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Posted: March 25, 2014, 11:50 a.m. EDT

By Elizabeth Creith

We are the only pet store in Sault Ste Marie with a marine section. When David announced his intention to carry salt water fish and supplies, I wondered if there was a big enough market in the city. I needn't have worried. We have a steady stream of marine customers. Some want the big, showy fish, the lionfish and the like. Others want to build community tanks, with lots of little fish. 

Then there's Buzz.

Buzz's real name is Chris, but he never uses it, except on his business cards, of which he has had a dozen since we first met him. He's brash and cheerful and can't seem to stick to one career – and they're all careers, not jobs. The latest is financial planning.

"I could manage your finances so you could retire at fifty-five,” he told me when he handed over his latest card.

Micro-reef. iStock/Thinkstock

"Really?” I asked. "How old do you think I am?”

"It doesn't matter. If you have enough money, I can get you there.”

"In my case,” I told him, "You'd need a time machine.”

What Buzz can stick to is marine aquariums. He's enthusiastic to the point of obsession, not altogether unusual in marine aquarists. But most people start small and want to go bigger. Buzz's particular enthusiasm is micro-reefs.

"You can really push the envelope if you keep up with the water quality,” he said. "You just have to be rigorous, really rigorous about the water changes, man. And you need a skimmer. I have a ten-gallon now, and I change out a gallon every four days. I do it at the same time of day. Really rigorous, that's the ticket, man. Have you got a five-gallon in stock?”

"You can't keep fish in a five-gallon,” I said.

"Invertebrates only,” Buzz said. "I have all kinds of tubeworms, a couple of anemones, some corals and peppermint shrimp. You just need high light, man, and really regular water changes and everything's fine.”

We didn't stock five-gallon tanks, but David found him one in the back left over from the previous owner and he went away happy.

His five-gallon reef did well. We had regular reports on the water changes, the light, the progress of the corals and anemones. Then, about six months later, he came in and plunked an old jar down on the counter. It was square, with fluted corners, and looked like it would hold about one gallon.

"I found this in the second-hand store. Do you have a piece of live rock that would fit into it?” Live rock is coral skeleton that has been colonized by microorganisms. Left long enough, it grows all kinds of interesting invertebrate wigglies.

"Seriously?” David asked.

"Yeah, man! I've got a fixture that'll hold lights over it, and a tiny little heater. You can push the envelope, man! You just have to have enough light and be really rigorous about the water changes. Change out half a cup twice a day. Just little, tiny changes, but on a schedule, like every twelve hours. I figure I can keep an anemone, maybe an anemone crab, in there with the reef.”

He and David went off to pick through the live rock, and eventually Buzz left with a piece that just squeezed through the top of the jar.

"There goes a happy man,” I said. "I think he's hit the limit on micro-reefs with that one, don't you?” 

"There's always Mason jars,” David said. "You could change out a tablespoon every half-hour. You just have to be really, really rigorous.”

We laughed about it, but it's been several months since the gallon jar, and I wonder when Buzz is going to be ready to push the envelope again.



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