(WIP) Zen Reefing Approach - Finding a Balance (StoryGuide)

Aquariums - as good for our well being and state of mind as they are for the millions of creatures that inhabit it's seemingly small, and at the same time, unendingly vast and bountiful landscape. To us giants, we see the glass box with rocks, and coral, and it's torrents of water swishing about; however, those who live within the contents know it's lush fields of green and red plant life - rolling rocky hills and cliff faces perched above an undersea beach. To each and every inhabitant, the scale is immense, and their habitat as vast as our imagination will allow. Journey further down, deep deep down into the miles upon miles of sinking undersea caverns hidden amongst only one of your live rocks, uncountable measures of micro life creep and squeeze their way into unexplored caves and crevices in search of a new feast, or toward their resting spot for a particular night. Back outside and down below, bristlely serpents slither beneath a desert of breathing sand, tiny bugs, slugs, and everything else that serves a purpose in it's jungly world. Wait till nightfall... What strange creatures lurk about then? And above? What a wild world we have in our living rooms, offices, and sleeping quarters.

What role might we play in fostering an environment with so many scales and sizes; the thinker, the tinker, the observer?

What ultimate form do we aim to achieve? Are we to be messing with this thing forever and ever?

What an array of strategies we have to pick and choose from; laying at our disposal to ensure the environment succeeds, while also ensuring we succeed in enjoying the environment and find peace with our role as the thinker, or the observer of it all...

Many strategies exist to cater to any and all reefers - some observers have not one at all, simply relying on their intuition to guide their every move. While this will work for anyone, it's easy to fall into a routine of repetitive tasks, high maintenance chores, and a long list of activities which involve everything besides enjoying the aquarium for what it may be; an ecosystem.

The key to ultimate aquarium enjoyment lies in one simple chest -a book of knowledge, that far exceeds your expectations and dreams. Find your way back to the mystery and wonder of reef keeping with a Zen reefing approach, or simply ponder it's possibilities for your own strategy adaptation.

Following this simple strat, you will find aquarium keeping a breeze... all we must do is find the balance.

Autopilot, equilibrium, the balance... whatever you wish to call it... is that magical moment where you do not a thing more. After all the tinkering and toddling around, getting this and that just right, the aquarium needs hardly and further adjustments and it shall continue growing itself forever and ever, with us as the observer taking our place. When we finally achieve ultimate aquarium enlightenment, we can then learn the true purpose of our aquariums existence. It is... to exist, and to exist within itself, with us taking a backseat and observing it's magnificence.

How hard this position is to take... not everyone is able to accept this as the results of their labor, for many find the laboring on and on the enjoyable part of reefkeeping, and the Zen'ers totally understand that. It was only a moment ago when we had dreams of starting out our tanks. Planning and planning upon planning went into the details of every little component. We'll always remember the moment we brought the tank home, and laid it into its resting spot. Sitting proud upon it's stand, empty in all it's glory, we dreamed on about every possible fish and coral it might contain. And it began by carefully pouring in bags of our freshest sand... placing each rock just right so as to make an impression. Buckets of the saltiest and sweetest smelling water go in one after another. Slowly the aquarium comes closer to being a living thing, but, how living can it be without fish? We work to get the parameters just right, waiting patiently. But as soon as they are almost ready, we head to the pet store. What an adventure - arriving to the pet store! Taking one broad stroll over each aquarium at first, then going back tank by tank to observe every single inhabitant and judge each inhabitant. Each fish specially chosen for the way it caught our attention, whether or not it meant to - maybe they did? Maybe they chose us...

One after another they were added to the family. A family that has just as many arguments, laughs, feasts, and playful events as any of us primates. Although they don't speak, they more than make up for it with their personalities and traits. You could buy a hundred clownfish, and if you observed enough you might tell each one apart from it's other. It is the fish that form the foundation of our attention - at least until you start buying corals.

Corals are alien to us humans. They don't speak, they are extremely difficult to project any personality on to, but they do tell us whether or not they are happy - just as our fish do. Stumble in at the right time, and you'll find them as shriveled as a grape, basically screaming as much as any infant, demanding to be moved, fed, or have the lights adjusted. And if nothing is done, they will simply vanish along with all the money that was spent on gambling them into your aquarium. The fish were never as picky - only wanting to be fed, but now you have to worry about so much more, and worry you shall. See, the aquarium reaches a point where it inevitably becomes more and more complex, whereby adjusting one thing may throw off another. And fixing a parameter for one of your corals might throw their neighbors into a tantrum. This is the struggle, and many reef keepers are stuck in the struggle, and will be stuck there forever.

About author
(long ago)
My father and I wait patiently at the PetSmart checkout line on a cold, cold February afternoon. Among the smells of dog food, dandruff, and wood shavings I manage to keep my focus on the prize. Friends and family have dogs and cats, but fish is the only color I see. That 10-gallon tiger barb tank at your grandma’s house with a 15 month old hang on back filter pad? I wish I was your grandma cause that sounds cool. But I’m making a purchase so big it will make golden retrievers old news. The 75 gallon saltwater tank.

It had been two hours since we had first entered the store. My decision to get a 75 gallon -- all improvisation, for I had originally set out for a second 55 gallon tank to house an array of the finest freshwater petstore fish. Midway through choices my father asked me the question that every aquarist eventually comes to, "Why don’t you do a salt tank?"

I had never seen a saltwater tank before, nor even knew you could even keep corals. But everyone knows that clownfish are cool.

My dad always told me stories of when he had kept emperor and koran angelfish, triggers, and tangs during high school and college during the 70s and 80s. How hard could it be?

I had come a long way from that 55 gallon I got on my birthday years ago. With the knowledge of the nitrogen cycle, I was unstoppable. As an avid fisherman, I spent years keeping local pond minnows, very small arrays of catfish, bass, bluegill and sunfish. I had a choice, freshwater petstore fish, or saltwater petstore fish. Without hesitation, I proclaimed salt!

After handing 300$ in cash to the clerk, the sliding doors opened and the cold air filled the store. Together we loaded up a 75 gallon tank onto the truck and the rest was history - including my wallet.

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