Monday, December 30, 2013

Our After Christmas Sale Ends Tonight!

Our 10% off site-wide After Christmas Sale ends tonight at midnight! Be sure to enter coupon code FISHMAS during checkout today to save a bundle on a new tank, light or protein skimmer! Some exclusions apply. Combine your coupon with items already on sale to SAVE EVEN MORE!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

New Tank Build: 38 Gallon Nuvo Aquarium

I have been in the aquarium hobby ever since I was a kid. I always enjoyed helping my dad with his 75 gallon reef setup.

I had freshwater tanks growing up until I went to college, where I got my first reef tank. It was a custom acrylic 10 gallon tank with a built in overflow/sump section. I had a 2-bulb T5 fixture above it with mostly LPS and soft corals. It didn't take long for me to want to upgrade. I knew I wanted another all-in-one system, but it needed to be a lot bigger and able to grow a mixed reef (specifically SPS).

I wanted the best of the best so, the next thing I know, I'm selling my 10 gallon tank and ordering an Innovative Marine 38 Gallon NuvoEcoTech Marine Radion XR30w G2 LED Light and an MP10 powerhead.
I started out with just the tank, light, powerhead and a heater. I intended to be very picky about each piece of rock in my tank, so I got the aquarium up and cycling before I ever added any. I visited my LFS and picked up about 30 pounds of live rock and two Green Chromis fish to help the cycle along. I went through a pretty bad green hair algae phase the first month my tank was in operation, After lowering the intensity of my light and adding some Boyd Chemi-Pure, it all disappeared.
Once I saved up some more money, I purchased an Innovative Marine Midsize Protein Skimmer, Tunze Nano Osmolator Auto Top-Off System, SpectraPure CSP RO/DI System, Marine Depot Refractometer, and two Innovative Marine CustomCaddy Media Baskets.
I immediately fell in love with all of these products. First I put in the media baskets. They double the amount of filter media you can put in while capturing debris and filtering all the water passing through. I moved the top chamber down so I could fit more filter media. I placed a large bag of Chemi-Pure inside without restricting the water flow.
The protein skimmer came next. It is the first protein skimmer I have used but was beyond easy to assemble and install. It took me a while to adjust the skimmer but now that I have it dialed in, it has been pulling stuff out I didn't even know I had! It fits perfectly inside the second chamber.
I always wanted an auto top-off system so I saved the best for last. I loved the simplicity of the product: it didn't have many components and was very easy to install. I was worried the wires would not be long enough, but Tunze provides you a lot of room to work with. It isn't too loud when it turns on either and it has kept my water at the perfect level.
The SpectraPure system was the final piece to the puzzle. It is actually my first RO/DI filter system. If you know basic plumbing, you shouldn't have any issues getting it up and running. It is very compact and leaves plenty of room under my sink cabinet. The water flow is great and the flush system is easy to operate. I am eager to see how much I'll save mixing my own saltwater.

I am beyond excited about my tank right now! It is running like a charm with minimal effort. I now have the mixed reef tank I've always wanted.

Next I'll add an Innovative Marine MagnaFuge LED Refugium Light to my new media baskets. The EcoTech Marine Reef Link is a must-have for me, too, since I am running the Radion and MP10. I would like to add a controller some day to simplify everything even further, possibly the Neptune Systems Apex AquaController.

I'd like to add some new corals next to the growing corals in my tank so my aquascape will eventually be covered in corals. I have always believed in getting top-of-the-line products so everything will run smoothly and efficiently. I have never been happier with my aquarium than I am today and I can't wait to see what challenges the future holds.

Aqua Illumination Hydra FifityTwo: That's a LOT of light!

