Thursday, July 31, 2014

Save 10-50% off EcoTech products during August

EcoTech Marine products are on sale? NO WAY!
YES WAY, dudes. Get 10% off Radion lights, 15% off VorTech pumps and 50% off Frag Kits during the month of August, no coupon code required.
Better still, you can stack this deal with EcoTech's "Get one ReefLink for 50% off" offer to save even more!
EcoTech Marine products rarely, if ever, go on sale... so we definitely encourage you to take advantage of these offers before they end midnight EST on 8/31/14.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

OPINION: You should only buy high-end aquarium equipment

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways to set up a reef aquarium.

If we were to take a closer look at 100 different reef aquarium systems, there would be some similarities, but most would be unique.

How can a hobbyist be sure the equipment they are buying is built to last? Does high-end always equal high-quality?

Most of us do not have unlimited means to buy aquarium gear. The simple truth is that owning and operating a reef aquarium is expensive. From buying equipment to purchasing livestock, the bills can quickly add up.

The expense of the hobby leads many aquarium hobbyists to make compromises on their aquarium builds. Rather than going with a trusted aquarium light or protein skimmer they really want, reefers often buy used or lesser-quality equipment "for now" to save a few bucks. Often the intention is to "upgrade" down the road when they have more money or when their tank matures.

I myself must plead guilty to the above scenario. Not surprisingly,  I've discovered that when I cut corners, I usually end up paying the price down the road. Rather than being patient and waiting until I could afford the light or powerhead of my dreams, I've purchased what I could afford at the time—only to have to replace that equipment later when it fails or when I have saved enough to buy the controllable LED or pump I wanted in the first place.

I've been an aquarium hobbyist for a long time and only recently came to the conclusion that compromising on aquarium supplies is neither in my best interests nor in the interests of my aquarium inhabitants. I've tried stretching my dollar in the past to get more bang for my buck. More often than not, I've ended up shooting myself in the foot.

Now I simply buy the right equipment the first time.

Generally speaking, top-tier brands produce top-tier products. Look at EcoTech Marine and Neptune Systems as examples. While it is certainly true not every hobbyist has the desire to simulate a sunrise, sunset and lunar cycle or have their aquarium pump make waves, I do—and so do many others.

I crave control, drool over data and basically just want the peace of mind that I've done everything in my power to create as close-to-nature conditions in my tank as possible. I also want to be confident that my aquarium is going to be OK if I decide to take a trip to MACNA for the weekend.

Today I've come up with a short list of tips to help you decide how to choose equipment for your reef tank. Rather than repeat my mistakes, hopefully you can learn from them!


This is very difficult for me. In a society filled with instant gratification, patience has been lost by many, including yours truly. I want a beautiful reef tank and I want it NOW!

Resisting this urge and going slow is one of the keys to being successful. So save up for that higher-quality piece of equipment that will be more reliable and feature-rich rather than sacrificing for a lower-quality alternative. This may mean waiting a week, a month or even a year.

Many times I have purchased a less expensive piece of equipment only to upgrade it a few months later because I was unhappy. Paying twice for the same piece of equipment is far from fiscally responsible.


It is always wise to read product reviews or forum testimonials before purchasing a new piece of aquarium equipment. We have tens of thousands of user reviews on our website on a variety of different products.

You can also search your favorite aquarium message board or use an Internet search engine to find more information about the equipment you are considering. You may even find a less expensive piece of equipment than the one you were originally considering that has better reviews or has been used successfully in a tank similar to your own.


We back all the products we sell at Marine Depot with a 60-day return policy, one of the best in our industry. But reputable product manufacturers generally have their own product warranties that cover your product anywhere from a few months to a few years.

Kessil, a popular LED manufacturer, promises all of its products to be free from defects in both workmanship and material for a period of two years from the date of purchase to the original buyer. Dolphin Pumps also carry a 2-year warranty and have a Lifetime Service Guarantee. AquaticLife has a similar program in place. In addition to their standard 1-year warranty on light fixtures, AquaticLife offers a Lifetime Fixture Guarantee and will perform all labor to repair a broken light fixture... free of charge.

