There it is, the fish only or reef aquarium in all its glory! It took a while to set it up and a lot of waiting for things to really happen which stretched patience. It’s here now though, in all its successful beauty. The system has been set up for quite a time and is really mature.
Maybe the aquarist has a fish only system with some careful aquascaping to please the eye. Some aquarists choose small fish to inhabit the aquarium, while others choose big ones. Whatever, it is a pleasure to see and care for.
The majority (I’m guessing!) of aquarists run a mixed reef system, which is a captive reef with fish and corals. The corals could be soft ones many with lovely pastel colours, the taller branched ones swaying in the currents. Then again, perhaps the reef is populated with hard corals making it look very ‘reefy’. Whatever the corals are, completing the scene are fish – not so many as in a fish only system, but fascinating to watch as they swim on this unique captive reef.
Watching the aquarium picture doesn’t usually become less of a magnet as time progresses but usually more so. The aquarium matures, develops and changes and there is usually something going on.
However the aquarist, often a builder at heart, could want to ‘improve’ things. The aquarium is fitted with everything needed, the bio-filtration is probably live rock and if not maybe a canister filter. There is plenty of circulation, heaters are adequate and a good protein skimmer is fitted. Lights are just right. Etc. So all is fine, there’s nothing to improve. There’s isn’t a need to improve a situation like this, at least not the display aquarium itself.
Still, ‘What could be done?’ the aquarist wonders, something that will widen interest and benefit the existing system.
First of all, is there a sump? There probably is, but a successful marine aquarium is not dependant on one being present. A sump however improves matters by helping to maintain or increase the quality of the seawater. There are more gallons of seawater in the system and the gallonage in the sump is not used in stocking calculations, so those extra gallons are quality enhancing – more gallons per fish. In addition, the display aquarium could be improved visually by the removal of the heaters and protein skimmer to the sump, where they will not intrude on the ‘natural’ scene. Going back to seawater quality, the sump could house a DSB (deep sand bed) and/or algae, which will be additional filtration, and again help maintain or enhance seawater quality.
So there’s the first possibility, a sump.
There already is a sump. Ok, but more could be considered. Is there room above the sump, or to one side but still above? If there is, then there is the possibility of a further ‘sump’ being fitted. The depth of this one depends on the available space above the proper sump (let’s call it the main sump), remembering that access to equipment etc is needed that is situated in the main sump. If there is room, then this tank can be constructed to the depth, width and length available, remembering that seawater which is on its way down to the main sump will be diverted through this tank before it continues. The seawater needs to enter the new tank at one end and overflow to the input end of the main sump. Not a problem usually. There is a bonus and that is that additional equipment, apart from the new tank, is not required.
In this new tank, subject to its depth, could go a DSB if there isn’t one already, or algae for filtration (this would need lighting). Or some live rock could be put in place, and that shrimp that is not suitable for the display area could be kept, or one or two small fish (subject to stocking guidelines applicable to the new tank). Again, in these cases lighting would be needed as a correct environment would be required. Or the tank could be left empty apart from seawater just to increase the gallonage (though I doubt many aquarists would do that!).
Another option for an additional tank would be to create a cryptic zone. This sounds a bit mysterious, but what it boils down to is light and seawater flow – they are both very much reduced. Light in a cryptic zone is set at about 1% of the display aquarium. In reality it is easier to totally cover the aquarium to generally keep light out. Seawater flow is very low, with detritus moving slowly in the current, very different to the display aquarium. The cryptic zone with rocks allows life forms that are adapted to the circumstances to grow, such as sponges etc. Some would say ‘But it can’t be seen, what’s the point?’ Having a zone such as this brings the aquarium environment a little closer to ‘natural’, in other words it’s an enhancement. Not a necessity, but a personal choice. Anyway, an occasional peek wouldn’t cause trouble!
An additional tank above the main sump allows for quite a few options. Of course, if it cannot be fitted above the main sump because of space, will it fit above the display aquarium? Seawater could be pumped to it and flow back by gravity. This option however could create difficulty because of ‘furniture appeal’, having another box appear above the display aquarium might not appeal to all.
So once an aquarium or aquarium and sump are up and running, building doesn’t have to be at an end. It can be, of course, as the aquarist knows how far he/she would like to go. If the livestock are healthy and thriving there isn’t any need to do more. There are things that could be done though.