According to the first online definition of the word “hobby” that pops up on Google, a hobby is “an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure.” Almost all hobbies involve varying degrees of investment of both time and money. But this hobby does not require excessive amounts of either to be enjoyed if done right.

The following beliefs will cause you to quickly spend much more than is necessary to start and enjoy this hobby.

1) Thinking that you need to have your tank professionally set up and serviced – These services are not cheap. If you really cannot bring yourself to go it alone then take your time selecting a professional that is comfortable with your end goal and this goal should be to wean yourself of the service if you want to practice this hobby on a budget. Part of what you want to be paying for is learning about what the service is doing and why and they need to know this up front and be comfortable with it.

2) Need for the latest and greatest – Like with computer manufacturers and those of many other products, aquarium equipment manufactures know that many people need to have the newest thing. This can be seen with the constant upgrading of models and the labeling them as new generations. Once the number of generations gets too high, they come up with a new name and start all over at generation one. Fortunately, those who must have the newest generation of a product provide a source for great prices on used models of the previous generation.

3) Desire to impress other hobbyists – We are all proud of our tanks or should be, and there is nothing wrong with showing them off to other hobbyists in person or more than likely on social media. This said, it is best to not let this take precedence over your personal involvement with and enjoyment of your tank. Spending above your means or budget is not the only way to gain the respect and admiration of other hobbyists and it certainly is not the best. You can impress them with your growing knowledge and willingness to help others.

4) Desire to impress non hobbyist friends and relatives – We see a business upturn during the holiday season when people have relatives in from out of town and do more entertaining. This is caused because many hobbyists have neglected their tanks during the summer months with kids home, vacations and such and now they want them to look presentable and well stocked. There is nothing wrong with this, but when your primary goal is to have a large tank with all the bells and whistles and 1000’s of dollars in livestock to impress non hobbyists you will be sorely disappointed. Let us face it, many lay people do not understand or appreciate our hobby, and some consider it a huge waste of resources.

5) Belief that bigger is better – This is true up to a point. Tanks less than 40 gallons can be more difficult, especially for beginners to keep stable, however this does not mean that you need to go huge. Particularly with reef tanks, the larger you go the more expensive it will get. This not only means a larger initial investment in equipment, but more money and time will be needed to stock a larger tank to the point where it looks relatively complete and well stocked with coral, invertebrates, and fish. If you are on a budget, consider getting a medium sized tank from 40-120 gallons.

6) Belief that you must buy everything brand new – New aquariums and equipment are like new cars. As soon as you drive them off the lot or take them home from the store, they are already worth much less than you paid for them. You do not want to buy a klunker, but if you are patient, you can find a gently used system at a fraction of the cost of new. You can even save more if the tank is still up and running with live rock coral and other livestock. You will have the piece of mind knowing that the tank and equipment hold water and are running well. Be sure to get some sound advice on how to takedown and set up an already established reef tank. Should you get hooked and decide to upgrade down the road you will be able to sell what you have for nearly what you paid for it, or even more if you were patient and heled out for an exceptional deal when you bought it.

7) Thinking that you need the best equipment available – If you want to save money on equipment in the long run you do not want to buy the cheapest no-name gear out there, but you also do not need to buy the best. Spend some time researching product reviews and talking to experienced hobbyists or professionals to find equipment that is dependable, but reasonably priced.

8) Belief that all the latest and greatest electronic technology is necessary to be successful with your reef tank – These items may be nice to have, but the good ones are awfully expensive and not necessary. You can always add these later if you like.

9) Getting caught up in the “designer” coral game – Coral prices have gone through the roof with all the new morphs, each with its own catchy name. Do not be fooled into thinking you cannot have bright colorful coral on a budget. Rely on some nice bread and butter varieties to fill space and perhaps just a few more expensive pieces. Remember that with proper care coral grows and if you are patient, you may even find yourself with extra coral to trade or sell to help you buy those “designer” pieces you still cannot do without.

10) Thinking rare fish are the way to go – Anything that is rare is going to be more expensive. Many fish that are rare also tend to be harder to keep “expert only” fish. These fish may be less suited to aquarium life and better left in the ocean. There are plenty of hardy species that look great and will not break the bank.

I hope this posting is helpful in some way to both new and experienced reefers.

Reef on and be happy!