In 2022, I sent a request to SaltwaterAquariumBlog.com Newsletter readers to take a short survey to help generate some data and saltwater aquarium hobby statistics about tank costs, maintenance, quarantine, and dipping habits, you know, that sort of thing.
I’ll share the saltwater aquarium hobby statistics summary immediately below but then dig into the data for some more detailed insights and analysis right after.
Executive summary: 13 most interesting saltwater aquarium hobby statistics
The 13 most interesting saltwater aquarium hobby statistics about tank costs, maintenance, quarantine, and dipping habits are:
- The median initial cost to set up a saltwater tank was in the $1,001-$1,500 range
- The most common saltwater tank size was more than 110 gallons
- The median saltwater tank size is in the 71 to 90 gallons range
- At a snapshot in time, both the median and the most common age of a display tank was between 1 and 3 years old, which suggests many of us are still in the early part of our journeys.
- On average, a saltwater aquarium owner spends about 1.5 hours each week on maintenance (5.9 hours/month).
- On average, a saltwater aquarium owner also spends an additional 1.1 hours each week (4.4 hours/month) caring for their livestock.
- A saltwater aquarium owner, on average, spends 10.3 hours each month maintaining the tank and caring for their fish, corals, and other invertebrates.
- A saltwater aquarium owner, on average, spends about 2.6 hours each week maintaining the tank and caring for their fish, corals, and other invertebrates.
- 55% of coral owners routinely dip their corals before adding them to their display tank.
- Only 17% of coral owners routinely quarantine new corals before adding them to their display tank
- 83% of coral owners DO NOT routinely quarantine new corals before adding them to the aquarium.
- 38% of saltwater aquarium owners routinely quarantine their fish before adding them to their display tank.
- 62% of saltwater aquarium enthusiasts DO NOT routinely quarantine their fish before adding them to their display tank.
How much does it cost to set up a saltwater aquarium?
One of the most common questions I get from people thinking about setting up a saltwater aquarium is: how much does it cost? My answer, until now, was typically some version of…it depends… you could probably spend as much or as little money as you wish.
As you can imagine, that’s not an incorrect answer, but it isn’t all that helpful. The good news is that we now have some excellent data and an answer to this age-old question. Take a look at the pie chart below.
If that isn’t mathematical proof that my previous answer wasn’t all that bad, I don’t know what would prove it. Some people spent less than $250, and some spent over $10,001. The median cost was between $1,001 – $1,500, and the most common response was between $3,001 – $5,000.
Respondents were not forced to answer and could also indicate that they didn’t remember. Those answers were removed from this analysis.
How big is the average saltwater aquarium?
The next question I get is: how big of a tank do I need? My old answer…that it depends. You could make a saltwater aquarium out of just about any size tank–whatever size will make you happy and that you can afford will be great.
Luckily, I didn’t let the survey respondents off the hook that easily. I didn’t ask them what size tank they needed, but rather what size tank they had. Here are the results:
Nobody in the sample had a tank that was less than 5 gallons as their primary saltwater tank, but I bet you we might have snagged a few if I asked them to list all of their saltwater tanks (there’s always next year).
But you can see that there are reasonable numbers of every size between 5 gallons and 110 gallons or more.
The median result for this survey question was 71 to 90 gallons, and the most common response was more than 110 gallons. So if you are just starting out, those are two great ranges to aim for…go with the crowd, or aim for the middle.
How long has the average saltwater aquarium been set up?
The survey respondents indicated how long their current display tank had been set up. You can see the results below.
The range of responses was from anywhere less than a year to a select group who have been running their tanks for more than 15 years, with the most common response, 32.9%, being between 1 and 3 years. The median answer is within 1 to 3 years as well.
How much time does it take to maintain a saltwater aquarium?
“Isn’t maintaining a saltwater aquarium a lot of work?” I get asked that question a lot. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be much work. It depends. It depends on the size of the tank, the amount and type of equipment you have, as well as your ambitions–do you want to go with the flow or juice it to the max?
The results are in the chart below:
You can see that different individuals spend anywhere between 1 hour and 10 hours each month, or approximately 15 min to 2.5 hours each week, specifically on tank maintenance.
Zero hours was also an option here (and I asked respondents to round up or down, as appropriate, to keep it at whole numbers), and zero people answered zero, suggesting there is zero chance of zero maintenance if you own a saltwater aquarium. So don’t believe the marketing hype if some future product tries to convince you otherwise.
If you like the movie Dumb & Dumber, you may be thinking that I might be signaling to you that there’s a chance…
But those chances are like…1 in a million. Nailed it!
We finally have an interesting distribution here–the average response was 5.9 hours (about 1.5 hours/week), and the most common response was at the top of the range–10 hours!
The main reason that happened is that I messed the question up. 10 hours was the maximum in my range. So if you took my survey and spent more hours than that, you probably hit 10. However, that doesn’t mean we should distrust the data, but instead, we may want to interpret the result of “10 hours” as “10 or more hours”.
