Any aquarium hobbyists here?

I just bought a new one. I should say I'm only new to the hobby. I had to buy a new one sooner or later, as my fish are now too large for comfort, felt bad for poor Twitchy, hes a tinfoil barb, and he has a rather jumpy disposition. The new tank I bought came from Wal-mart, anyone have a tank they bought there? If so are you happy with the gear?
We've had a modest aquarium for quite a few years. Initially, we had a collection of neon tetras, angelfish, a few different kinds of algae eaters, etc.. We now have guppies. The population seems to vary between 10 and three hundred. The canibalistic little buggers..
Ultimately what I am working toward is a salt water tank, with all native species from Atlantic Canada.
Dexter Sinister
I've had a small tank for years, not because I'm particularly enamoured with fish, but because we have what the landscape designers and real estate sales people would no doubt glorify as a "water feature" in the back yard. It's actually just a little pond about a metre by half a metre. I get the cheapest possible little goldfish, like 10 for a dollar, and transfer them out to the pond for the warmer months so I don't have to worry about mosquito larvae hatching in it.
I have a 14 year old goldfish. I never named it. It lived in a big salad bowl for half of its life, with no
aerator, no decorative stones, no chintzy castle. I know you need more useful info than this noise,
but I can't resist bragging.
Ahhh, those cyprinids. Those things are so tough. My first experience with fish was when I was in grade one. We had a small tank with four goldfish, one for each member of our family, and one turtle. My brother and I argued ove rwhich ninja turtle to name it after. I wanted Raphael, my brother wanted Donatello. Unfortunately, we took him out of the tank to watch the Ninja Turtles with us one day. We forgot about him and when the show was over we couldn't find him. Our mother found him a few days later behind the refridgerator. Poor Raph....
The most important thing about aquariums is stability of the environment. The only reasonable way to achieve this is with a LARGE aquarium. The larger the aquarium, the greater the temperature stability, and the lesser the contamination of the environment by waste products (ammonia,nitrite,nitrate). So its always preferable to have as large of a tank as is feasible. For freshwater I wouldn't even bother with one less than 40 gallons. For saltwater I wouldn't bother with one at least 60-80 gallons. For a marine environment, water quality is much more important, especially if you want to have things like "live rock", corals, anemonies, etc. Therefore, it's recommended to use de-ionization filters to remove the hard metals from the tap water for filling the tank and doing partial water changes. They are expensive but they make a big difference. Or perhaps you can find de-ionized water sources somewhere. You need high wattage heaters to keep good temperature stability (don't skimp), and if you want to do corals you probably need a protein skimmer and 6500k bright lighting. Another idea is to put the lighting on a timer so the periods of light and dark resemble a daylight cycle. All life expects this, and its not natural otherwise. The idea of creating an environment for fish from Canada's waters sounds interesting and challenging. Have fun.
It will be a while yet before I can afford a large tank set-up,or have the room for that matter. I do have a pretty extensive knowledge of the water quality parameters involved with rearing fish (aquaculture major), what I really need to bone up on is the general maintenance of a marine tank. I haven't started looking at it just yet though, monetary reasons and such. I bought some fish from the pet store once, about a week after putting them in my tank I had an outbreak of Ichthyophthirius. Instead of buying the store brand dope, I took some formalin home from school. Since then I haven't gone back to that pet store, I also found out that the store recirculates all the water for all of the tanks through one pump. I didn't consider that when I bought the fish, for some reason I assumed that each tank, or at least each circuit of tanks would have it's own pump. Lesson learned.

My concern is that for the marine tank down the road some time, it may be difficult to procure some of the species I'd like to have.
Regarding maintenance ... At least with a large tank, my experience was that after some time, perhaps 3-4 months, the environment becomes very stable on its own. This was 80 gallons, it used mostly natural filtering with "bioballs" in a connected section at the back of the tank. It's important to have some means of moving the water around for good oxygen exchange, I used those powerhead type pumps.

The only real maintenance was regular partial water changes (mandatory as salinity increases when water evaporates), cleaning the glass, and periodic water tests. As I said mine was very stable, but that has a lot to do with the volume of water. Marine tanks are not as complicated as people tend to think, they just need a bit more attention. As long as partial water changes are done regularly there's not much to worry about.

They can be an entirely different experience from freshwater. For example, I got a bunch of this "live rock", it's basically old coral rocks that are full of life. It is very porous and many things live in the rock. In fact, almost every time I looked in the tank I saw some new life that I never saw before. One day a big crab crawled out of the rock that I didn't even know I had. I also had cleaner shrimp breed and there was hundreds of them. One thing I NEVER could get to live is anenomies. After several tries, my belief is that these shouldn't be taken out of nature, they should be left alone. They simply don't survive in aquariums long term. In fact I think there should be bans on removing anenomies from nature.
I have seen some anemones that live in symbiosis with some species of hermit crab. My friends who have marine aquaria have the same problem with anemones.