Monday, April 27, 2015

Marine Depot Staff Picks: 7 of our Favorite Products



With all of the options and choices when choosing aquarium supplies, we here at Marine Depot understand that choosing the right product can sometimes be a bit confusing. We work hard to provide you with the best selection of quality products and empower you with the knowledge you need to build a successful tank.

We asked our team of aquarium experts to pick out some of their favorite everyday aquarium items to share with you. Read on to see our "Staff Picks" and to learn about some great products that can help make your reefkeeping experience a success!



A single comprehensive supplement that contains pretty much all of the necessary building blocks corals need to grow and thrive. It will maintain both calcium and alkalinity along with trace elements and amino acids. It works best with mixed reef aquariums that do not have a high demand for calcium and alkalinity and is great for small aquariums where you want to avoid unsightly equipment like dosing pumps and calcium reactors.




One of the newest skimmers from AquaMaxx that is basically the in-tank version of the best-selling AquaMaxx HOB-1. It has a slim profile and small footprint of 5.9" x 3.2" which makes it easy to fit in tight spaces. It is rated for aquariums up to 65 gallons and comes with a modified Sicce pump which makes for quiet operation and great performance.




A two-part additive that helps increase coloration, growth and polyp extension among your corals. The A portion is a concentrated energy source for the corals to absorb directly from your water column and will not introduce any unnecessary waste into your tank like you might experience with many popular liquid coral foods. Reef Energy B contains vitamins and amino acids which are the basic building blocks corals need to synthesize and produce protein. Many hobbyists, including our staff members, have noticed almost immediate improvements when dosed together. These products have also received a 4.5 out of 5 star rating from customers on our website.




A great little internal skimmer that boasts some awesome features from a very reputable manufacturer. The surface intake pulls the protein rich water from the surface of your aquarium allowing the skimmer to remove high levels of organic waste with each pass through the skimmer body. Strong magnet mounts and air flow regulation with silencer make for quiet operation and easy adjustments. It is manufactured in Germany and is backed by a generous 2 year warranty.




This media has quickly become the all-in-one media of choice by reef hobbyists everywhere because of its effectiveness and longevity. It contains a mixture of high grade activated carbon along with a mixture of ion-exchange resins that will not only keep your water clear but also reduce organic waste. It helps keep your pH stable and removes harmful heavy metals as well as odors. When used correctly, a single dose can last for up to 6 months!




A bacterial additive that helps break down organic waste and loosen detritus in your aquarium. It makes keeping your tank clean and free of debris much easier by loosening unwanted buildup from your tank walls, rock and sand for removal via filtration or water change. The unique formulation can be used weekly to maintain a pristine aquarium  or dosed daily to help repair and clean up a tank that has fallen victim to poor maintenance.




Although there are a variety of two-part solutions available, ESV B-Ionic has time and time again been rated as one of the best because, in addition to maintaining calcium and alkalinity, it also contains major, minor and trace elements your corals need to grow and thrive—oftentimes eliminating the need for additional supplementation. It is nitrate and phosphate-free, proven effective and has earned a 5 out of 5 rating from customers on our website.

We pride ourselves on providing the best aquarium support our industry has to offer and really strive to share our love of reefkeeping with you! To see more of our staff's favorite products, please request a copy of our paper catalog or contact our customer service team for free and friendly support.

Until next time... take care and happy reefkeeping.



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Friday, April 24, 2015

How to Frag Corals and Build a Frag Tank




So you've mastered the art of growing coral to such a degree that your tank is becoming cluttered and colonies have reached the water surface. What next?

Building a frag tank is a fun and rewarding way to keep evolving in the hobby. Collecting and growing frags to sell or share with other hobbyists is a great way to spread your love of reefing. Plus, seeing your corals grow inside other hobbyists' tanks is very satisfying.

At Marine Depot, we carry everything you need to frag corals or build an awesome frag tank! Stay tuned to get the lowdown on how to put a frag tank together plus we’ll share some of our favorite tools to make fragging corals fun and easy.


THE FRAG TANK

When shopping for a frag tank, ideally you’ll want something shallow, like the JBJ 20 Gallon Shallow Reef Aquarium. Shallow tanks are easier to clean and offer better light penetration to grow coral. Plus, a shallow tank is more accessible so you can add or remove frags, place frags racks and perform tank maintenance.



FRAG TANK FLOW

Just like in a regular reef aquarium, proper water flow is required for a successful frag system. You don't need anything too fancy. Standard powerheads like the Hydor Koralia produce a broad, natural flow for an affordable price.



HEATING YOUR FRAG TANK

The same aquarium heater rule of thumb we all follow applies to heating a frag tank: typically 3-5 watts of power per gallon of water. One of our favorite heaters for frag systems is the Cobalt Neo-Therm because the slim design allows you to place it in tight spaces.



