Keeping a marine aquarium is great. It must be, there are enough people doing it. Reef or fish only, it is a tremendous hobby being educational as well. Having some of Mother Nature’s wonders in the home is an eye catcher for visitors and sometimes becomes consuming for aquarists.
There’s maintenance of course – cleaning the algae from the aquarium glass, topping up evaporated water, cleaning and checking filters and pumps and the rest. Some aquarists just enjoy it in the same way that some gardeners enjoy weeding. Some do it because it has to be done and find it reasonably enjoyable. I’m one of the latter – it has to be done but it isn’t the favourite part of the hobby.
The best part as far as I’m concerned is looking at the aquarium. I know, it sounds just like ‘I love work; I can sit and look at it all day.’ It’s not that. Looking at the aquarium is really what it’s all about. Admiring nature in the home and feeling pleased because it’s mine and I maintain it.
There’s another bit of maintenance that’s great fun too and runs a very close second, and that’s feeding the livestock.
It doesn’t take long for fish and shrimps to become used to a feeding routine. When the aquarist approaches the aquarium, often there they are at the front waiting. Food goes in and the fish tear around making sure they get their share or more if they can.
Some fish will come to the fingers and remove food. This is really getting personal and the aquarist is normally enthralled by it. Then there are the cleaner shrimps of course. They will take food from the hand and, like fish, come close to the surface for it. In addition the shrimps will walk around on the aquarist’s hand looking for food be it feeding time or not. It must be strange for them, a queer fish with weird fins appearing but hey-ho, the food is good.
There is a potential problem with this feeding interaction however it is done. It is such a feel-good situation that it is likely that a newcomer to the hobby will overfeed. Fish and shrimps will take as much as they can possibly get when they can get it. As in the wild, their instinct is to eat quickly as they do not know when the next meal will be. Fish can stuff themselves to absolute capacity, and some of the food will be excess and will pass through the gut undigested, or only partially so. This means pollution for the aquarium which is one thing that is not needed as it will impact on seawater quality. In addition, it is impossible to ensure that all the presented food ends up inside a fish or shrimp. Some will inevitably end up loose in the seawater and will become lodged among the rocks. There it will rot, although hopefully in a reef aquarium or even a fish only one where there is live rock, all the little tiny life forms that inhabit the rock structure will eat it.
Even with the caution in mind about overfeeding it is still great fun. The aquarist needs only to restrict the food quantity to that which is known to be sufficient and stop there. Fish and shrimps are persistent beggars and the aquarist may feel that their actions indicate that more food is needed and give some. Simply don’t.
Oh, yes, and when the feeding is over don’t forget to sit back and watch the aquarium. Enjoy!