When leaving it alone is better than fooling around with it all the time

by | Oct 4, 2011 | Corals, Opinion, Tanks | 6 comments

A two month working vacation has taught me an important lesson that is best summed up by Alan in the blockbuster smash The Hangover,in the scene where he is filling up his father’s classic Mercedes and an older gentleman whistles and compliments the car.  His response:  “Don’t touch it. Don’t even look at it.”  While Alan will hit an old man in public, this quote was the first thing I thought of after a conversation with an old reefing buddy after returning stateside.   I had been away from my reef tank for two months, the sole provider for my reef during my absence is my saint of a wife who religiously refilled the ATO reservoir with fresh RO/DI, fed the creatures and performed weekly 10 gallon water changes (I dose according to my weekly testing and didn’t want to bother her with testing or dosing or refilling the GFO or Carbon reactors, in other words, keep it simple).

The tank is a  57 gallon rimless that is around a year and a half old.  It’s a mixed reef (heading towards SPS domination) with everything growing well. When I am around (which is all the time except this time) I, like many a reefer, am constantly testing , fiddling, rearranging, cleaning, and generally just sticking my hands in and around the tank.    During my absence, I was worried my wife would destroy the coral and possibly the fish… the opposite happened.

Upon walking through my apartment door after a flight delayed by the remnants of Hurricane Irene, I looked in amazement at my little water-box, sitting before me, no worse for the wear, was a reef in better condition than I had left it.  Surely the lack of dosing Ca and Alk should have stunted the corals from growing… nope.   Now, every reefer worth his/her salt  knows that when you stare at your tank for hours a day, you don’t notice the growth as much as when you take some time away and come back noticing how much things grew.  This was like that on steroids.  Sure, Irene gave me a scare and there was a period about a month into the vacation where there was some cyano from my wife getting overzealous making sure the juvenile Bangaii Cardinals ate until they were full, but after I advised her through theinterwebs, she syphoned some of the cyano out during the next water change nd reduced the feedings and all was well.  So why was this healthy tank so shocking to me and what did I learn?  I guess I was expecting something bad to happen or at the very least, minimal growth due to lack of “real” husbandry.  What I learned was that it doesn’t take much to keep a healthy reef thriving, sure you need to be able to adjust to unexpected problems and that is how you learn this hobby, but once you have the basics down, even someone with no knowledge could maintain a tank given basic competency in life.

The aforementioned friend unknowingly started this post by asking me if I was upset my wife kept my reef better than I did and asking how “her reef” was doing… I laughed it off at the time but to semi-seriously answer him here, no.  But I did reinforce a couple things I learned long ago.

1.  My wife is awesome and reliable (to watch my tank in a pinch).

2.  As my mom said when I had a scab or my “friend” got caught with a dirty mag his room, “leave it alone!”


  1. mellotang

    Tank looks awesome!! Wifes got skills. She got any friends that want to take care of my reef??

    Seriously though thats a nice collection of coal. LED?

  2. mellotang

    Tank looks awesome!! Wifes got skills. She got any friends that want to take care of my reef??

    Seriously though thats a nice collection of coral. LED?

  3. nikkibabee

    Really nice tank! What is that red coral in the middle please?

  4. James

    Hehe, My tank is very nice but not that nice. I don’t have any quality full tank shots so I did not include a picture, the photo editor for reefs.com put this image in, I am not sure whose tank it is. 🙂 Hope you like the article though!

  5. Brett Harris

    Dang…a wife that does water changes! It doesn’t sound real… =D

    Good write up and I’ve noticed this myself in my tanks. Stop and think about all the chemicals we come in contact with on a daily basis (soaps, perfumes, dyes, oils, etc.) Then those all get put in our tanks every time we have our hands in the tank.

  6. Johnny C

    The tank displayed in the photo above is the 120G show aquarium at A Reef Creation in Buffalo, NY.


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