Wednesday, January 08, 2014

10 New Year's Resolutions for Aquarium Keepers

A new year means another new beginning, a time to make a fresh start and look toward the future. New Year’s resolutions are about making changes in your life for the better. Since our aquariums are an important part of our lives, we decided to make a list.

Here are our New Year’s Reefolutions:

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Save Money
Back in the day the person who read my electricity meter got really happy when they came to my house. I could practically watch the gauge spin as my tank burned through electricity. High intensity lights and aquarium pumps used to be energy hogs. However, as technology has improved products have gotten much more energy efficient. With the advent of LED aquarium lighting and energy-saving powerheads, there is no excuse to be burning through electricity. The less you use, the better for your bank account (and the environment). We even have an aquarium electricity calculator that will do the math for you.


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Save the Planet
Now is the time to start adjusting the impact your hobby has on the environment. Are you supporting sustainable practices like aquaculture? Tank-raised fish and corals have a much smaller impact on the ocean's reefs. Every thoughtful decision you make will help keep the reefs (and the hobby) healthy. You don’t really need to fill your reef tank with live rock. Buy dry base rock and seed the tank with a small amount of live rock. It will all be ‘alive’ eventually.  

If you are using a RO/DI filter, think of something you can do with the wastewater. Some use it to water their lawn, fill their laundry machine or wash their car. If you have a freshwater tank, feed your garden with old tank water rather than toss it down the drain. The fish waste can be an excellent fertilizer.


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Pay it Forward
As your coral grow, your tank will get overcrowded. Propagating coral is a very rewarding practice that is not difficult. You can make a little money while also helping keep the hobby sustainable. The easiest way to start propagating coral is to purchase a frag rack and some fragging tools. While it can seem intimidating, for most species of coral it is very easy.

If you’ve been fragging for a while, but the rack is no longer cutting it, perhaps now is a good time to consider setting up a dedicated frag system. You can plumb the frag tank into an existing system or set up a basic additional system just for coral. There are a lot of advantages to a dedicated frag tank. Usually, they are shallow which makes them easy to illuminate. Feeding and cleaning is much easier. Plus, we spend far too much effort creating a beautiful replica of a reef to detract from that by putting frag racks everywhere in our display tanks.



Make New Friends
You don't have to fly solo in this hobby. Even Han Solo had Chewie. Being part of an aquarium club can have a lot of benefits. If you've ever had a pump or heater go out on a holiday weekend, you know how useful it is to have a network of friends in the hobby. In addition to meeting other hobbyists and building a network, clubs are also a great place to learn more about the hobby. Most clubs have regular lectures that will help you succeed in the hobby. Many have resources available to club members like libraries and test equipment. Plus, you're going to need people to sell frags to now that you've resolved to pay it forward.


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Get Smart
Your mama probably didn't raise you to question everything you read on the internet, because she probably didn't know it existed when you were a kid. But, let's be honest. While there is a wealth of information online about the hobby, there is also a wealth of misinformation. How do you know the post or person you are reading is helpful rather than hurtful? One of the best commitments I ever made in the hobby was to educate myself by reading books. While you won't necessarily get the cutting-edge scoop on the latest fad by reading books, you will get a solid foundation of tried and true techniques and information that will help you succeed in the hobby. Do your tank a favor and read some experts, rather than 14 year olds posing as PhD's. Then, you will be well equipped to differentiate between pros and posers on the forums.


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Eat Right
Far too often, we throw the same pellets or flakes in our aquariums day after day because we read that they are complete nutrition. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not dogging pellets. I've used them for years and consider them to be part of a healthy diet. But, I also feed a variety of frozen foods according to the needs of my fish and coral. I buy several different frozen foods and put a mixture of the cubes into a container. This way, at feeding time the fish get different foods so that they can pick from what they want. Seaweed is regularly put out for the herbivores to munch on. Foods specifically for the coral are given.



Take Vitamins
Aquariums are closed systems. Nothing gets into the aquarium that doesn't get put in there. You need to provide everything your aquarium's inhabitants need to stay healthy and happy. It only takes a few extra moments to supplement fish food or add essential elements for growing coral, but it can make a big difference in the long term health of the tank.


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Get with the 21st Century
When we went on vacation, we used to put little analog timers on the lights to ward off burglars. Today many hobbyists are using the same technology to manage their aquariums. Now, I'm not knocking simple timers, because they do get the job done. But, a modern aquarium controller offers amazing features for a reasonable price. Isn't it worth it not to have to unplug pumps every time you feed or do a water change? Wouldn't you love to manage feeding and maintenance with the touch of a button? Wouldn't you love to know how the temperature and pH fluctuate in your aquarium over time? Can you imagine monitoring your tank from your smartphone? If you haven't done this, then do it. I love my aquarium controller and highly recommend one.



Clean Up Your Act
Speaking of cords… how much of a mess is your aquarium? Beyond the birds nest of wires, how safe is it? Are you one wayward spill away from hearing the sizzle and pop of a surge protector going out? Now is the time to organize your cables. Velcro cable wraps are cheap and easy to use. Get everything untangled and tidy so that it is easier to work with. Make drip loops. Get your multi-plug outlets mounted inside the stand where water will not hit them. Label the ends of your cords with a label maker so that you don't spend 15 minutes figuring out what is what when you're done doing maintenance.



Kick the Bucket
New Year’s resolutions are about doing what you’ve always dreamed of. They are about new patterns in your life that will make a difference. You know you have a love/hate relationship with that water bucket you lug around all the time to top off water. So, why not start your bucket list today and kick that bucket to the curb?

Water changes are a fact of life for aquarists. So, unless you are going to design and install a fancy automatic water change system, you will probably still need the bucket. But, an auto top off system can change how often you have to do so. An auto top off system replenishes water as it evaporates so that you don't have to manually fill the tank every day. This is the year to reef smarter, not harder. Do your back, your floor and your family a favor by kicking that daily bucket habit and automating this tedious task.