Our Tanks Are Lookin’ Good! But for Whom?

For me, it is about a healthy ecosystem, a learning experience, a pastime or hobby

For me, it is about a healthy ecosystem, a learning experience, a pastime or hobby

This is an easy question. Our tanks can be as good looking as we want. Of course, we can always throw more time and money into our tanks to make them look even better—but better looking to whom? And why?

Do we want to have dynamite-looking tanks so we can win TOTM and tell everyone how much we dose, what types of lights we have and their PAR rating, where we keep our parameters, how often we perform water changes, what our quarantine practices are, which pests we’ve dealt with, and how much time and money we’ve invested? Or do we just want a tank that we can sit in front of and enjoy?

It’s a hobby, not a beauty pageant (supermodels notwithstanding)

For me, that’s easy too. I think my tank looks okay, but that is not why I have a tank. Unlike my interest in supermodels, my fascination with aquariums has nothing to do with looks. For me, it is about a healthy ecosystem, a learning experience, a pastime or hobby—something I can spend all or none of my time or money on. If a coral falls down, I can put my hand in there and fix it immediately or leave it there until tomorrow. If I don’t have time to feed my fish today, I will feed them tomorrow. If I can’t change water now, I will do it another day. And you know what? The fish won’t care either way.

This is our hobby, and we can enjoy it any way we like. My tank, like most tanks, has had its ups and downs—it’s pests, diseases, accidents, catastrophes, broken heaters, power losses, hair algae, and cyano. But, believe it or not, these are the things I love about this hobby. My tank basically runs without the normal occurrences that we read about every day. Or maybe it has all those things but I have seen them so many times that I hardly notice anymore.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

If the worst thing that ever happened to your tank was that the heater broke and cooled the water a few degrees, then everything else will feel like so much more. After a number of years of doing this—like 5 or 25—you don’t get upset if something that others would perceive as a problem occurs. If I encounter a “pest” such as a flatworm, coral-eating nudibranch, 18-inch bristleworm, bubble algae, Godzilla larvae, or any number of things, I think of them as an interesting life form that evolved right alongside our fish and coral.

We may call these things pests, but they are just as important in the sea as the animals we want to keep—just like the weeds in our garden. Weeds are the normal vegetation that would grow in our yards if we didn’t plant non-native grasses. So, the grass is really the invasive species.

All of those things I listed above can be removed or killed by various means, and I consider that one more facet of this fascinating hobby that I enjoy.

To each his/her own

I can also easily make my tank more to the liking of many newer hobbyists who feel that growing a tank full of SPS is the major goal of this hobby. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t interest me. We all have aspects of this hobby that we enjoy more than others. Some of us love to breed and raise fish. Some like the skill involved in aquascaping. Many of us prefer LPS over SPS because of the movement. Others enjoy the technical aspect or the electronic controllers we can buy or build. Of course, there are also those of us who strive to win TOTM. And that’s okay too!


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About Paul Baldassano

Paul Baldassano has been in the hobby since the 50s and holds two aquarium-related patents. His current reef aquarium was set up in 1971. He is also an avid SCUBA diver and Vietnam veteran.


  1. David Salcido says

    I struggle with long tenticle anemones” After 2/3 weeks they die!
    I put them in MODERATE FLOW area (110 GAL TANK) in a quiet corner and feed them little pieces of frozen shrimp.

    Today, I got a blanket anemone and put it in a more central area and my maroon clown LQQKS happy as hell – though he hasn’t approched it yet. It’s (anoneme) a light green – does his chrollafil provide his (%) of his diet and how much does he depend on other foods (Myisis, Brine, frozen shrimp?)

  2. My goal is to have the most natural looking reef scape that I can create in the confines of my tank.I work on the K.I.S.S principle to keep things as simple as possible and dont try to out do the Jones next door.

  3. I never see a tank as being finished because animals are always growing and reacting to different aspects of the system. I’m fighting every bone in my body to not change my rock around.


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