Marine Fish Tank - Cost Considerations
A big factor in deciding whether to keep marines is the cost, and whilst it can be done economically, it should never be done on the cheap. Selling yourself short will cost you in the long run and investing in the beginning will give you a much greater chance of success and an easier life later on.
Marine Tanks - Initial cost
The big hit many fish keepers get when they start thinking about keeping marines is the initial expense of the aquarium, equipment, and rockwork, which is usually significantly higher than a freshwater tank of equivalent size. Your minimum starting price point for a decent small marine aquarium is in the region of £250-£300, a 90-120cm tank might be between £500-800 and to set this size up as a reef tank might cost over £1000 with livestock on top. Whilst this may seem quite pricy to many, aquariums are steadily becoming more affordable, and the quality of equipment is slowly improving so you may be able to get better prices.
Running costs of your Marine
The cost of running a marine tank compared to a freshwater fish tank is generally higher because there are additional items of equipment to be considered, but this extra cost is vastly different in 'fish only' and 'reef' aquariums. A 'fish only' marine tank has the same basic items of equipment as a freshwater tank but may have a more powerful filter, a skimmer, and perhaps stronger lighting. The net result is a slightly higher electricity use, but the amount is very little and probably no more than a light bulb or two.
For a 'reef' aquarium the difference is more significant, not only do we need more pumps but we also need much more power hungry lighting. A typical 120cm freshwater or 'fish only' marine tank might have between 20-80 watts of lighting using fluorescent tubes, but a 'reef' tank might have up to 500 watts of lighting! In cost terms the extra power used by equipment and lights plus the cost of replacement bulbs for a reef tank might equate to around £200 a year, or £15 a month. Alongside electricity costs, there are also extra costs above freshwater aquariums for the salt, RO water (or RO membranes if you use your own unit), filter medias, extra food types and so on which will all add up to an additional monthly cost of £10-£30.
Take a look at the price of marine fish compared to tropical species and you will see there is a significant difference, with marine fish costing a lot more. This is not the retailers way of getting more money out of richer customers, it is because of the more expensive processes involved in catching marine fish in an environmentally sustainable way, shipping, wholesaling, and the cost of keeping marine sales systems running. On the good side, marine fish are kept in much lower numbers and at a lower stocking density, so for every 10 tropical fish you might only keep one marine fish in the same volume of water. In a 'fish only' tank, a wise buyer will come out only a little above the livestock cost of a tropical freshwater tank. For a reef aquarium, which will require live rock as well as corals and inverts, you can expect to pay the price of the tank and equipment again in livestock.