Pointers To Success

The visit to the LFS when the decision is more or less made to ‘have a go’ at a marine aquarium is an exciting time. In the mind is a vision of those beautiful fish and corals sitting happy and healthy in a modern aquarium cabinet.

Sometimes the mind may go back to a time when goldfish were kept or maybe tropical freshwater fish, with the thought that things can’t be that more difficult. That’s correct, keeping a marine aquarium, even a reef system, is not particularly difficult, but it does present basic demands that must be met. Obviously there is salt water, but marine organisms require more specifics to be healthy.

Some aquarists could advise that it is a difficult hobby and also expensive. Well, I would argue with ‘difficult’, and expensive is a word appropriate to the weight of the wallet.

The budding aquarist needs to do some checks and research, nothing difficult but enough to greatly increase the prospect of success. There isn’t a need to understand complicated chemical formulas or anything else scientific, which could come later if the aquarist develops an interest. All that is needed is a basic understanding of the marine system, an understanding which develops as it is planned. The following is the very basic and initial foundation on which to begin planning.

Take time over the decision to buy.

A marine aquarium is desired and it is intended to buy one and keep it at home. Fine, don’t buy one! Carefully look at the space available and ensure there is a power outlet close by either to one side or just behind. Ensure the floor is strong enough.

Now consider if you are willing to give say two or three hours a week to maintenance. If not, the hobby is not for you. The life that is kept in the marine aquarium, whatever form it takes, demands our respect and care.

If the willingness is there, fine, but don’t buy anything! Consider carefully the system desired, fish only or reef. A reef requires more attention and usually costs more to set up. A fish only system allows fish to be kept that cannot be placed in a reef.


Now there’s a word to put many off. It is in reality straightforward nowadays, as there are many books available on fish only and reef aquarium construction, plus internet websites such as aquaristsonline.com. All the information is there waiting. Doing sufficient research will enhance the probability of success enormously.

This research doesn’t only apply to the purchase of the aquarium itself. It applies to the equipment required to service the fish only or reef system. Buying incorrect or inadequate equipment initially is going to be discovered later with problems and more expenditure. Obtain the correct size heaters, the correct size protein skimmer, correct lighting for the livestock etc. Research also applies to the future running cost of the system, mainly electricity. It is easy to get a guideline of future running costs before committal to purchase. Doing so will avoid surprises. If the running cost indication is too high then downsize the proposed system. Research everything properly. A clear time for more research when the point is reached is with livestock. This avoids providing a fish with a tasty and expensive shrimp lunch as an example!

Learn the hobby.

Actually this is automatic and follows on from the above research. If the budding aquarist does the research then understanding will follow on how the system works – the seawater temperature required, why a protein skimmer is needed etc. As already said, there isn’t a need to be a scientist or engineer, just a basic need for what equipment is for. In the future when the system is running it will make life easier and any small problems much easier to sort out.

Why not enroll in a good internet forum? There are a lot available and answers to specific questions are happily given. Be aware that there are varying opinions (aren’t there always?) and having a good book and/or reliable internet website will clear any confusion.


Everyone has patience; it’s just that some have more of it than others! However, patience is a must, if it is a little short then use that other requirement to boost it – discipline. The worst thing that can occur when initially considering whether to have a marine aquarium or not is to rush. This continues throughout the system building process when selecting and buying equipment, as mistakes will be made and later, when the mistakes are rectified, it will cost more money. Worse, the livestock could be negatively affected causing worry, frustration and expense. Talking of livestock, rushing with purchases is disastrous, as incompatible life will not live together and if say the lighting is unsuitable the life could die.

The surprising part.

That’s it! Doesn’t seem much does it really?

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

The initial vision of a lovely and interesting marine aquarium set-up can be achieved without great depth of knowledge, but it cannot be achieved without knowledge. If patience, and discipline if necessary, is applied then the research will be done and an adequate system will emerge. Obtaining the aquarium and equipment are interesting in themselves. However, as filling the aquarium with seawater gets close, and the prospect of at last seeing some life in the aquarium approaches, the excitement and anticipation can strain the most patient and disciplined of people. Hold on, the aquarium will come alive soon, don’t spoil things now!

Just four words.

Time. Research. Learn. Patience.