Reefing as a Hobbyist, not a Scientist

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Reefer Matt

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This is an opinion, based on the experience of my 5-6 years in the reef aquarium hobby. I started the hobby in 2005, and had to exit in 2006. I later re-entered the hobby in 2018, and have expanded my abilities thanks to communities like this, and the wonderful technology that has developed over the years.

Reefing is supposed to be fun, relaxing, and anything else you want it to be. For some people, that is the general consensus, but others may be left confused and discouraged.

There are many wonderful chemists, biologists, and other professionals that have contributed greatly to our understanding of reef aquariums.

However, there seems to be a shift from within the hobby itself, that makes it seem like you must be a professional of some kind to have a successful reef aquarium. This is not true.
While it is helpful know the scientific names of various aquarium inhabitants, ie, it is not a requirement.

There are many ways to "reef", and each individual should feel free to ask questions and choose which methods to use, without fear of backlash from others.

I propose letting the hobby be a hobby, and not always a scientific study. Together, we can learn from each other, but not stress out over small inaccuracies and over thinking. (A lot of times people make reefing harder on themselves than what it really is.)

I thank all of you that continue to share your knowledge and experience with others, and wish everyone success and happiness with your tanks.

Reefer Matt
 
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Wasabiroot

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I agree with your premise for the most part.
I think it's important to make the distinction that the hobbyist can use science as a tool to weed out the incorrect presumptions that may be costing them time, money, or effort when it's not necessary. If someone is making claims about their product doing x thing and it being very effective, nobody is under obligation to immediately believe them. As P.T. Barnum was purported to have said, there's a sucker born every minute.
 

Randy Holmes-Farley

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I propose letting the hobby be a hobby, and not always a scientific study. Together, we can learn from each other, but not stress out over small inaccuracies and over thinking. (A lot of times people make reefing harder on themselves than what it really is.)

I certainly agree, with the caveat that there need to be ways for nonexperts to sort good from bad advice, which, IMO, is where a place like REEF2REEF shines relative to blogs and videos where bad advice goes unchallenged.

I said this a few days ago in the chemistry forum in one such discussion:

“Most reefers are not chemists, nor should they be, which is why bad chemistry ideas sometimes get a lot of play before being outed, and is a main reason this specific forum exists.”
 
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Bingo. The Vibrant study came to mind- the hard work of some skeptical reefers potentially saved thousands of reefers from using a product that was hiding some important information.
 

livinlifeinBKK

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I do my studies mostly out of personal interest and curiosity. Sure, the one like I'm doing now might Segway into something bigger or even publishable if my professor is successful with getting the university's involvement in related field work but my primary motive is enjoyment of what I'm doing. And I'd NEVER claim to be any kind of expert or even give any advice that wasn't prefaced by specifically informing that the advice is only from my personal experience and is from what I have understood to the best of my ability to be correct--not undoubtedly factual.
 

Jekyl

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Advertising and product pushing is what fuels it in my opinion. Vibrant as mentioned, the push for the newest LED lights, UV sterilizers, nitrite tests, a thousand and one bottles with miracles inside.

Every day there are people on here freaking out over situations that aren't a big deal. With time being the best course of action. Algae, coral not growing, pods etc. Instant gratification and BRS videos keep people looking for instant relief rather than sitting back and enjoying.


I haven't changed my water in maybe 5 months, haven't tested in 2. Never quarantined or dipped anything. Here we are 5 years later and my tank is thriving.
 
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Reefer Matt

Reefer Matt

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Advertising and product pushing is what fuels it in my opinion. Vibrant as mentioned, the push for the newest LED lights, UV sterilizers, nitrite tests, a thousand and one bottles with miracles inside.

Every day there are people on here freaking out over situations that aren't a big deal. With time being the best course of action. Algae, coral not growing, pods etc. Instant gratification and BRS videos keep people looking for instant relief rather than sitting back and enjoying.


