Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Q&A Video Series #10: “I am new to the saltwater aquarium hobby. Where should I begin?"

Welcome to another installment of the Marine Depot Question and Answer Video Series.

Our question for this video is "I am new to the hobby. Where should I begin?"

Now this is a great question because building and keeping your first reef tank can be quite intimidating but Lucky for you guys MD is here to help you through it.

One thing all reef hobbyists have in common is at one point or another we have all been “newbies”. Some of us have come in to the hobby with previous background in freshwater aquariums or some other aquatic hobby while others come into the hobby with no experience at all.

So where does one start if they have never been in the hobby and are thinking about taking the dive in to reef keeping?

Step 1 is to determine where your tank will go and how big it will be

We typically recommend an aquarium 20 gallons or larger for beginners. Water parameters are more stable in larger aquariums and gives you more room for error. Saltwater fish and corals are more sensitive to changing water conditions, so a larger aquarium significantly improves your chance of success in the hobby.

Smaller aquariums such as Nano and Pico Reef aquariums can be extremely challenging.

Measure the space you have available to see what is aesthetically pleasing to you then try and fit the largest aquarium possible in that space. You can even mock up a replica of your future tank out of cardboard; think about the height and how the tank will best be viewed.

Step 2 is work out your budget and think about the operating costs of your tank

How much are you looking to spend up front and how much can you afford for monthly maintenance?

Smaller tanks don’t always equate to smaller budgets in terms of set-up and equipment. As an example, water testing for a 10 gallon aquarium costs the same as water testing for a 100 gallon aquarium, however, the cost of stocking and maintenance will be considerably less when keeping a smaller aquarium. A typical cost estimate for a reef tank is about $50-$100 per gallon, excluding livestock.

The main thing to remember when purchasing your tank and equipment is you are far better off purchasing quality equipment up front. The cost of replacing faulty equipment or upgrading ineffective equipment can really add up over time and not to mention also put your animals at risk.

Step 3 is the most critical step: research, research, research

This when the real fun begins. Research is one of the greatest tools for new hobbyists and is a fun part of the process. Here at Marine Depot we have created a database of videos, charts and diagrams, articles and so much more that you can find on our website completely free of charge.

Personally, my favorite aspect of reefkeeping is that I am always learning. With over 15 years’ experience in keeping aquariums I still learn something new every day.

Educate yourself as much as possible before purchasing any products or livestock. This will save you both money and senseless frustration.

One of the most common mistakes I see new hobbyists make is an impulse purchase of livestock.

Not all fish and aquarium animals are meant to be kept together and many of them have very special requirements.

When keeping a reef tank, it is all that more important because corals and invertebrates are highly sensitive to water quality and having a mature aquarium with stable water parameters is crucial to your success.

You will want to check out product reviews to see what others have experienced and join an online forum or local reef club to get in touch with other hobbyists for support.

Every aquarium is different and finding out what works for you is the best way to choose a particular product or piece of equipment that you will be happy with.

In in the end, you need to figure out the goals you want to achieve with your aquarium.

Is there a certain type of fish you really want in your tank?

If yes, make sure you set up the proper environment for the particular fish in regards to tanks size and aqua-scaping.

Is there a certain coral or invertebrate you must have in your tank? Well you will need to ensure you have the proper lighting, water parameters and flow needed to keep the particular coral alive and thriving.

The more you learn before diving into building a reef tank the better prepared you will be to overcome obstacles and provide the right environment for a healthy happy aquarium.

If you’re looking to build your first reef tank, this simple three step plan of action will surely help make your experience more successful. MD is happy to help you along the way and we have a fully trained team of aquarium experts that are eager to provide you with quality support.

Don't forget to like, share and subscribe to show your support and help out other new hobbyists and until next time, take care and happy reefkeeping.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Biological Filtration: How to Grow Beneficial Bacteria for a Thriving Ecosystem in your Aquarium

I am sure most of you are familiar with cycling an aquarium. If not, check out this video.