You can't be too careful. Even high-end, high-quality aquarium products can fail from time-to-time. Don't get stuck without warranty coverage—be sure to fill out any warranty cards you receive with your products and promptly send them in to the manufacturer.


Don't be shy. Get in contact with the manufacturer prior to purchasing a product they produce.

Give them a call or send them an email to see how quickly they respond. See how knowledgeable they are about the aquarium hobby and the products they develop for it.

I prefer to deal only with brands that will reply to a customer inquiry within 48 hours (business days). If they reply back in a timely fashion with accurate and useful information, this is a good sign. If they treat someone who has never purchased one of their products with integrity and professionalism, it is likely any post-purchase interactions you have with them will also go smoothly. This is incredibly good information to know in the event you need to rely on their support down the road.

Checking out a company's interactions with customers on their Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media accounts is another a good indicator of how responsive the company is and whether or not they value their relationships with customers.


This piece of advice isn't for everyone. But if you have the time, means and skill set to build functional aquarium equipment yourself, by all means do so!

You are your own harshest critic, so the pursuit of perfection, especially in a passion project, will be high. Perhaps your craftsmanship and customization may rival or be superior to what the professionals offer.

If you are handy, you can save a lot of money building your own aquarium stand, light fixture or sump. I have seen stunning homemade aquarium stands and canopies people have fabricated for their tanks for a fraction of the cost of what you'd pay buying one from a store.

Your reef creations may be such a hit when you share them on your favorite forum that you get inundated with requests from hobbyists who want to hire you to build a project for them. Next thing you know, you have a new career in the aquarium industry!


When you are in the planning stages of a new build, research the care requirements of the animals you are considering for the tank. You may need to rethink the size of the tank, the strength of your light and the effectiveness of your filtration system in order to accommodate certain species of fish and coral. It is better to have this knowledge early when you are designing your system before you sink money into equipment that isn't going to work out the way you want it to.

This is especially true for reef aquarium lighting. When people first get into the hobby, they often underestimate the power of the light they'll need. You may not want a light with all the bells & whistles, but you will need a light that can produce the proper conditions for the animals in your care.


If you are considering buying an aquarium light, filter or pump you will replace in six months to a year, don't. Buying the right equipment the first time is always the way to go.

I cannot recall an instance where I had buyer's remorse after purchasing high-end, high-quality aquarium equipment. While it may cost more up front and take a bit longer to get your tank running, you will save money in the long run by not having to replace or upgrade equipment later on. You will have more confidence in your aquarium system as a whole and will be less likely to have casualties. Your equipment will last longer, perform better and be protected by the manufacturer (to some degree) in the event the unfortunate happens.

Don't waste your time with cheap, low-quality aquarium supplies. If you do, you may end up paying more than you ever expected.

Monday, July 28, 2014

New 10 and 20 Gallon NUVO Fusion Nano Tanks from Innovative Marine Available Now for Pre-Order

Innovative Marine made some significant improvements to their NUVO aquarium line earlier this year with the release of the Fusion 30L and Fusion 40, which incorporated some of the cooler features of their SR-Series (shallow reef) tanks, like higher quality low-iron glass and mesh screen tops.

Now Innovative Marine has taken the next logical step and woven those advancements into two nano-sized tanks.

The Fusion Nano 10 ($100) has a 10 gallon capacity and features a redesigned filter wall for current and future Innovative Marine products, like the CustomCaddy Media Basket, MiniMax Media Reactor and Ghost Protein Skimmer.

Most small all-in-one style tanks are notoriously difficult to fit cool add-ons into the back filtration compartment, leaving nano reefers with little options for upgrading their smaller reef tanks. The folks at Innovative Marine clearly recognized this collective frustration and addressed it in their new build.

As a hobbyist, knowing you can outfit your desktop-sized tank with more advanced filtration equipment to help keep water parameters stable as your tank matures definitely gives you more confidence that the aquarium itself will prove to be a worthwhile investment.

