My Saltwater Journey (1996 – The Beginning)

An exercise in what NOT to do…and the Great Mantis Shrimp Massacre of 1997!

It might be hard for some of you to realize but back around 1996 when I started my first saltwater tank the Internet really did not exist. So, when I say that I had no idea what I was doing when I started my first saltwater fish tank; I mean I knew less than nothing. I was unconsciously incompetent and I had no idea how much I did not know about maintaining a saltwater fish tank. I did know a few things from my LFS though. I could afford a 30-gallon octagonal tank with a hang on the back filter and I knew I needed to fill it with salt water, sand and rock.

Honestly, I’m not sure how I even got the tank started and running. I knew nothing about the nitrogen cycle and the amazing clownfish that I purchased somehow lived through it all until I broke down the tank and sold him back to my LFS. Now the tank is somehow running and the fish are alive. I have no cleanup crew and the only parameter I am testing is salinity. So… it’s time to buy unresearched fish and cross our fingers right? Of course, it is… 🙁

Cut to a year later. I have a clown, tiny puffer, blue tang and longnose hawkfish. Everyone is eating the flake food that I am feeding but I am constantly battling an algae issue but have no idea why it’s happening or how to fix it. My puffer is also eating my corals, so I assume I can’t have nice things. It’s really sad and comical looking back at it now, but I digress.

So my LFS tells me that live rock will help with my algae issues and I’m desperate. So, I buy some “magic” live rock (magic beans anyone?) that’s going to solve all my problems and add it to my tank. As you would expect, the live rock does not solve my algae issues, but the LFS says I need to give it time and at least it looks nice in the tank. Then mysteriously my longnose hawkfish is nowhere to be seen, but I assume he is just hiding. The next night I hear some clicking in the tank, but I have no idea what it could be. Over the next week, every living thing in my tank disappears except my clownfish. My LFS informs me about mantis shrimp and tells me it could be in my live rock. I go home and take the live rock out of the tank and hammer it into small pieces and finally find the mantis shrimp. Now I have my clownfish and a tank full of algae. 

I think this was the start of my decision to break down my tank and get out of the hobby. The information that I was getting from the LFS was minimal and poor and I just did not put the time into the hobby that it requires.I was beyond frustrated and looking back I can see why. Yes, a lot of it was self-inflicted, but not all of it. I soon broke down my tank and sold my clownfish back to my LFS and threw in the towel.

Jump forward 23 years and the story does have a happy ending. I’m back in the hobby and information flows eternal from the internet. I have watched all the important YouTube videos. I purchased a small Waterbox 20gal AIO that will eventually become my quarantine tank once I get a larger tank, but is currently allowing me to get the hands-on experience I need to educate myself and perfect my tank husbandry. I hope to share that journey with you via this blog, so stay tuned as I break down my current tank adventures.

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