Missing out on looking back

Do you ever get bored with your reef tank? Truth be told, I feel a little bit bored with mine. For a while there, I had a streak going, where I moved every few years–but I’ve been in my current house for about 9 years now and have had basically the same reef tank for about 8 of those 9 years. On the one hand, it’s cool, because my corals are huge. Alright, well that sounded like bragging, but the point is that the corals that I put in my tank, as frags, all those years ago are now fully grown (maybe even overgrown, for the tank) corals, which is a bittersweet accomplishment.

Of course, caring for and growing our corals out is what we all strive for, but the tank is cramped and has been running on autopilot for a while now. I miss that new frag feeling, and I have nostalgia for that time when you plan everything out.

This is an image of a frag I made 2 years ago.

this is a coral frag I made 2 years ago

This is a frag I made 2 years ago

Here it is today

same frag 2 years later

same frag 2 years later

That same frag, which was about the size of a nickel when I made the first cut has multiple lobes and is about three-fourths the size of my fist.

If I had a time machine, that’s one of the things I would change. I would be more deliberate about taking pictures of the tank and documenting the growth and changes over time. Because right now, it feels like my tank has looked the same…forever…but that’s clearly not the case.

All of these things look dramatically different now

All of these things look dramatically different now

The picture above is from a part of my tank, taken 1 year ago. Even in this simple photo, I see that so much has changed. The Toadstool Leather coral (#1) in front of the image is massively larger. The engineer goby (#2) and clownfish, sadly, are no longer here. That base rock with a few zoanthids (#3) became fully covered with zoanthids and then was overgrown by green star polyps (#6). The leather coral in the background (#4)  is now as large as the toadstool pictured in #1–and drapes over a quarter of the tank and the pulsing xenia (#5), for whatever reason, have pulled back. They are still there. The polyps that are left seem relatively happy, but the colony is smaller.

But looking back through the photo records I have–there are bits and pieces, but nothing that truly documents the growth and evolution of the tank. My wife makes a scrapbook with pictures and mementos to remind us of fun we had with the kids every year. Looking back, I wish I had done that for my reef tanks. That is one of the reasons I created the Reef Journal. Now, every month, I have to make a journal entry to capture the essence of the tank.

Every month, I’m going to take a photo of the tank, from the same angle and the same distance, and track how the tank evolves. I’m also going to document the new additions to the tank and watch them grow.

reef journal entry page

How about you, do you keep good records? Do you have a system for keeping those records? If so, what is it? I keep track of my tank in a dedicated Reef Journal.

Click here to learn more about it.

Written by Albert B. Ulrich III–author of The Reef Aquarium Series of books:  The New Saltwater Aquarium Guide, How to Frag Corals, 107 Tips for the Marine Reef Aquarium.

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