I haven't changed my water in maybe 5 months, haven't tested in 2. Never quarantined or dipped anything. Here we are 5 years later and my tank is thriving.
That is awesome that you found a way to reef that suits you, and is part of what I meant in my opinion. Some people may lose sleep tonight because of your post. :grinning-squinting-face:
But In general, what works for us may not work for others, but that is okay too.
 

Jekyl

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That is awesome that you found a way to reef that suits you, and is part of what I meant in my opinion. Some people may lose sleep tonight because of your post. :grinning-squinting-face:
But In general, what works for us may not work for others, but that is okay too.
It was easy. I found the person with the oldest successful reef and did everything I could to mimic it. Thank again @Paul B !
 

Bruce Burnett

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This is an opinion, based on the experience of my 5-6 years in the reef aquarium hobby. I started the hobby in 2005, and had to exit in 2006. I later re-entered the hobby in 2018, and have expanded my abilities thanks to communities like this, and the wonderful technology that has developed over the years.

Reefing is supposed to be fun, relaxing, and anything else you want it to be. For some people, that is the general consensus, but others may be left confused and discouraged.

There are many wonderful chemists, biologists, and other professionals that have contributed greatly to our understanding of reef aquariums.

However, there seems to be a shift from within the hobby itself, that makes it seem like you must be a professional of some kind to have a successful reef aquarium. This is not true.
While it is helpful know the scientific names of various aquarium inhabitants, ie, it is not a requirement.

There are many ways to "reef", and each individual should feel free to ask questions and choose which methods to use, without fear of backlash from others.

I propose letting the hobby be a hobby, and not always a scientific study. Together, we can learn from each other, but not stress out over small inaccuracies and over thinking. (A lot of times people make reefing harder on themselves than what it really is.)

I thank all of you that continue to share your knowledge and experience with others, and wish everyone success and happiness with your tanks.

Reefer Matt
I am definitely not an expert been doing as a hobby for 40 years. Purchased a lot of wasted equipment and wasted a lot of money. I feel my ability has improved over the years. Every time I started a new tank I went bigger. This time I downsized 300 gallon to 100 gallon. More time to enjoy and less money needed. Plus much older never had time to become a chemist or expert on anything in the hobby to busy raising a family. Led lights now instead of MH but skimmers, pumps and stuff have not changed much but have improved. Bare bottom or sand, no one use to go bare bottom I did and went back to sand. Did go with dosing pumps finally. Resellers are always going to try and sell stuff you don't really need or upgrade to the newest thing. I have gone with filter socks and I have gone without which is better still not sure but looking into possibly getting a filter roller still looking at pros and cons.
 
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fish farmer

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This is an opinion, based on the experience of my 5-6 years in the reef aquarium hobby. I started the hobby in 2005, and had to exit in 2006. I later re-entered the hobby in 2018, and have expanded my abilities thanks to communities like this, and the wonderful technology that has developed over the years.

Reefing is supposed to be fun, relaxing, and anything else you want it to be. For some people, that is the general consensus, but others may be left confused and discouraged.

There are many wonderful chemists, biologists, and other professionals that have contributed greatly to our understanding of reef aquariums.

However, there seems to be a shift from within the hobby itself, that makes it seem like you must be a professional of some kind to have a successful reef aquarium. This is not true.
While it is helpful know the scientific names of various aquarium inhabitants, ie, it is not a requirement.

There are many ways to "reef", and each individual should feel free to ask questions and choose which methods to use, without fear of backlash from others.

I propose letting the hobby be a hobby, and not always a scientific study. Together, we can learn from each other, but not stress out over small inaccuracies and over thinking. (A lot of times people make reefing harder on themselves than what it really is.)

I thank all of you that continue to share your knowledge and experience with others, and wish everyone success and happiness with your tanks.

Reefer Matt
I remember when I started in 2000, some of the good local reefers we're actually doctors or residents. There weren't as many methods and means to achieve certain goals or there are methods used today like ATS, that were known but not really discussed.

I think you see more science overthinking because of advancement of coral care, people want to know all the nuances of why things happen.

I tried some easy sps, just tossed them in, they struggled, I can assume many reasons why they didn't do well, but I'll chalk it up to not enough par, which was calculated with a lux meter.
 

