I’ve been fascinated by saltwater aquariums since I was a child. Although the few I’ve seen that weren’t in city-run aquariums were usually elaborate installations inside restaurants (like Rainforest Cafe or Todai), I have seen a small number of saltwater aquariums installed in private homes. Saltwater aquariums are a very different experience from what you’d see in a freshwater aquarium, largely because of the wildly diverse and colorful fish and sea-creature species that they can maintain. But there is a further differentiator that can only be found in saltwater: live reef habitats.
In the ocean, a live reef is built up over the millennia by the calcium skeletons of all of the tiny organisms that lived and died previously. The currently living animals (because coral are animals) provide the color and movement that you see. In the ocean, you will find live coral and anemones, sea sponges, sea worms, tube worms, mollusks, and a huge variety of fish and other sea creatures that coexist with the live reef. Seeing this ecosystem, even if only a small part of it represented and thriving in a well-maintained saltwater aquarium, is like having a window into another world; it is a transcending experience.
But back to reality … I had already resigned myself to never being able to own or maintain a personal reef aquarium; these type aquariums, at least the ones I’ve seen, are usually huge, ridiculously expensive, and hard to maintain. Or at least, they can be.
PJ* reefs Miniature Saltwater Aquarium is a Kickstarter project that I am extremely interested in, because its purpose is to create an inexpensive and low-maintenance saltwater aquarium experience for people like me — those who can’t afford or don’t have the expertise to create and maintain a large-scale saltwater reef aquarium. It intrigued me so much that I became a backer.
The PJ reefs saltwater aquarium is designed to be “so well-balanced that no other equipment would be necessary to maintain it.” The PJ reef starter kit includes the specially designed lamp, glass jar, a single live rock, and a voucher for one coral and macro algae; the cost is $150.
For $300, you’ll get 3-4 well established corals in an already aquascaped reef. To me, based on my lack of experience creating a living reef, paying the $300 for one that is good to go seems like a no-brainer.
If you are more confident or experienced, then you might be able to get away with the $150 kit, or even the $99 reef and jar set — although you will have to set it up with your own locally (and ethically, one would hope) sourced items.
So the initial setup is taken care of, but of course this glorious little ecosystem will need to be maintained. Here are the requirements:
1) Maintain temperature between 70°-83° Fahrenheit. No drastic changes.
2) Saltwater change every 3-6 months, preferably 3 months.
3) Addition of pure water every month or so to compensate for evaporation.
4) No over addition of corals and animals.
The cost to maintain a PJ reef, including electricity, water changes and food, is estimated to be about $15 dollars every 3-6 months. Over time, the ecosystem will change; according to PJ reefs, “you will see many of the live rock inhabitants begin to reproduce and stabilize the ecosystem.” I am ridiculously excited about watching this happen; I can’t wait!
The FAQ on the PJ reefs site says that it is suggested in this size PJ reef that no fish be added, but that perhaps in the future a larger PJ reef might be able to keep very specialized fish. I am good with live reef watching, but I’ll tell you now that if there is ever a way to get a larger PJ reef that is able to sustain a tiny school of colorful micro fish or perhaps a seahorse or two, then you’ll hear my squee all the way from Texas to Japan.
Because these are live ecosystems that must be shipped overnight in order to keep them safe — and due to customs and importation laws — this Kickstarter project is US only, unless you are only ordering the $99 light and jar.
There is a 12-month warranty on the PJ reef lamp and all electrical components, and there is a 14 day safe arrival guarantee on the PJ reef animals.
So what do you think? Is this a project you could get behind?
Link: PJ reefs site
*PJ stands for Pico Jar