‘I love the look of that, I think I’ll have one. It’ll look fantastic in our lounge by adding a lot of interest and colour. Hang on though, I wonder how much the big one is, will it fit?’
Many marine aquarists start out in a similar way and why not? Nothing wrong with that. However, the urge has to be tempered and the initial brake is cost. Perhaps strangely enough cost has to do with responsibilities too. Checking if the aquarium will fit is obvious common sense. Checking the overall cost is too. If costs mount too high there is the temptation to cut back a little, buy a lesser type of something and this is where failure as a responsible aquarist can begin.
Being a responsible aquarist doesn’t just mean remembering to feed the fish. Agreed that is a responsibility, including offering the correct food and not too much to cause pollution. It means setting up the aquarium adequately in the first place, ensuring that the fish will have sufficient security (rocks creating caves etc) and they are compatible. Also there shouldn’t be too many or the aquarium will be overstocked. It’s more than that though, this responsibility.
The potential aquarist is, by purchasing an aquarium and the necessary equipment, accepting the responsibility for the ongoing welfare of the livestock. Well, that’s obvious, it’s the same as obtaining a dog or a cat or, err, a budgerigar. That’s correct, no argument. However, the problem sometimes arises after the aquarium is set up. When the aquarium is new the novelty wields considerable power. As time passes however this enthusiasm can wane. Why? Why could that be?
Some maintenance is obviously required for dogs, cats and the budgie needs the cage cleaning. But the maintenance for them is considerably less than for a marine aquarium. As time passes after the aquarium has been initially matured, there is a requirement to maintain high quality seawater and this means weekly partial seawater changes. The amount of these changes is 10% of the whole though this can alter as the aquarium becomes more known. The protein skimmer needs to be cleaned, usually weekly to maintain its efficiency and ensure its correct operation. The viewing glass needs cleaning of algae, over and over. Debris and other ‘unwanteds’, such as unwelcome algae, have to be dealt with. The livestock have to be fed every day though this is normally a pleasurable task. The lighting, particularly if corals are kept has to be regularly changed to maintain the power output and spectrum, though this is a task well spaced out. The equipment that provides circulation, that is pumps have to be checked at least weekly. In addition, checks of seawater quality have to be made and, after initial maturation and when there isn’t any known problem they must be done weekly. There’s probably more.
As said, at the start of the aquarium everything is new and novel and generally exciting. Though not beautifully mature as this takes time, nevertheless the aquarium world is lovely and the maintenance work is done willingly. Again, as said, after a time there could be the temptation to skip the partial seawater change – ‘it should be ok’, the pumps and skimmer haven’t caused any problem so no worries, the lights come on etc. It is after a few months or more that the aquarist starts to learn that he/she is an aquarist though still a novice, or not so. The problem is with the ‘not so’.
As said keeping fish and corals is a responsibility. This livestock has been taken from the natural reefs and the methods used nowadays are far more advanced and responsible than they used to be, no longer is poison used to stun fish and probably kill unwanted life. The livestock travels in specially designed heat retaining boxes that are properly handled in transit, at the wholesalers and the aquarium shop. So when the new owner collects the livestock they should be treated well and correctly in transit and in their new home. The livestock had no say of course in anything and it is wrong for livestock to suffer because of ignorance, lack of discipline or just laziness. The livestock should be afforded the best environment possible in the aquarium. This means fully adequate equipment and ongoing maintenance.
So what does the potential aquarist need? The very first need is patience. No rush, everything with care. Some would call it discipline, but whatever the name it is needed. The potential aquarist needs to wait after deciding what size aquarium is acceptable. A list is required of items that are needed, including sea salt, lighting, pumps, protein skimmer, heater(s), thermostat, test kits, and any filter requirements. A basic knowledge (no need to be a scientist!) of the nitrogen cycle is required as this must be efficient otherwise the livestock could suffer or die. Perhaps providing the nitrogen cycle is live rock, an adequate amount that also provides security for fish etc as mentioned above. All this information is readily available on the internet. Alongside the list of requirements can go prices. A final bit, electricity usage, this is very easy. Add together the wattage of the aquarium equipment, it’s easy to obtain now the equipment is known – exclude the lights and heater(s). Add the wattage of the heaters and lights together and divide by half – these aren’t on all the time and this is a very rough estimate of their use. Add all the wattage together, the cost per kilowatt (1000 watts) per hour will be known. Multiply by 24 for daily cost etc. Then a decision, aquarium yes or no, can be made. First responsibilities met.
The marine aquarium hobby is wonderful – very interesting, educational with the basic knowledge required, very colourful from the word go and increasing in beauty and interest as time passes and the aquarium world develops. All that is required is for the potential aquarist to think and consider, then adequately plan – in other words meet his/her responsibilities in the first place and then in the future. Lifeforms on the reefs are under threat as it is, for example from global warming, so there isn’t a requirement for us individuals to act inadequately.