Zen Reefing Approach - Finding a Balance (StoryGuide)

BRS
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 goal do we aim to achieve? Are we to be messing with this box forever and ever, or do we let go?

We have a punishingly large array of strategies to pick 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 aim to cater for any and all reefers - some observers have not one at all, simply relying on their intuition to guide their every move. Whatever the strategy may be, 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... a pleasurable little 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.

All we must do is find the balance our tank is seeking.

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 that ultimate aquarium state, 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 to be the enjoyable part of reefkeeping. It was only a moment ago when we had dreams of starting out our tanks. Planning far deep into the details of every little component with napkin sketches, diagrams, and overlays - many of us not doing this sort of thing since we escaped our education.

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 every possible fish and coral it might contain. 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 display, at first, then going back tank by tank to observe every single inhabitant and judge their suitability by our deep desires - as much as our previous planning for a stocklist mattered, we all know it only last so long once the doors have opened. 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 in an aquarium, their social aspects by far - at least until you start buying corals.

Corals are alien. They don't make noise, hardly move, and they are extremely difficult to project any personality onto, 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 - most of the time for no particular reason. That is, until we actually do make adjustments, and they actually do end up unhappy; however, in what seems like all cases when nothing is done, they will simply vanish along with all the money that was spent on gambling them into our aquarium. The fish were never as picky - only wanting to be fed, but now we have to worry about so much more, and worry we shall. That is, until one steps back to the calm sweet air of our miniature ocean. Ah, remembering the reason we began: to enjoy our slice of the ocean. Now back to reality. 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 - that is, until one master's the art of letting go.

It is difficult to watch a superman shroom slowly lose it's color and fade to white. A lifeless jellybean devoid of any symbiotic zooxanthellae which sends alarm bells to reefers within a 100 mile radius. How many adjustments do we make? One, two, three, four, five, six.... hmmm. I think you see where this is going. At some point, a particular specimen, or problem, begins to pose a greater risk to all the other inhabitants, not because it poses a danger, but because it sends us down the rabbit whole that ultimately leads to our tanks (and our own) undoing. If we stop at six adjustments, we would most likely be too far gone.

The worst case scenario caused by our fabulous bleaching jellybeans is when we forget to enjoy the world that lays just beyond our reach - one which we have even created.

The fish long for our naïve gaze and dance the moment we decide to master the art of letting go.

Zen Reefing, or the art of letting go, allows us to gauge our rationality more effectively toward a particular situation - when problems arise, test your parameters, make one or two moves, pause and reflect... and then, go grab your favorite chair and plop it right in-front of the tank. Enjoy the beautiful landscape. Just breath and take it all in.... just stay there for a minute - pull up a chair and don't leave. Life doesn't have to be so fast. It can be bliss.

5168e1b2b3fc4bdb4e000048_-paolo-soleri-mesa-city-to-arcosanti_mesacitymarket.jpg
 
Last edited:
OP
Fish_Sticks

Fish_Sticks

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 22, 2019
Messages
460
Reaction score
978
Thankyou, although it was approved before I was finished, I think it still reads nicely. I had so much more planned though, so maybe I'll repost it sometime when it's actually done lol.
 

Subsea

2500 Club Member
View Badges
Joined
Jun 21, 2018
Messages
2,935
Reaction score
4,304
Location
Austin, Tx
Enjoyed the read. Everyone should know why they keep a reef tank. For me, as a naturalist and a marine engineer, I see the beauty of dynamic equilibrium between nitrogen, oxygen and carbon exchange between athmosphere, water and sediments. Using the energy of light through the biochemistry of photosynthesis, carbon dioxide in our athmosphere is converted to glucose which is nature’s way to add carbon to the ocean.

For too many, the arrogance to control components of an ecosystem without considering the holistic nature of our reef tanks defies Zen.

@Fish_Sticks
We nourish what we love. Keep up the passion to learn & teach.
 

Subsea

2500 Club Member
View Badges
Joined
Jun 21, 2018
Messages
2,935
Reaction score
4,304
Location
Austin, Tx
As many naturalists and environmentalists have suggested, we should set aside our arrogance,
our desire to conquer and control everything, and walk hand in hand with Mother Nature. -Walter Adey

I especially thought of your post when I read this in a friends signature.
 

Subsea

2500 Club Member
View Badges
Joined
Jun 21, 2018
Messages
2,935
Reaction score
4,304
Location
Austin, Tx
I thought you might like this quote. It’s in the signature of a friend on RC that has a seagrass tank.

[As many naturalists and environmentalists have suggested, we should set aside our arrogance,
our desire to conquer and control everything, and walk hand in hand with Mother Nature. -Walter Adey ]
 
OP
Fish_Sticks

Fish_Sticks

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 22, 2019
Messages
460
Reaction score
978
I thought you might like this quote. It’s in the signature of a friend on RC that has a seagrass tank.

[As many naturalists and environmentalists have suggested, we should set aside our arrogance,
our desire to conquer and control everything, and walk hand in hand with Mother Nature. -Walter Adey ]

Indeed. It sums up where I'm currently at in the hobby... letting go of high tech equipment and going back to the basics.

High detritus creation, ultra diverse list of hitchikers, wide variety of algea grazing fish, cleaner fish for parasite prevention, sponges, filter feeders and fans, and multiple manual sand stirs per week to feed the detritus loving LPS and mushrooms, SPS dont seem to mind it either.

I cant sell corals fast enough... it just literally boomed when I let go a year ago and allowed the brittle stars, asterinas, vermitids, and bristleworms to call the shots.

Just endless amounts of fresh detritus created and eaten by corals every day, primarily made by the vermitids and algea grazing fish, then broken down by brittle and asterina stars, and bristleworms... a full eco system.

Half of this is new frags, as I think everyone in my area has bought my main colony frags by now. Had to get more variety...

Everything was grown from single polyp frags over 2-3 years.

I'll start off with this fully egged damselfish nest... only a matter of time before clowns follow suit.
20201130_143621.jpg


20201115_164314.jpg
20201114_145207.jpg
20201115_125614.jpg
20201119_221433.jpg
20201202_194722.jpg
20201202_194726.jpg
20201202_194741.jpg
20201202_194915.jpg
20201110_115032.jpg
20201115_215105.jpg
20201202_194756.jpg
20201024_175703.jpg
20201202_194837.jpg
20201129_174331.jpg
20201202_194850.jpg
20201129_173258.jpg
20201122_120637.jpg
20201129_194406.jpg
20201202_194515.jpg
20201129_194359.jpg
20201129_173340.jpg
20201019_211626.jpg
20201202_194528.jpg
20201108_192617.jpg
20201129_194415.jpg
20201129_173423.jpg
20201129_173313.jpg
20201129_194342.jpg

20201115_164314.jpg
20201129_194517.jpg

20201114_162528.jpg
 

Subsea

2500 Club Member
View Badges
Joined
Jun 21, 2018
Messages
2,935
Reaction score
4,304
Location
Austin, Tx
Outstanding pictures.

Considering the beauty of softies and ease of maintenance & low cost of low tech systems, why did the culture change and it became expensive to operate a reef tank.
 

Attachments

  • image.jpg
    image.jpg
    260.3 KB · Views: 10
  • image.jpg
    image.jpg
    214.6 KB · Views: 10
  • image.jpg
    image.jpg
    230.4 KB · Views: 11
  • image.jpg
    image.jpg
    280.9 KB · Views: 12
  • image.jpg
    image.jpg
    287.2 KB · Views: 11
OP
Fish_Sticks

Fish_Sticks

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 22, 2019
Messages
460
Reaction score
978
Outstanding pictures.

Considering the beauty of softies and ease of maintenance & low cost of low tech systems, why did the culture change and it became expensive to operate a reef tank.

Those sponges and fans. Brilliant.

A lot of knowledge has been generalized to assume everyone is growing SPS/Acro dominant systems... that heavy nutrient export is a must, or even a good thing for softies/LPS, and more expensive and diverse nutrient export mechanisms are required; oversized skimmers, algae scrubbers, UV, calcium reactors, dosing pumps, etc etc etc.

