Reef addict

Reef addict DEFAULT

We have all heard and know about the addictions that are frequently talked about such as the addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling, eating, and sex. But in reality virtually anything can be addicting as is the case with seemingly lesser or even socially acceptable addictions such shopping, cleaning or exercising.

This may also be the case in this hobby. Some of us refer to ourselves as Reefaholics or Coral addicts and looking at some of the groups I am in on Facebook they include such monikers as Compulsive Reefers, Addictive Reef Keepers and Colorful Reef Addicts to name a few. There are even Reef Addicts subgroups in many states and large cities.

So the concept of this hobby being addicting is not a new one. And while many of us consider this a relatively harmless activity as far as addictions go, I thought it might be interesting to look at why this hobby may lend itself to being addicting.

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Lest you think I am not taking this seriously or am making fun of the hobby, it should be noted that my master’s thesis was actually on ‘context specific tolerance’, which is an integral part of addiction and it is published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. So I actually have a background in addiction and addictive processes.

So in order for us to understand how the hobby can be addicting and lends itself to being addicting we need to understand what addiction is. According to the definition in Wikipedia:

 “Addiction is a state characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences. It can be thought of as a disease or biological process leading to such behaviors. The two properties that characterize all addictive stimuli are that they are reinforcing (i.e., they increase the likelihood that a person will seek repeated exposure to them) and intrinsically rewarding (i.e., something perceived as being positive or desirable)”.

As with most addictions, the hobby would not be considered an addiction for most as it is just another pleasurable activity. Only when it becomes compulsive and begins to interfere with everyday activities such as work, or health or relationships should it be considered an addiction. And often the person who is addicted is not even aware that it is causing problems for them self or others.

While most of us are aware of the physical nature of addictions to things like drugs, alcohol or cigarettes, it is also believed that one of the main mechanisms of addiction is that the activity alleviates or reduces stress. I know by now I have probably made many of your eyes glaze over, but hopefully I can show how this relates to the hobby.

You might be addicted if you paid $6000 for a single polyp of the Bounce Shroom

As noted above, one of the major contributing factors as to why something is addicting may be how stress-reducing it is. As has been documented since the hobby began, having an aquarium and simply sitting and watching the tank reduces stress. In the 80’s and 90’s numerous articles were published related to Aquarium Therapy, showing how blood pressure could be lowered simply by engaging in this activity once or more times a day. And while this may seem simplistic I know from first-hand experience that when I work in my tanks and sit and watch them I do feel more relaxed afterward.

However I will also note that when things are going badly in one of my tanks the converse is true – my blood pressure rises and I feel at least as stressed as when something is going wrong at work or with my family so that has to be taken into consideration. But since we have gotten so much better at being successful at this I would strongly suggest that for most us most of the time our tanks are a source of stress reduction.

You might be addicted to coral if you paid over $2000 for two polyps of zoanthid

However, this is only part of the reason that I feel that this hobby is so addicting. In addition to the definitions of addiction that were discussed above, one of the other fundamental aspects of addiction is what is called tolerance. Loosely defined tolerance occurs when it takes more and more of a substance or an activity to produce the same amount of pleasure as occurred originally.

This is why drug addicts require more and more of a drug or stronger more potent versions of it to get the same high. In this regard the hobby lends itself well to overcoming or reducing tolerance to getting pleasure from it. First tolerance is reduced by the ever expanding amount of new fish and corals that are coming into the hobby.

If you are bored and have developed tolerance about your Sunset fairy wrasse, then you can add a Rhomboids, and then an Earl’s and if that is not enough a Claire’s. By the same token in corals it is even easier to reduce tolerance from occurring. You can switch between coral groups, each going higher and higher in price, rareness and beauty to keep getting a buzz or you can stay within a group and still not get bored.


Over the past 8-10 years we have seen there be a “hot” group of named corals that for a year or so were the corals that you had to have in your tank. And finding them, getting them, keeping them and then propagating them became the rage and the thing to do. Watching this cycle occur and repeat itself again and again it became clear that apparently this process in and of itself was at least as pleasurable and stress reducing as is just having a successful tank.

Think about it, over that time we had a year or so of beautiful Montiporas, followed by Acans, then Favias, then Alimitededition_pinkfamewatermelon_colonyussie Acans, Aussie Acroporas, Aussie Euphyllias, and now Bounce Mushrooms. And at the same time more and more beautiful Acroporas and fish just in case these were still getting bored with the hobby also coming in. As a result of this constant influx of wildly new and beautiful corals coming into the hobby the likelihood of tolerance occurring been reduced.