Cycling your aquarium is so crucial because it allows time for beneficial bacteria to grow in your aquarium and establish your biological filtration. In this video we are going to discuss biological filtration and provide you with the necessary information to ensure you are providing the right kind of environment for beneficial bacteria to thrive in your tank.

The term biological filtration refers to the various beneficial bacteria that grows on just about every surface submerged in your aquarium. This bacteria breaks down and processes waste into less harmful byproducts essentially filtering your aquarium water.

So how does one go about providing biological filtration? Well it is quite easy because nature does the work for you. Naturally, beneficial bacteria will grow on any surface submerged in your tank; biological filter media, rocks, substrate, decorations, pumps, tank walls, etc.

For fish only systems and freshwater aquariums the use of bio-balls, a wet/dry filter or other biological filter media provide extra surface area for bacteria to grow. Boosting the bacteria population means waste is processed more effectively; in turn creating a healthier environment for your fish.

When keeping a reef tank, the use of biological filter media is generally not recommended because they are so effective at trapping and processing waste. If the media is not cleaned frequently, it is very difficult to keep nitrate levels at a minimum and elevated nitrate levels in a reef tank can lead to some serious problems for your corals and invertebrates as well as contribute to nuisance algae outbreaks.

Thankfully, with the use of live rock for biological filtration in a reef tank, we can control waste and help avoid elevated nitrate levels. Live rock will host a variety of different bacteria both on the surface as well as deep within the pores of the rock. Aerobic bacteria growing on the outer surfaces that are exposed to fresh oxygenated water will break down nitrite and ammonia. The denitrifying bacteria living deep within the rock called anaerobic bacteria will break down nitrate. This is why live rock is such an effective biological filter media; it will help to process and filter out all three byproducts of the nitrogen cycle; ammonia, nitrite and nitrate.

But what if you don’t want to go with live rock and would prefer to use dry rock for your reef tank? Can you still get the same results? The short answer is yes, but it will simply take more time for the bacteria to colonize the rock. Using a bacterial supplement, such as the Brightwell Microbacter7, can help seed the rock to get the process moving along quicker. Regular addition of the bacterial supplement will help to maintain a healthy population and diversity of bacteria strains.

Your sand bed is also another crucial environment for bacteria to grow because of the amazing amount of surface area the sand provides for bacteria to grow. The use of a shallow sand bed will provide a great environment for aerobic bacteria to process nitrite and ammonia. If you choose to run a deep sand bed, more than 2-3” deep, you will effectively grow anaerobic bacteria as well to help control nitrate. The same case applies with using dry sand vs live sand, both have the capability to host bacteria but live sand comes with bacteria already colonized while dry sand will simply take a bit longer to establish in your tank.

One key thing to remember about the bacteria that break down waste products in aquariums, the vast majority of them will be adhered to surfaces somewhere in the tank, they will not be free floating. Therefore, doing water changes should not affect the biological filtration in an established aquarium when performed properly.

The correct application of biological filtration in conjunction with a protein skimmer, refugium, bio-pellets and/or other types of filters can help keep your tanks water pristine and your fish, invertebrates and corals happy and healthy. If you found our video helpful, please like share and subscribe to help us spread the good word and until next time, take care and happy reefkeeping.

> Read The Best Ways to Cycle Your Reef Aquarium (with video!)
> Read 8 Things You Should NEVER Do When Starting a New Tank
> Read Aquarium Rock: Live, Dry, Cured or Uncured?
> Read Marine Aquarium Rock: Which Rock is Right for You?

Monday, January 18, 2016

How to Get the Most From Your Aquarium Probes: Introducing the Innovative Marine CustomCradle

We just got word Innovative Marine is releasing a probe holder like you've never seen before.

The CustomCradle is compatible with all current probes on the market, including the Neptune Systems Apex temperature probe. The CustomCradle organizes your devices in the most simple and efficient way possible.

