“Get the largest tank you can, it will be easier to stop bad things from happening” is sound enough logic, and realistically true. It’s easy to see videos and photos of these completely gorgeous large reef tanks, with beautiful fish, huge coral colonies and everything looks amazing and so perfect.
My experience was not completely unlike that for about a month or two. I bought a 300 gallon tank off of craigslist for $300 in 2014. I had a fantastic family friend build me a iron stand, because the unique shape of the tank meant plywood wouldn’t be an option. I got inexpensive LED lights that said they could grow coral. It was going to be amazing. I went to my local fish store and bought a frag or two. I brought them home and things looked like they were going great for a good long while. My son was born a bit after the tank was put up, which meant I quickly fell behind on water changes. Soon I’d be overrun with one or more types of nuisance algae. For months at a time the tank looked absolutely terrible, I hated it. I thought “I need to get this out of my house. Nobody would every buy it like this, I need to clean it.”
So I’d spend a week or two fully dedicating myself to the tank. It would look great and I’d think “…I should buy a fish!”
I would slowly start to ignore the tank and rinse and repeat for at least 3 years. Not a great saltwater experience. One of the issues I quickly realized, large tanks are very expensive. Heck small saltwater tanks are expensive. If I was going to do the standard 20% water change every other week or so that would come out to $13 a week or $335 a year in salt. That is an amazing cost for just keeping the tank pristine, and considering my water change system was two 20 gallon trash cans, I’d need to be preforming a water change every 5 days to keep that up. That’s a lot of water changing time and money.
I guess ultimately I knew what I was getting into with the large tank, but I hadn’t really thought it out to have the “huh, do I have $300 a year to spend on salt?”
I was not a good fishkeeper, my fish were ignored and forgotten. I did not want to kill them, and I would actively try to keep them alive but if there was a huge failure I’d be pretty okay with that and be able to say “well, I guess that some things just happen isn’t that sad.”
One day at work I got an alert that the temperature in the tank was higher than it should have been. I ducked out of work and found the return pump had failed, and so I had a choice. Do I let the tank die, go get a new pump for this big tank I didn’t want to the tune of $200ish, or quickly and unexpectedly tear down the big tank and move them into a smaller tank. I got an old 20 gallon tank out of the garage and got to work.
This is probably the single worst photo I’ve ever taken and kept of the tank. This is the last day it was full of water, still covered in hair algae and looking bad.