Earth Day and How the Aquarium Hobby is Becoming Sustainable
Earth Day is here again! It all started on April 22, 1970 as a protest against harmful practices and attitudes that were causing environmental problems including water pollution, poor air quality, loss of pristine freshwater and marine habitats and more. What began as a protest movement has turned into an annual reminder to think about how we impact the Earth. Every Earth Day we see television and online messages reminding us to recycle, reduce our carbon footprint and reduce energy consumption. You may even have an Earth Day conversation at home or work about ways to reduce pollution, avoid harm to the environment or help the Earth stay “green”. Did you know the aquarium trade, along with aquarist enthusiasm, have transformed aquarium-keeping into a very Earth-friendly hobby? Here are just a few examples.
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It was only about 40 years ago that we were still collecting many of our fish and invertebrates from the oceans, rivers, ponds and wetlands. Fish collecting stations and outdoor breeding facilities didn’t have a plan for sustainable aquaculture. It was all about the “harvest”. Fast forward to today and we’re breeding rare corals right in our home. Who could have imagined that dedicated aquarists would turn their hobby into commercial coral and marine fish breeding operations! Thanks to aquarists we can even re-introduce corals onto damaged reefs. There is much less environmental impact of the world’s reefs today because we’re raising our own livestock at home and at environmentally friendly aquaculture facilities. Even the freshwater branch of the hobby is involved in conservation. Organizations are teaching rural fish farmers better ways to manage natural and farmed tropical fish operations. Tropical aquatic plants are even being propagated through tissue culture and raised in greenhouses and nurseries.
The marine hobby has long supported reef conservation and rehabilitation. But having a reef tank used to require the removal of reef material from a living tropical reef. How long can you chip away at a reef before it takes a toll on the ecosystem? Fortunately, today we have a variety of man-made and dry rock products to build our captive reefs. Man-made rock like CaribeSea LifeRock is made from natural aragonite bonded together with a reef-safe polymer. The rock has a purple color and looks like the real thing right out of the box. Over time the rocks become coated with coralline algae, beneficial bacteria and corals. Dry rock is mined from ancient dry reefs located inland. It’s completely dry and free of living organisms. The rock starts out white but soon becomes coated with pink and purple encrusting algae and other marine life. Man-made live rock conserves tropical reefs and eliminates any chances of introducing unwanted algae and other hitch hikers into your aquarium. Everybody wins!
Water movement and filtration rely on electric pumps. Inefficient water pumps waste electricity by consuming power and generating waste heat. This raises your electric bill and transfers heat into your aquarium water. Today’s low-voltage flow and return pumps use much less energy and make use of advanced impeller designs. Your aquarium stays cool, your energy bill stays low and you get better water flow in your tank. It’s a win for you, your aquatic life and the environment.
Aquarium lighting used to rely on incandescent bulbs. These bulbs converted most of the energy into heat, warming up the water. The metal light fixtures got hot enough to sear your skin if you weren’t careful! Fluorescent bulbs were an improvement because they ran cooler. Next came electronic ballasts, increasing efficiency. The aquarium industry always adapts the latest lighting technologies for use in aquariums. The LED revolution is a perfect example. Reef aquarists started experimenting with LED technology. As the LED science improved, so did the reef lighting. Today nearly all freshwater and marine aquariums use some form of energy-efficient LED fixtures. We’re no longer sending dead fluorescent tubes, considered hazardous mercury waste, to the landfill. Today’s LED lighting uses far less energy, lasts for many years and runs cooler than other light systems.
Appreciation for nature
No matter what kind of aquarium you keep, you must agree that it has created a special appreciation for the underwater world. Whether you have a nano tank with freshwater shrimp and moss, a community aquarium or a reef tank filled with exotic SPS corals, it has transformed the way you think about nature and the Earth’s natural beauty.
Every day is Earth Day
You’ve heard it said that every day should be Earth Day. This makes sense because it takes continuous awareness and thoughtful actions to carefully manage natural resources and avoid negative impacts on the ecosystem. As aquarists, our tanks remind us every day about the importance of clean water, a healthy environment and how a stable ecosystem leads to good health and beauty. We all can be proud of our hobby and the tremendous steps it has taken to be “green”, Earth-friendly and sustainable!