To keep a reef aquarium is to understand that a closed system growing corals is never static, it is ever changing, growing, regressing, progressing. The first few years can be challenging as the system settles in and corals grow to fill the empty canvas but eventually, you are a victim of your own success.
Corals grow larger and need pruning, while some need to be removed altogether. Flow gets restricted by the growth of corlas, light gets shaded out, weird things start happening, and it’s possible to lose that coral you’ve had for years for no apparent reason. Suddenly you can’t keep a certain species no matter how hard you try. You find yourself with a nuisance sponge or algae that no fish or clean up crew finds palatable. You keep tinkering and chasing solutions.
Meanwhile, your aquarium stand has seen better days after numerous spills and lots of salt creep. You’ve learned to live with some scratches on the aquarium glass from a sand grain stuck in the algae magnet. The silicone seams are starting to look tattered. At what point do you declare it is time for a reboot? When is it time to switch out that rock work and start fresh? What would you do differently if you could start over?
These questions have been on my mind for the last year.
On one hand, my tank is doing well. Despite some setbacks with parasites and an incident related to reflooring the house in recent years, the tank is humming along. The biomass of the corals seems to be the filtration these days. But with all the growth and age, bad things are happening as well. Some SPS that I’ve had for 10 years decided to RTN on me for the first time. Then there’s the hauntings of corals I regret adding long ago. No amount of kalk paste will kill off some nasty green rhodactis.
And as I mentioned earlier, the hardware gets old too. My tank looks more like science project, rather than an attractive addition to the family space. You know things are starting to look bad when your significant other suggests you get a new tank.
I’m always in awe of systems that have been running for decades. There’s something great about a closed system running that long. But there’s something to be said for doing a reboot. There’s opportunity to rid yourself of annoyances like regrettable additions or that hitchhiker. After many years with a reef system, you start to understand what you really like.
There’s always a long list of “things I’d do differently if I was starting over”. And it inevitably stokes the fires as well. Who doesn’t love a new reef build. I think it’s time to replace my 10 year old system. I’m not ditching everything. But I think I will start with some fresh rock, and frag existing corals onto that rock. My fish are like family, so they are staying as well.
A reboot can mean many things: New hardware, same livestock. Or same hardware but new livestock. Maybe it means just pulling out the old sand and rock, and doing a new aquascape. If you’ve had a tank running for a long time, what are some observations you’ve seen develop over time? What would you do differently if you could start over?