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A Brief History of Marine Aquariumkeeping

Supplement to Fuges for Feeding Planktivores

By Bob Fenner | September 7, 2011

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Here is a brief personal history of marine aquariumkeeping, leading up to refugium use.

Mid-1960s. In the 1960s I lived in the Philippines and worked for "Lollipop" Earl Kennedy, a marine livestock wholesaler who used raw natural seawater - and a lot of it. At his beach location, he actually scooped up seawater in buckets and poured it into one end of tanks. The aquariums overflowed back into the sea. Additionally, he used screens hung over his boat's side to collect plankton, which was used to feed captive stocks.

Late 1960s. In the latter 1960s, I was working as a retail clerk at Polka Dot Nursery and Aquarium in San Diego, California. We had two aquariums in stock for marines, and they had protein skimmers on them. Selling skimmers was difficult because it was hard to convince customers of the new technology, especially with competitors decrying their use as unnecessary and even deleterious.

1970s. Ozonizers are a further "hard sell" through the 1970s to date, though they have tried-and-true filtration value, and are in use in almost all public aquariums and aquaculture facilities.

Mid-1980s. The mini-reef revolution began in the mid 1980s. These early mini-reef aquariums had glass sumps and a crushed coral area for fostering life, as well as denitrification. These wet/dry units broke easily and were heavy to ship, so these units were quickly switched to acrylic manufacture and used less suitable media.

Mid-1990s. A fish magazine allowed me to write a one-pager regarding refugiums in 1995. Although sumps, with and without live components, had been around for a long time, this piece marks one of the earlier documented efforts at their popularization.

Early 2000s. Back in 2003, I set out with my friends, Steven Pro and Anthony Calfo, to popularize refugium use, and "massage" marine aquarists into easier success with the release of the first book in the Natural Reef Aquarium series, "Reef Invertebrates." The first hundred or so pages were dedicated to the design and use of refugiums.

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