We all remember our first time…
My first encounter with a marine aquarium came by chance at the age of 5 years old.
I went with my mother to pick up my sister from a friend’s house. There was a mysterious blue glow illuminating one of the windows, I was always told to stay in the car on one of these mundane collection missions but this glow had piqued my interest.
Getting out of the car, it was as if I were in a trace, gravel crunched below my feet as I snuck over to the window as quietly as I could in the darkness. Peering through the window I remember being mesmerised by all amazing colours that had come into view.
Fish of all different shapes and sizes glided gracefully in and around an impenetrable fortress of interwoven corals. In an age, before a little clownfish called Nemo got lost, it was as if I were looking at an alien world.
At this very moment, I had no idea the hold this hobby would eventually have over me.
All these years later I still get that excited feeling as I continue to experiment, learn and push myself to do better for the amazing creatures I have the privilege to keep.
Although considered by some to be a reasonably successful aquarist, it hasn’t been easy.
Over the years my mistakes have cost both me and some of my tank inhabitants dearly, for this reason, I try to pass on what I’ve learnt to bright-eyed newcomers entering the hobby through my YouTube channel 'Prestige Reef'
My first real plunge into aquatics came at the age of sixteen when my first girlfriend's brother had a fish tank. The tank was clearly neglected, and despite having little to no knowledge, I threw myself into the task of bringing it back up to scratch and I became hooked.
The tank was mainly stocked with humdrum freshwater fish, but to me, this didn’t matter. I found them fascinating and as far as I was concerned every life was equal.
A mentality sadly lacking amongst too many people that call themselves fish keepers. When something died, I wanted to know why?
This thirst for answers expanded my knowledge immensely. The nitrogen cycle became second nature and I felt it was time for my own tank.
I’m not quite sure what changed but for years I had begged and pleaded with my parents for my own little glass box, in the early days begging and pleading quickly turned into kicking and screaming but my requests had always fallen on deaf ears.
‘You’ll never look after it’ they said
‘It’s too much responsibly’ they said
‘We’ll end up taking care of it’ they said
How little did they know…
Eventually, they gave in.
Now is when they made their first mistake, a reasonably large mistake.
They hadn’t specified a size!
I knew they were going away in a month so I waited and waited and sourced a second hand, five foot, four hundred litre aquarium. I moved the computer and desk out of the study to make room for it and planned to set it up before they got back, by then it would be too late to dispute the size or location.
I learnt a lot the day I moved it in, I learnt a second-hand heater will explode in your hand if turned on outside of water, I learnt aquariums are far heavier then they look and I learnt how to tell who your true friends are, what you have to do is call them all up at midnight in the middle of winter and ask them to move a very heavy fish tank, the ones that turn up are the ones you owe a beer.
This tank ran as a fish only set up for a year and was reasonably unsuccessful, it ran off two undersized external filters, without a protein skimmer or reactors, complete with old T8 bulbs for lighting and not a test kit in sight.
It seems crazy to me now to question why I had algae issues. At this moment in time, corals were still mysterious to me and thought of as above my expertise.
With tank two that all changed, a house move enabled me to shut down that tank and start again. This time a new six hundred litre set up, run off larger external filters, upgraded T5 lighting and a grubby old ‘third hand’ protein skimmer which hung off the back. Still no test kits in sight
I used the move as an opportunity to catch and sell off all my predators and coral munchers and once the new tank had cycled, I skipped off down to my local fish shop to select my first invertebrates.
A whole new world had just opened to me. I had done my research; soft corals were the only type on the menu for now.
I purchased two corals that day, some green star polyps which would soon plague my tank and a frag of a finger coral, which for 6 years, and despite many hack job fragging sessions, became the 14-inch colony.
Since then my taste in corals have significantly changed along with my ability to keep them alive, today I have a collection of some of the nicest corals available in the UK
Aquaculture is extremely important to me and quite possibly the future of the hobby.
Most of the corals in my tank started as tiny frags which I’ve grown on to full colonies. These days I’ve improved my fragging techniques and when required I pull out my shiny bone cutters and proceed to trim encroaching corals, before distributing them around other fish keepers.
I feel now is the time to try to turn this hobby into a small business of selling UK coral frags so with your help... let's see how far we can take it.