Aquarium Design, Installation and Maintenance, Thousand Oaks, CaliforniaMarine Aquarium Maintenance and Installation, Thousand Oaks, California

What You Should Know About Keeping Marine Specimens


Browse the Categories to the right, or enter a topic here

Jelliquarium, Jellyfish Display Systems
Jellyfish and Jellyfish Tanks

Acrylic Aquariums and Quality Aquarium Furniture
Acrylic Aquariums, Stands, Canopies and Filters

Interior Design Projects

LA Fishguys, Aquarium Reality Video's

Aquarium Reality Video's

Dwarf and Pygmy Angelfish

Follow us on....




The best and most affordable
Web Host I've ever worked with,...

$1.99/mo Web Hosting
...and they host this web site. 







Before you set up that tank
By Jim Stime, Jr
Aquarium Design

Ok, so you have decided that you want a saltwater aquarium in your home or office. How familiar are you with THE BIG PICTURE ? Aside from the tank, stand, filter, and water chemistry aspects, how does the marine aquarium hobby fit into the world scheme ? These may seem like an odd questions but they are ones that have tremendous global implications.

Most inquiring or beginning marine hobbyists feel they need to have a degree in marine biology to be successful. This is not really the case as there is not that much difference between a freshwater and a saltwater aquarium, but being a marine hobbyist you do need to have an understanding.

It is this lack of understanding that causes the majority of aquarium hobbyists to 'sputter along' with the bits-and-pieces of information that they gather from their local pet shop. When I worked in the shops I had a tendency to, unintentionally, overwhelm many of my customers with too much information. Quite often I would see their eyes roll back in their heads, or they would hold up crosses and strings of garlic (  I'm just joking ). Many times I would tell them that there was a test they had to take before they left the store ( this would really get their attention ). If I suggested a good aquarium book the first thing they would look at was not the table of contents but the price tag on the book.

It is frustrating to try to provide good information to hobbyists, and yet ironically I have received many e-mails and telephone calls from individuals who comment about the lack of, or poor quality of information that they do receive.

Well, if you have made it to this page and web site then you are one of those individuals who is looking for more or better information....and that is what this web site is all about ! This site is designed for the beginner, as well as, the advanced marine hobbyist. As you go through these web pages you will notice that on the left-hand side I have listed a number of books. Those books listed are what I feel are the appropriate ones for the topic. They are not listed there so I can make money ( Amazon usually only offers 5% anyhow ), they are there to offer additional content to the subject, and to help educate you with the marine hobby.....and that is the point of this article, if you are going to be in this hobby you need to understand this hobby. 

Besides understanding your marine aquarium you need to also understand how it relates to the source of its livestock. Livestock ? Well, where do you think those fish and corals are coming from ? They are 'wild-caught', mostly from coral reefs. As I walk down the rows of tanks at the local wholesalers 95% + of the fishes, corals and invertebrates that are available were collected from the wild. 

According to "coral structures contain an estimated 25 percent the planet's marine life", and that "recent strong cycles of storms and weather changes linked to the El Nino and La Nina phenomena are also believed to have harmed coral reefs in many parts of the world". Just the other day a friend of mine who lives in Hawaii told me that the reef in front of his home had bleached ( bleaching is when a coral expels its color pigments and internal algae's due to some form of stress ).

The point I am trying to make is two fold; as a hobbyist you need to be aware of what affects the environment that your livestock comes from, and what are you going to do if the collection of that livestock becomes limited ? 

Today many advanced hobbyists are beginning to propagate / grow a wide variety of corals in their own aquariums, and a number of hobbyists are becoming successful at raising some marine fish in their own aquariums. This has lead to the beginnings of a new industry in Mariculture ( the marine version of aquaculture ), and yet there are less than a dozen commercial businesses and a scattering of hobbyists currently involved in it.

So why is mariculture becoming a topic of interest these days ? Is this the next step in marine aquarium keeping ? Is it due to articles such as " Raiders of the Reefs " in Audubon Magazine, or " Corals in Peril " in National Geographic, or " Reef Alert " in Aquarium Fish Magazine ? 

Or is it the results of the June 11, 1998 CORAL REEF PROTECTION Executive Order signed by President Clinton. 

Its most likely a combination of all of these. The sad true is that reports indicate that in 1998 sixty countries recorded coral bleaching events due to global warming, over fishing and an assortment various pollution factors. recently reported " Coral exists throughout the world's tropical oceans. Covering only 1 percent of the Earth's surface, coral structures contain an estimated 25 percent the planet's marine life -- earning the nickname "rainforests of the sea"."Many scientists regard the sharp decline in reef health as alarming. United Nations-sponsored research estimates that 20 percent of the world's coral structures have died or become badly damaged in the past 20 years and that most of the world's coral could be similarly threatened in the next 50 years".

The results of these environmental and commercial conditions on coral reefs have caused numerous Environmental Agencies to take notice and to begin to question why and what can be done to minimize these effects. Charles Delbeek of the Waikiki Aquarium recently attended a meeting of the Coral Reef Task Force, part of President Clintons Executive Order, and wrote that one of the groups involved, the International Working Group, " identified several key issues", and at " The top of their list was the international trade in coral and coral reef specimens" 

So where does this leave the marine aquarium hobby ? With potential restrictions on collection and importing of marine fish and invertebrates, mariculture ( or tank raised specimens ) are a subject that needs to be explored if wild caught aquarium habitants are going to decrease and the marine aquarium hobby is to survive. 

