I’ve got a little secret, unbeknownst to the general public; I, Jake Adams the coral junky, have a Fish-Only aquarium. This fish tank was the second aquarium I set up after college and it has persisted as one of my most stable, and enjoyable aquariums of the dozen I currently look after. I would never have intended to set up an aquarium “just for fish” but in early 2008 a Clarion Angelfish kind of “fell into my lap” and I had to build a tank just for it.
Tough life right? Before you go judging, realize that Clarions are freaking bastards and mine is particularly ornery, making it hard to keep some of the fish species I really want, but I’ve still managed to build a cool fish aquarium community with eleven fishes in a 150 gallon aquarium. Every fish in this tank has a story, many of which I’ve shared with my friends and readers of Reef Builders over the last five to six years.
I kind of want to elbow-check people who still set up their “FOWLR” with a sedimentary layer of substrate and tons of expensive and practically useless (for fish) live rock. Without sand and using much less expensive lace rock I’ve been able to enjoy this particular aquarium with zero incidents for more than five years. Part of the reason is that the tank is super stable is that I am not constantly adding fish, and when I do add fish they go through a long period of quarantine and then a lengthy conditioning period before they can even think of hanging with the rough and tumble fishes of this tank.
The “filter” on this fish only aquarium is essentially just a filter sock and an efficient protein skimmer, but no bioballs. All of the biological filtration takes place on the surfaces of the tank and sump, and principally on the lace rock making up the aquascape. An “extreme” amount of water movement is provided by both a HydroWizard HW42 and Sicce Voyager HP10, turning the aquarium into a washing machine of water flow, both for the benefit of the aquarium ecology and to keep my fish active, healthy and stimulated.
Something happens between an aquarist and his fish, from the time that fish is a promising little minnow to the time its been in your care for years. At first the fish is a stranger in your life, and you are challenged to get it healthy, acclimated, and eating the kinds of foods you want. But after a long while, ornamental marine fish really do become pets and you learn their unique habits and individual personalities.
The marine aquarium hobby is so coral-centric these days – yes we still enjoy marine fish but these are often in a reef context, and the bigger, highly personable species of marine fish are less often kept. I would personally love to see a resurgence of fish only tanks where the focus is on having beautiful, colorful marine fish and nothing else, because fish tanks can be an easy entrance into the world of marine aquarium keeping.
I never thought that I would have my largest aquarium dedicated to anything but corals but after six years of enjoyment, I would never think of taking it down. Through life events and relationships, births and deaths, looking at my fish tank is like reading a living diary with the history of my recent adult life ingrained in every scale of my dozen or so fishy friends.