You’ve seen the creation of the Aquarium, introduction of the fish and corals and watched it settle in. The set up took around three months from initial purchase, fit out, water conditioning and maturing to stocking and was an extremely enjoyable and challenging project to carry out.
I can tell my interest was high initially as I have so many photos of the early days, but few once it was in place, indeed defining the life of the tank once it was settled was difficult, looking to see if it was still in the corner in photos of birthdays or Christmas.
Maintenance involved daily feeding and staring at the tank, all other elements being automated. A run over with the magnetic cleaner kept the glass clear as did the feeding fish. The top up bucket needed to be checked every few days to ensure it had reserve. Other than that, there was only a weekly task.
To keep it fresh, water did have to be replaced over time – not all at once, but a small percentage just to keep various pollutants within manageable levels. This simply involved getting a couple of buckets full from the Reverse Osmosis water dustbin, adding roughly the right amount of salt and setting them with heaters and stirrers for an couple of hours to get the right temperature and the salt fully dissolved. Once matching the main tank for salinity and temperature they were hefted into the house, two buckets syphoned off, two buckets added slowly (so around four gallons). At this point the protein skimmer was rinsed out and pumps, connections etc. checked. All in all a couple of hours per week or so – hardly anything compared to many pets.
When going on holiday (a factor when deciding to go with the tank) I procured another gadget – an automatic feeder. This is a small plastic device that simply holds a store of flake food and releases an amount at intervals. To keep it dry in the humid atmosphere under the tank hood required a small air pump passing dry air into the device to keep the damp out – so two more power sockets needed! Combine that with a couple of feeding blocks and the whole setup could be left for days. The longest was a fortnight, while pretty mucky and a little low on water all the inhabitants survived, though were rather pleased to see us back!
I have often talked of the aquarium in the past tense – for good reason. After running it for around 18 months or so, it was ticking along fine, but not giving the buzz it first had. There were no great strides forwards with new corals or fish, the maintenance was a chore and the bills high. It was generally heathy (I never lost a fish to disease), though I did seem to find snails would not last too long, their shells being empty quicker than I’d expect but nothing serious. The whole tank was not squeamish with death – when one of the cowries (the large snail type shells) passed away, the shell was cleaned by shrimps and others in a night. The tank was ok but not great.
One night we had friends coming around for a meal – just a take away and some beers, so I’d given the whole thing a deep clean and it was sparkling. When getting ready I heard a panicked yell from the kids – the tank had sprung a leak. Not only was it a leak, a pump and blown off its output pipe meaning it was pumping the aquarium out via the sump onto the lounge carpet at a huge rate. I dived for the thing, turning off electrics and all those valves as quickly as possible, as a wave went across the carpet – kids jumping to pick up laptop and any electrical devices that were on the floor. With 20 minutes until guests arrived, I was standing in what felt like an inch of water as the pump had emptied 1/3rd of the tank in about 30 seconds, so around 40 gallons of sea water was gone. The fish were ok though a bit short on headroom, my wife was beyond incandescent and that was quite rightly its death knell. I set about Vaxxing up as much water as possible, there was no smell from the brine other than that of damp carpet, thoroughly pissed off that I’d not secured the pump pipe enough. The night was ok, I got lots of stick and sympathy in equal measure and Mrs. SD made it clear what she felt about it all. To be honest I wasn’t too disappointed that it came to an end – as I say when not advancing forwards it was becoming a task.
Disposing of everything wasn’t difficult – between Ebay, Gumtree and an aquarists chat site all the inhabitants were rehoused and sold, the tank needing six blokes to carry out. A guy from Middlesborough came up, bought all the live rock and inhabitants. He was impressed by the rock but did say the lack of light was my downfall. Only four fluorescents and some weak LEDS! The fish took some catching and stirred up a lot of dirt. Only when it settled and I removed the sand did I find the snail destroyer – something called a bristleworm. It had arrived as an egg on the rock and after a year and a half was over a foot long! It ended up in the bin on a frosty night, no chance of it being flushed into the sewers or river.
As promised, I got a professional carpet cleaner in to do the lounge – he spent ten minutes on it and gave up – simply pointing out the thing was clean – that flood had of course been of water with no impurities other than salt.
All I have left of the tank is a couple of cowrie shells and water and power bills that have dropped by around 1/3rd. Oh and time to not read comments of course!
© text & images Sweaty Dave 2018