Congratulations to Jacobnano for being selected for our February Reef Profile! Our ocean's ecosystems are incredibly diverse, hosting beautiful creatures in all sorts of varied conditions and climates, many of them lesser known to the aquarium hobby. Keeping an aquarium dedicated to one of these cold water regions, Jacobnano has successfully built a temperate biotope, inspired by his childhood in Puget Sound. Below is the profile he has written for us sharing his experiences in the hobby and his aquarium's progress over the past three years. See what he's been up to and share your comments and questions in Jacobnano's featured reef profile thread. Be sure to also check out his aquarium journal in the members aquariums forum.
Display: Standard 15 gallon 24" x 12" x 12"
Lighting: Fish Need It 2 Bulb T5 Florescent
Chiller: AquaEuroUSA 1/3HP Chiller
Circulation: Maxi-Jet return pump
Established August 2009
The aquarium is kept within one degree of 57° F by the dedicated chiller. I hardly ever test my water parameters anymore, to be honest. This aquarium has become so impervious to whatever blunders I make. I attribute this stability to regular water changes, which I perform every two weeks.
Feeding the aquarium is a very different process compared tropical tanks. I hand feed each and every inhabitant of my tank that can be hand fed. Each anemone gets its own Mysis shrimp, as well as each fish. I turn off the pump and allow everyone to feed for around 30 minutes, and then I turn the pump back on. The temperature change during that time is usually only an increase of one degree or so.
• Tidepool Sculpin Oligocottus maculosus
• High Cockscomb Anoplarchus purpurescens
• Saddleback Gunnel Pholis ornata
• Plumose Anemones Metridium senile
• Aggregating Anemones Anthopleura elegantissima
• Painted Anemone Urticina Grebelyni
• Moonglow Anemones Anthopleura Artemisia
• Limpets Lottia Persona
• Chitons: Katharina tunicata, Mopalia muscosa, Tonicella lineata, Tonicella rubra
• Oysters Crassostrea gigas
• Hermit crabs Pagurus hirsutiusculus
• Porcelain Crabs Petrolisthes spp
This aquarium began as a way to bring a place I love home with me. I grew up in the Puget Sound; many of my earliest memories involve flipping over rocks and being told what each inhabitant is and why they are special. My tropical tank had already been set up awhile and I realized that it was time for a new challenge.
Going into this without much experience, I chose a 15 gallon aquarium for two reasons: We already had a stand for one, and they are pretty cheap tanks. Looking back on it, an acrylic aquarium would insulate the cold water a lot better, but I like the look of glass more. The system setup is incredibly simple, the tank with an internal overflow, a return pump, a two bulb T5 lighting system, and the chiller. I created my own overflow by cutting black acrylic and attaching it to the tank with silicone. After my first incident with a large die off, I added some bio-balls to the back chamber, increasing the amount of much needed surface area for beneficial bacteria. Since then the original Via Aqua chiller was replaced with an AquaEuroUSA unit, and I will soon be adding a Tunze 9002 skimmer to replace the Sapphire Aquatics skimmer I recently removed. The aquarium still remains quite simple. The tank was recently moved in the house and now resides in our living room, instead of my bedroom.
I really hope to keep this aquarium going for as long as I possibly can. Having also grown up in Puget Sound, my father wants to make sure this happens, and he will be taking care of the aquarium while I am away at college. Sometimes he seems to love the tank more than I do! Recently he and I discovered a baby urchin, which was incredible because the most recent addition of fish was over a year ago. I don't know what stage I brought the little guy home at, but he is doing very well, and is another example of why keeping my tanks going is one of the most important things to me.
Disasters & Regrets
When I first started, there really wasn't that much information out there about keeping temperate aquariums, let alone in the private home. Most examples and information I found had to do with public aquariums. When I first introduced creatures to my tank, 90% of them died within a couple weeks. This was my fault and I am disappointed I had to learn the hard way, but with the help of members like Jamie and Steve Weast, I was able to recover. Something most people don't realize is that these aquariums take months to really become stable. My cycle officially finished after about six months. The combination of rock that isn't very porous, and colder water inhibiting bacterial population increase (compared to the tropical rate), really causes a problem.
I was always afraid that a spike in temperature would ruin my months of progress and patience. When the first chiller gave out it was about 4:00 in the morning, I had to keep the tank cold with ice packs for a couple of days while I waited for my replacement to arrive. Fortunately most of the inhabitants are native to tide pools, where temperature swings are not uncommon, and everything survived.
Words Of Wisdom
As many others say, lots of research is essential. Collecting the inhabitants alone is very difficult, now that the laws have changed in the past couple of years. It is near impossible to collect in California, for example. Be prepared for a time commitment. The cost may seem relatively low compared to a reef tank because the only real expense is the chiller, but a stabilized aquarium will take several months, patience is paramount. Finally, one thing we should never forget is the significance of what we have created in our living rooms. I periodically have to step back and just admire the fact that I brought the ocean, from hundreds of miles away, to right before me. All of that life now depends on my ability, and my responsibility, to care for it.
Advice For New Hobbyists
I believe it is very important to enjoy what you have. It is definitely easy to become engrossed in "collecting" all of the designer corals, or the newest equipment, but patience really is the key to this hobby. If you have that, everything else just falls into place.
Thoughts On Sandbeds
As you've probably already noticed, the depth of my sandbed relatively deep. Contradictory to my beliefs concerning tropical aquariums, I believe a deep sandbed is very important for the temperate tank. The amount of life visible (worms, copepods, etc.) right next to the glass, and the stability the sandbed has brought me, has changed my previous opinion against a deep sandbed. My moonglow anemones would also not be very happy if they were completely exposed.
Start Your Own Temperate Biotope
Temperate tanks are not for everyone. Putting the rarity aside, the inhabitants are usually not as colorful as tropical aquariums' can be. They make up for that in uniqueness in my opinion, but one should be prepared for the more earth-tone nature of these tanks. If you are still interested, please start one! It is a whole world that lacks even the most basic of information for the private aquarist. I feed my fish and anemones Mysis because that is what I feed my tropical tank, not because I have determined it to be the most healthful. Training my fish to eat meant days of wasting food until one fish finally ate, and immediately the others followed suit. Now any new fish I add learns from the fish already in the tank. It is something that unfortunately doesn't always seem to happen in my more easily stocked tropical aquarium. In California and Washington, collection of fish and invertebrates has become essentially illegal unless it is something collected commercially, but hope is not lost! I understand there are now websites where you can buy temperate sea life, which for many might be the only viable solution.
I would like to thank Chris and everyone on Nano-Reef.com for everything. You all have allowed me to recreate my own little ecosystem in a box. I am sure I would not have stuck with this hobby if it hadn't been for the support and reliable information I found here.