Determining the ideal temperature for a saltwater aquarium is a common concern among aquarists. However, there is no universal answer to this question since temperature preferences can vary depending on the individual owner. Some aquarists believe that maintaining a temperature range of 75-77 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal, while others suggest a range of 75-80 degrees. On the other hand, certain fish and coral species from warmer tropical waters may thrive better in temperatures ranging from 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Additionally, certain invertebrates may prefer cooler water temperatures.
Thoughts about Saltwater Tank Temperature
In his article “What are Natural Reef Salinities and Temperatures…Really…and Does It Matter?” for Aquarium Frontier’s online magazine, Ronald Shimek explains that maintaining a tank temperature in the upper 70 degrees Fahrenheit (24 to 26 degrees Celsius) range can stress reef inhabitants from the central Indo-Pacific, as it is too cold for them. He suggests that it is better for aquarists to maintain separate systems for organisms from geographically disparate areas. On the other hand, Richard Harker, in his article “Reef Tank Temperatures–Another View,” believes that maintaining a stable tank with healthy corals and efficient waste removal equipment is necessary before increasing the tank’s temperature. However, he recommends a happy medium of about 79 degrees Fahrenheit, which provides the largest margin of safety for hobbyists, as corals have been shown to thrive in water several degrees on either side of this temperature.
Things to Think About Before Choosing a Temperature
If you decide to maintain higher temperatures in your tank, it’s crucial to consider other important factors. Closed systems may generate excess metabolic wastes that need to be properly removed. With high tank temperatures, these excess wastes may cause issues such as uncontrollable algae blooms and fish or coral diseases that thrive in warmer conditions. Conversely, open ocean waters have adequate currents and other organisms to regulate these issues.
Higher temperatures also cause a decrease in dissolved oxygen levels in the water. This lack of dissolved oxygen can suffocate and kill the tank occupants much faster than high temperatures alone. However, maintaining good water movement and sufficient surface and tank aeration can help control this problem.
Zooxanthellae algae are critical for providing nutrition to most corals. Rapid or drastic temperature changes can have a severe impact on these algae, which may force them to abandon the coral, resulting in coral bleaching and eventually leading to the coral’s death.
Rapid temperature variations
The optimal temperature for a saltwater aquarium is a topic that generates a variety of opinions, and the consensus is that gradual acclimation is key to maintaining the health of the tank inhabitants. Quick temperature changes can be harmful to the animals and may cause stress or even death. It is important to maintain a stable temperature range that reflects the natural environment of the tank inhabitants.
While higher temperatures may be detrimental to some tank inhabitants, fluctuations in temperature are more concerning. Sudden changes of four degrees or more in a short period can be harmful to the animals. To address this issue, a thermostatically controlled aquarium heater can be added to prevent the water from getting too cool, while an aquarium chiller can be used to lower the temperature if it becomes too warm. The most crucial factor is maintaining a stable temperature range within the natural environment of the tank inhabitants.