Currently there are approximately less than 60 species of marine aquarium fishes being tank bred, most of which are the Clownfish species,  and less than 200 marine aquarium corals and invertebrates, most of which are the Acropora and Soft Coral species, are being tank raised. 

In a recent simple survey I conducted, I questioned a number of hobbyists as to " How many species of  Tank Raised Fish " they thought were available ? 

Fifty Eight ( 58 % ) percent had no idea.
Those that did answer the question came up with an average of Forty ( 40 ).
Of those 40, Clownfish, Bangaii Cardinalfish, and a few species of Psuedochromis were the ones most often reported. 

Of those same individuals I asked " Does your Retail Store carry Tank Raised Fish ? ", 

Twenty Nine ( 29% ) percent had no idea.
Twenty Six ( 26% ) percent said no.
Forty Five ( 45% ) percent said yes
( Clownfish being the most commonly available retail Tank Raised Fish ) 

When asked if, other than Retail Shops, " Where can you get Tank Raised Fish ? " 

Thirty Eight ( 38% ) percent had any idea where Tank Raised livestock was available beyond their retail store. 

The Aquarium Hobby is the third largest segment of Pet Industry in the United States. So why is there so much mis-information, mystique, and lack of understanding ? Granted there are books, video tapes, magazines and web sites. The sad truth is most of this information is never used by the hobbyists, why ? I suspect it’s partly due to the additional cost, and partly due to the thought that operating an aquarium should be as simple as owning a dog or a cat. Ironically the number of books on dog and cat care is even less in the homes of pet owners. Think about it, how many of you own a cat or a dog ? How many of you actually have information at home on their care and keeping ? 

Ask the majority of the aquarium hobbyist as to how their fish are collected and they will most likely answer " a native boy uses either a net or some chemical ", " and then they are shipped to a local wholesaler who sells them to the fish store". Most hobbyists have absolutely no idea as to what their livestock goes through before it ends up in their tanks. Only recently has some of this information begun to come to light, and that  information is either purposely or unintentionally skipped over. 

Take for example, what does the " native boy " do with the fish he collects each day ? Does he make a run into the local village to deliver his product to the local distributor ? If not what does he do with his catch at the end of the day ? How often does he take a batch of fish to this distributor ? 

Lets talk about how the fish are shipped. How are they packaged ? What is the source of the water they are shipped out in ? How many fish to a bag ? Due to freight costs how much water to a bag ? Once in the bag how long before they are sent to the airport ? How long does it take to get to the airport ? How long do they sit at the airport before they are loaded onto the plane ? How long is the flight ? An interesting note, freight charges account for approximately 50% of the wholesale cost of your marine specimens. 

By the way, the average pH of the bag water once a fish arrives to the wholesaler is 6.5 ( the normal pH of a saltwater aquarium is 8.1 ). Actually this is beneficial to the fish in the bag during shipping as 'chemically' the water is less toxic. The problem occurs when these fish are not acclimated properly to the pH of the water in the wholesaler / retail store / hobbyists tanks. 

One of the greatest frustrations to the importer of fish and corals are the airlines. Livestock seems to not be their priority. Even if a box is marked LIVE ANIMALS it just does not gain the same importance as other cargo. Many times a shipments scheduled departure is delayed and the boxes of livestock are left sitting in some airport staging area. 

Recently I had the opportunity to visit a wholesaler who had just received about 300 Flame Angels and Lemonpeel Angels. I was shocked to see about 50% of these fish, who had just been introduced into the holding system, lying on the bottom of the tanks gasping. What ever the reason, I am very sure that this situation definitely contributed to some form of stress to the animal.

In speaking with this wholesaler he informed that it's quite common for these fishes to be collected and held in small containers, grouped together by a net, in a lagoon, for up to a week before they are brought to the local collection facility on that island. 

A friend of mine recently witnessed a situation at another wholesaler. An individual was pulling yellow seahorses out of a cubical and tossing them into a dry Styrofoam container and then placing then into another cubical system….all without acclimating them to the new water. 

Let me go a step further, too often the retail store's version of acclimation consists of floating the bag in a tank then dumping its contents directly into the tank, and only after aggression has occurred is that animal moved to another location.

It just seems to me that too often the hobbyist is blamed for the lack of quality introduction or health care, but in fact the problem leading to poor quality fish may occur prior to the hobbyist even receiving the fish. 

I should add that acclimation is probably one of the areas of the least understanding on the hobbyists part too. No matter how high a quality your livestock is, if it's not  handled correctly or introduced properly into the aquarium the chances that it will do as well as it was intended to will decrease. 

Jacques Cousteau once said “ The most recent explorations of outer space have demonstrated that our planet Earth, our Water Planet, is the only planet in our solar system to be endowed with appreciable quantities of liquid water. Life, born in the water, must be at least as rare as water in the universe, and as such must be revered, under any of its forms, as a miracle.”

This is my point, we as marine hobbyists need to be as familiar and as responsible as possible, because if we as hobbyists can not take care of what we have then someday these little jewels of the sea, these 'miracles of life' may not be available to us.

Now, if you are ready to accept the required responsibilities of being a marine hobbyist then you are ready to take that first step forward;

Beginning a Saltwater Fish Aquarium

Beginning a Coral Reef Aquarium

Considering a Jellyfish Tank ?


Visit the Aquarium Design home page

Acrylic aquariums, Fish Tanks, Aquarium StandsAcrylic aquariums, Fish Tanks, Aquarium Stands

Acrylic aquariums, Fish Tanks, Aquarium Stands
' Build Your Aquarium On-Line '

Jellyfish Display and Production Systems