Planning Out Your Fishscape


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When it comes to saltwater aquariums, planning out what you wish to put in the aquarium itself has got to be one of the most tedious processes in the hobby. First you have to decide if you want coral, if you don’t want coral, what type of fish and invertebrates you want, and what can appropriately fit into the aquarium size that you purchase. Many people get lost in this determining process and will spend days or even weeks finding solutions and ideas for what they want their aquarium to look like. For me, I spent an entire year thinking about how I wanted to go about doing a saltwater aquarium before I even set one up. In this article I will be talking about how to plan out this process, compatibility of fish and corals, and the essential topics you should think about before adding species into an aquarium.


Aquarium Size

The size of the aquarium which you purchase is a huge determination of what you can add to the aquarium down the road. Some coral will grow too large for nano aquariums, while other coral need specific types of lighting to either grow or maintain its size. Obviously in this regard, the aquarium size matters for what type of fish you are planning to add in as well. A very widespread myth goes around all the time about the matter of adding fish into aquariums. Fish do NOT grow in accordance with the size of the tank! This has been my biggest pet peeve that I have heard with people who talk about fish in their aquariums. Just because a fish that you pick out is only 1 – 2 inches starting off, does not mean it will stay that way its entire life. A fish will continue to grow to its max size regardless if you have a small or large aquarium. This can lead to problems with not enough space for the fish to move, and cause unwanted stress or even death from improper housing.


Fish to Add

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Which ever species of fish you add to the aquarium is completely your call. But please be aware of what I mentioned above about aquarium size, and also how some fish do not get along with each other. Even if you read charts and guides about fish compatibility, sometimes it all boils down to the temperament of the fish itself instead of what the general rule is. For example, I added a wrasse with a basslet not too long ago. All prior knowledge told me that this was acceptable for compatibility since I have done this many times in the past with no issues whatsoever. However, the basslet continued to harass and attack the wrasse any time he came out of hiding. So there are circumstances that arise when adding fish, and it is just part of the practice to watch what you add into the aquarium and to monitor fish behavior.

There are other fish with hostile temperaments (guides for these can be found by searching through ReefNation), and they should only be added with compatible species with the same nature. An example of this is do not try adding in a triggerfish with smaller fish or invertebrates. They will get bullied to death or eaten. This is just another part of the research process that you must do before selecting your fishscape.


Coral vs. Fish Only With Live Rock


Naturally, not fish are compatible with coral. Some fish will try to eat the coral, or may just mess with it and knock it over. There are also some fish that may be labeled as reef compatible, but could nip at coral if there is not enough feeding throughout the day for them. An example of fish that will do this are Rabbitfish. This is an important decision you must make when deciding if you want to add in coral with a focus on reef life fish, or ditch the idea of coral and do fish only with a broader selection on fishscape. More care goes into the habitation of coral such as feeding and lighting, so that is one other thing to consider when planning out the aquarium. Fish only with live rock is much simpler, yet it comes with the downside of not being as aesthetically pleasing of an aquarium if you choose to do so. Again, I am not here to make this decision for you but just to give you the pros and cons to both aquascapes.