Thursday, August 28, 2008

The 54-gallon tank and what will be used for water flow

The Tank (picture to right is from Jan 08): With not a lot of room for the tank, I wanted to get the maximum gallons out of the tank in the smallest space possible. For a reef tank, tall and narrow tanks generally don't work well (such as hexagon tanks) since the surface area is fairly small and this doesn't allow for a good exchange of gas (i.e. CO2 out and O2 in). When I showed the wife the look of the bowfront corner tanks, she agreed it would look good and I was given permission to buy it (yes I do need to get permission to buy stuff like this, after all while it is "our" house, it really is "her" house). I ended up going with the 54 gallon tank, but would have loved to have gone to the 92 gallon but that was simply too large.

The Backgrou
nd: I like to have a black background on the tank to help give some depth to the tank and hide anything hanging off the back of the tank such as cords running down. Initially I went with one of the cut to fit backgrounds that get taped on. While this worked fairly well, if you spill a little water down it left a permanent mark (salt creep) and didn't look that good. So I decided to paint the back glass (actually two panels on the corner tanks). I did a lot of searching on what people used on their tanks. People recommended anything from marine paints (epoxy ones used on boat bottoms) to different types of spray paints. I like the idea of spray paints, I hate roller or brushing on paints as I find I leave lines. So I went with Krylon Fusion black spray paint as it had a fairly good amount of positive reviews from people. I taped off the edges and the overflow box (I still wanted to be able to see the overflow area, not that I will be able to once it is tucked in the corner, but still I did) and started painting. It took about 4-5 coats to get a good cover. I am sure I wasted some paint, but it ended up taking just over one can of paint to cover the two sides. I guess now time will tell how long it holds up.

Water movement: When I had my 220 gallon tank running, I used two of the EcoTech Marine Vortech pumps for water movement (MP40 model). I loved these pumps and when I got rid of the 220, I decided I would keep these. I had the "older" version before the wireless wave driver was released. I used these pumps on 54 gallon before, but had to keep them at the slowest flow otherwise is was almost blowing the sand and everything else out of the tank.

Now that the tank is empty and I am in the rebuilding phase, I figured it was a great time to update these guys to the wireless wave drivers. So I emailed EcoTech and let them know what I had and asked what I needed to do to update them. They said to send them in and they would upgrade, update and do some preventative maintenance on them for a very fair price. So off they went to EcoTech. The day EcoTech received the pumps, I got an email from them letting me know they got the pumps, what they were going to do and the total price. Very good customer service (as always) from the crew at EcoTech. The pumps should be on their way back to me and will hopefully be here in the next day or two. If you happen to have one of their "older" pumps without the wave driver o
n your tank and don't want to take it off (i.e. your tank needs the flow), Marine Depot does carry the upgrade drivers here.

Another great feature about the Vortech pumps is the optional battery back up that will keep the pumps running in the event of a power outage. I live in an area that tends to have frequent outages (guess that is the price I pay for living in the middle of nowhere) and this is a great piece of mind for me and my tank. It will run a single pump for 30+ hours. It is quite a heavy piece of equipment, but doesn't take up a lot of room. Well worth the investment IMO.

Besides the Vortech, there will also be a small amount of flow from my return pump. Currently I am trying to decide if I want to stick with my
Mag Drive 5 or try a different pump (such as an Eheim Hobby pump or one of the new Maxi Jet Utility pumps).

With my next posting I will talk about the controller I will be using along with some thoughts on my sump and possible plans for it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Reef Necessities, 8/26/08

Welcome to Reef Necessities, the first in a new series of posts focused on products that are essential to the reef aquarium hobbyist.

First up:
Mr. Sticky's Underwater Glue.

So why, you ask, is Mr. Sticky's a "reef necessity?" Because it can be used underwater to seal cracks in glass and acrylic aquariums. This is good stuff to have on hand in case of an emergency, since there really isn't much you can do after the fact. With Mr. Sticky's, you can seal any leaks without having to drain the tank.

To use, cut the dual-syringe tips, dispense the adhesive's 2-parts by depressing the plunger, mix manually, apply to your tank and replace the cap after use.

Next up: 3M's Reclosable Attachment Marine Dual Lock.

Complicated name for a not-so-complicated product.

Essentially marine aquarium Velcro, the "reclosable attachment system" or "hook & loop attachment system" as 3M calls, is super-strong, see-through and bonds to most surfaces (wood, metal, glass and most plastics) with a very high bond Scotch VHB adhesive backing.

