Friday, July 31, 2015

Removes waste before it fouls up your aquarium water quality using mechanical filtration

When it comes to aquarium filtration, you can categorize the different filtration processes and components into three categories:
  1. Chemical Filtration
  2. Biological Filtration
  3. Mechanical Filtration

Chemical filtration refers to many of the adsorbent filter medias that remove dissolved particulates from aquarium water. Filter media such as carbon, GFO and Chemi-Pure are all considered chemical filtration methods.

Biological filtration refers to the bacteria and biological processes that naturally take place in your aquarium that break down waste. Bio-balls, wet-dry filters and an assortment of other media are great ways to help boost the biological filtration processes in your aquarium.

Mechanical filtration is the most common and effective type of aquarium filtration. This refers to the sponges, filter pads and filter socks that physically remove solids from the water that passes through them without altering water chemistry.

Today we are going to discuss the different types of mechanical filtration, show you some great tips for getting the most out of your filters and help you decide which mechanical filtration methods will work for your system.

The main purpose of mechanical filtration is to remove solid particulates. This includes organic sludge, fish waste, leftover fish food and various other particles suspended in your aquarium water that have not been dissolved. By removing these particulates via mechanical filtration, you will keep your water crystal clear and also improve water quality by getting rid of waste before it is broken down via the nitrogen cycle.

Filter pads are probably the easiest option for mechanical filtration. They can be cut-to-size to use in canister filters, wet/dry systems and sumps. Filter pads are available with a variety of different porosity levels. Fine-grade pads, such as AquaMaxx Micron Filter Pads, will filter out even the smallest particles of debris down to 50 microns. They are great for polishing your water and keeping it crystal clear. Coarser grade filter pads, such as AquaticLife Bonded Filter Pads, are designed to filter out larger particles of debris. They are great for heavily stocked aquariums with large fish or as a pre-filter before a micron filter pad.

There are also filter pads that are coated with chemical media, such as Rio Filter Pads and Polyfilters. These types of filter pads are great because they can provide both mechanical and chemical filtration at the same time.

Filter socks are great for reef aquariums. They are what most of the Marine Depot staff use because they are easy to maintenance, very effective and easily adapt to most any sump.

Filter socks do an amazing job of polishing your water because 100% of the water from your aquarium drains though the sock before entering your sump. The micron rating refers to the pore size of the filter socks. This is important to understand because 200 micron socks have bigger pores which may allow more particulates to pass through, but will not clog as quickly. The 100 micron socks have much smaller pores and will trap just about everything. The only downside is they will clog much quicker and require more frequent maintenance.

Most sump systems (such as Trigger Systems and Berlin Sumps) have brackets built-in to hold filter socks. If you are custom building your own sump at home, we have several pre-fabricated filter sock holders available on our website.

With all of the recent advancements in all-in-one style tanks, manufacturers are catching on to the effectiveness of filter socks. Innovative Marine, for example, has just come out with a nifty filter sock add-on that has an integrated bracket that adapts perfectly to their Nuvo and Fusion aquariums lines.

Filter socks can be cleaned and reused quite a few times. You can clean them with a garden hose or even throw them in your washing machine with a small amount of bleach and no detergent. Just be sure to run them through a second rinse cycle without any bleach to ensure they are thoroughly rinsed and let them air dry completely before using in your aquarium again.

An alternative to the felt-type filter socks are nylon filter socks. Instead of a thick felt material, a thin nylon mesh is used to filter out particulates. The benefit with nylon filter socks is they are much easier to clean and will last 2-3 times longer than a felt filter sock. The downside is they will allow for much more particulate to pass through.

Plastic filter sponges are probably one of the most overlooked types of mechanical filters. While they will not polish your water like a filter sock or fine micron filter pad, they are very easy to place in your sump or filter and can be rinsed and reused for a long time which makes them a very economical option. When used in a sump, you can squeeze the sponge in between baffles to trap bubbles and prevent snails or other small creatures from getting into your pumps.

