Is Keeping A Saltwater Aquarium A Hobby, A Science Or A Mixture Of The Two?

The fish only aquarium and the reef aquarium place some demands on the aquarist that must be met if success is to be maintained.

Many of these demands are relevant to water quality. Measurements for oxygen, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, calcium, phosphate, alkalinity and pH for example. Definitely science based. We could use scientific symbols such as O2, NH3, NO2, NO3, Ca, or PO4. Depending on what is being measured, measurements could be in parts per thousand (ppt), parts per million (ppm), degrees of German hardness (dKH) and more.

Then there is the method of measurement. A hobbyist could be forgiven for putting on a white coat before dripping or syringing exact quantities of water into a test tube, perhaps timing the mix and then studying colours, or watching a needle move to see how salty the water is. Seawater is a mix of major, minor and trace constituents and a study in itself.

Look at lighting. If corals are being kept, there is concern over the correct light spectrum and power output. Again, science provides the answers.

But who is it that makes the aquarium look so attractive? Corals sitting on a reef, gorgeous fish swimming around live rock, shrimps sitting under overhangs, they are all a long way from ‘dead’ aquariums. The aquarist creates the layout, places the corals and selects the fish.

Science has a definite and unavoidable part in the marine aquarium hobby. Without it aquarists would be lost in the maintenance of high quality seawater with all the troubles that would bring. Corals would not receive the correct type of light. Livestock would not receive a proper balanced diet. Fish of the incorrect sort for the type of aquarium would be kept.

Aquascaping is done with care and imagination. Corals are placed to receive correct water flow and lighting and with regard to overall beauty. Fish are introduced as a pleasant mix of colours, shapes and habits.

Science cannot create a beautiful aquarium. Only the aquarist can do that. Science advises what should be and why. The aquarist decides how the aquarium will look.

So the hobby is a clear mix of science and the aquarist. The final mention needs to go to Mother Nature. Without her there wouldn’t be an aquarium.