Rmckoy

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The easiest way I have found is to believe advice from those that have a successful reef .
its obvious their way is working now .
but …. No mention of the obstacles they went through to get there .

tons of research sorting through all information and follow what’s believed to be correct

if that doesn’t work , back to the research to find another Approach

the science behind it is everywhere and over the years we have all followed the momentum.
Imagine how reefing has evolved from the early 1990’s to now .
 
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For the most part I have had an aquarium running somewhere in my space since childhood. My dad brought home the first aquarium when I was about 5. Glass with some stainless steel frame and a black tar like substance for sealing the glass. Air pump, incandescent light, and fiberglass and carbon in a corner plastic filter that always wanted to float to the top LOL.

In the 1980's I read articles from George Smit about reef aquariums with trickle filters (wet/dry). Became one of his first distributors and tried to make a hobby a business for more than 20 years. The hobby has changed some but the basic understanding of using live rock, water movement, strong and correct color lighting, and protein skimming are still part of the mix for most hobbiests.

In the final analysis I know less every day but I still enjoy the hobby and always have a tank running somewhere in the house. Since we are almost done with our remodeling it might be time to set up the half dozen tanks or more I have on a pallet in the shop. I think I would like to try SPS in one tank at least. Maybe some freshwater planted and see where it all goes! Enjoy the ride and pay attention to the life in your tanks until you can feel if something is off. Your pets will tell you something is amiss before a test kit can!
 

Bruce Burnett

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I remember when I started in 2000, some of the good local reefers we're actually doctors or residents. There weren't as many methods and means to achieve certain goals or there are methods used today like ATS, that were known but not really discussed.

I think you see more science overthinking because of advancement of coral care, people want to know all the nuances of why things happen.

I tried some easy sps, just tossed them in, they struggled, I can assume many reasons why they didn't do well, but I'll chalk it up to not enough par, which was calculated with a lux meter.
You would be surprised what was discussed in books as that was the only thing available besides LFS. I was actually into aquariums 1971 fresh water then salt around 1983. The first website I really used for info was wetwebmedia. @PaulB does his saltwater still almost like people did with fresh. Reverse flow undergravel filter was the way I did freshwater and converted an old bubble up hang on the back air operated filter to a power filter. Reverse flow under gravel filter worked so well i fed my African cichlids earthworms and those that did not get eaten actually survived under the filter indefinitely. I also used a diatom filter about every six months. This practice followed over to first couple saltwater tanks until most people said they did not work well. @PaulB has proven it works even today. Even today I have never used a par meter and do not have an all in one system controller. People are looking for the magic to have the perfect hands off system which does not exist. I believe in hands off, meaning watch for changes only make manual changes when needed. I don't test frequently unless I see some kind of change and then make small adjustments. Funny when you go from being able to afford most any purchase to basically having no income for a couple years you learn that every gimmick or new item must have good value not just because of a new fad. I went to LED not because it was fashion but no bulb changes, quieter, less heat, less energy but not a lot. Went with DC pumps because of less heat, quieter and a bit lower energy cost. Went with dosing pumps for consistency and they have become cheap. All about simple, effective, quiet, not needing a chiller and space. Waterfall style ATS has replaced many refugiums because of lower space requirements. Needle wheel skimmers replaced injection skimmers because of size and noise. Had a six foot skimmer but at that time sump and all equipment was in garage.
 
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Reefer Matt

Reefer Matt

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The premise I was trying to convey is that there is a modest amount of margin for error in water parameters, lighting, and flow. It is not necessary to use lab grade equipment, stress over minor parameter deviations, or remember scientific names of coral in order to be successful.
It seems like people are purposefully trying to make reefing harder on themselves, when a lot of the time patience is all that is required. Scientists have done a wonderful job advancing the hobby, but we don't all have to scientists ourselves to get the benefits of their research.
 