With all of the mechanical filtration options available, it is easy to find a performance and maintenance combination that works best for your filtration set-up. If you don't mind cleaning or changing the filter frequently, filter socks will give you the best performance. If you are looking for something that requires less maintenance, coarse filter pads or sponges will work out great.

If you found this blog post and the accompanying video helpful, please like and share them to help other hobbyists. Don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel to see more informational content just like this!

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to share our knowledge with you. Until next time, take care and happy reefkeeping.

4Shop for Mechanical Filter Media in our online store

4Check out our Filter Media Guide to Carbon, GFO and BioPellets

4Learn about all the great benefits sumps have to offer

4Find out if it's time for you to graduate to a sump

4Read A Beginner's Guide to BioPellets

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Featured Reef Tank: Cody's 120 Gallon Zoa Garden

Today we are excited to show you a dazzling 120 gallon zoa-packed reef aquarium from one of our local customers, Cody!

Cody is a passionate aquarist with more than 10 years' experience caring for saltwater tanks. He is a member of several aquarium clubs and organizations, plus a regular contributor to many popular reef-related forums, so there's a good chance you've spoken with Cody online or at an event at some point.

Cody is also an avid coral collector with many rare and colorful specimens in his tank. He does not compromise on equipment and his plumbing is super clean and well thought-out. Keep watching to see all the ins and outs of Cody's 120 gallon masterpiece!

One of the most impressive aspects of Cody's tank is the amazing rainbow of colors. His tank houses over 30 different varieties of Zoanthids and Palythoas, all of which appear to be growing and thriving.

Cody's addiction to collecting rare and brilliant corals is obvious. We were lucky enough to film the aquarium ourselves, which posed a bit of a challenge because he has so many unique corals it was hard to know where to begin. The brilliant mushrooms and LPS corals were among our favorites.

Cody has been quite successful keeping SPS corals as well—most all of which are some variety of Acropora.

The tank is light by an ATI Powermodule T5 light fixture which houses 6 x ATI fluorescent T5 lamps (4 x Blue Plus, 1 x Coral Plus, 1 x Purple Plus). He supplements his primary light source with a Reef Brite XHO blue LED strip which is mounted directly to his ATI fixture with a little DIY ingenuity.

His sump contains a refugium which is run on a reverse light schedule using JBJ Nano-Glo LED lights along with a red led bulb to help promote growth among the variety of macroalgae. Cody uses Warner Marine EcoBack biopellets to help keep nutrients under control and also runs AquaMaxx Carbon One filter media. The tank is hard plumbed using PVC pipe with various valves to help make maintenance easy.

He has a small frag tank that is plumbed into the main tank to house frags and various other corals he trades with friends and other hobbyists.

Cody also utilizes the powerful Neptune Systems Apex AquaController to monitor and control all of his equipment. A dosing pump administers calcium and alkalinity on a daily basis and regular 20 gallon water changes are what keeps his parameters in check.

Cody credits much of his success to all of the marine aquarium clubs he has participated in over the years. If you would like to learn more about Cody, the clubs he is a member of and all the equipment and animals you've seen in today's episode, head over to the Featured Tank section of the Marine Depot website to get inspired!

If you have an amazing aquarium and would like to have your tank featured in a future Marine Depot video, please give us a call or send us an email. We'd love to hear from you!

Don't forget to like, share and subscribe to show your support and until next time … take care and happy reefkeeping.

4See our staff's 70 Gallon CAD Lights Artisan Reef Tank

4See Matt's 300 Gallon Fully Loaded Mixed Reef Tank

4See Adnan's 150 Gallon SPS Dominate Reef Tank

4See Bret's 55 Gallon Mature Mixed Reef Tank

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

This easy mod to the AquaMaxx HOB-1 Bubble Stopper will eliminate your large bubble troubles

I am not a DIY kind of guy.

I often have (what I feel are) brilliant ideas, but making that transition from my brain to my hands doesn't always work out the way I've envisioned.