LIGHTING YOUR FRAG TANK

Most frag systems are less than 16" deep and are only used as a temporary holding tank, so you really don't need a high-powered light to successfully grow coral. A simple T5 light fixture like the AquaticLife Marquis or a LED strip light like the Current USA Orbit Marine will do the job. Kessil A160 and A360 lights are another popular option. They are compact, linkable (should you decide to expand your operation) and do a great job growing coral.



FRAG TANK AQUASCAPE AND MAINTENANCE

Live rock and sand are not usually used inside a frag tank which helps keep the system clean. Since your hands are going in and out of the water fairly often, more frequent water changes are recommended, especially since many of your corals will be recovering from fragmentation. Performing 15-25% weekly water changes and running fresh activated carbon will help your corals thrive. Without fish, your frag system will likely have low organic waste levels, so a protein skimmer is optional. Adding a skimmer will make the water cleaner, but running one is not required.



FRAG TANK EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST

Once you've leak tested your tank and acquired all the basic components, it's time to fill it with saltwater and start the cycle. Since you're not quite ready to start chopping corals yet, you still have time to pick up the remaining items you’ll need to be a successful coral farmer.

We carry some really nice frag kits that include many of the tools you'll need to safely propagate your coral plus a variety of plugs to mount them to. To make things easy, we've compiled a list of some of the not-so-obvious items you may still need to pick up (also available as a downloadable PDF):


HOW TO FRAG CORALS

Cutting coral is done a few different ways depending which type you are fragging. SPS corals are cut using sharp shears, similar to what you might use in a garden. The Dissekt-Rite Cutting Shears and Taam Coral Clippers are both great for chopping hard SPS at home. Cutting coral at a "Y" or at the base of new growth is the best way to get a clean cut and nice fragment.

The technique used to frag LPS corals will vary depending on how the particular species grows. Branching LPS can be fragged the same way as SPS: using shears to cut away a branch or new growth. Colonial-type LPS, like Acans and Favias, can be fragged using a small bandsaw, like the Gryphon AquaSaw, or even a dremel. Cut around the mouth—not directly down the center—like you would for an anemone.

Soft corals and anemones are a little trickier to deal with. Since they lack a rigid skeleton it makes handling them more challenging. You can usually accomplish a clean cut using a scalpel, razor blade or sharp pair of scissors. Exactly where to cut depends on how a particular coral grows. A little research on your favorite aquarium message board or a quick call to our support team is a surefire way to get advice from more experienced reefers.



HOW TO MOUNT CORAL FRAGS

Mounting your new coral frags can be accomplished a number of different ways. Hobbyists get pretty creative when it comes time to make their new frags stick to a plug or rock, especially in cases where glue cannot be used, like with mushrooms and anemones. This is when rubber bands, thread and toothpicks can come in handy.

The main thing to remember when fragging and mounting corals is to have a plan. Ensure all your fragging and mounting tools are within arm’s reach before you begin cutting. Keep coral handling and out-of-water time to a minimum.

Dipping or dosing iodine and target feeding amino acids are a couple of helpful ways to help your new frags recover. Just like a regular aquarium, it is important to keep your parameters stable. Be sure to test your water regularly to ensure it mimics the natural living conditions of the corals you’re growing.



CONCLUSION

Collecting and trading coral frags is one of the most fun aspects of the reef aquarium hobby. For many of us, discovering a rare coral or stumbling across a hard-to-find frag adds a whole other level of excitement to reefing.

If you have questions about building a frag tank or need some help fragging coral, please contact our experts and we would be happy to help you out.

Thanks for reading and until next time, take care and happy reefkeeping.



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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Feed Frozen Fish Food to Increase Color and Vitality




For many aquarium keepers, fish become members of the family—just like cats and dogs!

When you spend as much time around fish tanks as we do, it becomes obvious that fish have their own little personalities. Interacting with fish during feeding time is often an aquarium hobbyist's favorite part of the day.


Just like the other pets we keep, providing balanced nutrition is important. This brings us to our topic for today which is frozen fish foods. We are going to highlight some of our favorite frozen fish foods, share some of the useful feeding tools we use plus offer tips to help you keep your fish healthy and happy.

Frozen foods offer the highest nutritional value over dry, freeze dried and even liquid foods. Freezing preserves more of the "goodness" in food which helps ensure your fish are getting the best possible nutrition with each and every bite. Frozen foods are much more palatable than dry foods and trigger a stronger feeding response when added to your tank. This excited response is very helpful when caring for finicky or fragile fish. Many of the more delicate aquarium fish—like Anthias, Butterflies and some Angelfish—actually require a regular diet of frozen foods to survive in captivity. Of course, even the hardiest of aquarium fish will benefit from receiving frozen foods in their diet.

