Are Our Aquarium Systems Too Sterile?

This is something I have been thinking about recently and I suppose it is aimed more at people who keep reef tanks.

As aquarists we endeavour to provide water quality which is optimum.

We apply all the filtration techniques and add all the required equipment in order to achieve this.


Are we making the water to clean.

Take a look at the reef for example, granted I know that there is a LOT more water there than in our measly little puddles but if, like me, you have either gone scuba diving or have watched television series on natural corals reefs then you will probably have noticed that there is lots and lots of stuff floating about in the water.

In my opinion a lot of this must be food for corals and other life forms yet we are probably removing them from the water – probably via the [tag-self]protein skimmer[/tag-self].

Please don’t get me wrong I would never run a marine aquarium system without a skimmer. There are some people which do but looking into the collection cup and seeing all the stinky brown gunk there is no way I am leaving that in the system.

Yet I still wonder how much ‘good stuff’ is being removed from the water as well as bad.

A lot of these minute particles could be used as food by the corals, yet we remove it and they have to achieve their energy from the lighting which we provide.

Personally I add additives to my aquarium to feed the corals but is this enough – would they do better if the water was not as clean. Would they fluorish, have better polyp expanision, better colours etc.

I don’t know but it was something I was thinking about.

What do you think?

1 Comment
  1. As protein skimmers have developed so they have become more efficient. It is always good for a beginner/inexperienced aquarists to run a skimmer full time. However, it is known that (some) corals can use dissolved organics as food – so it follows that stripping all of it out is not good. Also, a skimmer strips out trace elements that are best left in the water. Experienced, or perhaps I should say advanced aquarists, are running skimmers on a timer so that there is hopefully less of an overskim.
    The real sterile aquariums were the fish only ones of yesteryear – dead white corals and some fish. Nowadays we use live rock, live corals, fish, reef ‘janitors’, DSB’s with their own little living world etc. What an advance!
    For the most part I don’t think the systems are too sterile. They move ever closer to a natural system but we’ll always have to assist because, as Peter says, our tiny systems would be lost entirely in the huge gallonage and diversification of the wild.

    John’s last blog post..Are Our Aquarium Systems To Sterile

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