But after purchasing the new AquaMaxx HOB-1 Bubble Stopper and seeing it action, I thought, "There is a way to improve this that is simple enough even I can do it."

Let me preface by saying I didn't have issues with microbubbles. I did, however, have some larger bubbles that would exit the skimmer and cause splashing and salt creep around the outlet of the skimmer. I wanted to stop this from occurring and figured the Bubble Stopper would be perfect.

Upon receiving the Bubble Stopper, I rinsed it thoroughly and also gave my HOB-1 a much-needed cleaning. The Bubble Stopper was easy to install and only took a few seconds. When I turned the skimmer back on, I noticed the water level inside was quite high—almost to the notch in the body where the inlet tube enters the skimmer. This had me a little worried so I began investigating to see what the cause was.

I determined the new Bubble Stopper was causing some back pressure on the water exiting the skimmer. Water exits the Bubble Stopper from the top, so I could see this occurring. After inspecting the Bubble Stopper, I figured why not try drilling some holes in the cylinder to allow the water to exit from the body of the Bubble Stopper instead of just the top? Since there is a sponge that wraps all the way around the Bubble Stopper, I ascertained that any bubbles would be immediately stopped by the sponge.

I drilled multiple holes with a 3/16" drill bit all the way around the cylindrical Bubble Stopper. After cleaning up the shavings and rinsing it, I reinstalled the Bubble Stopper on my HOB-1. Perfect! The water level inside the skimmer no longer rose toward the top.  I can't believe an idea I had actually worked, but it did!

After observing the skimmer run for a while, I noticed quite a bit of water coming out of the top of the Bubble Stopper. While not really an issue, I really was trying to get all of the water to come out the sides instead of the top, so I re-drilled all the holes with a 1/4" drill bit.

At this point, almost all the water now comes out the sides with a little bit still exiting from the top, which really isn't that big of a deal.  I'm sure as the sponge gets a little dirty more water will exit from the top of the Bubble Stopper, which for me will be a great reminder to rinse the sponge out.

Most importantly, I'm no longer having those large bubbles issues. So maybe I am a DIY kind of guy after all!

Friday, July 17, 2015

How to Install and Use a Kalkwasser Reactor to Maintain Calcium & Alkalinity in a Reef Tank

Maintaining proper calcium and alkalinity levels is crucial in a reef tank because these are the major elements corals need to grow. Using kalkwasser is a great way to maintain these levels.

In aquariums with lower calcium demands, kalkwasser is often sufficient to be the only source of calcium supplementation. In aquariums with higher calcium demands, it is a great complement to other methods such as a liquid 2-part solution or a calcium reactor.

Today we are going to discuss kalkwasser reactors, show you how they work, explain why you need one and provide you with some helpful tips for getting a reactor installed on your tank.

Not only does kalkwasser add calcium and alkalinity to your aquarium, it also has several other very desirable benefits. Dosing kalkwasser will help to raise and maintain a proper pH level. Low pH tends to be a common issue among hobbyists and saturated kalkwasser solution has a pH of 12.4 so it is very effective in raising the aquarium pH. It is also widely known that using kalkwasser will help reduce phosphate levels via precipitation which in turn helps to keep nuisance algae at bay.

The one drawback of kalkwasser is simply the work required to dose it properly. You need to dose Kalkwasser at the proper concentration and it must be dosed slowly to avoid dangerous swings in pH.

The cheapest way to dose kalkwasser is via gravity drip or through your auto top-off (ATO), but this approach requires frequent mixing of new kalkwasser solution to ensure the concentration is correct. Since the quality of the kalkwasser mixture begins to degrade as soon it is mixed and exposed to air, mixing kalk in an unsealed container that is not constantly agitated will require frequent replenishment.

This is where a kalkwasser reactor can help and will solve the problem of having to frequently mix new solution and ensure perfectly saturated kalkwasser solution is dosed into your tank each and every time.

