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Presented by Charles & Linda Raabe
Mactan Island, The Philippines
© 2008 All Rights Reserved

As with any hobby that has numerous subject matters and methods, there are bound to be a good many myths and half truths. While some may be harmless misguided observations, there are those that can be down right harmful to your aquarium system. While trying to remain on the lighter side of this topic, I will of course point out those that are not funny in any manner.

  MYTHING THE POINT  Part One    Part Two   Part Three  -  An excellent three part series by Eric Borneman detailing a great many myths and misconceptions commonly found within our hobby. A must read article! 

Have a good one you want to share? Then please submit it

A Guide to Building a DIY BS-o-meter

Top Aquarium Myths by

The following myths while being funny, are only so because of their obvious flaws in their descriptions of what is thought to be happening. While somewhat harmless, if believed, they can cause harm by either taking the wrong action or taking no action at all.

   THE ICH PARASITE -  This one parasite has probably created the most myths more so than any other single subject, usually related to its treatment. All such myths just go to show you that even after a great many years, there are a great many hobbyists who still do not understand this parasites life cycle and come up with some pretty outrageous reasons for what they think they are observing. Please see this page and learn this parasite.

   Flying Ich Parasites - This one has to be my all time favorite. It was once suggested to me that the reason why so many aquariums constantly have this parasite within it no matter what medications or treatment plans are used is that this creature has simply gained the ability to fly, much like the spores/pollen of plants, set about on the wind currents only to drift right back into our aquariums and infect our fish once again. Of course this is all nonsense and is a feeble attempt to come up with a reason when if one had only learned the life cycle of this parasite and its modes of transmission, they would see the true reasons why they are failing at its eradication.

   It comes in with tap water -  This one actually came from a local fish store employee as advice as to why someone's aquarium always seems to be infested with Ich. This one should be simple enough - Marine Ich is a saltwater species and Tap water is....freshwater!,  I will leave you to do the math on that one.

   Leave your tank lights on 24/7 -  This again was suggested by a local fish store as a method to prevent fish from becoming infested. The reasoning behind such an obviously wrong idea was that the parasite stays near the substrate and if the fish are kept awake and swimming around at all times, the parasite can not attach to the fish. I am not even going to try and point out the obvious problems with this one, other than to say that the parasite is quite capable of swimming around in all areas of the aquarium.

  Keeping the tank at 83f. will speed up the life cycle of the parasite and kill it, prevent it.  -  Yes, higher temperatures speeds up the life cycle of just about any crustaceamorpha and protozoa, but how does that apply to it being unable to attack a fish? If you speed it up, you end up with only one thing, alot more parasites that are on the attack sooner than they normally would be. The increased life cycle part applies to their encystment stage, its length of being enclosed during its reproduction is temperature related, higher temps, means they hatch out sooner. How does that solve the problem for the fish?
  I think I know where that myth came from. Back when UV sterilizers were thought to be the cure all for any pathogen, it was thought that by lessoning the time Ich was laying around encysted, the sooner it could end up going through the sterilizer thus shortening the "cure" time. But being that UV units are all but useless for the "cure" or prevention of such parasites, the raising of the temperature is of course equally useless.
AND.... how could 83 degrees possibly harm a creature that comes from oceans that average 84 degrees?

  My LFS told me to soak my fish food in garlic, feed two times a day, temp to 85 degrees and adjust salinity to .019. He told me this will not hurt my corals, inverts etc. The garlic will drive out the ich from the fish and the temp and salinity change will kill the ich in the tank.  -  And yet another totally useless "method", if you can call it that. Again, temperature is not going to kill Ich, Neither is .019 salinity. Garlic? Sorry, but there is not a thing that garlic actually does for fish or parasites. Yet another "snake oil" item being touted as the next new saltwater miracle. With so called information as this, it is no wonder that this parasite is still so common.
   FISH AND WATER TEMPERATURE - I am sure I am not the only one to hear of it being recommended that fish be kept at temperatures in the 70's. Why would a fish do better in an environment that is much colder than from where it came from? It is this kind of information that I find to be funny since the logic that usually goes along with it, makes no common sense. Fish (and invertebrates) are ectotherms reliant upon heat from their surroundings to support their metabolic processes. At low temperatures their immune systems are compromised, as are other processes such as their metabolism and digestion.

   SAND WILL BUFFER THE WATER - Yet another good one. When asked just how this occurs, I am often told that the argonite "sand" will dissolve slowly in the water, raising the alkalinity and calcium. What they fail to tell me is how can a calcium carbonate based substance (the sand / rock) do that. It is possible though, but only at extremely low (acidic) pH levels. So low that it would kill everything in the tank in due time. Think about it. If calcium carbonate sand/rock can dissolve in a normal aquarium, then how is it possible for any hard corals to survive if their calcium carbonate based skeletons were dissolving also? The world's reefs would not be in existence if this myth was true. On a side note, silicate based sand does not release silicate into your water either. For one, silicate sand is not in the form that would allow it to be soluble. If such sand was soluble, then the glass of our aquariums would be melting right along with the sand as well. Glass is silicates, and yet it holds up to water just fine.

