Friday, December 28, 2007

R.I.P. Sir Shrimps-A-lot

Sir Shrimps-A-Lot (a.k.a. #2) was the second addition to my tank after getting into the marine aquarium hobby. I remember being angry when he'd traipse over my zoos, closing them up. Now I would give anything to see him step on a single polyp. Rest In Peace, my friend...

Sir Shrimps-A-Lot

April 15 2007 - December 28 2007

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Doctor Is In: Q&A with Ronald L. Shimek, Ph. D

Marine Depot: For readers of our blog who aren’t yet familiar with your forum or blog, tell us a little about yourself and your involvement (past/present) in the aquarium hobby.

Ronald L. Shimek, Ph. D.: I am invertebrate zoologist/marine ecologist who has kept marine animals in aquaria since the invention of water. My scientific work has been mostly with animals that live in soft-sediments (muds or sands) and often in the deep seas, although I have worked in pretty much all marine environments. I have close to 30 peer-reviewed scientific publications, the latest in 2007.

I started keeping marine aquaria in my home in the late 1980s and have had “reef” aquaria ever since. I have been answering questions online since 1994, when I was one of the moderators of the old “Compuserve” Fishnet. Since then, I have been online more or less continuously ever since, and my career has turned from deep sea researcher to “aquarium consultant.” I still teach though, both online (through my forums- which have been well supported by MD, I must add!!) and at universities.

I have written 2 books, and 3 pamphlets for the marine hobby, and maybe about 120 articles in just about every venue.

  • Shimek, R. L. 1999. The Coral Reef Aquarium, An Owner’s Guide to A Happy Healthy Fish. Howell Book House. New York. 126 pp. ISBN: 1-58245-117-6
  • Shimek, R. L. 2004. Marine Invertebrates. 500+ Essential –To-Know Aquarium Species. T. F. H. Publications. Neptune City, New Jersey. 448 pp. ISBN: 1-890087-66-

Pamphlets Published:

  • Shimek, R. L. 2001. Host Sea Anemone Secrets. A Guide to the Successful Husbandry of Indo-Pacific Clownfish Host Sea Anemones. Marc Weiss Companies, Inc. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. 24 pp. ISBN: 0-9664549-5-2
  • Shimek, R. L. 2001. Sand Bed Secrets. The Common-Sense Way to Biological Filtration. Marc Weiss Companies, Inc. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. 36 pp. ISBN: 0-9664549-6-0
  • Shimek, R. L. 2001. How to Get There from Here... Hints and Techniques to Make Reef Keeping Easier. Marc Weiss Companies, Inc. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. 32 pp. ISBN: 0-9664549-7-9
MD: What do you feel are the 3 biggest innovations to hit the aquarium hobby since your humble beginnings at age 12?


  1. Keeping organisms in a more natural environmental setting (with all aspects of an “ecosystem” – sand bed, rock, water, etc.
  2. Good foam filtration as a means to remove some of the organic problem chemicals.
  3. One or two good salt mix formulations.
MD: What advancements in the hobby do you foresee being introduced in, say, the next 5-10 years? What products/solutions do you see (or want to see) push the boundaries of what is currently possible?

Possibly better salt mixes; most of the present brands leave a lot to be desired. Hopefully, a reduction in the use of unnecessary and toxic additives. We will need to start to breed animals, otherwise we will see the beginning of the end of the hobby within 10 years as coral reefs start to fade out all over the world.

This breeding will only be feasible with better salts, and with reduction in the use of toxic additives.

MD: Share with us one of Montana’s best kept secrets or local legends (sorry, we don’t get out much).

RLS: Jackalopes. And it is a truly nice place to live.

MD: (starting egg timer) Quick, name your top five favorite inverts!

Any of the scaphopoda, but particularly my old friends Pulsellum salishorum, and Antalis pretiosum. Also, the venomous snails: Oenopota levidensis, and Ophiodermella inermis And finally the sea pen: Ptilosarcus gurneyi.

From aquaria...
Stomatella varia; Sabellastarte magnifica, Eunice species; Scleronephthya species; Fungia fungites.

MD: What’s the good doctor got planned for 2008? (so we can clear our calendars!)

RLS: I will turn 60, given that age, I hope to live through the year! I will be at the IMAC; don't know about MACNA (they haven't really asked). I am doing research on feeding in gorgonians in reef tanks and will present those data. Also I hope to do some online teaching through the MD forums; possibly on sand beds, and invertebrate biology.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Clownfish off hook as fishermen fight global warming

- Clownfish made famous by the Disney film Finding Nemo are to be left alone by fishermen after their Great Barrier Reef habitat was devastated by coral bleaching, a phenomenon associated with global warming.

