Finding and Killing Nemo along with my Debt Snowball
About 4 months ago, I found a 75 gallon tank, wooden stand, glass tops and light for $150 on Craigslist. New, this equipment would cost close to $800.00. Using my Craigslist tips, I purchased it for $100, a steal. I had always wanted a salt water aquarium, and thus began my quest to set-up the salt water aquarium of my dreams, or so I thought.
By the time I bought all of the necessary equipment, chemicals, salt, and test kits my $100 dollar aquarium was now a $500 dollar aquarium.
Downside #1: Salt water aquariums require lots of high-tech and expensive equipment
We then purchased 3 fish (blue damsels) to let the tank begin maturing in preparation for larger and more exotic fish. All three died within 3 days. The water tested fine, so I headed to the pet store to get replacements, just like I would with my fresh water fish. The store quickly informed me that there is no guarantee on salt water fish.
Downside #2: Most stores don’t guarantee salt water fish
I went home and hit the internet, reading as much as I could about salt water aquariums. A few weeks later, we were ready to try fish again. My wife purchased a fish my children creatively named “Dory”. Yes, a Regal Tang just like Dory from the movie Finding Nemo. Dory set us back $30, but it was worth it, the kids loved her. She was very healthy and doing great. We waiting a few weeks and decided to add another. Now here is where things get fun. We discovered this incredible fish store that had anything fish you could ever want. We thought we would take a look there for our next fish.
We came home with a $40.00 high hat, 15 pounds of live rock (real rock from the ocean already populated with coral, sea anemones, feather dusters and other misc “critters”) at $9.00 per pound. Total, about $180.00.
Downside #3: Salt water fish and “critters” are expensive…very expensive
Within a few days Dory wasn’t acting herself, she was lethargic and not swimming much. Bruce (the high hat) was covered in white spots and various red blotches. A little research on the internet showed that Dory and Bruce where infected with a disease called Ich (a parasite). I bought medicine for them but it was too late, within 2 days both Dory and Bruce died. $70 worth of fish gone, not to mention the kids were a little upset.
Turns out their death was my fault. I had added some water, but it was too cold. Doing so causes the fish to become susceptible to Ich. Hard lesson learned.
Downside #4: Salt water fish are very sensitive to water fluctuations and if the water isn’t perfect, they get sick and can die, rather quickly I might add. Medication is expensive, especially for a large tank like we have.
After some discussion with the local pet store and some more internet research, I learned I really needed a quarantine/hospital tank. This tank would be pre-medicated and allow me house sick fish so they wouldn’t contaminate the tank. I could also quartine new fish before placing them in the main tank. Quarantine tank and accessories, $100.
Downside #5: See downside #1
A week or so later, we returned home with 2 clown fish, one named “Nemo” the other “Marlin”. $14.99 each. Nemo died that night. Not only had I killed Dori, but now the star of the show…Nemo. Not really sure what happened to Nemo (maybe that one small fin finally got him), but Marlin did great. He’s a friendly and active little fish that seems to be enjoying the aquarium. We made sure Marlin would survive for a few days, and decided to pay the incredible fish store another visit. We came home with a beautiful red sea sailfin tang, on sale for only $35.00 and another 15lbs of live rock. Total bill: More than $200. Bringing the total up to more than $1,300!!!!
Since then “Tang” and Marlin are doing great. No signs of disease and they are eating well. I think the tank might have finally stabalized. Either that or I know more about what I am doing. Unfortuntely, learning cost me a good chunk of money. The tank is gorgeous and has become on the focal point of our home. We love sitting and just watching the fish and all the various “critters” that live in the live rock.
Downside #6: Having a salt-water aquarium requires you to really know what you are doing.
Would I do it again? No, I don’t think so, not at this point in my financial journey, it’s just too much money.
Now that we have it though, it’s just too much money to throw away and I think we would all really miss it. The good news is, we never spent more than we make, and we budgeted all the expenses. It did take a chunk out of our debt snowball though for the past 2 months. From this point on, we are going to just gradually add fish and more live rock. Maybe one fish or one piece of live rock per month. Salt water aquariums are gorgeous, but a very expensive endeavor. I’ll keep you posted…
Have an aquarium? Is it salt or fresh water? Do you have any frugal tips for having and maintaining aquariums? Let’s hear from you!