CustomCradle XL

Here some of the convenient features the CustomCradle offers:
  • No need for thumb screws
  • Probes do not need to be threaded through
  • Magnetic catch
  • Probes stay in place when changing out
  • Fully encapsulated magnets to prevent from rusting
  • Magnet strength 8mm for Nano and 12mm for XL thick glass
The CustomCradle gives you a clutter-free solution to secure and organize your aquarium probes (3 on the nano; 4 on the XL), tubing from a dosing pump (2 x 1/4" OD on the nano; 4 x 1/4" OD on the XL) as well as the return for your ATO system.

  • Nano 2 Doing Tubes Holder - 1/4" OD 
  • 3 Probes 
  • Dims: 3.5" x 1.75" x 1.25"

CustomCradle XL
  • 4 Doing Tubes Holder - 1/4" OD 
  • 4 Probes  1 ATO Holder - 1/2" OD 
  • Dims: 6" x 1.75" x 1.25"
Pre-installed foam pads cradle your probes to ensure a tight fit. This combination gives you three points of contact and keeps your probes from accidentally falling into your aquarium.

CustomCradle Nano

Innovative Marine lives up to their namesake once again by eliminating thumbscrews and instead use a magnetic cap system to hold your probes in place. Insert ATO and dosing lines with ease into laser-cut holes. The high-powered magnet are fully encapsulated in a cell-cast all acrylic body to prevent it from rusting.

Innovative Marine CustomCradle from the top down showing magnetic cap system

Word is Innovative Marine will be offering the CustomCradle Nano for $29.99 and the CustomCradle XL for $49.99. Pricing is subject to change, of course, but providing us this information so close to launch is a good sign they will stay priced economically under $50.

Innovative Marine CustomCradle Nano holds 3 probes and 2 tubes for dosing supplements

According to Innovative Marine, both sizes should begin shipping to retailers like Marine Depot sometime later this week. We'll keep our fingers crossed they get here soon (we are just as anxious as you to try these out!) and, of course, add a product page to our website so you can order as soon as they become available!

Until next time, take care and happyreefkeeping.


11 Inspirational Innovative Marine Nuvo Aquariums
Innovative Marine Auqa Gadget Aquarium Upgrades
The Truly Innovative MiniMax All-In-One Media Reactor
> 10 and 20 Gallon NUVO Fusion Nano Tanks Now Available

Tank Hacks: Easy Upgrades for Your JBJ RL-45 Rimless Reef Aquarium

All-in-one aquariums are great because out of the box, they include just about everything you need to get your tank started. Just like a car, what comes stock with your all-in-one aquarium will work, but aftermarket modifications and upgrades can really ramp up the performance and help make your aquarium venture even more successful.

In this video we take the popular JBJ 45 gallon rimless aquarium and completely deck out the tank with high-performance gear to help inspire all of you to take your all-in-one tank to the next level.

The JBJ 45 gallon tank has some great features and looks really nice right out of the box. The rimless design, rounded corners and sleek stand give the tank a very contemporary feel. It measures 26” long by 21” wide and is 19” tall.

The internal filtration compartments are nice and large and give you plenty of room to add or upgrade equipment. I removed the black covering from the back of the aquarium simply for the sake of filming but this is a nice option because with a transparent filter compartment you can create a refugium in one of the back chambers.

The first change is swapping out the dual return pumps with a single controllable Tunze Silence Pump. We used the 1073 model which offers a flow rate up to 792 gallons per hour. This low voltage DC pump will allow us to dial in the flow exactly to our liking, increase the turnover rate through the filtration and reduce the clutter and power cords in the back of the tank. With increased turnover you will optimize water quality and help create a pristine environment for corals. Using just one pump instead of two also means one less pump to clean and leaves more room for additional equipment.

We utilize a single ½” wye fitting along with some ½” vinyl tubing to make the connection with the dual returns. We swapped out the stock return nozzles with a couple of Innovate Marine Spinstream nozzles to create some random flow patterns without using any electricity.