There is also another aspect of tolerance in addiction that this hobby also lends itself well to reducing and that is context specific tolerance. This type of tolerance occurs when the physical stimuli in a situation cause the body to prepare to be stimulated and as a result just being in a particular situation reduces the pleasure that the addicting stimuli produces. This is why a lot of heroin and other drug overdoses occur in what are seemingly weird places.


They occur because the body prepares the user for the stimuli and increases their tolerance so that when these cues are not present a smaller amount of drug is necessary to produce the same effect. So as a result when they are not prepared they overdose. On the one hand going into the same shop and seeing the same fish can produce this kind of tolerance and as a result a shop we visit exclusively and often can lose its appeal over time for this reason.

However, this hobby reduces the likelihood for context specific tolerance in that there are now many ways to keep this type of tolerance from occurring. I remember in the early days of the hobby being in a shop when the boxes from a new shipment arrived and it felt like Christmas morning. Over time that diminished and I stopped being there when the shipments arrived.

Crowds of reefers gather at a ReefStock event trying to get their aquarium fix

However now it is possible and I have gotten the same feeling when I saw all the corals that were available from all the great vendors at the MACNAs, Reefaploozas, ReefStocks and other shows as well as while visiting Lou and Victor at WorldWide or Joe and Scott at Unique. But it has even spread wider in that this same sense can even occur when I find a new vendor online or even when some of the old vendors bring out some new corals that I had not seen before.

I also still get a little bit of a buzz simply by walking into a new shop whether it is local or one I encounter in my travels. Each of these venues provides a different context and as a result reduce the likelihood for context specific tolerance to occur, which again may lend itself to why the hobby is so addicting.

And this can also be the reason why ordering corals from different vendors all the time may be a means for further reducing tolerance. I have actually been assessing if this occurs when I try a new online vendor and to be honest I do sense myself getting excited when a box arrives from someone new or from someone who I have not bought from much.


Tolerance can be also be reduced, in a manner like I have done, by constantly adding more and bigger tanks to my collection. While I found my initial 55-gallon tank enjoyable over time the amount of pleasure I got from it waned so then a 120-gallon tank was added, then a 250, a 580 and eventually a 1200-gallon tank.

So in order to reduce my tolerance to the pleasure of the hobby I have kept adding more or bigger tanks. And I know I am not alone in that over the past few years I have watched countless other hobbyists and friends add bigger tanks to their homes as well. So the ability to add more and more successful tanks definitely reduces the likelihood of tolerance occurring and by the same token the level of success we now have also lessens the likelihood for withdrawal.

Withdrawal occurs when the pleasurable stimuli is withdrawn or removed and as a result the individual experiences the opposite effects of the enjoyable addiction. The usual stings of withdrawal are anxiety or anxiousness, irritability, restlessness, insomnia, poor concentration and even isolation and depression.

In regards to withdrawal I have seen an interesting phenomenon in regards to the hobby about it. During my time in the hobby I have seen a lot of individuals come and go in it. For many of those who left who were successful, they told me they did feel at least a small sense of loss and some of the symptoms described above when they were out of it and as a result came back. While those who were not successful, did not feel any of these symptoms and very few came back into the hobby, even though it has gotten significantly easier to be successful in the hobby.


While researching and writing this article I have become very much aware that I probably do have an addiction to this hobby. I actually realized it more the more as I read about addiction and the signs of it. Fortunately like many of us to date it has not become a major disruptive force in my life and I consider akin to having an addiction to exercise or playing video games.

And since reading up on it more I am trying harder to maintain self-control in terms of my spending both in terms of time and money. No one wants to or should get divorced as a result of this hobby, but it is possible. I think the first sign that things are better is that at the last MACNA I actually walked away without buying a single coral. It is the first time ever I have done that, and it wasn’t because there wasn’t incredible temptation.

Like most of us I work in a stressful area and life and the fast pace of it can be very stressful. As a result I look to my aquariums as a ready means for stress relief. And while I realize there is a fine line between being obsessive about my tanks and being addicted to them, I hopefully will do a better job of managing my passion for the hobby and my tanks better.

So since it is Valentine’s Day weekend I hope all of you have a significant other to be addicted to. I really do not think it is good to paraphrase the late great Robert Palmer that you might as well face it, you’re addicted to coral.


Reef Addict LLC


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This will be the logo for my business. I will be selling aquarium products, as well as saltwater fish and coral.

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Blue and grey. I'm really open on this.
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Top Ten Ways to Tell You're a Reef Addict...

10) You know you're a reef addict if you've nicknamed your reef "The Mistress."
fleetmarine79 of Orlando, FL.

9) You know you're a reef addict if you're reading and/or writing things for this list.
Wolverine of Livonia, MI

8) You know you're a reef addict if you go out and purchase bunk beds for your kids so that you can have one of their bedrooms for your fish room.
Jeff Makowski (makoshark) of Chicago, IL.

