Marine or Freshwater: such a popular question for aquarium hobbyists, right? Both designs have their own unique upsides and downsides; there’s no one single handbook for a better vs. worse comparison. It’s just that marine designs suit some hobbyists better while freshwater aquascaping has its own fan club. Having tried our hands at both and realized that there’re no best of both worlds, here’s our list of trade offs to help solve your dilemma before you decide up on the type of aquascaping you want to focus on:
1. Visual Appeal: Well, both can be stunningly beautiful and it entirely depends on your choice whether you want a piece of an ocean or a miniature river to adorn your living room corner. Marine fish, however, are dazzlingly bright and colorful in appearance and very few freshwater fish can match up to them in the scale of piscean beauty. Also, beautifully colored marine shrimps, multicolored unique marine crabs and sea horses can enhance the look.
Freshwater tanks however win by the lushness of the green aquatic plants and various styles of aquascaping can be done by playing around with these plants.
2. Cost: Considering a marine vs. a freshwater tank of similar size, volume and dimension, a marine is going to cost way more as the corals, anemones and the live rocks are really pricy and you just can’t build the marine biotope without these.
Also, protein skimmers, which are mandatory for cleaning off the excess protein in the form of froth, are a must for marine tanks and can cause a spike in your set up costs if you’re planning to get a real good brand. Cheap brands don’t do much with skimming action, so you can’t really do without a good brand.
3. Time: Marine set up takes time; once you get the live rocks you’ll need to allow weeks for the rocks’ bacteria to get settled and spin out a viable ecosystem inside your tank. The marine corals,too, take a long time to settle down and flourish and some may even die out during the process.
Freshwater tanks don’t get set up by magic either as you need ample time to adjust your fish and plants to the available water conditions and quarantine them for a certain period of time. However, time commitment is more of a key for the marine setups.
4. Maintenance: There’s no point of bringing in the expensive and stunning marine livestock, corals and rocks if your tank itself doesn’t look squeaky clean, right? Unless you do a daily and thorough cleaning (you can order a magnetic aquarium cleaner for this) of the 4 glass walls of your marine tank, the excess protein deposition is going to make it look unsightly.
A freshwater tank, on the other hand, once set up, doesn’t need such extensive daily cleaning and regular water change (may be once a week for an established planted tank) will do the trick.
Up to a certain point of time we maintained both salt and freshwater tanks, but eventually the marine tank started demanding so much time for cleaning and maintenance, that we decided to shut it down and focus our attention entirely on freshwater aquascaping. It looks pretty, right?