The fish, which are found in numerous colours but most often are orange with white stripes, depend on anemones - fish-eating animals with poisonous tentacles.

hey eat morsels of fish left by the anemones, and are protected by them.

In return, clownfish protect anemones and clean them by eating dead tentacles.

The clownfish are popular with aquariums, particularly since the film.

But in one area of the reef, near Keppel Island in north Queensland, commercial operators have voluntarily agreed not to catch the fish or their host anemones.

Several episodes of coral bleaching have reduced the number of anemones and the fish that depend on them.

That is bad news for the tourism industry, as snorkellers and divers at the Great Barrier Reef hope to see the clownfish underwater.

The agreement was reached between operators and the Barrier Reef authority, as a step towards allowing the reef to regenerate.

Lyle Squire, a commercial fisherman and industry representative, told The Australian newspaper: "We recognise the importance of these fish to the tourism industry.

"People come from all over the world to snorkel the Keppels, so we are happy to exercise our stewardship and stop taking clownfish from those reefs."

Mr Squire, whose family has run aquariums in Cairns for many years, said the voluntary moratorium was a precautionary measure to allow the clownfish's habitat to recover from bleaching.

Coral bleaching is associated with climate change and warmer sea temperatures.

"There is a real worry that they [clownfish] will become less common on the reef, and that will be a tragedy not just for us, but for all users of the reef," he said.

The agreement was welcomed by the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries.

A spokeswoman described it as "an important step towards effective co-management of this small but economically viable fishery."

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said the moratorium would help to protect the reef, which is considered to be under serious threat from global warming and coral bleaching.

"Such an initiative is probably a world first in addressing this growing problem," it said.

— Courtesy of The
New Zealand Herald

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Motion in the Ocean

In the marine aquarium, one of the most difficult yet rewarding tasks is by far achieving and providing proper flow and oscillation rates for your marine inhabitants.

I have yet to come across one person who has not been drawn by the mesmerizing beauty of a coral reef as it sways back in forth in an aquarium that one has created.

There are typically 11 different types of zones, which entail specific corals for each zone. Corals often have a preference for one area of the reef over another; these zones are rather consistent throughout the world.

To keep this article from becoming a novel, I recommend you take a look at each zone and specifics by referencing to a few links that will be provided below at the end of this article.

Usually it is wise for the hobbyist to study up on the corals which they are trying to keep. Key components to learn about are there placement, flow requirements, and overall demands to thrive and stay healthy; a great book for this is a book by Julian Sprung which is a book on Corals.

These factors are crucial for sustaining corals in a small or large aquarium, as many corals are not compatible in confined areas.

Zones are characterized by the structure and geography of a specific area as well as the surrounding elements influencing that particular area which create the conditions for the inhabitants below.In these Zones, there is one key component that makes and characterizes a zone in particular; which is the focus of this article, flow and oscillation rates.Flow and Oscillation rates not only affect the inhabitants which are native to that specific area, but the species in these zones actually depend on these types of flow for feeding, reproduction, and overall health.

There are many types of power heads and wave makers which will allow you as the hobbyist to recreate these natural environments in your home aquarium.

By providing optimal flow rates and oscillation rates, you will not only provide your inhabitants with the natural conditions which they are adapted to, but you will also be able to watch your system flourish and grow right in front of your eyes, from the new introduction of flow.

Most marine aquariums actually have greater issues with algae due to the fact that they ultimately lack sufficient flow rates, which in return creates sub biotopes that actually harness and absorb excessive nutrients. These excessive waste factories accumulate to abnormally high levels which most hobbyist are unable to keep up with.
These conditions are perfect for breeding nauseous algae’s to flourish and thrive.

If you have blooms of algae, such as Bryopsis sp., Valonia sp., Dictyota sp., Gelidium sp. , and many others, this is a good sign that you have excessive nutrients that allow these nauseous algae’s to flourish. Excessive nutrients go hand in hand with low to bad flow rates.

Tunze offers a great series of power heads that are fully controllable, to simulate even the most turbulent conditions if necessary.

These pumps are specifically designed to re create water circulation in aquariums, as well as the most realistic currents and flow rates possible.

Tunze offers many different sizes for each specific application, which will accomplish and conquer even the largest of aquariums which one hobbyist may acquire.

Their pumps range from 264 GPH all the way up to 7,925 GPH; from the smallest of there Nano series the 6025, 6045, and the controllable 6055 all the way up to there Turbelle series which go as high as 6301.

