Wednesday, February 24, 2016

How to Build a Fish Quarantine Tank





Fish can be very sensitive animals. Problems with disease and parasites can be really tricky and quite frustrating if you are not armed with the knowledge of how to overcome such ailments. In this blog we are going to go over how to properly set up a quarantine tank and provide some helpful tips to keep your aquarium healthy and free of parasites and disease.

A quarantine tank is a completely separate aquarium that is used to isolate and observe new fish before they enter your display aquarium. Through this process you can closely observe your new fish for any sign of disease or parasites and then properly treat without putting any of your existing aquarium animals at risk. Isolation also helps your new fish to learn to eat frozen and or flake/pellet foods without the harassment of others.

A quarantine tank does not need to be very complicated. A typical quarantine tank will be about 20 gallons in size which is plenty big enough for common aquarium fish. Of course if you are looking to house larger animals or quarantine multiple animals at the same time, a larger quarantine may be required.

Once you have a tank, you will need a filter to process the waste produced by your fish. A simple power hang-on filter such as the AquaClear or API SuperClean will work great. They are also fairly inexpensive and very easy to maintain. You can also consider a canister filter such as the Eheim Classic or Fluval filters or even a small internal filter such as the Ista Hydro Bio Sponge Filters.

When choosing a heater, you want 3-5 watts per gallon. So for a 20 gallon tank, you need a 60-100 watt heater.

For lighting, ambient light is fine but avoid direct sunlight to prevent excessive algae growth.  It is a good idea to install a small, standard output light fixture, such as an LED strip light or standard output fluorescent fixture hooked up to an aquarium timer. This will create a natural light cycle in the tank to benefit fish health and promote natural activity.

When isolating fish, you definitely need to have something in the tank for the fish to hide in and feel comfortable. It is preferable not to utilize sand or live rock as this just becomes difficult to keep clean and can actually absorb medications.

Most hobbyists use some 3-6" sections of larger diameter PVC. Anything 1.5-4" in diameter will work great and should be plenty big enough for most fish. Plastic plants and other artificial decorations will work great as well.

After getting the equipment together, you want to be sure to cycle the tank before using it. The water parameters need to stay stable and proper cycling is key. Using water from your main display aquarium to start the quarantine tank is a great way to speed up the process. Bacteria supplements, such as Seachem Stability, are great to help move along the cycling process.

Because ammonia is extremely toxic to fish, we recommend the use of the SeaChem Ammonia Alert, a quick visual reference that lets you know right away if any amount of Ammonia is present in the water. If ammonia is detected, a large water change should be performed to lower the toxicity of the water. The addition of bacteria additives will help stabilize the tank.

During quarantine, observe your new fish and ensure they are eating and swimming normally. Look for external parasites and any signs of infection. Heavy breathing, red or swollen lesions, abnormal swim patters and various other signs are a dead giveaway that something is wrong.

Being in an isolated environment makes it much easier to observe these animals and treat them accordingly. If you do find something wrong with your new fish, research thoroughly before treatment to ensure you have properly diagnosed and then treat accordingly. We stock a variety of medications; the various options from Seachem are among our most popular.

Most new fish should be quarantined for 30-60 days without any signs of illness. If a fish requires treatment, it could very well reside in the quarantine tank for 3 months or more.

Be mindful of the medication you use in your quarantine tank.  Do not mix medications (except as recommended by the manufacturer). Avoid getting any medication into your display aquarium when transferring your fish. Most medications can be easily removed with the use of activated carbon. However, when using copper based medications, it is best to use a filter media specifically designed to remove copper, such as the Two Little Fishies MetaSorb or Seachem Cuprisorb.

Don’t forget to have a fish net, specimen cup, acclimation tools, and appropriate test kits handy to help make transferring your fish and monitoring your quarantine tank much easier.

If you need help setting up a quarantine tank or simply have some questions, our trained team of aquarium experts is here to help. Until next time, take care and happy reefkeeping.

