Terrible Advice Tuesdays: Saltwater Tank’s Invisible Drawback


Terrible Advice Tuesdays (T.A.Tues): Saltwater aquariums smell bad.

The rest of the story:  A healthy saltwater tank that has good water quality and good filtration will not smell.

If your saltwater tank does smells bad, the first place to look is water quality. A tank with poor water quality (high ammonia or nitrates) will likely smell bad. And a tank with poor water quality probably has something wrong with it such as a poor biological filtration, lack of chemical filtration (namely activated carbon), little/no surface skimming, or a dead fish in the tank.

Even a protein skimmer cup that is full of nasty skimmate should not be noticeable when you are standing in front of the tank.

If your saltwater tank smells bad, that’s not normal and a prime indicator that something is wrong.

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Comments for this article (8)

  • Matthew says:

    One of my childhood friends had a saltwater tank and he was very lazy. Needless to say he tank was foul. I mean come on if it smells like a fish market. You know the rest.

  • Patrick says:

    Watch out for rotten egg smell!

  • James Ryer says:

    My tank doesn’t smell bad but my partner says our living room is humid and smells like an aquarium store lol.

  • Jan wolffram says:

    james ryer:
    Does she say it lovingly or with a slight concern in her voice? If it’s not lovingly, you need to upgrade your partner lol

  • paul says:

    My tank smells fine, but my skimmate ( I carbon dose) is rank (smelly) and black, and frankly if I dont empty it often I can smell it when Im close to the tank especially when its foaming, Does anyone have any ideas to reduce smell?

  • Erick says:

    Hey Paul. I also carbon dose. I also clean my skimmer once a week but I also wet skim from collection cup to 64oz bottle and empty that daily. So no smell. But if it does build up you can smell it. More carbon dose more bacteria skimmed out. More smelly it can get. The better your tank looks. For carbon dossing that is.

  • Ben says:

    When I was setting up my tank, my mother in law told us were nuts. Because back in the early 80’s they had a tank that smelled up the whole house. After watching Mike Palettas talk @ macna 2014 you can’t even compare things. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aO1-HlYiEAk

  • Pierre Bouic says:

    So true Mark, I’ve been called to clients tanks who complain about tank smell, and they look at me in amazement when I tell them my reef tank never smells of anything, as if to say well aren’t you Mr. perfect ,when I’m just trying to educate them that having a Foul smelling FOWLR is not an excuse for bad smells in the display tank.
    It all comes back to enjoyment of the maintenance and if you don’t enjoy it then stay from this hobby, is what I always say.

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