While the title of this post puts me in mind of a song performed by Nick Rivers in the 1984 comedy film Top Secret, it’s a question many a novice has posed before setting up his or her first marine aquarium. How basic can it be? Or, put another way, what equipment is absolutely essential and what isn’t?This is a perfectly logical question because ours can be a highly equipment-intensive hobby, and the choices of gear and gadgets designed to make our lives easier can be downright mind-blowing. Add in all the online forum chatter about—and volatile disputes over—the latest-and-greatest hobby technology and methodology, and it’s no surprise that many beginners have a heck of a time distinguishing between the bare essentials and the “bells and whistles.” Complicating matters, of course, is the fact that opinions on what constitutes “essential equipment” can vary widely from one hobbyist to the next. I would humbly submit that the following items are all you really need for a bare-bones saltwater setup: (Note that you’ll also need various and sundry small-ticket items used for regular operation and maintenance, such as aquarium brushes, an algae magnet, etc. Plus, if you plan to keep a reef system, you’ll need to add some means of calcium/alkalinity supplementation to the list.) Some folks might say this list is grossly incomplete while others might contend you could get by without some of the items on it.
Though in many ways keeping a marine aquarium is easier today than it’s ever been, entry into our hobby is still fraught with confusion. To a large extent, this is can be attributed to the incredible variety of choices available nowadays for meeting the husbandry requirements of marine livestock as well as solving various problems that arise. Heck, the reef-lighting options alone are so diverse that if I were just starting out in the hobby today, my head would probably explode trying to process all that information! And, of course, there’s still a pretty hefty learning curve to mastering the fundamentals of the hobby.That’s why I urge all you experienced salties out there to share your wisdom with at least one novice hobbyist as a marine aquarium mentor. Here are 4 other good reasons to do so: 1. It’s refreshing Ask any teacher, and he or she will tell you that explaining a concept to students or guiding them through a step-by-step process is the best way to refresh your own knowledge on the subject. Not to mention, if the flame of your passion for the marine aquarium hobby has been burning a bit low as of late, mentoring an enthusiastic newcomer might just be the spark to reignite it. 2