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Bruce Burnett

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For the most part I have had an aquarium running somewhere in my space since childhood. My dad brought home the first aquarium when I was about 5. Glass with some stainless steel frame and a black tar like substance for sealing the glass. Air pump, incandescent light, and fiberglass and carbon in a corner plastic filter that always wanted to float to the top LOL.

In the 1980's I read articles from George Smit about reef aquariums with trickle filters (wet/dry). Became one of his first distributors and tried to make a hobby a business for more than 20 years. The hobby has changed some but the basic understanding of using live rock, water movement, strong and correct color lighting, and protein skimming are still part of the mix for most hobbiests.

In the final analysis I know less every day but I still enjoy the hobby and always have a tank running somewhere in the house. Since we are almost done with our remodeling it might be time to set up the half dozen tanks or more I have on a pallet in the shop. I think I would like to try SPS in one tank at least. Maybe some freshwater planted and see where it all goes! Enjoy the ride and pay attention to the life in your tanks until you can feel if something is off. Your pets will tell you something is amiss before a test kit can!
I understand where you are coming from my father had tanks, first one was a steel framed tank with a slate stone bottom. He was breeding Discus in 1964 when we moved he had put all his tanks in the garage, plugged everything in forgot the heaters, needless to say lost everything except a few guppys. He was so discouraged he sold off everything and never got back in it. At the same time on the same road friends of my parents got into keeping fish. The guy converted his entire garage into a fish room. He was breeding bettas, guppy, Molly's, swordfish and platys and selling to fish stores. So garage coral growers is not a new thing but is more expensive.
 

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Hmmm...I don't know man, the hobby seems more casual than ever. This is going to sound like old fartery but, when I started in '09 there was still a heavy DIY aspect, people seemed more like STEM types, divers, fishermen, and crunchy outdoorsy folks. The crowd is definitely more inclusive than ever.
 

Jekyl

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Hmmm...I don't know man, the hobby seems more casual than ever. This is going to sound like old fartery but, when I started in '09 there was still a heavy DIY aspect, people seemed more like STEM types, divers, fishermen, and crunchy outdoorsy folks. The crowd is definitely more inclusive than ever.
The Starbucks crowd has definitely invaded. More interest in brand name corals now than ever. Apparently being beautiful isn't enough for some anymore.
 
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This is an interesting question that gave me some food for thought!

I got into the reef hobby about four years ago and have a scientific background. Because of this I initially tended to over-analyze everything about my tank! E.g., why can’t I get my nitrates below 20? Or why is my water not crystal-clear? Or why do I have this sudden alga outbreak?

These were valid issues and I would do extensive research on how to solve them. And I would try various solutions until I hit on one that would work. And sometimes those solutions would include buying “better” equipment or tank additives that I now see weren’t really necessary.

But after three years of this I’ve now reined in my analytical side. And I just deal with each issue in the simplest way possible, without overthinking it or looking too hard at the “why”.

The bottom line here: It helps to have a scientific slant in this hobby - testing parameters and understanding biological processes is important in keeping a reef tank. But that needs to be balanced with enjoying the simplicity and ease of nature.
 
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This is an interesting question that gave me some food for thought!

I got into the reef hobby about four years ago and have a scientific background. Because of this I initially tended to over-analyze everything about my tank! E.g., why can’t I get my nitrates below 20? Or why is my water not crystal-clear? Or why do I have this sudden alga outbreak?

These were valid issues and I would do extensive research on how to solve them. And I would try various solutions until I hit on one that would work. And sometimes those solutions would include buying “better” equipment or tank additives that I now see weren’t really necessary.

But after three years of this I’ve now reined in my analytical side. And I just deal with each issue in the simplest way possible, without overthinking it or looking too hard at the “why”.

The bottom line here: It helps to have a scientific slant in this hobby - testing parameters and understanding biological processes is important in keeping a reef tank. But that needs to be balanced with enjoying the simplicity and ease of nature.
Thank you. That is exactly my premise. I just don't want new reefers to feel like they need a science or biology degree to have a successful tank. Conversely, we should not over criticize them when there is a minor deviation from preferred parameters, or methods.
 
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