What is this web site all about?

This is where I write about my experiences as an aquarium owner. I’ve had a 75 gallon saltwater aquarium for several years now, probably about 6 years to be exact.

How I got my aquarium

When I first acquired this particular aquarium, it was in the office of a business of which I was a part owner. Technically I owned 40% of the aquarium, now that I think hard about it. It wasn’t me that owned the aquarium solely. It was owned by the business.

I pretty much took over the duties of maintaining the aquarium within weeks of the aquarium being set up. I really had no idea what I was doing.

I managed to keep some pretty nice fish alive for a pretty long time, even with my limited knowledge and skills in regard to aquarium keeping. I also had some bad habits, which were completely due to the fact that I had been trained how to maintain the aquarium by somebody who also had some bad habits.

I used to use water straight from the tap, for about 2 years straight. I also did not test water parameters frequently. I overfed the fish at times. I didn’t change water often. I didn’t clean the canister filter often enough. Despite all this the fish did alright. I remember being very diligent about keeping water temps consistent, of all things, so maybe that helped.

Over time the business partnership fell apart and I ended up acquiring the fish tank, along with the office space, as part of a buy-out. Long story. Either way, I ended up in sole possession of this huge 75 gallon aquarium. I lived in a small 2 bedroom apartment, and the thought of bringing it there wasn’t all that enticing, it would require some space. This thing was also heavy, I figured. So I left it set up at the office for the time being.

A change of attitude

The fact that I ended up owning this aquarium personally changed my attitude towards it, completely. It was no longer just part of the office and something that I needed to maintain in addition to all the other work I had going on. It was now something that I was solely responsible for. Rather than being office furniture or part of what I viewed as work – the aquarium was now my pets and my hobby.

Nobody else was going to maintain or pay attention to this aquarium other than me, so I better take this seriously.

I needed to make a choice – do I want to take on the responsibility of maintaining this aquarium? Or do I want to cut ties and sell it, much like I was doing with other parts of the office that I had acquired in the buyout. I decided to keep this aquarium, and to really dig into keeping an aquarium as a hobby.

I had no idea what I was getting into.

Learning, and learning some more

I started browsing the web for more information about how to better maintain saltwater aquariums. I started going to the local fish store more often and checking things out. I would ask a lot more questions to the store owners and people that handled the fish. Some of these people were very helpful, some not so much. I read books about saltwater aquariums and maintenance.

After a while, it started to all make sense, I just started to “get it” more than I had in the past. I learned about the importance of keeping good water quality, and the different types of inhabitants that will work well together. I learned about different types of hardware and how it will help me out.

At about the 2 year mark of taking care of this aquarium, I had finally started taking it seriously, and my approach to the aquarium made a quick turn for the better.

At first I didn’t have a lot of money to invest into the aquarium, so I had to focus on techniques rather than equipment upgrades. I was stuck with a lousy protein skimmer and a lousy canister filter. They both worked ok, but required a lot of tweaking. They were also hard to maintain. I remember how long it took to take apart the canister filter and how hard it was to put back together, what a pain in the ass compared to the equipment I use now.

Nonetheless, I kept up on maintenance at this point much better than I had for the first couple years. I changed water every couple weeks at the least. I cleaned the skimmer and canister filter at least once a month and emptied the skimmer collection cup more often. I also got better about tweaking the settings on the skimmer to keep it running optimally, but like the canister filter, this thing was a pain in the ass.

I also bought better fish food. I started feeding seaweed and other different types of food to the fish. Before I had stuck mainly to flakes, which now that I think back on it actually kept all those fish alive and healthy as pretty much the only thing I was feeding them.

After I corrected these habits, I started to realize that I was going to need some better hardware if I was going to continue to do this. I needed to make maintenance easy. Or at least easier.

I started to slowly purchase upgrades.

Upgrading to improve efficiency and quality

I started by replacing the skimmer. I dumped the old one I had and bought an AquaC Remora Pro – this was a great move. The new skimmer wasn’t too expensive since I bought it on eBay. I was happy to throw the old one in the garbage. The Remora was awesome. I didn’t need to tweak it at all to keep it running and all I needed to do was clean it every once in a while.

Next up was a new canister filter. I went with an Eheim Ecco – this was also a great move. The Ecco moves a lot more gallons per hour and also is so much easier to take apart and maintain. It’s almost not even funny how much easier this is to use than the other piece of junk canister filter that I had been using for 2 years.

Once I had these two core pieces of gear in place, I learned about the importance of using purified water for saltwater aquariums. My next upgrade was going to be an RO-DI water purifier. I found a nice 4 stage RO-DI unit online for a great price and ordered it. 1 week later I had it hooked into the plumbing at my apartment and was generating purified water at the rate of about one 5-gallon bucket every 2 hours or so.

After starting to cycle in purified water during water changes for a few months I noticed a slight drop in the amount of algae in the aquarium and also noticed that I didn’t have to clean hardened minerals from my equipment anymore. This was really nice to see.

But I still had algae problems.

The algae battle

After researching things I needed to do to control algae I started making some more upgrades and adding some supporting hardware.

I bought a better quality lighting system, a Nova Extreme Pro. This gave me a higher quality of light and more control over the timing and amount of light that the aquarium was receiving.

I bought some Koralia water pumps and installed them for better water current. I wanted to get rid of dead spots and create more surface agitation.

I bought a reactor and started using RowaPhos to control phosphates. I started trying different media in my canister filter to further improve water quality.

Eventually I got the algae problem under control.

Where I’m at now

After doing all upgrades and learning all these techniques, I now have an aquarium that is stable, high-quality and well maintained. It’s taken a lot of learning and research to get to the point I’m at right now, and I started the road too slowly and took a couple wrong turns. I don’t even want to think about all the money I’ve spent to get where I’m at.

At this point though, I’m on the right track and have control over what I’m doing with this aquarium from day to day. I no longer wonder at the mysteries of what is going on in my aquarium and now can understand what is going on and why. My fish are all alive and healthy, more so than I thought they ever could be.

It’s taken a few years of aquarium ownership to get to this point, but this is where I’m at right now – and that is the back story of why I have an aquarium and why I write on this saltwater aquarium web site.