A kalkwasser reactor (also known as a kalk-stirrer) is a very helpful tool that will save you a lot of time and maximize the effectiveness of dosing kalkwasser. A kalkwasser reactor is an inline, sealed chamber that works with your ATO or a dosing pump to dose kalkwasser solution into your tank.

Kalkwasser is first added to the reactor chamber. Then the chamber is filled with freshwater and connected inline between your ATO pump and your aquarium.

The sealed chamber is mixed several times throughout the day to keep the solution saturated. With most reactors, a simple home appliance timer or aquarium controller will be attached to the pump or motor on the reactor to activate the stirring a few times each day.

When water is needed to top off your aquarium, your ATO or dosing pump will be activated and pump freshwater into the kalkwasser reactor and the saturated solution inside the reactor will be pushed into your aquarium. This will then supplement your tank with kalkwasser solution and replenish freshwater at the same time.

Because a kalkwasser reactor chamber is not exposed to air and is mixed regularly, you are able to maintain a super-saturated solution—getting the most out of your kalkwasser. In most situations, you will only need to add new kalkwasser every couple of weeks.

We carry four brands of kalkwasser reactors here at Marine Depot: Bubble Magus, Precision Marine, Reef Octopus and Two Little Fishies.

Both Bubble Magus and Reef Octopus utilize motorized stirrers to keep the kalkwasser solution saturated.

The Two Little Fishies reactor utilizes water pressure from your ATO pump and a special valve to mix the kalkwasser solution inside the reactor. This is pretty cool because it does not have any electronic parts and does not require a timer or controller. While the TLF is one of the most economical reactors on the market, it does have more specific ATO pump requirements and will require more frequent cleaning.

The Precision Marine KR620 is the most popular kalk reactor among our customers. We love the fact that it is made in Texas and built like a tank! The Cobalt Aquatics MJ pump used for stirring is very dependable and durable. Should the pump ever fail or get worn out, it is very inexpensive and easy to replace. Precision Marine is known for making robust, high quality aquarium equipment and the KR620 is a prime example of PM craftsmanship.

If you are looking for an effective way to automate calcium and alkalinity supplementation for your reef aquarium, we are happy to help you get the products you need for a smooth installation. Don't forget to like, share and subscribe to show your support if you found this information helpful so we can continue to provide you with more awesome aquarium tutorials.

Until next time... take care and happy reef keeping.

4Shop for Kalkwasser Reactors in our online store.

4Read customer reviews about Kalkwasser.

4Learn How to Dose Kalkwasser in this blog post and video.

4Read 10 Frequently Asked Questions Kalkwasser on this blog.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Trigger Systems Sumps: Powerhouse Filter Boxes for Your Reef Tank

Today we are showcasing some brand new sumps we just brought in that are sure to impress. These quality U.S. made sumps come in a variety of different models to suit just about any situation.

All Trigger Systems sumps are made right here in the U.S.A. out of Dallas, Texas and are some of the best sumps money can buy. We are impressed with the durable construction and well thought out designs.

These powerhouse filter boxes have full top support bracing made from one solid piece of material that minimizes bowing and increases rigidity throughout the entire sump. They also have rounded corners which exponentially increases the strength of the corner seams. The particular baffling and design of these sumps was obviously a product of experience with exquisite attention to detail.

We also really like the fact they offer three different sump product lines with sumps available in a variety of sizes: the Crystal, the Ruby and the top-of-the-line Emerald series sumps. This means you can find a sump to fit just about any tank and budget.

The most economical of the three are the Crystal Sumps where you get the most bang for the buck. The Ruby Sumps are mid-level sumps that feature ruby-colored baffles and bracing to reduce algae growth with the same or slightly larger dimensions than the Crystal Sumps as well as built-in probe holders.

Both the Crystal and Ruby sumps are offered with "Sump" and "Elite Sump" configurations. The main difference being the Elite versions have a unique baffling configuration that creates separate water flow through the refugium section allowing for faster water flow through the sump.