Being someone who has three AI Hydras on their personal aquarium, I was quite excited when news of the more-powerful HydraFiftyTwo was first announced back in September. Fast-forward three months and here we are now in December. The Hydra FiftyTwo has been released, our first allotment was sold out before the shipment even arrived and I finally get my chance to take one out for a test drive!
The standard Hydra LEDs are already awesome lights and I have been very happy with them. They feature full spectrum LEDs, seven controllable channels and tons of programming functions including sunrise, sunset, cloud simulation and thunderstorm modes. Taking that same successful formula, the new top-of-the-line Hydra FifityTwo adds more power (135W compared to 90W) and more LEDs (52 versus 20). The extra power and extra LEDs translates to wider coverage, better color blending, deeper light penetration and longer LED life as each LED is running at a lower wattage.
While the standard Hydra provides a coverage area of 24” x 24”, the Hydra FiftyTwo is capable of illuminating an area of up to 36” x 36”.
For light penetration, the standard Hydra LEDs are perfect for aquariums 24” deep and can handle mixed-reef aquariums up to 30” deep. The more-powerful Hydra FiftyTwo should easily handle aquariums 30” to 36” deep. With an optional 50-degree lens available from Aqua Illumination, the Hydra FiftyTwo can illuminate aquariums 48” deep or more.
Programming the Hydra FiftyTwo (through the wireless AI Controller or AI Director) is exactly the same as the standard Hydra or other Aqua Illumination LED lights. Simply select from the “easy mode” or go into the manual mode to adjust the programming to your exact liking.
With the TIR Diffused Lens, the color blending on the AI Hydra is already pretty good. There is still a minimal amount of ‘disco ball effect’ as the Red/Green LEDs are only in the center two pucks and the Royal-Blue/Deep-Blue LEDs are only on the outer pucks. This is completely eliminated on the Hydra FiftyTwo as each puck contains all 7 LED colors.

The extra penetrating power on the Hydra FiftyTwo is also quite noticeable when seeing it right next to the standard Hydra.
For the large majority of hobbyists, myself included, the standard Hydra is plenty. Those with large aquariums, those who crave the best and brightest light Aqua Illumination has to offer or those expecting big tax refunds will now have the option of choosing the amazingly bright Hydra FiftyTwo for their tanks.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Refractometers: Standard vs. Pro

As saltwater aquarium keepers, one of the most important water parameters we measure is the salt level: salinity.

While hydrometers are quick and easy to use, they are almost never accurate and tend to worsen over time due to salt and slime build-up. Personally, I would not recommend a hydrometer unless it is calibrated or checked regularly with a refractometer.
A refractometer is a much better way to measure your salinity and a tool that I think every hobbyist should have (or at least have access to). It utilizes a prism to refract the light so it is extremely accurate. There are also no moving parts that can wear out or fail over time so it is as accurate on day 1 as it is on day 1,000.
Here at Marine Depot, we carry two different versions of refractometers: Standard and Pro. Both are equally accurate. The difference is that the more-economical standard refractometer is designed to read a saline/brine solution while the pro refractometer is designed to read natural seawater.
Ideally, the standard refractometer should be calibrated with a calibration solution to compensate for elements other than salt in natural seawater. In actual practice, I have found the difference between calibrating with RO/DI water versus calibration solution to be very minimal.

The pro refractometer is designed specifically to read the salinity of natural seawater so it can be accurately calibrated with regular RO/DI water, distilled water or calibration solution. Additionally, the pro refractometer features a larger scale (ranging from 1.015-1.030) that makes it easier to read.

As a side note, those who have quarantine tanks and use hypo-salinity as treatment will want to use the standard refractometer as a salinity level of 1.009 is required, which is outside the range of the pro refractometer.
With refractomers becoming so reasonably priced and hobbyists understanding the importance of having the correct salinity level, more and more hobbyists are tossing their crusty hydrometers and upgrading to the better and much more accurate refractometers. With properly handling and cleaning after use, a refractometer will provide years of reliable service. Being the holiday season, it also makes a wonderful gift for any saltwater aquarium hobbyist!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Join our Product Test Team!

How would you like to test drive the latest aquarium technology before anyone else?

We are looking for 5 savvy aquarium owners to join us for 6-month assignment as an aquarium product tester.

Each month we will send you 1-3 new aquarium innovations to test with your tank—some you'll even get to keep!

All you have to do is provide a 2-3 minute video review for each product you receive. Your insights will then be shared with other aquarium keepers around the world on our website and YouTube channel.

Flipp Your Way to a Cleaner Tank!

Here is another great piece of equipment that saves me a ton of time maintaining my aquarium: the Flipper Magnetic Algae Cleaner. This magnet cleaner allows me to clean all 3 sides of my 150-gallon peninsula tank (about 14 square feet of area) in less than 3 minutes!

The best feature of the flipper is that one side has the standard cleaning pad for cleaning film algae while the other side has a scraper blade for removing coralline algae or other hard algae. With the patented “flip” mechanism, you don’t even have to reach your hand in the water to flip the magnet from one side to the other.