The bigger of Innovative Marine's two new tanks, the Fusion Nano 20 ($200), is 24” long, 15” wide and 13” tall. They classify the Fusion Nano 20 as a "desktop" aquarium on their website, but you'll be happy to know they actually offer a sold separately cabinet stand so you can place the tank pretty much anywhere in your home or office.

The Fusion Nano 20 stand ($200) is made of high-density fiberboard (HDF) and measures 36” tall (24” x 15” x 36”), with magnetic cabinet latches, storage shelves and pre-cut ports for cables.

The Fusion Nano 20 has 6mm high-clarity low-iron glass and a mesh screen top with clips (like the SR-Series), which helps keep critters inside your tank and aids light penetration. The tank has dual built-in overflows and includes a single 211 gallon per hour (GPH) water pump. Filtered water is pumped back into the tank through two directional flow return nozzles.

Innovative Marine also includes a rubber leveling mat to ensure your tank sits on the stand just right. Leveling mats help smooth out uneven surfaces on an aquarium stand as well as compensate for leveling to a small degree.

Like its 10 gallon little brother, the Fusion Nano 20 is ready to go out of the box—but can totally be upgraded using Innovative Marine's line of AUQA Gadgets!

You can swap out the directional flow return nozzles for Spin Streams to create randomized flow, replace the stock media baskets with CustomCaddys to personalize your filtration (a refugium, perhaps?), make the most of media by running a MiniMax Media Reactor and remove organics using a Ghost Protein Skimmer.

You can also automatically top-off water lost from evaporation using IM's own HydroFill ATO Pump and Controller.

It should go without saying at this point, since nearly all of Innovative Marine's product releases have been unquestionable successes, but these aquariums are among the best small tanks you can buy right now.

We have both tanks, along with the Fusion Nano 20 stand, available now for pre-order... and should have them all in stock in no time! We can't wait to see the build threads on the boards once these tanks are out in the wild.

So what do YOU think?

Is the Fusion Nano 10 worthy of some desktop real estate in your office? Are the dimensions of the Fusion Nano 20 accommodating enough for you to build the aquascape of your dreams? Sound off in the comments and let us know if you're feeling these new tanks.

Don't forget to head over to our store as well for a full breakdown of the features and specifications.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I Like Booger-Sized Corals—And So Should You

Over the past several years, local fish stores (LFS) have been getting a bad rap for selling tiny booger-sized coral frags.

Personally, I LOVE these diminutive-sized jewels.

Some hobbyists believe that all LFS are price-gougers who make a ton of money and rinse out their filter socks with bottles of Fiji Water. The truth is that while there are always some rotten apples, most store owners started out as hobbyists and are just trying to make an honest living.

Fanatical reef hobbyists and the laws of supply and demand have driven up the prices of certain corals, sometimes to astronomical levels.

However, this same explanation is the very reason why that colorful 100-poly colony of eagle-eye zoanthid or that brown colony of Acropora sits in the bargain bin for months at a sticker price of $20. The profits from a clownfish breeder selling "frostbites" for hundreds of dollars is also the reason why he is able to sell the regular captive-bred clowns for the same price as a wild-caught clown.

You would be amazed at how gorgeous and colorful an aquarium can be using these cheap "ugly ducklings." Plus, the more people that buy high-end corals, the cheaper the bargain-bin colonies become.

For those of us guilty of driving up prices, booger-sized corals can be great for us, too.

Rather than spend $300-$400 for a colony of Utter Chaos palythoa, pink boobies chalice or Red-Dragon Acropora, you can get a small frag of the same corals for a very affordable price. Plus, if the unfortunate were to occur, losing a small frag is a lot less devastating than losing an entire colony.

I love buying and trading for booger-size frags and watching them grow and blossom into gorgeous colonies. It is great to be able to own some of the more exotic corals, even if they are minuscule in size. It is also fun to purchase browned-out SPS corals and try to color them up, although I must admit I fail more often than I succeed.