Hand and hand with the fully functional controller, the user will be able to recreate variables and flow rates in the reef, which were once impossible.

If the pumps alone were'nt enough, Tunze offers a fully functional and controllable Wave Box 6212. This wave box is most suitable for aquariums over 100 Gallons, and it will allow the hobbyist, to re create the most realistic conditions possible, while creating a tremendous amount of water movement.

The oscillation principle through the Wave Controller 6091, will allow you to create a wash effect through even the most confined and lowest flow areas in your marine aquarium.With this great amount of flow and low amount of electrical usage the user will be able to rid themselves from these sub biotopes and nauseous algae’s, and allow for your corals and fish to thrive at a fraction of the cost.

With ample hardware and support, there is no reason why your reef should be suffering from a lack of flow. Tunze will deliver when others fail.

If you have algae and your feel that you are lacking flow, than Tunze is the answer to your problems. These well designed and very efficient power heads will not only rid your tank from debirs and detritus, they will offer you the life like simulation, that we as hobbyist are all trying to accomplish, in our own personal slice of the reef.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A love letter from FAMA

Clay Jackson’s editor’s note in the February 2008 issue of FAMA has got us feeling all sentimental.

Really a love letter to the hobby itself, Clay relays his experiences participating in a recent Southern California Marine Aquarium Society meeting at an IHOP in Santa Ana, California. Several Marine Depot staffers were in attendance that evening as well.

What really struck us about Jackson’s article was his sincerity. He specifically outlines how FAMA intends to continue supporting the aquarium hobbyist. The following is an excerpt from his note, which you can read in its entirety here.

  1. Attending important national shows (ACA, IMAC, MACNA, etc.).
  2. Looking for opportunities to attend local shows and local society meetings whenever possible.
  3. Continuing a public discourse with hobbyists, wherever they might be, and asking them what they’d like to see in these pages.

Jackson invites club members to contact him directly if they want to share any interesting goings-on within their club or to pitch story ideas. This kind of one-to-one relationship with readers/reefers strengthens the hobby community as a whole and brings us all closer together.

We feel a bit like Seth in Superbad: we just wanna go to the rooftops and scream how much we love FAMA.

Too bad Human Resources nixed that idea.

Monday, December 17, 2007

It’s beginning to look a lot like fishmas

On December 2, the marketing guys and I met at the Aquarium of the Pacific for the Holiday Treats for the Animals event.

The animals all received special holiday treats, there were arts & crafts for the kids along with an elf magician, festive carolers, story-telling and even (artificial) snow!

If you’re not from SoCal, you may be unfamiliar with the Aquarium of the Pacific. Thank goodness for Wikipedia:

The aquarium was designed as a joint venture of Hellmuth, Obata and Kassanbaum and Esherick, Homsey, Dodge and Davis. Construction began in 1995 and the 156,735 square foot (14,560 m³) aquarium opened in 1998. Since the aquarium is built on a site created through land reclamation in an area prone to earthquakes the facility is built on top of 1,800 cement pilings which each extend 85 feet into the ground and are surrounded by gravel. The facility filters about 900,000 gallons (3.4 million liters) of salt water per hour, the capacity of all the exhibits totals about 1,100,000 gallons (4.2 million liters). Courtesy of the Aquarium of the Pacific website
As you enter the aquarium, your eyes are immediately drawn to the life-sized model blue whale suspended from the building’s vaulted ceiling. The literature they supply you with informs you that the model whale is a female.

I wondered if she had a name.

Venturing further into the Great Hall of the Pacific, there is a windowed pane to your right that provides a sneak-peek at a later exhibit, the Tropical Pacific Gallery.

It was here that the marketing dudes and I realized we had finally become true fish geeks. Peering into the Tropical Pacific Preview, we excitedly exchanged glances before shouting out the names of every fish we could identify.

Three Spot Damselfish!” “Blue-Green Chromis!” “Foxface Rabbitfish!”

I don’t think the three of us had ever relished in our own nerdiness so much.

Just ahead, in front of the Blue Cavern—modeled after a kelp forest along the north-eastern coast of Catalina Island—was the holiday penguin show … ending.


At least we got to snap a few photos of the little guys before they waddled away.

Outside in Explorers Cove is an enclosure dubbed the Lorikeet Forest. Lorikeets are small to medium-sized arboreal parrots with beautiful plumage and playful personalities.

The “Lorikeets Hunger Meter” outside the enclosure indicated our feathered friends were indeed hungry, so we each bought a cup of nectar and entered the habitat.

