Top Ten Saltwater Aquarium Keeping Mistakes

Saltwater Aquarium 101

Saltwater aquarium

There are many things that can go wrong with a saltwater aquarium (but only if you let them). Here are the top ten mistake hobbyist do that put their aquariums at risk.

#10: Buying Livestock on a Whim. One of the worst things a new hobbyist can do is walk into a the local reef shop and say “I want that… What is it? How much?” and take it home. It’s best to do your research and know what you are taking home. It’s important to understand the livestock needs and weather or not it’s compatible with what you have at home.

# 9: Not Automating Your System. I know, not everyone has a trust fund for their saltwater aquarium (including me) but the little things that you can do to automate your aquarium setup will help your system be more stable. Something as simple as a $20.00 light timer form the local hard wear store can do wonders making your system more stable.

# 8: Shopping at Big Box Pet Stores. The saltwater aquarium hobby requires a vast knowledge of many subjects. Having said that… the 16 year working for 8 dollars a hour at the “Big Box” Pet store doesn’t care about you, your aquarium or the amount of time and money you have spent putting it together. When looking for a shop to do business with let their aquariums do the talking. Look for sick or dead fish in the aquariums. Are the aquariums clean and well maintained? Is the staff knowledgeable, if not take you business somewhere else. Where you buy your livestock has as much to do with your success as your aquarium keeping methods.

# 7: Not Properly Acclimating Livestock. Floating the bags in the aquarium with the lights on…. ripping a whole in the bag and dunking it in to add water from the aquarium every 5 minutes… Your just asking for trouble. The sad thing is I’ve seen this happen recently and the “Hobbyist” looked at me and said “your toes are probably curling in your shoes right now?!” Which told me that they knew better… Ugh :/ Using drip acclamation is the best way to give your new livestock the fighting chance. All you need is a couple feet of air line, a small bucket and 2 hours of your time. If you have bought a fish and/or an invertebrate and it has dead within 3 days of adding it to your aquarium it probably has more to do with your acclamation method than anything else.

# 6: Inadequate Amounts of Live Rock and Substrate. A vague amount of live rock with a dusting of sand… I’m probably going to start a fight with this one but over the last 20 years or so live rock and deep sand beds have been the missing piece for a successful saltwater aquarium. I wouldn’t concern yourself with pounds per gallon equations simple because the weight is not what matters. Unless your talking to the person selling it 🙂 My thoughts on live rock is to tastefully aqauscape the live rock 2/3 high in the back of the aquarium with a 6 inch sand bed and the use of a plenum under the sand. The aquarium at the top of this blog post has a good representation of how high up the aquascape should go but I would recommend that they add another 3 inches of sand.

# 5: Being Uneducated about Livestock’s needs. It’s is important to understand the needs of your livestock to be successful at keeping them alive let a lone, happy. Everything from the of size of the aquarium, food requirements, to tank mates needs to be considered. In most cases becoming educated about your choice of livestock is as simple to look them up on forums or even google. Happy livestock equals happy hobbyist.

# 4: Inadequate Clean up Crew. Often overlooked Hermit Crabs, Shrimps, Snails, Crabs and Sea Cucumbers play a credible roll in aquarium husbandry. Most hobbyist throw a pile of invertebrates in their aquarium when they first set up the aquarium but over time the numbers in your clean up crew can dwindle. On my aquariums I do a large once a year clean up crew purchase. These critters remove algae, detritus and cyanobacteria. why wouldn’t you want to put them to work?


# 3: Not Testing Water Parameters Weekly. Testing aquarium water parameters should be a part of your weekly maintenance routine. Tests such as Salinity, PH, NO3, Calcium and Phosphate can keep you ahead of the game and help you make corrections before things go south. I’ve heard hobbyist say “I can tell whats going in the aquarium just be looking at it.” Well… If your coral is dying I’d say it’s a good bet something is wrong.

# 2: Infrequent Water changes. It’s simple… aquarium water changes are the cure all for most aquarium problems and a lack of them is the root cause for most of saltwater aquarium problems. No filter, skimmer or dosing pump can accomplish what a simple water change can. If you do a simple 10 – 15% weekly water change of the total value of the aquarium, you will find success.

# 1: Not Buying Aquacultured Livestock. This subject goes beyond the scope of any hobbyist’s individual saltwater aquarium and the success of that aquarium. It’s no secret what we are doing to our planet. As this hobby has grown we have found yourselves in a catch 22. We are destroying the very thing we love due to over harvesting. Governments are starting to shut down collection efforts from the wild reefs (and they should). Half of the fish, invertebrates and coral die before they make it to the local reef shop and I wonder how many die due to improper handling after that. It’s hard to say where this hobby is heading but there is something we can do. Buying aquacultured livestock will decrease the demand for wild harvesting. Aquaculture facilities create local jobs and reduce the amount of fossil fuels used to import livestock. Not all fish and invertebrates have been successful cultured yet but if we support their efforts they sky is the limit. At one point the dream of a saltwater reef aquarium was an unachievable one. well look how far we have made it in the last 15 years…

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