It’s Been Going Quite A While, Now What?


When it all started it was exciting, also frustrating and patience testing. A new marine aquarium can test patience and discipline fairly severely if procedures that are necessary are followed.

These procedures are based on research – what is needed for the type of marine aquarium that is to be constructed and how much will it all cost? Of course that’s after the decision has been made on whether to have corals and if fish are wanted. It seems very confusing at first but with patience it becomes clear and the aquarist is usually rewarded with a lovely display.

The aquarist finds it fascinating, beautiful corals with colourful fish moving among them. A real mini ‘natural reef’. It was all worth it! Feeding is not a chore, for a long time this and routine maintenance is interesting and enjoyable.

Strange as it could seem to most aquarists, as time passes the excitement diminishes and interest gradually wanes. How can this be? A properly maintained marine aquarium is a microsystem of Mother Nature, surely there is always enough to interest and entertain. With a few aquarists this is not so.

As time has passed and the initial excitement has reduced, the fact that the aquarium is so lovely has maintained interest. As more time passes the ‘sameness’ starts to bite. Routine maintenance is repetitive week to week. There is little change within the aquarium though corals and fish could have grown. Even feeding the fish becomes a repetitive ‘need to do’ rather than ‘want to do’. The aquarist needs a stimulus to continue.

What often happens is the aquarist goes off to the local store and purchases another fish or another coral or both. Introducing another fish puts a higher load on the filtration system (biological support). If the aquarist has loaded the aquarium with fish to the suggested maximum then there could eventually be consequences. Another coral doesn’t represent much of a higher load but there could be space consequences. If there is room for another suitable fish and/or coral then fair enough.

These new additions can hold the aquarist’s interest for a while, but eventually the same thing is probably going to happen – interest wanes.

There are ways that could re-stimulate interest. First, perhaps a deeper study into the occupants of the aquarium, fish and corals, could be made. A better understanding can sometimes generate interest. Where do the fish and corals come from? How do they breed/multiply? What natural predators are there? Also, an expanded trawl of the internet for comments about how other aquarists keep the same fish and corals could be interesting, bringing up different foods and/or feeding methods.

Despite declining interest, perhaps an attempt at breeding the ‘easier’ fish could be attempted, though it must be stated that waning interest and breeding do not mix well at all. How about corals? Much to the surprise of many aquarists, the delicate corals are not that difficult to propagate. Again, a trawl of the internet should enlighten the aquarist about the ‘how’. Producing new corals (commonly called ‘fragging’) can be very interesting and could even produce some income if they are sold to a dealer. They can of course be given to other aquarists.

Perhaps the aquarist feels that there isn’t any point in trying to stimulate interest. If that is the case, there isn’t! Keeping a marine aquarium isn’t only a joy (or should be) it is also a responsibility. The life in the aquarium has been put there by the aquarist and the responsibility is to maintain a high quality environment. This isn’t going to occur if there isn’t any interest at all. Routine maintenance will start to be skipped and the aquarium environment will decline with eventual sad consequences.

In the case of the last paragraph, the best thing is for the aquarist to cease owning an aquarium. Steps such as advertising, web forums or conversations with other aquarists/potential aquarists and local dealers could lead to the aquarium as a whole going to a new owner, or it could go in parts. Whatever, the routine maintenance of the system should continue until all the livestock has gone.

It is unusual I would say for a marine aquarist to lose interest. Personally, I have kept these systems for around 40 years and they still interest me and I do my best to achieve a long life for the inmates. However we are not all the same and for those few who do lose interest, protect the livestock using discipline. Once they have gone to a new owner, there is the satisfaction that the right thing has been done.