The truth is you have the power to vote with your money. If you don't like outrageously priced corals, simply walk past the "ultra" display and head to the "bargain" bin to find your diamond in the rough or that gigantic "common" coral for a steal of a price.

For those of us with champagne tastes and beer budgets... wanna trade boogers?

8 Things You Should NEVER Do When Starting a New Reef Aquarium

They say we learn from experience—good or bad—and that experience is a great teacher.

The only problem with that for the new reef keeper is your bad experience may result in dead fish, dead corals and a lot of heartache. Aquarium keeping is one hobby where you should learn from the experience of others before you dive in on your own.

We put together a list of eight things you should never do when starting a new reef tank. Avoiding these common pratfalls when starting and maintaining your first aquarium will go a long way toward ensuring the health and longevity of your reef and all its interesting inhabitants.

If you are able to avoid these eight mistakes, this hobby will have you hooked in no time!

1) Do not buy your aquarium and livestock at the same time

No matter what size aquarium you are thinking about purchasing, actually setting it up and getting it running properly will take many hours, even days, of work to get going.

You may be able to assemble your tank in short order depending on the complexity of the build, but there is little chance your aquarium water will have enough time to build up the necessary bacteria and establish a stable environment for the animals you plan to keep.

Livestock will need to be taken out of store water and put into a mature, cycled tank (as mentioned in # 4) within 24 hours. If your aquarium water isn't cycled and ready for livestock, the animals are either going to die in the bag you brought them home in or inside the unsuitable conditions of your tank.

The first few days of a running a new aquarium are active and messy. At this stage, you are probably organizing your rocks to create the perfect aquascape which disrupts the sand bed and clouds up your water. I recommend purchasing your aquarium, equipment, rock, sand and water first before you even look at livestock.

2) Do not use tap water—use only RO/DI filtered water

Reef aquariums need exceptional water quality to maintain a successful ecosystem. Poor quality freshwater can quickly create an unsightly mess in a reef tank.

Some people mix a water dechlorinator product with tap water for their water changes and top-offs. This process successfully detoxifies the chlorine in the water making it safe but leaves behind all of the other impurities and minerals that may remain. Tap water can contain many other compounds such as chloramines, phosphates, nitrates, fluoride and various metals. Adding these nutrients to your tank will grow and feed nuisance algae everywhere and may even lead to the death of your coral and fish.

RO/DI stands for reverse osmosis/de-ionization and is a filtration process that pulls out all sediments and compounds from tap water and leaves you with pure H2O. RO/DI filtered water is the only water that should be used during water changes, top-offs and especially when starting your new reef aquarium to ensure these unwanted elements are not introduced into your aquarium.

You can purchase your own RO/DI water filtration system to produce pure water at home. Local fish and pet supply stores that carry saltwater aquarium supplies often sell RO/DI water by the gallon as well.

3) Do not work with dirty hands or equipment

As humans, we naturally carry bacteria and other grimy substances on our skin. Our hands are one of the main ways we transport this bacteria and dirt. Being that our hands are constantly in contact with the water in our aquariums you need to be cautious when working on your tank.  

Marine aquariums are very sensitive to any changes in water conditions and environmental parameters. Having dirt, bacteria or chemicals on your hands when you put them in your tank may alter the environmental conditions and put unwanted chemicals in your tank.

Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after working on your aquarium. Be sure to rinse and dry your hands to ensure no soap or tap water can contaminate your tank. Some extra cautious hobbyists will even wear long sleeved gloves to protect the aquarium and themselves. Gloves will protect you from being scalped by your large Surgeonfish, bit by an angry Clownfish and even prevent accidental poisoning from one of your corals.

The same goes for aquarium equipment. Be sure to clean with vinegar or one of the specially formulated equipment cleaners available. Then rinse thoroughly with RO/DI water before placing equipment into your tank. Whether you are purchasing used equipment or simply maintaining your powerhead, be sure your equipment is clean so it will run properly.

Be careful when cleaning the outside of your aquarium glass as well. Do not use harsh chemicals (like Windex) where over-spray can easily contaminate your aquarium water.