How to Build a Coral Quarantine Tank





Today, we are going to go over setting up a quarantine tank for corals, instead of fish, and show you why it is a smart idea to have a separate tank dedicated to the isolation and observation of corals.
 
New corals can carry a wide variety of not so pleasant hitch hikers into your tank. It is even possible for a coral frag or small colony to carry diseases and parasites that can not only affect other corals, but also many other animals found in a reef tank.

Some of you are probably thinking "I dip all my corals prior to going into my tank, so why would I isolate them, too?" The answer is simple: coral dips are not 100% effective.

We carry several great coral dips including the Coral Rx and Two Little Fishies Coral Revive and high recommend dipping all corals. However, some pests can be extremely difficult to get rid of. Eggs of many of the pests cannot eradicated with coral dips and can hatch weeks after being introduced into your aquarium.

Additionally, some pests may be hidden so deep within the frag plug or rock that a relatively short dip may not deliver a strong enough dosage to reach them. For these reasons, isolating and observing your corals in a separate quarantine tank is a great way to prevent these ailments from getting into your reef aquarium.

A small tank of about 10-20 gallons is all you need for isolating corals.  Having a shallow tank makes it easy to provide ample lighting and flow and will also make it much easier to closely observe the new corals.
 
Once you have a tank, you will need a filter to keep the water clean and oxygenated. Unlike a fish tank, a coral quarantine tank will experience little to no waste so keeping nitrates down should be easy with a small hang-on power filter or canister filter.

With a small, shallow tank it is easy to find an affordable light. LED strip lights such as the new AquaMaxx NemoLight or T5HO strip lights such as the AquaticLife Marquis work great and are very economical.

For water flow, you want a small powerhead such as the Hydor Koralia Nano to move water inside the tank.  You do not need anything fancy, just enough to circulate the water inside the tank and keep the corals happy.

A quality heater, such as the Eheim Jager, works well for keeping the temperature stable.

Egg crate or frag racks are great for holding the corals inside the tank. I like the pre-manufactured frag racks, such as the Innovative Marine ReefRack, because it is easy to create different zones. You can easily move them around the aquarium to accommodate the light and flow requirements of the specific coral.

Once you got everything together, bacteria supplements will most definitely help the process along.

Once corals have been dipped and added to the quarantine tank, check them regularly for healthy polyp extension and look closely at the coral tissue and base of the corals.  This is where many coral predators hang-out and often times have very effective camouflage.

Sometimes signs of stress and infection may not be immediately visible so be sure to give the coral plenty of time for observation. We generally recommend isolation for 30-60 days without any signs of infection or diseases.
 
Physical removal is one of the best ways to completely eradicate many coral predators. Being in isolation makes it much easier to see this little organisms and get them out of the tank. You can also effectively dip an infected coral multiple times and place back into quarantine to help eradicate various problems.

Unlike a fish quarantine tank, it is not typical for you to directly medicate the entire coral quarantine tank. It is best to treat corals in a separate container and then place back into quarantine for observation.

Don’t forget to have fragging supplies, a specimen cup, and appropriate test kits handy.  We also have some great blogs and additional videos all about coral predators and hitch hikers so be sure to check out the links in our video description to learn more.

If you need help setting up a quarantine tank or simply have some questions, our trained team of aquarium experts is here to help. Until next time, take care and happy reefkeeping.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Tank Hacks: Easy Upgrades for Your Innovative Marine Fusion Nano 20





Innovative Marine has been offering some of the hobby's most desirable aquariums. The NUVO Fusion Nano 20 is one of our best-selling All-In-One style aquariums. Today we are going to deck out the Fusion 20 with some awesome gear and show you some great products to ramp up the performance of your Innovative Marine Nuvo Fusion Nano 20 gallon Aquarium.
 
