It seems to me that it's time for a reality check for those that have a marine tank. Over the last few months, the number of people jumping into the marine hobby has been unbelievable, and the reality check is that well over half should not even have their tank setup yet. Your "learn-as-you-go" approach has set you up for disaster. Ok, now that I have your attention and probably have some of you on the defensive, I'll explain myself.
I read over and over the following statement in posts "The tank has been running for (1-4) months and all is well." The reality is that "all is well" but only so far. A 4 month old marine tank is a very very young tank. Marine tanks are not instantly stable after they cycle, they take time to mature. The fact is, it takes 1-2 years for a marine tank to mature, and even then it is still maturing. I have seen a 1.5 year old reef tank crash, and it was carefully maintained by people who had years and years of experience in the hobby. Starting a single thread and asking a few questions on it and then reading a couple of articles does not constitute sufficient research before jumping in.
When I started my 125gal reef, I joined a forum that was devoted entirely to marine tanks. I posted my plans and then revised them over and over and over again as I received helpful advice. I posted over 750 times in a 1 month period asking questions of one of the most brilliant and most experienced reef keepers in the US. Besides that, I went back through every single issue (2 years worth) of my Tropical Fish Hobbyist magazines and I read the SW Q&A sections entirely along with every article about salt water in them as well. I picked up books, I browsed websites, and I picked brains locally. All in all, I did nearly 2 years worth of research before I put the first drop of salt water in that tank. Now my tank is not yet a year old, but it is doing very well, but I also have the knowledge that I've done things right and that it should continue to do so. I have done the reading and I understand the complexity of the environment contained within that tank. I see something happening and I understand why, I don't have to run to a forum to ask what is happening. In a marine tank, what you do during setup can have an effect 10-12 months even 2 years or more down the road. You need to know exactly what you are doing before you start. Some of you can't even figure out why you have the algae you have in a 1-2 month old tank.
The "learn-as-you-go" method creates a serious danger, it allows you to do something wrong and not have any immediate consequences. This creates a false sense of security, because you may very well have a problem 2 months down the road. Example: You have a 20 gal tank and you look at it and it is crawling with Pods so you think "great, I have a large pod population, I can support a Mandarin." So you go out and buy that mandarin. 4 Months later you have an emaciated Mandarin dead on the bottom of your tank one morning, no pods in the tank and you can't figure out what went wrong. Another example; you have a 1 month old 20-30 gal tank and you see all kinds of algae on the back wall so you go buy a lawnmower blenny to eat it. 6 months later you have a very clean back wall and no lawnmower blenny and you are completely surprised.
This danger also leads to another major problem, that false sense of security and serious lack of understanding leads you to think you know what you are doing and that you have done things right. That confidence leads you to tell others that doing it your way works great. The sad reality is, in a year, you could very well end up out of the marine hobby due to discouragement because your tank has problems that you don't understand and can't seem to fix, and everyone that has followed the pied piper will be in the same situation.
There are those of you here that I applaud, you want a marine tank but recoginze that you shouldn't have one yet because you understand you are not ready for one. There are those of you that have a marine tank and have done all the proper research and preparation, and you will succeed. But, for the rest of you that have done the "learn-as-you-go" method, please, do others a favor and do not encourage them to do as you have done. You may think my examples have been extreme, I assure you, they are not, they are quite real. When we tell you that "nothing good happens fast in a marine tank" we mean it. When we say "stock slowly" that doesn't mean it takes you 2 months to reach full stocking level. My tank is 11 months old now and it is not yet fully stocked.
The unfortunate part of this post is this, too many of you will look at it and say "that's not me, that's not what I've done" when in reality it is you and that is what you are doing. I can only think of 1 or 2 marine tanks started in the last 3-4 months by members of this site that have been done right, and they will succeed.
Excellent post. I hope to successfully follow everything in your post.
Stock the tank you have, not the tank you plan to have. Always have and use patience.
