Nothing like getting value for money – four questions in one. Fair enough.
The answers are: No. Yes. Yes. Yes.
That was easy, off for a coffee now. What? Not good enough. Well, ok.
I’ve been keeping marine livestock for well over 30 years, probably nearer 40 now. Before I started the numbers of home marine systems were very low. They were difficult to run as knowledge and equipment was lacking. Getting hold of livestock was fairly difficult also.
When I started the marine system was into under-gravel filtration or canister filters for bio support. Livestock was not generally available, but could be found without that much effort. Protein skimmer, what’s that then? The number of tank wipe-outs was high. Along came the air-driven protein skimmer and wipe-outs became a thing of the past. So it has to be assumed that the wipe-out was something to do with excess organics? Then some manufacturer produced a trickle tower. This was a big advance in bio-filtration, with strong advantages.
Success with a marine aquarium system had now become more achievable. With air driven protein skimmers, a choice of bio-filtration and more available livestock the aquarist found life a bit more straightforward. The systems were still basic, with dead corals, rock and sand as decoration.
As the hobby increased, more manufacturers became interested, and the more these numbers increased, so competition increased. Now the ball started to roll – more and more equipment appeared, choice was high. This caused even more people to join the hobby, the manufacturers sold more, and more joined the hobby. The increase in marine aquarists was quite amazing. Clubs and magazines appeared.
It is obvious how much equipment and choice is available today. The equipment is to a high standard and can be depended upon. The captive reef is now a living entity, with live rock, live corals, many different fish species and lighting to enhance appearance but mainly to enhance livestock wellbeing. Nearly everyone has a marine retailer not too far away, usually reasonably accessible.
So as said the answer to the first part is ‘No’ and ‘Yes.’ The hobby isn’t shrinking, it continues to grow.
Ok, so there is all this equipment available, from different manufacturers and of varying designs. There are different marine systems: the captive reef, with live rock or partially so, or all dead rock, the fish only with live rock, or without live rock. There are various types of skimmers, powerheads, pumps, and filters. There are different lighting options: fluorescents such as T8 and T5, with different spectrum outputs, and metal halide with different power and spectrum outputs. This doesn’t mention the latest option, power LED’s. Also, what of the different types of live rock? Plus all the other various equipment choices and options.
If a decision has been made to have a marine aquarium, the potential aquarist can be forgiven for thinking that mostly what will be needed is an aquarium that will fit the space needed, some lights, and some salty water. A visit to the local marine retailer can sometimes result in confusion and, worse, perhaps some unnecessary equipment. Confusion can arise on the internet, when the novice asks a seemingly innocent and simple question, only to be answered with a lot of opinions and even perhaps ‘it must be done this way.’
So again as said the second part is answered with a ’Yes’ and another ’Yes.’
As any experienced marine aquarist will know, the hobby actually isn’t complex and confusing. The question was with regard to a total newcomer. It appears that way, and so is in the beginning.
The answer to the second part can be ’No’ and ’No’ if the newcomer approaches the subject in a more structured way. Do some reading about different systems. Decide what type of system is wanted on a simple basis – reef or fish only. Then find out the equipment that is needed.
There’s lots of quality information available within articles and books. Some will take the newcomer down a prepared and logical path, without jargon and scientific mumbo-jumbo, such as the articles and books on this website. There isn’t any need to waste money on equipment, once the system desired is known. There are no hard ’rules’, but there are commonsense ’guidelines.’
I wonder how many would-be marine aquarists have turned away from a really fascinating hobby because of confusion and/or apparent complexity. A good few I’m sure.