Terrific Tankmates: Choosing Carefully

photo-Justin Hester

If you are like me, you have bought a fish, coral, or invert at some point purely on impulse and then gotten home only to find that it’s not exactly something that you should be adding to your tank. Perhaps it was a shrimp that will surely get eaten by a wrasse in your tank. Or maybe you added a fish from the same family as another in your tank and setup the marine equivalent of the octagon. In my case learning that something is not compatible all too often has led to adding another tank, and another tank, and well you get the picture. None of these situations is very sustainable for the marine life, nor does setting up more and more tanks usually bode well for your home life. Is this preventable? The easy answer is of course and the not so easy answer is how.

Research research research

Thinking back to the late 80’s when I was in junior high and saved up enough lawn money to buy my first 30 gallon saltwater tank, the amount of info we had then was tiny compared to now. It was pretty much go to the library and read old books or look at the pictures which was much more intriguing to me at the time. The alternative was to try and learn from the local pet store which was fraught with the dilemma of trying to trust someone who made a living selling you gear and replacements for the organisms that didn’t make it. I was lucky in that the local fish store actually took the time to educate me albeit in hindsight, at a very basic level.

Fast forward a few years, ok 25 years, and the amount of information at our fingertips even while we are out shopping for things is rediculous. It is this point that really doesn’t
give us the excuse anymore of coming home with a fish, coral, or invert that isn’t inherintly compatible with our reef tanks. Too many people have already made the mistakes and documented them on the Internet that all we need to do is slow down, jump onto our favorite search engine or forum and poke around. There will be information on what conditions the creatures thrive in, what they eat, what other creatures they do well with etc.

Insert salt bucket (reef equivelant of soapbox)

Why is it then that all too often people still learn by making costly unsustainable mistakes that don’t need to be made. Twenty five years ago, yes I was a kid in a hobby that was just getting its first pair of shoes. People loved saltwater tanks mainly for their colors and unusualness. I would bet that even the saltiest of the salty in 1987 was learning a great deal of what they knew through observation of some tragic octagon-like scenarios.

Today we not only know what makes many of these marine creature survive, but thrive. We know how to grow and propagate them, and how to alter their coloration. All this knowledge of complex chemistry and biology needs to not only make us respect our home based captive eco systems, but also turn our care and concern to the wild communities of these organisms. These communities exist in a place where all the complexity mutes and blurs out into shimmering awe and beauty. These places seem vast and limitless to us, but we must make sure that we don’t forget the with every purchase we make for our tanks, that thought, planning, and a little research has gone into the choices we make. The oceans are after all large places, but we are seeing all to often that the sum of our collective actions with respect to these oceans, can have far reaching repercussions.

Want to ask our team about a fish before you purchase it?   We would love to hear from you and be happy to share our experiences.  Made a mistake with a fish purchase that you would like to share with others?