4 Easy Ways to Avoid Marine Aquarium Malaise

Small refreshes and changes are a great way to bring back some luster to an aged aquarium.

Small refreshes and changes are a great way to bring back some luster to an aged aquarium.

A well-functioning and properly stocked marine aquarium can be a wonderful source of interest and inspiration. However, after many months or years of looking at the same setup and livestock, even the most colorful, compelling aquarium can begin to lose its luster and become a bit, well, boring.

When faced with this dilemma—which, for my own amusement, I’m going to dub “Marine Aquarium Malaise,” or MAM—the first thing most hobbyists think to do is introduce a new fish or coral to the system. Certainly, new livestock will liven things up for a while, right? But what happens if the bioload in your marine aquarium is already maxed out? In that case, adding one more specimen might just upset the delicate balance of biofiltration or cause major compatibility issues.

If this situation sounds all too familiar, don’t despair! There are plenty of ways to reinvigorate a marine tank without adding new specimens. Here are just four of them:

#1 Aquascape anew

As long as you’re careful not to significantly disrupt existing territories, you can create a whole new visual dynamic in your system by altering the aquascape. For example, you can rework a uniform wall of rocks to create various peaks and valleys or move the rockwork away from the back pane of the aquarium to create a central island or two. You can also add interest by creating caves, swim-throughs, overhangs, and/or bridges between rockwork mounds. The only limit is your imagination.

#2 Refresh your live rock

In a similar vein, adding a few pieces of quality, attractive live rock will not only enhance the visual interest of your aquascaping, but also bolster your system’s biofilter and overall biodiversity. It’s fascinating to watch as various critters emerge from the rock and make their presence known over the ensuing days, weeks, and months.

#3 Liven up your lighting

Your aquarium’s lighting system provides ample opportunities to banish MAM. Adding moonlights, for instance, will greatly extend your viewing time and provide opportunities to observe natural nighttime behaviors that might otherwise go unnoticed. Programming your lighting to create dusk and dawn periods will also enhance your viewing pleasure while providing more natural light transitions for your livestock. The better LED fixtures on the market today offer hobbyists an exceptional degree of control over their lighting schemes.

#4 Try a new food

Though you may not be in a position to add new specimens, you can always make things more interesting for the ones you’ve got by offering them a mouthwatering new food item—perhaps a live treat, such as mysid shrimp, or some quality fresh seafood from your local market. It’s a rare fish indeed that can resist freshly shucked, chopped clams! Your specimens’ enhanced health and vigor and their excited behavior at feeding time will be your reward.

How do you say “No MAM”?
Are you an experienced hobbyist who’s found creative ways to overcome Marine Aquarium Malaise? If so, please share them with your fellow salties in the comment section below.

Photo Credit: Moto@Club4AG


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About Jeff Kurtz

Jeff Kurtz is the Co-founder/Editor of Saltwater Smarts, former Senior Consulting Editor for Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine, and the aquarist formerly known as “The Salt Creep.” He has been an aquarium hobbyist for over 30 years and is an avid scuba diver.


  1. Nice I am working on getting better lighting on my tank, right now it is fish only but want to dabble in some corals.

    • A few corals added to the mix aught to liven things up a bit. I’m in need of new lighting for both of my systems as well, so I’m right there with you, Scott!

  2. Thanks for the article. It got me thinking. We talk about it in this week’s Reef Threads podcast. Hear the podcast here: http://www.reefthreads.com/?p=2436

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