You thought this site was all about the joys of owning a marine fish tank so why on Earth would there be a post listing reasons NOT to own one?
Simple. Setting up and maintaining a marine fish tank ain’t easy. And the responsibility is one that many people can’t handle. This post is written to help you decide whether a owning one is a good fit for you or not. Here are three reasons you may want to go the aquarium or fish store to admire salt water fish tanks instead of owning one yourself . . .
Setting up a salt water fish tank can get very expensive. Sure, they sell small all-in-one packages that supposedly include everything you need to get started, but starting small is not the way to go when talking marine tanks. You’ll want at least a 30 gallon tank to start.
Factor in the stand (unless you have some sturdy furniture you’re willing to sacrifice), salt, protein skimmer, heaters, sump, powerheads, test kits, live rock, substrate, fish, etc. things add up very quickly. It’s not uncommon for a decent size set up to run into the $1000+ range just to get started.
You can save yourself some money on start up by buying a used tank. There are a lot of people who have started a marine fish tank and for whatever reason want to get rid of it. Not that taking this route doesn’t have its risks, but you can definitely save some money by looking on Craigslist, eBay or other sites for used aquarium equipment.
In any case, this is not a cheap hobby so make sure you’re going to have the capital necessary to support your tank and keep the inhabitants healthy.
Besides money, it takes a lot of time to set up and maintain a marine fish tank. In the beginning there’s a tendency to try to rush things because you’re so excited about your tank you want it teeming with life as quickly as possible. But you need to have some patience and let the tank cycle (which can take a month or two), do daily water tests, and make sure the water chemistry is stable and ready to support living creatures.
Then once that’s set up, the real time is in the regular maintenance a marine tank requires. Monthly water changes, cleaning the glass, removing organic debris from substrate/rock, cleaning the salt residue off the tank and surrounding areas, cleaning the filter, and the list goes on. This can get overwhelming but letting things go for even a month or so can have devastating consequences.
3. Environmental Impact
After dealing with the issues of time and money, we get to more of a moral reason you may not want to own a marine fish tank. The fact is, the marine aquarium hobby has had a devastating impact on reefs around the world.
While freshwater fish are fairly easy to breed in captivity, marine fish are not (at least not yet). So most of the specimens you see in the fish stores were snatched from the wild. The practices used to collect reef fish such as using toxins to “stun” the fish to make them easier to catch can have terrible impacts on the reef and all its inhabitants, not just the fish. Many fish are killed by these collection methods or die after capture before even reaching your local fish store.
And it’s not just the fish. Most of the live rock and invertebrates in the marine aquarium trade are also taken from the wild.
While there are a number of people working on raising marine aquarium fish and other tank inhabitants in captivity, there’s still a ways to go.
So if you decide you have the time and money to devote to a marine fish tank, please consider the environmental impact of your hobby. In an upcoming post, I’ll be talking about this a little more and providing some resources on how to set up a more environmentally friendly marine fish tank.