The Most Important Takeaway for Novice Marine Aquarists

I was recently perusing a popular saltwater aquarium forum and came across a post from a novice hobbyist who is considering making the switch from freshwater to saltwater aquarium keeping. He had heard that the saltwater side of the hobby can be exorbitantly expensive and wanted to know which of a list of devices other forum members would consider indispensable to success. Among the devices in question were UV sterilizers, ozonizers, biopellet reactors, GFO reactors, ATO systems, and various and sundry other gadgets. As you might imagine, responses varied considerably depending on the individual’s unique circumstances, experiences, and preferences. It was clear that everyone who offered a recommendation meant well and genuinely wanted to help this person get started on the right foot—and most did indicate the devices they consider worthwhile investments. However, a few offered a different sort of advice that can be paraphrased thusly: “Don’t worry about all the gadgets right now; focus on the fundamentals first.” Jeff’s new Coral Vue Reef Octopus protein skimmer This viewpoint definitely got my upvote because, despite our hobby being necessarily equipment-intensive (all saltwater systems need certain core equipment to provide proper water circulation, heating, lighting, etc.), no ancillary device on the market can replace good aquarium-maintenance and livestock-husbandry practices or compensate for poor ones. But that’s not my only concern when it comes to focusing on equipment before fundamentals. Having been in the aquarium hobby nearly 40 years (initially freshwater and then saltwater), I’ve noticed that opinions on the utility of the latest, greatest ancillary devices can change quite dramatically with the passage of time

Salty Q&A: Need Advice on GFO Use

Q: I’m thinking about using GFO in my reef tank, but this product is new to me, so I have a few questions before I go ahead and buy it: Does GFO really do a good job of lowering nitrate and phosphate? Can I just put this product in a media bag and place it in my tank? Also, I’ve heard that dust from the GFO can end up all over your tank if you’re not careful. Is that true? If so, how can I prevent that from happening? Thanks! -Submitted by Sarah Mercer A: Thanks for your questions, Sarah

Plan for an Accessible Saltwater Aquarium

There’s a lot to consider when planning a new saltwater aquarium system—where to site the tank in your home, what sort of livestock you’d like to keep, what equipment will serve your needs best, how to gaslight your significant other into believing the system isn’t new at all but, in fact, has been there all along, etc., etc. In addition to these (and many other) considerations, accessibility should be given serious thought during the planning stage for any aquarium. What I’m referring to here is making sure you’re literally able to access the various components of the system for the sake of cleaning, maintenance, repairs, reconfiguration, or any other task you might need to accomplish. This may sound obvious, but ease of accessibility is overlooked more often than you might think, especially among new hobbyists setting up their very first system. What areas of an aquarium system are of greatest concern when it comes to ease of access? The top of the tank Let’s start at the top—literally. The top of the tank is the biggest hobbyist/system interface. It’s at/from the top that we feed livestock, scrape algae from the glass/acrylic panes, introduce new specimens, capture specimens for removal, add to or rearrange rockwork, remove and add water during water changes, move/redirect powerheads, and so forth.

Why I’m Second-Guessing Strictly Observational Quarantine

Is It Okay to Quarantine Multiple Marine Fish at Once? For most of my years as a saltwater aquarium hobbyist, I’ve made a point of quarantining all new fish before introducing them to my main system. By and large, my approach to the quarantine process has been observational—that is, watching specimens closely for signs of disease and treating them only if symptoms appear in order to avoid stressing them unnecessarily. However, (relatively) recent events have me questioning whether I’d be better advised to treat all quarantined specimens prophylactically rather than wait for symptoms to arise. Allow me to set the stage: A few years ago, my wife, Melissa, and I sold our old home and moved into a smaller one after an intervening year in a rented duplex. Naturally, once we got settled in, I took the first opportunity to set up my old 125-gallon tank, which had been in storage throughout the transition. Once I got the system up and running and began to cycle it, I set up a 29-gallon quarantine tank and acquired three specimens—a yellow tang, Niger trigger, and coral beauty. My plan was that these three would be the tank’s only fishy inhabitants (at least initially) along with a percula clownfish that I’ve had since 1997