   My LFS told me.... - Now this one is always good for a laugh only because of the sheer ignorance that is usually involved with "things" that have to be done either to a system or to a fish or coral. But at the same time, there are those customers that frequent local fish shops that have no business near a drinking fountain let alone an aquarium as well. I do take into account that there are also a good many stores that do have experienced and knowledgeable staff members and it is those stores that we should seek out. But there are also just as many stores that hire part time help who only learn about the needs of our pets through on the job training and may not even own an aquarium of their own. It is those personnel that we should be wary of taking advice from. In fact, it would be your own fault for things that go wrong if you blindly follow anyone's advice without doing your own research to back up what you have been told. Which is the reason this site is so heavy on links to information. I would much rather have you find out the correct answers through your own study than to just do what I or others advise.

   My LFS told me that I can keep any fish species I want within a 20 gallon tank since fish will only grow to a size that will match their aquarium size. - Okay, now what I want to know is why anyone would or could possibly ever believe that a fish (or anything) can dictate to its genetic makeup on when to stop growing. As long as a fish is healthy, it will grow to its normal size.

   My LFS told me that I should add this armload of supplements and additives and that without them, my aquarium will not thrive. - Now this one drives me crazy, with the vast array of companies producing hundreds of additives claiming to cure every known problem as well as being able to force your corals to grow so fast that you will need a weed whacker to trim them down, I am always constantly amazed at so many hobbyists being so willing to just follow the directions on the bottle with no questions asked. Its usually when asked what the level of any given substance is do we find out that a test kit was never suggested or given any thought. Without going into a major rant, let me just say that if you want to encounter problems with your aquarium, keep adding all those so called supplements and additives.

  I was told that the reason that fish that I buy from a particular store don't last is because their tanks have copper in them and the fish are essentially going through withdrawls when placed in my tank  -  This is a good one, and I guess we are to assume that fish some how become addicted to copper and the sudden removal of their "fix" will kill them. This one is just plain ignorant.

 I was at my LFS tonight and asked him what kind of lights he had. His tank was mostly blue. He said that he had actinic lights as they are the only lights that will penetrate the water.  -  While it is true that water does filter out light wave lengths (various colors), it only does so after the light has passed through on average, about 100 feet of water. Red is the first color to be filtered out usualy at about 50 feet deep. This is one of the few natural occurances that we can not apply to our aquariums. Unless you have a tank that is 100 feet deep. For our purposes, color penetration is irrelevant. Overall light intensity is our concern.


   CORALS GET ALL THEIR NEEDS FROM LIGHT - This one could not be any further from the truth if one tried. Why would any animal develop a mouth and the appendages to capture living prey if they did not intend to, or have a need to eat? Corals eat alot! As with any animal, protein is a much needed substance in order to grow and heal. Which can only be obtained by eating. At bare minimum I feed my corals once a day. So should you.

   ALL CORALS NEED INTENSIVE LIGHT AND HIGH WATER FLOW - This is the problem when we group all species as living in only one type of habitat. Corals range in a wide variety of habitats and individual species can be found in both high light,flow and low light, flow areas. A great many coral species can adapt to varying situations and do just fine. Of course there are limits to such adaptations.

   BRISTLE WORMS ARE HARMFULL - Looking at a typical polychaete (bristle) worm, one would think them to be evil monsters set on eating everything that they can get their jaws on. Of course none of this is true and in fact, I would wager that a great many tanks would face some serious water quality issues if it were not for the various worms doing their job of keeping house. Yes, there are species that can be harmfull, but those are rarely found as there is only one species of "fire" worm and one "eunicid" worm species that I would consider a threat. Both of those species are easily recognized and can be seen within the worms hitch hiker section of this site. But for the remaining vast majority of worms, they are content to go about picking up left over food and detritus while they wait for the occasional bonanza of meat that can be had when a fish dies. It is at this time that the worms usually get labeled as fish killers when in fact they are on the fish carcass just getting a free, easy meal. If all the worms were to be removed from a system, your water testing will show the negative impact of their not being around anymore. I put this one under the not so funny category simply because if the worms were destroyed out of ignorance, an aquarium system can suffer greatly from their removal.

  DEEP SAND BEDS WILL CRASH YOUR TANK -  Since I could not have said it any better, I will allow this forum link to do so for me. But to summarize the reason for such a belief, I will quote Dr. Ron Shimek as per the above link. " "Why do you think there is so much animosity from people (in particular the people with SPS systems) in regards to Deep Sand Beds?"

I think there is one basic reason.

A lot of these people appear incapable of maintaining a "biological" system. Their idea of "reef" tank is basically a mechanical arrangement. This might work well to maintain some corals or not, but it is done mechanically and chemically. Such people have no real way to relate to or understanding of the animals or the interactions occurring in their systems. To them a tank is effectively an art object. To maintain a sand bed, one must be aware of the biological interactions occurring in the system, and be able to deal with them. If one can't do that, then the simple maintenance necessary for a sand bed is beyond their capability.

Additionally, the history of this hobby is one of a series of fads. Everybody is searching for THE WAY, "the one true faith" of the reef hobby gods. To a person basically ignorant of biology, a simple sand bed sounds pretty inviting - hearing that one can keep some pretty corals just by adding a layer of sand to a tank (and calling it a sand bed). They presume it will cure all ills. Such sand beds are not set up with appropriate sediments or they are poorly - or not at all - maintained, and there is not attempt at understanding what is going on in them. When a crash comes - from whatever reason - it is always the sand bed that is the cause, "of course"...

When such people have their tank fail, they have to blame it on something. Looking for the cause in a mirror is not their way..." End Quote.

This mirror is being hosted with the permissions of the original content creator for preservation and educational purposes.