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Published January 10 2013

Benshoof: Finding some tropical colors during the ‘blahs’ of January

FARGO – There’s no way around it – January is a “blah” time of the year.

It’s dark, cold and there’s just not much to look forward to in the weeks following the holiday season.

But the upcoming Fargo Frag Swap, set for Saturday at the Paradox Event Center in downtown Fargo comes at such an opportune time.

Hosted by the Red River Valley Reefers club, the event is for people who have, or are interested in starting, saltwater aquariums in their home.

Vendors at the event will have tropical fish and colorful coral available for purchase. The “frag” in the event’s title refers to the process of “fragmenting a coral for the captive propagation” from one aquarium to another, says event organizer Curtis Ness.

Though less exciting than, say, a pet you can play with, fish can be fun to own. I went through a fish phase in high school, with a large freshwater aquarium in my room.

I had trouble keeping it clean, though, and my fish would often die.

So in college I tried keeping a simple Betta fish. There, too, I had trouble keeping the bowl clean, and my fish would often die.

Rest in peace, Frank the Fish.

I can only imagine that a saltwater aquarium is significantly more difficult to operate, right?

Actually, Ness says, that’s not so.

“When it comes down to it, if you know the basics, it’s just fine,” he told me. “The typical saltwater aquarium, if you do it right, is self-maintaining.”

Aquarium additions like hermit crabs and snails help eat leftover food or algae, and in that way perform necessary cleaning duties, Ness says.

That’s not to say the whole thing isn’t easy to get going, of course. Ness estimates that getting started with an aquarium could cost upwards of $500.

But before you go out and purchase everything, Ness encourages people interested in the hobby to join a local club – members often have used equipment that’d be much cheaper to purchase.

However you go about it, adding a colorful saltwater aquarium can help brighten up your home, Ness thinks.

“Living here in North Dakota, we’re about as far away from coral and scuba-diving as you can get,” he says. “Having the reef aquarium in my living room, it gives me the sense of the tropical, and gives me a view into a world that I’ve never personally seen.”

Even so, a saltwater aquarium won’t completely replace a winter escape to the beaches of Florida. But, if nothing else, it’ll at least add some color – any color – to the dullest part of the year.

Sorry, January. I’m just not that into you.

If you go

What: Fargo Frag Swap 2013

When: Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday

Where: Paradox Event Center, 26 Roberts St. N., Fargo

Info: Admission is free; more info is available at www.facebook.com/FargoFragSwap, or by calling Curtis Ness at (218) 779-9691


Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535