- 29g FW - Community
- 55g SW - Blue Watchman Goby, Royal Gramma, 6-Line Wrasse, 2 Ocellaris Clownfish, and various corals and inverts
For those of you who want a SW tank and never have had one before or just starting out, read this blog entry
from my blog on AC, it will give you a place to start.
Excellent post GB. You've articulated what I've been preaching for many years about marine reef tanks; do thorough research BEFORE buying the tank. Pleased your post was stickied, I hope many read it.
Without meaning to highjack the thread, this should also apply to freshwater tanks. While they may be somewhat simpler to establish and maintain, too many people rush in without knowing what they're doing and it ends in disaster.
Originally Posted by Dave66
Regardless of freshwater or marine, please research what you're doing before doing it.
My AC Fish Gallery:
Another gallery with my fish
21 Gallon - 3 Ornate Tetras, 7 Pencilfish, 1 Oto cat, 7 Amano shrimp, 1 Peckoltia brevis, 1 clown pleco
15 Gallon - 1 clown pleco, 6 threadfin rainbows
10 Gallon - 7 Galaxy Rasboras, 4 Betta rutilans, Cherry shrimp, 1 Hillstream Loach
65 Gallon - Cycling!
That is an awesome post and is totally chock full of great examples.I see the people jumping in all the time at my lfs [which is huge]I see them with all the stuff in there carts to set up a new tank,in that same cart I see 200 dollars worth of fish and coral,now unless they have a fully matured tank at home for those fish [I doubt it] they are in for a heartache.The thing that gets me is this,I watch these people shop and its obvious to me that they are new at SW,then I see them in the fishroom lying to the help about how old there tank is and if they are aware of the upkeep and care of the asked for fish.Oh well,I think just another tank Ill find cheaply in the classified,what can I do.Thats why I am a member here,hopefully prospective fish keepers come here first,,,,,,,,,,,,and heed the advise.
This is all true...I have the money and the space for a marine tank but I know that I am not yet ready for the challenge. I am actually extremely happy I finally have a good hold on maintaining the current freshwater tanks that I do have.
I honestly think I will not attempt a SW tank until I own a house and know the challenge will fit into my schedule.
Well, I think I'm the guy that won't get into it because I'm not ready. I recently visited an lfs that I had never been to before. It is a mom and pop with not an abundance of selection. It is marine specific and I just thought I'd pop in for a look.
Firstly the people were amazing. I think they go home and live in a salt water aquarium. They just reek of knowledge and advice.
His wife asked me what kind of tank that I had and when I said fresh, she went and got her husband and told him to tell me all about the advantages of a marine system. ( Good business woman!)
The more he spoke to me and took me around his store showing me this and that, the more I realized that as much as I wanted to go out and get one of those little nano cubes with little clown fish and be on my way, marine is years away for me.
I recently read a book on the biology of fish relating to disease and was absolutely blown away with the complexity of the way things work in a tank environment. Fresh water is complicated enough for one who desires to really understand their hobby.Then throw in all of the extras that come along with marine and you've got quite a bit of info that needs to be gathered and processed.
Then there's the cost. People who don't do enough research, but really do want the best for their fish, are, I would think, often over whelmed by the cost of things. Therefore, their systems crash due lack of funds.
Great article and I hope enough people take notes and learn from others experience and not trial and error.
FF and Rob, I have a lot of respect for a fish keeper who knows their limits. The willingness to admit you are not ready shows you are willing to put the well being of the animals in your care ahead of your own enjoyment. My hat's off to both of you.
Often here, someone will say they have a nice big tank and not sure what they want for fish and they are told "go saltwater" without knowing the age of the fishkeeper, their financial situation or how much time they are willing to put into this hobby. They are also told the same thing about having a planted tank....only later to learn they need expensive lights, better substrate, etc.
I think sometimes more thought needs to go in what we recommend for people here, as well. We should never assume that because we may have a big expensive tank that they can afford the same.
That's not me and I don't care if my tank is not on your list of 1 or 2 in the last few months that you think will be successful, haha just kidding man! Very nice write up though. Hopefully it'll encourage people to stay away from the dark side of marine tanks. Glad this was stickied!