Healthy fish with balanced diets will be more colorful, more active and more resistant to disease. They will live longer than malnourished fish that only receive the same old flake food every day throughout their lifetime. We recommend feeding a variety of foods to marine aquarium fish, with frozen foods being offered at least 3 times per week, if not daily.



A couple of the more popular frozen fish food brands we carry are H2O Life and Rod's Food.

H2O Life offers a variety of frozen fish foods including all of the hobby staples like Mysis Shrimp, Brine Shrimp, Krill and Bloodworms. They also have Silversides for large carnivores and Clams on the Half Shell for the specialized eaters in your tank. Other popular foods in their expansive lineup include Rotifers, Cyclops, Reef Caviar and the new EZ-Pods. They are awesome choices for smaller reef fish—plus your corals will love them, too!

Rod's Food takes a different approach to frozen fish food. Rather than force you to figure out what an appropriate feeding regimen might be and have you buy multiple foods for a balanced diet, hobbyists need only to select the Rod's Food blend that best matches your aquarium type so a single food can feed your entire aquarium. They accomplish this feat by including a variety of appropriate foods in a single frozen flat pack. The food is then cut into various sizes to help ensure each and every one of your tank inhabitants gets the food and nutrition and they need.

Rod's Food Original Blend is perfect for typical mixed reef tanks with a variety of fish and corals. Predator Blend is great if you are keeping big, hungry, predatory-type fish. Several other blends are also available, including Herbivore Blend, Fish Only Blend, Breeders Blend and Coral Blend.



While it is tempting to just toss a chunk of frozen food in your aquarium to feed your fish, it is not ideal. You risk fouling your water quality and triggering algae problems due to the leftover food and nutrient-dense liquid that the food was frozen in.

A better approach is to thaw your food first, discard of the "juices" and feed the strained food to your aquarium inhabitants. By thawing food first, it gives you an opportunity to enrich the nutritional value even further by adding food soaks like Selcon, Brightwell Vitamarin-M or a garlic supplement. Some hobbyists take this a step further and pre-rinse foods in RO/DI water before feeding. Some manufacturers have already caught onto this and are now pre-washing their foods prior to processing to reduce extra waste in your aquarium. The NextReef Frozen Fish Food Strainer makes the task of rinsing food easy and helps ensure mess-free feeding. A handheld strainer—like what you might find in your kitchen, for example—also works great for this task.



We put a lot of energy and effort into keeping delicate fish and corals in our homes. By maintaining good water parameters and providing them with the right nutrition, we can help ensure our wet pets live long, healthy lives.

If you are looking to stock up on frozen fish food or have questions about choosing the right food for your tank, our team of aquarium experts is eager to lend a hand. Feel free to contact us with any and all questions or leave us a comment below and we'll be sure to respond.

Thanks for reading and until next time... take care and happy reefkeeping.



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Friday, April 17, 2015

Coral Food: Make Your Corals Fat and Healthy



While every single one of us feed our fish, not everyone is aware of the importance of feeding the corals in our aquariums. Corals are animals and while most of them obtain a majority of their energy from photosynthesis, it is also very important to feed them to ensure they have the necessary building blocks to grow and thrive.



All corals have mouths and there is a good reason for it. Many corals exert a lot of energy and have developed a significant portion of their biology to capture food, even SPS corals that are highly-dependent on light for survival can benefit greatly from feeding.

Hobbyists are often  pleasantly surprised to see how well their corals respond to feeding. The coloration becomes much more vibrant, the corals grow quicker and their flesh becomes meatier and healthier.



Different types of corals have different sized mouths and benefit from getting the appropriate sized foods. LPS corals along with colonial polyps typically have larger mouths so they can easily consume pellet or frozen foods such as brine and mysis shrimp. Many soft corals and SPS corals have much smaller mouths and will require liquid or powder foods with smaller particles.

Here are some of the Marine Depot staff's favorite coral foods:
  • Polyp Lab Reef Roids is an extremely economical powder food: a small 4oz jar will feed a 100 gallon tank for 3 up to months! Simply mix with tank water and feed to your corals.

  • Coral Frenzy Reef Pellets are great for feeding LPS corals because they have a hefty amount of nutrition packed into a tiny pellet that corals seem to love. They use very high quality ingredients so you are getting the maximum amount of nutrition and fish also really crave these pellets too!

  • DT's Phytoplankton is live phytoplankton and although it can be costly, it is a live product so nutritional value is maximized and there is very little risk of over-feeding. It is great for clams and SPS corals. It will also help increase biodiversity in your tank because it will feed many of the microorganisms in your aquarium and refugium.