Ignoring the stop sign shaped “We Bite” signpost, Brian began hopping from one leg to the other, mirroring the Lorikeet in front of him. Jeff and I were pretty amused with Brian and the bird’s stomping of the yard, but the volunteer on duty was not so impressed. She warned us that the bird was protecting its nest and at any moment would claw Brian’s face.

We decided it was time to move on.

The Shark Lagoon is easily one of the more popular areas of the Aquarium of the Pacific. It was here we learned that sharks are one of the ocean’s most mysterious and misunderstood predators. While that was fascinating, we were a bit more intrigued by the aquarium’s “two finger” method.

In select exhibits, like the Shark Lagoon and Ray Touchpool, you can freely touch the animals under the guise that you utilize the “two finger” method. This, of course, is for the safety of the animals; hundreds of visitors grabbing and scratching at their delicate skin would otherwise take its toll.

I believe our befuddlement was regarding how the aquarium staff came to the determination that two fingers, as opposed to say, one or three, would spare the animals from human harm.

Best to leave those decisions to the experts, I suppose.

“Scuba Santa” made his special guest appearance just as we were making our way into the Tropical Pacific Gallery. Donning a Santa-inspired wetsuit, the diver swam around, pausing occasionally to pose for pictures as he told kids of all ages who his favorite aquarium inhabitants are.

All in all, it was a great aquarist outing and we offer our sincere thanks to the Aquarium of the Pacific for inviting us out.

If you’re interested in visiting the Aquarium of the Pacific, click here to plan your visit.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Warming seas, disease take toll on coral reefs

John Bruno isn't attending the U.N. climate talks being held in Bali, Indonesia, but he does have some advice for any delegates looking to take in the resort's famed reefs: enjoy it now, because if sea temperatures continue to rise, expect to see more — and more severe — disease outbreaks that wipe out corals.

Bruno has the credentials to back up his advice. A marine biologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he co-authored two 2007 studies on rapid coral decline and on a link between coral disease and global warming.

One study found that coral coverage in the Indo-Pacific — an area stretching from Indonesia’s Sumatra island to French Polynesia — dropped 20 percent in the past two decades. That rate is much higher than Bruno's team had expected.

Read more on MSNBC...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Researchers find new deep water coral

HONOLULU - Researchers have discovered what they believe is a new deep water coral and sponge beds found several thousands of feet below the ocean surface, officials said Monday.

The a lemon-yellow bamboo coral tree and a giant sponge were discovered last month in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument by the Pisces V submersible operated by the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL).

Samples of the corals and sponges were collected for taxonomic identification and DNA analysis. They were found in depth from 3,000 to 6,000 feet.

Christopher Kelley, the principal investigator of the project, said the monument is potentially protecting so many new species and new records of species that many will not be revealed for decades to come.

The vast national monument, nearly 100 times larger than Yosemite National Park, was created by President Bush last year out of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, which stretch out 1,000 miles from the main Hawaiian Islands.

"Most of the monument is below scuba diving depths," said Randy Kosaki, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research coordinator for the monument. "It's important to find ways to explore these deep water ecosystems where the inhabitants are virtually unknown."

Researchers returned from their 22-day expedition on Nov. 19.

HURL was established by NOAA and the University of Hawaii to study deep water marine processes in the Pacific Ocean.

Courtesy of Yahoo! News

Coral reef sustainability on forum agenda

The University of Queensland is hosting an international forum this week to develop policies to sustain the world's coral reefs.

The forum, which is sponsored by the Coral Reef Targeted Research Program, is expected to attract leading scientists and more than 50 postgraduate and postdoctoral students from 20 countries.

Professor Roberto Iglesias-Prieto from the National University of Mexico says while the future of the planet's reefs is bleak, Australian reefs are among the healthiest he has seen.

"The reefs in the Great Barrier Reef are in much better shape because the threats, the direct human activities are not necessarily damaging the reef right now," he said.

"But the global threats are evident here as in Mexico, climate change is already been seen in the Great Barrier Reef and of course all over the world."

— Courtesy of Yahoo! News

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Saltwater, Freshwater and Pond Glossary

Even though my family's kept freshwater tanks as long as I can remember, I've only been into the saltwater hobby for six months.

Fortunately for me, I work with a team of experts.

Unfortunately for me, their job is to help customers. Which, of course, I find vexing whenever I have a question (I have about three per day, although I try to limit it to one).

So what's a hobbyist to do?

One resource I find useful is our own Education Center. Whenever our customer service peeps get asked the same question over and over, they will post the answer in our Frequently Asked Questions section.

Which is great since I frequently ask frequently asked questions.

