Blue Collar Reefing is a new column by Brian Blank which explores the finer points of being a resourceful reefer. Brian is actively investigating the Blue Collar Reefing Philosophy on Ocean@Home and he will occasionally drop in to share his thoughts.
Simply put, BCR is about practical, budget-conscious reefing relying on DIY and knowledge to put you one step ahead in this wonderful hobby. BCR is not about MacGyver-ing a reef tank from cinder blocks, a kiddie pool and table salt, its about knowledge and attitude of getting behind how things really work â€“ something that is often lost in this hobby as we rely too much on a few opinion-makers on forums and such and take it as gospel.
It reminded me of the time I took up golf in the early 90s. I started with a set of REALLY old hand-me-down clubs that would get snickers from other golfers. The sports is heavily obsessed with whatâ€™s in your bag and people spending hundreds and thousands of dollars on top-notch clubs as â€œmust havesâ€ to be any good. Problem is if your swing sucks, it doesnâ€™t matter if you have an old club or a brand new Big Bertha, its still going to suck. To get better you need practice, practice, practice.
This is how I view the hobby. Back in the day, hobbyists didnâ€™t have access to all the latest controllers, skimmers, additives, etc. People advanced in the hobby by learning what works through trial-and-error and staying in touch with other hobbyists. Today we all too often get caught up in what equipment we have and not what knowledge we have.
When I was chatting about this with my friend and owner of my favorite LFS, Kalypso Aquatics in Lodi, CA, Elliott Peterson said â€œThe only way to get a bulletproof reef is to make the tank out of bulletproof glass!â€ How true is this! There are so many different variables going into keeping a successful aquarium. What may work for you, may not work for me.
So I challenge you to be smarter, take your time, do your homework and realize the best piece of equipment in this hobby you already haveâ€”your brain. BCR is about doing things better and without breaking the bank. Proper husbandry will go a long way and by taking your time, observing and asking questions and then putting together a game plan for your system, you can be extremely successful.
As I continue to build on BCR I have an ever-growing â€œmanifestoâ€ of sorts. Some of the key elements to BCR are:
Know the difference between cheap and inexpensive: Itâ€™s no secret this hobby can be expensive but there is a difference buying cheap stuff and buying inexpensive stuff. Cheap is cheap, and inexpensive just cost less but quality and performance arenâ€™t sacrificed. Get to know the difference.
Get creative and add some ingenuity to your setup: Let otherâ€™s mistakes benefit you. Avoid the common pitfalls in the hobby by doing research. Really understand what you are trying to accomplish and be creative. There are always plenty of ways to â€œget â€˜er done!â€
Emulate the best but donâ€™t just plagiarize: Look around at others that are successful in the hobby and emulate what works. Take what you like, leave what you donâ€™t and give credit where credit is due!
MacGyver is your friend: This is where you can build your DIY chops. Start looking at different things you may have on hand or see at a regular store and try and figure out what could you build with that? Find things of similar shapes to products in the hobby and put it to use. Zip ties are your friend!
Try your hand at DIY: Its beyond just saving a buck or two, DIY helps you problem solve, keeps you busy and helps you learn a lot about equipment and its purpose.
Get to know more people around you: Courage comes in numbers! Having an extra set of hands or eyeballs helps a bunch plus having more people on hand with different strengths can help you put together some amazing stuff.