I am planning to start a reef tank.

The reason

Last year, kid #2 got a freshwater tank for their birthday. It’s a Tetra Starter Line LED 54L Aquarium and it is exactly right for a small and easy aquarium. As expected, I ended up being the one to get the tank up and running, and then maintaining it on a day to day basis.

I was initially surprised by how easy it is to maintain. The tank is probably considered overstocked with 29 fish and 8 critters and yet here is my maintenance routine on it:

  • Every 2 days: feed the fish with a small pinch of food flakes
  • Saturdays: test the water, clean the glass and rinse the filter with tap water.
  • Every 3 weeks on average: 25% water change and rinse the filter.
  • Every month: change the filter

… aaand that’s it. I probably spend 30 minutes per week at most on this tank.

What this tank did is introducing me to fishkeeping. There is something very addictive to this hobby. I’ve not yet fully identified it but these are some of the reasons why I really like it:

  • It involves interesting technology. It reminds me of building a computer. You get to pick the parts you want, put it together and (hopefully) see it perform well.
  • It is a creative hobby. Planning, designing, building …
  • It is relaxing. There is some evidence that keeping home aquaria is associated with relaxation.
  • It is beautiful. Well, it can be anyway if it is maintained properly.

So after a few months looking after a small freshwater tank, I decided I wanted my own tank in my office. The idea rapidly evolved into what is now: a 300L saltwater tank with fish and corals.

The objectives

Salt water tanks with fish and corals, AKA reef tanks, have the reputation to be complicated and expensive. Whilst the latter seems to be true, one of my objectives is to minimise the former. So what are my objectives by the way.

I’d like to have something evolving and relaxing to look at in my office. In case you don’t know, I work in Cyber Security for a financial institution. My job can be regularly stressful. With this tank, I would like to be able to swivel my desk chair and look at something beautiful, peaceful and relaxing. My cat occasionally fills that gap at the moment.

I also work from home and I have noticed that it is not always easy to disconnect from work. With the pandemic and the subsequent increase in isolation, I think I need a new hobby. I want something into which I can dive deep and which I can use to disconnect from work while learning something unrelated to my job.

But, time is an expensive currency in my house. I have a high-responsibility and intense job which requires me to be flexible with my time. I have a partner who also works full-time and 2 school-age kids with whom I want to and do spend a lot of time. I have a house to maintain. I exercise on a regular basis and we go on holidays whenever possible. Therefore it will be important for this tank to be low-maintenance.

So after discussing with my partner, I started planning for a tank.

The plan so far

After watching quite a lot of content related to reef tanks, here what I came up with.

I has to be:

  • low-maintenance.
  • quiet.
  • interesting

I doesn’t have to be:

  • cheap. I can afford to splash out a bit.
  • quick. I can and will be patient.
  • overstocked. I will prioritise the requirements above over having many fish and corals.

Next Steps

The first thing I need to do is too confirm I can have a fishtank in my study room. My house is 1930s townhouse with cellar chambers. the study is on the ground floor. the floor is on joists with floor boards and then laminate. I want to get a structural engineer to confirm that it is ok to put a medium, say 200L to 400L fishtank in the study.

When I have that confirmed (hopefully), I’ll have to make my mind up about the gear I’ll need to buy. That’s going to be in the next post.