Both the Crystal and Ruby are also offered in Cube configurations, which are ideal for cube aquariums or in installations where space is limited.

The top-of-the-line Emerald Sump includes some very desirable and unique features along with the sleek look of green colored bracing and baffles. One of our favorite features are interchangeable plates that allows you to use either a foam block or filter sock. You can use the foam block for coarse mechanical filtration with minimal service required. If you prefer fine mechanical filtration, you can use filters socks instead.

The adjustable baffle allows you to adjust the water level. Built-in platforms make it easy to maintenance filter media and the probe holders allow you to keep your monitoring devices organized and out of the way. They also have some handy holes drilled into the top brace to hold ¼" tubing for reactors, dosers, auto top-off systems and other devices.

With 13 different models to choose from, it is easy to find a Trigger Systems sump that fits your needs. If you need help selecting a sump for your tank, please contact us for honest advice from real hobbyists.

If you found this blog post and the accompanying video helpful, please please like, share and subscribe to show your support!

Until next time... take care and happy reef keeping.

4View all the Trigger Systems sumps we carry in our store.

4Learn about the benefits of having a sump in this article/video.

4Shop for an In-Sump Skimmer to place inside your new sump.

Friday, July 10, 2015

VIDEO: How to Restore a Neglected Reef Aquarium

Building a reef tank is hard work: it takes time, attention to detail, physical and financial resources to set up and maintain a successful aquarium.

From time to time, occasional lapses in tank maintenance are bound to happen. Sadly, these gaps of inattention can lead to some critical problems in your tank. If these problems are left unaddressed, an aquarium crash can occur a lot faster than you think and fish and/or corals may be lost!

No matter how many preventive measures you take or how many processes you automate, you are eventually going to need to get your hands dirty and clean things up.

Today we are going to share our game plan for restoring a neglected reef tank. If your aquarium maintenance schedule has been derailed by summer fun, keep watching for step-by-step instructions on how to get things back on track.

First things first: evaluate the damage. How do you do this? Well, test your water parameters, of course! Do not forget to leave anything out. You need to test the pH, temperature, nitrate, phosphate as well as the major elements that keep your corals growing: calcium, alkalinity and magnesium.

You also need to check inspect all of your equipment. This includes everything on the tank from heaters to fish feeders. Check your powerheads and pumps for proper operation, ensure your protein skimmer is working correctly along with your ATO and any other automation-type equipment that may have gone haywire.

Now that you have your test results and know which pieces of equipment needs attention, it is time to get working!


Clean and maintenance all your filtration equipment. A simple water change will not fix a water flow problem or clean your filter socks. We find it best to get all the equipment back in working order, especially restoring your filtration system to normalcy, before adjusting water parameters.

Soaking and cleaning your pumps, refilling your dosing chambers and replacing or cleaning probes and sensors are all likely all to be on the list of equipment you need to get back in working order. You should also replace your filter media, clean mechanical filter sponges and socks, check your light bulbs and remove salt creep from just about everything on the tank.


Get your parameters back on track and perform a large water change. Reference the test results you took during your initial evaluation to see just how far out of line your parameters have become. Performing a large water change will be the biggest help in getting everything back to normal. Not only will this help dilute elevated waste levels, it will also help to restore proper water chemistry. Typically this "recovery" water change is 30%-40% of your tank's total volume, which is far greater than the usual 5-10% changes you probably overlooked to begin with.

Be sure the clean saltwater matches the pH, temperature and salinity of your tank water to minimize stress on your aquarium inhabitants. You want to clean your glass and rocks free of algae prior to changing out the water and siphon out as much detritus as possible during the water change. Try to minimize the time corals and live rock are exposed to air. It helps to have all the tools you need close by before starting. This includes buckets, towels, algae scrapers, a siphon tube and your clean saltwater.

One important thing to keep in mind: if your water parameters are really out of line, it is likely the animals still alive in the tank have become accustomed to these not-so-ideal living conditions. Therefore any changes to water chemistry should be done slowly. This is because immediate changes may cause severe stress and proliferate problems that already exist in the tank.

