— Chris Aylen


adidas Questar

Malawi cichlids


Fenced off



Getting there with the reef tank...


My future penthouse block...

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Ocellaris Clownfish or False Percula Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris)

Using system water and live rock from the local aquatic shop (that’s Heritage Aquatics in Wallington, Surrey in case you’re looking for a professional, reliable and friendly service) meant that we were able to start adding some critters and a couple of clowns to the tank sooner than if we’d had to go through a normal cycle of the aquarium.

Whilst we’ve seen evidence of a rogue crab (a small black arm with a little pincer on waved at us on Friday evening), things look pretty good so far. A couple of peppermint shrimps (Lysmata wurdemanni) have already had a go at a couple of the aiptasia anemones (which is good, because they’re a pest) and the turbo snails (Turbo fluctuosa) and emerald crab (Mithraculus sculptus) are busy with the algae that’s grown over the past few days.

And… to round it off, we picked up two Ocellaris Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris). An hour spent deciphering the Maxspect LED timer instructions (I’ll post up something on that subject later on), two carefully placed crab traps and all seems well in the tank so far.

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DD Nano 24g marine tank
My tank with the stock tube lighting

A third aquarium was inevitable: we’ve got the tropical area covered with our Malawi set-up, the coldwater section sorted with the little mountain minnows… and now I’ve got the marine and reef category ticked off.

I’ve wanted to try keeping marine fish for years, but never thought that I’d be able to do it. Water chemistry is a whole new ball game when you start trying to keep things that normally live in the oceans: salinity, temperature, calcium, magnesium, phosphate… the list of parameters you need to monitor is pretty endless. Get one thing slightly wrong and you risk losing livestock that may have cost you hundreds of pounds. Scary stuff.

But the industry has advanced enough and knowledge has been shared which means that it’s a lot easier to try your hand at keeping Nemo and his mates. I picked up a nano tank – the popular DD 24g – the other week from Will and the guys at the excellent Heritage Aquatics in Wallington, Surrey and it’s been sitting in the flat quietly cycling so that I can eventually stick some corals and fish in there. I’m going for a skimmerless live rock system with regular 15% water changes to keep things as natural and simple as possible. I’ve already found about 10 Aiptasia anemones (not good: they’re a pest and hard to eradicate), a pink/white snail (good: will eat some of the algae that’s been growing) and a baby blue starfish (great!).

Our clown fish and shrimps are due to arrive in the next week if the water is reaching the grade.

Maxspect G2 160w LED
Maxspect G2 160w LED unit, pre-installation

The stock lights with the DD 24g are good, but as I want to invest in growing some brightly coloured corals (some Acanthastrea specimens and the standard Ricordea and Duncanopsammia fellas), I’m upgrading the lighting to a Maxspect G2 160w unit from the guys at Fish Street in Hong Kong. The pictures above do the LED bulbs NO justice at all: it’s like actually having the sun in your lounge. I’ve got to add, the Fish Street team are 100% efficient and professional: I ordered the lights on Saturday evening and they arrived by UPS to my house in the UK on Thursday. Only got hit with a £14 customs charge too: considering they cost nearly £400, I was bracing myself for a lot more.

I’ve also bought acrylic sheets, clear polypropylene mesh and a band saw: one custom lid coming up.

More progress reports later (probably after the hospital visit, once I’ve sawn my fingers off).

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Our African Malawi cichlid aquarium

One of the best things about working from home is that I get some quality time to enjoy our big tropical aquarium. Now, that’s the sort of thing old people say, but I don’t care: I am old. I’ve had fish tanks at various stages throughout my life (coldwater from ages 8-12, then again at 16-18, then a tropical freshwater puffer set-up and now a tropical cichlid habitat) and they’re a good way to switch off after sitting in front of a computer all day. I just don’t get that same satisfaction from watching the TV.

We started with about 10 different fish (cichlids, a few bristlenose catfish, some plecos), but the yellow Labs (Labidochromis Caeruleus) decided to multiply and we’ve had about three or four broods a year so far, bringing the total to over 50 fish. As a result, we’ve had to give a few to Jamie over at our friendly local aquatics store, Aquazoo in Croydon. If you pass by their shop in the Whitgift Centre, you’ll see some of them in their display tank.

Gavin - a Psuedotropheus Demasoni

We’ve got a few nice catfish that hide in the tank until it gets cleaned out every four weeks. There’s Barry (a snowball plec, who’s covered in white polka dots) and Catty and Catford, the two leopard-print multipunctatus that hang out together once the lights go off at night. There’s something wrong with spending £50 on a fish that only ever comes out at night, but they’re hard to resist.

Barry - a snowball pleco

Catty and Catford - the multipunctatus catfish

We’ve just invested in a very small coldwater tank for our kitchen area, which Alanna is going to maintain. It’s very easy to care for, but that doesn’t mean the fish aren’t exciting: I’ve never kept White Cloud Mountain Minnows before – or Peppered corydoras – but they’re nice little things. No heating required, just a little plug-in filter and a light on a timer. I’d recommend them if you want to start small.

Coldwater tank

White Cloud Mountain Minnows

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