  • Rod's Food is one of the best frozen foods available and is awesome because you can feed your fish and corals at the same time. The regular blend includes food particles ranging from 5 microns up to 3/8". The high-quality ingredients include scallops, oysters, seaweeds, cyclops, fish eggs, rotifers and more which are frozen to preserve nutritional value better than powder or liquid foods.

  • The Brightwell Aquatics line of liquid foods are a great choice for those of us who like options or may not have the time to spot feed. They offer a wide variety of different sized liquid foods to suit any type of coral. These products are easy to store and easy to feed which makes them perfect for hobbyists on the go or for those of you using a dosing pump to feed the aquarium.


Spot feeding with a bulb syringe or feeding device is the best method to deliver food to your corals. This helps reduce leftover food in your aquarium which is pretty much inevitable when feeding your corals so be sure to keep an eye on your waste parameters. More frequent water exchanges and regular maintenance of your mechanical filtration will be important when you start feeding your corals regularly.

We generally recommend feeding coral 1-2 times per week when keeping photosynthetic corals in the evening after your aquarium lights have turned off. If you are keeping Gorgonians, Sea Fans or non-photosynthetic corals, you will need to feed much more frequently as these types of corals rely heavily on food to produce most of their energy.



Coral feeding is yet another great way to interact with your aquarium and the results can be amazing. If you are looking to stock up on coral food or have questions about feeding your tank, our team of aquarium experts are available to answer your questions via phone or email.

Until next time, take care and happy reef keeping.



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Thursday, April 16, 2015

We want YOU to join the Marine Depot team!


If you love aquariums, making customers happy and live in the LA/OC area, we'd like to speak with you! We are currently looking for customer service representatives to bolster our support staff. Read on if you think you might be a good fit for this opportunity.

CUSTOMER SERVICE REPRESENTATIVE JOB DESCRIPTION

We are looking for customer service representatives to join our support team in MarineDepot.com's Garden Grove, CA headquarters. You will be the front-line of our company and engage with customers on a daily basis via phone, email and live chat. Your job is to make customers happy by resolving problems and providing accurate information in a professional and timely manner. You will provide shoppers with accurate information about our products and how to properly use them. You will also answer questions about order status, order tracking, returns and site navigation in a prompt and courteous manner. MarineDepot.com offers paid training, flexible scheduling (great for college students!) and an excellent healthcare package.

YOUR DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES WILL INCLUDE:
  • Responding to and resolving customer issues with urgency
  • Assuming responsibility for projects and tasks as they occur
  • Assisting customers to ensure they have a positive shopping experience
  • Ensuring the implementation and development of the Family Friendly Concept
  • Working with the Customer Satisfaction Index to benchmark and improve our service execution
QUALIFIED CANDIDATES SHOULD POSSESS:
  • Computer literacy (Windows PC, web browsers)
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • The ability to multi-task in a high call/email volume environment
  • Proven problem solving skills with attention to detail and follow-up
  • An outgoing, positive attitude about providing superior customer service
  • The desire to share your knowledge and experience to help others succeed
  • Saltwater/reef aquarium and fishkeeping experience and/or the willingness to learn more about the hobby
If you're interested in joining our team, please email your resume to hr-csr@marinedepot.com for consideration.

ABOUT MARINEDEPOT.COM

MarineDepot.com is a fast growing online aquarium supply company located in Garden Grove, CA. We're looking for smart, creative people who will give 100 percent. Ideal candidates must be dedicated, detail-oriented team players that will thrive in a fast-paced, high-volume ecommerce work environment. The office atmosphere here is low-key, casual and collaborative. We have regular company BBQs, celebrate Take Your Dog To Work Day® and have a great healthcare and benefits package that includes discounts on aquarium and pet products. Although it is not a prerequisite to working with us, most of our employees are pet/aquarium owners. We love what we do!




Friday, April 10, 2015

How to Replace Your RO/DI Filter Cartridges



A RO/DI system is your reef defender, preventing harmful contaminates from ever entering your aquarium water. That is why it is important to regularly maintain your RO/DI filter so your reef is protected from these unseen killers.

The biggest challenge most hobbyists face is not knowing precisely when to change out their filter cartridges. But you’re in luck! Today we are going to show you how to properly monitor your filter cartridges to help you get the most out of your RO/DI system.


The recommendation you often hear in the hobby is to change your sediment, carbon and DI cartridges every 6-8 months and your TFC membrane every 2 years. While this is a good starting point, it can be misleading. The rate at which cartridges are exhausted actually depends on the level of impurities in your tap water and how much water you produce using your RO/DI system.