That backing is also what you see in the product photo ... even though it looks a bit like bloody gauze (sorry for going there, if that hadn't already crossed your mind).

Needless to say, this stuff'll attach your aquarium's electronics, probes and sensors in place for years to come.

It can be used on both flexible and hard surfaces and mates to itself. Package contains (4) 1-inch x 3-inch strips.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Q&A with Brian Plankis of the Reef Stewardship Foundation For readers who are unfamiliar with you and the Reef Stewardship Foundation, can you tell us a little about yourself and your organization?

Brian Plankis, Reef Stewardship Foundation:
The Reef Stewardship Foundation's mission is to foster a diverse stewardship community that protects coral reefs through collaborative action, research, education and aquaculture initiatives. The RSF started in 2006 as Project DIBS with a handful of hobbyists interested in aquaculture of marine ornamentals and has grown into a diverse community of hobbyists, scientists, educators, aquaculturists, and supporters. Our main program areas focus on research efforts on breeding marine ornamentals in captivity, expanding aquaculture efforts by hobbyists, and improving science education related to ocean literacy. Every program area is focused on taking actions that can help reduce humanity's impact on rapidly declining coral reefs.

What made you choose "Investigating the International Year of the Reef and Coral Reef Decline" for your dissertation? Did the International Year of the Reef 2008 provide inspiration for your thesis or did you tie the two together after you'd further developed your idea?

The reason I chose to study the IYOR and coral reef decline was the very dire situation coral reefs face today and the limited action being taken to help save the reefs. There are some very good people taking action, but we need a lot more people personally engaged in reducing the environmental problems in order to have a chance at saving the reefs. My dissertation started in 2006, before I was aware of the IYOR, but was refined to use the best pieces of the IYOR effort.

MD: Marine aquarium hobbyists, specifically, the Marine Aquarium and Reef Society of Houston, helped conceptualize the Reef Stewardship Foundation. How involved are you in the hobby yourself? What kind of tanks are you yourself running? Any new products out that you're really excited about?

BP: The RSF started as Project DIBS and it would never have gotten off the ground without the support of hobbyists. We now have over 700 volunteers in 26 states and 10 countries, but without the initial support from both the Board of Directors and several dedicated hobbyists in MARSH, it is unlikely we would be where we are today. MARSH has continued their support with a generous donation that has allowed us to continue to grow the RSF and expand our aquaculture and education initiatives. Personally, I was a freshwater hobbyist for 7 years and have been a saltwater hobbyist for almost 6 years now. I prefer multiple tanks to larger tanks and currently keep a 100-gallon reef system composed of three tanks that holds broodstock for future research tanks. We plan on establishing a larger research lab for the RSF in 2009, but most of the tanks in the lab will be dedicated research or broodstock tanks. I do like to maintain at least one tank that is at least partially for fun so that I can relax when needed. As far as products, I am happy to see recent developments in live foods, energy efficient products, and affordable research equipment/materials. Nutritious live foods are absolutely critical to breeding marine animals, so the increased availability of copepods and live phytoplankton will really help us overcome some barriers to raising animals that have not been successfully bred in captivity before. With global warming being the number one threat to coral reefs, it is great to see a wide range of lights and pumps coming out that use very little electricity. Using less electricity lowers the cost for hobbyists and reduces the pollution caused by our tanks. The cost of microscopes and other lab equipment and materials that are needed for breeding marine animals, especially invertebrates, has dropped and is making small hobbyist research labs a reality.

How is the "Aquarium Experiment" coming along? Can you share your findings with us?

All the equipment is now in the classrooms, the coral fragments are ready, and the 200+ students will be setting up the tanks in the next 2-3 weeks. We will post periodic updates on our website until the end of the experiment in December. Once the students complete their data analysis then we will share the findings through our website, a series of peer-reviewed publications, and perhaps through a follow-up to this blog.

MD: How were we and other sponsors able to help you execute your vision?

BP: Being a young non-profit organization is a challenging proposition. Without support from Marine Depot and our other sponsors, most notably the Ocean Foundation, Current USA, and MARSH, it would not have been possible to properly fund and equip our aquarium experiment for the students. Our sponsors' generous donations and funding allowed us to operate with a tight budget and purchase additional equipment and textbooks that could not have been purchased otherwise. The end result is more meaningful research findings and student experiences. We hope to reuse most of the equipment for our aquaculture focus in 2009.

