Maybe a friend’s aquarium or some in a dealer’s have been seen and they are so good – good in more than one way, they are relaxing and the aquarium world is very interesting.
A marine aquarium doesn’t build itself of course; they have to be constructed in such a way that the type of aquarium is properly supported. Without this there are going to be problems and that’s not a pleasure. So there’s a general procedure that should be followed.
Are you willing to give the time? This might seem strange as it’s obvious that putting an aquarium together takes time. The construction stage is fine, the enthusiasm of ‘newness’ is there and the potential aquarist is bubbling over in the desire to get on with it. It’s not only in the initial stages that problems could arise however, it’s later on. There’s weekly maintenance that needs to be done month in month out year in year out. It doesn’t seem problematical at first but it can be when enthusiasm has waned somewhat. So starting a marine aquarium should never be an instant decision – the very fact that livestock are present demands consistency.
Have you the space? Normally the largest aquarium that will fit is chosen, this is the natural choice as big is seen as better. It’s true that a large aquarium has the greater initial visual impact but smaller ones can also be very beautiful and interesting as can be found by browsing the internet. The aquarium shouldn’t be too tight a fit as it could be necessary to get round the sides for maintenance. Mentally picture the aquarium in place – could maintenance be reasonably easily accomplished? There needs to be a power outlet close to the aquarium and this should be accessible once the aquarium is in place. Don’t forget that the aquarium is going to have to stand on something so perhaps a cabinet is required? A sump is a good idea so to avoid any impact on space could one go in the cabinet beneath the aquarium? Consider the construction of the floor – seawater plus rocks plus aquarium equals considerable weight. Will the floor support it?
What type of aquarium will it be? There are three types, fish only, corals only and mixed reef (fish and corals). This choice has an impact on the equipment that is needed, for example corals need special lighting.
How about the cost of purchase for the equipment? This really is important as mistakes could lead to corner cutting – not the way to start! There is the aquarium of course and any sump that will be used. There could be overflow holes required in the aquarium – will this be DIY or done by a dealer? There is the cabinet if required. Consider the amount of sea salt needed for the initial mix, it isn’t cheap. Then there is the necessary electrical equipment such as sufficiently sized heaters, circulation pumps, the return pump from the sump, canister filter(s) or live rock, a correctly sized protein skimmer and lights plus two timers. Then there are the test kits to monitor the seawater condition. A good way to obtain a general guideline of the cost is to make a list of the needed items then price them from sources on the internet, a magazine or a local dealer.
How much will the livestock cost? The local dealer should have various corals and fish which will permit a guideline to be obtained. This will not be accurate as decisions on what types have not been made but at least knowledge of the general cost of various types can be obtained.
How much will it cost to run? Feeding the livestock is not costly. Sea salt is needed for routine weekly partial seawater changes. Test kits will need renewing from time to time. There is the electrical cost which is easy to estimate if a list of required items has been made. These items each have a wattage (W) – add these up. This will come to part of a kilowatt or a number of kilowatts and a part per hour. The cost of a kilowatt (1000 watts) will be known so the daily, weekly etc cost can be determined. For a day just multiply by 24 and so on. Heaters and lights will not be on all the time so divide the wattage by two for these for estimate purposes.
Is it all too expensive? There’s no need to give up yet. Consider a smaller aquarium. This will reduce the cost of nearly everything. However, new purchase and running estimates need to be considered to be sure, if it is still too expensive or if there is a doubt, don’t start.
Is everything acceptable? Wonderful, the initial stages are complete, the aquarium, cabinet and any sump can be obtained plus other equipment. Some more research will be needed to ensure that the equipment purchased is suitable for the aquarium size and the job it has to do.
Marine aquariums are supposed to be relaxing, the stuff above doesn’t look like it! Marine aquariums are most definitely relaxing – and exciting, and beautiful. That of course is when they’re finished and settled. They won’t be finished and settled if not set up correctly, so they will not be beautiful and definitely not relaxing. The aquarist will face stress because of problems. It isn’t necessary to have every bell and whistle available but the aquarium must have the basic adequate necessities.
There are two important words for marine aquarists and these are research and patience.
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