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Proactive vs. Reactive Husbandry Practices

Aquariums are purchased; elaborate systems are built to house marine life. What happens next is purely dependent on the dedication of the keeper.


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Habitats often degrade because of lackluster husbandry. Once this occurs, we react: A water change, treatments, equipment maintenance or maybe a water test?

An aquarist’s ideology should be one of preventative measures and not based on responding to apparent problems. Establishing a regular routine for performing maintenance tasks is a vital part of keeping your systems in top shape.

Educating your team and guests on the value of water testing is imperative. One idea to implement is to recommend spending a half-hour per week performing water tests; it’s better to know when parameters are slightly out of line before they cause a problem. It is also easier to correct small water parameter issues as opposed to larger discrepancies. I’ve always preached: When a problem is noticed and we discover water parameters are out of range, the road to recovery can be long and frustrating. Testing water regularly is considered proactive care as opposed to reactive care. This is definitely the right approach to husbandry service that you should be emphasizing to your clientele.

Maintaining acceptable water quality is the most important protection for your fish and invertebrates. Remember, all animals prevent and heal from disease only when their body maintains proper homeostasis. Improper pH levels and dissolved pollutants will affect metabolic functions as well as the organic balance of aquariums.

Poor water quality is responsible for more captive organism deaths and aesthetic issues than any other factor. It is not uncommon to see reef habitats covered in cyano bacteria, hair algae or bryopsis. As well, we’ve all noticed a system where fish are skinny, sick or have cerebral dehydration. The most common reaction to these situations: a water change and chemical treatments. I often see aquarists constantly chasing their problems instead of focusing on preventing them in the first place. We need to teach our guests proactive water maintenance, and worry less about reactive treatment and care.

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