Marine aquarium - a new trend in aquarium keeping
(I.M.M.Christopher, Aquatic biologist, Kingdom of
It is passionate and amazing to
note that it keeps the hobbyists as crazy over it as with its simple nature of
attraction; its colour patterns, elegant swimming styles, hi-tech body shapes,
and admirable behaviors remain distinguishing features over freshwater fish.
You may think that the marine
aquarium is a difficult story to talk about. We can just have a look over why people hesitate to go
for a marine aquarium. You may have the
- Is it
- How do
I get the salt water ready?
can I buy my fishes?
there a lot of accessories required for this set-up?
- How to
maintain its optimal water chemistry the same as its origin?
about the maintenance procedures?
kind of fish can I keep together?
kind of food can I give to my fish?
can I identify the diseases and treat them?
Apart from these questions, there
are some secrets mingled with this hobby.
You may get the right answers in this article.
But, keeping a marine aquarium
is no longer like dreams. There is
an opportunity to make your dreams come true with the initial investment of few
hundred dollers. You only need to spend one hour of your week-end time and a
coffee sipping time everyday.
Generally, the marine aquarium is
divided into two basic types;
- coral reef tank (vertebrates and invertebrates); and
- Only the fish (vertebrates) tank.
In the starting stage, it is
advisable to go for a fish tank set-up rather than going for a coral reef
aquarium. Because, the reef tank set-up needs more specific water quality
parameters, and if there is any sudden change in these parameters, it will
cause adverse results to your aquarium. You can build-up your own reef tank
with live corals, anemones, other invertebrates like star fish , shrimps,
clams, and specific fish varieties like, clown fish, damsels, wrasses, clown
tang, yellow tang, Pigmy angels , mandarin, dotty backs, etc.
You can keep the remaining fish
varieties like, Butterflies, angels, tangs, Lionfish, Triggers, eels, box fish,
cow fish, etc., together, but you should keep in mind that the selection of
species should be relevant to their size and their aggressive nature. When you
are selecting a fish, fish like lion fish, triggers, groupers, eels, etc are
very carnivore in nature towards small fish. Hence, it is viable to keep them with their equal size or
slightly bigger size fish.
Getting started-up with your own aquarium:
The Marine aquarium is relatively
expensive when it is compared to a fresh water aquarium. The water holding capacity of the
aquarium should be of minimum 50 US gallons or 200 liters. And, suitable light source is essential
to illuminate and enhance the natural colour perfection of the fish and coral.
Generally, metal halide light is recommended for sea water fish, though it is
expensive; there are ready-made aquarium tube lights available especially for
sea water aquariums. The selection of site is more important to place the tank
particularly it should be kept away from direct sunlight, vibrations and other
undesirable disturbances. Because,
sea water fish are more sensitive, and they can easily get stressed by any
adverse changes or shocks in its surrounding area.
The most important factor is
temperature. The temperature
should be maintained at the range of 24-28oC. It is preferred to get right optimal
temperature air-conditioned rooms or you may have to fix an automatic aquarium
chiller through your external filter outlet way. The chiller, which is used for
commercial purpose should not be used as it may contain copper and, kill all
your fish anytime.
Filtration system, the heart
of marine aquarium:
Filtration system is the heart of
any marine aquarium. There are
many choices in the filters which may change according to the size of the
aquarium, fish varieties, and stocking density of the fish etc. The under gravel
filter with power head is essential and it is the basic step for any size of
the aquarium. It may be enhanced by
some internal power filter systems as well. The sea water should always be
clear and free from any undesirable compounds which can be achieved by
continuous flow through filtration system.
For small aquariums up to 400
liters capacity, an external canister filter with a small UV(Ultra violet
sterilizer) unit is recommended. More than 400 liters, it is viable to go for a
trickle filter which may consist of bio-balls, ceramic media and protein
skimmer with UV unit. In case of big public aquaria exhibits sand filters with
ozonizers, calcium reactors, are also unenviable. Protein skimmer is working
under the principle of foam farming nature, where the sea water has to pass
through a pump where it is designed to make foam; through this foam, the
nitrogenous compounds, foreign matters and biological wastes are dragged out
and will be collected in a chamber for disposal. The professional aquarium
keepers will not encourage aeration bubbles in the marine aquarium rather than
going for a strong water circulation-cum-filtration system.
Setting-up of marine aquarium:
Aquarium setting is a kind of art
with scientific application. It needs creativity with imagination of your
choice; the final outcome will be a beautiful aquarium. It is important to
choose the right place and it should be comfy with your living environment with
natural setting touch-up.
Fig:1 Pleasant natural view
a gift of reef aquarium tank
Ten easy steps to set up your
- Place the tank at the selected location with
decorated base covering.
- Place the under gravel filter.
- Fill with coral gravel at least 3 inch height.
- Fix the coral and rocks decorations.
- Place power heads and internal filters.
- Fix the external life support systems.
- Fill with clean fresh water and make up by artificial
salt(recommended aquarium salt) to get your required specific gravity(SG
- Fix hood, light units (special colour enhancing
luminaries) and all external decorations.
- Start the system and tune all the equipment at
- Add water conditioning additives and bacterial
enzymes for initial maturation of aquarium water.