Often I find myself stumbling over aquarium lingo in general. That's why I love the Saltwater, Freshwater and Pond Glossary ... it saves me from asking questions within questions. Otherwise it can be frustrating when someone's explaining how to solve a problem and you don't even understand the vocab they're using!

What sites do you frequent for quick answers to common questions?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Just say Pro

Prodibio is revolutionizing the way hobbyists use aquarium additives.

I was manually drip-drip-dripping a handful of different supplements into my aquarium straight from their bottles; some daily, some weekly.

Everything in the tank seemed okay, but that was also the problem … everything was just okay.

So, not long after Reef-a-Palooza convened in August, I replaced my many bottled concoctions with a single box of Prodibio’s Biokit Reef.

The results?

The tank has undergone a veritable rebirth since the Probibio regimen began three months ago.

Every type of coral in the tank, notably the montipora and candy corals, have measurably grown. I credit Prodibo for saving my star polyps. The colors of each coral are more vibrant, the water is clearer and the algae bloom on one side of the tank has subsided.

I decided to ask Nicolas Tiliacos, President and General Manager of Prodibio, what mysterious secrets were contained within Prodibio’s glass ampoules. The following is a transcript of our conversation.

Marine Depot: Who are the masterminds behind Prodibio and how long has the company been developing aquaculture products?

Nicolas Tiliacos: The Prodibio team is comprised of seven collaborators; three shareholders and four scientists. Of the latter group, we have a doctor of biochemistry, a doctor of organic chemistry, a retired chemist with a deep passion for aquariums and, lastly, a reef and fish keeping technician.

This year we’re celebrating 10 years of service to freshwater and marine tanks all over the world.

MD: Prodibio is headquartered in France. Is the aquarium hobby as popular in Europe as it is in the United States?

NT: The aquarium hobby is popular in Germany, France, Italy and Spain. The freshwater aquarium market in Europe is more developed than in the US. American hobbyists seem to prefer saltwater tanks. However, more European hobbyists are becoming interested in saltwater tanks every day. It will be awesome when American hobbyists discover the beauty and intrigue of freshwater planted tanks.

MD: How much testing goes into a Prodibio product before it hits store shelves? What kind of environments do you test products in and how you do you determine their effectiveness?

NT: Our research & development department works with universities in France and Greece, private companies, public laboratories working in aquaculture and the environment as well as public aquariums whose staffs consist of a variety of scientists, veterinarians and technicians.

In September, Prodibio forged a relationship with a new public aquarium in Montpellier, France to treat 2.700.000 liters of marine water. We’ve furnished products for acclimatization of fishes—from clownfish to sharks—and are pleased to report no loss of life when Stop Ammo and Bio Digest were used.

The research & development, test and production phases take from one to two years depending on the product. We begin testing in our freshwater and marine tanks as well as the university laboratory aquariums once the formula is complete. This helps us determine and quantify a lot of the parameters, such as the evolution of water quality, the weight taken by each fish and the color of the corals.

We have a vast network of collaborators/hobbyists who use the product in their own conditions and provide us with detailed feedback. It is only after all of these steps are taken that we attempt to sell our products on store shelves.

MD: What made Probibio decide to encapsulate their formulas inside glass ampoules rather than selling them in plastic bottles?

NT: The practice of using glass vials is prevalent in France within the pharmaceutical industry. This type of packaging protects products against oxidation, pathogenic microorganisms and degradation.

Plastic material is not impermeable to the oxygen in the air and thus permits exchanges between the sealed product and the external environment, particularly bacteria and iodine.

Take bottled aquarium products, for example. When you purchase the bottle, it is sealed. Once you open it, oxygen rushes in and contributes to the awakening of bacteria. Since your wife probably doesn’t let you store your bottled aquarium products in the same fridge as your food, its composition begins to change.

After a while, you don’t even really know what you’re putting into your tank because the additive/supplement has changed so much.

Prodibio’s vial system is different: our products will always be fresh, whenever you need them. Prodibio compounds are further optimized during packaging. They are sealed in a modified atmosphere with argon or nitrogen so the product itself is not exposed to oxygen in the air.

In an effort to perfect our packing and facilitate the use by hobbyists, we’ve included a small rubber tube in each box of Prodibio so the user does not cut a finger when breaking open one of the ampoules.

MD: What mix of Prodibio products would you recommend to a hobbyist with a reef aquarium? How soon might they begin to see the benefits of Prodibio?

