From pro to hobby


New member
Hi everyone,

I guess I'm a different kind of newbie. I explain: I worked for the last two years for a company building fish tank rack systems for marine biology research institutes, including breeding racks, so I started to have some solid experience with fish tank materials and equipment, especially everything related to sensors and monitoring, as the company specialises in life support systems (filtration + automation + software).

Now I feel inspired to have my own set-up at home, but here is the catch, everything we buy and build for our clients are pro equipment that cost some serious money and I am nowhere near that kind of money in my personal budget. I see researchers working mostly on zebrafish and clownfish, but my goal is not science but the pleasure of getting the settings right and seeing my little marine friends thriving. I thought corals could be a great idea, but after reading many threads on this forum, I know it's not the easiest thing to do.

Based on the experience you have, if you would start today, which marine species would you choose?

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Welcome to Reef Central.

There are a couple things to take into consideration.

1. What is your budget? This, IMO, is the biggest consideration. Many people have been successful setting up and maintaining reef tanks on a shoestring budget. But, many gravitate towards the technology. I personally am in between the two. I have a fairly old school system (based on how we did things back in the 1990s) but, have also added an Apex controller.

2. How much space do you have? In other words, what size tank can you fit into your space.

3. What do YOU like? Find out what you're interested in keeping, what you can acquire based on your budget and tank size.

I personally prefer inverts and corals. I also like anemones and Tridacna clams.

As far as fish, my tanks tend to have fewer fish than corals and other inverts. I tend to like smaller more colorful fish like basslets, clowns, etc.
Hello and welcome! I'd go moderately small- no larger than a 40 breeder, as short as possible, with a couple of LPS, a good clam or two, and a pair of maroon clowns.
This is an expensive hobby with both upfront and ongoing costs...even for just us lowly hobbyists.
How about a colony of engineer gobies.

After moving the file fish and butterfly to other tanks I put 4 in a 75 gallon tank.
They are fun to watch and act a lot like jawfish. They make tunnels and pop in and out of them. They do not look like a typical fish.
They are safe with other tank mates.

Another fun animal to keep are crabs. The ones people usually get rid of. Some get rather large.
They also have interesting habits.

There are so many options.

Want to spend less. There are some great freshwater fish now from all over the world. I just started a blackwater tank.
Hey! Thanks everyone for the inspiration and the insightful comments.

I think I can stretch my budget to $1500, is that a lot, too little?

I have a fair bit of space in the garage (which is decently insulated), where a 75 gallon / 300 L tank would easily fit.

While these eels are really cool, I like the idea of gobies and clams.

I read the maroon clowns are quite aggressive and could be difficult to mix with other fish species, but orange gobies can be good fish tank mates.

Anyway, that's already some great directions to keep digging in what I want and I what I can do.

Welcome and not sure how I missed this thread. With $1500, I’d stretch it by looking at a used aquarium set up. We are starting to get into the annual season of people getting out of the hobby and there’s lots of deals to be had on FB marketplace and offer up. Some will be complete set ups and others just tanks and stands.

Just remember, most of the time, the larger you go the more expensive it’s going to be. Not just initial cost but also swapping equipment, increased dosing needs, etc.
I think you can get a great set-up going for $1,500, but as stated, a lot of shopping around for quality used gear. In my experience, lovely as they are, maroon clowns are best on their own, except for other similar-sized damsel fish. I always liked damsels, but many people avoid them.