Ask anyone in this hobby about me, and nearly all will tell you that I range from an insatiable coral junkie to a laid back coral connoisseur. One little known secret is that while I hardly keep any fish in my coral aquariums, I do love having pet fish in a dedicated fish-only aquarium where their captive requirements can become as fine tuned as it would be for corals in a reef tank.
In a dedicated saltwater fish tank, the fish can be fed as much as they need without worrying about excess nutrients, algae and associated problems. Also, in this tank many different types of pumps have been tested and eventually a mega-gyre flow formation was assembled to essentially turn the fish tank into a washing machine with more than 15,000 gallons of water flow creating flow speeds well around a meter per second!
The flow in this particular fish tank is so intense that only very few certain types of corals could even survive in it, but dang it if the fish don’t love it. The benefits of having massive water flow in a fish tank are so obvious, but almost never really emphasized. The fish stay in really great shape from constantly working out, the challenge of the water movement greatly dissipates any aggression, it makes the fish really chase down their food, and without a sandbed the wastes truly have nowhere to settle out and the filter sock does a lot of heavy lifting in exporting lots of solid wastes.
Furthermore, rather than having bioballs which are too efficient at converting wastes directly to nitrates that protein skimmers can’t really export, the real biofilter in this tank is the lace rock inside which is constantly being buffeted by tons of water flow, and more gradually doing its nitrogen cycle thing. In one instance having the biofilter and tons of flow inside the tank literally saved all the fish when I was out of town and the auto top off malfunctioned, preventing the return pump from being able to cycle the tank water through the sump.
Alas, after more than six years of having this dedicated fish-only aquarium it was time to take it down and do something new. To document the best fish tank I’ve ever designed, kept or enjoyed, I created this short video of my pet fish just doing their fishy thing for about eight minutes, including the frenzy that ensues when frozen food is clipped to the glass.
There’s a lot of cool things about this tank that can be gleaned by watching the fish, the feeding, and the equipment. Corals may be driving our hobby and our collectoritis and the revenue of the saltwater aquarium world to a massive degree, but there’s still no coral that can create the kind of lasting and emotional connection that we aquarists can get from our pet fish.