The sleek Fusion 20 Nano features low-iron glass that makes your fish and corals as vibrant as possible. The dual built-in overflows with the new filters socks take care of mechanical filtration and help to catch all the floating debris. Dropping in a bag of Chemi-Pure Blue in one of the filter socks will take care of the chemical filtration and keep the tank crystal clear. Say goodbye to cumbersome media baskets and hello to quick and easy maintenance. For extra chemical filtration, we are adding a Phosban 150 media reactor which will hang-off the back of the tank.

The 100 watt Eheim Jager heater will be placed into the second chamber on one side.
 
On the other side, an Innovative Marine Ghost Desktop protein skimmer will be placed into the second chamber. The fit is great because it was made to fit perfectly into the second chamber of this tank.

We are upgrading the stock pump to two Sicce Micra Plus pumps. One pump will power the Phosban 150 reactor and return back through the stock return nozzle.  The second pump will be plumbed directly to the return. These reliable little pumps will increase the overall flow rate and make for quiet operation.

The Innovative Marine HydroFill Ti is a great auto top off (ATO).  The titanium conductivity sensors prevent rusting and eliminate the risks associated with float sensors. The matching HydroFill Ti ATO pump is self-priming, features run-dry protection, and lifts water up to 5 feet. Since the pump can pull water vertically (unlike most pumps), we can hang it off the back of the tank with the included bracket.

Any one of the various ATO reservoirs will work. The Eshopps reservoir we stock works great; the slim profile makes it easy to discreetly tuck away in your tank stand.
 
To keep the aquarium looking sleek, we are using the CaribSea Arag-alive Indo-Pacific black sand. This sand contains black particles for a unique look in your aquarium and also contains broad spectrum of marine bacteria to create a natural biological balance.

The tank is aquascaped with the CaribSea Life rock. We used the shelf rock here, but Caribsea offers three different types, the original, shelf, and branch.

For internal circulation, the Tunze NanoStream 6040 was an easy winner. This pump has an innovative flow deflector that allows you to easily hide the pump behind the rock work and direct waterflow where you want it. It even comes with a controller to handle all of your wavemaking needs and dial in the flow.

Last but not least is the lighting. We are very excited to introduce the new AquaMaxx NemoLight LED fixture. This new sleek fixture packs in a ton of power and is about twice as powerful as most other LED strip lights. Yet, it is extremely affordable and has a very thin profile.

The 24" fixture we are using is rated at 36 Watts; which is plenty for LPS, softies, zoas and even some lower-light SPS corals over an aquarium of this depth. There is an onboard controller that allows you to adjust the blue and white channel intensities and program a light cycle with automated sunset and sunrise effects.

If you are thinking about starting a new nano aquarium or need to update the equipment on your current aquarium, Marine Depot is here to help! We welcome you to contact one of our friendly, knowledgeable team members who will be happy to support you. Your success is our success!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

How to Tune a Calcium Reactor to Meet Calcium & Alkalinity Demands





Tuning your calcium reactor can be a little frustrating, especially if you have never set one up before. In this video we are going to show you how to dial in your calcium reactor to help get your SPS corals growing as fast as possible and to provide some helpful insight into how a calcium reactor works.

The concept of a calcium reactor is very simple. Basically, you are taking coral skeleton or a calcium-carbonate based media and using acidic saltwater to melt it down, releasing elements that will enrich your aquarium water with the proper levels of calcium and alkalinity.

When using a media such as the Two Little Fishies Reborn, you are melting down exactly what you are trying to grow-coral skeleton. In addition to calcium and alkalinity, most media also contains strontium and other trace elements. With the use of magnesium media such as the Brightwell Aquatics NeoMag or Zeovit ZeoMag, the reactor can even help maintain your magnesium levels.

The trick to dialing in your reactor is to match the rate of supplementation from the reactor with the rate of consumption by your corals. The more acidic the water inside your reactor, the more media it will melt. The more water you process through the reactor, the more calcium and other elements will be added to the tank.

In order to melt media, you need to maintain a pH of 6.5-6.9 inside the calcium reactor. A pH monitor, such as the American Marine Pinpoint, or a pH controller, such as the one included with some Neptune Systems Apex controllers, will come in very handy to monitor and control the pH. A cheaper alternative is to use a pH test kit but this does require much more effort.