So I think my new answer to the question, “Does it take a lot of work,” will be…it does not have to, but it probably will take about 90 minutes each week, on average, to maintain.
But as you may already know, maintenance isn’t the only way we spend our time.
How much time does it take to care for livestock?
When I built this survey, I was curious to see how much of our time was being spent on those (sometimes) dreaded maintenance tasks vs. caring for the livestock. The fish and corals already in our care, and THE COOL NEW FISH/CORAL/SHRIMP WE JUST BOUGHT!
My rationale for wondering was that maintenance is a chore (sometimes), but caring for our fishy friends is more love than labor, do you agree?
Here are the results for how many hours each month are spent caring for livestock specifically:
In terms of caring for our livestock, some spend less than an hour in a typical month, while quite a few spend 10 or more hours, and every number in between. The average amount of time is 4.4 hours, and the most common response was 2 hours, or 30 minutes, in total each week.
What percentage of people routinely dip corals before placing them in the display tank?
I think most of us know that dipping corals is an important way to help prevent the introduction of unwanted pests into the tank, right? It doesn’t take a lot of work, but I was curious to find out what percentage of the respondents routinely dip new corals before introducing them into their display tank.
The answers are below:
The results looked a bit like a few of our recent elections. A slight majority, 55%, routinely dip their new corals before introducing them to the tank. The other 45% do not. I was a bit shocked.
The individuals who volunteered to take this survey, dear reader, were SaltwaterAquariumBlog readers, much like you. The cream of the crop.
Ahem, enough sucking up. Back to the results. Spoiler alert, the husbandry goes downhill from here.
What percentage of people routinely quarantine new fish before adding them to the display tank?
As someone who has suffered from two catastrophic crashes due to untreated saltwater ich ravaging my poor fish until bad things happened, I find myself conflicted by these results because I see both sides of me in the results.
The younger version of me that came from the freshwater aquarium side and learned not to sweat parasites in a freshwater tank. It turns out, most saltwater aquarium owners also don’t sweat parasites either, because 62% of people do not routinely quarantine their fish.
Only 38% do. I did not take the survey, but in case you are wondering, I do quarantine.
What percentage of people routine quarantine corals before adding them to the display tank?
The outlook is even dimmer for corals–although I raise my hand with the 83% majority–guilty as charged for NOT quarantining new corals before adding them to my display tank.
If you want to read other great statistics articles or posts with reader survey data, check out these other informative reads:
50 Best Aquarium Industry Statistics
Saltwater tank for beginners (includes stats to help beginners)
Six line wrasse care guide with compatibility survey results
Ocellaris clownfish care guide (with survey data to support)
2,500 + aquarium enthusiasts who had previously opted in to receive the Saltwater Aquarium Blog Newsletter were sent an email between December 2021 through June 2022 asking if they would volunteer to take a survey.
The survey was created in Google Forms and hosted on my personal Google Drive. The survey had 17 questions. Question formats were multiple choice, short answer, or check all that apply.
No questions were required to be answered to complete the submission.
N = 234 respondents
Survey questions that generated these saltwater aquarium hobby statistics
- What is the size/volume of your aquarium? If you have more than one, please answer for your primary display tank.
- How long has this tank been set up?
- How many hours do you spend in a typical month ON TANK MAINTENANCE TASKS (cleaning the tank and equipment, water changes, etc.) – To keep it simple, please round to the nearest hour and please do not include time spent feeding, caring for, or acclimating livestock
- Most people who are thinking about setting up a new tank want to know how much it costs. Thinking back to when you first set up this tank, how much did you initially spend on your tank, stand, lights, pumps, protein skimmers, and other equipment?
- How many hours do you spend in a typical month CARING FOR LIVESTOCK (feeding, acclimating, etc.)- To keep it simple, please round to the nearest hour and please do not include time spent feeding, caring for, or acclimating livestock.
- Do you routinely quarantine NEW FISH before placing them in your display tank?
- Do you routinely quarantine CORALS before placing them in your display tank?
- Do you routinely dip your corals before placing them in your display tank
Saltwater aquarium hobby statistics: potential selection bias
The list of aquarium enthusiasts asked to take this survey voluntarily belonged to the Saltwater Aquarium Blog Newsletter Community. Therefore, it is only natural to conclude they are in the top 1% in attractiveness, intellect, happiness, and above all else, modesty.
In all seriousness, it does seem likely that this sample may skew a bit from a more mainstream sample. For example, each individual in this survey:
- Sought out and found this website, of their own accord (congratulations, so did you!)
- Opted in for the newsletter
- Double-confirmed their subscription to that newsletter prevent SPAM (a surprising number never do)
- Opted in to take the survey at a later, unrelated date determined by me
However, with that in mind, I still think the data provide important insights into the cost, maintenance, quarantine, and coral dipping habits of saltwater aquarium owners.
Saltwater Aquarium Blog Survey Data: June 2022