The End of my Marine Tanks
by George J. Reclos
Being a fish hobbyist means many things. You may ask ten hobbyists and get
twenty opinions. One of the main issues associated with this hobby is the
well being of the animals kept in captivity. Although this should be the
basic principle for all fish keepers, it isn't and this may well be the
difference between a fish keeper and a dedicated fish hobbyist.
I had been keeping those two Mediterranean marine tanks
for two years now and, as time passed by, I had started to wonder if there
was anything more to it than just the satisfaction of my ego. It is true
that I managed to learn a lot of things, viewed wildlife as I had never
seen it before and finally managed to keep those beauties for two years
with only marginal losses. However, two things were quite clear to me.
First, the look of a marine tank is more captivating, the complexity of
the life in it is unsurpassed and - if the animals collected are
compatible - the kind of interaction between the living organisms in such
a tank is beyond any imagination. You can almost manage to "build" a
complete trophic chain or, at least, feed the bare minimum and let the
system work for you. This is the positive side of it and in this aspect,
it had been a really great school for me.
Unfortunately, there is a negative side too. No matter
how hard I tried I could never overcome the feeling that still it had
nothing to do with mother nature. Fishes and invertebrates spawn, grow and
die in nature. In my tank you could hardly see the second, you could
definitely see the third (even if rarely) and there was no way to see the
first. So, there was something missing. The other negative issue is that I
always had the impression that whatever I was doing was just to satisfy my
ego. To tell people that I have some marine tanks. And this was wrong -
terribly wrong. Quitting at an earlier stage could well be interpreted as
failing so it was out of the question - here comes my ego again. A couple
of months ago I had a very interesting discussion with fellow hobbyist
Thanassis Moschou to whom I expressed those thoughts. To my surprise, he,
who was about to start a large marine system, expressed exactly the same
considerations. After talking it over for some time, we came to the same
conclusion. The decision was taken to return all these creatures to the
sea.. The coming weekend was out of the question so I decided to do it
during the one after it.
After two years one more week..
almost nothing. Yet, it was much more than nothing. A huge anemone died in
the tank of the octopus and I failed to notice it. The rest just smelled
(and was) disaster. After noticing the discomfort of the octopus, I took
some readings from this tank and I was shocked. The pH had dropped from
8.4 to 6.4, the nitrates were out of scale and everything was about to go
to hell. All this happened in less than 24 hours, after a large water
change with natural sea water. The octopus was immediately transferred to
the other tank but it was clear that the damage done to it was not
reversible. Two days later it died. It didn't have to and if my initial
plan was followed, it would be still alive.
I will not
say that I was OK, I was as far from it as it can be. I was deeply sad,
and it was with much pain that I collected all my living creatures,
including, mussels, crabs, live rock and fishes and put them in large
buckets. In the seaside, we (me and Johnny) took a closer look at my
friends and then slowly we released them.
can still close my eyes and see the Parablennius gattorugine getting out
of the bucket, stay there for some seconds, and then turning back to look
at us - believe it or not. A silent salute ? A last farewell ? Just a
thanks ? I don't know. All I know is that seconds later another guy of its
kind came close and then they both left.. I am almost sure that mine was
fatter and stronger though..
The tank which held the octopus was donated to a friend. There was no way
I would keep it anymore. It looked more like a grave and less like a tank
Two weeks later, I am absolutely convinced that this was really the right
thing to do. Every time I see a Thalassoma pavo gracefully swimming in the
sea I tell myself that this may well be "our" T.pavo.
Last, but not least, I would like to thank all those
people that helped me during those two years. I would like to wish to
those who have turned their tanks to Meditarranean marine ones, a great
success. Finally, a big thanks to all of you who stayed with me all this
time and had the patience to read this huge diary. Before closing this
chapter in my fishy life, a last, big "sorry" to Thanassis..