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The beginnings of a new hobby

The long and short of it is that Kyle and I are marine aquarium hobbyists.

The beginning of this story starts on an ordinary Saturday during a trip to the store to buy food for our dog, Echo. Truthfully, we were only there to buy dog food but we ended up spending about two hours in the aquatics section of Petco, admiring the fish that they had in stock, mulling over instructional’s, and discussing the basiscs of a start up with one of the employees there. Our decision to start a saltwater aquarium happened rapidly and arguably impulsively. In the 72 hours to follow we did extensive research on marine aquariums and also made sure we understood the basics for reef aquarium’s so that in the future might have the opportunity to convert the tank into a reef. 

This was undoubtedly the most impulsive decision I’ve ever made, but I have no regrets either. This hobby has been a fulfilling way to pass time, bond, and keep me out from in front of the computer screen. 

I have a thousand things I could share in regards to my aquarium and the hobby in general, but for the time being I will stick to the basics for anyone interested in the hobby and share a few insights for new hobbyists. First of all, consider these things when deciding if this is something for you: 

  1. Finances – depending on what you’re looking to get out of this hobby will depend heavily on how much you have to spend. Unless you obtain cheap and functional equipment from another hobbyist or from an excellent deal on craigslist, marine aquariums are NOT cheap. We spent roughly $600 for basic startup equipment and had to upgrade the filter, add a protein skimmer, and buy a reef quality LED light in the weeks to follow. In total I estimate that we’ve spent probably upwards of 2K on hardware and livestock over the course of 6 months. 
  2. Placement – make sure you have a good place to put the tank with easy access for regular water changes and cleanings. Expect a mess when you’re first starting out. Our skimmer overflowed several times during the break in period. You also want to make sure that whatever you place the tank on is sturdy enough to handle the weight of your tank. 
  3. Maintenance – marine aquariums require regular maintenance, including: weekly or biweekly water changes, cleaning the glass and equipment, chemical testing to monitor your water quality, and feedings. Water changes are crucial to keeping live and happy fish.
  4. Considerations – marine aquariums are more expensive, time consuming, and limiting compared to freshwater aquariums. Chemical levels play a huge role in what you can stock your tank with. Fish only, with live rock tanks are easier to maintain than reef tanks. Reef tanks require strict chemical balance to keep corals and anemones alive. Additionally, some of the fish you may like may not be compatible with other species. Checking species compatibility is by far the easiest part as there are definitive resources that can help you identify aggressive species. 
  5. Need vs. Want – what you need in a marine aquarium might not be something you want. Saltwater ecosystems are much more than water, sand, rock, and fish. You also need a clean up crew. Clean up crews consist of crabs and snails. Some crab species are incompatible with reef tanks. Some snails will eat your macro algaes that you want to keep. You may also deal with worms that come from purchased live rock. Many worms aren’t bad and are quite common, but there are hitchhiker species you may not want in your tank and some that you definitely need to get rid of before they cause harm to your livestock. We’ve also obtained a few hitchhiker species along the way, including: asterina starfish, bristleworms (SO many bristleworms), and two clams that came with live rock and zoantha coral purchases. 
  6. Patience – aquariums take time. You can’t expect to stock your tank day one. The progress starts slow. Tank and necessary hardware (that includes a proper filter and light; skimmers are optional and not necessary to start a tank; although, I highly recommend one because they help keep your tank clean) come first. Then you can add rock, sand, and water. Be mindful that live rock contains bacterial and growth already and will require you to have some water prepared. Saltwater tanks require certain water parameters for certain species; the most basic of these is specific gravity which indicates the amount of salt in your water. Saltwater tanks should be between 0.023 and 0.026 roughly. Our tank is usually on the high end of that to accommodate the corals. After you’ve put in the rock, sand, and water you have to wait until your tank has cycled. This is a process where the chemical levels are unstable and can take a considerable amount of time- UNLESS you have great contacts and information like we did. There’s a bottle of bacteria that you can buy at Petco or your local fish aquarium vendor that will help the tank cycle much more quickly. We live in the Austin area, so we travel to Aqua-Dome for our fish supply needs. Instead of waiting months to add fish, we were able to add our first fish within the first two weeks after adding the bacteria. Be mindful that we also tested our water daily for several months to make sure everything was safe. I would also advise starting with a “test fish” so to speak, don’t buy a $180 pair of clownfish for your brand new tank because if things do go wrong, and they certainly can, you’ll lose a lot of money very quickly. 

There’s a lot of details that aren’t listed here  and a lot of information that would be useful for new hobbyists to know. I plan to go into more detail on future posts concerning the various obstacles we’ve faced in the hobby so far, such as: the do’s and dont’s, selecting equipment, stocking, reef requirements, losing your livestock, water changes, and much more. 

The picture below is from early on, but at least several months into the hobby. 

The next few pictures are more recent and following our equipment upgrade in order to provide proper lighting. We also have a new heater, a fully stocked tank, macro algae’s, a sponge, and coral frags. 

The last few images are most recent and contain photos of new livestock, new rock, and more corals!

Our hardware: 29 Gallon tank, Fluval Filter, Octo Reef Protein Skimmer, a cheap digital thermometer, and a Hydor water heater- all suited for the specific sized tank we have set up.
Our livestock: two clownfish, one royal gramma basslet, one firefish, one cleaner shrimp,  one feather duster worm, one neon goby, one sponge, one Pom Pom Xenia, four zoanthid coral frags, several dozen snails of various species, eight or ten blue legged hermits, one halloween hermit crab, and one scarlet hermit crab. 

