There’s no question that setting up a saltwater aquarium can be a costly proposition. One way to help defray those initial expenses is to buy used equipment and materials when possible. There’s always someone upgrading to a new system, moving to another town, or taking a hiatus from the hobby who has gear to part with—and usually at a substantially lower price than you’d expect to pay for these items new.
Indeed, shopping for used equipment can turn up some terrific deals. However, it’s important to enter any used transactions with your eyes wide open. If you aren’t careful to avoid the following 5 pitfalls, your “bargain” investments could easily end up costing you much more in the long run than you anticipated.
#1 The fixer-upper tank
So much is riding on the structural integrity of an aquarium that you might want to pass by any used tank that needs seam work (unless you’re really confident in your skill with silicone) or other repairs. Certainly, a cracked or chipped glass pane should be considered a deal breaker—otherwise, it may eventually become a tank breaker that dumps gallons of water all over your floor, doing untold dollars worth of damage.
#2 The incomplete puzzle
This describes that irresistible used device, such as a protein skimmer or calcium reactor, that turns out to be missing a tube, valve, clamp, nozzle, gasket, or other gadget or doohickey vital to operation. You might be able to track down a replacement part—but then again, you might not.
#3 The functional antique
This piece of equipment comes complete with all the necessary accoutrements and does the job it’s purported to do. The only trouble is, it’s obsolete and better products are now available on the market. You may find you’re disappointed with its performance and the fact that replacement parts, if needed, are difficult or impossible to come by.
#4 Medication contamination
Our fourth pitfall can be a major concern with rocks, substrate materials, and other calcareous hardscape items acquired used. Certain medications, particularly copper-based ones, tend to bond with these calcareous materials and can end up leaching back into your aquarium. In a system containing corals or other invertebrates, this can prove deadly.
#5 The DIY disaster
Some hobbyists are extremely competent do-it-yourselfers and can successfully “MacGyver” just about any aquarium component out of bubblegum and duct tape. Then there are those who would probably be better off leaving the manufacturing to professionals but enjoy dabbling in DIY projects nonetheless. Unless you’re absolutely certain that DIY aquarium stand or reef-lighting fixture was crafted by one of the MacGyver types, you’d be well advised to spend a little more for a commercially manufactured model.
What have you bought used?
So, fellow salties, if you’ve ever bought used aquarium gear, we’d love to hear how it turned out. Share your story, good or bad, in the comment section below.