Most of the calcium reactors available today have a built-in pH probe port so you can easily and accurately measure the pH inside the reactor.

If the pH is not maintained properly, the media will either not melt fast enough or quickly turn into mush; this is why it is so important to maintain pH inside the reactor within the recommended range. Be sure you have a solid understanding of CO2 injection and how it affects the pH inside the reactor. Basically, the more CO2 you add, the lower the pH in the reactor will go.

A pH controller, along with an electronic solenoid on your CO2 regulator, is the best way to ensure pH is maintained within the proper range. The controller will read the pH in your reactor and only allow for CO2 injection when pH rises above the desired range. This avoids the hassle of constantly having the adjust the bubble count on your reactor.

Next you need to look at the effluent (outgoing liquid) drip rate. One simple way to manage how much water is ‘enriched’ by your calcium reactor is to adjust the effluent drip rate. If you have a low calcium demand, you will need a slower effluent drip rate. If you have a high calcium demand, you will need a faster drip rate.

Now here is the key that ties everything together; changing the effluent drip rate will change the pH inside the calcium reactor.

A faster drip rate means water is spending less time inside the calcium reactor, which means that more CO2 will be needed to maintain the desired 6.5-6.9 pH. Conversely, a slower drip rate means water is spending more time inside the reactor, so less CO2 is needed.

Once your calcium reactor has had a chance to break in for a week or two, you will want to test your calcium and alkalinity levels weekly and make the appropriate adjustments to your calcium reactor.

Make very small adjustment and allow ample time for changes to take effect inside the reactor and in your tank. Often, it is easier to set the calcium reactor to keep parameters stable.  Then, use liquid additives to occasionally raise the calcium and/or alkalinity levels as needed until your reactor is properly tuned. It will take at least 2-4 weeks to properly dial in your reactor. As your tank grows, coral consumption will increase; you will need to adjust your reactor as well to meet the higher demand.

Effluent water exiting the calcium reactor will have a low pH due to the injection of CO2. Dripping the water into your refugium can be great for helping to avoid a drastic pH drop in your display aquarium. The macro algae in your refugium will use some of the CO2 dissolved into the water, raise the pH of the water, and help prevent drastic pH drops in your aquarium.

Alternatively, you can use an extra reaction chamber, such as the Precision Marine Effluent Chamber, which is a canister filled with calcium reactor media that will help increase pH of your effluent water before it is dripped back into your aquarium. Most media reactors can also can be converted fairly easily into an inexpensive effluent chamber.

Understanding how your calcium reactor works is important for success when dialing it in. If you have any questions about calcium reactor setups, we are here to help. Please feel free to contact our friendly support team at 1-800-566-3474 or send an email to customercare@marinedepot.com. Until next time, take care and happy reefkeeping.




Tuesday, February 09, 2016

How to Care for Tridacna Clams in Your Saltwater Aquarium





Recently, we got some new giant clams here at Marine Depot and are going to show you everything you need to know to acclimate and care for a giant clam in your reef tank.

When choosing a clam, it is best to get select a larger clam. Smaller clams are typically more difficult to keep and require more feeding. Larger clams, 3” or larger, are hardier and easier to acclimate into your home aquarium.  

Pay attention to the mantle; it should be evenly colored with no bleached areas or tears and a smooth edge. The larger inhalant opening in the mantle should by a slit, not wide open or gaping. If you are selecting the clam from your local fish store, wave your hand above the aquarium to block the light. A healthy clam should quickly react. For Maxima and Crocea clams, inspect the byssal organ, or foot, on the bottom of the clam to make sure it is intact and not damaged.

We recommend drip acclimating your newly purchased clam for about 45-60 minutes. The Innovative Marine AccuDrip works great and is super simple to use.

