After reading Scott Fellman’s post about bad reefing ideas, I started to think about where a lot crazy shifts in reefkeeping have originated. Usually it’s from some reefkeeping “expert”. More often than not, I have had to ask myself what makes them an expert. Is it a designation awarded by a committee? Do you receive this title if you have something published? Or is it based on post count on one of the various reef boards?
How many times have we witnessed such an expert debunk all former reefkeeping methods, only to offer their perfect recipe for a perfect reef tank? Inevitably, there is always a pool of frustrated hobbyists to drink the Kool-Aid. These hobbyists are usually struggling with algae problems or failed attempts at keeping a particular coral. They are frustrated that their recipe isn’t working. So when the new reefkeeping champ debunks that “old” method, it gives them hope that the new one works. They feel vindicated that their failures are due to the ineffective old methodology.
This trend has led to numerous and unnecessary tank refurbishings: The Jaubert method is no good, so you have to pull the plenum and install a sugar-sized deep sand bed. Oh, and you have to spend money on DSB fauna, and feed more. Fast forward a few years, and throw in some old tank syndrome. New experts show up and tell you that DSBs are nutrient sinks. The new and improved is to put kitchen cutting boards on the barebottom, and skim super wet.
Add a few more years, and let’s yank those cutting boards. Instead, you need to put a zeolite reactor in your sump, and disturb it daily. Oh, and don’t forget these 20 additives you need to add. Too complex? Well then, how about dosing vodka. If the vodka crowd doesn’t suit you, you can always join the Algae Turf Scrubber reunion tour. Don’t worry, dump buckets and patent issues are so last decade. Just grab a 5-gallon bucket and some other stuff at the hardware store. The cycle continues, and there will be an expert to tell you their Kool-Aid tastes the best.
The reality is that most methodologies work fine, but with different sets of pros and cons and the reason is simple. To keep a reef aquarium, you need bacteria, flow, light, and means to manage phosphate. The rest is (mostly) just romance . . . We want to believe that reef tanks are complicated. It is one of the fundamental aspects that keeps the hobby interesting. It also helps to keep the industry afloat. Companies benefit from our romanticism. The technophiles load their tanks up with new gadgets and automation. The naturalists like to picture a self contained ecosystem, and spend money on detritivore and refugium fauna.
So does this mean we should all run our tanks in a more rudimentary manner? Nope. Have fun with it. Go with an approach that appeals to you. Keep yourself excited and engaged. But recognize that a lot of the things you buy or modify are more for your benefit, and your fish and corals could probably care less.