7) You know you're a reef addict if the local airport asks you to dim your tank lights for landing/takeoffs.
Dwayne Sapp of Minneapolis, MN - Land of the Frozen Reef.

6) You know you're a reef addict if you spend $1000+ on a camera specifically to take pictures of your reef.
musicsmaker of W. Virginia

5) You know you're a reef addict if while scuba diving in Cozumel, you find yourself rearranging coral heads into the Japanese style.
joeychitwood of The Great White North

4) You know you're a reef addict if you wish all saltwater shops had wedding registries.
icebear of the vast and frozen tundras of Maine...

3) You know you're a reef addict if one serving of the food you feed you're corals is nutritionally equivalent to ten of your own meals.
Newreeflady of south Florida.

2) You know you're a reef addict if you buy your wife Golden Pearls on your anniversary.
fins1 of Daytona Beach, Florida.

1) You know you're a reef addict if cohorts at work are sneaking peeks at internet porn, but you're sneaking peeks at Reefkeeping Magazine.

Reefkeeping's next Top Ten for May: Top Ten Newbie Mistakes... Our thanks go out to JohnL for suggesting the next topic!

Honorable mention goes out to the following members for submitting ten Top Ten reasons: newreeflady, _ShotgunShrimp_, and intekhab. Thanks folks!

Think you're funny? Send us an entry for the Top Ten Newbie Mistakes...

If you have questions, would like to suggest a future Top Ten topic or place an entry, visit our online forum.

SMOKED SPANISH MACKEREL Caught spearfishing up north Australia

I've got another set of photos I have of my hobby aquariums I've had over the years. This one, has a focus on the corals, plus a few fish which any reef has along side it, right?

This one is known as Frogspawn, one of my favorite corals, as its colors are just awesome and they move well in the water currents.

Note: Click to view large images

Salt water Reef

The frogspawn above, and many others are known as LPS (Large Polyp Stony) corals. They have larger fleshy polyps than those of the small polyp stony (SPS) coral so they flow in the water and in my experience, are more beautiful and easier to keep than SPS. There are some very tough to keep LPS corals as well, but I had good luck with the ones I kept and they grow a lot faster than SPS so I was able to spread them around my tank fairly quickly.

Another cool, LPS coral, this one is hammer coral, for the hammer shape on the ends.

Now, by contrast, here are a couple pics of small, just starting SPS, commonly called stoney corals.
Salt water Reef

Salt water Reef

Building my own Base Rock

I had researched and found out that it is possible to build your own base rock and considering the high cost to buy 'live' rock already encrusted with corals and algae, I wanted to build my own. These are built by mixing portland cement mixed with chiken scratch and formed by hand into all kinds of cool coral like shapes. I cured it in a water tub for several months with fresh flowing water to ensure all the chemicals had leached out of the cement.

Salt water Reef

I created these while reading and learning about the hobby, and made more once I had my first small tank running, as I knew in a few months I would want to upgrade to a big reef tank. I made about 100lbs of base rock with this method.
Salt water Reef

This is a store bought piece of 'live' rock you can see has lots of live on it. It essentially can be used to seed base rock, the algaes will spread and start growing on your own base rock if you have about 1-4 ratio of live to base rock.
Salt water Reef

The Criters

A Coral Beauty angel fish.
Salt water Reef

They are always picking at the algae and rock, which in this pic, shows its colors off nicely.
Salt water Reef

This coral started small like this piece and it grew like wildfire in my reefs. Its called GSP (green star polyp) and I actually put it on the glass walls at the end of my tank, where it grew to cover the entire end wall of the tank. A great coral, I had to constantly cut it back and trade or give extra to other hobbiest.

Salt water Reef

A nice yellow tang looking for a meal. You can see a small piece of live rock on my new 'and ugly white' base rock added, which it will spread to over time.

Salt water Reef

This cool animal is known as a plate coral, and it filter feeds at the bottom. Its attached to a hard plate shell, so doesn't move on its own really along the sand, but often gets shifted around by other critters.

Salt water Reef

Salt water Reef

Long Pollyp Leather
Salt water Reef

Yellow Pollyps, I had these spread very well around my tanks.
Salt water Reef

You can see here the base rock shown at the top, has all grown over and become encrusted with coraline algae, and you can't really tell the difference between the home made rock and the purchased live rock. It took about a year for this, but a reef does best to be built slowly anyway, just as in nature!

Now if only we were not destroying them as fast as we are.
Salt water Reef

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Addict reef


We made KFC fish burgers ! (The Secret Recipe) SPEARFISHING FOR FOOD 🐟🍔


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