"A little About Me and My Purpose"
Wow, what can I say. 10 years ago I was "bit by the saltwater bug" and never looked back. There truly is something special about entering a hobby of which we know nothing about, yet it's beauty and elegance intrigues us ever so deeply, that the result is no other choice but to jump right into Marine Aquarium Keeping. Words can only describe the experiences I've endured over the years, but in all honesty, you would have to give the hobby a try yourself to truly know how fascinating and addicting it is.
That was the good news, but now on to the bad. Far too often, we dive right into the hobby without knowing a single thing about reef keeping. Such beauty and elegance can come at a cost involving highs and lows, ups and downs, trial and error, until eventually reaching success. Here in lies the very reasons why I have uploaded educational videos on YouTube for almost 2 years. It is just in my nature to help people, and so reaching out to the community, and helping others has been my goal for the most part.
"My Journey Into This Highly Addictive Hobby"
When I first got into the hobby, my number one source of information was the employees at the local pet store. This is pretty much how it is for all newcomers to the hobby. They have a retail store, sell equipment, and so we figure they know exactly what needs to be done to set up a system properly. We take their advice and buy everything they recommend. The issue I was having with this is that I soon realized their feedback was always leaning towards making a sale, as opposed to the benefit of me as a new hobbyist. Nevertheless, I took their advice and bought everything they told me I needed to set up my very first Saltwater Aquarium.
So here is what I came home with ...... A 45 gallon tank (36" X 12" X 24"), with hood, stand, 30 watt standard flourescent light fixture, fake decorations, fake reef background, a canister filter, heater and thermometer, a mixture of dry crushed coral and dry sand, salt mix, a dechlorinator for tap water, and some test kits.
I thought to myself "OK, here I go", but man was I completely unaware that there are far better, and more effective options to set up a saltwater aquarium, resulting in a much easier to maintain system, and greatly increasing your chances of success.
I walked away from the store with a bit of info on the cycle; went home to set it up. 3 days later, I went back to the store just to have a look and walked out with a few pieces of live rock and some damsels to cycle the tank faster, (they are trained to sell you stuff "lol"). In other words, I was suckered, and treated like a step child :)
Images of the set up in 2003 and first pieces of live rock.
This is not to say that all local fish stores will give you the wrong advice. Some dealers are quite reputable and honest, but in the end, their main purpose is to make a profit, and keep you coming back to the store. I do not knock them for doing this, but if you want to gain my full trust as a customer, I expect you to prepare me for whats to come, and offer advice beyond the items you sell at your store. I would be your customer for life if you use this approach with me.
As the weeks went by, I can honesly say that I was more than addicted to the hobby. I was obsessed with it at that time. The term "bit by the saltwater bug" actually has a meaning to it. What got me hooked on the spot, and to the point of no return, was the live rock and life within it. Such life is not found in freshwater, and so I was in awe and amazement at the critters that can be present if the tank is seeded with good quality live rock. Once I added the rocks, everything changed. I must have been bit by one of the critters when handling the rock cause these bugs definitely had something to do with my obsession. I often found myself with a flashlight looking for all kinds of little critters, like a boy who just got a new toy, which has led me to where I am today. Still obsessed with the hobby!
I basically ended up with a system that had no reverse osmosis filter, no protein skimmer, no sump, no refugium, improper lighting, and no power heads for proper water movement. The very things that are crucial to the health and stability of a saltwater aquarium. I was reassured by the local fish store employees that I had all I needed, and so here began the problems, followed by research, only to discover that I had all the right equipment for a freshwater tank, not for a saltwater aquarium. This meant I had to spend double to set it up the proper way, to minimize maintenance, and enjoy the aquarium more, with less hassles and issues.
OK, so that was some of the bad news. The good news is that I did not give up. Most hobbyist who enter the hobby and go through what I did just give up. This was not the case with me. I knew and felt that the only way to succeed is to research and listen to advice. My grandmother, may she rest in peace, always told me a common Spanish saying, "He who listens to advice, gets to die of old age". She always shared weird sayings with me as a little boy, as if I knew what in the world she was talking about lol, but for some strange reason, her advice kicked into gear, and so my initial obsession with the aquarium, turned into an obsession to seek knowledge and advice from more experienced hobbyist.
Throughout the years, I became more experienced in the chemistry of sea water, and gathered knowledge that can only be learned through trial and error. I decided right then and there to get rid of the old freshwater filtration, and eventually upgraded to the proper and necessary equipment to make the saltwater Hobby easier for me, resulting in more appreciation and enjoyment for the hobby.
My 45g Setup In 2004
In conclusion, despite the fact that during the first years in the hobby I often lost many delicate Fish, Sea Anemones, and Corals, a big part of the addiction for me eventually moved on to conquering the hobby altogether. Once I reached success, the hobby became a breeze to maintain.
With all the hard work I put into my very first Saltwate Aquarium, I am quite sad to report that after 3 years of this tank running and thriving, it suffered a major system crash as a result of a fire in my old apartment. It is undoubtedly clear that I am very lucky to be alive today. All the inhabitants in the tank perished, but I have lived to fight another day, and moved on to bigger and better setups. My 10 year journey has led me to where I am here today, writing this first article for you guys, and uploading educational videos on YouTube. Maybe by doing this, you guys can absorb some of my knowledge and bypass all the beginner mistakes i committed, and move on to properly setting up a Marine Aquarium from the get go.
Below Are Some Images of My Most Recent Setups.
90g Reef 2008
90g Reef Today (currently in the works)
Please excuse my grammatical errors. Many more articles to come :)