A Little Piece of Marine Magic!
When I discussed with my wife the idea of setting up a small marine aquarium her response was, “That’s fine, if you want to take on that sort of commitment. But don’t expect me to be particularly interested!” She then suggested I consider the following very important practical questions:
Fortunately the answer to all three questions was “Yes”!
Now it was time to start doing my homework. After several hours on the Internet reading articles, blogs, forums and watching endless YouTube videos, I began to feel overwhelmed and very unsure whether I actually wanted to go ahead or not. My little piece of marine magic was potentially becoming a nautical nightmare!
There was so much information, so many opinions, so much to learn, so many pitfalls. As a novice, how do you sort the good advice from the bad? I was feeling out of my depth even before the tank arrived. Two key facts stood out:
Well, I knew it wasn’t easy, that’s why I had resisted temptation for so long! Fortunately, one of the first things I had done was to order a basic book on marine aquariums. Just when my enthusiasm was sinking fast this slim volume arrived:
Ordered second hand from Amazon. An absolute bargain at £2.94 (50 ZAR). Admittedly it is ten years old and written particularly for the American market, but its 95 pages contain a huge amount of information, guidance and best of all, common sense.
John H. Tullock has the qualifications and experience to provide a no nonsense introduction to a potentially challenging hobby. A sobre antidote to the confusing “nerdy techniness” of some hobbyists, or the wild exuberance of “Reef Dudes” that I had recently encountered!
Having said that, he leaves you in no doubt about
what you are taking on:
“However, I suggest you give some serious thought to the undertaking before you decide to become involved in the marine aquarium hobby. A marine aquarium requires a commitment of time and can cost a significant amount of money. However, both… are well-rewarded by the entertainment and educational value of a thriving miniature ecosystem aquarium. One can achieve a deep sense of accomplishment from watching the developments in a properly designed aquarium.”
The book contains a chapter on “Setting Up a Mini-Reef Aquarium”. Ideal for the novice I thought. But his mini-reef is a 113 litre (30 gallon) tank. Mine is a 22 litre, (5 gallon) tank! I had already become aware that some hobbyists are of the opinion that you shouldn’t keep more than a couple of snails in a tank that size! Nevertheless, with the correct choice of livestock and diligent management, I felt it should be possible to create a successful mini-reef.
One of the first decisions I took was that, as far as possible, I would avoid confusing myself with conflicting information and opinions. So John H. Tullock is the oracle to help me through the early stages. His “Five rules for a Successful Aquarium” provide the basic principles for a novice. Here they are in brief:
- “ Keep it simple. Pay more attention to maintaining good water quality, providing proper nutrition, and carrying out regular maintenance, and less attention to installing the latest piece of high-tech equipment.
- Keep it roomy. Choose species that are in proportion to the size of the miniature ecosystem.
- Keep it stable. The coral reef…is among the most stable environments on earth… Reef fish and invertebrates have … not evolved to cope with rapid fluctuations in environmental conditions.
- Keep it clean. Aside from issues of appearance and basic hygiene, keeping the
aquarium ‘clean’ or, more precisely, ‘nutrient poor’ is the single best way to avoid an excessive growth of algae.
- Keep it natural. Try to duplicate to the fullest extent possible the conditions under which your marine specimens were living while in the ocean.” (Of course, some
livestock is captive bred, but the principle still applies.)
So, having turned my back on the cacophony of the Internet and armed with some basic knowledge and guiding principles, I am ready to prepare for the arrival of the tank. Exciting times ahead!