The dream of designing, preparing and creating the perfect marine aquarium and ultimately replicating a picturesque, unique and natural biotope in a closed system environment, is something we all desire and hope to attain. Often times, this quest for immediate success falls short of our goal and admiration in the hobby. Lack of knowledge, or preparedness is often the reason for this dilemma, however, the underlying problem can penetrate much deeper than this. Carelessness, doing things too quickly, frustration and even lack of common sense can lead you down the road to destruction and possibly deter you from continuing with the saltwater hobby.
Their are a plethora of books, magazines, on line sites and pet shops that now, flood the marine hobby with fact, fiction, contrasting views and opinions, experiences and theories. Dissecting these search engines can be problematic not just for the novice, but for anyone trying to conquer their feat and fear associated with establishing their own replication of a reef environment. We have seen it before and will continue to see it in the future, failing in one way or the other, often times due to human error, equipment malfunction or effectiveness, stress and rigor of collecting, shipping and handling of livestock, illness or water issues.
Yes, the marine hobby, can be taxing, expensive and is by no means an easy hobby to get started in. However, having said this, it does not mean that a successful tank can not be achieved or portrayed. Going about the hobby the right way from the START is the key, in creating the foundation and principles with which success can be attained. Once these initial components have been met, a little time, perseverance, focus and understanding along the way can enable you to have continued success with a vibrant, diverse and symbiotic biotope that got you started in the hobby initially.
Some of the basic fundamentals associated with a successful tank in the introductory stages of your journey in the marine hobby that must be adhered to are selecting the right equipment and be sure of its operation, reading, making sure your tank has cycled through successfully, be sure the hobby is right for you and that it is financially feasible for you.
Once these initial variables are addressed, you are now on your way to creating the marine tank you wish to accomplish. I will offer you some insight as to proper key elements that can either guide you over the hurdles to attaining a successful tank or possibly push you over the edge leading you to failure.
Your ability to create a proper log book will, in essence, guide you and be a reference and teaching tool from day one. Everything that you have purchased, done to your tank, water parameter figures, just to name a few can and should be written down for future reference.
The cycling of your tank should be totally complete with no hesitation. If your tank has not cycled through completely, you run the risk of your livestock dying within the day or so. Your water parameters should all be in check as well, such as pH, alkalinity, salinity and temperature.
The selection process, is also a very big issue. Upon visiting your local pet shop to purchase something that catches your eye, you must address a couple questions, and visually inspect the animal thoroughly. Questions such as, is the livestock eating? Has the livestock been in the established in the pet shops tank for a few days(help to reduce chances of death from disease, stress from shipping etc.)? Visibly taking the time to inspect the individual live stock we wish to purchase and refrain from purchasing livestock that is not acting or looking right. Also, it may become an issue if you purchase livestock from a tank that has infested or dead animals in it.
Water changes are very important! Performing small, weekly water changes will help to ensure that trace elements are replenished as they are quickly consumed by livestock or adsorbed by carbon or removed through filtration. Pollutants, such as dissolved organics and particulates are quickly diluted and oxygen is also replenished. The religious habit of performing a weekly water change also decreases the chance of human error which could alter your water parameters to quickly adding stress to your livestock. Also, temperature variations of more than a couple degrees can affect your corals and fish especially, causing bleaching and ICH(disease).
Testing of your water periodically will help to reduce the chance of dangerous levels or overdosing being reached. A good thing to remember, is that anything that you dose, you should purchase the test kit for it (for example, iodine, calcium, buffer and salt). It is better to be too careful and be safe, than sorry.
Cleaning of your equipment should be done on a weekly or bi-weekly basis as well. Salt creep accumulation on lighting fixtures can cause reduced irradiance to your livestock altering growth and color. Also, the avoidance of salt creep entering your tank is very important as it can injure corals and Tridacna Clams if enabled to make contact with them. It will also affect your water chemistry and quality. Skimmers, pumps and other mechanical filters and power heads should be checked to ensure they are clean and working effectively and efficiently. You run the risk of damaging the equipment or decreasing the beneficial characteristics associated with the particular piece of equipment, ultimately affecting your livestock or water parameters.
The careful introduction of the new animal into your tank is crucial. The gradual acclimation of the new animal from the bag it has been shipped or transported in to your tank often times requires some time to allow temperature and water parameter variances to equal out. This will reduce stress and the possibility of death to your new purchase. Another key to water quality is to avoid as much shipping water from the bag from entering your tank as it contains, detritus, possible toxic mucus, carbon dioxide and decreased pH levels.
The addition of livestock gradually to your tank, will ensure that a spike in ammonia, nitrites and nitrates does not happen. Also it enables beneficial bacteria to grow to handle the increased bioload. Researching the type of livestock you already have and that of your new purchase such as husbandry and compatibility requirements will aid in the curbing of aggression. It also enables you to determine if the purchase is a good one or not based on your lighting or livestock population.
These are many of the issues that I have experienced and addressed over the years, that have enabled me , and more importantly my livestock to be successful and live a healthy life.
GOOD LUCK and please be considerate and conscientious of collection, handling and shipping procedures and avoid at all costs, the destruction and illegal removal of animals from protected reef areas especially…