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Words of wisdom welcomed.

Mar 23, 2005
If you are a complete neophyte and have never had an aquarium of any kind does it make sense to start with freshwater? I've always heard that they are easier, but it may be that people get a freshwater and don't do the things that they should do to make it a healthy environment, so it's easier because it isn't being done right. I may never become an aquarist, I may just enjoy all of this vicariously, but if I decide to take the plunge, what would you advise? Freshwater? Reef? Obviously, not Octos, at least not for a long time.
Different people might give you different advice. However, I found my experience keeping a fresh water tank didn't help much when it come to a salt water aquarium.

So, I'd recommend starting with a smaller salt water aquarium. I'm partial to invertebrates and think you can have a very nice tank without fish - beautiful shrimp, crabs, featherdusters, mushrooms coralline algae and so forth.

I've kept a 20 gallon invertebrate tank for a couple of years and enjoy watching all the little creatures go about their lives. This relates directly to keeping an octo because you'd have to do the water tests, water changes, learn to mix up saltwater and so forth.

I think it depends on what you want to keep. If you want a salt tank, you can go for it right away - just do the research before you start.
Fish only is easiest, soft corals second, hard coral (sps) and cephs third.

Salt is harder than fresh, but I don't know if it makes sense anymore to say start with fresh. The basics of salt are more advanced than they used to be, and I think you can do it if you want.
I'm making the jump from nothing straight to octo, altho I would consider myself very well researched, and I have taken a marine bio course, so I have a fairly good idea of how things work.

Righty, are you sure about SPS being harder than an octo? I know people on the NZ forums who have systems worth over $10000 and they all seem to have trouble with sps. They get them to grow, but the problem is maintaing and enhancing their colours. These people measure phosphate, calcium, iron, and other micronutrients levels in the water. They add trace amounts of molybendium and others, and still have problems. From their posts I would put octos below sps, altho octos are kinda different in that there are lots of extra considerations one has to take into account.

However, I havent ever had a tank, -(well turtles) when I get my octo I might write a detailed account on how it goes. Experience is something that cant be taught unfortunately.
Currently I would put cephs and SPS at the same level - sorry if I was unclear. Both kinds of animal have their own issues that make they 'difficult', and I think it is important not to confuse cost with difficutly. IMO, growing corals is the hard part, messing with colors is playtime. :smile:

If you kept an account of your research and progress, I am sure others would find it very helpful in the future.
I maintain both fresh and salt tanks...love them ! If your end goal is keeping invertebrates, I would say just start with salt, though. A nice little minireef tank is about as colourful and fascinating as anything I can think of, and it changes daily...and who knows what might be lurking on that piece of live rock????

Thanks everyone. I don't know if I'll ever get an octo or a cuttle, but the idea of a reef tank fascinates me. Of course, freshwater tanks can be really nice too. Maybe I'll come take a look at yours sometime, Greg. Whatever I decide to do, it won't be for a while. We will be moving in a week, and after I get to Az there will be a lot of things higher on my priority list, like a washer, a dryer, a bed.....
and finding more interesting snakes down there in Green V !!!!! Oh, how I envy you !!!!

I've had fresh tanks for about six or seven years now (starting at a 10 gallon and all the way up to my current 60 gallon.) They are relatively easy to maintain, and all the salt guys I've spoken with have basically said the same thing -- salt is harder to maintain because the ocean never changes, hence the salt content must be "perfect" at all times. Not to mention all the salt scum that gets all over the filters, etc. Some make the move no problem and others have great difficulty. Words to the wise: whatever you decide to do, be well researched. Saltwater tanks and their systems and inhabitants cost a lot of $$. Keep us posted on what you decide to do.
That was weird!

I didn't mean for that to post, I wasn't finished. Now it looks like I'm saying to Greg "I know you, Shudder!" Not what I meant at all. I am NOT a huge fan of venomous snakes, and considering that our landscaping is all desert...lots of rocks...we'll probably have plenty. I'm also not a huge fan of those nasty little white scorpions, and we'll probably have those too. Oh well, at least we won't have 2 story high gutters that need to be cleaned out several times a year (one of the drawbacks to living in the middle of the woods).
Erich told me that the main reason you want to live in Green Valley is because it has so many snakes. Of course, he told me this after we bought our house.
nowadays saltwater is actually easier to keep than fresh so if your willing to go with salt and just have the patience for the cycling etc then do it because its alot more interesting than fresh water
also if your interested in reef tanks just decide how big you want to end up cause if you want say a 125 or bigger then start with a 55. another tip also the larger the tank the easier it is to maintain stability in it trust me. thats why i went from a 55 to a 75 to a 125 to a 200 gallon system in like 2 years