How to Keep a Log of Your Reef Aquarium
Keeping an accurate, consistent log of your reef aquarium is something everyone in the hobby should do. It’s one of the simplest steps you can take to help ensure the health of your reef system over a long term, as it doesn’t cost any money, and doesn’t take very long.
There are 4 basic ways to obtain information for a log about your reef system.
This comprises of a series pictures which have been taken at a regular interval, to show the progression of the tank. It’s recommended to try and maintain a consistent point of view when taking the pictures. This is usually best accomplished by using a tripod, and taking note of the camera’s height and the tripod’s distance from the tank. It’s also a good idea to use the same zoom level and aperture settings between shots, and make sure the picture you take is a “full tank shot”-a picture where your entire tank is in-frame. Using the same light settings (especially if you have LED’s) in each picture is also important, because we all know a tank can completely transform under different spectrums and mixtures of lighting. The only time this isn’t feasible is when you’re upgrading your lights. This makes the pictures you’ve taken previously a very valuable resource to compare coral growth, and any positive or negative effects the new lighting may have. Taking the picture at or around the same time every day (usually best during the "peak" of whatever your lighting period is,to display similar polyp extension in all your photos. On that note it’s also a great idea to take a picture of all new coral additions to the tank, so you can monitor their growth/health over time. The interval between ‘full tank shots’ will vary between hobbyists, however most would agree that one picture every 2-4 weeks would be optimal to display the growth and progression of your tank. Sometimes it’s difficult for us to see changes in our tanks because we look at the tank so often. Being able to reference and compare pictures over time allows us to quantify these progressions much better than our memory serves us! It can be a tremendous feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction to see the progression your tank makes, and it’s also a great thing to show to others… so get out that camera and start taking pictures!
- Electronic data-logging
These are data logs which have been created by an aquarium controller (like an apex aquacontoller, reef keeper lite, ghl profilux). The most common water parameters recorded by these units are temperature, ph, salinity and ORP. Commonly, the software included with the controller will allow you to graph certain parameters to better visualize any changes or fluctuations. these logs are not commonly recorded long term, so their values should be included when your making your own log
An observational log is another useful way to document your reef aquarium, and include things for which a test kit may not exist, although will still be useful to document.
Examples of useful observations to write down about your reef tank would be:
- the appearance, or disappearance of an algae or bacterial bloom,
- when a new addition to the tank has been made,
- if you noticed that a coral wasn’t looking very happy,
- when you started feeding a new kind of food,
- the date you began/changed your dosing regimen,
- when you deep clean (vinegar soak) your equipment,
- Anything else you feel might be worth remembering down the road!
- Water Parameter testsMost hobbyists combine their observational log and water parameter log into the same location.
Water parameters (water quality) is arguably the most important single aspect of our hobby. Most of us own test kits for a variety of water parameters, and use them regularly. After performing these tests, it only takes a few more seconds to record these results. We strive to maintain very consistent water parameters, as it’s widely agreed that it plays a crucial role in proper animal husbandry. Recording these results and being able to view them over a given period of time allows you to ‘magnify’ any fluctuations in water parameters.
Common ways of recording this data would be:
- Paper notebook
- Paper calendar
- Electronic calendar
- Electronic spreadsheet
Most would agree that an electronic spreadsheet is the best means of chronicling your aquarium data. It allows you to very easily keep all your data neat, easy to read and access. You have unlimited space, and can easily backup your data (Store it in at least 3 places!) You can start simple by recording data, and add more complex bells and whistles like graphs for the data points you've recorded like your ph or temperature levels. There are templates you can find online which have a lot of the work done for you… Although, the best possible type of log is the one you’ll use! The log is no good if it’s empty! So pick whichever method you’re most comfortable with, as that’s the one you’re most likely to stick with and use over the long term.
To wrap everything up, keeping a consistent, accurate log of your reef aquarium is a very useful for more reasons than I could probably list, but here are a few major ones. If (and when) a problem arises, you have somewhere to go. You’ll have information from previous tests to be able to compare against whatever your current crisis involves. You'll know when you bought that fish, or when was the last time you 'really' cleaned your skimmer, how many heads your hammer coral started out as... You will also be able to provide a lot more information, faster, and easier (just cut and paste!) to anybody online who may be trying to help you.
Now, go…. start filling out your spreadsheet…. Setup your camera for your first bi-weekly full tank shot… The benefits far outweigh the time it’ll take to do, I promise!