Clearly the fellow who first came up with this methodology probably thought he was speaking to the average, contientious hobbyist with just a few infected rocks in a 55-gallon tank or so. Because NOBODY would be dumb enough to do nothing while this stuff took over half a ton of it in a 500 gallon aquarium. NOBODY! Well, needless to say, at that point, something just snapped. I didn’t yell or cry; in fact, a sense of calm came over me like nothing I’d ever experienced. But something had snapped nonetheless. I had ASKED for this, I said to myself between thoughts of climbing a water tower with a high powered rifle. I had let things go and this is was the penance I deserved. So after giving away about 90% of my livestock, I once again dutifully took my reefscape down, and manually began to remove about eleventy-jillion Valonia bubbles with just tweezers and a toothbrush. This time, the entire process took more than a month. Did I consider leaving the hobby? Of course I considered leaving the hobby. I also considered leaving the entire country but once again, I found it much easier to escape into the comfort and safety of auto-pilot! Oh, I’m sure that one day I’m going to come out of it strapped to a Hannabel Lechter type chair and become the whispered legend kids tell each other over campfires, but so far, my ability to check out in the midst of crisis and adversity has served me very, very well. For instance, I don’t remember even rebuilding the rockwork at all this time. One day, it was just…done. And since no one in the neighborhood was ever reported missing, I stayed in the hobby.
The real problem was that I was trying to devote 100% of my attention to both my residual commitments in California and my current ‘leisure’ time in CT. I suppose I had finally to come to the realization that there was no possible way to do this so after getting the aquascape together for the THIRD time, I slowed things down with the tank considerably and, instead simply concentrated on my workload. I had about another year to fulfill my current contract and because I never knew when and for how long I’d have to travel back to L.A., I brought in a tank maintenance guy from my LFS, which is what I should’ve dome from the beginning. At this point, his responsibilities were little more than to change the water, occasionally check on the few remaining corals, and above all, watch for any signs of returning Valonia. And so this is how the tank remained for about a year. Occasionally, when I was in town, I might purchase a coral or two. I also believe it was during this time that I brought home both my Purple Tang and my Bristletooth to help keep my algae in check. But, truth be told, my personal involvement with the tank was actually pretty minimal. With the exception of feeding the fish, I’d go for several days without any observation at all. And while some might consider this neglect, I really believe I ‘lucked into’ doing the tank (and myself) a big favor during this time.
You see, from several of the articles I’ve subsequently read, many of the reeftanks’ water parameters are still in flux during the first year of its life and as such, there can still be various ‘swings’ going on, both chemically and biologically, as they move toward stabilization. These swings are not just the one’s we’re familiar with during the nitrogen cycle. There are a great many things in the hobby (or, heck, in the ocean) that even the experts are just beginning to understand so you’ll forgive me if I don’t start running amuck with much in the way of theory here. Suffice it to say that it’s not anything you’re doing wrong…unless, of course, you’re doing something wrong; it’s just naturally what happens. Unfortunately, this first year is also when the hobbyists’ urge to add stuff is usually at its highest, which is probably why so many ‘unexplainable’ fish and coral deaths occur during this time. It’s also why a greater percentage of hobbyists decide to throw in the towel during this time also. The reason I say I was lucky though was because I pretty much skipped this entire period because of my other commitments. Therefore, by the time I was ready to begin adding livestock in earnest, my system was much more aged, stable, and seemingly receptive to it. Now, I wouldn’t dream of asking you to set up your tank and then do nothing for an entire year, I’m just saying that this was the situation I made for myself and, for once, it apparently turned out in my favor.
So, by mid 1998, I had fulfilled about everything I was contracted to do in SoCal and retired once again. Now was the time I could begin to really turn my attention to the system without fear of diversions; at least abnormal ones, and though I was still solidly in the mind frame of ‘What’s-Gonna-Happen-Next?’, I was really pretty anxious to get my hands wet again and maximizing the potential of all that I had here. I suppose you could consider this then, the true re-birth my reeftank.