If your tap water is fairly clean or you don’t use much water, you might be changing out the filter cartridges prematurely (and therefore wasting money). On the other hand, if the quality of your tap water is poor or you use a substantial amount of DI water, you may inadvertently be allowing harmful impurities into your aquarium.

Fortunately, finding out exactly when you need to change your filter cartridges is quite easy and requires only a few simple tools to monitor your filter usage.



The most important tool is a TDS meter which measures the Total Dissolved Solids in parts per million (or PPM for short). HM Digital Inline TDS Meters are among the most popular because they allow you to take readings while your RO/DI system is operating.

Water exiting the DI should read 0 or 1 ppm. When the TDS reading begins to rise, it means that the DI is exhausted and should be replaced. We recommend changing your DI cartridge when your TDS reading is 3-5ppm. It is a good idea to change out your sediment and carbon filters at the same time because they usually exhaust at about the same rate.

If your tap water has an unusually high amount of sediment, you should swap out the sediment cartridge more often. It is easy to tell when your sediment cartridge is clogged because it will turn color from white to a medium brown. You will also see a drop in water pressure inside the membrane housing. Low water pressure will slow down water production and make the TFC membrane less efficient. You should replace the sediment filter cartridge when water pressure drops by 15-20%.

Most aquarium hobbyists change the carbon block filter at the same time as the DI. The carbon filter’s main job is to remove chlorine and chloramine (if you live in a municipality that uses chloramine), so it is a good idea to monitor your carbon cartridge weekly. An exhausted carbon filter may allow chlorine or chloramine through your system which can damage your TFC membrane and exhaust your DI cartridge prematurely.

To test your carbon filter, you will need a total chlorine or free chlorine test kit. Allow your RO/DI system to run for 10 minutes then test the waste water coming from your RO/DI system for the presence of chlorine. If the chlorine measures above 0.5 ppm, it is time to change out the carbon filter.

The TFC membrane is the heart of your RO/DI system. It removes 95-98% of the impurities from water passing through it. With proper care, a TFC membrane will last anywhere from 1-3 years. However, they are sensitive and can be easily damaged. Running hot water accidentally through the system, allowing the system to freeze or the membrane to dry out are the most common reasons why TFC membranes fail.

In order to test your membrane, you will need to measure the TDS of both the tap water entering your system and the product water coming out of the membrane before it travels through the DI filter. Having a Triple Inline TDS Meter is helpful here because you can install one of the inline probes between your membrane and DI cartridge. Otherwise, you can simply disconnect the water line from your DI cartridge and collect some of the RO water coming out of your membrane.

After passing through the membrane, your water should have no less than 95% of the impurities removed. For example, if your tap water TDS is 100 ppm, then the TDS reading after the membrane should be 5 ppm or less. Once your TFC membrane allows more than 5% of impurities to pass through, it is time for a new one.



Flushing your TFC membrane regularly with a flush valve kit will help to maintain optimal performance and extend the life of your TFC membrane. Be sure to pick one up if it was not included with your RO/DI system. Manual flush valve kits are inexpensive and can double the life of your membrane.

Be sure to turn off the supply water line before replacing RO/DI filter cartridges. Spilling a small amount of water is inevitable since there isn’t any way to magically drain all the water out of an RO/DI system after it has been used, so keep a towel or small bucket handy. Gently remove the filter housing with an RO wrench or plumber’s pliers to access and change your filter cartridges and/or membrane. When reinstalling the canisters, be sure to hand-tighten only! Overtightening the canisters may cause leaks or damage. Whenever you change out your reverse osmosis system’s filter cartridges, it is a good idea to produce a couple of gallons first (you can use it to water your plants) before you start making water for your tank.



Knowing how to properly monitor your RO/DI filter system will save you time and money because you will know exactly when to replace your filter cartridges. More importantly, you will be protecting your aquarium from being poisoned with harmful contaminates.

If you have questions about maintaining your RO/DI system or wish to purchase any one of the products featured in this video, feel free to contact our aquarium experts for fast and friendly service. Thanks for tuning in and until next time… take care and happy reefkeeping.



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Thursday, April 09, 2015

SPS Corals for Beginners, Part 2

Arce's Fuzzy Millie

In Part 1 of this article series, we discussed the importance of stability in your levels. Stability is crucial to keeping a healthy SPS reef. We learned that your alkalinity was the key to this success followed by other parameters like calcium and magnesium. Now let's talk more about testing and dosing.



Testing and Dosing

All three elements are required for the calcification of your stony corals: Alkalinity, Calcium, and Magnesium. As they grow, they consume these elements from your water and therefore need to be replaced. Available on the market are various forms of test kits, all of which are viable for testing your levels. There is a degree of variance between test kits, it is not correct to assume that the more expensive brands are more accurate. It eventually comes down to personal preference.