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and we can try to address that in a later post.

DnD Commission

Are you surprised to see a post around here? Me too. I was so excited about this I needed to share across all of my social media platforms! 

I had my friend commission my DnD character. Her name is Natika. She is a tiefling sorcerer. She experienced a very traumatic ordeal late in the campaign and her image had been on my mind for 7 months or so. When I started talking to my friend about it, he dove right in and created some excellent line art and followed through down to some fine detail. I am very pleased and would like for others to enjoy in his works as well. I’ve been watching him develop his art for over half a year now and his progress is incredible when you line up his works from a year ago up to today. I’m truly envious of his time and devotion to his passion for the arts ‚̧
Follow the link to his blog below:

Thanks! ūüôā 

A Silent Prayer

Let the rivers of our past continue to flow forward, spilling into the moments of tomorrow as reminders and fond memories. Swim in the pools of present day to enjoy all we have, and have hope that today is not the last day we swim together. May we drink from the waters of the future and taste serenity and happiness. 

Written By: Hollie Barringer, 2016

Quick post

I’m working on some quick revisions, adding tags, re-categorizing my posts, formatting, and finally adding my name to some of my poetry, prose, and misc writings to show authorship. I’m hoping to have that finished up tonight. I want to separate the poetry and prose under one category, short stories under another, and journal or personal entries separately.


This has nothing to do with writing actually, but I wanted to share what I did! My grandmother knows how much I love fruit and bought me an assorted variety in large quantity when I moved back to town. Let’s be real, she bought way too much.  I’m only one person so I knew that if I wasn’t creative or really hungry in the next few days I would end up wasting a bunch of good fruit. So. I made a berry sauce! It was my first time trying this and I have a few more ideas for next time around, but I think it turned out fairly well. 

Boiling berries was a first for me  


I used the final product as a topping for my breakfast-dinner: fluffy golden pancakes topped with a warm berry sauce with a side of scrambled eggs. 


The Power of Words I

A fool once misspoke of a girl,

Befouled her name with a rotten word

The accusation was unfounded,

A disparaging remark for which shame is the emotive 

I remember her features as the ridicule flowed off the fool’s tongue,

Like soured milk, one word had destroyed the civility of conversation,

Her eyes grew guarded the moment breath peirced the air

It was a provokation of morality, an exposure of self-consciousness,

An ignorant usage of a term scarce understood

The message was lost on the fool, But that day I learned

The incredible power of words


By now you’ve figured out that I am writing again, so I wanted to give a brief shoutout to new followers and thank you for your appreciation of my silly little poems. I hope you continue to enjoy the content of this blog.

There are lots of changes going on right now and classes are getting extremely busy, but I’m determined to keep this up if at all possible

An Open Letter: Resistance

We live 130 miles a part, a relatively short distance all things considered, but it’s not the long winding roads or scenic country that separate us from one another. No, the distance between you and I stretches further than miles. It’s a distance transcendent of the of the physical world.

There was a time when even inconsequential things¬†brought us together. We liked the trivial, frivolous banter. You would call, we would go for a walk, or exchange words between classes. You came to me for mostly everything, at least for awhile. I noticed it the first year of high school- so very long ago it seems now- when I realized we began to run in different circles. You with the crowd and I on the side. I never believed the change was intentional and I tried to ignore it, but I grew a certain resentment for your new friends. I even refused to entertain the idea of getting to know them at first. I tried harder after those first two years; I strove to be part of your life again and went out of my way for you. By the time graduation came it was far too late. I dare say we began to grow back together there in the end, but I just couldn’t be that friend anymore- I could never cater to the crowd you chose. You were my best friend. You were the first to know my secrets and held my deepest trust.

I made another¬†attempt to salvage all that we had lost, an invitation into my new world. We’d both grown in the last four years of grade school and were finally prepared to embark on another adventure in life. I was to go away, 130 miles, and you were to stay.¬†Leaving¬†was a choice I had made a long time ago- I was committed- but I’ll always wonder if staying would have made any difference at all. Come spend the weekend with me, I had asked. I wanted you to see my new apartment and experience a few days in my shoes. I thought you might like it after so long under your parents roof because though you could not see it, freedom was a thing you needed. More than that I needed my best friend. Everything was so new, so empty, and I felt alone despite the fact that several hundred people lived all around me. It wasn’t home, and those weren’t my friends. Not yet. The first night was the worst because the freshman took it upon themselves to drink until they spilled their stomachs from the balcony above my window. The days did get better and nights became manageable. Thankfully my boyfriend at the time had ¬†moved in to make the party-town apartment more tolerable. I introduced you two a long time ago however briefly. Although you never voiced it I do not believe you approved. A lot has happened since then and we drifted a part, all for the better. I want to tell you all about that, and more.

I never got a weekend of your time, not even a few hours. I later came back to our hometown to visit and we met briefly- an exchange that ended abruptly with awkward goodbyes. You seemed to be doing well for the most part, at least you said nothing to contrary. I took it for what it was and I will leave it as it is.¬†I wish I could share these things with you like we used to. Back then it seemed like we never ran out of things to talk about, but now I can only get a few words out of you every other month or three. I often wonder if there was something I could have done, but people say this is just how life is: there one day, and gone the next. Maybe things will change, but I reserve my doubts because we both know the next step in my plan and you’ve¬†already decided to stay. I doubt that the further I go will make a difference because the problem is no longer simply distance. It’s become resistance.

© 2014, Written By: Hollie Barringer