In the past, I used an algae magnet to first clean off film algae then an algae scraper to scrape off coralline or speckle algae, which typically was a 10-15 minute job. Maneuvering the 34” scraper around my aquarium, trying to get to all the corners without knocking corals or rocks over was always a challenge.

With the Flipper magnet, everything is now so much easier and quicker. The use of rare-earth magnets allows the Flipper to work on aquariums up to a ½” thick! The package also includes 2 scraper blades: a stainless steel blade for glass aquariums and an ABS blade for acrylic aquariums. The high-quality 316 stainless steel blade has been sitting inside my aquarium for the past 8 months with zero signs of rust.

With the innovative design and the use of high-quality parts, the Flipper is a great algae magnet cleaner. Not only does it help to keep my glass cleaner, it also allows me to spend less time cleaning the tank and more time enjoying it!

JaxReef's 2013 Holiday Reef Conference

Our new Some Assembly Required T-shirt print
The 2013 JaxReef Holiday Reef Conference was a huge success!

There were over 30 vendors with booths displaying products and corals. There were also local stores showing off their corals and dry goods, in addition to out-of-state companies like Continuum Aquatics and Jason Fox.

Guest speakers Tony Vargas and Albert J. Thiel each gave a great speech about the aquarium hobby and the informative books they wrote.

The conference ended with a big raffle. Prizes ranged from LED light fixtures and RO/DI units to LED light strips, T5 bulbs, supplements, food, filters and media, corals and more.

It was a great conference overall. Both attendees and vendors left happy and with their pockets full of money or corals. As one of the best reef conferences in the area this year, the JaxReef Reef Conference promises to be even bigger and better in 2014.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Win a Hanna Instruments Calcium Checker Colorimeter!

Calcium is an essential building block for corals, clams and coralline algae.
This week we are giving away a Hanna Instruments Calcium Checker Colorimeter (a $49.99 value!) so you can easily and accurately measure the calcium level in your reef tank.
Tired of using complicated chemical test kits? ENTER NOW.
Registration ENDS at 11:59 PM PST on 12/20/13.
Details: Open to US residents 18 years or older. Void where prohibited or restriced by law. Winner will be contacted via email.

AquaMaxx UltraMaxx AIO: Activated Carbon on Steroids

I would like to revisit a great little product that I use regularly called AquaMaxx UltraMaxx AIO. I like to think of this product as activated carbon on steroids.

Filter bag and zip tie included
The recipe starts with a high-end activated carbon then additional resins are added to help remove phosphates, silicates, nitrates and other organics. 
The various resins mixed in with activated carbon
It is not a magical product that will eliminate water changes and make your corals double in size overnight. However, it does offer several benefits:
  1. It helps to keep your water crystal clear, which improves light penetration so your corals get more light. Plus, you get to look at and enjoy a cleaner tank!
  2. It helps lower your nutrient levels which in turn reduces nuisance algae growth.
  3. It absorbs chemicals released by corals which helps reduce the chemical warefare between corals.
Just pour the media into the bag & tie it up
UltraMaxx AIO is working great in my 34-gallon Solana aquarium, keeping the water clean and clear. This tank is currently skimmer-less, so the additional phosphate, nitrate and organic absorption resins are very helpful in keep nuisance algae at bay. 
Give it a quick rinse to get rid of carbon dust
On larger aquariums or systems with a heavy bio-load, it would be more effective to use activated carbon and GFO in separate media reactors in conjunction with a protein skimmer. For smaller aquariums with a low to medium bioloads, the AquaMaxx UltraMaxx AIO is a great option!
Into the tank it goes then I'm set for another 2-3 months!
Here you can see my clownfish hosting experiment as well.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Weekend Sellathon: 10% off Site-Wide

We know you've got important holiday shopping left to do... for your aquarium. That's why we're offering 10% off site-wide until Monday! 
Just enter coupon code SELLATHON during checkout to save on protein skimmers, tanks and lights to make the season bright! Some exclusions apply—click for details.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

UPGRADED! AquaMaxx HOB-1 Protein Skimmer

You know those cool, coke bottle-shaped conical diffusers on the bubble plate of the ConeS protein skimmer line?

AquaMaxx just upgraded the HOB-1 with the same style plus redesigned the hang-on bracket AND increased the size of the collection cup!

