9 Saltwater Tank Habits to Stop Doing Right Now

When managing a saltwater tank, it is useful to know what not to do.


If you know what to ignore, you’ll avoid mistakes and save yourself headaches.

Here are the top 9 saltwater tank habits to avoid:

#1: Do not feed your corals.

To avoid having a tank overrun with algae, do not pump a lot of nutrients (coral food) into your tank. Fish poop is great coral food so instead feed your fish well. 2 to 3 times a day is good for them, and for your coral.

#2: Do not use tap water or bottled water for your tank.

Both are full of metals and minerals you don’t want in your tank. Both can cause fish and coral to die and spur nuisance algae growth. Instead, use only RO/DI water.

#3: Do not use damsel fish to cycle your tank.

Damselfish are aggressive fish and when you try to remove them, they are near impossible to catch. Plus, putting a fish through a full tank cycle is like asking someone to live in a dust storm 24/7: They’ll live through it, but doing so is its own form of torture.

Leave the damsels out of your tank and do this instead.

#4: Do not put Xenia in your tank.

This coral can overtake a tank in no time. You might be able to keep in under control by trimming it every week, but seriously, there are better ways to spend your time.

#5: Do not run a tank without a protein skimmer.

Tank dabbler, reef enthusiast, reef junkie, it doesn’t matter, protein skimmers are necessary pieces of equipment.

#6: Do not use only one type of food.

Like humans, fish need a variety of food to give them the nutrients they need. So feed mysis, nori, high performance diet, cylcop-eeze and pellets on a rotational basis. I feed one type of food in the morning, and another at night.

#7: Do not add rock over time to your tank.

Save yourself the headache of mini cycles and tearing your tank apart each time you want to add rock by buying all the rock you’ll need at once. A good rule of thumb is to have one pound of live rock per gallon of tank water.

#8: Do not add live rock to your tank.

Instead, buy it dead.

#9: Do not put corals in your tank that haven’t been dipped.

Corals can carry pests that can kill your coral. Dip any and every piece of coral coming into your tank without fail.

I recommend CoralRx. You can buy it from TB Aquatics


Everyone makes mistakes and I’ve personally made several of the above.

Avoid these habits and you’ll be setting your tank up for success.

What mistakes have you made with your tank? Leave a comment and let me know.

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Comments for this article (61)

  • Brian says:

    Item 6 (fish food) where do you recommend purchasing the types listed
    -high performance diet

  • Brian…I don’t recommend high performance diet anymore as the company making it didn’t write back to several people who wanted it.

    All the foods you mentioned can be purchased @ http://www.mrSaltWaterTank.com/site/md

  • Jess D. says:

    I recently started up my 16 gallon tank. I was told that a protein skimmer is unnecessary in a tank this small, because it wouldn’t remove much of anything. Would you suggest a protein skimmer for such a small tank?

  • Prashant says:

    I’ve always been on the fence about whether or not to feed my PS corals and you just cleared it up. It’s tough when you have so many people telling you that it is necessary but I see your logic and agree completely. Also, I second your motion for a protein skimmer as being as necessary as WATER for your tank. There is no work-around for this people. There are skimmers for tanks of all sizes! If you want a healthy tank, get one! It is money well spent.

    One mistake I made with my tank setup was starting it up with treated tap water. I finally broke the bank and set up a home RO system and it has made a huge difference and I have lost no fish since then due to water perimeters.

    Thanks for all your advice and tips, Mark.

  • Glad to hear the tips are helping Prashant!

  • Declan says:

    Hi, my tank could be easily mistaken as sewage at the moment, i have a huge algae problem and struggle to get rid of it out of my sump. Should i remove the algae? and if so how? I have a protein skimmer and my display tank is easy to clean so it doesn’t have as much algae in it.

    And about tip 6, is it OK if i feed my fish just mysis shrimp and different greens like broccoli and seaweed?

  • Esben says:

    Stupid as I was I introduced xenia to my 1500 l setup. It has turned to a nightmare. Do you know any fish or animals which only feed on softcoral and especialy on xenia? It is not possible to renovering it by hand even how hard I try.


  • Kathie says:

    Aw, this was an incredibly nice post. Taking a few minutes
    and actual effort to produce a very good article… but what can I say…
    I put things off a lot and never manage to get nearly anything done.

  • Kalen says:

    I fed my tank some mysis that was a day old. I feed varieties of food always but this was just an accident. I had one cup of fresh mysis thawing and dumped in one I forgot about from the day previous, Hoping my fish don’t suffer any ill effects…

  • Mr.C says:

    What would you recommend instead of the HPD? I have been looking into this and it seems to be a great option. Is there a comparable mixture?

  • Andrick A says:

    What happens if you keep adding dry dock? What happens with these mini cycles? I buy rock 2-3 pounds at a time and I need another 20 possibly …

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