Questions & Answers

Q. Is it true that marine fish can be difficult to keep?

A. A well equipped marine aquarium, properly matured, and stocked with the hardier species of fish should not be difficult in any way. But always bear in mind that there are special considerations to observe with a marine aquarium, and it is essential that good husbandry is followed to avoid problems. If you want to keep the more delicate or demanding marine fish you will meet a different situation that needs more of your care and attention.

Q. I want to convert my tropical freshwater aquarium to tropical marine. What equipment do I need and how much will it cost?

A. Usually you will need not much more than a hydrometer (to check the salinity level) and a different substrate (coral gravel or similar). But check that the aquarium and equipment you already have is all suitable for marine use. There are other pieces of equipment you might opt to use to improve the set-up, and you should seek the advice of your aquatic dealer about this. So costs can be very variable. Ask your dealer to prepare an estimate based on your particular needs.

Q. Why am I advised to use two external filters?

A. This is partly to enjoy an efficient strong flow of filtration, but also provides a useful safeguard should one of the filters stop working for some reason. Also when you clean out the filter mediums from time to time you are able to do this one at a time, leaving one fully matured filter still working while the cleaned one regains its full maturity.

Q. I am told that a protein skimmer and ultra-violet steriliser are both very beneficial items of equipment to have, but no essential. Why is that?

A. Both of these items of equipment will improve on your water chemistry if you install them, but it is perfectly possible to operate a marine aquarium without them. The protein skimmer removes the unsightly yellowing of the water and the steriliser will further help this action, but also inhibits some pathogens from becoming a menace in the aquarium.

Q. I have seen something called “live sand”. What is this and why is it more expensive than normal sand?

A. Live sand has already been exposed to the minute organisms that will infest it, and these organisms are very active in converting highly toxic elements of the marine water to harmless or much less problematical elements. This advances the maturing process of your filtration very considerably. The “seeding” of the sand is an involved process, and this is reflected in the price.

Q. What sort of lighting should I use?

A. It depends on what type of marine aquarium you are intending to keep. If have a “Fish only” set-up with no living corals or other sessile invertebrates you can concentrate on a “cool” fluorescent tube lighting with a spectrum that produces colours pleasing to you. But if you are building up a reef-style aquarium to include living corals, and maybe anemones, you will need to construct the lighting regime to accommodate the demanding requirements these organisms need to survive. Metal halide lighting is one type of lighting to consider, but be aware that this form of lighting produced a lot of heat and needs some thought about how it should be mounted above the aquarium. There are various fluorescent light tubes that can be combined to give a good enough spectrum to take care of most reef tank’s demands.

Q. What sort of fish can I use as “starter” fish for the new aquarium?

A. In short you need to consider “hardy” species. Many of the Damsel fish come within this description, and such species as Dottybacks, a number of wrasses, cardinal fish, and gobies, are also aptly described as “hardy”. But there are always degrees of hardiness, so seek advice about individual species you think you might like to use for this purpose.

Q. What sort of foods should I use for my marine fish?

A. You will enjoy the best results if you can assemble a variety of foods, rather than keep to one or two kinds of “convenience” foods. Most marine fish will eat some form of dried food, and a good quality marine flake food will be a useful as a basic diet, but be sure to use some form of supplementary food in variety to compliment the flake. Frozen foods are available in a wide range of types, and a good selection of these will be an invaluable addition to your aquatic “larder”. But always study the individual requirements of your fish – not all will take the flake food, and they might be equally selective about which frozen foods the will eat. Fish like the Lionfish or Mandarin fish, for example, have particular feeding requirements needing to be met for success.

Q. What problems with the fish should I look out for?

A. Just keep an eye on their normal behaviour and become accustomed to what this might be. If you come to notice any change in that behaviour make a careful visual examination of the fish to check for any signs of what might have caused this change. Check the respiration rate by noting the beating of the gill plates (operculum) and if this is found to be more rapid than usual it is a sure sign the fish is distressed. If there is no outward sign of disease it might well be that there is something like gill flukes or other internal parasites troubling the fish. If all the fish are showing signs of distress check the water chemistry, temperature, and other parameters.

Q. Why do I need the extra lighting for an aquarium with live corals than one without?

A. The corals need to process the light in order to cultivate the zoozanthellae that form such a important part of their polyp tissue. This takes place within the polyps, and so is not an observed process. So in simple terms it means that these corals need a spectrum and intensity of light that would be akin to what they would be exposed to in natural daylight.

Q. What fish can I put in my reef style aquarium?

A. Obviously you must avoid putting in fish that will treat the coral polyps or anemone tentacles as potential food! Anemone/Clown fish, blennies, gobies, dragonettes (Mandarin fish etc), are examples of species that are generally found to be safe occupants for the reef aquarium.

Q. There seems to be many additives I could put into my reef aquarium water. Are these necessary?

A. The initial water chemistry of your synthetic sea water contains many trace elements and some of these are very important constituants of the water. But over time some of these elements become depleted and will need to be boosted by additives from time to time to maintain the healthy balance required.

Q. Why are some remedy products unable to be sued in my reef style aquarium?

A. Those products usually have a certain amount of copper in their make-up, and as well as being very toxic to the parasites you wish to eliminate, it is also a potent poison for most of the invertebrates in the aquarium. So you must use an alternative remedy without any copper content.

Q. I would like to keep seahorses. Can I put any other fish in the same aquarium with them?

A. The main consideration has to be the feeding habits of any proposed companion fish. Sea horses are very ponderous, slow-moving feeders, and their food can easily be snapped up by another fish before they have been able to size it up and suck it into their elongated “snouts”. So fast moving, voracious feeding fish are not suitable for keeping with the seahorses. The lovely Orange Spotted Filefish (Oxymonocanthus longirostris) is an ideal companion fish, dragonettes like the Mandarin fish, and pipefish species, are other examples of potentially suitable companion fish.