I am six months in to my first saltwater tank. In that six months I have battled bacteria blooms, had a never ending stream of micro-bubbles in my display, experienced a diatom bloom which quickly turned into a cyano & dinoflagelltes. The dino & cyano are an on-going battle that I am determined to beat. Along with this I have an evasive bristle worm, one dead firefish, two dead Zoa frags and a third soon to follow, along with one dead cleaner shrimp and I have had to give up my much loved tropical aquarium.
As I sit looking at this tank I see something new nearly every day. Sometimes these discoveries are good, other times they feel like the end of the world. Your first spot of coralline algae is an elating feeling, you feel like you are doing something right… but the very next day you can discover something like cyano or dino’s, which you will soon loose the will to live with!
The life within a marine tank is fascinating, even before you add fish or coral, the potential hitch-hikers you get from live rock are exciting and terrifying all in the same breath. For the last three months I have been trying to catch a six inch long bristle worm to no avail (it’s a very clever & fast worm!), just yesterday I discovered a peanut worm in a piece of live rock, which I have now ripped out of my tank to dry the rock out and hopefully kill the worm (I realise both of these worms are good clean up crew, but I don’t want them in my tank). It seems to be a never ending battle with one pest or another, despite dipping of all corals and curing live-rock before putting it in my tank.
I have spent/still spend countless hours researching every aspect of keeping a reef tank. From lighting, to flow, to livestock, pests, water quality, new innovations. You name it, I’ve probably watched it, joined it or read it before there was even a tank in the house. I thought I was fully prepared for everything this tank could throw at me… ohhh how wrong I was! I think I have had a bit of a bad run with getting both cyano & dino’s this early on in the game, but in the same breath at least I don’t have a tank full of corals to worry about loosing.
There is so much information available to you as a newbie that sometimes it can seem completely overwhelming, a lot of the information out there is good and comes from solid, knowledgeable resources, but there are also some stinkers out there! Particularly within the social media groups. I see bad advice being given on a daily basis on those groups & worse yet I see people get absolutely slammed for asking what others feel is a silly question. It puts you off asking for any advice on those forums.
My best advice is to do your own research & don’t follow the advice from everyone on forums. There are plenty of reputable websites, articles and YouTubers out there that offer amazing advice for free.
The Financial Cost
So for the £2,000.00 I have put into this tank I have:
- A pair of clownfish
- A royal gramma
- Two yellow-striped cardinals
- A Carberryi Anthia
- Two Blue-Green Chromis
- An algae Blenny
- A Chalk Goby
- An Orange Shoulder Tang
- Corals (that survived) include a Torch, three Zoa frags, one Acan polyp, two Blasto frags and two mushrooms.
- Clean up crew includes various snails & hermits totalling about 30 members so far
I have lost:
- A red firefish
- A cleaner shrimp
- Two zoa frags
The livestock loss is gutting, especially when you can’t see any reason for the loss. I am used to that happening with the tropical tank, but with the marines it seems to hurt more (I guess that is due to the initial cost being so much higher).
When you look at list of stock, it’s not a lot for the financial cost and in a 180 gallon, I can tell you, it looks empty.
Despite the 30 odd clean up crew members, I do have a algae along with the cyano & dino. I now realise, 30 members is no where near enough! My next few additions will be more CUC members just to try and bring the issues back under control.
The Time Cost
This hobby requires time, dedication and patience. Lots and lots of all three of these things to be honest. The work involved in comparison to a freshwater tank is massive, so much so that I decided to give up my freshwater tank all together and sell it on (luckily a good friend of mine bought it so I still get regular updates on it). Giving up that tank, for me, has been the hardest part of this hobby so far, but I just didn’t have the time for both of the tanks.
Thankfully, my better half has not yet moaned about the time I spend with this tank, but he is making noises about going on holiday. I dread to think what I will do at that point, none of my friends or family keep saltwater fish and I’m not sure who I can trust to look after them in my absence. This is a bridge I am going to have to cross soon and I will update you with what I decide to do and how well it goes!
So Is It Worth It?
I have just written a whole post pretty much moaning about this hobby, but I LOVE IT! I am so glad I took the plunge into saltwater and I would spend every hour and every penny all over again if I had to.
You see, despite the bad points this hobby is so satisfying when things go right. I actually don’t mind the algae battles and the terrifying pests because it gives me something to think about and work out. It is a hobby that you can fully immerse yourself in and if you are lucky enough to have someone to share that with it is even better. I love explaining whats going on in my aquarium to my friends and family when they ask, though I’m pretty sure they don’t really care!
Every fish has it’s own personality and watching them gain confidence within the tank and start to build friendships is truly fascinating. The habits they have developed and little groups they stick in most goes against every piece of research I have done, but I love watching these things develop.
Coral growth is so slow compared to freshwater plants, it seems nothing happens at all, but then all of a sudden you see a new polyp starting to appear and you can get excited about watching that grow.
The colours within a marine aquarium are unrivalled in this hobby. There is nothing that comes close to it. Watching the different fish and corals changing colour as they grow and under different lighting is amazing, I have literally spent hours just looking a the colour changes.
I don’t regret my decision one bit to join the salty community, in fact I wish I had done it years ago.
Despite the downs, it is the best decision I have ever made and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.