MD: What do you forsee happening with coral reef decline? How will your organization respond in the coming months/years?

I attended the 2008 International Coral Reef Symposium in Florida where the best minds in scientific research related to coral reefs get together and share their latest findings. The very clear message from the symposium was that coral reefs face a very uncertain future, with almost 1/3 of reef building corals facing elevated threat of extinction and this is probably a conservative estimate. The best science says we could see the loss of 60% of coral reefs by 2030 (roughly 27% are already gone!). Unless we take immediate and significant action in the next 10 years, there won't be much to save. It isn't too late to save some coral reefs, but we certainly need to get a lot of people taking action quickly. The RSF will be responding to this news through four main actions:

  1. We will increase our efforts to support hobbyists in breeding species that are considered conservation priorities.
  2. We will develop our research capability to provide peer-reviewed information on breeding marine ornamentals, with the hope of this knowledge being used by other organizations and hobbyists to increase the capacity and range of species kept in captivity.
  3. We will continue our education efforts with K-12 students to understand what the next generation already knows about coral reef decline and suggest possible ways to improve science education and ocean literacy.
  4. We have started a "taking action" section of our discussion forums where hobbyists, educators, and others can share the actions they have taken to help reduce coral reef decline.
MD: How large of an impact do you believe the marine aquarium hobby has made on these environments?

The marine aquarium hobby has had a wide range of impacts on coral reefs. In some cases it has little to no impact, but in other cases, such as the Banggai Cardinalfish (Pterapogon kauderni), collection for the hobby has resulted in an endangered species that faces extinction in the next few years. Over collection of ecologically important or slow growing/reproducing species has had a significant impact in some areas. Overfishing, both for the marine aquarium hobby and for the food industry, is one of the top three threats impacting coral reefs. Collection for the marine aquarium hobby has had an impact, I would say significant, but it is only one of many reasons for coral reef decline. One of the primary drivers for the creation of the RSF was to find ways to reduce that impact together and work with hobbyists to take action against the other threats to our reefs.

Photo/Image Credits
  • Healthy and Diseased Acropora, by Eric Borneman
  • Banggai Cardinalfish Baby, by Andrew Berry
  • All others courtesy of Brian Plankis

Deal of the Week


A little about the equipment for the tank

As I mentioned in my first posting I would start going over some of the equipment I have for the tank at this point. I am going to start at the top of the tank, the lighting, and with future posts move downwards. If you have ever tried to put a standard light over a 54 corner bowfront tank, you will know it is not an easy task. When this tank was first set up I used a 24" CurrentUSA Outer Orbit. While I was fairly happy with this light, it was not the easiest to mount over the tank and the spread of light just wasn't what I wanted from it (you can see some pictures of the tank when it was last runing in this thread on the Marine Depot Forums).

So when I decided to take down the tank for a quick break from the hobby, I decided I would also change out the lighting. Unfortunately I still had to overcome the same problems of how to mount a lighting system over the tank, but I had decided what I was going to use for a lighting system. I liked the shape and spread of light the Sunlight Supply LumenMax 3 pendants (250 watt double ended) offered and figured it would work well over my tank. But how to hang it over the tank? I have a drop ceiling and didn't like the idea of running wires through the panels, so I decided to make a light rack out of 2x4's. It actually worked out fairly well and with a little spray paint it almost matches the pendants, tank and stands' color perfectly.

With the pendant picked out and lighting rack built I needed to figure out what ballast/bulb combination I would run. Without the use of actinic supplementation I knew I would have to pick a bulb that was fairly blue (I like a more blue tank myself). In actuality I already knew what ballast I was going to use, the same ballast I have always used for both fluorescent and metal halide systems I have set up, IceCap. So I picked up an IceCap 250 watt metal halide ballast to use. BTW this also presented a small problem, the quick disconnect plug on the pendant did not match the plug on the ballast (this is true for almost every manufacturer, maybe someday we can get manufacturers to use a universal plug to make our lives easier). So I ended up cutting the plug on the pendant and wired in an IceCap male plug that would plug into the ballasts female plug (it was actually a very easy job to do).

So now I needed to decide what bulb to go with. I placed a call to IceCap to talk with them some. At the time they were just releasing a line of bulbs and I wanted to see what they might recommend. I had become friends with Chris at IceCap after meeting him at MACNA a few years back so I talked with him and he said to try out their 20,000K bulb. So that was the bulb I went with. So far I have only fired the bulb up over an empty tank, but it looked very nice. It had a very nice blue color and I can't wait to see it in action over a full tank.