It is not advisable to put all
the fish in the initial stage; firstly, you have to wait for nitrogen cycle to
get completed. The nitrite and
nitrate levels will go at the peak levels on first few days and again it will
get descent and take 15-30 days to complete the cycle. The best practice of
getting matured system is the introduction of a few small blue damsel fish in
first few days as they are strong enough to withstand high nitrite levels and
also act as introduction of beneficial bacteria like Nitrosomonas Sp., and Nitrobacter Sp., from its digestive system. Adding small
quantity of used gravel from another aquarium is also an added advantage for
quick maturation process of water. Gradual addition of fish and regular water
chemistry checking will keep your aquarium fresh year around.
Water quality parameter
The water quality parameter like
pH, Salinity, Nitrite and temperature should be maintained at right levels.
Following parameters should be maintained in the aquarium with regular
replenishing of additives and frequent water exchanges.
Specific gravity (SG) - 1.019-1.023
- 00.00 ppm*
- 00.00 ppm
- 20.00 ppm
- 01.00 ppm
- 02.00 ppm
(* ppm-parts per million)
Feed once a day at regular intervals and make sure that
there is no excess food and if remains siphon out the excess food.
Keep an eye on your water temperature and maintain
Observe fish behaviour and its health in order to
control any disease outbreak or sudden death of animal at its starting stage.
Clean the algae grown on the glass surfaces.
Check for specific gravity and as a result of
evaporation there may be an increase in salt content, hence top up the same
level by adding fresh water.
Do pH test and make sure that the pH is above 8.0;
otherwise, add calcium carbonate buffer to increase the pH to >8.0.
Check for nitrite and nitrate, if the levels are high,
do partial water exchange (10-15%).
Check for phosphate, if the level (>1.00ppm) is
high, do partial water exchange.
Replenish your system with trace elements, and all
other additives as prescribed by your aquarist.
Remove internal power filters and clean cartridges.
Check all electrical items and make sure about
Do partial water exchange (10-15%) by rake through
coral sand substrate and top up
again by required amount of salt and clean fresh water ( 1 kg salt for 30 liter
Remove protein skimmer and clean internal surfaces.
Once in three months check:
Clean external canister filter in salt water and
replace the carbon.
Once in six months check:
Replace ultraviolet sterilizer tube lights.
Renew tube light bulbs if necessary.
Feed management for marine
Though marine fish may accept a
wide range of feeds, it is very important to concentrate on protein contained
food. Because, these fish require more protein (40-50% dry wt basis) while
comparing the fresh water counterparts. Even though, it is merely like a
species specific; For eg, tang varieties like Sail fin tang, purple tang, clown
tang, yellow tang, lip tick tang, etc., need algae, lettuce and artemia etc; For
angel varieties, you may offer small shrimps, krill, artemia, blood worms
etc. The blood worms, chopped
clams are suitable for damsels and clown fish. Butterflies are difficult to feed in the starting stage
because of their selective feeding nature; but, for the time being, it starts
taking artemia, and blood worms, etc. Alternatively, marine pellet feeds can
also be offered for some tangs and angel varieties, but you may feed these food
varieties on alternative days. For
lion fish and triggers, they need small whole fish or frozen pealed
shrimps. You may buy fresh foods
and dip it in hot fresh water for few seconds and store it in a freezer for
regular feeding practice.
Quarantine and disease
It is necessary to have a
quarantine aquarium for every display aquarium. When you buy fish, keep them in
a quarantine tank and watch them for their health and study about their feeding
habits. After two weeks, if it is looking healthy, you can transfer it in to
your main display aquarium.
Generally, the more often talked
about are white spot which is a parasitic and more endemic disease caused by
the organism Cryptocaryon irritans in
salt water. But, this parasite
has a simple life style; its free swimming larvae must find a host within
48 hrs of hatching before they die. Once they get the host, they penetrate the
skin and feed on the body fluids. The
symptom appears on the body by its tiny white colour spots with eye cloudiness.
There are many commercial
remedies available, but copper-based medication is effective. The external
filter system should be switched off prior to this treatment. In general,
maintaining good water quality, nutritionally balanced diet and introduction of
healthy fish in the system will give you a disease free aquarium.
Conservation of marine
environment and coral reef eco-system:
Before thinking about the marine
aquarium, we must think about the coral reef protection and their
conservation. Harvesting live
corals is not a healthy practice and live corals can be substituted by
colourful artificial corals (fig-2), which look same like natural habitat in
the aquarium display.
The artificial corals are made up
of special compounds which will not leach out any chemical substances in water;
hence, it maintains natural water quality parameters. Preservation of natural
habitats and secular bio-conservation is very important to ensure these
endangering species for the future generations.
In India, the marine aquarium is
still not popular and there are very rare suppliers of marine aquarium
accessories; but, in future, there is no doubt that this industry will boom
enough to fulfill the budding hobbyist's dreams. Marine aquarium needs more
care and is expensive, but not more than your high-tech television;
You will get peace of mind by
maintaining a marine aquarium and you can reduce your business tensions. Above all, it will make you more
literate about science by learning this wonderful hobby.