After your initial large water change, it is very likely you will need to perform several more 20%-30% water changes every 5-7 days until your parameters are within acceptable ranges.

At this point, you should be well on your way back to a thriving reef aquarium!

In the event you lost some animals, be patient before replacing them. Wait until your tank is stable before adding new fish, corals or invertebrate. Stay regular with your tank maintenance schedule going forward. After all of the effort it takes to keep a thriving reef tank, it is always a shame to see an aquarium suffer from neglect.

If you found this blog post and the accompanying video helpful, please please like, share and subscribe to show your support!

Until next time... take care and happy reef keeping.

4Shop our store for aquarium maintenance gear.

4Learn which parameters you should test in a saltwater tank.

4Find out how to prevent and get rid of red slime in your aquarium.

*Special thanks to Eddie Zia for granting us permission to use his wonderful photos!

Monday, July 06, 2015

Zoanthid and Palythoa: Coral Care Tips, Paly Toxin and Fragging

Goblin Fire, Pink Hippos, Candy Apple Reds, Utter Chaos, Rainbow Infusion, Sunny D's.

These are just a few of the common names for some of the most brilliant and eye catching organisms you can keep in a reef tank. Have you ever walked into a fish store and asked for a Blue Rhino? How about a Latin Lover?

It is definitely an interesting way to start to a conversation!

If you haven't guessed already, today we are going to talk about keeping Zoanthids and Palythoas in your aquarium and provide you with some helpful tips to create a beautiful zoa garden in your tank.

Zoanthid and Palythoas polyps are extremely popular for beginner, intermediate and advanced hobbyists alike. Beginners love the fact that there is a large variety of different types that are fairly inexpensive and easy to keep. Intermediate and advanced hobbyists love them for the array of brilliant colors that can really add to an aquascape and create that iconic tropical reef look in your aquarium.

As with most cnidarians, the trick to keeping zoas and palys happy in a reef tank is stability. Stable water parameters will help ensure these colonial polyps grove and thrive. They are sensitive to sudden changes in light intensity; we find it is best to place newly acquired specimens in a corner of the aquarium that is dimmer and allow the polyps to acclimate to your aquarium slowly.

They will appreciate regular feeding of small-size coral foods, such as Reef-Roids, Coral Frenzy or one of the many liquid foods. Based on my experience, the best flow rate can vary depending on the size of the polyp. Smaller polyps do well in medium to lower flow areas while larger polyps tend to better with stronger flow patterns. You can tell that they are happy because they will stay open, reproduce quickly and maintain brilliant color. Too much flow will cause them to close up and not enough flow will typically cause them to slowly decline or even die out over a long period of time.

Once acclimated, your zoa and paly polyps will begin to grow and reproduce rapidly. With a mature garden of zoas and palys, you can easily frag them and trade with other hobbyists to broaden your collection. Zoas and palys are one of the most popular organisms to collect and many hobbyists take pride in how many different types and colors they have their tank.

To frag a zoa or paly, our 'weapon' of choice is a stony coral cutter that allows you to cut in to the rock a remove the polyp along with a small piece of the rock. Once the polyp is cut away and out of your tank, you can easily use coral glue to attach it to a frag plug or disc.

One important thing to remember is that zoas and palys can contain a deadly toxin call paly toxin which can be very dangerous if it enters your blood stream. Be sure to wear eye protection and gloves when handling these corals both in and out of water.

With such a large variety available, easy care requirements and brilliant colors, zoas and palys are a great addition to just about any reef tank!

If you found this video helpful, please please like, share and subscribe to show your support!

Until next time... take care and happy reef keeping.

4Shop for Zoanthids and Palythoas at Marine Depot Live.

4Read customer reviews about coral foods and supplements.

4Watch more Livestock Tip Videos on our YouTube channel.

*Special thanks to Cody from SCMAS for allowing us to film/photograph his tank!