That is about it for the lighting (besides possibly adding a moonlight to the mix). Next posting I will talk about the tank itself and what I am going to be using for water movement within the tank.

Friday, August 22, 2008

New to blogging, a little history about me

Well, this is officially my first-ever blog posting (is there a term for it???). Please forgive me as I really am new to this and hopefully don't ramble on too much. My name is Keith MacNeil and I have worked for Marine Depot in some shape or form for the last 5+ years. I have actually worked in the pet industry for the last 23 years from mom and pop stores, to big chain stores to my current stint with MD (which honestly has been the best one to date).

Anyway, I actually for the first time in probably 15+ years don't have a fish tank of some sort running. I ended up taking down my two reef tanks (220 and a 54 gallon) about 4-5 months ago for some personal reasons. BUT now I am ready to jump back in and get the 54 going again (the 220 has found a new home, so I am just taking a mini jump back into this with the hopes of upgrading in a few years).

Over the next few months, I am hoping to post about the resetting up of my tank and all of the problems and successes that come with it. I just have to get my camera working (actually my wife's camera, the cheap one I had broke) so I can post some pictures of the set up in progress and hopefully share some interesting stories and photos of the tank's progress.

My next entry I will include what I have (in terms of equipment), what I have done so far to get the tank ready and what some of my goals are for the tank.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Whale Calf Thinks Boat Is Mom

Fears were growing Tuesday for the survival chances of a lost baby humpback whale who tried to suckle from an Australian yacht in the belief it was its mother.

Wildlife experts used the yacht to lure the calf out of Pittwater bay near Sydney's Palm Beach on Monday, hoping it would link up with other whales passing by on their annual breeding migration.

But on Tuesday the calf was back among the anchored yachts in the vast bay, having failed to find either its own mother or a surrogate, Department of National Parks and Wildlife spokesman Chris McIntosh told AFP.

"We successfully lured the calf about a kilometre out to sea -- probably the first time that's been done using a yacht as a surrogate mother," he said.

"Later we saw whales a bit further offshore and there was a slender chance it may have linked up with them, but this morning we have got reports that it has returned to the western shores of Pittwater."

McIntosh said the calf now most likely faced the prospect of dying of hunger, being attacked by sharks or stranding itself.

"While it's moving quite freely at the moment, its condition would be expected to deteriorate over the next three days," he said. "There is very little hope, virtually none."

McIntosh said that if the calf became stranded or beached itself, mercy killing will be considered.

The calf showed no signs of injury, apart from some lacerations apparently caused by rubbing up against the boats, and it was believed likely to have simply been rejected by its mother.

"We've consistently said it was a slim chance that it might link up with its mother or other whales but the reality is that in the wild, for various reasons, mothers sometimes reject their young," McIntosh said.

The calf was estimated to be two months old, about five metres (yards) long and to weigh five tonnes, but it would still rely primarily on its mother's milk and its chances of survival without it were negligible.

"Looking at its behaviour, the way it was nuzzling up to yachts, would indicate it was primarily still suckling," McIntosh said.

"It really was trying to suckle, just below the waterline and against the keel, with its head engaged against the boat."

It would be difficult to lure the calf out to sea again now that it had lost its strong attachment to a particular boat, and attempts to herd it would cause unacceptable stress, he said.

The humpbacks are on the return leg of a remarkable annual round trip from the Antarctic to tropical waters to breed, and they can be seen ploughing homewards not far off Sydney's beaches on most days.

Google News

Monday, August 18, 2008

New this Week: Red Sea C-Skim 1200 Protein Skimmer

Launched at Interzoo 2008, the C-Skim 1200 Protein Skimmer was developed with the advanced aquarist in mind and features several new and patented features.

First, the user interface is all on one side. Coupled with its compact size, the
C-Skim 1200 is easy to use, easy to setup, and, unlike other skimmers in its class, easy to place, thanks to its small footprint.

The "neck washing system," is being touted as the standout feature of the C-Skim 1200. It permits the easy removal of accumulated protein without having to manually remove the collection cup. This not only makes th
e C-Skim more efficient, but also ensures ongoing maintenance is not too time consuming.

