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.