During this time you will want to inspect the clam closely for parasites and hitchhikers. The biggest concern for clam owners is the dreaded Pyramid Snail. These tiny snails,  no bigger than ¼ inch,  look like a grain of rice. They will attack and consume the mantle or flesh of the clam.  They reproduce very quickly and can be really difficult to remove. Be sure to check under the clam by the foot and all around the shell for the snails and their egg sacs.  

The shell of the clam can also hold a variety of other parasites and hitchhikers such as Aiptasia anemones, bristle worms, and nudibranchs. If you do find any hitchhikers you will want to physically remove them before placing the clam into your tank. A tooth brush and a pair of tweezers works really well. Be sure to clean the clam thoroughly in a separate container.

When placing a clam in your tank it is important to know the exact species of clam you have. Crocea and Maxima clams are found in rocky habitats, so they should be placed in the rock work or on hard substrate. They have byssal glands (foot) that will need to attach to a solid surface. Derasa, Squamosa and Gigas clams are best placed on sandy substrate and typically need less intense lighting.

Since we have Tridacna maxima clams, I placed them in the rock work. We want to place them in areas of lower lighting to allow them to acclimate because they are new. If placed under too much light, they can ‘bleach’ and lose their zooxanthellae.

We also have a small Derasa clam that has been thriving on the sandbed.

No matter the species, the clam should be placed on a horizontal surface that exposes the entire mantle to light because clams rely heavily on photosynthesis. Certain clams do have a foot and can actually move around your tank. It will take a few days for the clams to attach. Using some rubble rock (or the clam mount we offer on our website) to prop the clam up helps prevent the clam from falling over until it attaches. Keep clams away from other aggressive corals. Also be sure your tank does not house any clam predators. Certain wrasses and angelfish have been known to attack and devour clams in an aquarium. Remember to give your clam plenty of room to grow. Mature Tridacnids can grow quite large.  

A healthy clam will open with the mantle fully exposed during daylight hours. Because clams rely heavily on photosynthesis, they do best in aquariums with high output lighting. Maxima and Crocea clams require more light, while Derasa, Squamosa and Gigas clams require a little less light. But, all tridacna clams have relatively high light requirements. Research your newly purchased clam and place the clam according to its lighting requirements.

For water flow, you do not want a strong direct current blasting the clam as this will surely stress them out.  I find that if the mantle is moving around and flapping in the current, your water flow is too strong. If so,  then you will want to move it to a calmer area of your aquarium.

Although giant clams are mostly photosynthetic, they also filter feed; they will filter out particulate organic matter from your water and absorb organic compounds from the water such as nitrate, phosphate, and ammonia.

Feeding small particle foods such as phytoplankton will help to boost health and promote the growth of your giant clams.

The PhycoPure Zooxanthellae from Algagen is the first and only product of its kind. It contains a blend live zooxanthellae algae. It has been reported to have excellent results in helping clams and corals to recover from stress as it replenishes lost/expelled zoanthellae. It also helps to increase the coloration of clams and corals.

The Algagen PhycoPure Phytoplankton, Algagen Coral Smoothie, Brightwell Phytoplankton and other phytoplankton products are also great for giant clams.

Once the clam has acclimated to your aquarium, it can begin to grow quickly. Make sure to provide it with proper levels of calcium and alkalinity for growth as they will consume this quickly. Regular additions of iodine will also help with growth and coloration.

If you have a new clam or are thinking about adding one to your tank, Marine Depot is here to help! Please feel free to contact our friendly support team at 1-800-566-3474 or send an email to customercare@marinedepot.com. Until next time, take care and happy reefkeeping.



> READ How to Care for a Flame Wrasse in Your Saltwater Aquarium

> READ Painted Frogfish: How to build a species-specific aquarium

> READ SPS Coral Care: Tips, Tricks & Techniques to Help You Succeed

Monday, February 01, 2016

How to Set Up a Refugium Inside Your Sump





Refugiums are great because they provide a means to export waste and nutrients and also provide a safe haven for small, beneficial organisms to grow and reproduce. These small creatures, including copepods, amphipods and other ‘bugs’ which thrive in a refugium will help to devour leftover food and detritus. As some of these ‘bugs’ will inevitably make their way into the display tank, they will also help feed the animals in your reef tank and increase the biodiversity in your aquarium.