4) Do not add livestock until your aquarium is cycled

The aquarium nitrogen cycle is a chain reaction process in which water goes through several biological changes to finally be able to sustain life. This process takes time as bacteria needs to grow and establish stable populations in your aquarium. The bacteria also needs a source of energy. This is why many hobbyists add some fish food to a new aquarium or even one or two small hardy fish, like Damsels or Chromis.

When starting a new tank, it will take anywhere from 2-4 weeks, sometimes longer, for the tank to fully establish a stable nitrogen cycle. As you add fish and animals over time, the bacteria will continue to grow in order to keep up with the additional waste in your aquarium and therefore is an on-going process.    

If you add livestock before the cycle is established, ammonia and nitrate can quickly kill your new aquatic friends.

You can add some beneficial bacteria in a bottle to help speed up the cycle time if you are impatient and tired of staring into an empty tank. Just remember the key rule for cycling an aquarium: patience. Even if you use this type of product, you still need to test your tank parameters regularly to determine when the cycle is complete.

Basically once you see a spike in nitrate levels, you cycle is established.

5) Do not stock your tank without proper lighting, filtration and water circulation

Some of the biggest differences between fish only aquariums and reef aquariums are lighting, water flow, and proper water chemistry.

It is essential to set up a good filtration system before running any aquarium, but especially true for reef aquaria. Corals, invertebrates and sensitive reef fish can be very vulnerable to poor water quality. Be sure there is enough room for all of the filter accessories you have or may purchase down the road to ensure you can keep optimum water quality for your reef.

Adequate water circulation is necessary to oxygenate the water, bring food to corals, remove waste from the aquarium and provide a natural environment for the animals in your tank. You can use powerheads, pumps and wavemakers to create ample water flow throughout the tank.

Corals in reef aquariums are similar to plants: they require ample amounts of full spectrum light to photosynthesize which in turn creates energy that the coral uses to grow and/or build a skeleton. You need to choose an aquarium light fixture that provides sufficient output to support photosynthesis within your corals.

As you begin to learn more about corals, you will understand that every coral is different and has preferences for water quality, lighting and water flow. Take the time to research the corals you are interested in keeping before you build your aquarium. Do you want to keep SPS, LPS or soft corals? Most of us want it all, so the placement of the corals in your aquarium is going to play a major role in their success or failure.

6) Do not purchase livestock without researching it first

The number of freshwater species available to aquarium hobbyists pales in comparison to the scores of marine animals found on the market. Having options is a good problem to have. Yet, all these choices increase the likelihood you will fall victim to temptation and bring home an animal that is unsuitable for your aquarium.

Make it a rule that you will never buy an animal for your aquarium without researching it first. Performing a background check on the livestock you are interested in keeping generally eliminates most problems before they start. There are so many dazzling (and in many cases useful) saltwater aquarium animals to consider that you may end up with a big wish list.

Don't make the mistake of spontaneously buying an animal that looks cool in the store and/or relying solely on the shopkeeper's advice on what is suitable for your tank. If you do, you may end up with a fish that needs a minimum tank size of 500 gallons when you only have a nano. Another common blunder is bringing home an animal that eats your other fish, corals or inverts. Avoid these missteps by showing restraint and doing your homework. This helps ensure you have the proper equipment and that your tank's mix of wet pets are reef safe and compatible.

Another factor to consider is that not all fish share the same dietary requirements. Some will not eat flake or pellet food and may need a special diet. Some fish eat more frequently than others in nature, so there is a chance you may overfeed or starve your fish if you have not done your homework. Some corals grow peacefully next to each other and others will fight and sting one another. As mentioned in #5, each coral has different lighting and flow requirements. With a little research, you will be able to determine where to place each coral in your tank so that they all thrive.

Do not go in blindly. Do your research. You don't stumble into a happy tank—you plan for it!

7) Do not add too many animals to your aquarium at the same time

Once your tank is cycled and ready for livestock, you may feel the urge to add as many fish and corals as your tank can contain or your wallet can afford. But don't—adding too many fish or corals at once to a young tank will surely result in a catastrophe because of the increased waste levels in your tank.

