How Saltwater Differs from Freshwater

Most of the model designs are based on particular biotopes. A biotope is a small geographic area, such as a lagoon, with characteristic kinds of life. Saltwater organisms, though amazingly adaptable, thrive best in conditions similar to those found in their native biotope. The vastness and complexity of the coral reef ensures that many possible biotopes will exist wherever reefs occur. Coral reefs do not develop at random, however. The peculiar needs of the tiny animals that comprise the living coral restrict coral reefs to certain areas of the sea. Because of the narrow range of conditions required for abundant growth of coral, in some ways reefs everywhere share many similarities. This contrasts with freshwater habitats, which vary dramatically from place to place.

Not only coral reefs, but all marine habitats occur in seawater of the same composition. Thus, saltwater aquariums all share the same set of water parameters. Again, this contrasts with the wide differences in freshwater chemistry from one habitat to another. For example, an acidic South American pond might have a pH of 5.0 and a hardness near zero, while Lake Tanganyika has a pH of about 9.0 and extremely high hardness. The fish from each of these habitats are unlikely to survive for long if kept, say, under the other habitat's conditions in the aquarium. In the case of marine habitats, the water surrounding the coral reefs of Australia has about the same pH and salinity as the water surrounding Key West, Florida. The saltwater aquarist has less to worry about than his or her freshwater counterpart, in terms of water chemistry. See chapter 1, "Caring for an Aquarium," for more details on saltwater chemistry.

Creating a Plan

I would like once and for all to dispel the notion of a "hierarchical" approach to aquarium-keeping. The conventional wisdom goes either of two ways:

1. Rank beginners must start with freshwater and graduate to saltwater.

2. A saltwater novice must begin with fish only and graduate to an invertebrate aquarium.

Anyone with the ability to understand the basic chemistry and biology needed to successfully maintain a saltwater tank should set up whatever aquarium they choose. Provided, that is, they take the time to research and create a plan. Time and again, I have heard customers lament about problems they could have avoided by working from a plan rather than choosing inhabitants for their saltwater aquariums on impulse. The danger in impulse buying stems from the vast diversity and extraordinary degree of specialization among the denizens of coral reefs. For example, the threadfin butterflyfish, Chaetodon auriga, learns to eat chopped shrimp from the fingers of its owner; the ornate butterflyfish, C. ornatissimus, will starve rather than accept a substitute for its natural diet of living coral polyps. Obviously, the former adapts to aquarium life and the latter does not. Creating an aquarium plan, in which you list all the fish and invertebrates you intend to incorporate, encourages you to do some research before you buy and thereby avoid disappointment. For a large selection of aquarium sizes and styles, I have saved you the trouble by providing ready-made plans. You should be able to maintain any of these tanks successfully by following the steps I suggest. Arm yourself with the basic chemistry and biology presented, with a minimum of technical terms, in chapters 1 and 4.

Saltwater Aquarium Models

Saltwater Aquarium Models

On the other hand, oceanic environments in general, and coral reef environments in particular, harbor a far greater diversity of living organisms than freshwater environments do. Freshwater aquarists seldom maintain invertebrate tanks, for example, but a major portion of the saltwater aquarium hobby consists of aquarists who maintain "minireef" tanks in which invertebrates play the starring role. Hundreds of varieties of invertebrates find their way into the aquarium trade, and new ones appear all the time. Easily 500 species of coral reef fish can potentially be available to a hobbyist on any given day. All this diversity means that the saltwater aquarist must have a keen understanding of the biology of each organism inhabiting his or her tank. You will find more about invertebrate biology in chapter 4, "Understanding Invertebrates." Fish biology, as it pertains to captive care, is covered in each of the model designs.

An aquarium based on a coral reef can provide a truly breathtaking glimpse into a world most people have never witnessed. Maintaining a small suite of aquarium water parameters within their correct ranges requires scarcely more knowledge of chemistry than that required for maintaining a swimming pool. Providing for the needs of the aquarium's inhabitants demands only that you understand their natural roles and offer them something similar. Learning more about the denizens of the reef and applying that knowledge to their care only adds to the experience of watching their colorful forms and graceful movements from the comfort of your favorite chair.

The Allure of Saltwater Aquariums 5

The Allure of Saltwater Aquariums 5

Aquarium and Fish Care Tactics

Aquarium and Fish Care Tactics

Who Else Wants To Learn The Secret Tactics For Setting Up And Maintaining A Solid Aquarium Set At Home And Get The Most Exciting Information About Aquarium Fish Care In A Decade. You're about to discover the most comprehensive report on aquarium and fish care you will ever read on the internet in the next five minutes.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment