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What do I Look For When I Look at an Aquarium For the First Time

An inquisitive customer was watching me do an assessment of their aquarium (our technicians are required to do a full assessment every time they touch an aquarium for the first time). And they asked about what I look for.

It would take a good while to answer the question, because we go through a thorough list. However, the main thing beyond that list which I am looking at is what is happening inside the tank. The health of the fish and corals tell me more than looking at the condition of the equipment.

A concept which was hard for me to accept was that while there are defined ideal conditions, quite often, an aquarium will operate fine outside of those conditions. But once I accepted that truth, that is when I learned that the animals will tell me more than parameters.

So I look at the animals.

I want to see their behavior. I want to see them eat. I observe them for quite a while, looking for signs of sickness, stress, and aggression. Do they look like they have been eating well? Or are some of them skinny?

How are the corals doing? Is there good coralline growth? Do the corals look happy? Is there any coral warfare going on?

After I have checked the animals, then I will check the parameters of the water. I pay close attention to the salinity and the alkalinity. Those two numbers, I want to see within a certain range. I also test the other parameters, depending on what is in the aquarium. These help to round out the picture of what is happening in the aquarium.

Then I will look at the equipment. What I have found typically is that if the animals and the water quality are good, then the equipment underneath is usually consistently good. If not, then there is often something wrong with the equipment.

Just knowing those things helps me to know the majority of an aquarium’s story.

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