium. 


On the cheaper end, freshwater aquariums tend to be the more affordable option. On average, a 10-gallon fresh water tank starts at around $50, plus the cost of lighting and other supplies needed to keep the tank running.

Saltwater aquariums tend to be more expensive, starting at $100 and up for a 10-gallon salt water tank. Supplies needed to maintain saltwater aquariums, such as salt mix, high-quality filtration, heaters, and other equipment, can cost more and require more frequent upkeep than a freshwater aquarium, resulting in additional costs. 

Decoration and Equipment

Saltwater aquariums require salt to be added to their water to simulate a natural ocean environment. Freshwater aquariums, on the other hand, are more closely associated with rivers or lakes and do not usually have additional salts added.

As a result, the decorations and equipment needed for setting up a saltwater or freshwater aquarium will vary. For a saltwater aquarium setup, you will typically need:

  • aquarium heater
  • live rock
  • protein skimmer
  • live sand
  • pH tester

For a freshwater aquarium setup, decorations such as plants, driftwood, rocks, and objects like castle ornaments can provide a natural-looking environment. Things such as a substrate, heater, filter, thermometer, pH tester, and the best soil are essential for a successful freshwater aquarium.

Discover the Truth Between Salt Water vs Fresh Water

In deciding between salt water vs fresh water aquariums, they both provide a rewarding and aesthetically pleasing experience for any fish enthusiast. From the vast array of fish and coral to the different design options, anyone can enjoy and benefit from keeping a tank of either type.

Make sure to choose the one that best fits your budget and desired outcome. Get started on building your very own aquarium today!

Check out our other blog posts for more home and lifestyle tips.

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