As mentioned in #4, it takes time for bacteria to grow and properly process the waste in your aquarium. The slow addition of animals at the tune of 1-2 every other week will increase the chances of survival tenfold. This allows plenty of time for the bacteria to grow and drastically reduce the chances of ammonia or nitrite poisoning.

8) Do not overstock and/or overfeed 

Placing too many fish in your aquarium is a huge mistake, especially for reef aquariums.

All animals in your tank will produce waste and if you add too many, you will end up with consistently high levels of nitrates. While nitrate may not be extremely toxic to your fish like ammonia and nitrite, it can certainly increase the chances of disease and infection. Not to mention elevated nitrate levels will irritate or even kill your corals and drastically increase nuisance algae growth.

The same result can be achieved via irresponsible feeding habits. Feeding too much or too often will result in elevated waste levels which can lead to all kinds of complications for your fish and corals.

It is difficult for us to give you the exact number of fish your tank can hold because this all depends on your tank size, filtration, water changes and the type of fish you plan on keeping. You must test your waste levels (ammonia, nitrite and nitrate) regularly in order to ensure you are on the right track.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tools Every Reef Tank Owner Should Keep in their Toolbox

So you think you have your reef tank all figured out?

Just when you have installed the ATO, got your dosing regimen down and your corals are starting to grow in nicely—your return pump freezes up and now your tank is down until you can get it back up and running. 

Maybe you went on vacation for the weekend and your buddy Bobby doesn't seem to grasp the concept of one cube of frozen food per day! You get home to green walls, sucked up corals and a load of frustration you simply did not need.

In these unexpected instances, it is much better to be prepared. Hope for the best but plan for the worst, right?

We put together a list of important tools every reef hobbyist should have on hand at all times. These items will not only help make reef keeping more enjoyable, but also keep you prepared for that unexpected reef tank emergency.


Refractometers are pretty much a staple tool for any marine aquarium hobbyist. They quickly and accurately provide you with salinity readings. Refractometers are helpful for mixing your own saltwater at home and spot checking your aquarium to ensure your ATO is functioning properly.

Coral Propogation Supplies

Fragging is not reserved for mature reef tanks that need a pruning. Many times I have been cleaning my glass and accidentally broke off a piece of SPS. How about those pesky polyps that seem to grow like weeds and kill everything they touch? By having some fragging tools within reach, it makes it easy to quickly mount these extra corals to share with friends or trade with your local fish store.


Seems simple, but most of us fail to keep towels close to our fish tank. I don't know how many times I have removed my powerhead for maintenance and dripped water halfway across my living room to the kitchen sink. Towels also come in handy to quickly wipe down the outside of your tank after some routine maintenance to keep the dreaded salt creep at bay.

Tongs and/or Tweezers

Some nice tongs or tweezers are very useful for reef aquariums. They provide a safe and easy way to move around frags inside the aquarium without harming yourself or the corals. They are also great when feeding large chunks of frozen food and seaweed. I have found them very handy when fragging and pruning back overgrown corals as well.

Distilled White Vinegar

Seems a bit strange, but distilled white vinegar works miracles when cleaning your pumps, heaters or filters. Vinegar is very acidic and after just a few hours of soaking your equipment, the calcareous build-up can easily be scrubbed away with a firm bristle brush. This makes it easy to keep your pumps in working order and avoid an emergency pump failure. Just be sure to thoroughly rinse with RO/DI water before placing the equipment back into your aquarium.

Spare Return Pump and Heater

Just in case the unexpected should arise, having a spare heater and return pump can really save you some headache. Especially if you have a mature reef tank, where the equipment being used may be 2-3 years old. A fully stocked reef tank can crash within just a few hours of losing water flow and/or stable temperatures.

Water Parameter Reference Chart and Log

If you're like me, maintaining stable water chemistry is one of the most intriguing and challenging parts of keeping a reef. By keeping a reference chart handy along with an ongoing log of your water tests, it makes maintaining your reef much easier. A modern aquarium controller can even provide you with graphical displays of your tank's parameters making it easy to spot trends and quickly identify hidden problems in your tank.

