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.