Owning a Saltwater Aquarium Part 1

Three Necessary Requirements to Be a Successful Marine Aquarist
(Part 1 in Life Aquatic’s Series of Owning a Saltwater Aquarium)

So you would like to keep and maintain a saltwater aquarium?
The following are three important factors to consider before moving forward, to ensure your long term success as a saltwater fish or reef tank owner.

Due to recent scientific breakthroughs in our understanding of how to keep delicate marine organisms alive in a captive environment and the invention, introduction and continuous improvement of life support equipment based on this new understanding, the keeping of a saltwater fish or reef aquarium is no longer limited to professional aquarists.

Though keeping a saltwater aquarium is not particularly difficult or time consuming, there are three (3) essential steps you must commit to if you are to be successful in maintaining and servicing your own tank.

Purchase the Proper Equipment and Supplies. By buying the right equipment in the beginning you are increasing the likelihood of success many times over. The proper tank, filtration and supplies will allow your tank, once mature, to virtually take care of itself. Buying sub-par equipment or trying to “save money” by retrofitting your old goldfish bowl to house saltwater fish, will cost you a lot more in the long run. No matter how much time and effort you put into trying to keep such a system up and running, it is inevitable that your livestock will not survive and that you will become frustrated and ultimately give up on the hobby altogether.

Patience. Though the physical act of setting up a tank is quite quick and straightforward, the time it takes for nature to go through the various stages of the nitrogen cycle (cycling), is not. Though limited, simple livestock can be added soon after initial setup, it takes approximately 6 weeks for a saltwater tank to fully cycle to the point where more delicate animals such as fish and corals can be added and may take 3-6 months before the tank is set-up just the way you want it and stocked to its capacity. This waiting period can be quite interesting, educational and fun as long as you have the proper mindset. You will see small changes in the appearance of the tank, sand and décor on almost a daily basis. Little critters that you didn’t put in the tank yourself will start to appear, as if by magic. A magnifying glass is a great piece of equipment to have at this stage of the process as many of the processes occurring in your tank are happening on a very small scale. There are steps that can be taken to speed up the cycling process somewhat, but don’t believe any of the products that say “Instant Cycling” or “Cycle your Tank in Two Days”. There is no magic elixir that will take the place of nature. Plan on a six week cycle. Rushing this natural process will only lead to frustration and ultimate failure.

Commitment. If you are going to service your own saltwater aquarium, you need to commit yourself to performing the required maintenance chores on a regular and consistent basis. The amount of work is not difficult or particularly time consuming, but if it is not done, it will eventually lead to failure. With many freshwater tanks, delaying or even completely forgetting to do a water change will usually not have any negative consequences. Saltwater is different. The animals under your care are typically more sensitive than their freshwater counterparts. Accordingly, the proper maintenance of your water quality is much more important. Delaying a water change by a few days will most likely not have any negative impact, but if this pattern is repeated and gets worse, it is only a matter of time before you wake up one morning to find all of your charges sick or worse…….. If you can’t commit to performing the required maintenance at regular intervals (and that’s fine, if you don’t have the time or desire), please don’t attempt to service the tank yourself. Life Aquatic offers in-house servicing of your tank. Yes there is a cost involved in having us do the work for you, but the cost of no one servicing the aquarium is a lot higher, both monetarily and ethically. All this drama, however, can be easily avoided by just setting aside about 30-45 minutes every 2 weeks and performing the simple, but necessary maintenance tasks that are required…….or by hiring someone to do it for you!

Please see Parts 2, 3 & 4 of this information series for further and more detailed information on each of these three points.