:  Design
Building a marine aquarium system is almost like beginning a mini-degree program in marine biology. Anyone who is fascinated by marine organisms and their natural histories is thinking like a biologist. Building a marine system is behaving like a biologist. An aquarium provides a fascinating way to explore the incredible world of marine biology. Many people interested in freshwater aquaria eventually build a marine system because of the new world of opportunities it offers. There are many different species of corals that have not even been described or named. Some end up in aquaria and are studied by a hobbyist before they are named by a biologist!
Consider the type of marine aquarium you want to build. Before you think about tanks, stands, and hoods, consider what you imagine you want to care for.
  1. You can build an invertebrate- only system that contains corals, sponges, mollusks, worms, and echinoderms, and crustaceans. For some, these systems are fascinating studies in marine biology.
  2. Fish-only systems are the easiest marine system to care for. The vast arrays of colors, sizes, shapes, and behaviors available to the home aquarist are dazzling. Fish have personalities that many invertebrates cannot display. They often "recognize" their owners and are quite entertaining to watch, especially at feeding time.
  3. Reef systems generally contain invertebrates and fish. These are the systems that most home aquarists want to build. These systems maximize the numbers of different organisms that can be studied in a single system.
Whatever you decide to build, research the species you will be housing before you buy them. Be sure that you have not picked a fish because of its color or shape only. Each species of marine life has its own natural history story. Know the story before you add it to your system.
Some things to consider regarding fish:
  1. Some fish are peaceful while others are aggressive. Many "peaceful" fish are aggressive with their own species while unaggressive with other species. Some fish are aggressive with nearly everything!!
  2. Some fish prefer to live solitary lives and others want to school among their own species.
  3. Some fish have difficult dietary requirements and may feed only on coral polyps. Other fish will accept flake food. Most will accept frozen shrimp products.
  4. Some fish require large spaces or hiding places or high water flow.
  5. Large fish require more space than smaller ones. Some 5 inch fish require more space than other 8 inch fish because of swimming behaviors.
Invertebrates like corals also have their own unique preferences:
  1. Water flow has a large impact on corals. Some require high and others much less. Find out what you need. Linear or turbulent water flow is very hard to produce in cylindrical tank designs.
  2. Lighting is very important for corals. Corals and some mollusks have algae within their cells that produce some or all of their food requirements. The algae require light for photosynthesis, and they provide some of the foodstuffs they make for their hosts.
  3. Some invertebrates require far more space than others. Small basket stars use huge amounts of space to capture their food. Some start small and grow to quite large size.
Whatever you consider, the important thing to do is to visit your local saltwater fish store and talk to someone there. Look at what's available. Use a great text or the world wide web to research the natural history of the organisms that perk your interest. You will be far more satisfied at the end result when you are prepared to build a system that matches your interest.