Hobby versus Passion

The overwhelming majority of aquarium owners simply find themselves attracted to the natural beauty of the underwater scene. The aquarium in this context becomes a living work of art, complementing the interior décor of the home. It makes a statement about the owner's lifestyle, forges a connection to nature that is often absent from urban life, and, sometimes, boasts of success. Residences these days may be graced by installations of a size and level of sophistication that in years past were only found in museums and public aquariums. One company that specializes in custom designs recently introduced a "basic" system at around $15,000. I once visited the office of a business in Connecticut that was spending $20,000 a month just to maintain several very large aquariums.

Because not all of us are positioned to invest thousands for professional installation and maintenance of an aquarium, the majority of tank owners are do-it-yourselfers. If you are one of these people, or are thinking about becoming one, then this book is for you. Following my recommendations will improve your chances of having a successful aquarium that will enhance the appearance of your home and provide years of relaxation and entertainment, without the necessity of becoming too deeply immersed in the chemistry of seawater or the biology of coral reef fish.

In fact, the vast majority of saltwater aquarium owners are not "hobbyists." They are not pursuing a passion, eager to understand every aspect of the operation of their aquarium, the needs of its inhabitants, and the options for enhancing the experience. Their interest in owning an aquarium stems from the simple desire to weave the color, movement, and "naturalness" of a tropical coral reef into the fabric of their everyday lives.

On the other hand, saltwater aquarium hobbyists devote a remarkable amount of effort to the pursuit of their passion.

• They read aquarium magazines, buy books about aquariums, and make the rounds of the local fish shops regularly.

• They often hold strong opinions about a certain aquarium methodology.

• Many specialize in one or a few types of fish or invertebrates. A few even try to discover how to breed saltwater fish and rear the offspring.

• Several hundred may attend one of the major annual saltwater hobby conventions.

But hobbyists like these account for only a tiny minority of all the saltwater aquarium tanks sitting out there in America's cozy family rooms.

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