NT: We recommend using a combination of Bio Digest, Bioptim and Reef Booster. Iodi+ and Stronti+ are similar to like-minded products already on the market. The advantage of using ours is that you will know exactly how much iodine and strontium you add to the tank plus peace of mind that the compounds have not degraded.

MD: What is Bio Digest? How does it work? What are the benefits of using Bio Digest?

NT: Big Digest is a high biotechnology product with an extreme concentration of bacterial extract with two essential components: concentrated anti-nitrites and a biological cleaner.

Bio Digest is composed of nitrifying, denitrifying and facultative bacterial strains selected for their capacity to transform the ammonia into nitrites, the nitrites into nitrates and nitrates into nitrogen.

The biological filtration is rapidly set up by nitrifying bacteria: Nitrosomonas europea and Nitrobacter winogradskyi. The cleaning of the organic waste digestion is favored by the presence of more than 15 strains, in optimal proportions, of heterotrophics bacteria including Paracoccus dénitrificans and Pseudomonas stuzerii.

These bacteria work as a team; each strain ending the work begun by another. Some are capable of synthesizing the denitrifying enzymes in aerobic. It insures the purification, the reduction of nitrates, phosphates and prevention and the growth of algae.

Bio Digest is particularly efficient the 2 weeks that follow its application. Bacterial multiplication speeds allowing the tank to preserve these optimal purification proportions 15 days.

MD: Hobbyists in the United States are mainly using Bio Digest and Bioptim. Is the use of one dependent on the other (must they be used together)?

NT: You may use them separately, but we recommend using them together to yield the best results. Hobbyists will appreciate how quickly their tanks improve by using the products in synergy.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Holiday Treats for the Animals

Marine Depot is visiting the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach on December 2 to celebrate the season during the Holiday Treats for the Animals event.

Would you like to join us? Here's more info from their website.

In celebration of the holiday season, Scuba Santa will be delivering an ocean of gifts to the Aquarium of the Pacific’s sea otters, seals, sea lions, birds, fish, and other animals.

Guests can see Scuba Santa dive with sharks and watch the Aquarium’s animals receive their special treats and enrichment gifts during the Holiday Treats for the Animals weekend. Families can enjoy holiday music, crafts, special presentations, unique photo opportunities, shopping, and more. The Seal and Sea Lion Habitat will be decked out for the “sea”son with frozen “fishmas” treats. Guests can watch the sea otters savor candy cane-shaped ice treats, gourmet lobster tails, and their very own snowman. Throughout the day Aquarium staff will give special gift delicacies to other marine animals as well.
Festival activities are FREE with general admission. The festivities kick off @ 9 AM and will conclude @ 5 PM PST.

Hope to see you there!

The Reefers' Wish List

Happy Holidays, hobbyists!

We've chosen 10 best sellers (in honor of our 10-year anniversary) from our huge selection to create a holiday gift guide of sure-fire hits.

Maybe it will inspire you to create your own wish list using the Email to a Friend functionality in our online shopping cart.

Click here to check out The Reefers' Wish List or here to learn more about our Email to a Friend feature.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Star Clownfish

The marketing department recently lost one of our two clownfish.

I say "lost" because we searched high and low for her carcass but came up empty-handed (literally).

Our remaining clownfish eventually healed from the stress and disease plaguing our tank and emerged a different fish.

The first noticeably different change is new, darker coloring around the spinous dorsal. The second, more interesting, change we've observed is that he's seemed to have chosen the star polyps in our sand bed as a host.

We had an anemone in the tank before that the clowns didn't take to and later acquired some frogspawn they were not particularly fond of either.

I wonder if, in the absence of the "alpha" clown, this little guy felt he needed a host to be safe.

Any thoughts?

Attack of the Giant Sea Scorpions!

For a second there, you might've thought this was a review about some long-lost sci-fi film from the 50s.

Well, think again.

British scientists announced on Tuesday that they've discovered a fossil claw in Germany belonging to the biggest bug ever known.

Yahoo! News picked up the story by way of the Associated Press and have a short film clip to accompany the article. Not to be outdone, National Geographic ran their own version of the story; both were released November 21.

In case you were wondering (or worried), we don't mention marine stories such as this in our blog because we've run out of ideas for fresh content.

We just figure you're probably interested in the same stuff we are, so we figure it doesn't hurt to provide a link. It's good to think outside the box (or aquarium, as it were) once in a while.

Monday, November 12, 2007 T-shirts

One of our favorite blogs, 120 Gallons, is giving away T-shirts to reefers who call into their radio show/podcast.

Of course, you could always buy one from us ... but scoring one for free is even better!