Now for the protein skimmer. The AquaMaxx HOB-1 is by far our most popular hang-on skimmer because it is well built, performs great and is easy to install and use. Hobbyists often consider the protein skimmer to be the heart of the filtration system. Having a great protein skimmer will help you maintain better water quality for your fish and corals.

Notice the skimmer intake is placed into the first left chamber and the skimmer return is directed into the 2nd left chamber to avoid recirculating clean water through the skimmer. This helps to maximize the amount of waste pulled out by the protein skimmer.

This 2nd chamber on the left will also house a Cobalt Aquatics 200 watt NeoTherm heater. This heater is super simple to set, has an extremely accurate electronic thermostat and the thin profile makes it easy to mount in small places like the back of an All-in-one aquarium.

For filter media, we are removing the stock media basket from the right side and installing a couple of the AquaMaxx FR-S Filter Media Reactors. One in chamber one and another in chamber two. These new reactors from AquaMaxx are the bees-knees in terms of nano filtration. They are slim, easy to maintain, and come with a pump located directly below the reaction chamber which means no additional plumbing is required. The Sicce brand pump included has an adjustment right on the side that allows you to control the flow rate through the reactor. One of the reactors is filled with AquaMaxx ROX 0.8 Carbon and the other is being filled with AquaMaxx Phosphate Out Pro which is a high capacity GFO media that lasts twice as long as regular GFO. This will take care of our chemical filtration in the tank.

For mechanical filtration we will keep the stock media basket on the left but fill it with a coarse filter sponge along with some bonded filter pad. Being housed in the media basket it will make maintaining the filter pad and sponge quick and easy.

The final addition to our filter chambers will be the NEW Micro AutoAqua Smart ATO Micro. We chose this ATO because the sensor is small and easy to place in the cluttered filter chamber. The magnetic sensor makes it super simple to install.

In all-in-one aquariums, evaporation can cause some serious problems really quick. Dropping water levels can cause micro-bubbles or even burn out your pumps. Changes in salinity can stress out or even kill sensitive reef animals and for these reasons an Auto top off system can be a real life saver and automatically replenish freshwater as needed.

Notice the sensor is located in the center pump chamber as this is the only chamber in the tank that will change when water evaporates because of the filter baffling.

We also installed the slick Trigger Systems ATO reservoir located down below the tank inside the stand for a clean look.

Now that does it for the filter compartments and next up is lighting.

We chose the AquaIllumination Hydra 52 HD fixture because it will provide more than enough light for this size aquarium to grow any type of coral. It offers excellent control features with built in wifi and a smartphone app. The unique “HD” power allotment feature allows you to get maximum output from the fixture, no matter how you set the color spectrum.

The AquaIllumination classic rail kit along with the parallel mounting kit is used to hold the light and is very straightforward in terms of assembly and installation. It only took me about 10 minutes to get the light up and mounted over the tank.

For wavemaking, we chose a couple of EcoTech Marine MP10 pumps. This gives us flexibility to dial in flow and make awesome waves and random water flow no matter how the aquascape turns out. We can also add a battery backup later to keep the water moving in case of a power outage and because the motor is located outside of the tank, we will drastically reduce heat transfer from the pump. Heat can be a real problem for AIO tanks, especially when you start adding extra equipment and additional pumps. With the use of LED lighting, a DC return pump, and the VorTech Powerheads we should be able to operate the aquarium without the use of a chiller.

Finally, the Aquascape. CaribSea is pretty much the go-to brand for sand and they offer a ton of different options. The special grade reef sand is my personal favorite and is available both live and dry.

Because I hate hitchhikers and wanted to create a unique and impressive Aquascape in the tank, I used a combination of the various AquaMaxx dry rock including the Tonga branch, Pukani and Shelf rock. It will take a bit longer to cycle this dry rock but is well worth it. Using dry rock like this avoids the introduction of pesky hitchhikers commonly found on live rock collected in the wild.

So here is our decked out JBJ 45 gallon rimless aquarium in all its glory. I know some of you are probably thinking to yourself, what about a chiller, or controller? How about dosing or a calcium reactor? Well you’re right! The fun never stops in this hobby and all of these could be added to the tank as well.