In this article we are going to set up an in-sump refugium, provide some helpful tips to make set-up hassle free, and show you how to get the most out of your refugium.

Since refugiums have become so popular, many of the sumps we carry are now designed with compartments ready for a refugium. Both the Precision Marine and Trigger Systems sumps are perfect options and offer various sizes to fit just about any tank.

See, for example, the Trigger Systems Emerald sumps. Notice how a baffle separates the first chamber from the second. This second chamber is an ideal place for a refugium. The baffles ensure gentle water flow through the refugium and will keep all of the sand, rocks, and other things inside your refugium where they belong- away from your return pump in the third chamber.

The first chamber is reserved for your protein skimmer and other filtration equipment, such as media reactors. It is always best to have your skimmer receive ‘dirty’ water from the aquarium before it is filtered by the refugium. This will increase the effectiveness of the skimmer and prevent those tiny beneficial organisms growing in your refugium from getting chopped up or removed by your skimmer.

In order to set-up your refugium, you will need: a light, substrate, some rubble rock and whatever you plan to grow in the refugium.

Chaetomorpha and Caulerpa are the most popular macro algae for refugiums because they are easy to grow, which makes them very effective for controlling nutrients and provides a great habitat for copepods and amphipods. Mangroves are also a great option but do have some additional care requirements so be sure you are willing to put forth the extra effort and have the space required to grow a Mangrove.

For substrate, sand is perfectly suitable but refugium mud is the best choice. We offer a few different types of refugium muds including the popular Ecosystem Aquariums Miracle Mud, CaribSea Mineral Mud, and Walt Smith Fiji Mud. Refugium mud is extra beneficial because it helps restore trace elements and is the perfect size and texture for micro-organisms to burrow and reproduce. Additionally, the fine grain size and dense nature of the mud creates nitrate-reducing anaerobic zones with just 1-2 inches of depth. With regular sand, it will take 4 inches or more to create an effective anaerobic zone.

Rubble rock is used to anchor Caulerpa. You can use a small piece of fishing line or thread to attach it. Chaetomorpha usually tumbles freely in the refugium. The porousness of the rock also provides space for the ‘pods’ to reproduce. Macro-algae is grown in a refugium because it will absorb nitrates and phosphates from your aquarium water and help prevent the spread of nuisance algae in your display aquarium.

A full spectrum light in the 6500-10,000K color range works best. We are using the WavePoint Micro Sun, which has the right spectrum and power at a great price. The Tunze Full Spectrum Submersible LED is another great option because it is waterproof and comes with a versatile magnetic mount.

Many hobbyists run the refugium light at night, opposite of the display aquarium's photo period, because doing so helps reduce large pH drops when the lights are out in your main display. This is called reverse daylight photosynthesis (RDP).

Once everything is set, you can start to add water. Refugium mud can cloud your water pretty bad but if the water is added slowly you can reduce the effects. Once it is filled with water, let it settle before turning on your pumps. It is also a good idea to fish out any floating debris with a net prior to turning on your pumps.

As the refugium becomes established, macro-algae will start to grow quickly. You will need to periodically harvest the overgrown macro-algae and remove it from your refugium. This is how the nitrate and phosphates are removed from your aquarium water.

Algagen offers a few different types of live ‘pods’ that can be added directly to your established refugium to help increase the biodiversity and seed the refugium with different species. Just give your refugium, and your tank for that matter, plenty of time to cycle before adding live copepods.

If you are looking to get a sump or install a refugium, Marine Depot has everything you need and our trained team of aquarium experts are happy to help. Just give us a call at 800-566-3474 or send an email to customercare@marinedepot.com. Until next time, take care and happy reefkeeping.



> READ