So You’re In Charge, Yes?


No this isn’t about domestic arrangements! This is about marine aquariums and the persons they belong to.

We, the aquarists decided on having a tropical marine aquarium. We spent a long time deciding on a lot of things, ‘what size should it be?’ and ‘where will it go?’ are examples. Following there are all those decisions about equipment such as filtration, heaters, skimmers, pumps, lighting, thermometer, test kits and others. By the time all this was satisfactorily completed perhaps there was some surprise that the fish and maybe corals stage had actually been reached. All the care that had to be taken in selection of the livestock should be really worthwhile.

So we are in charge, sounds pretty like it to me. But if we stop to think for a little while, most of the decisions we made are based on the needs of the livestock. Seawater salinity and temperature levels are what they require. Habitat, as far as we’re able, is what they require. So yes, we are making the decisions on what to have but to a large extent those decisions are being dictated to us. So who or what is doing the dictating?

Fish and corals have evolved over a very long time and their requirements are pretty clear. Most corals require the correct lighting, corals and fish require clean seawater in a defined temperature range. There should be an approximation of dusk to night and dawn to day using electric timers. Seawater movement needs to be adequate for the disposal of waste and adequate oxygenation. There needs to be minimised stress which means there needs to be hiding places for fish to enter, acknowledging their in-built instincts. Food needs to be available of the correct type. So it goes on.

Ok, we do all of that so we’re in charge, stop going on, it’s obvious isn’t it? Yes it is. We put the system together, we run the aquarium, we feed the livestock, we maintain the environment by means of test kits and partial seawater changes. The aquarist is in charge.

However, is not the aquarist also an employee? No, not to the livestock though sometimes it could seem that way. We are an employee to a very powerful another, ignore her demands at your peril. Yes, some heads might be nodding in agreement, the boss has to be female! She’s Mother Nature.

If we can keep our aquariums within Mother Nature’s limits then all will be well. The limits are what she defines for our fish and corals. If those limits change, for example seawater quality changes in a particular way, Mother Nature could take advantage and give you a lovely garden of green algae. If a beautiful fish is mistakenly introduced and it grows too large the problems this causes will be clear.

So day to day aquarists are in charge, from the beginning to the end of the aquarium’s life. We should remember however that we are dictated to by another, and as long as we keep Mother Nature happy we should be too.


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