2011 Has definitely seen its share of unique aquariums, many of which were featured right here on these pages. Some were variations on an old theme, some were nice applications of the current state of the art, and a number came out of left field. From this group, here is a look at our picks for the most influential aquariums of 2011, as featured on Reef Builders.
Let’s face it, the Zeovit system of nutrient and mineral replenishment is not for everyone. There is a certain level of diligence and effort that needs to be adhered to in order to assure success with the system. Some hobbyists that have embraced this system have arguably given the hobby some of its most unique and beautiful aquariums over the past several years.
It seems that the hobbyist who works with Zeovit has a certain attention to detail, diligence, and yes- perhaps even a slightly rebellious spirit. Or at the very least, a strong desire to approach from a different angle. When Evan Tsiang of Hong Kong set up his beautiful aquarium, he put some real effort into the fundamental, functional aspects of its design and configuration to help assure long-term success.
With an array of off-the-shelf high-tech gadgetry, such as Ecoxotic “Cannon,” PAR 38 LEDs, Vortech pumps, and the Neptune Systems “Apex” Aqua Controller, the aquarium is a techie’s delight. You might argue that the visible pumps and hardware are a bit of an annoyance, however, in our humble opinion, they are but a minor distraction from the overall display. You might even stretch a bit and make the argument they provide a sort of unique aspect to the design aesthetic.
From an aquascaping standpoint, this tank embraces a clean “no scape” philosophy, which utilizes very little live rock, instead relying on the corals themselves to provide a sort of “deconstructed reef” look. Less rock provides a more open design, and more flow throughout the aquarium, resulting in a cleaner system. The corals are thoughtfully arranged in a representation of a coral bommie, providing an overall effect that is both unique and refreshing. For taking a unique aesthetic approach, an attention to detail, and a stunning application of technology, Bon’s Lagoon belongs on this list.
Marine Planted Aquariums
The next spot on our list doesn’t go to just one aquarium. Rather, it goes to a group of aquariums that are helping forge yet another new direction in the marine aquarium hobby. You’ve heard me wax on about marine planted aquariums for years here on Reef Builders, encouraging you to play with Seagrasses and Macroalgae.
My colleague Mark Van der Wal recently fired another shot across the bow in his piece featuring some beautiful planted marine aquariums. With advances in filtration, lighting technology, water chemistry management, and better availability of the plants themselves, it’s never been a better time to jump in on the planted marine aquarium movement.
Marine planted aquariums not only provide a new aesthetic opportunity, they enable the hobbyist to study and replicate a biotope that is so important in nature — the seagrass bed. The diversity of life that comes from seagrass beds is remarkable, and includes many of the most popular and coveted fishes and invertebrates in the hobby. At a time when the hobby needs to keep flexing its creative muscle, marine planted aquariums provide a great canvas.
By applying recently-introduced aquarium technology and marrying it with with skills honed from years of reefing and freshwater plant experience, more and more hobbyists are able to contribute to the body of knowledge we have on these amazing life forms, to everyone’s benefit. This is an area of the hobby that we feel will only grow in both importance and influence on the state of the art of the hobby in years to come.
Eco Reef Zero
Once in a while, an idea comes around that just seems different, despite its resemblance to what we already know.
Enter “Eco Reef Zero.” This unique twist on the traditional “nano” aquarium inspired this very writer to gush that that the mere thought process involved in setting up the aquarium was “revolutionary” — and the gloves came off! Self-appointed critics and guardians of marine aquarium culture called foul, claiming it was nothing new. Or was it? Despite some assertions from some corners, we have found no mention anywhere on the internet or elsewhere of an aquarium set up with the expressed intent of providing a minimal diversity, low energy, husbandry-focused coral aquarium. Assertions that, “It’s just a frag tank,” a “quarantine tank,” etc., came streaming in, much to our amusement. Even naming the aquarium came under fire.
