by Shawn Chase
OH NO! We don’t want that!
With the popularity of “Finding Nemo” and television shows portraying ocean life, more and more people want to set up saltwater fish tanks. While it’s wonderful to have this expanded interest, it’s sometimes portrayed too simply as: Buy a tank, mix up some saltwater and throw in a bunch of pretty fish and coral. Not quite the case. So let’s think about a few basic things.
First, let me state, saltwater tanks are easy! You just need some basic knowledge of how the ecosystem works. A good local fish store will spend the time teaching you, along with showing you great web sites and books that we know will give you the right information. We’ll also share our experience about fish compatibility and when you should be putting these creatures in their new homes. That knowledge is priceless. As a store owner I have seen well-intentioned people make mistakes that cost these animals their lives due to misinformation or no information at all.
Next, consider how much space you have. Yes, there is more stability in a larger tank, but not if you can’t care for it. The size is important so we can figure out the best filtration for your tank. A drilled, or reef-ready tank is best for saltwater. That’s where holes are drilled through the bottom or back of the tank so you can use a sump below your tank for filtration. But a hang-on-the-back filter can also be used. Just make sure it’s over-sized for the tank. Remember, water movement is important for saltwater. So one or two good power heads, plus a heater, thermometer, a hydrometer for checking your salinity, and appropriate lighting are also basic items for setting up your tank properly.
We now like to use live sand and live rock in setting up our tanks. Yes, it’s alive!! It’s alive with lots of bacteria and fun creepy crawly things that help the new tank become a more stable environment. Live rock acts like a living filter in the tank, along with keeping fish occupied and giving them a sense of safety.
Now it’s time to slowly start adding fish. Not slow as in a month later. Once your water meets all the proper criteria and has tested no ammonia or nitrite, we want to put in an appropriate number of good hardy fish to start helping build that bacteria bed. Patience is critical here and truly pays off. Within just a couple of months you can have a tank with some amazingly colorful and personality-filled fish and invertebrates.
Just a quick word on corals. Corals are animals. They can eat, protect themselves, reproduce and sometimes move. Their colors are incredible and the varieties are endless. I personally love them the most! If corals are something you would like now or later, gear your tank for them. Lighting will be the most important factor, along with making sure all your other underwater pets won’t eat them! There is enough basic information on the internet, along with a couple stores in Asheville and Black Mountain that can help you make all the right decisions.
I invite you to stop by and just look at what can be in your home. You won’t need to watch those television shows anymore!
Shawn Chase owns Mountains to Sea Aquariums on Sweeten Creek Road in Asheville. Contact her at 828 280-8817.