The patent-pending FoamView window built into the front of the collection cup provides a clear view of the foaming action inside the skimm
er neck and allows for easy and accurate adjustment to achieve the desired consistency of the foam.

Red Sea also invested a lot of R&D hours into fine-tuning the new skim chamber. A peripheral flow closed loop skim chamber provides improved water/air flow dynamics, with aquarium water being injected above the conical top of the skim chamber. This spreads the incoming water flow around the periphery of the skim chamber walls, preventing turbulent flows of water that can destabilize the foam production.

The recommended aquarium volume ratings for the C-Skim have been calculated according to the optimum turnover rate per aquarium type, as determined by laboratory tests by Red Sea. For more info, click on the icons to your right.

To learn more about the Red Sea C-Skim 1200 Protein Skimmer
or to reserve yours today (yes, we are accepting pre-orders)click here.

Deal of the Week

ReefresH2O BioMedia & Coral Frag Plugs

About ReefreshH2O Coral Frag Plugs

“For successful coral propagation, it is important that the plug media be inert, allowing for rapid adaptation to water chemistry levels found within a coral’s natural reef habitat,” said Robert Altieri, ReefresH2O Product Manager. “The proven ReefresH2O epoxy-free and concrete-free formulation provides a porous substrate that quickly becomes inoculated with its surrounding saltwater chemistry, making it ideal for use in coral growth, whether in the hobbyist tank or in commercial propagation installations.”

ReefresH2O Coral Frag Plugs are composed of a refractory grade ceramic material that does not contain any of the residual organic compounds or soluble phosphates typically associated with clay-fired ceramic materials, which are known to promote the growth of nuisance algae. The plugs are fired at temperatures greater than 1000 degrees Celsius, thus assuring sterility and eliminating the need for seasoning prior to use. The highly porous ceramic material has the ability to rapidly absorb up to 30 percent of its weight in salt water, thus enabling automatic delivery of micro-nutrients to the coral.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

New Additions: Pre-Order Functionality, ELOS MINI Aquarium

If you hadn't already noticed the handsome new buttons on our website, we recently incorporated pre-order functionality to allow shoppers the ability to reserve high-demand merchandise before it is released to the public. This guarantees prompt delivery upon release and also assures that you'll have that new, hard-to-find item everybody advertises but nobody seems to have in stock.

While we're on the subject of pre-orders, this seems like an appropriate time to tease you with some photos we shot when ELOS' new 20-gallon MINI Aquarium System arrived to our warehouse (now available for pre-order!).

In case you've been living under a (live) rock, the ELOS MINI is a much-sought after aquarium system designed and manufactured by those geniuses at ELOS in Italy. The tank, once assembled, is truly a work of art, with a crystal-clear front pane held in place by a specially blended adhesive. There's a cool little etching of the ELOS logo on the front pane.

One standout feature of
the ELOS MINI is the included LED e-lite light fixture. Anodized in aluminum and emblazoned with "e-lite" on the top, the fixture brings an additional touch of class to an already classy setup. The 18 individually reflected, 3-watt (80 lumen per watt) LEDs are strong enough to sustain some of our favorite corals, yet the light itself is so small, it's almost complimentary due to the aforementioned good looks. Best of all, it does not obstruct viewing, suck up a ton of energy or stick out like a sore thumb.

The ELOS MINI also includes a built in protein skimmer, pump, sump, overflow, top-off reservoir, stand/cabinet and all the plumbing required to get it up & running.

We have several more pictures on our website with the tank, stand and accessories assembled. Click here to check 'em out.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Invertebrate Chiropractors: Exposed!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Customer Featured in Local Media customers Marvin and Belinda Wade were recently featured in their local community magazine, Midlothian Now, showing off their beautiful custom-built home.

Of course, what custom-built home would be complete without a custom-built aquarium? According to the article, the Wades' family room was re-dubbed the "viewing room" after they replaced their 150-gallon tank with a 760-gallon monster.

The new tank, designed and built in Canada, is 12-feet long, 35-inches wide (from front to back) and 34-inches tall. The cabinet, housing the work of living art is designed for easy-access to the mechanical workings below and above the tank, while the room directly behind the tank makes feeding, maintenance and general operation possible. “The back room is like a biology lab with a scientific feel to it,” Marvin said. “Magic happens in the back room."
To read the article in its entirety, please click here. There's a lot more info on their tank and their beautiful abode, so we encourage you to check it out when you have some time.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Deal of the Week