Best of all, they're now IN STOCK—while supplies last, anyway. Head over to our store to check out the new photos we just shot so you can see if the HOB-1 is right for you!

Great Fish Food For Finicky Eaters

Getting new fish to eat—this is a problem many of us face on a regular basis. Due to time spent in transport and changes in environment, new fish are often stressed upon their introduction in to our aquariums and will not eat.
Fortunately, we now have a new weapon in our arsenal to entice new fish to eat. New Life International is now offering a Finicky Fish Formula. New Life International foods have long been one of my favorite foods due to the high quality of the ingredients and how my fish have responded.

This new formulation offers two improvements that are specifically beneficial to new fish or a finicky feeder. First is the higher concentrations of attractants (such as mollusk and fish oils) to make the food more scented and entice the fish to eat. The better the food smells, the more likely they will try and take a bite. Second is the increase in nutrition density over their standard formulations, which are already highly nutritional. A finicky or new fish will usually eat less food. The higher nutrition density will help to give the fish more energy and nutrition while it recovers and acclimates to its new environment.
Having just added a couple of clownfish to my aquarium, I was eager to give this new formulation a try! The Finicky Fish Formula definitely has a different scent than other New Life foods.

To train the fish to eat, I turn off the pumps then drop in 5-6 pellets 2-3 times a day. The clownfish started sampling the food after a couple of days then start to eat more and more each day. A couple of weeks later, they now feed very actively and will swim to the top of the aquarium every time I approach the aquarium with the jar of Finicky Fish Formula.
For my larger aquarium with a mix of tangs, clownfish, blennies and wrasses, they ferociously devoured this new seemingly-delicious formula. Looks like New Life International has another winner on their hands! It certainly has earned a permanent spot in my basket of fish food.

Check out the ingredients in New Life International Spectrum Finicky Fish Food on our website and, perhaps, even order a container if your fish made it onto Santa's "nice" list this holiday season!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Walter's 60 Gallon Reef Aquarium: VIDEO

We received a lot of requests from hobbyists asking to see more of our customer support supervisor's tank after posting photos of his elaborate Bubble Magus dosing system a couple of weeks back along with some photos of his tank.

Walt was gracious enough to allow us into his home to shoot footage of his 60-gallon reef tank. Check out this video to learn about Walter's dosing system, lighting and his maroon clown, Fred!

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Aqua Illumination Director: A closer look at the future of lighting controllers

First, I would like to thank Walter, our customer service supervisor. Being such an awesome guy, he was nice enough to give me his AI Director.

I must admit that my initial feelings of this new AI Director was rather sour during setup. I must also admit that some of the problems were caused my failure to read and follow ALL the directions. Some of these issues included being unable to connect to my Wi-Fi network and not being able to save my customized programming. After repeating the set up process several times, installing “Bonjour for Windows” and trying a different internet browser, I was finally able to get everything up and running properly.

Now that everything is running as it should, I am loving how this controller works. I am able to set up the lights EXACTLY how I want them to operate and the extra features are great to have. Amazingly, you can control up to 10 different aquariums and 30 LED fixtures with just one Director. 

For programming: those that like things as uncomplicated as possible can select the “Easy Setup” under the “Control” tap. This allows you to set the Sunrise and Sunset times as well as the “Ramp Time” which is the duration of the sun rise/set. Just enter the 3 times click “Save” and you are done!

For those that want a little bit more control, clicking on the “Manual Mode” allows you to adjust the maximum intensities of each of the 7 channels. Lunar mode is also easily set by simply clicking on the on/off button and entering the start and end times.

Those wanting advanced controls, like me, are able to chart the intensity of each channel throughout the day. I love the fact that I can set the lights to gradually come on and go off in the morning while I get ready for work, then have a separate main lighting schedule. Being able to manually chart the intensities on the graph also allows me to see the exact amount of light of every channel during each time period: which was hard to determine with the handheld controller.

The preview feature is also great to let you visualize how the tank will look throughout the day.

Clicking on the “Effects” tap allows you to access all the advanced features which includes cloud simulation, lightning mode, lunar mode, acclimation mode and regional weather. While cloud simulation and lightning mode are definitely not required for the growth and health of your corals, they are very nice features to have. I definitely did not expect to like the cloud simulation as much I do.  After seeing it in action, I now consider “rolling clouds” as a must-have.

Putting it over the top is the regional weather. This new feature allows you to simulate the weather in many locations though out the world.

