How Do I Choose Between a Predator or Community Saltwater Tank?

Predator vs. Community: What’s the Right Saltwater Tank for You?

A small fish is floating through the water, when suddenly snap! A bigger fish swoops in and snatches it. This is a classic sight that owners of predator tanks all love. Community tanks are great too, though. The coral, mollusks, and other organisms in a community tank create a vibrant environment that’s amazing to watch. So, what kind of saltwater tank is right for you? Predator, or community?

A predator tank is a saltwater tank which, as you can guess, houses predatorial fish. These Fish in Saltwater Tankare fish-only tanks, where the main attraction is feeding them and watching them do their thing. A community tank, on the other hand, is an aquarium that features all sorts of different creatures coexisting together. They represent entire ecosystems, complete with fish, corals, mollusks, crustaceans, and more. As the name implies, they resemble a lively community.

These two types of saltwater aquarium have more than just cosmetic differences. They require very distinct maintenance routines with different levels of attention, time, and skill. Read on to learn the main differences in caring for these two tanks.

A Predator Tank is Simpler to Maintain

The main things distinguishing predator and community tanks are the consequences of what kinds of organisms you’re keeping. In terms of feeding, disease, aggressive behaviors, etc, a predator tank will be easier to maintain than a community tank. That’s because you only have to care for fish, which means there’s a lot less you have to learn about.

In contrast, a community tank will contain fish, coral, invertebrates, etc., as well as a greater variety of microorganisms. It’s much more complicated to maintain an environment that suits all the inhabitants in a community tank. More types of inhabitants means more competing needs and a narrower range of overlap. With fish, as with people, it’s hard to please everyone all at once.

There will be more chemical parameters you have to monitor in a community tank than in a predator tank. The range of acceptable conditions will be narrower, since you’ll have to balance different inhabitants’ needs. You’ll also have to do more complicated feeding routines. Different species in your saltwater tank need different types of food, in different amounts, at different frequencies. Maintaining too many feeding schedules can easily become a hard-to-manage cycle that plays out throughout the whole day.

Other limitations exist as well. Since many species don’t go well together, with a community tank you have to spend more time figuring out what inhabitants you can safely add to your saltwater tank. You also won’t be able to use certain medications in case of disease. Those medicines can only be used in fish-only saltwater tanks.

You’ll Need Different Setups and Equipment

Another difference between the two types of saltwater tank is the equipment you’ll need. A predator tank will need larger filtration equipment, whereas a community tank will need stronger lighting.

When predators eat, they tear apart their food and make a big mess. This creates a lot of waste all at once. Whereas a community tank stays more consistent, a predator tank has frequent spikes in waste and excess nutrients. As a result, you need larger, more heavy-duty filtration systems that can handle those spikes. You’ll also need to do larger water changes.

If you have a community tank with a coral reef, you’ll need more equipment for regulating the chemical parameters in the water. You’ll also need stronger lighting to keep the corals and other organisms happy. That lighting creates the potential for problems with excessive algae growth, since they flourish with a lot of light. So, community tanks will need more cleaning and day-to-day care to prevent those issues. This is another way community tanks are more difficult than predator tanks, which can be kept in relatively dim lighting.

Which Saltwater Tank Is Right for Me?

Knowing all that, how do you choose? What do these differences add up to in terms of the dynamics of caring for these aquariums?

Overall, community tanks require not just more work, but more attentiveness. As we’ve discussed already, you have to do a lot more precise chemical balancing in your water to achieve just the right conditions to keep all your inhabitants healthy. Predator tanks may require bigger water changes, but community tanks definitely require more testing and monitoring.

You’ll also need to be more careful and attentive about feeding your inhabitants. Community tanks will require more varieties of food in more precise amounts at different times throughout the day. We mentioned earlier that predators create spikes in excess nutrients during feeding, requiring larger filtration systems. Community aquariums don’t require that equipment, but this means you have to be more careful with feeding. Your filter won’t be equipped for waste spikes. If you overdo it, you could pollute your tank and harm inhabitants’ health.

What this all means is that a community tank requires a keener eye and closer, more constant attention. When we at Living Art Aquatics help you figure out what kind of saltwater tank you want, we’ll ask you questions about what you want out of your aquarium, such as:

  • How often do you want to feed the fish?
  • What's your level of background knowledge and experience with aquariums?
  • How much of your time and attention are you willing to give?
  • Are you seeking something easier to handle, or are you looking for a challenge?
  • How comfortable are you with balancing a lot of different maintenance tasks and schedules?

It’s all about your experience level and what you’re comfortable with. In general, we see community tanks as the natural next step up from fish-only tanks. Whether you want to get into that more advanced territory is ultimately up to you.

If you’re looking to invest in a new aquarium or supplies, want professional guidance to help you get started, or still aren’t sure which type of tank is right for you, stop by Living Art Aquatics. We’ve been designing and maintaining aquariums for decades, and we’re the go-to experts for any freshwater or saltwater tank in Crystal Lake, IL and the greater Chicagoland area. Give us a call at (847) 737-5151 and start planning your predator or community tank today!

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