The two just don’t go together, or rather they shouldn’t. The marine aquarium is a peaceful and relaxing world that the aquarist can view with pleasure. The pressures of day to day living can be reduced by just sitting and gazing. Well, usually anyway.
With the marine aquarium there are two kinds of stress, the first hits the livestock and the second the aquarist. The aquarist normally isn’t stressed at all without the first type and it’s the aquarist who for the most part causes the personal stress. All a bit crazy really.
It has been said that environment is everything. This applies to all species of life no matter where or what. Make the environment poor and there will be repercussions: moderate, severe or deadly.
So the fish and , if a reef system, the corals are heavily dependant for health on their environment. Now it’s clear where this is going! The aquarist has to ensure that the environment for the livestock is correct and continues to be so. When the system is constructed there must be adequate means of maintaining, say, salt water quality, for example a properly sized protein skimmer. The temperature of the seawater needs to be correct, so there needs to be adequately sized heaters. All equipment needs to be adequate and the essential items present. The seawater needs to be of high quality without excessive nitrates (leading to yukky algae) or the deadly ammonia and nitrite. Those are the obvious things but it goes on from there.
Whether the system is a reef or fish only there has to be adequate places for the fish and any other lifeforms to hide, so rocks need to be used to create caves and crevices. Providing rocks in a fish only system reduces the seawater gallonage and reduces the fish carrying capacity but at the same time reduces or removes stress. The fish don’t know they are in an aquarium, as far as they’re concerned the need to hide from predators at certain times such as at night is essential. Hide or die. Even if there are rocks present there shouldn’t be too many fish or some are going to be stressed as they fail to find shelter. Fish overstocking based on gallonage is bad and also based on security.
Even if security is adequate there will be stress if timid fish are in the presence of aggressive ones or even a predator. That fish that attracts the eye of the aquarist, is it compatible? ‘Compatible’ is a very important word in the confines of an aquarium.
Fish stress can lead to severe problems in the aquarium, some fish could be so nervous that they don’t take food because of the presence of other more aggressive ones and could even starve to death. Or fish could have torn fins or develop disease.
So the aquarist is clearly doing no favours to him/herself by not providing a high quality environment. When keeping a marine aquarium was being considered sick fish and green yukky (technical word that!) algae were not included. The marine aquarium is supposed to calm and give enjoyment, hence the presence of an aquarium in some dentists’ waiting rooms. The aquarist in some cases is his own worst enemy, buying on sight and/or on impulse. There isn’t any need for it, none at all. There is a huge amount of information available on the internet and in books and none of it is difficult, a scientist’s white coat isn’t required.
So sit and watch the aquarium in fascination, the colour and movement of one of Mother Nature’s great achievements. Feel any stress drain away. Or note the unwanted algae, the sad looking colour faded fish, the closed up corals and the scummy seawater. The stress generated in the struggle to recover the aquarium investment is definitely not pleasant.
Maybe that’s it. Maybe that’s the difference between success and failure. Maybe the desire to recreate a marine scene and protect the life in it, rather than spend money on a glass box and put fish in is the difference. The first shows genuine respect and, though Mother Nature doesn’t give a cast iron guarantee, pleasure and a stress free hobby should be on the way.