I've seen plenty of marine reef tanks. The best are spectacularly beautiful, but they've always felt incredibly alien. I live on the Eastern Shore of Maryland near the Chesapeake Bay, and I feel most at home with temperate species, so I can't imagine keeping a marine tank in my house. It just wouldn't feel like home. Fortunately, corals aren't the only invertebrates that grow reefs. Oysters, native to estuarine environments like the Bay, build impressive reefs as well. They should make an excellent brackish reef tank. Moreover, such an estuarine tank could house an elaborate planted aquascape. Native to the waters of the Bay are grasses and submerged aquatic vegetation, and these plants play a vital role in the ecosystem. It seems like such a natural choice for a tank setup that I was startled when I couldn't find a single thread on oyster reefs. Perhaps simulating tides could be a problem, but oysters can thrive fully submerged, so it shouldn't be necessary to the health of the reef. Has anyone heard of or seen a good oyster reef setup? If so, I'd love to hear about it. If not, do you have any suggestions or cautionary advice? I can't find any information about brackish reefs online.
The problem with keeping shellfish in aquariums is that they are filter feeders exclusively and need large amounts of phytoplankton to feed on. This is difficult to provide in the aquarium as the phytoplankton need to be cultured separately in large quantities. Unlike corals, which get a lot of their nutrition from their symbiotic zooxanthellae, most shellfish have short lifespans in the aquarium as they typically starve to death.
I have kept a Jersey shore aquarium with a tiny blue claw crab and a number of fish and invertebrates. It lasted about 3 months before the blue claw crab had grown to about 3" and consumed everything in the tank.
I've seen plenty of marine reef tanks. The best are spectacularly beautiful, but they've always felt incredibly alien. I live on the Eastern Shore of Maryland near the Chesapeake Bay, and I feel most at home with temperate species, so I can't imagine keeping a marine tank in my house. It just wouldn't feel like home.
I couldn't agree more. Fish in the bay may not be quite as colorful, but some are full of personality and are very interesting, as is the ecosystem in general. What you are doing is basically my dream tank.
I'm in the middle of a build on my version of this project that I started in 2007. I'm pretty close to getting this tank set up, but it depends on funding right now. Basically, it will start out as a fish only with some hardy invertebrates and macro algae species. I may try more difficult organisms later, like tunicates, sponges, whip coral or even oysters. I've posted my builds on other websites in the past, so you may have come across it. But will start a thread about it on this site and come back here and link to it.
I think maybe one or two might be possible if you can keep them fed. I haven't kept a live oyster yet, but, have had live mussels in my tank for 7 months now and they seem to be doing well. I feed them bottled plankton that I buy from my LFS, but double the recommended dose of the bottle (because I am keeping sea squirts and barnacles too). It's a bit expensive, so one day I may try and culture my own phytoplankton, but that is down the road. I may try a live oyster some day, we will see.