Having all these great features allow me to enjoy my Hydra LED lights even more than before. As the Director is a very new product, there are some bugs that are still being worked out. Fortunately, Aqua Illumination has always offered excellent support and firmware updates will continue to fix issues as they arise.

The Android and iOS apps coming in the future will allow you to control your light through your phone or tablet. This is definitely one great option to maximize the functionality and enjoyment of your Aqua Illumination lights. 

And Walter, I hope you will not be changing your mind as I am definitely not giving it back.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Marine Depot 2013 Holiday Gift Guide

Before you finalize your holiday wish list this year, be sure to check out our 2013 holiday gift guide! We've got the season's most-wanted gifts sorted by price to make giving—or receiving—easy!

We're also introducing for the first time ever a special holiday gift certificate program. Sure, our standard, send-anytime gift certificates are still available! But if your intended recipient (even if that recipient is YOU yourself) is able to wait until the day after Christmas—or later—to order their aquarium supplies, you can get 10% more cash on your gift certificate for FREE. So, for example, if buy a $100 gift certificate, you will only be charged $90. The more you buy, the more you save!

We know you have a lot of friends and family to take care of this holiday season. So if you need a little more time to pay for your aquarium supplies, try Bill Me Later. You can make no payments and pay no interest on orders over $300 if pay your bill within 6 months. That should make it a whole lot easier to buy one of the 10 Items on Every Reefkeeper's Holiday Wish List.

We've also included our holiday shipping deadlines and links to our latest content so you can add the finishing touches to your holiday wish list this weekend.

If you have any questions about the Marine Depot 2013 holiday gift guide or any of the aquarium supplies available on our website, please don't hesitate to leave a comment or send us a message. We'd love to hear from you!

AutoAqua Smart ATO from CoralVue... it IS smart!

As more and more ATOs (Automatic Top-Offs) become available, it is becoming increasingly difficult to decide which is the best choice.

The latest from CoralVue is the AutoAqua Smart ATO, an amazingly compact unit packed with great features that will put it at the top of many hobbyists’ holiday shopping lists.
The first thing I noticed opening the box is how small the sensor and pump are. As seen on many of the CoralVue advertisements, the sensor/controller is barely bigger than a golf ball. The low-voltage DC pump is also nice and small, so it will easily fit into the common 5 gallon water jug many hobbyists use as ATO reservoirs. Also included are 6-feet of tubing and a handy universal holder that can mount on to a rim up to ¾” thick (in horizontal or vertical position). This complete package gets you up and running without having to purchase any additional parts or accessories.
The most unique feature of the Smart ATO package is definitely the diminutive and advanced sensor/controller. Just about all ATOs include separate sensor(s) and bulky controllers—which require additional wires and extra space for installation. The Smart ATO combines the two components in an amazingly small package that easily mounts to your tank or sump via magnets. The optical sensor is very precise and features an Auto-Feedback Security Technology (AFS) with no moving parts that can fail. The only part that goes inside your sump or tank is the magnet with an optical lens so there are no electronics or valves in/near the water.  
Installation is just about as easy as it gets:
  • Attach the tubing to the pump and place the pump into your reservoir
  • Use the bracket to secure the tubing outlet to your tank or sump where the top-off water will be dispensed.
  • Install the sensor/controller at the desired water level
  • Plug the pump and power cables into the sensor/controller
  • Plug the power adapter into your wall outlet and you’re done!
Works on glass up to 1/2" thick... as advertised!
For the technical guys… the AFS algorithm is actually quite simple and should be very effective. For over-vill security, the system will sound off an audible alert and the Red LED on the controller will illuminate if the filling time is more than three time longer than the previous fill.

For example, if the pump typically takes 1 minute to fill, the AFS will trigger if the filling takes more than three minutes (if your top-off reservoir were to run dry or something caused the sensor to not detect the water is already full).

For non-fill security, the AFS will sound an alarm and flash the blue LED if the amount of time between top-off is more than three times the previous. For example, if the system typically tops off the aquarium every 10 hours, the AFS will trigger if the top off does not initiate for more than 30 hours (if the lens were misaligned, for example, or if there were algae build-up on the lens causing a false reading).

With its innovative design and features, the AutoAqua SmartATO from CoralVue is sure to be a hit. With a complete package price of only $149.99, it definitely makes the competition for the “best” ATO tougher than ever!