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How do you ensure you have the appropriate water parameters for saltwater aquariums.

A general guideline of what is acceptable water parameter ranges for different types of saltwater (marine) aquariums.

Saltwater (Marine) Parameters

A chart is a general guideline of what is acceptable water parameter ranges for different types of saltwater (marine) aquariums. Some types of displays such as fish only with live rock aquariums which have a broader range of parameters than a reef aquarium. The reason for this is because of the nature of corals and invertebrates that are commonly maintained in these reef aquariums.

Some species of fish, plants, or invertebrates may have special requirements, so it’s important to research and review each individual fish, plants and invertebrates carefully for additional information.

There are 9 important parameters

Water Parameter




8-12 dkh

Alkalinity is a complex concept/thing to contemplate. As aquarists, we don't care so much about the scientific definition of it, as much as we care that it is a proxy (a way to estimate) the amount of bicarbonate available in the water--because bicarbonate is essential for coral health.


~0 ppm

Ammonia is a toxic waste in your aquarium. Except for when you are cycling your tank, you want ammonia levels to be as close to zero as possible


~400 ppm

Calcium is another essential element for coral health in a saltwater aquarium. Natural coral reefs tend to have calcium levels between 380-420 ppm (parts per million).


~0 ppm

In a properly cycled aquarium, the presence of nitrate is confirmation that your biological filter is working. You want to strive for nitrate levels as low as possible. Levels around 30-40 ppm are generally tolerated by most saltwater aquarium fish (except for fragile species) and many soft corals that tend to come from nutrient rich waters.


~0 ppm

Nitrite is an intermediate by-product produced by your bacterial filter. In your filter, bacteria convert toxic ammonia into less toxic nitrite and then nitrite is further converted into an even more safe chemical called nitrate. Except when cycling your tank, nitrite levels should remain as close to zero as possible



While the absolute pH is important, it is perhaps even more important to ensure that the pH remains stable. Dramatic swings in pH can cause problems for your live stock


<0.2 ppm

Phosphate in your saltwater aquarium acts as a fertilizer for algae-- keep levels below 0.2 ppm if possible


Measured as specific gravity 1.025

The salinity of the ocean is actually ~ 35 g/L, but for your saltwater aquarium, it is more common to measure the specific gravity of the water as a proxy for salinity, because of how easily specific gravity can be measured.


73-84 Fahrenheit

As long as the temperature of your saltwater aquarium is in this range, keeping the temperature consistent (avoiding fluctuation) becomes more important than the actual value itself. Most commonly recommended temperatures are around 78 degrees Fahrenheit (25.5 degrees Celsius)

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