Testing your various levels is extremely important to calculate how much you need to dose to maintain your levels. You need to obviously first obtain your kits and also a refractometer to be able to test your salinity. Your waters salinity should be kept at 1.025 to 1.027.

Testing is best done at the same time each day. The reason for this is that your levels can and will fluctuate during the day based on dosing and consumption. We suggest doing a water change and testing every day after that or every other day till your next water change. This gives you a baseline for the consumption in your tank.

You will notice how much your tank will consume each day, that is how much of each element that you need to replace via dosing to maintain optimum levels. Before you begin dosing, you need to lock in the numbers you want to maintain. For example, some of the salt mixes on the market contain high levels of alkalinity, usually in the 9-10 range. If you want to maintain a level of 7, you need to let your levels slowly drop and then begin dosing based on your daily consumption. For calcium we suggest maintaining a range of 400-420 and for magnesium we suggest maintaining a range of 1250-1350.

Dosing can be done several ways. The most common way is by using 2-part solutions. You will have one solution for your bicarbonate (Alkalinity) and one for your calcium / magnesium. As your corals go through the process of calcification they will use the same amount of alkalinity as calcium therefore when dosing 2-part you should be dosing equal, if not close to equal, parts of each solution. These doses can be done manually, but we suggest using a doser to dose at multiple times each day for your best chance at stability.


MetroKat's Blue Tenuis

Low Nutrient vs. High Nutrient Systems

Here we can venture into a debatable topic, the question of low nutrient or high nutrient systems. When we speak of low or high nutrient systems we are talking about your nitrate and phosphate levels. The reason why this is such a debated topic is because both sides have been proven to work, yet there is still a controversy as to which is more effective. The norm has been 0.00-0.03 PPM (Parts Per Million) Phosphates and 0-5 PPM Nitrates. You may experience browning, dull colors, tissue necrosis and poor growth at levels higher or lower.

Yet there are plenty of successful tanks out there where these guidelines have not been followed. This leads to the question, which is more effective and are we incorrect when saying we must aim for these low numbers.


Arce's SPS Tank

Arce: To get a better understand of both sides of this situation we plan to discuss both of our tanks. Coincidentally we both have different viewpoints on low vs. high nutrient systems. MetroKat believes in a higher nutrient system, while I feel a low nutrient system is better. Despite our different opinions, as you continue reading do not only look at the differences between our tanks but what we both have in common, as that will provide us with the answer to the ultimate question.

My routine provides plenty of food for both my corals and fish/inverts but the one thing I try to do is remove it as fast as possible to reduce spikes in nutrient levels. My daily feedings include 2 "cubes" of frozen foods, daily dosing of Acropower, and daily broadcast feedings of either Reef Roids or Reef Snow. For frozen foods I usually just feed PE Mysis or Reef Frenzy. The majority of it doesn't get eaten by fish, but my snails, hermits and other inverts do a good job at eating the remainder.

Anything that doesn't get eaten will eventually break down and enter the water column as smaller particles which in turn feed SPS or other filter feeders. As I said, I feed and then aim to remove it as fast as possible. This is done by an oversized skimmer, a 'fuge full from corner to corner of chaeto, filter socks which are cleaned every couple days, and finally weekly water changes. Having a bare bottom system has also been key to my methodology because wastes do not settle in a sand bed and are picked back up into the column to be exported by any of the above means.


MetroKat's SPS Jungle

MetroKat: I feed my corals daily. I rotate between a variety of about 20 live, frozen and freeze dried foods so I am likely to repeat the same food only after a couple of weeks. There are some foods I throw in daily, however, like live phytoplankton whenever I have it, or preserved. I pay attention to the particle size of the foods very carefully. For SPS I feed 0.5 micron and slightly higher such as phytoplankton, golden pearls, NLS Nutri/Cell, Reef Roids and Rotifers. LPS get more meatier foods like krill, mysis, roe and copepods. I also have a heavy fish load which contributes to the nutrients.

To balance the equation, I run an oversized skimmer, and a large fuge with a variety of macros, sponges, Xenia, live rock and sand. I also run a phosphate reactor. In addition I give my corals a lot of light and flow, and maintain temperatures in the 78 range. My corals have a healthy color and growth. I don't overdo the nutrients, I maintain a balance as much as possible. My corals are the first indicators of the balance being upset for any reason. Coralites look stunted instead of sharply defined, the color changes, there are plenty of visual clues to tell me that something is off. I much prefer running a high nutrient system over one where I constantly test and worry about levels.