Let’s face it — in theory, context, scope and practice, if nothing else, Eco Reef Zero represents a fundamental paradigm shift from what we’ve been doing for decades. A testbed for outside-the-box thinking and a call for revisiting what we already know, and daring to apply it in different ways to take us to a different destination. The idea of distilling coral care to it’s most simple elements in a focused environment was irresistible to us, and apparently to many others who have told us they were interested playing with the idea. For these reasons, Eco Reef Zero makes the cut.
Steve Hurlock’s Rocky Mountain Reef
At 1200 gallons, this amazing aquarium sets some benchmarks for design philosophy, and aesthetics. Two years into its existence, the aquarium continues to provide visitors with an eye-popping experience and a visual feast every time they see it.
Not only does the aquarium contain an array of some of the healthiest, most fully-developed corals we’ve ever seen in captivity, it hosts a variety of beautiful fishes, living together as in nature. We’ve even witnessed some amazing, never-before-recorded-in-captivity spawning events in this aquarium, featured on these very pages. With 25 feet of viewing area and natural, open aquascaping, it’s not only an eye-popping wonder aesthetically; the aquarium has been a very healthy home to the animals that it hosts.
This aquarium doesn’t just make the cut because of its sheer size. It belongs here because it has been a shining example of the use of progressive technology and philosophy, applied regularly to provide the best possible environment for its inhabitants. Sure, not many home aquariums give you the chance to apply a 10-foot gyre, yet this aquarium seems to effortlessly meld a natural approach with technology, and does it in a most pleasing aesthetic way.
Who can forget the debut of the Vortech MP60 being put through its paces here? The system has also featured some state of the art lighting applications over the past couple of years. Its owner, Steve Hurlock, has been quick to embrace any changes that provide his animals with a better environment and has been all to happy to share the results on his stunning aquarium. For so many reasons, the Rocky Mountain Reef earns a solid spot on our roster this year.
FuriousFish Reduced Ecology Reef
As the new decade unfolds, we’re seeing more and more aquarists trying different ways to keep corals and fishes. Although we are lovers of everything reef, it’s no secret that we have been big proponents of reduced ecology reefing, in which great attention is paid to corals and/or fishes, rather than live rock, sand, cleanup crews, etc. One of the nicest examples that we’ve featured here on RB this year was from a Spanish Aquarist who goes by the name “FuriousFish.”
His aquarium is a stunning example of what we affectionately call a “no scape” — a system that contains scant rock and no sand — while featuring a thriving and diverse population of stony corals and fishes. Arranged into two distinct “bommies”, the aquascape gives the impression of an uninterrupted field of coral, and is as attractive as any “reef aquarium” that we’ve seen. Rather minimal technical augmentation (protein skimmer, calcium reactor, metal halide lighting and ozone injection) keeps the system in top condition, without drawing focus away from the livestock.
In this aquascaping critic’s eyes, one of the nicest things about the “no scape” philosophy is that the corals do the aquascaping work. Their growth and morphology, at least in part, have significant impact on the shape of the aquascape. This is far different from a “conventional” rock-dominated aquascape, in which the rockwork sets the literal foundation for the “reef structure”. It’s every bit as interesting, and has the added benefit of avoiding the “wall of rock” that has been so prevalent in reef aquaria for the past decades. FuriousFish’s aquarium stands as a shining example of the merger of talent and new thought.
To the future…
Yes, 2011 was a watershed year for reef aquariums. What I like to refer to as the “postmodern” reef era has arrived. With a few exceptions, minds are open to new ideas. The furious pace of technology has provided a wonderful backdrop for creative expression in the hobby. Inspiration comes from many sources, and takes many forms. A new generation of hobbyists, striving for their own identity in the reef world, has forged some bold new directions, continuously pushing the envelope as the hobby continues its relentless march to the future. What will 2012 bring for the hobby? No one can say for sure, but you will definitely see it here.