Where is the best location to put my new saltwater tank?

Where is the best place to put my new saltwater tank? That’s a question I get a lot from people looking to start a new reef tank. I love that question because it shows you are planning and care about making the best choices for your tank.

The best location to put your new saltwater tank

It isn’t very easy to move a reef tank, once you have it all set up. You want to spend some time planning out the location so that you are happy with the result. While you could arguably set the aquarium up just about anywhere in the house, there are a few factors to consider when selecting the best location for your aquarium.

Managing the weight of the tank

First things first—an aquarium is heavy—very heavy. You want to be sure that the floor under your aquarium can support all of that weight. If you have any reservations at all, you should consider having a contractor take a look and reinforce and brace the floor, if necessary.

Consider locating your tank in a corner of the room. Most likely, the sub-floor will be supported there, on two sides.

Accounting for spills, splashes and salt creep

I freely admit that I am not the cleanest guy in the world or even the cleanest guy in my zip code, or probably even my street, but even if you are, you will want to locate your aquarium someplace where it is ok to spill some water every now and then.

That means you don’t want to locate your tank in the room where the floor was made from reclaimed civil war era wood. You will spill water. You, your powerheads and your fish will splash water from time to time, and salt may creep out of the tank and onto the wall or floors.

The ideal location is someplace where the water won’t cause any damage. A suitable place is somewhere the damage won’t bother you.

Proximity to the sink and saltwater

One of the most important ongoing chores is to ensure you perform partial water changes on a semi-regular basis. The farther your tank is located from the sink and the place you store your pre-mixed saltwater, the more of a chore that task will be. The more of a chore that task is, the less you will want to do it, which means you won’t do it as often as you should, and the tank may suffer.

While this is not the most important factor when selecting a location for your aquarium, it certainly is a bonus feature of the ideal location to be conveniently situated next to water changes.

In my house, the aquarium is located that the opposite side of the house from the laundry room, where the slop sink is that I use to dump the aquarium waste water and where I mix the new saltwater.

Every time I do a partial water change, I slosh around 35-40 pound buckets of water across the length of the entire house. Even when I don’t spill it, the outside of the buckets typically get a little bit wet and drip along the path, and about every 3rd or 4th bucket, I tend to hit a knee or ankle, dodge a cat or kid or otherwise find some reason to spill some of the water on the way to or from the aquarium.

bucket of salt water

In my dream house (which would be built around my dream tank), the water change area would be on the other side of the wall where the aquarium is located so water changes would be a breeze.

Show it off

Of course, you are going to be proud of your aquarium. You will be spending a lot of time and money to make it look gorgeous. You are going to want to show it off. The ideal location for an aquarium is in a prominent place of honor that will add dimension and interest to your room and fascinate your guests.

Saltwater Aquarium

Good insulation, low foot traffic

The animals in your tank will feel vibrations in the water. The ideal location will be somewhere the floor doesn’t vibrate when the kids jump in the next room. Your fish will also be wary of sudden movements, so you probably won’t want to locate the tank in a major corridor, or you may find skittish fish darting for cover, or worse yet, jumping out of the tank to their doom.

Hide cords and other stuff

cluttered area under the tank

Unless you spend considerable time or money designing a custom unit, your aquarium is going to have some unsightly cords, pipes, gizmos and other protrusions that will be a bit of an eyesore. The ideal location gives you a way to conceal the business-end of the aquarium to maximize the aesthetics.


Believe it or not, this is one of the most common things I hear used as a criterion for the ideal location of an aquarium. The old advice that gets passed around is to make sure the tank is not located in a position to get a lot of direct sunlight. The most common reason I hear provided for this advice is that the jolt of sunlight every day will fuel problem algae growth.

When it comes to picking the ideal location for a saltwater aquarium—the location of the sun could possibly play a factor, but not because of the old problem algae issue. If you are setting up a reef aquarium, you are going to spend hundreds of dollars on a light manifold, and you will spend hundreds of dollars every year on the electricity it takes to run those lights.

Those lights are so expensive because they try to replicate the natural light the sun provides, for free.

So why on earth would locating your saltwater aquarium near direct sunlight be a bad idea? It wouldn’t. The only sensitivity I have in locating the tank in the sun is the temperature. Does that part of the house heat up like a greenhouse? If the sunlight in the house causes enough heat to change the temperature of your water, you may want to avoid that location.

You may also notice some problem algae growing on the aquarium glass that gets the good sunlight, but that sunlight is good for algae and corals alike and is worth the tiny bit of additional cleaning, provided the light doesn’t heat up the water.

best location saltwater tank

As far as the sunlight causing problem algae blooms, that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Light is just one factor in an algae bloom, and chances are, you’re blazing enough white-hot light over that tank for photosynthesis anyway. Problem algae aren’t caused by light, it’s caused by excess nutrients and insufficient water flow. So don’t worry too much about the sun.

I hope that helps you plan out the perfect location. Where do you plan to put your new saltwater tank?


Written by Albert B. Ulrich III–author of The Reef Aquarium Series of books:  The New Saltwater Aquarium GuideHow to Frag Corals107 Tips for the Marine Reef Aquarium.






2 responses to “Where is the best location to put my new saltwater tank?”

  1. Mike

    Great article. Appreciate the logic about worrying (or not) about sunlight, as our tank receives lots of indirect light, we had a nuisance algae problem and were thinking of moving it. Algae has gone away and I’m glad we left it where it is. One comment: you link to the “Python No Spill Clean and Fill Aquarium Maintenance System”. We had one of these for a freshwater tank. Don’t they inadvertently introduce tap water (so phosphates, chloramines and other stuff) into the tank, even when emptying?

    1. Thanks for the comment, Mike. Sorry to hear about your algae problems, but glad it is under control now.

      The faucet water shouldn’t be traveling back unless you have the valve set to return the water. I wouldn’t recommend using the tap water unless you are certain of the quality.

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