It’s only natural for family members and friends of marine aquarium hobbyists to want to buy holiday gifts that support their loved one’s briny habit. But choosing an appropriate hobby-related gift is sometimes easier said than done.
Giving actual fish or invertebrates as a gift is a really bad idea for all kinds of reasons—not the least of which is the problem of salt water soaking through the gift wrap and giving away what’s inside (I kid!). Certain equipment can be dicey too. Depending on the hobbyist’s unique system and goals, an item that would seem to be a good fit may prove to be inappropriate, inadequate, or redundant. Plus, if you have to ask all kinds of questions about what to buy, you lose that fun element of surprise.
So what would make a safe holiday gift for the marine aquarist in your life? Here are some suggestions that most hobbyists will welcome regardless of the type or size of system they keep:
#1: Sea salt
Happiness is a brand new bucket of sea salt (or so I often tell my wife). Unless your hobbyist has access to and collects natural sea water, he or she uses synthetic sea salt—and lots of it. So this is among the safest hobby-related gifts you can give. There is one caveat, however: Make sure you’re getting the brand and formulation of salt mix that your loved one prefers. Manufacturers usually offer a regular mix as well as one formulated for reef systems, and hobbyists usually have their favorite, so you might have to do some subtle snooping to find out which one to buy.
#2: An aquarium tool kit
A new set of aquarium tools—brushes of various sizes, an algae magnet or scraper, tongs, etc.—is another welcome gift. Over time, many of these items can wear out or break, so it’s always nice to have replacements at the ready. A spare set of tools also comes in handy when animals are being quarantined and you don’t want to risk spreading disease from the quarantine tank to your display tank via tools.
#3: A refractometer
If your hobbyist doesn’t currently have a refractometer for measuring salinity and specific gravity, one of these devices might make the perfect gift. When properly calibrated, refractometers yield much more accurate readings than hydrometers do, which can be critical for more advanced reef systems, breeding projects, etc.
#4: A quality fish food
Top-of-the-line fish foods can be surprisingly pricey and make welcome gifts for those of us who must stretch every hobby dollar. Obviously, a frozen food might not make the best stocking stuffer, but I certainly wouldn’t complain if I were to find a gift-wrapped package of LRS Reef Frenzy in my freezer come Christmas morning. I wouldn’t object to finding a brand new tub of New Life Spectrum pellets under the tree, either.
#5: Test kits
Water quality test kits (for measuring ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, alkalinity, phosphate, etc.) are another necessity that burns dollars most hobbyists would rather apply to more gratifying purchases. Thus, they always make welcome holiday gifts.
#6: Reference books
Today’s marine aquarium hobbyist can find lots of useful information on websites and forums, but there’s still no substitute for in-depth reference books, whether in hardcopy or electronic format. Look for authoritative works penned by reputable authors, such as The Conscientious Marine Aquarist by Bob Fenner, the Marine Aquarium Handbook: Beginner to Breeder by Martin Moe, and Advanced Marine Aquarium Techniques by our own Jay Hemdal. Also, keep an eye out for Jay’s new ebook, The Salt Smart Guide to Preventing, Diagnosing, and Treating Diseases of Marine Fishes, to be released this month and published by your friends here at Saltwater Smarts.
What’s on your holiday wish list?
Of course, this list just scratches the surface of potential holiday gifts for marine aquarium hobbyists. So, fellow salties, what items would you add? Please let us know in the comment section below.