In discussing the myriad rewards of reefkeeping, we marine aquarium hobbyists tend, at least in my humble opinion, to exaggerate the “soothing and relaxing” nature of our systems. If I’m being perfectly honest, on balance I probably derive more tension than tranquility from this hobby—or at least both elements in equal measure.
In part, this can be attributed to my characteristic pessimism. As my wife of nearly 25 years can attest, I’m rather a “glass-is-half-empty” sort of guy. When problems arise in any area of my life, it’s in my nature to fret about the outcome. Still there’s no denying that reefkeeping can be something of a “white-knuckle ride” for even the most upbeat hobbyist.
My anxieties notwithstanding, there are certain simple joys I derive from marine aquarium keeping in addition to the obvious beauty the hobby brings to my life. Some of these might seem a little odd in the grand scheme of things, but they give me a sense of satisfaction and keep me coming back for more. Here are just a few examples:
A completed cycle
As I’ve written here many times, cycling an aquarium demands the patience of Job. But what an emotional payoff when the ammonia and nitrite levels finally measure zero, nitrate is just detectable, and it’s safe to start adding livestock! I can only assume an artist feels much the same way when given a blank canvas.
The end of quarantine
Another lengthy process that demands considerable patience, quarantining a new specimen can seem like an interminable slog. Yet it’s oh so gratifying when you reach the end of that four-week period and you have a well-acclimated, feeding, disease-free specimen that’s ready to make the move to your display tank.
My tank right after a water change
Never does my tank sparkle more than the hours and days immediately following a water change/glass scraping. The fish are at their friskiest, the corals and other inverts exhibit their best extension, my view is unobstructed by unsightly algae, etc. This sense of satisfaction always makes me wonder, “Why don’t I do these more often?”
The arrival of a live rock shipment
Even more so than a new fish or coral, receiving a new shipment of live rock gives me a kick. It’s like getting a coral-reef microcosm in a shipping box. You never know exactly what might emerge from the rocks over the ensuing weeks and months to add interest or a challenge to your aquarium-keeping experience.
A brand-new bucket of salt mix
Okay, I know this is a weird one, but getting a new bucket of sea salt does give me a certain sense of satisfaction. Maybe it’s just the comfort/confidence of knowing I’ve got my water-change needs covered for a while—sort of like having a full tank of gas when you head out on a long drive.
A finicky feeder finally feeding
One challenge I’ve encountered on more than one occasion in this hobby is acquiring a new fish that refuses to feed once I get it home, even though I saw it eat heartily at the LFS. In some cases, these “hunger strikes” have persisted for upwards of a few weeks. When, after all my cajoling, target feeding, and experimenting with different foods, the reluctant feeder finally takes that first nibble, I could practically dance a jig! And don’t judge me if I happen to be dressed like Carmen Miranda when I dance that jig!
What is reefkeeping happiness to you?
So, fellow salties, keeping in mind that “sometimes it’s the little things that mean the most,” what aspects of reefkeeping make you feel happy and contended? Let us know in the comment section below.