Do Your Research First!


Stop Quoting Me!
Keeping a saltwater reef can be a very fun and rewarding hobby. But keeping a reef system is serious business, you have to be part electrician, plumber, aquascaper, chemist and overall master of your new domain. You are after all, your reefs complete ecosystem. You're in control of it, if it goes well that's because of what you've done, if it goes badly, that's also your responsibility. You're in control.

That being said, one of the largest responsibilites you have as a "reefer" is doing your research. What kind of research you ask? plenty. Let's keep this simple and talk specifically about fish.

One of the hardest things to do as a reefer is to walk into your LFS , see a great looking fish and walk out without buying it. You'll hear alot of veteran reefers talk about the hobby as an addiction. That's pretty accurate.

When you're considering your first fish, or adding a fish to your system, PLEASE DO YOUR RESEARCH FIRST!.. Don't buy a fish on a whim..After all, these are living things, nobody wants a dead fish, it lessens the enjoyment of the hobby, costs money, and causes unneeded stress to you and your system.

Great, so what kind of research are we talking about?

1. If you have a reef tank as opposed to a FOWLR, is the fish you're considering reef safe? If the fish has a "with caution" label attached to it, Why? is it going to eat your corals, snails, and shrimp? Let's find out before we purchase.

2. Next, we've found a fish for consideration, THIS IS IMPORTANT!! is your tank big enough to hold him/her when it's fully grown?, after all that's the goal right?, to keep a fish for it's entire expected lifespan.

3. Ok, so far so good...Now, is the fish in question compatible with the other fish that are in your tank? In what order should you add this particular fish?, should it be the first into the tank, or the last?

4. Is the fish compatible with the corals that you have or want in your tank?

5. Does the fish need lots of swimming room, or does it need hiding places? If it needs hiding places, do you have plenty of them?

6. What does your fish eat? Does it eat pods off the sandbed? if so, do you have plenty of pods to keep the fish healthy?

7. What is the fish's care level? If it's moderate or difficult do you have the skill level to take care of a fish that requires special care?

8. What is the fish's temperament? is the fish going to act aggressively toward it's tank mates? If so, how aggressively? is it going to be over territory, or is one of your fish going to be dinner?

You should be able to answer all of these questions before making a purchase of any fish. It's inhumane to put a fish that requires a 100g tank in a 50g, just because they're small now doesn't mean that they're going to stay that way.

Doing research about your system is the most important part of keeping a successful reef. It can also be very rewarding, it can be fun researching different fish and their needs, and when you find a fish that's compatible, you'll feel good about the decision.

Here is a site to research saltwater fish and their needs.
Saltwater Fish: Marine Aquarium Fish for Saltwater Aquariums

Compatibility Chart
Marine Compatability Chart
Great read! I knew nothing before I started, i jumped into having a tank, and am now addicted. But lost 2 fish because they have found a way into my overflow box! Grrr, hopefully i fixed it.
this is a great read, i always asked questions on here or other forums about fish before i bought them, and that is all because of reading bits and pieces of this that other people say.

you did an amazing job thinking of everything and putting it in one place!
Hi ! My name is Mahesh and I am from Chennai ,India.
I have decided to buy a used Salt water aquarium (4 ft x 2 ft x 2.5 ft). There are currently a few fishes in this aquarium and they are all healthy.

I am concerned about moving the aquarium from its current location to my home.
My concerns are

1. Can the same matured water used.
2. If new water has to be used , how long should I wait before adding the fish.
3. If old water can be used ,how long should I wait before adding the fish.
4. Initially, I would start with a fish only tank. How long should I wait before adding reef to the aquarium.
5. My job requires constant travelling , at least 2 -3 days a week. Can I still manage to maintain a salt water aquarium.
OK so I know this is an old post, but since it's a sticky post it still gets read a lot by newbies like me. I would like to a question and maybe someone can even update the original message with the answer.

1. What is actually the difference between a reef tank and a FOWLR. I finally did a Google on FOWLR and discovered that it means "Fish Only, with Live Rock". I thought that if you had live rock in the display tank (DT) that you actually had a reef tank. I was under the impression that live rock with the correct lighting would start growing sponges, some corals, and other "hitchhikers" with it. Is this incorrect?

Reef tanks contain corals. FOWLR tanks don't contain corals.

Some live rock comes with lots of hitch hikers and will grow corals and sponges if it starts out with them on the rocks. But live rock is considered "live" because of the bacteria that lives on it. So rock can be live and not have any coral or sponge hitch hikers on it. The higher quality live rock has all sorts of living things on it, but again, it has to start out with some of the spores in order to grow that stuff eventually.

Most of the live rock that you buy from your run of the mill fish store will not come with coral hitch hikers; only the bacteria that makes it live.

Also, people with FOWLR tanks often keep fish that can't be kept in reef tanks -- fish that eat corals, for example.
Well, I have a 125 FOWLR -- I literally only have fish, live rock, and sand (although I do have some mushrooms that hitchhiked on the rocks) but I do not consider my tank a reef. I also have sopnges that are hitchhikers.

A REEF literally means a tank that's full of corals, just like in the ocean.

If you want to get technical, then my tank's not a true FOWLR because of the few mushrooms I have. But there is nothing else.