Conclusion

Both high and low nutrient systems have unique features, pros and cons. Which one works for you and the husbandry that you are most comfortable with will determine the path you follow. In both cases, SPS show growth, health and vitality. There really isn't one better methodology over the other. However in both cases, maintaining a balance is absolutely essential.

In a high nutrient system if it gets out of control you have problematic algae, browning by over abundance of zooxanthelea in a high phosphate environment. In low nutrient systems, ultra low levels could show you corals that are starving, pale in color and a lack of growth.

MISS PART 1? READ: SPS Corals for Beginners, Part 1




About our Guest Authors

Arce: Names Justin Arce, known as "Arce" on forums. My experience in reefs has been short, with only two years experience, but my current tank, a standard 29 gallon has proven to be a successful SPS reef. My addiction to sticks is obvious when looking at my tank, and especially when looking at my wallet.

MetroKat: Kat has been blogging and testing products for Marine Depot since 2014. Her current system is a 50G CADlights Artisan mixed reef with a custom hybrid light and the new Gyre . She was Tank of The Month on Nano-Reef in 2012, featured on Reef Builders, Marine Depot and recently won Most Creative Nano on Reef2Reef.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Aquarium Medications: How to Treat Sick Fish



We all want the fish in our aquariums to stay healthy. Unfortunately, like humans, fish may become ill from time to time.

You can dramatically reduce the likelihood of a disease entering your aquarium by purchasing livestock from a reputable source and quarantining all new arrivals before placing them into your display tank. That way, you do not risk exposing healthy fish to a disease or parasite that your new addition is carrying.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, illness can set in no matter how many precautionary measures we have taken. That is why we are going to share some of the most common and effective fish medications so you will be ready to treat your fish the instant you observe signs of illness.

There are a variety of aquarium medications available to treat fish diseases and parasites. We have grouped them into three separate categories based on how each individual treatment is administered:

  1. Medications that must be used in a quarantine tank (Seachem CupramineKordon Methylene Blue)

  2. Medications that can be can be used in a display or reef tank (Ruby Reef Kick Ich; Ruby Reef Rally)

  3. Medications that are added to fish food (Seachem MetroPlex; SeaChem Focus)


Medications that must be used in a quarantine tank

Medications that must be used in a hospital/quarantine tank are generally going to be the most potent and therefore most effective. Since you are treating the fish in a separate aquarium, you are able to use a stronger medication without worrying about it adversely effecting delicate corals and invertebrates. Seachem Cupramine, for example, is well-known for its ability to treat ich, velvet and external parasites. Kordon Methylene Blue is often used to treat fungal infections, but it can also treat ich and other parasites. Your hospitalized fish should be treated and quarantined for 2-4 months before returning to your display tank.

A quarantine tank doesn't need to be fancy. In fact, it should be kept as simple as possible for easy setup and maintenance. All you need is an aquarium, heater, filter and somewhere for the fish to hide. Large diameter PVC can make a great hideout for fish and is affordable and easy to find. With minimal biological filtration, you must keep a close eye on the waste parameters in your quarantine tank. Seachem Ammonia Alert is a helpful and inexpensive way to see if ammonia is present in your hospital tank.

We recommend setting up a quarantine tank to medicate sick fish in almost every circumstance. Of course, we realize setting up a separate aquarium may not be feasible for everyone. It is also possible that all of your fish may have fallen victim to a disease or parasite. In these instances, using an in-tank, reef safe medication may be the best approach.



Medications that can be can be used in a display or reef tank

Reef safe medications are often less potent and therefore less effective than medicines that require treatment in a quarantine tank. This means you may need to administer the treatment multiple times before your fish makes a full recovery. Ruby Reef offers some of the most popular in-tank treatments. Ruby Reef Kick-Ich targets the pesky ich parasite; Ruby Reef Rally is a copper-free treatment for harmful bacteria, fin rot, gill flukes, velvet and marine parasites. Polyp Lab Medic is another reef safe medication that treats external parasites like ich and velvet.

If the disease is caught in its early stages, reef safe medications can be quite effective. If the infection is severe, you may need to repeat the treatment (if it is safe to do so) or bite the bullet and set up a hospital tank so you can treat the fish with a more potent medication.



Medications that are added to fish food

The last group of medications we'll discuss are also the kind our staff solemnly swears by: medications that are added to fish food. Although often overlooked by hobbyists, these types of medications offer a lot of great benefits. Rather than treating the water around your fish, mixing medicine with food is a surefire way to ensure that the medication is successfully delivered. If you are adding a new fish to your aquarium—or whenever your fish appear stressed—feeding a medicine-infused food can halt the spread of illness before it starts.