The 120 Gallons podcast is recorded on select Sundays at 8 PM EST. In the latest edition, 120 Gallons speaks with the owner of Pro Aquatic Services Company and Marine Depot forum moderator, Steven Pro.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Having a Ball: Non-profit organization builds undersea habitats

The Wall Street Journal printed an article on October 26 entitled, "From Balls of Concrete to Habitats for Sea Life: 'Designer Reefs' Proliferate As a Tool to Counter the Toll of Pollutants, Overfishing."

Our staff was moved by the story and wanted to learn more.

We got in touch with the chairman of the Reef Ball Foundation, Todd R. Barber, just before he left for Cancun to work on another project. The following is a transcript of our conversation, covering everything from reef balls to reef tanks. All photos are used with the permission of

Marine Depot: For readers who may not be familiar with your foundation, what exactly is a reef ball and what is the purpose of your organization?

Todd R. Barber, Chairman, Reef Ball Foundation: The Reef Ball Foundation is a 501(c) 3 publicly supported non-profit and international environmental NGO. Our mission is to rehabilitate our world's ocean reef ecosystems and to protect our natural reef systems using Reef Ball artificial reef technologies. Reef Balls are artificial reef modules placed in the ocean to form reef habitat.

MD: What were your your inspirations for taking action? Were you always eco-friendly, or were there events that trigged a greater environmental awareness?

TRB: It is definitely an awareness that has built up over a lifetime. It started with learning to Scuba Dive when I was 14 years old in the Cayman Islands in 1976. Repeated family vacations there got me into the underwater photography hobby and I used to take pictures every trip of this tiny little coral head of the beach of the Cayman Kai resort...I knew every creature that visited it or lived on it. When I started college in 1981, my mother started a dive shop and by then I was deeply into the marine aquarium hobby to satisfy my hunger for being underwater and to keep a glimpse of that tiny coral reef in the Caymans in my mind. Soon, I came to understand much of the interaction of all the marine life. My father built amusement rides and was an inventor so I always had a tinkering side to my personality and an intense desire to understand things.

During my college years, frequent road trips for diving in the Florida Keys also meant collection of critters for my (by then multiple) aquariums. I started getting a sense of guilt that the fish and corals I brought back would eventually end up dead. So, I started tinkering with my tanks to make them keep the marine life alive longer....with my goal being as long as they lived in the sea. Well, in 1982 we did not exactly have the reef tanks of today. Albert Thiel had written a book on the subject and Martin Moe was working out breeding of clownfish but we didn't really know all the requirements for keeping live corals and true reef tanks. I stumbled—somewhat accidently—on a combination in my tanks that worked including a 5-foot-tall protein skimmer run off of an oxygen concentrator a friend had left over from a medical supply business and 500 watt metal halide lamps meant for outdoor amusement park lighting (which by the way, required me to use a dorm refrigerator plumbed with hundreds of feet of plastic tubing to keep from over heating the tank).

Well, to make a long story short, I was getting obsessed with the health of the reef and was learning a great deal about what can go wrong on a reef (and how fast that can happen). Fast forward to 1988 and I was taking a rental sailboat from Ft. Lauderdale to Bimini, Bahamas with my family for spring break. I think it was one too many beers at a Ft. Lauderdaleake the crossing despite bad seas. Turned out Hurricane Gilbert (a Cat. 5 storm) was churning up the Caribbean and throwing waves my way. 18 hours later—having had a near death experience—I knew I wanted to do something with my life to make a lasting difference.

On my next trip to the Caymans something horrific happened: Gilbert, which almost took my life, also took away my little tiny reef head in the Caymans I photographed every year. By now it was 1991 and for the most part there was nothing to build reefs out of except tires and ships and to me that was not a reef. There would have been no way to get anything big in there anyway because it was only 6 feet deep and behind the reef line so even getting there by boat was almost impossible.

So, over a cocktail my father and I had the crazy idea to coat a beach ball with concrete covered in rocks and reef-like stuff and rolling it into the water, floating it to the reef site, and then popping the beach ball to sink it creating a new reef for "my friends" that lost their home. In 1993, a chance meeting with the head of Florida's artificial reef program on an airplane gave me the opportunity to test this idea in the sea and slowly the concept of Reef Balls became formed. In 1994, I quit my full time job as a management consultant and invested every penny I had into my dream and now we are the world's leading artificial reef producer with over 3,245 documented projects in 59 countries! [as of this interview]

MD: What was the marine aquarium hobby like in the early 80s? How did you acquire the equipment and livestock at the time? Do you have a tank today?

