Happy National Aquarium month! Celebrate at home with fun and educational reef friendly activities

Monique Myers and Carolynn Culver, California Sea Grant Extension Specialists

June is upon us, and with it comes ‘National Aquarium Month.’ To help celebrate the learning experiences provided by aquariums we’d like to take you on a virtual dive through the world of ‘reef friendly aquariums’.  

Be it a public or home aquarium or a digital, virtual aquarium; aquariums can be fun to observe and educational. You can use them as a teaching tool for topics ranging from biology of aquatic life, to physical and chemical water properties, and engineering of aquatic systems. Whether you already have an aquarium, want to start one, have interest in learning more about the aquarium trade and animals, or want to investigate the many intriguing virtual options, we invite you to visit the California Sea Grant website: Reef Friendly Aquariums.

Why “Reef Friendly?” 

The United States is the largest importer of saltwater aquarium animals with the majority coming into the country through Los Angeles, California. These aquarium pets are mostly wild-caught in Indonesia or the Philippines where unsustainable and/or destructive methods may have been used, causing harm to coral reef ecosystems – systems that support the world’s greatest variety of organisms. Many of these beautiful organisms require special care that people newer to the hobby may not be aware of or lack the necessary skills to provide. This can result in unwanted animals or needless mortality. By first learning about and then cultivating a reef friendly aquarium (or aquarium experiences) you can help protect natural reefs and the organisms they support. 

Dive in!

Here are a few links to explore as you begin your dive into Reef Friendly Aquariums:

Fun alternatives to saltwater aquariums. Keeping a saltwater tank can be fun but it isn’t easy! About half of those who try it leave the hobby within six months. There are alternatives, including virtual aquariums, that can be entertaining and help you determine if the hobby is right for you. These alternatives are easier, less time consuming and typically less expensive, yet still fun and enriching.

Freshwater tanks. About 90% of freshwater fish are raised in captivity -- as compared to only 10% of saltwater aquarium pets -- with little impact to natural habitats. They are often less expensive and easier to maintain, while also providing beautiful displays. Freshwater aquariums are a great place to begin learning about aquatic systems and obtaining the necessary skills for maintaining them. 

Green watchman goby

Keeping Aquarium Pets Healthy. Take time to choose your pets and set up an aquarium where they will thrive. Some important considerations include: animal size (full-grown), compatibility with other animals, behavior, and dietary needs. Here’s a list of species that are less difficult to maintain for beginning saltwater hobbyists. Even for those who already have tanks, these considerations may enhance your aquarium experience. 

Aquarium Pet SourcesHow were your fish collected or raised? While it can be difficult to acquire information about where aquarium animals come from, by asking questions you support transparency and reef friendly choices. Learn More

Your Reef Friendly Experiences. Share your reef friendly experiences and aquariums through social media. For example, post a picture of yourself with a virtual aquarium or your favorite reef friendly pet using #ReefFriendly.

Reef Friendly Aquariums Website. Please share our website with others! Also, let us know if your local pet store or aquarium might be interested in displaying our reef friendly handouts.


Enjoy your dive into the world of Reef Friendly Aquariums.


Green clownfish