You’ve been staring at them everywhere. You’ve always wanted to give it a shot. Now, you’ve made the investment and you’re ready to start your very own marine fish tank. Congrats!
But what’s next? Unlike owning a dog or a cat, owning a marine tank comes with some surprising new commitments that you need to understand. Marine tanks are a rewarding investment of time and resources, but you need to be prepared. For this reason, we present to you five things to know about your first marine tank:
5. It’s not a pet. It’s an ecosystem:
When you get a new dog, cat, bird or lizard, you give them food and water. You change bedding and cat boxes and give them fresh air. But with a marine tank, every little thing that the animals inside the tank need to live have to be in the tank at all times. Food, oxygen, fresh water, salt. You are responsible for maintaining a simulated ecosystem from soup tut o nuts, and nothing other than you prevents your fish and coral from an untimely end.
Don’t panic! The tools necessary to keep your salty friends happy and healthy have been developed over decades to make maintaining a fish tank very simple. Actually, ecosystems are fascinating things, and maintaining one is half the fun – at least! – of owning a fish tank.
4. It’s called “live rock” for a reason:
That rock you dropped in your tank when you first got your tank? It’s literally teeming with life. Microbes, algae.. maybe even some eggs for some unexpected creature. They’re all in the mix in live rock.
Most of these creatures are absolutely necessary to maintain a reef tank: they produce chemicals your fish and corals need, many of which are still unknown to science. Others aren’t quite so much, but that doesn’t make them anything less than awesome!
Even creatures often seen as pests – like bristle worms – can in limited quantities be quite a lot of fun to see in the tank. At Mystic Blue, we have the tools you need to keep the pests safely contained. And as long as they’re contained, they’re just one more bit of your home ecosystem to enjoy!
3. Congrats! You’re a chemist, now:
Ever wanted to do pH tests of water? Do you have a thing for test tubes? Well, good luck! Because a big portion of what you do to maintain your tank is test the water for salinity, nitrates, nitrites, pH and a suite of other chemical levels.
It’s easy and quick to do! Just drop a little water in a test tube with the right amount of testing chemicals, shake it up, and wait. Compare your results to a shade chart and make sure you’re in range. Simple and easy.
2. Your tank is hungry! Keep it that way:
It’s a natural instinct to grow attached to things you spend as much time with as you do with your fish tank. And it’s normal to want to give the things you love everything they need. For many of us, the key need is food and we therefore naturally want to feed a fish tank frequently.
But in nature – and especially in the ocean – survival means making the most of very little. Some fish may swim for weeks without a meal, and even the most well-fed fish have a hungry belly. As a consequence, any new food is eaten immediately and with very little if anything left after the meal is done.
Overfeeding a fish tank means upsetting that ecosystem, however much you may have wished to help. Overfeeding means that things go to waste. Waste turns into nasty chemicals. Waste encourages undesirable things like algae and cyanobacteria to bloom. Eventually, waste will kill everything in your tank.
So just be frugal! Follow your instructions on feeding. Keep the little guys hungry and happy!
1. Your clean-up crew are what keep your tank healthy:
By now, you must be getting a much clearer picture of just how important it is to think of your tank as an ecosystem, not as a collection of pets. You can do things to upset that ecosystem, and you can do things that benefit the ecosystem. One thing you absolutely must do for the ecosystem is keep a good, healthy clean-up crew in the tank at all times.
Cleaner shrimp, peppermint shrimp, filter fish like diamond gobies and many more all clean scrap and waste from the rest of the tank and prevent the unhealthy build-up of nitrates that will eventually pollute your tank. Cleaning the tank regularly helps, but in between cleanings, it is the clean-up crews of natural scavengers that really do the heavy lifting day-to-day.