TRB: Back in 1981, it was a very exciting time for hobbyists...we
were just figuring out all the trace elements, ORP levels, nutrition, lighting, and calcium levels required to have true reef tanks supporting live rock and corals. There was not much written on reef systems, so any hobbyist could basically be a full expert on the subject with a few months of reading. We didn't realize back then that the hobby was not always sustainable in our collection efforts so fish and "standard" aquarium stock were cheap. Corals were rare, they were pretty much special order or you had to collect them yourself but since CITES and other import restrictions were not in place (or enforced) it was not unusual to bring back a fish or two from every exotic tropical vacation. If you wanted to build a reef aquarium, you pretty much had to scour industrial catalogs for yourself and build equipment yourself. Although we made some pretty impressive stuff back could identify most of us by the stained carpets and salt creep from catastrophic tank leaks or failures. Even though fish were cheap...the hobby was not. We had to spend thousands to locate suitable equipment and adapt it for our purposes.

A few of us were more enlightened as were lucky enough to be divers too and to understand the systems. These lead to major advances such as refusia tanks, red mangrove filtration, and reverse daylight photosynthesis. And fortunately, the world stated getting enlightened environmentally too starting around the early 90s. We started supporting tank raised fish and propagated corals. We are still not there yet....I have proposed one simple law that I think will eventually solve the crisis with livestock sustainability. I propose that once 3 independent businesses can supply any marine animal to the trade from captive breeding (or if you wanted to be more liberal larval raised) that we should ban the collection or import of that species. Quite simply, market forces would then balance the trade to sustainability....even in the wild caught species as there would be more reward for commercial folks to "crack the code" on valuable stocks.

I have recently moved from my waterfront house in Sarasota, Florida to Greenville NC and took down my last tanks for the move donating the corals I grew to the Tampa Pier aquarium. I am currently not in the hobby and will wait to take it up again when I move back to Florida in a few years (And I just have to admit to being too lazy to mix saltwater anymore after having an ocean intake system set up in Florida!). But of course with my job I still get to see more marine life than I could ever host in a tank.

MD: So what's next for Reef Ball?

TRB: We are focusing on a number of new initiatives. Our Mangrove Solutions division ( is doing very well...we just published a paper on fertilizer release rates using plaster/concrete disks and slow release fertilizer that is reef safe which is exciting. We are also developing new technology for creating oyster reefs and I believe we will spin that technology off as a new division too. We have seen exponential growth in our erosion control division that is using Reef Balls to create reefs where they will help protect beaches and other properties from eroding. For me, the most excitement is in our Coral Team Division. We are publishing a 200+ page manual, A step by step guide to Reef Rehabilitation for Grassroots Organizations with a formal unveiling at the International Coral Reef Symposium in Ft. Lauderdale next summer and we have a draft version of that manual online now at our website ( under Reef Building, Step By Step Guide).

We are excited to be able to share our years and years of Reef Rehabilitation techniques with the whole world. There is so much going on; it is a full time job just to keep up with every project's news. To that end, we completely redid our website and added an interactive "live update" section where people involved in Reef Ball projects could update our website as things happen. We hope that will make it easier for folks to connect to a project to lend a hand.

As we believe in transparency for a non-profit, we post every single picture we take or get involving Reef Balls on our on-line photo database. It's organized by location so where ever you are interested in you can see what is going on in the reef ball world. It also includes news articles, scientific reports, blogs, videos and just about anything we can scrounge up electronically.

MD: What can we do to help?

TRB: Get involved...everyone can help. Don't buy plastic bags when you are visiting places near the water. Volunteer for a project. Donate a buck or two. Buy fish for your tanks that are tank propagated corals. Change all the light bulbs in your house from incandescent to florescent....yep all of them and you will save a buck too. Drive a hybrid car or take a bike or walk or at least don't drive a gas hog. Write a blog about your favorite charity. Sign up under causes in Facebook to say you support the Reef Ball Foundation. Join the Reef Ball MySpace group. Visit the Reef Ball Foundation educational center in Second Life. Start your own reef building project. Learn to scuba dive. Tell a friend about us. Use a mooring buoy instead of dropping your anchor. Go to the Reef Ball website, find a project you like, find out who did it, call them and say thank you. Whenever you see a Reef Ball, take a picture and send it to us. Put a link to on any website you control. Vote green. Strive to make your life more paperless. Encourage people to make constant small changes for the better, but don't expect wholesale change. Have your ashes placed in a Reef Ball...don't take up valuable land when you die. When people view your aquarium, use the opportunities to explain the importance of our natural coral reefs...remember 98% of the planet will never sea a real are an ambassador!