In Â three decades (gulp) in the marine hobby, I’ve kept everything from Acropora to Xenia, and a lot of stuff in between. Seems as though I alway find something new to try; another challenge to accept, a different system to set up. Recently, I found myself Â “tankless” for the first time in years as I began some work on my house. It was well- quiet! Too quiet…I had to have some kind of aquarium or I swore that I’d go nuts. Fast forward to April: I found myself in Denver for a speaking engagement, and spent some quality time with my friend and all-around “waterman” Jake Adams. Like me, Jake is obsessed by water and the life within it. His condo has lots of cool aquariums in it…And some of them are FRESHWATER!!!
Yup- fresh water- the kind you top off your reef system with! Did you know that there are tons of cool fishes and plants that live in freshwater? Â And that some people Â keep them? I’m serious! I know this may be a revelation to some, and blasphemy to others, but they are really cool! Â I hadn’t kept freshwater fishes or plants for literally years and years. Spending an afternoon peering into Jake’s nano freshwater plant systems ignited a fire in me- something that I hadn’t felt in a while. There was something about the natural, elegant simplicity of his beautiful 5 gallon planted aquarium, chock full of rare, colorful plants and tiny, attractive little Rasbora. Old memories of my childhood aquariums and how cool they were came flooding back into my mind. I couldn’t help myself- I decided I HAD to set up one of these little aquariums in my own home. Thanks to Jakes generosity, I flew home to L.A. with some clippings from his tank and a spring in my step. Most important, I left with inspiration- and some words of wisdom from a true kindred soul: “Don’t make it more complicated than it is, man- just keep it simple, watch the plants and Â they’ll tell you what they need.” Truer words never uttered, let me tell ya.
Within days, I was setting up my own little freshwater microcosm. Following my Sage’s advice, I went back to my roots of fishkeeping and set up a ridiculously simple tank, with the idea of just letting the plants do their thing with only the help that they are telling me that they need. And let me tell, you- this approach has worked. Just providing a few basic pieces of equipment, some good quality water, keen observation, and a little bit of effort has already paid off: I have a thriving little planted aquarium. Can this approach work on a reef system? Of course…I realized, while peacefully trimming my plants, that I -we- all of us in the reef hobby- seem to make things just too darned complicated. We just have to over-do it and constantly tweak, adjust, add and improve our systems in the quest for perfect coral growth. I get the feeling that we are making it to complicated. Sure, part of the fun is, um- messing with stuff. But really- often times success is Â just a matter of watching our systems and giving them what they are asking for…nothing more-nothing less. This little freshwater aquarium has touched me and inspired me the way no reef system I ever kept could…A “fresh approach” that has done wonders for my hobby enthusiasm…a shot in the arm!
In coming weeks, I’ll Â delve into more details on my new mode of thinking and it’s applications for reef keeping- and hopefully, you’ll glean something along the way, too! In the mean time, if you’re somewhat jaded with your current activities in the hobby- or just need a different sort of challenge- consider setting up a small, simple planted freshwater aquarium. The skills you will attain and the “core” experience of such a simple setup will invigorate you, trust me…A “fresh” approach to your hobby can do wonders!