Turkey Baster or Bulb Syringe

Spot feeding with a bulb syringe is one of the best things you can do to give your corals an extra boost. While most of the energy corals use to grow comes from photosynthesis, it has been proven that supplemental feeding helps corals grow and maintain vibrant colors. A bulb syringe also makes it easier to feed those finicky-eating fish on the bottom of your tank, such as Mandarin Gobies or Hawk Fish. I use a bulb syringe just about every time I feed my aquarium and my fish have learned to eat directly from the syringe. This makes it easy to get food to all of the fish in the aquarium, reduces the amount of food getting lost inside your rocks or filter and makes feeding time that much more fun and interactive.

Rubber Gloves and Goggles

While I may be the biggest culprit of breaking this rule, it is always a good idea to use rubber gloves and goggles when working with corals. Corals can contain some serious toxins! The use of safety gear will drastically decrease the chances of these toxins entering your body when working with corals.

Test Kits

There is no excuse not to test your water regularly. Many new hobbyists I have mentored over the years have relied on local fish stores to test their water parameters. Having another eye to help monitor your parameters is useful, but should never be the sole source of testing your water conditions. Having a complete line up of water test kits at home will not only help you understand more about your aquarium water, but will also make it much easier to keep a happy, healthy reef.

Handheld TDS Meter

A TDS meter measures the total dissolved solids in freshwater. This comes in handy when maintaining your RO/DI system to ensure your water is clean and free of unwanted elements. All water entering your tank should measure 0 TDS. By having a TDS meter on hand, you can check the filters on your RO/DI system to ensure they are not exhausted. You can also monitor the water in your top-off container. Without regular rinsing, a top-off container can slowly build up measurable levels of unwanted elements known as "TDS Creep."

Long Handle Tank Scraper

Algae magnets are great! They make it easy to quickly remove build-up from inside your tank walls. From my experience, no matter how careful you plan your aquascape, there will always be some area of the tank that cannot be cleaned with an algae magnet and this is why it is nice to have a long handle algae scraper. Whether your aquascape, heater, filter, plumbing or powerhead are getting in the way, a long handle tank scraper will make it easier to clean these hard-to-reach areas of the tank walls. You will also be less likely to ignore these areas of the tank which tend to quickly turn into unsightly algae farms.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Truly Innovative MiniMax All-In-One Media Reactor

If you've shopped for a media reactor, you probably noticed they all seem to share the same basic design.

Innovative Marine recently broke the mold when they introduced the MiniMax, an all-in-one media reactor that is easy to set up, easy to clean and easy to swap swap media out of.

If you've owned a media reactor before and found them to be messy or difficult to maintain, let me assure you that Innovative Marine's one-of-a-kind design puts all your worries to rest.

Media reactors maximize the use of any loose pellet or granular media. Their purpose is simple: pump water through the media (BioPellets, GFO or Carbon) confined inside the reactor chamber. This process puts every drop of water pumped through the reactor into contact with your media, optimizing chemical and biological filtration, thereby improving the water quality inside your aquarium.

The patent-pending design of Innovative Marine's MiniMax gives hobbyists a truly innovative media reactor to consider.

The primary difference between the MiniMax and other reactors on the market is its use of dual chambers. There is an internal chamber that acts as a removable cartridge which slides up and out of the outer chamber with ease. The pump is attached below the outer chamber and pumps water upward through the internal chamber. Water drains through four holes in the top of the inner chamber down in-between chambers, then back into the aquarium through four holes in the bottom of the outer chamber.

The connection between the two chambers houses the MiniMax's unique water flow adjustment feature. There are two slits where the inside and outside chamber slide into one another; simply turning the inside chamber will cause the two openings to cross paths and adjust the amount of water flowing through the reactor. Since different media need varying levels of water flow, this process makes it possible for the media reactor to work at the highest efficiency no matter which media is used.