For a full list of the items we covered in this video, check out the links below:

If you are looking to upgrade your all-in-one tank MD has what you are looking for and feel free to contact our trained team of aquarium experts for fast and friendly support.

Please like, share and subscribe to help us continue to bring you more videos just like this and until next time, take care and happy reefkeeping.

BioCube Hacks: 6 Easy Ways to Upgrade Your Nano
> Will it Fit? Video Series: Coralife 29 Gallon BioCube
Will it Fit? Video Series: JBJ 45-Gallon RL Rimless Cube
Hack Your Tank: Ways to Modify Your All-in-One Aquarium

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Choosing the Right Powerhead for your Reef Tank

Water flow in a reef aquarium is absolutely crucial to create a healthy environment for the animals inside the tank. Wild reefs are naturally very turbulent and creating natural flow patterns will help keep debris suspended in your tank, promote proper gas exchange, and help deliver food and nutrients to your tank inhabitants. When building a reef tank, submersible pumps often called “powerheads” are used to create water movement inside the tank.  In this video we are going take the guesswork out of shopping for powerheads and show you guys how to choose the appropriate powerheads for your tank.

First and foremost, I should probably note that using powerheads is not the sole source of water flow in most reef tanks.   For this video, we will be discussing internal water movement which only applies to powerheads or internal wavemakers.  Choosing a return pump and gauging return water flow through your filtration should be addressed separately and you can check out our video below for more information:

When looking at powerheads you will notice a couple of different basic styles. You have wide flow type “propeller” powerheads such as the Hydor Koralia, EcoTech Vortech, Neptune WAV and Tunze Stream Pumps which are great options for moving water inside a reef tank.  They move a large volume of water at a lower velocity making it much easier to get water movement in every nook and cranny of your tank.  The flow patterns produced by these wide flow type powerheads is also very natural and the most popular choice for reef tanks.

You will also see the classic jet stream style powerheads such as the Cobalt MJ powerheads and Taam Rio powerheads.  These powerheads can produce a very strong stream of water flow but the output is very focused. To learn more about the versatility of MJ pumps, check out this video:

A new cross-flow type of “powerhead” was introduced by Maxspect to the aquarium hobby a little over a year ago. The MaxSpect Gyre produces a laminar water flow pattern that is very unique and has several unique benefits compared to traditional powerheads. You can find out more about the Gyre by watching this video:

When sizing a powerhead, you need to take into consideration the size of your tank and the type of corals you plan to keep.  When keeping a tank that is predominately Soft Corals and LPS, you want to accomplish a total tank turnover of 10-20 times per hour.   When keeping SPS corals, your target turnover should be 20-40 times per hour.   For example, if you have a 50 gallon SPS dominant aquarium; you want to have a total internal flow rate of 1000 – 2000 GPH coming from a wide flow type powerhead.

Once you figured out how much flow you need, now it’s time to think about pump placement. Ultimately, you want water to be moving in every inch of your aquarium leaving no room for stagnant water or dead spots in the tank.   Depending on the shape of your aquarium and your aquascape, it is often a much smarter choice to purchase multiple smaller powerheads as opposed to one large powerhead.

Therefore, if you are trying to accomplish a total flow rate of 2000 GPH, you will want to choose two powerheads that are rated at no less than 1000 GPH each.

By using two or more smaller powerheads you can position the pumps in such a way to maximize water movement throughout the entire tank without creating a sandstorm.  It is also much easier to move the pumps around if and when your flow requirements change.

As a tank matures, corals will grow and additions will be made to the tank so you will need to re-direct your water flow to accommodate these changes; having multiple powerheads makes it much easier to get the flow into the areas of your tank that need it most.  If you find that there are stagnant areas in your aquarium after the addition of powerheads, a smaller powerhead, such as the Hydor Koralia Nano, can be used to target those problematic areas.

