When very young I kept an aquarium with goldfish in. It facinated me to an extent but not to the extent that marine types do. Starting a marine aquarium was a very good move, it has kept me interested for many years.
I have been keeping marines for about 40 years, having had several aquariums, one in-wall and others standing free. They have all been marine reef types and have had an improved success rate as time has passed. As time has passed so learning has continued. Mistakes were made of course but no fish lives were lost because of them. I recall with some sadness the loss of an Emperor, juvenile version. I remember doing many checks but all resulted positive, no problems found. Why the loss occurred is not known.
My current aquarium is 3ft (91.5cm) long by 2ft (61cm) high by 1.5ft (45.75cm) front to back and contains about 43 gallons (194.5lts). Rocks and sand take volume too of course. The tank is standalone and sits on a home-made wooden cupboard made by me (no, it hasn’t collapsed!). My son Peter bought the aquarium, very kind and thoughtful.
The aquarium was mature on 21 October 2002. How do I know? I keep a notebook. It has been in continuous use since then. All parameters are stable and dependable. At the beginning there were fish losses, again it is not known why. Seawater quality was high, food was appropriate and not overfed. There wasn’t any sign of disease. The fish types first introduced, not all at once and not in this order, were a Flame angel (Centropyge loriculus), a Flameback (Pseudochromis diadema), and an Electric Blue damsel (Chrysiptera cyanea). The Electric Blue damsel died April 2004 and the Flameback died March 2006. As said I don’t know why. It has been suggested to me that this could have been the after effects of cyanide, though, if correct, it seems to have taken a long time. Thankfully cyanide is no longer in use for catching fish for the aquarium trade. The Flame Angel had the aquarium to itself until two more fish were introduced, a Royal Gramma (Gramma loreto) and another Electric Blue damsel. All the fish are fine and active to date. The boss is the Flame Angel, a bit of a bully, chasing the damsel if it gets too close but has no chance of catching it. The Royal Gramma keeps well out of the angel’s way.
Initially, the bio-filtration was done by two external power filters. After two years I decided to use live rock. Suitable unprepared dry rock was obtained and placed in the aquarium. After 6 months one bio-filter was turned off. The aquarium condition was closely monitored, no problems. The second external filter was turned off after a further 6 months, again no problems. Filtration has never been a problem.
The corals have for the most part done well. Two were lost (a Cathedral coral and Gola Bush coral) but otherwise all is fine. Some corals have been ‘too’ successful (no complaints) and were fragged, then fragged again and some given away. They are fine at the moment but are still growing, a watch has to be kept on the lower corals in case they are affected by lack of light etc. The aquarium was lit by fluorescent tubes since new (marine blue and white), these were changed to LED’s in September 2018, again marine blue and marine white. Everything is fine following the change. The LED’s are said to last up to 50,000 hours – can’t be bad.
The only additive used for the seawater is calcium. Hard corals are not kept but the calcium reading was low, with the additive it’s fine and reasonably stable. Seawater changes are done once every two weeks, only 3 gallons, and all is fine with the readings.
There are no ‘super’ equipment additions. I am very pleased with my Prizm skimmer, a hang-on model. I directed the returning seawater from it down a ramp which gives additional oxygenation. I did worry that nasty algae would appear but it didn’t, only very short, thick, very dark green stuff. This is good as this algae probably removes some unwanted nutrients from the passing seawater.
I fancied a deep sand bed, so put a sheet of glass across one rear aquarium corner and placed it in there. The fish cannot interfere with it. This compartment also contains the heaters (2) which are controlled by an external thermostat and also contains the circulation pumps (2). One pump sends seawater under the rocks where it is released, the other makes the aquarium seawater move. There is another pump in the opposite rear corner which pumps in opposition. It all works well (hey, don’t tempt fate!). The deep sand bed contains small unidentified lifeforms and very small shrimps about 1/8th of an inch (4mm) long.
Fish do learn slowly. If there isn’t too much movement and noise when approaching the aquarium the fish will appear, obviously looking to see if any food has appeared. Also, I use a white backed algae scraper on the glass panels and as soon as it appears the Flame Angel and the Blue Damsel appear and follow it, waiting for bits of algae to eat. This is good particularly for the angel as algae is an important part of its diet.
I’ve been very pleased to have marine reef aquariums, particularly the last one. The brain needs to be used to an extent for research and planning and advice needs to be sought sometimes, in the beginning at least. Watching the aquarium develop, the corals growing, the fish settling down, the rocks maturing and colouring, the deep sand bed developing, is terrific. If Mother Nature is satisfied and the ongoing simple maintenance tasks are completed all should be well. I couldn’t get the whole aquarium in the photo which is unfortunate. Here’s hoping the aquarium and my satisfaction continues for much longer.
(Photo: L. Cunningham)