Setting up and maintaining a saltwater reef tank ain’t easy. And the responsibility is one that many people can’t handle. This post is written to help you decide whether an owning one is a good fit for you or not. Here are three reasons you may want to go the aquarium or fish store to admire salt water fish tanks instead of owning one yourself.
Setting up a reef tank can get very expensive. Sure, they sell small all-in-one packages that supposedly include everything you need to get started, but starting small is not the way to go when talking marine tanks. You’ll want at least a 30-gallon tank to start.
Factor in the stand (unless you have some sturdy furniture you’re willing to sacrifice), salt, protein skimmer, filter, heaters, pump, powerheads, test kits, live rock, substrate, fish, etc. things add up very quickly. It’s not uncommon for a decent size set up to run into the $1000+ range just to get started.
You can save yourself some money on start up by buying a used tank. There are a lot of people who have begun a marine aquarium and for whatever reason want to get rid of it. Not that taking this route doesn’t have its risks, but you can save some money by looking at Craigslist, eBay, Amazon or other sites for used aquarium equipment.
In any case, this is not a cheap hobby so make sure you’re going to have the capital necessary to support your tank and keep the inhabitants healthy.
Besides money, it takes a lot of time to setup and maintains a reef tank. In the beginning, there’s a tendency to try to rush things because you’re so excited about your tank you want it teeming with life as quickly as possible. But you need to have some patience and let the tank cycle (which can take a month or two), do daily water tests, and make sure the water chemistry is stable and ready to support living creatures.
Then once that’s set up, the real time is in the regular maintenance a marine tank requires. Monthly water changes, cleaning the glass, removing organic debris from substrate/rock, cleaning the salt residue off the tanks and surrounding areas, cleaning the filter, and the list goes on. This can get overwhelming but letting things go for even a month or so can have devastating consequences.
3. Environmental Impact
After dealing with the issues of time and money, we get to more of a moral reason you may not want to own a reef aquarium. The fact is, the marine aquarium hobby has had a devastating impact on reefs around the world.
While freshwater fish are relatively easy to breed in captivity, saltwater fish are not (at least not yet). So most of the specimens you see in the fish stores were snatched from the wild. The practices used to collect reef fish such as using toxins to “stun” the fish to make them easier to catch can have terrible impacts on the reef and all its inhabitants, not just the fish. Many fish are killed by these collection methods or die after capture before even reaching your local fish store.
And it’s not just the fish. Most of the live rock and invertebrates in the marine aquarium trade are also taken from the wild.
While some people are working on raising marine aquarium fish and other tank inhabitants in captivity, there’s still ways to go.
What To Consider When Buying Saltwater Tank?
If you are interested in getting a saltwater fish tank, it means you probably want to have a load of lovely tropical fish in your home. But be warned they take more care than a freshwater equivalent. When choosing your new purchase, always buy the biggest tank you can afford assuming you have sufficient space available.
They come in either glass or acrylic, but I would always choose the glass tank. It is easier to clean, won’t discolor with age or sunlight and is scratch resistant. People will tell you to choose acrylic as they weigh less but I don’t think that matters. Regardless of what type of marine aquarium you buy, you will want to stand it somewhere very secure so that it doesn’t fall over or lean to one side causing a break or leak.
It doesn’t matter whether you buy the glass or acrylic version; never buy your fish at the same time. A saltwater fish tank has to settle before you move the fish into it. This process takes time and should not be rushed. You will need to check your nitrate levels and gravity. Don’t skip these steps as otherwise you will kill the inhabitants of your tank. You will have wasted your money and killed these beautiful creatures at the same time.
You should check your tank on a daily basis and make sure that all the fish are accounted for and looking healthy. If you notice something is wrong i.e. the fish are not behaving as they would normally then you need to check and find out what is causing the problem.
The water could be too hot or cold, lacking oxygen or have too many nitrates in it. You may have overfed the fish or starved them. It is important to keep an eye on the inhabitants as it is only your vigilance that keeps them alive.
So if you decide you have the time and money to devote to a marine fish tank, please consider the environmental impact of your hobby. In an upcoming post, I’ll be talking about this a little more and providing some resources on how to set up a more environmentally friendly marine aquarium tank.