With such a large variety of powerheads we offer, it is easy to find a powerhead or a combination of powerheads that is perfect for your aquarium and your budget.

If you found this video helpful, please like and share to help out other hobbyists.   We appreciate all of you for watching and until next time, take care and happy reefkeeping.

> VIDEO - Smart Pumps: VorTech Gyre and WAV

> VIDEO - Maxspect Gyre XF130 Flow Pumps

> VIDEO - Neptune Systems WAV Pumps

Friday, January 08, 2016

2016 New Year's Resolutions for Reef Keepers

For many of us, the new year brings an opportunity to reflect and set new goals for ourselves! New Year’s resolutions are about making changes in your life for the better. Since our aquariums are such an important part of our lives, we came up with a list of resolutions for your tank!

We all know that the saltwater aquarium hobby can be expensive. Sometimes it can be scary to look back and see how much you have spent on equipment and additives for your tank. On top of this, the cost of electricity can make things even more expensive. Therefore, our first resolution is Save Money.

One of the best ways to help cut back on aquarium costs is invest in energy saving equipment such as LED lighting and DC water pumps. Less energy means you save money each month and help the environment at the same time!

Look at all the additives under your tank and more often than not you will probably find some redundancy and can get rid of those mystery additives. Better yet, invest in a calcium reactor to automate the supplementation of major elements and save money in the long run. You can also set-up a media reactor to help get the most out of your filter media. Investing in an RO/DI filter will allow you to quickly and easily get fresh RO/DI water for your tank and save you the time and money used visiting and buying water from your local fish store.

Resolution #2 is to Become an Eco-Friendly Hobbyist and reduce the impact our hobby has on our earth’s natural environment. Purchasing animals and corals that are sustainably collected and grown is one of the best practices you can adopt as a hobbyist to help save the planet and keep our reefs thriving and healthy. You can also utilize eco-friendly or even man-made rock in your tank to reduce the impact on natural reefs.

If you own an RO/DI system, figure out a clever way to utilize the waste water. Water your garden or lawn is probably the easiest solution but you can also wash your car, do a load of laundry or give your dog a bath with water from your RO/DI system that would otherwise go to waste.

Make New Friends is next on our list and you don't have to fly solo in this hobby—even Han Solo had Chewie! If you are not already involved, consider joining an aquarium club or online forum to meet other hobbyists. Making friends in this hobby opens up the door to some great benefits including and endless resource for learning more about aquariums, friendly help during a tank emergency, and the opportunity to trade or sell frags and equipment! I could share stories about my aquariums and talk tank for hours; sharing some time with like-minded people who have the same passion as you can be quite rewarding.

Staying fit and Eating Right is probably one of the most common New Year’s resolutions; so why not do the same for your fish? Providing proper nutrition for your aquarium animals will honestly work miracles for the overall health and appearance of your tank. The same diet of pellets or flake food day in and day out is not only boring, but can cause some serious health issues for the animals in your tank. Instead, offer up a variety of different foods including fresh and frozen foods on top of the daily staple diet of flakes or pellets. Research the natural diets of the animals in your tank in order to provide food much like what these animals would find in the wild; for example give your Tangs some Seaweed! MD also carries a variety of vitamins and food soaks that will ensure a complete balanced diet for your fish and help to build strong immune systems.

Last on our list of Aquarium Resolutions for 2016 is to Get with the 21st Century. Automation for your tank can be a great way to relieve the daily stress of maintaining an aquarium and thanks to modern technology automating and controlling your aquarium equipment is now easier than ever. Aquarium Controllers, such as the Neptune Systems Apex, have some amazing capabilities and will allow you to not only control your tank but also monitor the aquarium when you’re not home. Another great benefit of using a controller is organization. Having all your equipment plugged in and connected to a central hub makes it much easier to organize and clean up the endless lengths of power cords under your tank.

Until next time, take care and happy reefkeeping.

> Shop LED Aquarium Lights

> Shop DC Pumps

> Shop Aquarium Controllers and Monitors