Most of the trends today with hitchiker sterilization and instant heavy detritus export are counter productive to shroom, leather, lps, and even montipora growth.

It would help if people inquired or disclaimed during discussions to what system one is referring - sps dominant or mixed Reed systems, because it must be very confusing to new people - even I forget sometimes that they require entirely different strategies.

Mixed reefs don't require the fancy equipment for heavy nutrient export, but can contain a balanced stocking of herbivores (tangs, blennies, angels) to mow the rock flat... and create fresh detritus... which is broken down further by hitchhikers and then eaten by corals, either the actual particles, or the continuous drip of nitrate and ammonia made possible by detritus degrading and dissolving into the water column - a full microcosm. A skimmer is fully capable of taking care of the rest of the detritus... leaving a bit around the tank here and there

Nutrient export can hurt mixed reefs more than it can help... if done at the wrong time or in the wrong amount. Old useless detritus must be exported somehow, and I typically turn my skimmer up to full power and stir the sandbed to release this useless, expired stuff. But rich and fresh detritus has to be created to fill the gap. Mature tanks propagate these corals faster, it's all in the consistent drip of fresh detritus and nutrients being eaten by corals or dissolved into nitrogen for corals and algae (aka more fresh detritus).

In my opinion, a softie/leather/lps/monti or plate coral mixed reef requires a more integrated approach to emulating a complete cycle - start to finish... and expensive equipment isn't as beneficial or neccessary as what the real focus might be - fresh detritus creation and old detritus removal via a skimmer.

SPS dominant seems to suggest a strategy that is a bit more artificial -not that this is a bad thing, but it certainly seems to be the case at the moment: lots of export, lots of dosing, lots of monitoring, and not much of a need for hitchikers or detritus, but lots of target feeding.
 
Last edited:

Nano sapiens

Valuable Member
View Badges
Joined
Apr 25, 2010
Messages
1,592
Reaction score
1,945
Location
Northern California
Outstanding pictures.

Considering the beauty of softies and ease of maintenance & low cost of low tech systems, why did the culture change and it became expensive to operate a reef tank.

The keeping of high-energy, high light loving and very low nutrient SPS (read as 'Acropora dominated systems') changed the hobby. Emulating a pristine oceanic reef reef crest became the 'in thing' and other types of environments that other coral/false thrive in were just not 'all that' anymore.

Unfortunately, many newcomers coming into the hobby believed that all coral need these same reef crest conditions, which caused a lot of unnecessary money being spent and a lot of failures.

I think that many people are now more aware that not all coral comes from the same reef environment and that the beauty of a soft coral, gorgonian, false coral system can be just as well appreciated as a full-blown SPS system...and at an appreciably lower cost.
 
OP
Fish_Sticks

Fish_Sticks

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 22, 2019
Messages
460
Reaction score
978
The keeping of high-energy, high light loving and very low nutrient SPS (read as 'Acropora dominated systems') changed the hobby. Emulating a pristine oceanic reef reef crest became the 'in thing' and other types of environments that other coral/false thrive in were just not 'all that' anymore.

Unfortunately, many newcomers coming into the hobby believed that all coral need these same reef crest conditions, which caused a lot of unnecessary money being spent and a lot of failures.

I think that many people are now more aware that not all coral comes from the same reef environment and that the beauty of a soft coral, gorgonian, false coral system can be just as well appreciated as a full-blown SPS system...and at an appreciably lower cost.
Yup, this just nails it right on the head...
 
OP
Fish_Sticks

Fish_Sticks

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 22, 2019
Messages
460
Reaction score
978
Edited to read with more clarity - fixed typos, and gave the story a bit of a better body and an ending of sorts. Again I never did intend for this to be the final, but it should work out. Thanks to all who enjoyed - maybe give it a full second read for the edits - it will hit home differently, I promise :)
 
Last edited:
BRS

How important is sand sifting or sand stirring livestock to your reef tank?

  • Very important

    Votes: 293 45.3%
  • Somewhat important

    Votes: 206 31.8%
  • Not important

    Votes: 88 13.6%
  • Not sure

    Votes: 53 8.2%
  • Other (please explain)

    Votes: 7 1.1%
Top