With the festive period now finished and a new year just beginning there will probably be a lot of people who are interested in starting a marine aquarium – and why not – it is a fantastic, educational, relaxing hobby to be a part of.
If you are new to this hobby and are thinking of starting then as the title of this post says ‘take as much time as is needed before purchasing any animals’.
You may be surprised how many people do minimal or no research at all before purchasing fish, corals etc and to me this is just cruel and the majority of aquarists ultimately regret it and in a lot of occasions actually end up giving up.
The research and planning could take a week, it could take a month, it could even take six months but it is imperative that the research and planning is done prior to purchasing any animals.
I understand that this may put some people off however whilst the care of the animals is a very large component another is both the actual understanding of the hobby and the confidence of the aquarist. It may sound like hard work but it isn’t, it is enjoyable as long as you are someone who likes to learn. If every marine aquarium was easy to setup then we would all have successful aquarium with no problems. In truth any aquarist can be a success – as long as they do research and plan.
With some hobbies you can be up and running within a week, some actually within the same day but this hobby is a little different to other hobbies. There is a lot to learn, there is a lot to plan for and there are also two things that you do not want to waste – time and money.
This does not mean that you will not physically have anything – you will not spend the next 2-3 months with your head in a book, starting at a computer screen etc. You can if you want but there is no need to. You can purchase physcial items like the aquarium. equipment etc. You can even have water in there but I would not recommend purchasing any animals until you are ready. Of course the aquarium needs to be ready for the introduction of animals however you, as an aquarist also need to be ready.
The research you need to do will depend upon any previous experience you may have had in the aquarium hobby. If you have successfully kept coldwater or tropical fish before then you have a good headstart – you now need to understand the differences.
Basically when you are researching and planning you want to be looking into the following areas:
The first entry and this does depend upon any previous experience is the basics – this is followed by water quality, equipment and care/maintenance. Below are some questions which you can then research the answers:
(Hint – The answers to all of the above questions and more and on this Aquarists Online!)
- What is filtration, what does it do and why is it required?
- What is nitrate and how to reduce/manage it?
- Why is detritus bad in a marine aquarium?
- What are the different types of lighting and which on is most suitable for the aquarium you hope to keep?
- What does a protein skimmer do?
- Why is calcium required in a reef tank and what can you do to maintain it?
- Why is temperature control important and how can it be performed?
- How do you feed fish and corals correctly?
- What is reverse osmosis water?
- Why is water circulation important and what are the different ways in which it can be performed?
- Which fish are compatiible with other fish and which corals are compatible with other corals?
- What is quarantine and why should you do it?
- What do you need to clean and why?
- How do you mix saltwater?
The planning stage should be performed either when the initial research has been completed or as it is coming to a close.
As with the research stage this stage can be performed by answering the following questions:
- Which type of aquarium are you going to have – glass or acrylic?
- What size will the aquarium be?
- Are you going to use a sump?
- Are you going to implement any extra nutrient export mechanisms like a refugium?
- How are you going to filter the aquarium?
- Do you need to plan/build a stand and/or canopy?
- Where will the aquarium be located?
- Do you need to draw a plan of the aquarium plumbing?
- Where will the circulation devices be located?
- Are there enough power outlets?
- Does the floor need strengthening?
- Where will the protein skimmer be located?
- Where will your reverse osmosis unit be located?
- What is the future of the aquarium?
Once the above questions in the planning stage are answered then you are now in position to be able to start purchasing items. Personally I really enjoy the planning stage – I do loads of drawing both by hand and on the computer. I make a list of all the items I am going to need to get started and then once purchased start putting it all together. As said I really enjoy this time and this is an area that should not be rushed. You should try to enjoy this part of the hobby as much as you will do when their are fish, corals etc in the aquarium.
The questions in the above two sections of course do not detail everything you need to know. The answers you gain from these questions will be enough for you to start purchasing the equipment you actually need and hopefully not waste money or waste your own time. From doing this research and planning your own confidence should increase as you will have gained more knowledge about the hobby – all you need now is experience. This will come in time however with you actually doing your research and planning your aquarium properly then you will be in a position to be able to add animals to your aquarium. Do not rush the stage between putting the equipment together and adding fish, coral etc. Your research will tell you why and ensure that you take your time when adding animals.
Some of the questions above and any associated answers may bring about other questions which you may want to look into to locate the answer. The answer may be on Aquarists Online – if it is not for some reason then you can always contact us and we will either write an article about it, provide you with the answer or you can post a question in the forum.
It does need to be noted that there is a lot more to learn however you can learn this as you go – to be honest you will always be learning as each and every aquarium is unique. There is a saying in this hobby that the research never ends and it is a very true saying, however this is what makes this hobby both informative and educational. I think so anyway and that is why I love it so much.
When it comes to purchasing the actual equipment don’t forget to shop around and try to get the best deal. You can either purchase online where it quite often is cheaper or you can purchase at your locate retailer and try and build rapport with the owner/staff. The more you save in the purchase of equipment is money that can ultimately be spend on fish, corals etc. If you choose to purchase online then Aqua Compare is a great tool for comparing prices and this is why we created it.
Don’t forget that once your aquarium is up and running then why not take some photos of it, post them in the social area so that others can enjoy it. Alternatively why not start a blog in the social area detailing your progress – I for one would love to see any or both of these and I am sure that others would as well.