Robs Reef Series

An amazing journey from the perspective of a first time reefer.


The Road to the Reef

As a child I had the usual passing interest in keeping fish, perhaps accentuated by living close to the sea, beside a harbour with a small fishing fleet. I vividly remember the shoaling mackerel chasing sprats up the river, a boiling mass of terrified, sparkling silver trapped against the sides of the fishing boats. So densely packed you could hardly drop a bucket into the water to pull out a share of the treasure. The easiest fishing I ever did!


In sharp contrast, on hot summer days we would lie on our stomachs on the warm wooden jetty, watching the grey mullet gliding serenely through the cool shadows beneath – at high tide, so close you could almost touch them. We tried inexpertly to tempt them with a variety of baits and lures, but without success. Inwardly, I was always relieved to leave them in peace in their tranquil home.


A part of me longed to create my own miniature marine world. However, I look back in horror, filled with guilt by the casual indifference with which I subjected a succession of fairground goldfish and other luckless creatures to a short and largely miserable life. With childhood naivety, I never adequately considered their needs or really committed the time and effort required to meet them. Fortunately, my parents eventually put a stop to my well-meaning but misguided efforts.


As I grew up my interests inevitably focused on other things. But I would always notice and take a delight in seeing well maintained fish tanks in the homes of family and friends, or in public buildings. Now though, I was fully aware of the commitment required to keep these beautiful underwater environments healthy and thriving. Not for me the time, effort and expense. I would simply admire the achievements of others. Until recently!

My son in law, Fraser, installed a large marine tank in his apartment. On regular visits I watched its development, impressed by his expertise as the reef evolved and a succession of fish, invertebrates and corals appeared. Each time I visited there was something new to see. Eventually the reef was teeming with life. Brightly coloured fish danced in the light, or lurked in the rocks. Soft corals and an anemone swayed seductively in the current while snails, hermit crabs  and shrimps went busily about their business of keeping the reef clean. Best of all was the urchin, the naughty boy who bumbled about, knocking over corals, decorating his spines with whatever was loose among the rocks. A real character!

I began to wonder…….Could I create something like this? But when I opened the doors of the cabinet and looked at the mass of plumbing, tanks and technology. Oh my word! Then there was all the talk of water parameters, salinity, temperature, light levels, test kits, water changes, diet, supplements… Perhaps not!


After many months, Fraser decided to supplement his large tank with a Red Sea Max Nano plug and play reef system. A stylish and beguiling piece of equipment. Everything scaled down, a tank size that was easy to accommodate and technology on a less intimidating scale. Was this something I should consider? But still there were the questions over maintenance. Could a novice do it? But after all, now I was retired I certainly had the time to devote to the hobby. Maybe, maybe, maybe…


Time went by and as much as I enjoyed Fraser’s tanks I still resisted temptation. Then one day I admired a new, empty nano tank which was sitting on his desk.  Much to my amazement he very generously offered it to me. He was obviously determined to draw me into the hobby. Too good an offer to refuse? Maybe I should give it a go!

And so, at the age of 64, I have the possibility to fulfill a childhood dream and create my own little piece of marine magic! This then, will be the story of my journey.


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