Keeping marine life is fascinating. This is supported by the fact that the hobby has expanded tremendously over the last decade or so.
Not so long ago keeping a marine aquarium seemed more simple, and the decisions to be made were also simple as there wasn’t as much choice. The all glass/silicone aquarium superseded the metal frame ones a long time ago. So the glass aquarium was chosen to fit the available space. Then the choice was generally – shall I keep fish, fish or fish? The lighting was fluorescent, and only a couple of tubes were required – no symbiotic algae to be concerned about, as the decoration was rock and dead white coral. Salinity was usually 1.022, so no problem there. Protein skimmers, fairly basic , were used, as were activated carbon and canister or under-gravel filters. The fish lived reasonable lives, but the aquarium couldn’t be described as natural.
Nowadays there is a greater choice. The aquarium itself can be had in all sorts of shapes, constructed in glass or acrylic Aquariums can be fish only (FO), fish only with live rock (FOWLR), or reef. They can have a sump or not. Lighting is varied. There is discussion over seawater salinity. There are seawater additives of all sorts. Protein skimmers have advanced a long way, and there are many types of other equipment available. Filtration is varied. Fish and coral availability is high. Food for livestock is varied and plentiful and in various forms.
No wonder the newcomer finds it all apparently complex and confusing. Where to start? What to have? What to buy?
The way to deal with the situation is to keep it simple by learning in steps. One item can interact with another, so if an attempt is made to learn too much confusion is likely to arise.
The initial and straightforward decisions are what size of aquarium can be fitted and will a sump be with it. Next, what kind of aquarium is desired. An absolute newcomer could decide to have a FO, or a FOWLR. The point is, once the decision is made to go for a particular type of system, the decisions follow on from there.
Once the above decision is made, a list can be made of necessary equipment. This requires some research, from books or the internet (such as this site). There is a huge amount of information available.
Take the research one step at a time. Filtration could be live rock, with or without a sump, or canister filter, or trickle filter. There are ‘best’ and ‘less desirable’ depending on the type of system chosen, but there are choices. Lighting also, a FO system can use two fluorescent tubes, a reef needs considerably more. Protein skimmers are required by all systems, as are heaters. All the information is available, just do it in steps.
The reason for the suggestion to list rather than just start buying is the cost. A reef system, with its lighting and filtration demands, live rock etc is expensive to set up and the most expensive to run. The costs can be added up and if excessive then changes can be made – perhaps have a FO rather than a reef. All aquarium systems can be changed or expanded in the future if required.
So the marine hobby is not complicated or difficult. There are basic guidelines to assist with good practices. As said, all the information is there, it can just seem that there is so much of it.
Take it step by step, learning the basics of each step as it is reached – filtration, lighting, heating etc. It will be more effective and more fun. Using patience and taking time to basically understand each step is the foundation for a successful marine aquarist.