You can even combine medications as a sort of "dual attack" on diseases and parasites when feeding. Seachem Metroplex and Seachem Focus are two products that work together to combat a variety of infections and parasites. Just add the proper amount of powdered medication(s) to your frozen fish food and allow it to soak for 15-30 minutes before feeding.


Final Tips

It is crucial to read and follow the medicine manufacturer's instructions exactly as prescribed. Do not overdose medications. You must also allow sufficient time for the medicine to take effect, so patience is key. Aquarium medications that are added to tank water can be adsorbed by activated carbon filter media and possibly removed by your protein skimmer, so be mindful of this when treating your tank.

If you have questions about aquarium medications or need help identifying which illness may be plaguing your tank, please contact our aquarium experts for free and friendly advice. We'll be happy to help you choose the right medication and can even deliver it using overnight service for a nominal fee.

Thanks for reading and until next time, take care and happy reefkeeping.



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Friday, April 03, 2015

Return Pump Rundown: What You Need to Know



Water pumps are the backbone of aquarium filtration. The tank is cleaned as the pump moves water through your filtration system. Pumps also help ensure proper gas exchange and healthy levels of dissolved oxygen.

When building an aquarium with a sump or using an all-in-one aquarium, you will often hear the term "return pump." This refers to the main pump that returns water from the sump/filter back into your display tank. There are a wide variety of water pumps available to suit every aquarium application. Today we are going to go over the different types of return pumps to help you choose the right pump for your tank.

Pumps are generally grouped into two categories: submersible pumps (which means the entire pump is submersed in water) and external pumps (which means the pump is mounted outside of the water). Keep in mind that many pumps fall into both categories, so do not let this confuse you. More and more pumps are being sealed so that they are safe for both submersed and dry applications.


Submersible Aquarium Pumps

Submersible pumps are the most popular because they are easy to install and maintain. The pump is completely sealed and safe for operation underwater. All you need to do is connect your plumbing, drop it into your sump or filter and you are good to go! Since the pump is submersed in water, it will generally operate with minimal noise. The exception is large submersible pumps which can be fairly loud. Submersible water pumps should be removed and thoroughly cleaned every few months to maintain optimal performance.

All of the submersible pumps we carry are magnetic drive-type pumps. This design allows the motor to be completely sealed and separate from the impeller which makes for safe operation underwater. Classically submersible water pumps are driven by AC (alternating current) power. Many of the aquarium hobby's favorites like the Mag-Drive, Sicce Syncra and Eheim Universal Hobby pumps are all AC powered magnetic drive pumps.



Thanks to modern technology, DC (direct current) powered submersible pumps are now available. This is a welcome innovation because they operate using less electricity compared to AC powered pumps and allow you to electronically control the speed or flow rate of the pump. They also tend to run quieter and cooler than most AC pumps and are safer for use around water because of the low voltage DC power.

The new Deepwater Aquatics BLDC pumps are DC powered and come with a smart controller that has six preset speeds, a feed mode and automatic dry run protection. Aqua Medic DC Runner and Reef Octopus RODC controllable pumps are also popular choices.



External Aquarium Pumps

External pumps are a little more involved in terms of getting them installed but will offer some great benefits.

You need to have a bulkhead in your sump or filter that will allow water to flow into the pump. External water pumps do not prime themselves and must have a flooded suction line in order to operate properly. External pumps transfer less heat into your aquarium, offer higher flow rates with better pressure ratings and typically last much longer when compared to submersible pumps.

Many of the magnetic drive pumps mentioned earlier can also be installed externally. However, there are a number of larger, more robust magnetic drive pumps that are designed specifically for external use, like Iwaki or Pan World pumps. These pumps use heavier duty, commercial-grade motors that will last a long time. They also handle pressure really well, so they are great for applications with long or complicated plumbing.



When choosing an external pump, you also have the option to use a direct drive pump from brands like ReeFlo or Dolphin. Direct drive pumps are nice because they have cool, quiet, low speed motors that will last a long time—up to 10 years when properly maintained.

Since the shaft completely separates the motor from the impeller, you get minimal heat transfer into your aquarium with a direct drive pump. The motors are generally very reliable but the pumps do have a seal that can wear out over time and will need to be replaced periodically. Direct drive external pumps offer high flow rates and use large diameter plumbing connections, so they are great for larger aquariums and closed-loop systems. Plan out your plumbing carefully and make sure to get all the necessary components before installing.

It is crucial to keep your return pump clean and in good working order, regardless of the application or type of pump. A failed return pump can cause a catastrophic tank crash if you are not prepared with a backup pump or spare impeller.

If you are in the market for a new pump or have questions about aquarium water pumps, please contact our aquarium experts so that we can help you choose a pump that fits your specific application and budget.

Thanks for reading and until next time, take care and happy reefkeeping.



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