Marine Aquaria/Aquarist Responsibilities
The tank isn't going to run itself. A marine aquarium requires a dedicated hobbyist for proper care. Often an aquarium and its inhabitants can be mistaken as just a decoration or a piece of furniture, but it is much more than that. A dynamic state of being, an aquarium is always changing, and you have to keep up with it to make sure it stays on course.
Regular Observations and Testing
It's important to keep up with your aquarium. Observe the tank often so that you know if something is going wrong or if there is some sort of change. If you just let your aquarium sit in the corner without watching it, something is likely to go wrong under the radar.
Part of these observations include keeping tabs on all your organisms. Are they all present? Are their behaviors normal? Are they exhibiting normal coloration? An answer of no to such questions may point to some sort of problem which you couldn't have caught without observation.
Further analysis and observations can be made through test kits mentioned in the equipment section. Although sometimes your animals may not show symptoms, there may be an impending problem that can be found through regular testing of the aquarium with test kits. Often, with a test kit, one can find what important factor of the aquarium is not what it should be in the event of a problem. The use of test kits help us to keep the aquarium's conditions within the ranges of tolerable conditions that the organisms can handle. How often you do tests depends on the aquarist and the system, but weekly is a good idea for a beginning aquarium before its conditions have stabilized.
After some time, eventually your tank isn't going to look quite as clean and sterile as it did when you started.
Often, algae will grow on the surfaces of the rock and the tank glass. Though they pose no actual danger to the animals, they can be an eyesore. Many people purchase hermit crabs or snails to do this job, but in some situations these cleaner organisms are either not enough or not an option. Therefore, it's the responsibility of the aquarist to keep the aquarium clean so that it remains attractive through regular cleaning. Watch out for chemicals that claim to kill algae, as they are often very dangerous to invertebrates as well; such chemicals are often not recommended.
Another problem that arises is salt creep, the effect of salt starting to form crystals on certain surfaces. In anywhere that saltwater sprays or an object isn't always submerged, eventually salt is going to start creeping. Areas to watch out for especially are places where Hang-On-Back systems spill into the aquarium. This salt should be cleaned to keep the tank looking nice. Also, as the salt is leaving the tank, keep up with salinity tests to make sure that it isn't going down.
Water is extremely important to maintain as it decides how well your organisms will do.
As your aquarium runs, eventually water is going to evaporate, lowering the volume of water in the aquarium. This will make all the dissolved substances more concentrated in the aquarium and is also less attractive. Because salt does not evaporate, it is important to fill the tank up with freshwater to replace the evaporated water. Many people have built systems where the freshwater is replace automatically and over time, but you must remember to maintain this system to make sure it is working properly.
Every so often, it will be necessary to do a water change, which means to take out water and replace it with more saltwater. This is important to help remove waste products, pollutants, or other substances that just can't be removed through the nitrogen cycle and other processes. This may be weekly, biweekly, monthly, or even longer, depending on the type of system you have, the capabilities of the filtration system, and other variables. When doing a water change, it is important that the saltwater to be put into the tank is already mixed before adding it; never add salt directly to a tank with living organisms, because if the crystals touch something it can disturb or stress them.
When purchasing a new organism, it is often a good idea to quarantine them in a separate aquarium. A quarantine aquarium doesn't have to be fancy, just enough to house an organism temporarily. There are several advantages to using one.
First and foremost, if the animal is already sick and you didn't know, it's disease will not be passed onto other organisms into your main aquarium by accident. Also, in a quarantine tank, you can treat a disease in isolation without worry about the effect of the disease or medication on other animals.
A quarantine tank also allows you to keep an animal in isolation for other reasons. It will allow the animal to relax in a situation where it doesn't have to immediately compete and interact with other organisms. An animal can overcome the stress of being moved from the store. For example, in some cases, some animals will stop eating due to the stress of being moved. In rehabilitating the organism, it is much easier to get it to eat if other more comfortable organisms aren't competing with it.