The number of marine aquariums in the world must be enormous; I really have no idea at all of how many. It doesn’t matter what type of system they represent, fish only or reef, they are all part of the same hobby, which is expanding. Possibly it is or going to be the biggest hobby in the world.
One thing that is common to all the aquarium owners is the cost of setting it up. The marine aquarium cannot be had cheaply, and if such is available be suspicious! Buying the aquarium alone is costly, and following this there is the need for heaters, protein skimmers, powerheads, pumps, bio-filtration, decoration, lighting, dry sea salt etc. It may be decided to purchase a ‘plug and play’ aquarium but these are expensive. Then of course there is stocking the aquarium, the point of it all, again a costly process.
Wouldn’t it be great if some enterprising establishment found a way of reducing the cost and making everything easier for the aquarist? Well, this has happened and not recently. For quite a while there have been rental companies available who will rent out a complete system of whatever type is desired. This sounds great as all the trouble is taken by the rental company and the aquarist simply, well, pays the rent.
Some of these rented aquariums can be obtained from the LFS (local fish shop) though it is mainly the larger ones who support the practice. Anyone interested could make an approach to the LFS to find out if they could assist.
Renting an aquarium, as said, sounds like a great money saving idea. The aquarium with all the bits arrives, is assembled, then matured, then stocked without effort by the renter. It follows that the type and size of aquarium will affect the amount of rent required.
The other fact that will affect the rent amount is whether the renter looks after the aquarium him/herself or the rental company does it. Some don’t give an option; it is done by the company.
Having a rented aquarium is good in some circumstances, such as an aquarium in an office. This should improve the environment by adding colour, movement and interest. The maintenance is done by the rental company.
Another good point is that if any equipment malfunctions it is repaired or replaced by the company because it belongs to them, usually without cost to the aquarist. However, equipment nowadays is generally dependable. On a reef aquarium lighting will need periodic replacement and this may be done by the company without cost to the aquarist. However, this needs to be checked in the contract as it is not equipment failure.
It all sounds great up to now, but there are downsides. First of all, as already said, the cost of a fully set up aquarium, mature and stocked, is high. This cost is lower for the rental company, if a LFS they will obtain the aquarium, equipment and livestock at wholesale prices. However, they need to mark up a profit and the rental cost per week or month or whatever the agreement stipulates is not going to be cheap. It may appear so at first when compared to the cost of buying and setting up an aquarium, but the ongoing cost will certainly add up quite quickly and eventually pass the cost of a non-rental aquarium.
There will be the need for routine seawater changes, additives and the like. If the rental company does the maintenance, along with labour costs this will push up the rent. The aquarist will have to ensure he/she or someone is available when the maintenance personnel call, which may be inconvenient. If the aquarist does it, the retail purchase price of the required maintenance items will add to the rental cost.
The biggest cost of running a set-up and stocked aquarium is electricity. It is certain that this cost will not be included in the rent, meaning that there is a substantial additional ‘rent’ to add on, though of course this cost applies equally to a non-rental aquarium.
Particularly with the company maintained aquarium, will the aquarist understand the basic theory and operation of the system? If there isn’t a need then probably not. What if something went wrong and the rental company was shut?
Having a rented aquarium is fine in some circumstances such as office environments as already said (provided the livestock is healthy). There are those well-heeled folk who rent aquariums as part of the décor as they are attractive and fit in well – fashionable in other words. They have little idea how the aquarium system works and don’t wish to know, and I find this unacceptable overall.
The aquarist who has built a system or purchased a ‘plug and play’ system will understand how the system works. He or she will do the ongoing maintenance to ensure the environment remains top-notch. In addition to watching the livestock, that so pleasurable experience, they will have the satisfaction of knowing that it is they who adequately maintain this small world. In addition, once the initial cost of the system has been met, the ongoing cost is purely maintenance.
If the cost of purchasing the system is too high, would not a smaller one be as good? If not, then rather than rent could not a system be payment purchased? At the end of the payment period, the system will belong to the aquarist and not anyone else.