With only three separate parts in the package, there really is no need to read instructions or piece anything together—you can go straight to installing it in your aquarium.

After a quick rinse in RO water to remove any dust or residue left from manufacturingtake off the top of the internal chamber and pull out both top sponge filters. Pour your desired media inside and place the sponges back into the top of the chamber and push the top back in. Finally, slide that internal chamber into the outside tube and attach the pump to the bottom. You can now place it in most all-in-one aquariums and sumps!

I personally use ROWAphos for my media so I wanted to run the reactor in a bucket of RO water to give the media a quick rinse before placing it into my tank. This also gave me the ability to adjust the reactor to my desired flow which was helpful because when I place the reactor in the back of my 38-gallon Innovative Marine Nuvo, I cannot see the media react to the different flow rates.

Maintenance has never been easier. There isn't unnecessary clutter, turning screws or tools. The internal chamber simply slides out of the outer chamber like a cartridge and automatically drains all the water left inside. Dump and replenish your desired media and slide the inner cartridge back into the outer chamber and you are ready to go.

Even if you wanted to rinse your media, taking the entire reactor out of the tank isn't a difficult process at all. The water drains out as you pull it out of the tank. Then you just place the whole reactor into a quarter full bucket of RO water and pull the internal chamber out to continue the maintenance process. This also gives you an opportunity to clean the entire product of build-up.

The Innovative Marine MiniMax Media Reactor has really changed the face of media reactors. With three different sizes available for tanks ranging from 10 to 250 gallons, there aren't many aquariums that couldn't use this product.

With the simplicity, durability, uniqueness and high functionality of this media reactor, I can't see myself using any other reactor in any of my future tanks.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Get the most out of your carbon and GFO with an AquaMaxx media reactor

As aquarium hobbyists, we are always looking for ways to make our tanks look cleaner and more colorful.

Most of us use activated carbon to polish aquarium water and remove organics and unwanted chemicals. Many of us also use GFO to control phosphate levels, minimize algae growth and maximize the color of our corals.

However, being a frugal reefer—and having splurged on too many corals recently—I have been putting my carbon and GFO in a media bag and leaving it in the sump hoping they do their job just sitting there. 

Unfortunately, water—like myself—takes the path of least resistance. That means most of the water goes unfiltered, flowing around the filter media bag rather than through it.

Month after month (yeah, I'm a procrastinator) I have thrown away hard clumps of carbon and GFO, knowing full well my aquarium is not reaping the maximum benefits of running these filter media.

I finally bit the bullet and purchased an AquaMaxx GFO and Carbon Filter Media Reactor. I wanted a reactor that is well-designed, well-made and durable. The standard sized AquaMaxx media reactor definitely fit the bill.

Constructed of high-quality cast acrylic and nicely machined parts, the AquaMaxx media reactor is about as good as a reactor can get. Thumbscrews and keyhole flanges on the lid allow for easy installation and maintenance. A porous diffuser plate ensures even water flow though the reactor.

A quick rinse with warm water is recommended to clean off any residue from production.

An earlier version of the reactor only came with ¾" fittings, which made selecting a pump for this low-water flow application difficult. However, this issue has since been fixed. The reactor now includes both ½" and ¾" fittings. An optional hang-on adapter is also available, but was not needed for my specific application.

Ideally, one reactor should be used for GFO and a separate reactor should be used for activated carbon. There are a couple of reasons why. First, GFO can last 2-3 months while carbon is only good for one. Second, activated carbon works more effectively with a higher flow rate, while GFO prefers lower flow.

An inline ball valve comes in handy to fine-tune flow rate.

Since I do not have space for two reactors, I decided to place both AquaMaxx Carbon One and AquaMaxx Phosphate Out inside the same reactor. I will just have to swap out the media each month. I know this is not optimal, but it is far better than sticking the media in a bag and hoping for the best.

After only a couple of weeks of running the AquaMaxx media reactor, I already see an increase in the clarity of my aquarium water. My phosphate level has also dropped lower than it was prior to the upgrade. My only regret is not buying the reactor sooner!